Sunday, May 31, 2009

Venue Spotlight: Issue Project Room

Photo of the IPR's brokedown palace at 110 Livingston Street.

Back in its halcyon days on Broome Street in the 1970s, The Kitchen was home to New York's SoHo-based minimalist community. With program director Arthur Russell invariably standing in the rafters, a week's entertainment could include the likes of well-established composers John Cage, La Monte Young, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich (recently awarded an overdue Pulitzer Prize); multimedia performance artist Laurie Anderson; ornery Fluxus-era "anti-art" provocateur Henry Flynt; a stable of emerging composers including the aforementioned Russell (heavily influenced by disco and R&B), Rhys Chatham (heavily influenced by punk rock), polymathic Dartmouth College professor Christian Wolff, Julius Eastman (whose music owed a strong debt to decidedly un-minimalist antecedents, namely Aaron Copeland), Peter Gordon, Peter Zummo, David Van Tieglen, Phill Niblock, Elodie Lauten, and Jill Kroesen; and the smallest smattering of "intelligent" protopunk/punk/postpunk bands (Talking Heads, Modern Lovers). By bringing pop influences back into the concert hall in a manner that was anathema to earlier and contemporaneous musicians -- Charles Wuornien and the like -- who believed that 12-tone serialism was the only "artful" way to evoke the perils and dischord of late-period capitalism, The Kitchen composers arguably brought an entire lineage of music full circle. As a consequence of all of this, with even Dan Deacon citing Glass as a major influence in a recent interview with Pitchfork, it seems that any meaningful barriers between the pop and classical spheres have severely eroded.

Or at least if you look carefully enough. Although The Kitchen lives on in a diminished capacity on a nondescript street in Chelsea, Park Slope's ISSUE Project Room (hereafter the Issue Project Room, for the sake of my left index finger; at 232 3rd Street) is its latest spiritual iteration, bridging the gaps between the stuffy compositional world, indie solipsism, and electronic dance music. Over the course of the next month, you can catch Danish avant-jazz pianist Søren Kjærgaard's trio, including Cecil Taylor veteran Andrew Cyrille on drums (June 9th, $15); an intimate solo performance by Elodie Lauten (best known to readers as the female vocalist on Arthur Russell's "In the Light of the Miracle"; June 13th); and, last but certainly not least, the Mivos String Quartet performing selected contemporary works on June 25th. The venue is also soliciting donations for refurbishment of their soon-to-be-flagship space at 110 Livingston Street in the heart of downtown Brooklyn.

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