Matthias Ziegler explored the nexus between audible and inaudible sounds.
Matthias Ziegler, Michael Bettine
Indianapolis Art Center
Wednesday, March 29
A meager but enthusiastic audience at the Indianapolis Art Center received an aural education during a captivating double bill of avant-garde instrumentalists: Swiss flutist Matthias Zeigler and American gong player Michael Bettine.
Throughout the event, organized by Mythopiec (www.mythopiec.org), Bettine and Ziegler performed separate sets filled primarily with original works before meeting, literally for the first time, on stage for an improvisation birthed from genuine curiosity.
Bettine began the concert with a "different perspective on the gong than is found in orchestral or rock use." While juggling three or four mallets in his hands, teeth and pockets, the shoeless Bettine transformed a beautiful sculptural backdrop of 28 gongs varying in texture and circumference into an ambient moodscape deep enough to score a tidal wave.
Bettine's gong soundscapes reward sensitive listeners with layers of ambient sounds into which their own environment can assert a type of melodic or rhythmic authority. The pieces were sparse yet enveloping, and offered to dialogue with sounds in the room - a breath, a shuffle, a child beginning to cry. The most haunting and beautiful moments of the evening were found in this nexus between breath and tone, between sound and music.
Ziegler's performance, which shifted between the alto, bass and contrabass flutes, explored a different type of nexus between audible and inaudible sounds. Whistling and spitting into and across the embouchure hole, lipping way down for punctuation, making music without breath or conversely without fingering, Ziegler created rich and limitless sonic tone poems that were at once lush, scarce and barren, built like a western film in deeply poetic futurism.
The indeterminate whispers, drones and taps that constructed these compositions were actually amplifications of inaudible organic sounds Ziegler had heard inside the instruments. "I discovered an entire orchestra inside the flute," Ziegler said. To make these sounds audible to an audience, he planted microphones controlled by a series of foot pedals inside the flutes, creating for the audience an experience of "looking at the flute under a microscope." The result was a live excavation of the instrument.
By featuring the indeterminate secret symphony inside the instruments, Ziegler coaxed the flute to wade deeply into percussive and electronic waters. This style was explicitly intimate, due perhaps to the inherent generosity of sharing with an audience the secret sounds of an instrument, sounds typically reserved only for the senses of the player.
Ziegler finished his solo set with a contrabass translation of the Thelonious Monk tune "Well You Needn't," which in the deep, breathy voice of the contra, came off like a Tibetan throat scat.