Friday night saw my first ever visit to the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. The head honcho museum that spans worldwide in Venice, Bilbao, Berlin, and Abu Dhabi. Showing was a retrospective of recently deceased sculptor John Chamberlin that I was able to privately view that night. The rotunda featured his many sculptures consisting of recycled car parts. The main event for me however were two of my favorite contemporary drone artists Julianna Barwick and Grouper (solo project of Portland, OR musician Liz Harris) playing their material as a collaboration with the current exhibition.
Julianna was quiet banter wise and somewhat aloof of the audience in front of her. That didn’t, however, stop her from delivering a truly angelic set with her beautifully looped samples of her church choir voice layered on top of simplistic beats. She had a fitting video of overlaid shots of forrest being projected behind her giving an ideal representation of the location she wants her music to bring you. I could pick out songs from her recent album “The Magic Place” with songs such as “Prizewinning” and others.
Next up was Grouper who played her newly finished project Violet Replacement which consisted of multiple tape recordings of field sounds lead into a large mixer with tons of reverb. She sat quietly on the stage for the entirety of the set, and the crowd followed suit. The product of these tapes was insanely unearthly sounding and dark and had me with my head behind my legs with my eyes clothes for the majority of the time.
I love natural acoustics and the rotunda’s atrium allowed for the sound to travel and naturally reverberate against the walls of the museum. I was a little disappointed that the museum had closed off the rotunda during the set, as no one was allowed to leave the bottom floor once the music started. Sitting to drone music is hard and it can make you sleepy (especially after those drinks at the Library on Ave A and generally walking all over Chinatown that day), and I really wished we were allowed to experience the current exhibition while taking in the music. Drone is such an inactive listening experience that it truly is heard better when you’re putting your mind towards something else like studying. Anyways, take a look at more of the breath taking photos as brought to you by BrooklynVegan‘s Amanda Hatfield