ON SITE In the spring of 1976 composer John Adams and dancer Nita Little collaborated on two evenings of "contact improvisation" at the recently opened art space SITE located on Mission St. in downtown San Francisco. Attending that performance, I was very much taken by the properties and possibilities of SITE as a performance area for experimental music. After initial discussions with Alan Scarritt and his collaborator and wife, Marilyn Bogerd__the founders and driving force behind this unique art space__it was decided to inaugurate a series of music performances there.
My own experience with the space during preparation for and presentation of a concert in October, 1976, further convinced me it was one of the best places in the Bay Area for music and art performances and installations.
One of the unique aspects of SITE is the policy of allowing an artist at least a week's time to work in the space before opening a show or installation. The same could be true for those doing music and sound performances.
Happily a grant was secured from the California Arts Council to produce a series of five concerts at SITE in the 1977-78 season.
Since SITE is primarily an artists' space, we wanted to emphasize work being done by composer/performers closely allied with visual or performance arts, or musical/sound work being done by visual artists. There seems to have emerged a common ground upon which certain visual artists and certain composers are working toward common goals. It seemed appropriate to aim the SOUND AT SITE series in this direction.
Thus two of the performers in the series, Alan Saret and Charlemagne Palestine, are visual artists.
My own concert at SITE, given at the end of October, was called "Further Cycling" and was a series of new experiments in my Fragility Cycles series. Instead of beginning the work, as I usually do, with the work Rop: Pa Fjellet ("Cries: Upon the Mountains") which is a series of very high cries and whinings based on actual Swedish mountain cow-and goat-herding cries, I came out riding a bike mounted with a set of old sleigh bells, drove around the room several times over bumps, singing a gradually amplified low Bb__pure drama as far as I was concerned, to set the mood, both for myself and the audience, for the music to follow.
Fragments of Gambuk were included in the evening__my by now well known work for Balinese flute and live electronics__and a new perfumed(?) text-sound work called Sung, based on a poem by that name by Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelof__one of my translation text-sound performances.
On February 3, John Adams will present an evening of old and new works. Tentatively titled "Making Waves", the performance will be a sort of retrospective of live electronic music and tape composition from the last three years. Included will be music from Grounding, Onyx, Sermon, Strident Bands and Wavemaker, which is an exciting new work for winds and electronics. Adams, who is the director of the New Music ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory, is taking a semester off to concertize around the country and this performance will be his coming out, so to speak.
The last concert in the series, on March 18, will feature composer David Mahler from Seattle, where he is music director of and/or, an artists' space not unlike SITE. He will be performing some new "live tape" pieces (he performs with, or against, tape) and show some of his recent work in text-sound. Although David had a performance of a work on a San Francisco new Music Ensemble concert last year, this will be his debut as a solo performer in the Bay Area.
He was associated with Cal Arts in its halcyon days in the early '70s. There he studied with Mort Subotnick, Jim Tenney and Hal Budd, whose music David's most nearly resembles among the three...this only as a vague point of reference.
Somehow, it seems the series should continue. There is so much and so many that should have the opportunity to work at SITE, and it is such an exhilarating space to perform in. But for the present we don't know what will happen, so keep posted for any further news of musical activity at SITE.
All concerts are at 9 p.m. (a truly civil hour and one bound to keep the persnickety old maid critics away!) and are free. Bring something soft upon which to sit. --Ingram Marshall p.2