The tyranny of expectation
The Palais Idéal festival of experimental music has come and gone, sweeping through the coffee houses and art galleries of Chico with a refreshing wind of expectation-defying sounds. Between shifts at the workplace, trying to catch up with autumn domestic duties at Culture Vulture World Headquarters and spending quality time with the lovely I. Daphne St. Brie and the newest addition to our household, the kitten Jasper, Culture Vulture managed to participate in the fest by way of a brief set played on Saturday afternoon at Café Flo with the Dept. of Redundancy Dept.
DORD is a spin-off group mutated from an experimental trio begun a little over a year ago, when Daphne, self and Mark Zempel, aided and abetted by our friend, Technobabble columnist Morgan Paar, decided to create our very own cult based around the production of ephemeral music—music that is created to celebrate its own temporary nature and carries no obligation to do anything besides provide a common but ever-evolving focal point for musicians and (if there happens to be one) audience.
A year of musical excursions launched from the CVWHQ living room provided us with templates for several fairly consistent pieces. We also gained confidence—based on mutual trust in our shared sensibilities—that when we convene to play, something worth hearing will manifest itself in the pulse of self’s bass drum, the coruscations of Mark’s digitally delayed guitar rhythms and the Bach-like, melodic bass lines of Daphne’s hot pink metal-flake bass guitar.
Spending a year creating essentially private music that comes and goes like a breeze ruffling the leaves of the camphor trees along Eighth Street may not be the ideal career arc for a band bent on attaining mass popularity, but for a group of musicians for whom the creation of previously unheard, never-to-be-repeated sounds is a worthwhile end in itself, said year is an elongated, multifaceted moment composed of all the instants when we looked up in mutual recognition of a particularly euphonious or otherwise interesting passage.
The challenge of performance for a group dedicated to the creation of ephemeral music is the tendency to want to re-create the tried-and-true rather than to collectively dip into the unknown in hopes that some crystalline musical entity will manifest itself and dictate its own structure in a manner that the musicians creating it and audience listening to it will find comprehensible, and, to whatever degree intended, pleasurable.
For the Dept. of Redundancy Dept.'s Palais Idéal performance, our core trio invited guest artist Dan Cohen to participate with us on keyboard and vocals, and the results were interesting even if the performance jumped the rails of our original conception and wandered into the shadowy realm of the preconceived rather than striking a flame to illuminate the cosmos of the freshly created.
And yet for those who filled up Café Flo and enjoyed the performance, something brand new and never to be repeated was experienced, so our cult of ephemerality succeeded in its mission even as we confronted the tyranny of our expectations.