January 7, 2017
I went to the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo yesterday to see Terry Riley play music to the installation by Doug Aitken. One enters a large room that's dark, except the lighting that comes from the oversized screens projecting images of wild animals in what looks like the standard sized motel rooms, one finds on American highways. My favorite was the beaver in a bathtub. As I watched the projection, I wondered how they brought these creatures in such an environment. Or better yet, were these motel rooms real. It looks like a movie set.
In between these over-sized screens was a huge grand piano, and a smaller electronic keyboard. I recently became a new member of MOCA, and once I came in, they offered me a ticket with a number. I was told that they would announce a number at the concert and one will win a terrific surprise. Just before Riley's performance started, a museum worker came to the piano and announced the lucky number. The lucky number was attached to my lucky ticket, and therefore, I won.
As they announced the number, they ask for the person who has this number to come up to the piano. I practically ran up to the location due to my excitement. I'm one of those people that never wins anything. I was told that I could have the grand spot of seeing and hearing the concert right underneath the piano. At first I thought they were joking, but apparently, the winner gets to crawl under the piano while Terry Riley performs.
I took my honorable place and laid myself down on the carpeted floor. Riley came quietly to the grand keyboard and started to play. For sure, the sound of the piano is much different when one is underneath the instrument. I also felt like the wild animal that is placed in the motel room. From my angle, I can see the screen, as well as the audience, who are looking at me in slight disbelief. To be honest, my legs were cramping up, but I feel that this was very much part of the performance, and therefore I made the decision there, that I will take to the pain, to a certain point.
Riley's music, or at least this performance, was improvised. Occasionally he would go into an eastern sound or North African motif, especially when he started to sing. Besides my legs getting painful, it was a very enjoyable performance from the king of minimalism. After the performance, I crawled back to the bigger space of the room. I couldn't stand up right away, and I think the crowd there thought I was doing a performance of some sort - perhaps a Butoh dance piece. Still, the event was an enjoyable experience for me. What I learned was that I didn't care for Aitken's work that much, but I like Terry Riley's music.