Someone once told me that even the bleakest movie needs a silver lining. When I asked why she replied that otherwise people wouldn’t watch it (or at least not make it till the end). Back then I thought she just referred to Hollywood Blockbusters and I remember thinking: do they even make bleak movies in Hollywood? I vehemently disagreed with her, but only because I loved bleak movies. I still do.
I should have known better. Back in the 70’s Suicide were practically beaten off stage because of their music. The same happened with The Stooges a generation earlier, but that had more to do with Iggy Pop’s aggressive and confrontational stage act. Suicide just made bleak, repetitive electronic music during the heyday of Punk. The notorious intolerance of most Punks did the rest..
All of that crossed my mind as I am watching Domi Chansorn at Rote Fabrik in Zürich (23-05-2019). They are Priests support act tonight, and I guess that partially explains ultra low audience turnout of at most 10 people. I’m watching two guys sitting on stage. One has a saxophone, the other a set of keyboards.Both are heavily manipulating whatever sounds they produce. The result is a slow, low electronic drone with occasional shrieks. I look around at the audience. Some people gently move their bodies back and forth, others carefully study the drink in their hands. At least no one seems to feel the urge to storm the stage or start a fight. After 30 minutes Domi Chansorn suddenly stops playing. The gig is over. The applause is meager and hesitant, mainly driven by embarrassment.
Compare this to what happened to Suicide in the 70’s. Is the lack of aggression and violence progress or are we so numb we simply disconnect whenever we are experiencing something we don’t understand? Are we treating difficult music just like any other unwelcome situation: just wait it out, it will stop. I feel ashamed for Alan Vega. I hope he is not witnessing this. What’s the point of stretching the limits of your audience when all the audience does is disconnect?
A couple of days later I drive through Germany. Suddenly ‘Once again/Buchla piece’ (Pauline Oliveros, 1966) starts playing, normally not a piece of music I want to listen to while driving. Too abstract, too dissonant and too unsettling. Today is different. Today I have a wrong to right. For every piece of abstract noise that is ignored I will actively listen to one other. The world needs this balance. Rest assured, Alan Vega, I will do my job.