Really, really, really loud in Los Angeles

posted by on 2010.11.16, under art, exhibition, music, performance

When the official flyer from MOCA cautions that the use of earplugs is strongly recommended, you know something other than a bit of classical music in the park will be going on. This was the situation last weekend down in Los Angeles’ State Historic Park (screw that, I am still calling it The Cornfields) when MOCA organized a re-creation of Iannis Xenakis’ Persepolis, a multi-track experimental music/space/sound composition.
I rolled up late, because I did actually turn back to pick up my earplugs (musicians gotta protect the ears you know), but couldn’t find them. The place was pretty crowded when I got there, and the sun had recently set, so light was fading fast. Walking toward the park, you could hear a low thrum, and I followed the rest of the stragglers into the park. As luck, and most likely insurance riders, would have it, ear plugs were being handed out at a MOCA info table. I plugged em in, and walked into a landscape made of noise, grass, and crowd.
I am not sure I have fully digested this thing yet, but I can say for now that it was an experience, a physical, visual and audio experience on a pretty intense level. I tested pulling the earplugs out from time to time, as I was worried I was missing the highs of the sound. And it was loud, so very very loud. Sometimes bearable and OK, but without warning, a super high pitch would drift in and threaten permanent damage.
I wandered around, as the work sprawls over the park, with speakers on posts set up regularly spaced around the area. There were searchlights and fog machines, at first seemingly doing their own thing, but later working in concert with the sound to create a frenzy of stimuli.
Later there were pillars of fire. There was subtle sound in the giant noise, lots to keep you interested, and enough change to hold me there through the entire duration. It evolved, peaking with the sweeping searchlights, then backing off just a bit to hold for a while before it all simply stopped.
These videos are nothing like it, of course. But, they give you a glimpse into the idea. Sadly, I didn’t catch a shot of the Gold Line train cutting across the edge of the field right behind the huge crowd – which was very surreal.
Well, this is a very disjointed post, but like I say, I have not digested it yet. May write more on it later when I have thought about what exactly made this so spectacular. Or maybe I will keep that to myself.