very unhip to talk about love,” says Yvon Bonenfant, referring
to the general stoicism that dominates contemporary experimental
music. It’s ironic, he says, because despite the emotional
distance that our technological age has created, Bonenfant
sees the signals of love our culture has created everywhere
are things you put there when a person can’t be there,”
he says. “They’re a message of love. You put them on the
road so cars don’t drive into potholes. You put them on
buoys so boats don’t crash into underwater reefs. They’re
this technology we’ve created to protect one another but
they’re totally banal.”
Bonenfant, who describes himself as an “extended vocalist,”
admits he’s a little obsessed with the idea, so much so
that he’s been commissioned by EMPAC to create a multimedia
extended vocal piece using the concept. Over the course
of two residencies, the performer has worked with video
artist David Shearing and audio technician Francis Silkstone
to create an “immersive theatrical voice environment.” The
show will incorporate state-of-the-art 5.1 surround sound
to carry up to 12 tracks of Bonenfant’s voice, as well as
three video screens featuring Shearing’s images.
trying to create a world where people respond to call, where
people pay attention to all the ways we reach out to each
other, and how many times that fails—but it doesn’t matter.
There are always more messages, and we have to be permeable
to receive them.”
This sort of emotional directness is nothing new to Bonenfant,
who, with a voice that can sound both male and female, considers
the voice an optimal tool for accessing the tactility of
sound. Drawing on his training in a form of psychotherapy
called biodynamic massage, Bonenfant is interested in the
literal vibration of the voice on the body as a sort of
long-distance, social touch.
For this reason, Bonenfant has been hesitant to work in
an electronic setting, but the concept for his show, titled
Beacons, seemed perfectly suited to such a multimedia environment
because it is, in a way, a show about technology.
could never have been done this way not in this space,”
he says. “[Studio 1] has this vastness that really works
for the idea. We can work with this horizon line of screens
and when the lights go out you really can be lost in space.
In a way, it’s a very minimalist project because it’s about
one thing, but you’ll hear from the sound that it’s kind
of a maximalist approach to minimalism.”
The chorus of voices set to flashing lights and sweeping
colors constitute a “gymnastics of emotion” that Bonenfant
finds inseparable from issues of the “queer voice.” In a
sense, the electronic interface helps “realize some intentions”
of the artistically marginal extended voice, and, like the
idea that shaped the piece, act as a beacon itself.
Yvon Bonenfant’s Beacons will premiere at EMPAC (Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute, Troy) tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday
(May 29-30) at 8 PM. Admission is free. Call 276-4135 for
years ago, a bunch of hippies rolled around in the mud and
it changed the live music experience forever. Nowadays the
savvy, soused, sunscreened and independently wealthy concertgoer
can literally fill a whole summer touring to weekend music
festivals. With the fifth annual Mountain Jam at Hunter
Mountain, the season is officially underway.
It’s a testament to musicians’ success that they can throw
a big party for their fans every summer. Phish, moe., Donna
the Buffalo, the Disco Biscuits: They all do it. And with
Gov’t Mule and the Allman Brothers Band headlining Mountain
Jam, this is officially the Warren Haynes show (he, like,
produces the event to boot). But the cool thing about these
events is that they’ve been drawing a wider crowd and range
of musicians every year. For three days, and on as many
stages, the festival will feature Umphrey’s McGee (pictured),
the Derek Trucks Band, Michael Franti and Spearhead, the
Hold Steady, the Gene Ween Band, John Medeski, Girl Talk,
Eric Krasno, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, the Marco Benevento
Trio, Porter, Batiste and Stoltz, and at least another page
Filling out the festival experience, there will be puppets,
frisbee golf, a kids area, vendors, food, and morning yoga
sessions led by John Medeski’s wife Debi.
Mountain Jam at Hunter Mountain (Hunter) will run from noon
tomorrow (Friday, May 29) through 10 PM on Sunday (May 31).
Tickets for the weekend are $149.50, while single-day passes
are $79.50 for Saturday and $89.50 for Sunday. Visit mountainjam.com
for more info.