Tonight I headed to Tribeca to an old building barely visible behind scaffolding. I found its hidden door and took its winding, marble stairs to the 13th floor where, through ancient wooden doors, sat a little-known radio station.
The Clocktower Gallery station transmits experimental music and sound installations across the internet’s airwaves at ARTonAIR.org and tonight it had an open studio exhibit to provide a one-of-a-kind show.
Before musicians performed an experimental music show – which was all improvised – I wandered through the studio spaces, which had their doors left open. Some simply looked like offices, while others had the artists’ creations on show.
My favorite was a sort of palm reader’s den by Zeljko McMullen. The walls were covered with vibrant scraps of material and lit up by kaleidoscopic light projections. The music was perfectly synced with the mood of the lights.
I was finding the whole thing very relaxing until I was cornered by a neckerchief-wearing crusty named Victor. He proceeded to grill me about my knowledge of poets and musicians – which I soon realized was just a ruse for him to drone on and on about what he knew.
While I am always keen to chat with strangers, this man was repulsive.
When I didn’t know a name he mentioned, he asked me how on earth I got my job (‘your father must be the editor’). And how disappointed were my parents that I didn’t go to Oxford? And why on earth don’t you know this obscure writer who was born in Europe in 1612 and put out one poem before dying in his teens? After attempting to stand up for myself (‘I write about today, not yesterday’) I soon realized it was best just to ignore him. He eventually shuffled away, taking the smell of pee with him.
The people here were real artist types – lots of costumes, eye liner and angular haircuts. And Victor did them no favors because unfortunately I think a lot of people assume art groups like this are filled with pretentious knobs like that. I’d be tempted to think the same if I hadn’t had a lot of great experiences this year.
No matter, because soon the music started and all anger dissipated. Members of the audience stood, sat or laid in the room which was filled with large, curved sculptures by Jene Highstein. A handful of musicians glided around the space either with their instruments or to pick up new ones. The clarinet seemed to lead the group, and a harp, double bass, xylophone and various pipes and drums joined him. Some musicians simply opted to throw instruments on the floor to create a clatter.
Here’s a sample:
Yes, it was weird but it was also really engrossing. There was something jazzy but classical about the music, and the whole room seemed to just move together. Us audience members wandered around, our noises and bodies adding to the sounds created by the musicians.
Thoughts of Vicious Victor were soon gone and when I navigated those winding marble stairs and emerged from the scaffolding, I felt pretty calm in the face of New York’s chaos. What an interesting experience.