By Michael Eisenberg
Francisco Lopez is a sound artist I’ve heard about for years, and I knew he has a ridiculously large body of work…but I’ve never actually heard anything by him. When I learned that he was coming to Chicago, I jumped on tickets. The scenario was a medium sized cinder block room that was very dead (good for a show like this I think). Lots of mixers and other electro detritus piled up in the center of the room, initially covered in a black silk blanket. Circles of concentric chairs blossoming out from the center, getting progressively larger the further out they went. All chairs were facing outward, AWAY from the center…so no one was actually looking at Lopez who was doing his thing in the center. There was a black silk blindfold draped over each chair.
After a short intro from the curator of the particular series that was presenting this performance, Lopez made a little speech about “why the blindfolds?” The gist of it was, while he would never force anyone to wear it, it’s purpose was to block out any extraneous light that may compromise your sensory system, preventing you from giving your full attention to the sounds…in effect, forcing you to listen. He ensured everyone that “he knew what he was doing”, “everyone was perfectly safe” and “he highly recommends you wear the blindfold if you can.” I guess I can understand how some people would be hesitant about this, but in the interest of full immersion, and knowing exactly who I was sitting next to…I donned the thing.
First of all, this performance was short…way to short, only about 40 minutes at most. That being said, it was 40 minutes of very unique sounds, all recorded naturally and environmentally and then sliced and diced the Lopez way, creating something really unusual. I’ve been to lots of acousmatic shows but this one stood out as more unique than others. I thought I heard recognizable sounds but, after the few seconds it took my mind to process, it came to the conclusion that…nah, I don’t know what that was. Horses walking down cobblestone paths? Cascades of sparks falling all around? Human heartbeats? Animal heartbeats? All possibilities I guess, but it was organized into something that was, not exactly linear, but almost. I wasn’t sure if the blindfold accomplished what Lopez intended, but I guess, at least in this case I will never know since I did not take it off till the performance was over.
Great show, one of the better acousmatic / soundscape / musique concrete outings I’ve been to in a while. So, to all of you that this may appeal to…if he’s in your town…go!