Sunday, November 18, 2007


On the way home from the San Francisco Symphony on Friday night, I saw an excited audience spilling out of the Herbst Theatre in the Veterans Building, so I decided to check out what they had just seen, and ran into my friend Charlie Lichtman (not pictured here) who sent the account below.

In 1990, Norcal Waste Systems began its Artist In Residence program at the San Francisco Dump (click here for their site) which funds local artists to achieve the ultimate dumpster-diver’s dream, turning trash into art. On Friday evening at Herbst Theatre, a sample of the art was presented (“Music and Videos from the Dump”), which included a few installations in the lobby. Especially noteworthy was a full-length dress made from the recycled plastic bags in which various periodicals are delivered in the rain, and which was modeled by one of the moderators of the event.

Once inside the theater, the audience was treated to 7 short yet very entertaining videos, which ranged from the two-minute "Transformation" by Reddy Lieb (made in 2000), to Philip Bonner’s whimsical "An Excerpt from the Purpose Driven Life," which was completed at 5:30PM the evening of the presentation according to the moderator.

Following the videos, there was a tribute to Jo Hanson, the late founder of the Artist in Residence Program (click here for a nice bio).

The highlight of the evening came after the intermission, when Benjamin Shwartz (above on the left) conducted the 8-musician Junkestra in a short (15 minute) 3-movement piece in which all the instruments consisted of refuse found at the dump.

According to composer Nathaniel Stookey, above, who played the "musical saw obbligato" in the second movement, none of the pieces used as instruments were altered in any way. They were not even dusted off, and the musicians were therefore encouraged NOT to blow into any of them. The musicians were dressed in tuxedos, with yellow norcal reflective vests to add a bit of panache.

The piece itself was a study in percussion, and included one of the musicians smacking the open end of mutli-sized plastic tubes with his flip-flops, another playing glissandos on the side of a shopping cart, and others whirling lengths of tubing in big circles over their heads, creating soft "Doppler Effect" sounds.

The performance received a standing ovation from the sold-out audience, and when the composer offered to play the last movement as an encore, the audience cried out to play the whole piece again, which they then proceeded to do. Now that’s recycling in action.


Anonymous said...

whirling lengths of tubing in big circles over their heads, creating soft "Doppler Effect" sounds.

That's the instrument referred to as a Lasso d'Amore in P.D.Q. Bach's "Shepherd on the Rocks with a Twist."

Unknown said...

I wish I could hear/see this piece - it sounds fantastic. Recycling rocks!

All the best,

'Saw Lady'

Anonymous said...

I've read the score but never heard the piece, which also uses tromboon, a slide trombone fitted with a bassoon bocal and reed. In the text, the shepherd starts counting the sheep, one... by one... by one... and eventually drifts off.