Ventured over to local new music venue Issue Project Room last night to see cellist and vocalist Audrey Chen perform her haunting, often beautiful music before an intimate crowd. She comes from the Fluxus/John Cage mold of using chance techniques in performance: loosening the low string until it rattled, inserting electronics such as clippers and electric toothbrushes in the neck, running a rubber ball around the perimeter of the cello's back. At one point, she sawed so furiously on the strings that her bow was literally shredded to pieces. Admirably, she seemed as if she couldn't care less.
Her vocals ranged from quiet to deafening, and from gentle to disturbing. At the end of the first piece, she appeared to be singing a text which was inaudible to me, sitting in the second row. But, it was personal enough to Chen to leave her in accidental tears. Those are the sort of magic moments that I go to performances hoping to see - and I've seen more than a few at Issue Project Room.
Playing with Chen were Susan Alcorn on a quiet pedal steel guitar and Nate Wooley on amplified trumpet - or, rather, what I would call negative trumpet, since he never actually sounded a note. Chen also made use of a homemade noise machine, giving an appropriately inconsistent beat that sounded more like static than anything.
Chen is Issue Project Room's artist in residence for the next four months; her next performance will be on April 12. Go check her out: the Gowanus Canal should be nice that time of year.