LONGEST-RUNNING ONE-MAN SHOW
By Paul Hertelendy
artssf.com, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music
Week of Dec. 7, 2008
Vol. 11, No. 42
Audiences enter Audium, and they embark on a new
world of the imagination, fired by sound and unseen space. After the
performance, they sit, still mesmerized, taking forever to stand, talk
resume real-world life. For a mere $15 it offers the ultimate nonpareil
experience, all without benefit of alcohol or drugs.
The marvel of
Audium is not the sound score, but rather the
extraordinary installation, with 174 speakers in a blacked-out room
sound leaps about, gazelle-like.
composer Stan Shaff’s intimate site-and-sound, could
claim to be San Francisco’s
longest-running one-man musical institution, still giving 100
year, a half-century after Shaff, 79, first
launched his ambitious work. His
concerts have been presented more than 4,300 times in the most intimate
surroundings, with just 49 seats in the custom-built facility. That is
the number of S.F. Opera subscription evenings over that 50-year span.
so long ago, there was no web site, and no
announcements had to be made about turning off cell phones.
musical mission is modern, different and specific. “I ask
audiences to see with their ears and feel with their bodies,” the
And now he has
launched the ninth in his evolving programs
at Audium, going fully digital for the first time.
with touches of surrealism, greet the visitor in
the foyer while unseen speakers enhance the world sonically. Hallways
about maze-like, with indirect lights from unknown crannies. Friends,
another world, and it’s an agreeable, soothing surprise
journey, supremely restful for any
one fighting the bridges and parking hassles.
soundscape is a blend of natural sound, processed
sound and entirely electronic. He has children talking distantly, surf,
twitter, thunder, junk sounds, dripping water, keyboard, and at one
point even a
Cuban beat. Somehow he avoided the temptation of a real San Francisco
cliché: fog horn. But he did
Also there are
effects of oboe, contrabass, vibraphone, a
street trumpeter, clarinet and light
percussion, with all the emphasis on lucidity (taking advantage of
transmission) and articulation. The closest aesthetic to his might be
His composition is episodic, rarely rhythmic or melodic, and only
uses very little of the woofer (bass) part of
the spectrum, which could easily make the floor shake enticingly.
disappointment was in the mobile-sound aspect.
Shaff can make the sounds jump around the room, but his earlier, less
version of Audium he was often able to make the sounds swish around the
like a musician constantly strolling between the chairs.
Audi(tori)um is round, with speakers at the middle,
above, and around the perimeter. Barely perceived, Shaff
himself is at a discreet console, “steering”
the sounds of four pre-recorded digital channels around the room, never
the same way twice. “I’m always surprised at myself,” he says of the
adding self-effacingly, “Sometimes I’m better than others.”
the half-century mark in spatial sound, Shaff
looks forward to further evolution, possibly broadening the mix. “My
thing is to open (this site) up to other composers.”
Audium 9, an hour-long program in
sound-sculptured space by
composer Stan Shaff. Audium, 1616 Bush, San
Every Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. For
info: call (415) 771-1616, or go online.
©Paul Hertelendy 2008
Paul Hertelendy has been
the dance and modern-music scene in the San Francisco Bay Area with
-- and a certain amount of salsa -- for years.
These critiques appearing weekly (or sometimes semi-weekly, but never
will focus on dance and new musical creativity in performance, with
into books (by authors of the region), theater and recordings by local
artists as well.
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