Monday, October 1, 2007

Tom Heasley in concert

Last Friday evening, Tucson had a visit from Tom Heasley, performing on tuba, didjeridu and electronics, without any aid from computers. Heasley plays gorgeous, deep drone music, and at the Solar Culture gallery, Heasley's sounds filled the room. I have been corresponding with Tom for a few months, and serendipitously, have an article about him that was published this past weekend.

The opening act was local artist Kati Astraeir, who played a number of short videos over droney soundtracks from artists such as Matthew Florianz, Igneous Flame, and Raison d'etre. The videos were composed from still pictures cross faded into each other. Some of the images were photographs with various levels of alteration, some were paintings. The juxtaposition of the photographs (which were typically nature) and the paintings (which were more fantasy oriented) showed the degree to which the natural forms showed up in her paintings.

Following a short intermission, Heasley played three extended pieces. The first and last pieces used the tuba as the primary sound source. He opened the concert with a simple breath through the tubing, he added more and more layers until there was finally a big cloud of sound, over which he soloed. The second piece was with a "poor man's didjeridu" (Heasley's words), a handmade instrument constructed from plumbing pipe. Initially he made the deep, rolling didjeridu noises, but often he sang or whistled into the pipe. The gallery is right next to the train tracks, and there were lots of trains, whose whistles and bells added an extra jolt, but which were never picked up into the loops though.

Seeing Heasley perform brought home to me how closely his music is tied to the breath — obvious when I think about the instruments he plays, but not always so obvious when I listen to his music at home. This is the origin of the calming energy that his music imparts. Of course, the other wonderful aspect of hearing him perform is the sound system. It's great to hear drone music played so loud that the room vibrates, bringing out all kinds of partials and overtones that ordinarily get missed.

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