Before you heard any music you saw Charlemagne Palestine’s stuffed animal shrines, their votive candles providing the only light in Yale Union‘s long basilica-esque space. It was dark and eerie with the reflections of people in the windows and the glittering eyes of the animals. People wandered from shrine to shrine, the children often skipped. Around 9’clock the performance began with Charlemagne toasting, playing, and drinking a couple cognac glasses before moving on to the piano.
I’ve heard my fair share of experimental music, especially on percussion instruments, but I’m no music critic so I’m quoting a friend here to back up my feeling that the work wasn’t the most challenging I’ve had to listen to, which isn’t to say it was bad. “He shares styles of minimalism, but he also carried a rhythm melody for most of it and he stayed fairly on key. Neither was there a lot of dissonance. In many way he resolved his melodic moments.” For me, the stuffed animals and the wailing were the most interesting bits. I also would have enjoyed it better if it had been billed less as a performance and more as an installation.
As an installation the audience/viewers would have been more free to leave offerings at the shrines while his piano playing and wailing reverberated up and down the hall. Instead there was a crowd of an audience in the chairs surrounding his piano, and it was obvious that people felt bound to the convention of not leaving in the midst of the performance even while others did just that. When I turned away from the tableau with about ten minutes left I noticed many people still in the hall, roaming the space and lounging about. They seemed to be having an entirely different kind of experience than what was possible by remaining tethered to the performer.
Afterwards I considered the stuffed animals, the votive candles, and the wailing. I wondered if this was a mourning of lost youth, an expunging of childhood demons, or an attempt to recognize the incomprehensible humanity of those youngest among us, skipping among the shrines.