Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Notes from the Passe-Garde

Speaking of the eighties...I'm listening to the sound of yesterday's avant-garde.

It's the CD of David Byrne's The Knee Plays, written for Robert Wilson's play The CIVIL WarS: A Tree Is Best Measured When It Is Down. I'm not even sure how I came across it on Amazon, but when I saw it, I immediately had a memory of something I never did. My first year of college, there were posters for this all over the place, lots of publicity, and as a small-town girl in the big city, I was all like, ooh, avant-garde theatre! The Guthrie, the Walker, the Talking Heads!

Of course, I quickly learned the irony of access: all this stuff was going on, but it took money to see it, which I didn't have. A few years ago I was doing some research on, well, it's hard to keep track, but I tried to Interlibrary Loan a cassette version of this album, long out of print, and it was impossible to get it.
I just found an article about online at ( and discovered that this portion of the play was actually its US premiere as a Walker/Guthrie collaboration in Mpls, which explains the excessive hoopla. (By the way, I think the Walker/Guthrie divorce will turn out to be a mistake. Their common audience will have to go in two different physical directions, so they'll lose the natural cross-over. But maybe they know what they're doing).

Most of the pieces have that minimalistic, Alive From Off-Center sound, and Byrne's spoken recitations remind me of the ones on Remain in Light. Part of the song "Faust Dance" is curiously reminiscent of the score for John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness, which is a fine thing, but then the clattery drumstick sound pushes it into a new direction.

There's also a bonus DVD of "the entire 57-minutes original theatrical performance as a slide show," which I suspect will be underwhelming, given the passing of time, and my own going in a different direction from the girl who thought she was going to be a real Walker Art Center person.

Now, if only I could remember the name of the dance troupe that did the 24-hour performance piece at the Guthrie...Which, by the way, was FREE. Now, that's my kind of art.

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