Keith Rowe / Julien Ottavi – Live at Erstwhile Festival – 2005 on #neuguitars #blog #KeithRowe

Erstwhile never proposed to release this duo and probably never will. This archive needed to be out and about, Keith Rowe and Julien Ottavi shares a common passion for radio as instruments, as duo or within their project N:Q (v2). Keith Rowe/Julien Ottavi “Rowe and Ottavi set up side by side with a table of computers, radios and on one a guitar. Pre-set Rowe spent a lot of time tuning in at least three radios, as well as setting up his guitar with the headphones over the pickups. As the lights dim, both Ottavi and Rowe begin with a dense static, wash of sound and then begin the radio grabs. And this is what the performance became, an improvised Cage-esque, overlapping layers of radio grabs, static and diminishing mellow feedback. The grabs went across the full spectrum from news reports on Katrina, commercials, a long bit in French, some dance music, two very long hip-hop grabs all coming in and out of static and conflicting radio grabs. During the second of the hip-hop grabs from Rowe, Ottavi finds a string quartet drifting in and out of the ether. As he waves the radio around, manipulating the choppiness of the tuning Rowe, fades out all his radios and what sounds the guitar is still making. Audibly he says to Ottavi, “Just walk away. Leave it and walk away”. He gets up and repeats this in Ottavi’s ear and then exits the performing area. A few moments later Ottavi sets down the radio and leaves as well. The lights remain off with the classical music, drifting in and out of tune for long minutes. They come back on to applause, but the radio kept playing for a long time as people exited the room. I thought this set was fantastic, different from the other sets we’d seen from Rowe and Ottavi so far. The Cage-ian radio manipulation, so appropriate in NYC where Cage did so much of that part of his work, was a conflicting contrast to the festival so far. The continuing Katrina news, highlighting the state of America, cut up by vacuous pop music and commercials was powerful. The ending classical grab, especially in context with Rowe’s earlier talk about classical music at the round table was a perfect and serendipitous ended. Additionally the controversy that this set created, a deep divide between the audience I think clearly shows it to be one of the most effecting and powerful of the festival.”