Craig Leon – Experimental/Classical
The addition of Craig Leon to the Moogfest lineup was an exciting wildcard that gave me a respite from a theoretical overload on daaaaance music. At the very least, it was pleasing to have someone who wasn’t another DJ and was now well known for his classical work in addition to his seminal work in the Post-Punk realm. I had a passing familiarity with the “Nommos” album, which would be played live for the first time ever that evening; which probably put me at the front of the line for Moogfest. It’s important to have uncompromising elder statesmen present at this event to broaden its horizons.
The string section was recruited from the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, but Leon was also aided and abetted by Cassell Webb, his wife and long-standing musical partner. Ms. Webb also played synths and also vocalized on one of the tracks, which had a Native American feel to it. The music was dense, polyrhythmic, and repetitive, with abrupt changes in tone and tempo as the five tracks which comprise “Nommos” were played straight through with no pauses. This was probably the first time that the ability to hear this project as its creator intended [all editions have been vinyl only] had ever happened.
Indeed, to facilitate the split second transitions between the songs, Leon had to conduct the string players with as much intensity as I’ve ever seen a conductor muster in a live performance. The strings, for their part, were more rhythmic or textural in the mix, lending it an air of Philip Glass-slash-Krautrock as seen through an exotic, aboriginal lens. During the performance, I thought that the work might have been based on a Native American creation/destruction myth, but in fact, the piece was based on the creation myth of the Malinese Dogon tribe, so my guess was in the right realm, but the wrong continent.
The work played through with a repetitive, trance inducing, yet fiery intensity. I don’t think that my wife enjoyed it as I think she was expecting something serene and this definitely was not that. The stakes here were the heralding of creation itself and that naturally lends itself to a period of sustained drama. It ended as suddenly as it began and we filtered out into the night as though it were a new universe. My wife said goodnight after I was buttonholed by a gent who commented on my Simple Minds t-shirt. We chatted about music for a good 20 minutes as he was an enthusiast about Simple Minds and Gary Numan. I was aware that at a certain point I had ten minutes to get to the next show, so with that we went our separate ways, eventually. I had to hot-foot it over to Asheville Music Hall for the next set in the evening from Escort.
Next: …We are here to blow minds…