Performing Arts: Music
November 14, 2013
A spontaneous, absorbing game of chance, composer Joe Diebes’ BOTCH succeeds as both performance art and an evening of inventive experimental music. The audience is positioned in a circle around four performers (vocal artists Christina Campanella, Michael Chinworth, John Rose, and Saori Tsukada) engaged in a series of evolving chance operations devised by Diebes (who operates a soundboard throughout, occasionally tossing handmade, novelty-sized dice in the performers’ path).

Via monitors positioned around the room, the artists share a scrolling text, which reads like a scrambling of Internet rants and news articles. They proceed to direct and manipulate each other’s amplified voices, often while taking direction themselves.

These commands (by hand signals) affect a fellow performer’s voice, changing the other’s pitch, speed, or to adopt a different voice entirely, read the scrolling words backwards, “record” a fragment of speech, start and close a loop of read-aloud text, repeat this loop, etc.

The overall effect is, as Diebes calls it, “a broken-word opera” – the artists hacking up, stretching, and compressing language while prerecorded field music, noise, and other electronics buzz underneath. Perhaps the most beautiful moment of the piece is halfway through when the synthesizers come in and the performers talk- sing together for a period.

But even in the starker moments of soliloquy, BOTCH fascinates, as language is torn and phased into something else entirely, thrillingly just outside of comprehension. While some audience members simply closed their eyes and listened, others were more captivated by the process itself – trying to make sense of the ‘game’ being played in view.

Even those moments when it all feels a touch over-serious – - about when the performers start aiming the microphones at each other like guns –- you could spot a redeeming half-smile on Diebes over in the dark.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Geoffrey Lokke

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