Monday, February 28, 2011

Alwin Nikolais

Allow me to introduce Alwin Nikolais and his bells, gongs, cymbals, wood blocks, whistles, tubes, elastic bands, tin containers, rattles, and coils of wire. Nikolais is a pioneer in mixed media, the creator of what he called The Theater of Light-Sound-Color-Motion, for which he composed his own music -- initially percussion pieces performed live on children's toy instruments and automobile parts and later a full-blown concrète psychedelia spun through a huge reel-to-reel tape recorder. I love the liner notes for this album: "maze of colored bars before infinite vista", "a playful exorcizing of imps", "parts of people and things illuminated in glows of colored light", "large sailing and pulsing kite-like shapes"... There was recently a Nikolais retrospective at the New York Public Library but I didn't manage to make it. Anybody go?