Olivia Block & Maria Chavez — Images via oliviablock.net & mariachavez.org

Olivia Block & Maria Chavez

Crow With No Mouth Concert Series

Friday’s performances by Olivia Block and Maria Chavez at Studio Z in Saint Paul — part of the Crow With No Mouth Concert Series — were an opportunity to hear two unique, multifaceted sound artists present specific aspects of their work. Performing before a small audience, Block and Chavez labored in turn to create two very different atmospheres, adding up to an intriguing evening of provocative music.

The first half of the concert belonged to Block, a composer who is primarily known for her electroacoustic work but who also writes music for orchestra and chamber ensemble. Her set on Friday consisted of one long, untitled piece created with amplified objects, cassette recordings, walkie-talkies and autoharp. The piece moved through several stages, with recorded noises and speech dominating at some points, electronic tones and pulses at others, and white noise at others. The recorded sounds in particular seemed to follow a progression, sounding like echoes from another room toward the beginning of the piece and gaining greater immediacy later on. What was particularly striking about Block’s piece was the fact that through multiple transitions of mood and texture, it never lost momentum; each section building to a climax and then almost imperceptibly shifting into something new.

After a brief intermission, Chavez took to the stage. Like Block, Chavez wears many hats, creating sound installations and art objects, curating the work of other artists, and producing traditional DJ mixes. On Friday, she presented three relatively brief, improvisational pieces for turntable. Each piece was built primarily around a single record, with Chavez performing a variety of interventions that included placing fragments of other records on top, tapping rhythmically on the player, moving the table on which her equipment sat, and dropping small objects on top of the rotating platter. The result was a series of adventurous, transitory, open-ended concoctions that engaged the audience in the artist’s process of discovery and creation.

Ultimately, the juxtaposition of Block’s carefully assembled, emotionally visceral music and Chavez’s abstract, conceptual improvisations served as both a study in contrasts and a testament to the breadth of possibilities in contemporary sound art. One hopes that Twin Cities audiences will have an opportunity to hear both of these daring, thoughtful artists perform their work again in the future.

Olivia Block photo by Yuko Zama
Maria Chavez photo by Chris Buck

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Eric Prindle

administers Bad Entertainment. He is also an attorney who leads a team of legal marketing copywriters at FindLaw. He is not Eric Prindle, the mixed martial arts fighter.