Screw Hannah Montana-real teen music hits the Park Avenue Armory at the Biennial.
Wed Feb 20 2008
“It’s somewhere between a cover and an interpretation,” says Marina Rosenfeld of Teenage Lontano, her adaptation of György Ligeti’s ethereal 1967 classic Lontano. Rosenfeld, a New York–based turntablist and sound artist, recorded 20 different parts (whose pitch sets are derived from the original Ligeti score) and had her choir—local teenagers—download them to their personal music players. The performance will consist of 30 or so teens in a row listening to iPods and other MP3 players, either alone or in pairs, each singing to his or her respective downloaded cues, while a bank of speakers overhead play Rosenfeld’s prerecorded score. As the artist describes it, there’s “a speaker installation overhead, a choir down below and the piece is happening in the air in between.” The work makes its debut at the Park Avenue Armory as part of the Whitney Biennial, along with a satellite 16-channel sound installation in an adjacent room. Mar 6–Jun 1
Instead of sheet music, the choir will be “reading” sound. Rosenfeld tells the students that what they are listening to is a kind of “secret text,” inaccessible to the audience. “After a while,” she tells them, “the audience will want to know what you’re listening to that they can’t hear.”
Why Lontano? “One way to read Ligeti’s work is as an attempt to break down certain structures and create something freer and more open-ended. To listen to it is to experience an opening up of structure,” says Rosenfeld. “This formal experiment is my method of reconfiguring that openness.”
Rosenfeld recruited students from all over the city. She says she sees teenagers as a kind of “material” to investigate the culture of headphones: “They can directly engage with technology in a way that only people born into this moment can,” she says.
The installation above the choir features 11 speakers: ten fixed and a large one that rotates, which will “sweep the sound across the architecture of the room,” says Rosenfeld. “I want people to feel like they’re inside it.”