Natalie Gravenor | Thursday August 20th, 2015 | 1
US minimalist composer-filmmaker-author-curator-activist Tony Conrad has been shaping the way we listen and see for over five decades. His drone music collaborations with John Cale, La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela and Angus MacLise (as The Dream Syndicate) changed the face of rock – by way of Cale’s later band, the ceaselessly influential Velvet Underground and also through the concept of drone music. Conrad’s 1966 film “The Flicker” is 30 minutes of light-dark alternation. Drone, flicker – basic building blocks of sound and sight explored in ways that expand conceptions of music and film.
The New York-based polymath (“math” is the operative suffix here, read on for an explanation) is now paying a return visit to Berlin. The main event of his stay is the Berlin Atonal Festival of electronic and experimental music and adjacent arts, an 1980s West Berlin mainstay rebooted in 2013 by initiator Dimitri Hegemann at his new Tresor space in an old power station. On Friday, August 21, Conrad will be showing a retrospective of his films from 1965 to 2015 and on Saturday, he will be teaming with Krautrockers Faust to perform their collaborative work “Outside the Dream Syndicate”, originally released in 1973.
As a warm up, Conrad gave a talk on August 15 at the project space General Public (in their new home in the ACUD cultural center). Ostensibly titled “Informal Conversations”, Conrad offered no less than a concise explanation of the mathematical foundation of music (harmonics) – including his refutal of the Pythagorean method, showing once again one needs to know the rules in order to break them – and a philosophical reflection on art, activism and audience, through the prism of his own varied career in which he assumed the roles of cultural producer and facilitator – in the 1980s, Conrad was active in the Buffalo art space Hallwalls and in community politics.
Here’s an excerpt from Tony Conrad’s harmonics lesson:
Conrad’s THE FLICKER and TONY CONRAD: DREAMINIMALIST, an experimental documentary by Marie Losier, are available on realeyz along with other key works of avantgarde cinema, through Paris-based experimental film distributors RE:VOIR.