Saturday, April 23, 2022

Performance review: ELLIOT SHARP live film score


Originally published in The NYC Jazz Record, John Pietaro, NY@Night column, May 2022

Elliott Sharp, live film score

White Box Artspace, New York NY

 Elliott Sharp is a Downtown original. Composer, guitarist and woodwind player of eminence, his music, more than four decades into such a career, maintains a sense of wonder and innovation. Among his most profound pieces are those created collaboratively, and this was evidenced at the Whitebox Artspace (April 5). Sharp, playing an 8-string electric guitar/bass further expanded by effects, performed live to segments of film by Janene Higgins. The designer/video artist’s work is as severe, expansive and mercurial as the East Village itself (her alliances with Zeena Parkins, Christian Marclay, Ikue Mori, many others, speaks volumes) and these selections from Sharp’s opera installations, and a work with interdisciplinary artist Rena Anakwe, were visually compelling and sonically riveting. Port Bou, an opera based on the final moments of the great Marxist philosopher Walter Benjamin, just prior to his execution by the Nazis, sports dark fascist imager countered forcefully by Sharp’s hammer-ons, tapping and long held distorted tones. The opera installation Filiseti Mekidesi of 2018 explores the search for solace and belonging by refugees via intertwined genome-like designs and visions of deep space. The score (pre-recorded but enhanced by Sharp’s live performance) featured repetition and phasing in the flute and brass sections and throbbing percussion, but this was far from the minimalist brand. And Die Grosst Fugue (2021) was an emotional firestorm, depicting Beethoven at 250, mad, detached, deaf and falling into fugue states which had Sharp’s searing, canonic guitar lines conjuring Robert Fripp over stunning visuals.

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