Ghost That Note: Harpstrings, Heartstrings, and Street Scenes

Ghost That Note: Harpstrings, Heartstrings, and Street Scenes

Architecture, Art, Cities, Music… Who could ask for more? =) /On the serious side, it would be time to break up with the pseudo-sobriety of concert halls and explore ‘site-specific performances’ –long overdue!

Though I am no harp aficionado, my knowledge of the instrument limited to a twinned love for Alice Coltrane and Joanna Newsom, the music was wonderfully effecting; the harpist herself was Consuelo Giulianelli, a celebrated concert musician based in Basel. Her glittery performance inaugurated “Ghost Notes: Acoustic Still Lives at Voltaplatz in Basel,” a series of three site-specific performances over the next month. Curatorial duo asiootus (Baharak Tajbakhsh and André Freiermuth) helpfully articulated their intentions in the following text:

“Streets become loges, facades become scenes and the yard becomes a hall. The houses at the Voltaplatz sing. The block of flats at the corner of Hueningerstrasse and Elsässerstrasse in Basel opens its gates and windows for receiving Basel. Accompanied by harp sounds, choir voices and accordion we are shown the worlds of towns, which otherwise remain secret.”

The mutability— architectural and otherwise—the curators describe was immediately tangible in Giulianelli’s recital in the sky. The next two performances, comprising a local men’s choir (belting from windows) and a Ukrainian electronic accordionist playing a nearby backyard, should further the curators’ stated objectives: to transform a neighborhood into stage and performer both, and to highlight the latent theatricality in spaces public, private, and domestic. Turning a street into a “street scene,” which is itself based on the street, can recall the Ouroboros, the ancient symbol of the serpent devouring its own tail, but it can also shine a light on the ways in which we segregate our experiences and the spaces in which we have them. Art or the arts—visual, literary, musical, theatrical—are still often thought of as something apart from the actual business of living; that all is a performance is a truism that much contemporary art seeks to affirm. Without “breaking-the-third-wall” histrionics, the first “Ghost Notes” performance effortlessly turned its audience into extras, a building into a set, and an uncertain spot in the sky into a stage.

The title of the program is an actual musical term: “to ghost a note” (which could easily be Richard Price dialogue from The Wire, no?) is to nearly occlude it. On musical scores such notes are often set in parentheticals; muted as they are, they could be said to “haunt” the music at hand. Nevertheless, there was nothing specter-like about Giulianelli’s performance—her notes rang true and clear except when muffled by the street’s own sonic interludes—but for its placement in the netherworld between street and sky. Not bad for a simmering Sunday night in Switzerland.



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