Posted by Levi Hanes
The Aphid’s show was a concept work based on the CIA’s categories of race on the continents of the world. Before the show started the composer posited the thesis that the attempt of quantifying racial-identity to percentages and simple words inevitably descends into confusion. The composer called attention to the laptops used as sheet music and encouraged the viewers to move around and examine the screens which mixed traditional notation with what looked like abstract ink-blots and other times the view on the main projection screen.
From the beginning of Louisa Bufardeci’s film and the string quartets accompaniment confusion was apparent. I had difficulty figuring out what the red bands forming timeline divisions down a field of skin tones were referring to and how they coordinated with the ethnic types that were barely visible at the top and bottom of the screen. Sporadic percentages around the 20-30 range moved across the screen at varying speeds never seemed to make sense. Sometimes the music seemed to follow the visual, such as the cello percussive notes hitting when a red vertical delineation line reached the left side of the screen or long passages by the viola between red bars, but for the most part the correspondence seemed loose. After some time the larger continents began to make sense and the passages were explained at the beginning of the show to be varied on the actual population of the continent.
I just looked at the CIA World Factbook and there is no listing of Antarctica, though represented in the show. This segment was the only variation on the visual and musical theme. The musicians held mixing bowls with ice cubes and water on which they blew over, shook and lightly hit. The setting and mic-ing made it difficult to hear the actual effect, but the point was made. The stickler in me thought about the many nations’ scientists living on Antarctica, but was willing to suspend that thought a bit. And the CIA didn’t seem to take any notice of it either as suggested by their site.
After about the half-way point I stopped trying to understand what was being conveyed. The point was made: all these numbers thrown together don’t make much sense. The music was fine and somewhat interesting the visual mildly interesting landscapes of skin, but after their instructive confusion lost relevance I lost interest in the projections. The quartet seemed competent, the composition fine, the visual serving its didactic purpose.