Lou Reed’s Droning Guitars

Last night I went to hear Lou Reed’s guitars and amplifiers drone away in the Cathedral of St. John The Divine in New York City.  Stewart Hurwood (Lou’s former guitar technician) curated the evening and manipulated the guitars and amplifiers. The cathedral is a dark and foreboding structure on a bit of a hill “Across 110th Street” (if you’re not familiar, that’s a great Bobby Womack song). 1047 Amsterdam Ave. @ 112th Street to be precise. I took some pictures as I made my way up Morningside drive and I could hear the drones from the back of the structure. As I entered I heard a rumble of low drones accompanied by the cacophonous stabs and lurches of the church organ, which annoyed me. Obviously I had some preconceived notion as to how I wanted this thing to go. I meandered around to catch a glimpse of the guitars and amplifiers. I ended up standing behind the semi-circle of amps where Stewart Hurwood was bouncing around from amp to amp and guitar to guitar maintaining the drone and occasionally manipulating the feedback. I thought about having patience with that unexpected organ. I thought of the crowd of people. I thought about my breath. I felt like I was humming (I wasn’t). The organ had stopped and the droning continued. I felt like I was slightly swaying. I looked up and there were 2 men all in black doing a series of thai chi moves. A light applause followed which seemed weird…an unsure of itself applause over the drones. A saxophone began wailing in the distance. Stan Harrison walked around the space outside of the main circle of amps so his horn sounded in sharp relief to those of us dedicated to being near the amps intermittently and then faded back into the main hall. His playing was selective and neither overly wrought nor was it committed to a particular melody. This night was all about sound. I thought of acceptance. Accepting the organ. Accepting being in a crowd. Accepting being in my thoughts. In order to understand the idea of acceptance I had to listen. Like love. In order to love fully you must allow yourself to be loved. Like music. In order to accept music you must silence yourself and listen. I headed towards the exit and came upon Laurie Anderson playing an electric violin and a small midi keyboard and laptop. At one point she played a light recording of music that you might hear in a Chinese restaurant and I wondered if maybe it was from a place Lou and Laurie used to go. As I listened to her intuitive playing I heard Lou Reed’s guitars and amps droning in the distance and it felt like a couple calling out to each other from different rooms in the same voluminous house. I felt like I was under water. This is what it sounds like under water.

Participating Musicians

Laurie Anderson, John Zorn, Stan Harrison, Sarth Calhoun, Shahzad Ismaily. Curated by Stewart Hurwood. The program was presented in conjunction with, The Value of Sanctuary: Building A House Without Walls (an exhibit on view through June 30th)

 

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