Through resilience and re-imagining of the concert experience during a viral pandemic, St. Louis nonprofit New Music Circle has been holding space for experimental music through online Youtube events since October 2020. We last reported on a NMC Online show in February 2021 during the 62nd season, Wendy Eisenberg and Kee Avil, and they’ve put together many incredible concerts since. Now in their 63rd season, the virtual premieres of curated performances has continued to be a highlight of the pandemic for many St. Louisans and experimental music fans.
The musical acts of NMC’s lineup never disappoint with their commonality of improvisational possibilities; the production and editing of the videos themselves takes on similar experimental risks. While in-person shows are usually limited to traditional venues with a “stage”, the NMC concert series has featured many local and nationwide acts performing in surreal St. Louis spots (Sk8 Liborius Church, for example), or in the intimacy of the musicians’ personal backyards and studios. These virtual events feels like discovering a short experimental nonfiction film. Unlike most concerts, we can return to these performances again with just a click, re-entering their work and experiencing it in new ways.
One of the coolest aspects of NMC’s virtual concerts has become utilizing the Youtube chat with friends and other viewers, discussing our favorite parts of the show with jokes, emojis, and genuine enthusiasm. In a lonely era where arts events have been cancelled in waves to match the surges, NMC’s online seasons have been a consistent space for new artistic energy and community.
A couple weeks ago, on January 10th 2022, the latest New Music Circle event showcased two legendary noise musicians from Oberlin, Ohio: Aaron Dilloway and Robert Turman. As usual, the event opened with a local musician (Josh Levi) thanking the sponsors, bringing a homey feeling of community involvement from the start. This dual concert, like an A side and B side, was filmed entirely in Oberlin this past fall by John Wiese. There is an immediate aura of intuitive collaboration between documenter and musician, as the concert opens with Dilloway digging through a shoreline of broken seashells with his arms. The sound of the shards shiver like TV static, rubbing against Dilloway’s home-setup of electronics and tapes. Shells sift through his hands as the late-day sun hits the body of water behind him in a bright stripe, the sounds bubbling and shifting.
The tension of machinery vs. nature as instruments for art continues with the visual/sound experience of Robert Turman’s performance. Turman, who has contributed to experimental music since the late 1970s, arranges the gradual movement of organ-like sounds in his shed-like studio, collaged over waterborne shots of flowers. Interwoven, Wiese follows behind with the camera as Turman tours the garden of his backyard and a foresty hiking path. Through both acts, we feel as though we are traveling on an outdoor dream journey, powered by the artists’ masterful toying of tones.
There are always more upcoming opportunities to attend the 63rd season of NMC. The next New Music Circle show, “DAVE STONE / GREG MILLS & ERIC MANDAT” premiered on Monday, January 24th, at 8:15pm on Youtube. Suggested donations for NMC will be accepted through their Paypal throughout the event. “See you” there!
Watch the “AARON DILLOWAY / ROBERT TURMAN” virtual concert via New Music Circle’s Youtube channel below: