on noise, performance art, and playing for bellydancers…

So I’m slowly migrating posts from various blogs I’ve had over the years to this one. Well, ok–I will be slowly migrating posts from various blogs I’ve had (and technically still have) over the years to this one. As I skim through these posts I’m reminded by some of my past artistic and musical activities. Some fondly, some not so fondly.

Jon Silpayamanant as Noiseman433 playing an amplified sheet metal set at the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center in St. Louis, MO (05-09-2004)
Jon Silpayamanant as Noiseman433 playing an amplified sheet metal set at the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center in St. Louis, MO (05-09-2004)
I used to tell people that I quit playing music (ca. 1996-2004) but that wasn’t quite the case–I just quit using the cello as my main instrument. I didn’t even technically quit playing the cello (though I can count the performances I’ve done during that time frame on one hand). What I was doing was exploring and questioning everything I knew (or rather, what I thought I knew) about music and art. So I was heavily involved with doing performance art, sound art, experimental music and theatre, and noise.

The first time I thought about doing something relatively conventional (music-wise) was after buying a copy of Erik Friedlander’s group, Topaz on their “Skin” DVD and seeing Amira Mor dancing to an instrumental version of Googoosh’s song, “Sahel va Darya” (see video below–and for those reading this post at facebook, here is the youtube URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElhAG5wj_E4).

I never would have imagined going from beating amplified sheet metal and found objects to playing music for bellydancers (for my thoughts about that process, see my “Why bellydancers, anyway?” part 1 and part 2). But here I am, doing that one night; and the next playing at the Grand Ole Opry rubbing elbows with Crystal Gayle, Mel Tillis, and Willie Nelson; and on the next playing and singing Mandarin, Turkish, Macedonian, or Punjabi with il Troubadore.

Ana Lucia dancing to drumming by DL and Jon Silpayamanant at The Egyptian Hookah Bar in Indianapolis (03-23-2007)
Ana Lucia dancing to drumming by DL and Jon Silpayamanant at The Egyptian Hookah Bar in Indianapolis (03-23-2007)

And performance art–that’s a fun one. Some of my fondest memories were: having Roberto Sifuentes draped in my lap while holding a machete over his “blood-stained” wife-beater; half dragging art students into interactive performance art pieces when they thought there would only be members of the audience and not participants; chanting prices during Jeffrey Radcliffe’s Philip Glass-esque, “Einstein at the Hub”; erecting a non-sanctioned public sculptures in the middle of the night; performing a half hour long version of John Cage’s 4’33”; or just hanging out with Alison Knowles after one of her performances.

"The Packing Tree" a performance installation piece with audience participation.  Pictured is Jon Silpayamanant and Lauren Scott (ca. 1997)
The Packing Tree: a performance installation piece with audience participation. Pictured is Jon Silpayamanant and Lauren Scott (ca. 1997)

Things are only getting more interesting as I, um, “diversify” a bit (huh? what? hahaha!). So many new projects coming up involving so many other collaborators, some new and some old. This is how it should be for me. I just cannot be a one trick pony–it’d be too much like eating a peanut butter sandwich, day in and day out–some days, I really need that grilled cheese sandwich or a ham and cheese on sourdough, or even something that’s not a sandwich at all. And while I can appreciate how refined the palette can get with so much exposure to one thing, I think I would go crazy if I had to do that. My only regret is that I don’t have more time to learn how to do even more things. For now, I’ll settle for the immediate project of migrating my blogs to this one.

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