The destruction of a Chrysler Imperial by a 20-ton excavator was a centerpiece to the exhibit.Los Angeles (July 22, 2008)–These days, performance art seems almost like a lost art, but there are people trying to revive it. Artist Matthew Barney and collaborating composer Jonathan Bepler recently began a series of one-time opera/performances set around the world, inspired by Norman Mailer’s 1983 novel, Ancient Evenings, and the results are being recorded with True Systems Precision 8 mic pres.
The first performance, Ren, took place in mid-May at an abandoned car dealership off the I-5 Interstate south of Los Angeles. Some 600 spectators witnessed the event, which involved a drum and bugle corps, the complete destruction of a Chrysler Imperial by a 20-ton excavator, the release of several thousand crickets, and much, much more over the course of two spectacular hours.
Together with the composer Jonathan Bepler, Daniel Teige, sound engineer at Bepler’s Berlin studio, was charged with the Herculean task of capturing sound for a future video release of the event. In addition to a well-chosen rack of converters and audio cards, Teige and Bepler used four TRUE Systems Precision 8 mic pres coupled with over two dozen Microtech Gefell microphones strategically located throughout the event space.
The event was recorded with True Systems Precision 8 mic pres.As is the case with any of Barney’s and Bepler’s works, “Ren” is difficult to succinctly describe, though an attempt might be: a melding of ancient Egyptian mythology and symbolism with 21st Century themes and ephemera. A wrecked 1967 Chrysler Imperial sat in the parking lot, which was decked out with believable salesman, eighty new Chryslers, and other nuances so as to look fully operational. The performance began with an approach from all directions by squads of a fifty piece drum and bugle corps, who gathered throughout the huge site to play a vast, surround-sound introduction. After a rousing, post-modern fanfare on the roof, the Imperial was dragged by forty-five laborers into the showroom to compete with a 1979 Pontiac TransAm whose mega sound system played groaning sub-tones. An all-female mariachi band led by Mexican singer Lila Downs, and the salesmen (assembled as a “choir”), provided the musical accompaniment as 11,000 crickets emerged from the 20-ton excavator that eventually shredded the Imperial. Through all of this, the audience moved from seats to the showroom. The music came from all over the lot. From Teige’s perspective, it was tremendously challenging to capture sound, given the event’s radical dynamic range and spatial extent.
Teige began his preparations seven months prior to the event. Even though there would be over two dozen Microtech Gefell microphones, he used four True Systems Precision 8s. From the Precision 8s, signal would flow to an Apogee AD-16x converter and two Apogee Rosetta 800s, all of which were clocked to a bank of Pro Tools HD cards in a Magma chassis by an Apogee Big Ben running at 96kHz.
Although Teige and Bepler concentrated the bulk of their recording gear in the showroom, where most of Ren’s action took place, they had mics located all over the lot. From Teige’s end, everything went off without a hitch. On a larger view, a few audience members were injured by flying glass. “The sound quality is excellent,” he said. “The TRUE Systems Preicision 8s and Microtechs are the perfect partners. We’ve had countless unsolicited praise about the clarity and beauty of the sound on previous projects from people who don’t think much about audio. It’s that obvious.”
“Ren” is certainly not the last use that combination will see, either. Barney and Bepler have plans for six more performances of similar magnitude but different content to take place in a mine in Poland, a steel mill in England, a taxi garage in New York City, a building site in Abu Dhabi, a ship-breaking yard in India, and finally (and closest to conventionally!) an opera house in an as-yet undetermined location.
TransAudio Group (Distributor)