Sonic Youth, Merce Cunningham Deploy Giant Cricket Helmet at BAM


Of all the strange bandstands Sonic Youth have played on over the years, this had to be one of the strangest. This past weekend, the group joined Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and composer Takehisa Kosugi to provide the soundscape for Merce Cunningham’s highly anticipated Nearly Ninety dance show at BAM. But the musicians were not stationed down in the pit; instead, they were mounted on a towering and elaborate metal construction at the rear of the Gilman Opera House stage, churning out their grinding aural endeavors as Cunningham’s choreography unfolded before them. The three- or four-level (hard to tell!) contraption, designed by architect Benedetta Tagliabue, did an entertaining job of upstaging Cunningham’s dancers, despite their 1967-season Star Trek costumes.

The New York Times said the bandstand looked like “an ugly science-fiction cross between various Marcel Duchamp works (“Nude Descending a Staircase,” “The Bride and the Bachelors”) and some “Star Wars” battleship.” Us? Well, we’ll call it a cubist pirate ship. Or a giant cricket helmet, as sported by an advanced, Anglophilic civilization in a remote corner of Alpha Centuri. Or a kind of glowing off-shore oil platform, drilling down deep into untapped fields of the dissonant avant-garde. The dancing? Check back on Wednesday for what’s sure to be Deborah Jowitt’s sage review…

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