Taking in Jennifer Walshe and Anthony Braxton at Darmstadt

5/5 - (10 votes)

Walshe’s text in “Minor Characters” moves at a fast pace, mirroring the speed of thought in the music. At times, her vocals appear to celebrate internet memes and the temporary elevation of “minor characters” to social media fame. However, she quickly shifts gears, chastising the world or herself for disregarding weightier issues. The music reflects this rapid movement, transitioning between friendly and leisurely rhythms, to intense and chaotic black-metal blast beats. It also oscillates between catchy saxophone riffs reminiscent of advertising jingles, and more avant-garde free-jazz sounds. Walshe’s electric guitar playing displays both calm, finger-tapped phrases influenced by Eddie Van Halen and unpredictable bursts of distorted noise.

She also plays with audience expectations throughout the performance. Initially, she adopts a confessional tone, sharing a story similar to the #MeToo movement, involving a professor enticing a student to his basement. However, she abruptly leaves the narrative unresolved, with the professor screaming into the void for eternity.

Instead, “Minor Characters” shifts its focus to new fascinations and horrors, much like the transient nature of online existence. Walshe’s powerful delivery of lines like “they knew, we all knew, and we did nothing about it” implicates herself and others in a profound understanding of the climate crisis. There is a Brünnhilde-like intensity in her expression, tempered with hints of grace and humor, reminiscent of Wotan’s realization in Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, that the world’s demise is a consequence of its own flawed designs.

Walshe draws inspiration from a wide range of literary sources, including Samuel Beckett’s “Watt,” rapper KRS-One, and even the cast of Wagner’s “Lohengrin.” The mention of Wagner is not a mere superficial reference; Walshe rejects irony in her work, emphasizing the need for music to possess genuine meaning and significance. For her, there must be something at stake.

“Minor Characters” seems to raise the question of how we can collectively address problems when everyone is absorbed in their own online world, driven by personal taste and distractions. Despite the show’s coherence, it does not offer a definitive resolution, leaving the audience to contemplate this dilemma.

In conclusion, Walshe’s “Minor Characters” captivates with its fast-paced text and music, encompassing a wide range of emotions and themes. It challenges audience expectations, explores the transitory nature of online existence, and highlights the importance of meaning and purpose in art. This thought-provoking performance ultimately prompts reflection on the potential difficulties of problem-solving in our individualistic digital age.

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