Anyone wondering what it would sound like to put 10 scattered, improvising, avant-garde musicians under the same roof together got their chance at the latest Monday Evening Concert at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In a haphazard tribute to the Robert Longo exhibit there, an event called "The Ear and the Eye" proved the realization of an anemic idea.
Named after a defunct nearby restaurant, "The Egg and the Eye," the concept was attributed to no one particular person, though it was probably a collaboration between director of music programs Dorrance Stalvey and the musicians. A better title for the two-hour evening of non-stop, unstructured, self-indulgent improvising might have been "Pictures at an Exhibitionism."
Each player was instructed to find a place within the three-story Anderson Building and extemporize, receiving inspiration from one of the many artworks on display. Some brought electronic gear and gadgets, while others kept their act down to the bare essentials.
The good news was that 10 musicians got work Monday night in what must have been an easy gig. The bad news was that the pictures didn't inspire much music, and what little music there was didn't inspire much of anything.
The audience was invited to wander through the building, look at the art and listen to the improvisations. Some observed, diligently. Others talked to the musicians while they played. Most tuned out the din, taking the opportunity to view the art.
Percussionist John Bergamo gave the best effort, with his mix of meditative, delicately calculated scraping and rubbing on gongs, drums and a vibraphone. Trombonist Miles Anderson also occasionally fascinated, with his electronically altered noodling.
Cellist John Hoskins eagerly moved from painting to painting, imitating musical styles corresponding to the era and ethnicity of each work (he was not on the first floor where the Longo exhibit was). Amy Knoles programmed her computerized percussion instruments to play continuously, churning out ordinary minimalist repetitions and drum riffs.
Other offerings included Bryan Pezzone's jazzy electronic keyboard licks, Miroslav Tadic's aimless rock guitar leads, Bob Clenenden's bluesy trumpet reflections and David Ocker's sustained multiphonics using different-sized clarinets.
Plenty of wine and Perrier was available in the outside court where engaging electronic music by Rick Lesemann and William Alves played continuously. This became a popular resting area for audience members and some of the improvisers, who took frequent breaks.
Two separate events of computer graphics by John Whitney in the Bing Theater also were open to ticket holders and were pleasant alternatives.