Susan Marshall’s dances are interesting because they can be sexy and violent and funny. And because you never quite know why something is happening.
In the tradition of a good post-Modernist, she hesitates to make distinctions between high and low. In the tradition of a good Minimalist, she strips the stage and movement bare.
And she has an ear for interesting sound. Her collaborations with Philip Glass are of lasting significance. She has also had a long and important relationship with David Lang, who contributed to Marshall’s “The Descent Beckons,” a satire on pop culture and violence seen at the Alex Theatre in Glendale in 1999, and the movement she produced for the new music group eighth blackbird, when it presented “singing in the dead of night” by Lang and his Bang on a Can colleagues in Costa Mesa six years ago.
In her latest piece, “Play/Pause” -- an evening-length work that will receive its Los Angeles premiere Saturday night when Susan Marshall & Company appears at Royce Hall presented by the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA -- Marshall looks raw, brutal and powerful from promotional videos. It examines the club experience and the way the videos affect behavior. The score, again by Lang, is for the electric guitar quartet Dither and Mantra Percussion.
Lang is a composer, whether writing softly and tenderly or, as here, noisily, and tends to find a space somewhere between drone and rhythmic repetition, somewhere between lyricism and stasis, somewhere between the startling and soothing. There is, in Lang, always a middle way and never an obvious one. You may know where you are going but you never know where you are.
Lang is of course hardly the first to rampage or rummage through the margins of pop and concert music. Frank Zappa famously did that in 1970 in his controversial “200 Motels” for rock band and Los Angeles Philharmonic, which Esa-Pekka Salonen tackled last month to help jazz up the 10th anniversary of Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Then a few days later the BBC Concert Orchestra checked into “200 Motels,” in a performance led by Jurjen Hempel. That concert will now be streamed Friday morning on BBC Radio 3 and made available for streaming on the Beeb’s iPlayer or on iTunes for a week.