Gil Kuno's "Six String Sonics, The"
nytheatre.com review by Amy Lee Pearsall
August 17, 2012
Let’s say you’re trying to learn the guitar as an older student. Frustrated with the limitations of your own body and perhaps even annoyed at the boundaries of the instrument itself, you put it down and walk away, never to pick it up again. That is, unless you are Gil Kuno, director, creator and master of ceremonies of Gil Kuno’s “Six String Sonics, The,” now playing at the New York International Fringe Festival.
Rather than stick the proverbial guitar in the back of the closet to gather dust, Kuno has deconstructed it, creating six individual guitars – each with a single string – to be played collaboratively by six musicians. The beauty in this concept is that chords that one might never achieve on a standard six-string guitar can now easily be created. This, Kuno explains, frees the player from the limiting ergonomics of a traditional guitar, and offers more possibilities in terms of composition.
Kuno, in a black skull cap and glasses, hovers over a laptop downstage while mixing sound. In an easy dialogue with the audience, he tells us about holding casting calls and going to hear bands play in his search for New York musicians to participate in this incarnation of his project. Standing in a line upstage for the duration of the show, the six chosen musicians hail from vastly different musical and international backgrounds. “I just wanted to hear them jam together,” Kuno says.
Inspired by the experimental Fluxus movement and the work of Yoko Ono, Kuno has provided specific instructions to the participants as to how to approach the project, explaining the art itself is more in the concept than it is the actual construction. To that end, some music has been composed for this staging, but improvisation plays a huge part in this work. At one point, Kuno even takes suggestions of words from the audience to have the musicians pronounce the words with their instruments.
During the last third of the piece, the musicians are joined onstage by “Reactive Bodies, The,” a dance troupe conceived to react to the sound of each instrument. The black-clad dancers form a line center stage in front of the musicians, each assigned to react to a string. An additional two dancers explore the space downstage, reacting to the bass and drums coming out of Kuno’s laptop. Through the bobbing and whirling of both sound and body, the resulting improvisation is a joyful cacophony of music and movement.
For additional texture, reactive digital graphics are projected on a screen far upstage, meant to punctuate the sound of each sting. It’s a fun concept, but either the projector or something on the computer needed to be adjusted on the night I attended. For whatever reason, the graphics only took up about half the available space on the back wall. This left half the musicians without any obvious reactive graphics behind them, falling short of the desired effect.
To see and hear Gil Kuno’s “Six String Sonics, The” is to enjoy a sound and performance art work. An experimental deconstruction project of the most ambitious order, the Six Strings – and Reactive Bodies – may each be individual elements, but together form a glorious sum of parts. Drop by and tune in; it’s worth checking out.