Review of P(L)aces at MATA/1.13.98

Philly the Kid (
Tue, 20 Jan 1998 15:45:07 -0800

This Website, was created in the spirit of and dedicated to
Randy Hostetler. An eclectic, dynamic and exciting composer, performer and
artist who left us too soon. Info about Randy, his music and the Living
Room Concert Series he produced are on this site.

Last Tuesday, 13th of January in NYC, MATA (Music at the Anthology), a new
music series produced by composer/performers Lisa Bielawa, and Eleanor
Sandresky (and executive producer Phil Glass) - had a concert.

On the program was a piece by Randy Hostetler, P(L)aces, an Electric Groove
for 11 Instrumentalists and Lamp Shades. When Randy started this piece in
'88 I remember talking about it with him, and I remember seeing the score.
I knew that the piece was complicated in that it layered many different
styles of music in different rhythms and meters together. This was a
fertile period for Randy when he did some other seminal works like "Happily
Ever After" and "8". In this period Randy was employing his interest in
collage and multi-layered composition. He was a master at this.

The challenge of putting together a performance of P(L)aces was great. For
many reasons. One, the piece was never entirely finished. Two, much of the
vital information only existed in Randy's mind. Three, there was no
defintive score.

I salute Lisa Bielawa for her Herculean and dedicated efforts in
researching the piece, finding the parts and old notes and files on old
computers and piecing it back together in a coherent fashion. It is my
understnading that she even spoke to performers who were involved in the
only attempted performances of the piece in '89. Thankfully there was some
video footage of Randy conducting as well.

The piece was a great success in this NYC performance. It was dynamic and
filled with energy. The players seemed to keep up and be inspired. The
music itself is made of a collage of musics that inspired Randy, including
Latin styles and old Jazz styles. A timekeeper taps a 3 against 4 rhythm
throughout which changes in interpretation depending on what else is
happening against it. This was the influence of West African music that
Randy had been studying and performing in that time period in which the
bell pattern is the foundation though many other polyrhythms are layered on

The music was vibrant and exciting with a constant momentum forwards. Good
shifts in density and balance kept it fresh for the audience and the strong
rhythmic and polyrhythmic underpinnings gave it energy and got peoples
bodies to respond. This piece though is more than a sum of or pastiche of
music of other styles, it was distinctly Randy with sublime moments and the
final unmistakeable trademark - wit. I glanced several times around the
audience to see folks grinning, a sure and final sign that the piece was
close enough to his intentions and good art/music. Like much good music,
elements moved from foreground to middleground to backgound fluidly. The
visual element of turning on and off the Lamp Shades enhanced the piece's
impact. At one point, the bass players shade dislodged a bit cockeyed and
the bulb was exposed. I know that this would have been Randy's favorite
moment as like Cage, he loved the accidents, and felt it was as if he was
there with us, winking at me, as if to say good job everybody. Well done.

There were also political implications to aspects of this piece. This piece
was concieved when legislation was being created to deal with the whole
world of "sampled music", and Randy had his own views on appropriating
art-ifacts that are available in various media in the culture. At one point
there is an excerpt of Chuck D, rapper from Public Enemy talking about
this. Though at points, this composition is dense and almost cacohphonous,
it is not random. Randy was scrupulous and detailed and precise. Rhythms
are meant to interact. He sampled the sample at the precise limit of the
law. I hope that Lisa or someone else will post her program notes and
reflections on this piece on this website in the future - as I am sure she
can lend more insight.

I know that audio and video recordings were done, and I hope to see this
material get greater exposure both on this website as well as perhaps some
New Music/Art CD_ROM project.

Friends, family and colleagues converged on Manhattan from SF, Texas,
Chicago, Connecticut, DC, NY and all over. There was a lively reception
with good food and drink, and the original score and some parts and notes
were hung in the lobby for people to examine.

Randy's loss to his family and friends is inmeasurable, but thankfully
there is a record with his music, drawings, video, and other media to
preserve -- and allow us to not only remember him, but to still be moved
and excited with his art.


Richard (Rico) A. Appelbaum, Jan. 20, 1998 - SF