‘Violagate’: viola performance ends in fear and loathing in San Francisco

News from the outer reaches of experimental viola technique:

A performance by electronics musician and violist JNHO (also known as John Eichenseer) went pear-shaped at an ‘evening of celebration for violas’ at the Royce Gallery in San Francisco on 6th June.

During the performance an ear-splittingly loud tape loop of electronic sound was played in a relatively small room. Audience members began to complain about their suffering at the hands of electronica, fearing permanent hearing damage due to the piece’s volume.

One audience member stood up and delivered the time-honoured sarcastic, slow handclap. Another screamed “stop! STOP!” whilst one other pompously announced:

“This is a DESECRATION! I am a REAL violist and I can tell you THIS IS NOT MUSIC!”.

Other audience members remonstrated with these demonstrators. Cacophony ensued, beyond that being emitted by the amps.

Facing increasing hostility, Mr Eichenseer, who has also recorded under the newly ironic name ‘delicate ear’, allegedly flung down his instrument and fled the scene. Sadly, his viola, the innocent victim in all of this, was severely damaged and, even more sadly, was unplayed in throughout whole debacle.

Now THAT’S what I call a happening.

The classical/experimental world has since seen a lot of hand-wringing and sermonizing about the whole event, now being referred to as ‘violagate’ and churning up those latent, old discussions about contemporary classical music not really being music at all, etc, etc, etc.

You can see the sparks fly for yourself on the Yahoo Viola discussion list or on the Music Vs. Theatre blog posting about the affair (particularly in the user comments).

the Royce Gallery, scene of 'Violagate'