This coming Sunday, the Society for the Activation of Social Space Through Art and Sound (SASSAS) will transform Eagle Rock’s with a six-hour public tour through significant moments in L.A.’s experimental music history. More than a dozen concurrent micro concerts will convert individual motel rooms into venues for installations and live performances. Each will represent an essential epoch in Southern California sound and music history, experienced simultaneously and sequentially in a single location from 4–10 p.m.
Titled “Welcome Inn Time Machine,” the free event revisits works created from 1949 to 1977. The six-hour duration of the concert symbolizes the length of musician John Cage's premier performance of his 1963 work, Variations IV, at UCLA.
Part of the Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival, this series of performances is produced by Los Angeles artist Cindy Bernard in collaboration with cellist/vocalist/composer/educator Jessica Catron and the SASSAS board of directors.
Besides Bernard, project curators include artist/composer Scott Benzel, composer/performer Gregory Lenczycki, painter Renee Petropoulos, multi-instrumentalist/visual artist Joseph Potts, and artist/graphic designer Dawson Weber.
Jessica Catron notes the intimacy of the spaces. “Once you get a few instruments in there the people who are coming to listen are going to be squeezed in around the performers. We learned that we can’t move the beds at all because they’re bolted to the floor.”
Among the 40-plus works included are John Cage’s Variations IV, Bruce Nauman’s Violin Tuned D.E.A.D., Pauline Oliveros’ Sonic Meditations, The Los Angeles Free Music Society’s Pyramid Headphones, and James Tenney’s Postal Pieces. In addition, David Ornette Cherry and poet Kamau Daaood will revisit Something Else, The Music of Ornette Coleman.
Besides presenting historic works, SASSAS is commissioning two new works based on existing fragments and documents. The Calder Quartet will premiere a new work derived from Arnold Schoenberg’s 1949 Entwürfe zu einem Streichquartett (Draft of a String Quartet) and choreographer Anita Pace will re-envision Merce Cunningham’s Field Dances (1963) as part of a presentation of Variations IV.
Although this event showcases the history of experimental composition, Catron thinks that modern music is moving forward into uncharted destinies on the West Coast.
“It’s like any new form of music—when it is happening currently, people in the mainstream don’t know about it because it happens underground or in smaller, more independent venues,” she says. “That is definitely happening in L.A. right now. These are composers from the ’50s to the ’70s who we are just now beginning to study. I think that people all over the world will continue this tradition.”
And what of the road-weary traveler who might happen to book a room at The Welcome Inn on the night of the performance?
“We are only using a total of 15 rooms, and the motel probably has 30 to 40 rooms total,” says Catron. “The event is till 10 p.m. so we won’t be going through the night.” In any case, she adds, “any guests staying there are probably warned well ahead of time.”
SASSAS (The Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound) is a charitable organization that serves as a catalyst for the creation, presentation, and recognition of experimental art and sound practices in the Greater Los Angeles area. Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival is organized by the Getty Research Institute and LA >< ART.