Paola Prestini's Rhapsodic Installation Concertos for Strings and Electronics

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'Paola Prestini: Labyrinth'

Paola Prestini’s newest video album, "Labyrinth," is composed of two half-hour long solo works for strings and electronics. The first work, House of Solitude, is performed by violinist Cornelius Dufallo and features Keith McMillen’s “K-Bow,” a bow that has built-in electronic sensors to help guide live electronics. Video art for House of Solitude is by Carmen Kordas. The second work on the album, Room No. 35, is performed by cellist Maya Beiser. Video art for Room No. 35 is by Erika Harrsch, with animation by Brad Peterson and Joshua Balgos.

Both pieces in this set explore a wide variety of styles, jumping between rhapsodic, neo-classical and motor driven pop-like sections. Dufallo and Beiser both do a formidable job of keeping up with the genre leaps, adjusting their playing to fit each stylized section. Prestini takes the listener on an almost schizophrenic journey that traverses a wide spectrum of emotion and energy.

Kordas’s video art tends toward the surreal, intertwining imagery of expansive galaxies and throbbing, empty rooms, far away crowds and close ups of intertwining fingers. The video mimics the music’s genre-jumping effect as well, with only a few threads of recurring imagery to hold the largely scattered visuals together.

Harrsch’s video contribution is a highly erotic, at times borderline pornographic addition to the music. The video opens between the silhouettes of two bodies in the throes of love-making, exposing different landscapes projected both onto their forms, and peeking in through the window between their stomachs. This imagery is a prominent portion of the film. One especially unsettling moment occurs when the window reveals a blinking eyeball, staring through the coital negative space, its eyelashes blinking as the bodies move closer together. This is interrupted by a starkly different kind of imagery: cartoonish animations of butterflies, ribbons and floating eyeballs.

Prestini’s music, as well as Kordas and Harrsch’s video art, are all unified in their distinct lack of stylistic continuity between sections. The video collage parallels the collage of musical ideas, and adds an intense and stimulating visual aid. This is the type of piece that would be best viewed live in front of a gigantic projector screen, in a dark theater where you can sit back anonymously and let yourself become totally overwhelmed. This is about as trippy and psychedelic an experience as you can hope for this spring.

'Paola Prestini: Labyrinth'
VIA Records | Released April 14

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