A great improviser, Eli Keszler’s extracts formal cohesion from chaos. If Lubomyr Melnyk invented continuous music for piano, it could be argued that Keszler has applied similar principles to percussions. And yet, for all its physicality and breathless speed, there’s a strong sense of dynamics and space in his music, which is not just engaging but lifts it beyond its virtuosity, to the realms of visual rendering. Not surprisingly, Eli Keszler’s practice often acquires a three dimensional form with recent installations held at Reykjavik’s Harpa and Zurich. As he stated in a recent interview for The Wire, “In a perfect world there would be some sort of other space between a human performer and something mechanical or electronic”. Kezler’s sonic explorations seem to want to venture into the abstract by making the tangible resonate through a complex system of aural architectonics achieved by simple means. Returning to Cafe OTO after last year’s performance at the Pan festival, Eli Keszler proved, once again, to be a master of his craft, by combining carefully judged restraint with untamed vigor.
Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, and currently based in New York City, Eli Keszler began playing drums at eight, and composing at twelve. Before finding an interest in experimental music and improvisation, he played in rock and hardcore bands; his work retains an intense physicality and churning, often ferocious energy. He is a graduate of the New England Conservatory, where he studied composition with Anthony Coleman and Ran Blake. He has collaborated with Phill Niblock, Roscoe Mitchell, Tony Conrad, Joe McPhee, Loren Connors, Jandek, and many others, and has recorded more than a dozen CDs and LPs for ESP-DISK, REL, and PAN.
Keszler’s installations employ piano wires of varying lengths; these are struck, scraped, and vibrated by microprocessor-controlled motorized arms, giving rise to harmonically complex tones that are percussive yet resonant. These installations are heard on their own and with accompanying ensemble scores. Said Keszler in a NPR All Songs Considered interview, “I like to work with raw material, simple sounds, primitive or very old sounds; sounds that won’t get dated in any way.” In addition, the patterns formed by the overlapping piano wires allow Keszler to create visual components that relate directly to the music, without having to use projections or other electronic equipment.
His visual work often features dense, fine detailed drawing and painting which use a variety of sources, from the surfaces of objects to large scale spaces, and intuitive design.
Eli Keszler will be exhibiting in the forthcoming group show At The Moment of Being Heard at the South London Gallery. The exhibition brings together works and performances by a group of international artists, composers and musicians engaging with sound and modes of listening. Installed throughout the galleries and connecting spaces, the exhibition is presented in parallel with a series of live performances and special events, both at the SLG and at nearby off-site venues as part of SLG Local. Other artists include: crys cole, Leif Elggren, Rolf Julius, Baudouin Oosterlynck and Reiner Ruthenbeck. Performances, special events and installations by Tom White, Tetsuya Umeda, Badouin Oosterlynck, La Cellule d’Intervention Matamkin, Junko Wada, Miki Yui and Rie Nakajima, Henning Christiansen, Barby Asante, Marina Rosenfeld, and Marginal Consort.