November 14, 2013
A spontaneous, absorbing game of chance, composer Joe Diebes’ BOTCH succeeds as
both performance art and an evening of inventive experimental music.
The audience is positioned in a circle around four performers (vocal artists
Christina Campanella, Michael Chinworth, John Rose, and Saori Tsukada) engaged
in a series of evolving chance operations devised by Diebes (who operates a
soundboard throughout, occasionally tossing handmade, novelty-sized dice in the
Via monitors positioned around the room, the artists share a scrolling text, which
reads like a scrambling of Internet rants and news articles. They proceed to
direct and manipulate each other’s amplified voices, often while taking direction
These commands (by hand signals) affect a fellow performer’s voice,
changing the other’s pitch, speed, or to adopt a different voice entirely, read the
scrolling words backwards, “record” a fragment of speech, start and close a loop of
read-aloud text, repeat this loop, etc.
The overall effect is, as Diebes calls it, “a broken-word opera” – the artists hacking
up, stretching, and compressing language while prerecorded field music, noise,
and other electronics buzz underneath. Perhaps the most beautiful moment of the
piece is halfway through when the synthesizers come in and the performers talk-
sing together for a period.
But even in the starker moments of soliloquy, BOTCH
fascinates, as language is torn and phased into something else entirely, thrillingly
just outside of comprehension. While some audience members simply closed their
eyes and listened, others were more captivated by the process itself – trying to make
sense of the ‘game’ being played in view.
Even those moments when it all feels a touch over-serious – - about when the
performers start aiming the microphones at each other like guns –- you could spot a
redeeming half-smile on Diebes over in the dark.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Geoffrey Lokke