Big, Bent Ears, Chapter 8: Surrender to the Situation, Part 1


Big, Bent Ears


Photo: Ivan Weiss

Oren Ambarchi and Tyondai Braxton lead parallel lives in the world of experimental music. Ambarchi, an avid collaborator and one-third of the noise trio Nazoranai, played at Big Ears in 2014. Braxton, who has composed both avant-rock and classical music, played at Big Ears 2015. Ambarchi performs solo on guitar amid a nest of synths. Braxton’s latest project is an installation called HIVE, in which five percussionists and musicians playing modular synths sits atop honeycombed pods. Ambarchi and Braxton both play music that is durational and unpredictable, that depends upon instruments and sonic forms that are, as Ambarchi says, “inherently out of control.” Braxton calls it “impossible, beautiful music.”

Good documentary work is a form of barely controlled chaos, too. Opportunities can’t be forced or planned; once the work begins, scripts and proposals mean very little. Documentary process is one of experimentation—determined listening and watching and patience allow strange symmetries and unlikely affinities to emerge. There’s a reason we’re calling “Big, Bent Ears” a “Serial in Documentary Uncertainty.” In the last three chapters of the series—beginning here, in chapter eight—Ivan Weiss and Sam Stephenson do as Ambarchi and Braxton do: they surrender to the situation.

Read the latest chapter here, and catch up on the rest of the series:

Nicole Rudick is managing editor of The Paris Review.