Recording technology can buy almost anyone a singer's voice: Antares Auto-Tune can correct deficiencies in pitch, while a weak voice can be buttressed by the usual round of chorus plug-ins, discreet reverb, attentive editing, compression, and the swift mouse-click edits of a studio engineer. Yet no software can bestow grace, style, or a life through which the voice becomes a brave musical instrument.
Carol Genetti is one of the few singers making freely improvised music today; rather than hew to the usual path of singing songs, she cracks words into atoms. Splintered syllables and haphazard utterances become charged as raw sound. Amid Genetti's coos, burrs, and purrs, you might think a distortion pedal is lodged in her throat. "Ring-modulated ululation" were the first and last words I scribbled while entranced by Genetti's most recent Seattle appearance back in 2006.
She returns this weekend (Fri–Sat Dec 18–19, Gallery 1412, 8 pm, $5–$15 sliding scale donation) as part of a trio with Brooklyn-based trumpeter Jacob Wick and the "no-output" turntablist Aaron Zarzutzki. I haven't heard Zarzutzki live, but I'm intrigued by the videos I've seen of him using the mechanical—as opposed to playback—elements of the turntable to make sound. Each night offers a different combination: On Friday, Genetti's trio teams up with a quartet led by pianist Gust Burns. The following night, an all-star saxophone quartet that includes Paul Hoskin joins the fray. Saturday afternoon, Genetti, Wick, and Zarzutzki lead a free workshop in improvised music from noon to 3:00 p.m. Based in Chicago, Genetti seldom appears in these parts; don't miss her.
Fans of the avant should also investigate Eye Music (Thurs Dec 17, Chapel Performance Space, 8 pm, $5–$15 sliding scale donation), whose existence shocks and pleases me. I'm appalled that no local college or university in Washington has an ensemble dedicated to performing graphic scores—nontraditional notation usually made up of lines, words, and symbols. So I'm grateful that Eye Music, which includes Stuart Dempster, Dissonant Plane cofounder Eric Lanzillotta, Esther Sugai, and Dean Moore, continues to champion such overlooked music. The program includes Mieko Shiomi's Fluxus piece "Boundary Music," two versions (for comparison) of William Hellerman's "Circle Music 1," "Tiger's Mind" by Cornelius Cardew, and the locus classicus of graphic notation, Earle Brown's "December 1952."
Finally, make sure to check out So Long (weekdays through Dec 30, Jack Straw Productions, 4261 Roosevelt Way NE, 634-0919, 9 am–5 pm, free). Dissecting a stuttered sequence that could have come from a 1930s Silly Symphony cartoon, this installation by Brent Watanabe miraculously conjoins the empathetic pain of Butoh with birds that emote in Morse code.