The best way to enter an avant-garde performance is to check your prejudices and expectations at the door and open wide your senses. Consider last night's "Music and the Other Arts" concert at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, which involved, among other things, a ping-pong ball striking a bass drum, a vanilla-scented fog machine, myriad slides, taped voices matched to live performers, and audience participation. Anybody ready to look, listen and smell intensely had something to gain from this multimedia extravaganza.
Two sonic displays had been installed in the museum's atrium. Alvin Lucier's "Music for Pure Wave, Bass Drums and Acoustic Pendulums" followed the path of a tone that emanated from a loudspeaker, resonated in the drum heads positioned before that speaker, and caused a suspended ping-pong ball to bounce against the drum. Thomas Delio's installation involved three tiny speakers sending out tones along one wall, causing the roving listener to pick up an array of chords and notes at different junctures. Subtle works indeed.
The goings on within Hammer Auditorium were anything but subtle. Mark Wilson's "Windows" set up a dialogue between electronic sound and slides devoted to images of stained glass. Kenneth Jacob's "Walk in Many Lands" combined hand-painted and etched projections with a score that sounded like a computer-generated Paul Winter Consort. Finally, there was "Terminal Opera," Gilbert Trythall and Donald Evans' riotous amalgam of a zany nuclear family, a soprano covered with projected images of absurd clothing, slides of grids and arches, half-silly, half-lyrical music, and a great, sickly sweet cloud of vanilla-scented fog.