Vidna ObmanaLive at
Saturday, November 4th, 2000St. Mary's Hamilton Village
3916 Locust Walk in Philadelphia, PA
Paul Simon created the sound of silence; Belgian composer Dirk Serries - a. k. a. Vidna Obmana (the Serbo-Croation translation for optical illusion) - has created the science of silence. His reverberating electronic/acoustic tones create an emotive solitude. Unlike his more musical works (his now legendary Trilogy has become a gospel of meditative electronics), Serries' most recent release, The Surreal Sanctuary (Hypnos), relies on thick textures, steel cathedral ambient drone and a churchy organ wheeze. Yet for all the seeming calm - like the furrowed-brow grind of "Infinity" or the silver gray skies and harmonica squeals of "The First Coil" - the grieving tensions applied and implied in this Sanctuary are as forceful and compact as a tightly clenched fist.
a d amorosi - The Philadelphia City Paper   2 November 2000
Review (vidna's aural allusions)
There's a transition on the way home, leaving the city and driving the long way to a quiet, dark bayside section of New Jersey. It's the music that carries me there. Tonight, I picked up Circles and Artifacts, appreciating the audio portion of this fine CD-ROM, the precious music being most worthy of a post here. Another time.
I'm having a hard time coming up with a way to describe Vidna Obmana's Gathering performance tonight. Let me try it this way. Steve Roach and Vidna Obmana, musically, and I hope most here would agree, were sort of plucked off the same branch of some exotic tree. Yet as related as the two might seem, the differences between the two can be most profound. My experiences seeing Roach live bring recollections of transfixion, almost to a point of feeling locked in a zone, the aural version of tunnel vision comes into play, and time passes by unrealized. Vidna Obmana, especially when describing a performance such as tonight's, offers soundscapes sometimes completely different and passing; those aural allusions. Maybe Chuck van Zyl said it best tonight, when all was said and done, having dropped Rod Serling's name and wondering if we were all put into some sort of twilight zone.
"I'll leave what you've all just heard for each of you to interpret individually", he offered us.
Visually, due mostly to the projection of Martina Verhoeven's stunning photographs, tonight's concert was monochromic. Simple tone variation of blacks and whites, (Vidna was also attired in black), with only occasional lighting effects adding color. When used, however, the colored lighting was effectively projected through the haze of periodically released incense, which in turn gave filled the church with a rich aroma of sweetness.
The concert began beautifully. Vidna remained behind the projection screen as the lights were dimmed. Rich, gently ascending drones filled St Mary's as the Verhoeven photographs were introduced. Moments later Vidna appeared. I have to admit that the first half hour or so of tonight's performance was more musically focused than what I've described above. Vidna quickly reached an intensity level that he would not match again for the rest of the night; tribal, pulsating, offering the truest sense of a chaotic, yet somehow disciplined, ascension. Here, I was drawn out of myself and into that zone of timelessness. However, about halfway through tonight's one and only set, Vidna's more indirect focusing, those mysterious not-quite-graspable progressions that he is so famous for, transpired, all enhanced by what seemed to be shamanistic whispers and an assortment of flutelike/wind instruments (all of which I'm at a total loss to identify). Vidna fluctuated nicely between softness and almost trancelike effects from there on out, often flirting with intensity levels earlier reached, but never quite reaching the limit. Then, too soon, the concert ended as it had begun, as Obmana retreated backstage, leaving us to the images on the screen, to the images of his music, as a fading crescendo of flutesounds eventually evolved to musical and visual darkness and, ultimately, quiet. Nicely done.
Thanks to Vidna Obmana for making the long journey to Philadelphia; the place where a space music community is turning into one special family. So many fine and familiar faces...each and every time.
by soma611 - As Posted to The Space List: 6 November 2000
Review (Vidna Obmana Gathering)
Each Gathering leaves a distinct impression with me, and the Gathering with Vidna Obmana was certainly a unique experience. This being the second time that I have been able to see Vidna, combined with seeing a lot of familiar faces (and meeting some new ones), almost led to a feeling of a homecoming of sorts. Perhaps it was the all of the leaves falling from the trees on the way into Philadelphia...
The place was packed. Chuck kicked off the show with the introduction, and spoke of the music at the Gathering as an offering, which was very appropriate.
The video experience was different than I what I had expected. The black & white images consisting of very fine lines, some with almost black tie-dye or stained microscopic molecular elements. Some almost had a fungus-like feel to them, very organic. I've never seen anything quite like it before.
The images began in the dark, with some soft ambience building. Then Vidna appeared from behind the screen, and got right into it. The first part of the show was very upbeat and percussive, mixing a lot of elements. The very beginning was quite dramatic, with the initial drum beats almost making me jump out of my seat! This was probably the loudest it's ever been at a Gathering; you could certainly _feel_ the music, and that added to the intensity.
I agree (once again) with Soma that the first section was probably the most intense part, although I enjoyed the middle section of the set, where Vidna went deep into the drift....
There were a few points here where Vidna looped some layers of synths, and even processed his voice. Soft whispering that was barely perceptible at times. It continued to reinforce the dramatic atmosphere of the performance.
And what would a Gathering be without unusual flutes? Vidna brought back the unique double-chambered one that was played almost like a bassoon. He also processed it with what sounded like some pitch shifting, creating an otherworldy, almost alien-sounding flute voice.
And then there was the small recorder-like one that he played with one hand, using his finger to open the bottom end and bent the pitches with his embouchure. Another one that I've never seen anywhere else...
This flute, as I recall, went over what sounded like a loop of a distorted guitar, creating a parallel of tension and smoothness at the same time. There was an excerpt of this on the radio show later that night, which reminded me of this unusual mixture.
For the remainder of the set, things build back up to a pounding, rhythmic finish, and it ended all too soon. Quite a dynamic and dramatic experience that we went through at St. Mary's Church. Rod Serling, indeed!
Thanks again to Chuck, Jeff, Art, Andrea, Bill and everybody else that works to makes these unique events happen. Your efforts are very appreciated! And thanks to Vidna for guiding us on the journey, both on stage and later that night live in the studio.
by Joe - As Posted to The Spacemusic List: 7 November 2000
Review: (The Gathering, 11/04/2000)
thank you chuck, jeff, art, all the gathering staff and dirk for an event to remember!
Chuck Van Zyl ended this gathering by saying, "Something happened! Let's thank Vidna Obmana for taking us there!" or words to that effect. Indeed, Vidna Obmana went to the perpendicular universe on November 4, 2000 at approximately 8:00 p.m. at St. Mary's church in Philadelphia. He returned at approximately 9:30 p.m. in the same locale. Fortunately, he took us, his audience, with him. Just as fortunately, he brought us back. (I had visited this universe in Tucson at the Steve Roach ~ Jorge Reyes event in May, 2000.)
Words cannot do justice to the sensory overloads of this event. And, just like the Tucson experience, this was an EVENT! Vidna's virtuosity with a wide array of instruments is - and always has been - unquestioned. His mastery at creating soundscapes and soundworlds has long been acknowledged as well. I witnessed what I believe to have been true sonic Shamanism of the highest order! The music and ALL of the artistry surrounding it went beyond psycho-acoustic and beyond psychotropic. The whole package was PSYCHOACTIVE! Most concoctions of this sort are either illegal or subject to strict governmental control. This was neither nor should it be! The many elements - some subtle, some overt - that made this an EVENT are all credits to Chuck, Jeff Towne, Art Cohen, the Gatherings staff, Vidna Obmana (of course!) and to a higher power (for me that would be God, each audience member is free to choose their own name for the power.).
The evening started with Jeff lighting some incense near the altar at St. Mary's (the stage!). The screen came to life as the lights dimmed. The rear projection set-up allowed the mood to build with no interference from the lights. Martina Verhoeven's black and white existential images (immediately recognized as the Circles and Artifacts images) filled the screen. Smoke poured out from beneath the screen through a myriad of blue, red and yellow lights. A droning synth filled the sonic space. We all knew that Vidna was back there! Tension mounted as we waited. He knew when to come out! It seemed like an eternity. It was a perfect build up to an ethereal, eclectic or exotic journey - again words fail me!
Vidna came out, dressed entirely in black, to begin the transfiguration and transmogrification! The only appropriate word here is AMEN! The overt rhythms, the minimalist atmospheres, the lights, the incense and the video images took me to a level of lucid semi-consciousness. The memory of Tucson came flooding back as I drifted beyond the realms of spiritual reality. I became intensely aware that we were in a church, a house of God. The darkness obscured the ornamentation but could not dim the presence of my higher power! That presence enhanced and made the experience real!
At one point, I opened my eyes and saw the stained glass windows and shadows of barren branches blowing in the wind. The music became appropriately somber, almost eerie, as if I had willed it to do so. Just as suddenly, Vidna Obmana began layering one of his many fujaras, bringing me back to the moment for a moment. Using a delay or a loop, he accompanied himself on at least three levels with the flutes and on at least two levels with his wordless guttural Shamanic chants and whispers that were near Gregorian in their ability to transport me. In many ways, a Shaman is a teacher. A good teacher knows when the students have had enough. Vidna, always the Shaman, always in control, knew that moment. I would like to say that I would have liked the show to continue but I do not know if I could have taken any more. I trust that Vidna knew. He set his delay on fade and walked off the stage! The lights came up and we were home. I was exhilarated, exhausted, excited and giddy. And I was grateful!
As I read this, I like what I have written. But the words still damn the experience with faint praise. There are not enough superlatives to describe my journey. Most of them would be cliche at best!
Thank you, Vidna, from the bottom of my heart!
By Jim Brenholt - As Posted to The Spacemusic List: 7 November 2000
Review: Re: The Gathering, 11/04/2000
I must echo Jim's paise of the Gathering event. Just as Vidna Obmana had me on a tether two years ago in West Hartford, once again he sent me to an orthogonal plane of existence last Saturday night at the Gathering. Something sure happened! And I was among the fortunate few who witnessed two more hours of this bliss later on STAR'S END as Vidna played different material for a live radio broadcast. This was recorded by Jeff Towne on DAT while, I'm sure, many listeners were recording this concert from their tuners. I hope this concert sees an official release! A highlight for me was the gleeful Cheshire Cat grin Dirk gave us as he looked up from his intense concentration during a distorted (intentionally) and raucus fugara passage as if to say, "I don't need no stinkin' guitar!" Too bad THAT couldn't go out over the airwaves; priceless! If you can make it to the Portland show, take a train, a plane, hitch hike, or do WHATEVER IT TAKES to witness Vidna Obmana in concert before he goes home to Belgium.
By Bill Fox - As Posted to The Spacemusic List: 8 November 2000
Fall evening -
in the vestibule
layers of sound
end the church's silence -
scent of incense
of shifting patterns -
in the fog
the music becomes
By Alan Realey
- As Posted to the Spacemusic List:
6 November 2000
Review: (Vidna Obmana, Stateside...I Second Those Emotions)
Vidna Obmana's Gathering performance inspired perhaps the most wonderfully written and heartfelt posts I've read since I joined the list. Just a couple of things I'd like to add myself:
Thanks go to Chuck Van Zyl, and all of the dedicated volunteers who bring these magical nights to fruition. I'd like to take the time to mention one in particular. At the last three Gatherings I've attended, I was greeted at the door by the smiling face of the lovely Andrea. This comely and charming woman handles the front table with grace and aplomb. I observed her helping guests with their purchases. She knowledgeably and articulately answered questions on both the Artist's work, and the merchandise for sale. So, to Andrea, thank you. Your contribution to these events is to be commended.
The word "transcendent" gets bandied about quite a bit when talking about this genre of music. And to be sure, at its best, it does achieve that phenomenon. But, my God, there were moments during the last Gathering of the season that thoroughly transported me, mind, body and soul.
Vidna obviously took the love, care and time to create an experience that completely usurped the audience and enveloped all senses. One interlude that stands out in my mind's eye did just that: There was the silhouette of the slender, black clad Vidna wailing on his strikingly shaped fujara. This image was offset by plumes of inscence-infused smoke illuminated by shafts of colored lights. My eyes followed the rays of light to the ceiling of the church. An eerie effect was achieved as the variously colored beams danced among the globes of a chandelier suspended overhead, making it seem almost haunted. A third level of visual stimulation occurred behind it all. Through the colors of the smoke and lights shone the monochromatic images of Martina Verhoeven. This provided a stunning backdrop... fluidly stippling, bleeding, rippling and ingeniously transmutating from one compelling form into another. Magnificent!
The aural impact was as profound as the visual. The funky, syncopated backbeat shot straight through my solar plexus. The high notes emanating from Vidna's exotic wind instruments literally sent shivers up my spine. Vidna masterfully led the audience through a wide range of moods. At times I felt a "collective consciousness" with those in the church, who were obviously sharing the same existential experience. What transpired truly did transcend the physical into the metaphysical.
Bravo to Vidna Obmana, for closing the 2000 Gathering season in such sublime style.
by Cindy Lyn - As Posted to The Spacemusic List: 13 November 2000
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Gathering Concert Photos by Bill Forcier