A Thursday evening performance in the University of Chicago’s Bond Chapel began with guitar strums, pops, growls and squeaks. It was the work of experimental composer Julia Reidy and it immediately drew me in. I was on a journey. I felt curiosity, anticipation and fluid resolution.
In their debut Chicago performance, Reidy performed excerpts from their album “World in World” on February 23 as part of the Frequency Festival.
In his 2022 Pitchfork review of “World in World,” Grayson Haver Currin wrote, "the Australia-born, Berlin-based multi-instrumentalist and producer makes brief sweeps across their electric guitar strings, each note pinging against the next at uncanny angles, like alien electrons bouncing through the thermosphere."
Bond Chapel’s acoustics and size may have been just the place for the performance. The 1926 late Gothic revival designed building with its high arched ceiling, stone and wood-paneled walls held the music well. The building’s size and small capacity – half full with about 70 people in attendance – added intimacy.
The craft of Reidy's composition and performance is central to their music. As Currin wrote, "The guitar is Reidy’s entryway into wider explorations of sound on a path toward emotionally expressive idiosyncrasy."
Their guitar is no ordinary guitar. They co-designed the instrument with the Berlin based instrument builder Sukandar Kartadinata.
"He sold me his fretless guitar and then we together designed this guitar, which has channels in it, so that you can move the frets around," said Reidy.
"They're all these tiny little individual mini frets that you can move up and down the fretboard, so I can play in all these weird tunings," they added.
"The guitar itself is panned across the stereo field … So it means that it's not just a mono signal coming at you from one particular sonic location. I'm trying to create a feeling of getting within the sounds that have been encompassing you," Reidy said.
In general, Reidy said they strive to compose music that feels immersive. "I like the idea of creating forms that allow people to navigate their own way.”
The audience lingered after the performance, approaching Reidy with questions and having quiet conversations. As Reidy intended, we had been transported and were now curious about where we had landed.
The Frequency Festival debuted in 2016 as an extension of the Frequency Series, a weekly program of contemporary and experimental music at the performing arts center Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave. The Renaissance Society hosted Reidy’s performance at Bond Chapel, 1025 E. 58th St., as part of the festival.
Selections of Reidy’s music can be heard here and here.
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