One of the most neglected but influential movements in the continuum of Chicago’s creative music scene emerged in the late 70s, when various conceptually oriented youngsters–many of them white, influenced by the AACM but also by performance art and composers like Mauricio Kagel and John Cage–began banding together to explore exciting new territory. Of the different ensembles to form at the time, Musica Menta was arguably the most important, though many less formal events, like the improvised “clamdance” sessions at Link’s Hall, were also significant. A short list of the currently active improvisers who came out of this scene includes Jim Baker, Kent Kessler, and the three members of Liof Munimula: Daniel Scanlan, Don Meckley, and Michael Zerang. As a group, Liof is the sole remaining direct link to that era–the trio began playing together in 1982 and has been intermittently active since. What it plays is improvised music, free and clear, with Scanlan on electric guitar, violin, and cornet, Zerang on a staggering percussion armada, and Meckley on his own invented instruments, most centrally a shortwave radio rigged for interactive play that he calls a “radiotar” (radio + guitar). Listeners familiar with the group’s members in other settings should be aware that this is a very special context, with a long history and singular identity, not just another jam. And in recent years opportunities to hear Liof play have dwindled, in large part due to the extravagance of its setup; it literally takes days to rig the room with the required percussion gear and antennae. But they’re definitely still around–while their sole record, the vinyl-only The Jonah Syndrome, was released back in 1988, Eighth Day Music plans to issue a five-CD box set drawn from “Another Jolly Abyss,” a five-night stand at the Blue Rider Theatre in 1994. Saturday, 8 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago; 312-397-4010. JOHN CORBETT
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Marc PoKempner.