Brooklyn music hall Roulette offers some of the most esoteric original programming in the city. The venue, founded by downtown experimental musician Jim Staley, embraces contemporary classical, modern jazz, and avant-garde composition in the tradition of John Cage, with regular visits from luminaries such as John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Antony Braxton, and Susie Ibarra. The clue to the Roulette experience is in the name: You’ll take a chance every time you go, perhaps discovering something life changing or instead getting swept up in sonic confusion. Either way, you’ll likely hear something you’ve never heard before.
One of Roulette’s specialties is the field of musical minimalism, the stripped-down and sometimes-atonal sound that can inspire transcendent listening experiences. Minimalism doesn’t necessarily mean light instrumentation; indeed, many minimalist composers are downright maximalist in their presentation. Exhibit A for this approach is composer, filmmaker, and performer Phill Niblock, one of the foundational names in the style. Using a mix of live performers, electronic equipment, and video, Niblock’s installations are dense and epic-length audio baths with seminarrative movies playing in the background.
In celebration of the winter solstice, Niblock has made an annual appointment to play a marathon multimedia mix of compositions both old and new at Roulette. The performance runs six hours, but audience members are encouraged to engage the concert at a pace and with the intention that best meets their needs. Past years have seen Roulette’s artist community mingling in the lobby bar for regular breathers and chitchat, so don’t be shy about carving out space for yourself. Once you’ve made your way through the intellectual challenge of a few hours of focused noise, the problems of the New Year are going to seem entirely manageable.
Why You Should Go: This trance-inducing outré holiday tradition may well test your limits, but the loose atmosphere and low ticket price means you can come and go while you search for meaning among the sound textures.
Phill Niblock: 6 Hours of Music and Film
509 Atlantic Avenue, Boerum Hill
Thursday, December 21
Doors open at 5 p.m.; show at 6 p.m.
$15; $20 at door