A shadowy presence stalks the land. He (for it is a he) can be felt in moments of absolute isolation, in the presence of darkness so absolute that one's position in the room, or the world, or one's own mind, cannot be determined. He has made his presence felt in Chicago only two other times, once in 2000 and again in 2003. He brings fear and unease, disturbing sounds and visions, but he also brings liberation from inhibition and new methods for breaking out of old ruts. He is John Duncan.
This Saturday, Duncan returns to Lampo (216 W. Chicago Avenue, 2nd Floor) for a new composition, titled "The Hidden." The piece features "digital audio debris, generated audio noise, field recordings, and shortwave radio static," and follows in the style of his many legendary studio recordings, including the seminal Riot LP (1984, AQM Recordings, reissued 1991 on CD) which uses recordings of military Morse code, computer program transmissions and "atmospheric interferences" to create an aura of dread and illogic, but also gritty, industrial beauty.
Duncan, born and raised in Witchita, KS in a strict Calvinist upbringing, is the very definition of the prophet who had to leave his own land for recognition and inspiration, and did so again and again. As an adjunct early member of the legendary LAFMS (Los Angeles Free Music Society), Duncan created his transgressive art, installation and theater pieces under the tutelage of Tom Recchion and Paul McCarthy, including a work that involved donning a disguise and firing a blank-loaded gun at his teachers, Tom Recchion and Paul McCarthy. Other works included necrophilia followed by a vasectomy (both performed privately and then broadcast in audio form to an audience in a pitch-dark warehouse), a piece in which he called a national call-in radio program for advice about child abuse cases he witnessed as a bus driver, and a piece titled For Women Only, in which an invited audience of women were shown a film "meant to arouse them sexually," before they were led to a back room and invited to abuse Duncan sexually. (info on more of Duncan's performance events can be seen by clicking the link above and scrolling around to other pieces.)
In the mid-'80s, Duncan moved to Japan and became an integral contributor in the Japanese noise scene, both as a musician and a filmmaker, directing a number of adult films under the name "John See." The album John See Soundtracks (RRRecords, 1994 [LP] and 1996 [CD]) contains the astonishing audio components from those films, created in large part from deft collages of female moans of ecstasy, as well as several harsher live works.
Following his time in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand in 1988, Duncan's work became less overtly confrontational over time, though no less skilled or unsettling. The Crackling, composed with Max Springer in 1996, contains recordings from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, shows Duncan's affinity for sounds and sources that loom mightily over average human endeavor. Duncan has collaborated with some of the finest names in experimental music, including Andrew McKenzie (The Hafler Trio), Zbigniew Karkowski, and Bernard Gunter. His work continues to actively engage audiences, pushing them outside of the realm of passive consumer of information, guiding their thoughts and emotions into uncomfortable and, ultimately, exciting waters. Duncan currently lives and operates in Bologna.
Performance starts at 9 p.m., and admission at the door is $12.