Recap: Tim Hecker at EMPAC

It’s not everyday that attending a concert entails sitting in a pitch black auditorium. This past Friday at EMPAC felt like a rare listening opportunity featuring the unveiling of the aural result of a weeklong residency from Tim Hecker.

Tim Hecker is one of the leading figures in ambient and experimental music, whose work is very structured with intentional and conscious composition, while also creating room for the individual listener to have a different emotional response and listening experience to the abstract waves of sound presented.

The concert hall at EMPAC, whose high fabric ceilings and sound-deafening walls help assist in providing the best sound available in the upstate region, was bustling prior to the performance with much excitement abound. Upon “curtain call,” the lights faded off, and a book light was the only source of light visible on the stage. Tim Hecker came onto stage and began his performance.

Hecker played collected samples of organic instruments such as piano, organ and string synthesizers and created, well, an ambiance all his own and one specific to the site. This was a listening experience that would fail at a normal venue, and if you haven’t experienced the sound quality that EMPAC offers, you seriously need to attend the very next event you can. (Check out their Fall calendar on their website).

For an hour, Hecker was our guide, with no other interaction with the audience save for the performance itself. I found myself unable to keep my eyes open and drifted in and out of my state of consciousness. I’m somewhat certain I fell asleep, but this wasn’t like falling asleep to looping ocean noises via an alarm clock. This composition was dramatic at times and soothing at others, all while washing sub-bass, appropriate static and building melodies over the crowd. Once the performance came to a halt and the lights turned on, with Hecker disappearing out of sight, it was hard to shake off the daze we were in and I didn’t realize how much time had actually gone by.

All in all, it was quite the enjoyable listening experience, and one that no recording of the performance would do the artist any justice in recreating what he presented to us.

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