From Ex to Z 

Far-out instruments on film


Experimentalism is nothing new for Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive. But when curator Steve Seid of the Berkeley Art Museum/PFA shared thinking caps with Charles Amirkhanian and James Newman of San Francisco's Other Minds Festival of Contemporary Music, they came up with The Key of Z, a Wednesday-evening series throughout June devoted to videos and live performances of "Experimental Instruments and the Music They Make." With sponsorship from Amoeba Music, the series begins June 2 with two 35mm films about From Scratch, a New Zealand ensemble that employs original percussion instruments to address everything from Maori songs to Bikini Islands nuclear tests. Tom Nunn will provide live accompaniment on hand-built electro-acoustic percussion boards, with Doug Carroll on electric cello.

Peter Whitehead's performance on stringed instruments made from such recycled household items as washbasins and skis complements June 9's Bay Area-premiere screening of Baschet: The Transfiguration of Daily Life. The video shows brothers François and Bernard Baschet creating such acoustic sculptures as the Baschet Cristal, an instrument made of glass rods that emit heavenly tones. The spirit of one of America's great 20th-century maverick composers and instrument builders, the sometime-hillbilly Harry Partch, comes to life on June 16 when the PFA screens Delusion of the Fury: A Ritual of Dream and Desire. The film documents one of Partch's masterpieces, played on 25 of his not-to-be-believed instruments. The live performance, by Mobius Operandi on original string instruments designed by Oliver DiCicco, maintains the Partch edge in the present day.

Lili Aumüller's film My Cinema for the Ears brings us Montreal-based composers Francis Dhomont and Paul Lansky. The men create musique concrète by gathering, sampling, and manipulating natural sounds. Alongside all of June 23's music on film, artist Robert Darroll creates a collage to visualize some of Lansky's compositions. The last day of June scrubs the summer spotless with Cleaning Up, a rare West Coast presentation of the pulsing techno sounds of the Cleaning Women, an all-male, one-of-a-kind techno trio from Finland. Featuring music on instruments created from such household standbys as strung clothes-drying racks played with chopsticks, the film is complemented by Jon Brumit's live performance on a scale model of the Golden Gate Bridge, one of his many self-made instruments created from found objects. Programs begin at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $8, with discounts for BAM/PFA members, students, seniors, and the disabled. 510-642-1412 or -- Jason Victor Serinus

FRI 6/4


The Mussorgsky helix

Classical composer Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" was inspired by his late friend's art show. Now it's the Martinez Arts Association's time to return the favor. The visual works by Martinez artists projected on a screen at Friday's Pictures at an Exhibition at Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek (8 p.m.) were inspired by Mussorgsky's music -- and in turn, they are accompanied by the Contra Costa Wind Symphony's performance of the same music. Where will it all end? Tickets: $9-$13, from 925-943-7469. Info: 925-944-5392 or -- Kelly Vance


My Puppet Twin

California Shakespeare Theater is onto a good thing with its summer outdoor productions on the warm side of the tunnel -- and Cal Shakes begins its thirtieth season with a twist in this weekend's opening of The Comedy of Errors. Shakespeare's push-me-pull-you tale of two pairs of twins running amok in Ephesus is performed by puppets as well as live actors in this version, directed by Sean Daniels of Dad's Garage in Atlanta. The puppets, designed by Chris Brown, portray multiple characters in the play, including one of each twin in the helter-skelter plot. Andy Murray, Joan Mankin, Stacy Ross, and James Carpenter are among the human actors. The comedy runs through June 27. -- Kelly Vance


Hercule is on Vacation

At an English country estate, one of the houseguests turns up dead, occasioning a visit by Scotland Yard's Inspector Bowerbank and Sergeant Penny. Yes, the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, is back for another stab at scaring the bejabbers out of audiences at the Orinda Starlight Village Players. The Hollow opens Friday night (8:30 p.m.) and continues through June 26 in the outdoor theater, 26 Orinda Way, Orinda. Tickets: 925-253-1191. -- Kelly Vance


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