PornOrchestra

Last Saturday I enjoyed the first night of PornOrchestra, and felt that there were some exceptional moments. The audience’s reaction was very interesting.

My expectations were quite different than most of the presentation. I had hoped for an experimental audio experience coupled with "typical" porn, with a humorous/provocative comment made on porn (and the viewer), plus a showcase of some very talented and amazing local musicians. That’s part of what I felt I got! I loved the environment (21 Grand is a great gallery), the experimentation, the video combined with soundscape.

The evening was broken into a few performances: guys on laptops with samples and sounds put to artsy local video images of strip joints and adult stores, a fabulous quartet that played humorously and with much talent to classic porn, a guy with a laptop and geriatric porn, and the PornOrchestra itself (with maybe two dozen members).

The guys with laptops and sample thing bores me — I would’ve loved it if there were two premium DJs like DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist competing to match up with and riff off onscreen porn — and each other. The quartet was fantastic, playing to Outlaw Ladies sped up and slowed down by an improvising gallery volunteer, and they were talented musicians who also has the audience cracking up at humorous scoring. The geriatric porn didn’t bug me — but once the surprise and "shock value" wore off, it (and the music paired with it) became boring. They unfortunately lost half their audience after this, and it seemed as though the presenters didn’t know that this was on the playlist for the musician who selected it. It’s too bad that most folks wound up missing the orchestra because they didn’t want to sit through it — though it’s equally fascinating to ponder why older people having sex freaks people out. As a porn taboo it’s right up there with bestiality, which I find very interesting.

I felt that the musicians in the PornOrchestra were exceptionally talented and I enjoyed all of the unusual/prepared instruments combined with traditional trumpets and snares. And the fast forwarding/slo-mo with the quartet was cool, too.

However, I was very disappointed by the porn selection (that’s a reviewer for you). And I was also disappointed that with the PornOrchestra the conducted music had no relationship with what was onscreen. The split screen images of vintage porn and 1950s safety films were too distracting with the experimental music — I felt that it would’ve worked well if it was simpler. Either background music, or background porn. Know what I mean? A simple all-sex film (with extra cheesy 1980s hair, etc., or an unintentionally campy porn flick) running in the background with conductor and orchestra making the layers… working more with the onscreen imagery. A selection of clips would’ve worked nicely. I felt that the audience had little exposure to porn, especially by their reactions to things considered standard in the industry, so the sensory experience seemed like it was too much. They were so busy "eeewing" at basic things that I wonder if they were able to take it all in, or if (like me) they just wanted to watch cheesy porn with intelligent music. I think I had expectation based on the pre-press, suggesting that PornOrchestra was improvising porn film scores.

But I still really liked it. It’s a provocative act. What’s funny (to me) is that in the one film they showed, Outlaw Ladies, among the many famous classic porn stars in the film was John Leslie. He is now a director who lives in the North Bay, and he would really have liked what the quartet did with the film — he’s way way into experimental jazz. I love his films for many reasons (great camerawork, hot sex), but what makes his work stand out is that he uses no music, and when he does it’s understated background jazz, which works quite well and is extremely enjoyable.

So all his Voyeur films top my "yay" list for porn soundtracks. Independent filmmakers SIR video have great music, using local musicians and have a flair for editing their sound into the film. Radley Metzger (aka Henry Paris) made some of the most surreal and beautifully filmed porn in the 1970s, and the music gets my high marks, as in his films Barbara Broadcast and Score.

Cheesy bad porn that offends the aural sensibilities? Where do I begin? How about any film by the Dark Bros. such as New Wave Hookers — any of that series, ugh. The Devil in Miss Jones #6 is recent, but looks like the 1980s (like most porn) and could use any help it can get. The "Only the Very Best" compilations and compilations such as Once in a Lifetime and the "deep inside" compilations will yield the most cheese and have the worst soundtracks — though believe me, just when you think it can’t get worse, it does. The darkest night for me was watching "Solo Male Ecstasy," a tape of men jacking off disguised as an instructional video to "enrich male masturbatory techniques." Hey, I think that’s cool for folks who want to watch guys jack off — but the music was the exact same music you’d hear in an old Atari video game! Aaargh!

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