...Less momentous, although just as crowded, was the following evening's performance at the Whitney, where Text of Light --on Friday, a trio of Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo, New York-based musician and writer Alan Licht, and percussionist Tim Barnes, with Leah Singer as guest projectionist--performed alongside slides and film by László Moholy-Nagy. The around-the-block free-Friday-night queue had crashed what was clearly meant to have been an intimate occasion, and had ushers reassuring those to whom the fire code denied entry: "I've attended enough of these to know there'll be newcomers, and they don't usually stick around long."
Indeed, the contents of the second-floor gallery bordered on the ridiculous: elderly women plugging their ears, grown men in suits sitting cross-legged on the carpet, a wheelchair-bound couple in front of me eyeing the exits in vain for enough space to escape.
The performance began with Moholy-Nagy's Light Play: Black-White-Grey, 1930, a film inspired by his kinetic sculpture Light Prop for an Electric Stage , 1928-30, present and on hand to rotate and spin variegated shadows. Out from a corner, drenched in echo, Text of Light's improv was not quite: The band's sound was composed, measured, emotionally coordinated with Singer's minimal slide manipulation. Licht, using a guitar and a chain of effects pedals, found patterns--then layered them or let them go as diffuse as blurry light. Ranaldo and Barnes bowed their instruments until Barnes's cymbals hummed alongside Ranaldo's trademark low-grade feedback.
In the tight space, bass rebounded off the walls. Text of Light's hypersensitive microphones brought the most incidental noise to bear, so that those streaming for the exits began to play their part, too, slamming doors that reverberated after they were gone. An hour after the band began it was over, leaving afterimages as vivid as the Josef Albers squares that hung down the hall.