In the months leading up to his 2009 kidney transplant, Chris Strouth made some very angry music. In addition to virtually violent compositions like “Book of Job,” he was perversely inspired by Lifetime Movie titles like the Tori Spelling camp classic “Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?”
“They’re so dark and gothic,” he said.
Strouth’s operation gained national media attention because he found his donor, fellow Minneapolis resident Scott Pakudaitis, through a plea sent out on Facebook. As he slogged through a harrowing recovery process that proved unavoidably isolating despite an ample support network, his experimental compositions turned more haunting, evoking a lonely feeling of wandering in a deep, echoing chasm.
“The transplant got so hyped up, and it wasn’t till after that I had time to think, to stare into the void,” he said.
The result was “Antarctica,” which has yet to be officially recorded for sale but gets its live debut this weekend at Public Functionary gallery. He and his collaborators are doing four separate shows because “it’s hard to make people feel isolated in a crowd,” Strouth said.
Like much of what steeps in the mind of Strouth, also a Rifle Sport Gallery alumnus, former manager of Twin Tone Records and an experimental music producer, the event promises a sensory blend of several art forms playing off one another.
Choreographer Deborah Jinza Thayer — quite a comeback kid herself following a serious 2012 car accident — will lead a group of dancers as Strouth conducts his band Paris1919 in “Antarctica.” For the wandering eye, there will be intermittent video projections and a glacier installation by sculptor Asia Ward, a resident artist at Public Functionary.
“I always have to lie and tell people it’s going to be really simple,” said Strouth. “Then by the time they realize it’s not, they’re already into it.”
The entire gallery will be temporarily transformed into an Arctic environment, minus the subzero temps (at least indoors). The space will be covered in plastic yacht wrapping (that’s shrink wrap for boats, fancier than the bubble wrap Strouth originally envisioned). The musicians, including theatrical music director Mike Croswell, choral and operatic composer Randall Davidson and Eric White, a banker/water drummer, will play inside a giant white plastic ice cube.
Strouth is looking forward to reuniting with Thayer, with whom he did some work in the 1990s.
“We both drink a little too much tea to be called rebels anymore, but I still think we’re a bit outside the traditional avant-garde,” he said. “And also more accessible.”
Since “not a drop of grant money” has trickled into this little enterprise, Strouth has had to economize, most ingeniously on the underwater microphone being placed in a galvanized steel tub for the water drumming. Instead of a $300 option, “we went with the $6 one — condoms wrapped around a regular mike and sealed with duct tape,” he said.