Archive for the “Electro-Acoustic” Category

For the next few months, The City of Angels is going to be the epicenter of all things Iannis Xenakis (1922–2001). That’s because the exhibition “Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary” will be on view at the MOCA Pacific Design Center from November 6, 2010 — February 4, 2011. The exhibition explores Xenakis’ wide range of sketches, scores and drawings, not only musical but architectural and aesthetic as well. Not always simply notes on score paper, many of Xenakis’ sketches and drawings conjure up artistic visions, in ways perhaps only matched by John Cage’s documents of his own explorations. Defintely a must-see.

But there are also a couple must-hears, happening right this week, both absolutely free:

Saturday, 6 November at 6pm, in L.A. State Historic Park (1245 Spring Street) a recreation of Xenakis’ legendary Polytope de Persepolis will be performed. Adapted by German sound artist and Xenakis electronic music expert Daniel Teige, Persepolis L.A. will involve six listening stations with eight speakers each. Persepolis was originally commissioned by the then Shah of Iran and performed as the opening event of the controversial 1971 Shiraz Festival that took place in the middle of the ruins of the ancient Persian capital. This performance will encompass more than 70,000 square feet of performance area within the park’s 32-acres, and will feature the recently restored multi-track music composition and computer-generated visual choreography, complete with laser beams, fire, smoke, and searchlights. The event will open with Xenakis’ first electronic work, Diamorphoses (1957), as a “geological prelude”.

Then on Sunday, November 7 at 4pm, The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts presents an outdoor performance of the final version of Xenakis’s only opera, Oresteia. This West Coast premiere includes performances by baritone Paul Berkolds, an adult chorus, a children’s chorus, and a chamber ensemble. First-come seating is on the lawn for this highly charged, brutally colorful piece.

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The Electronic Music Foundation’s really big shoo, “Ear to the Earth 2010 — The 5th New York Festival of Sound, Music, and Ecology“, will be running from October 27th through November 1st. This year the theme is “Water and the World”, and features a veritable pantheon of composers, performers and sound artists. A bit from their press release:

Water is essential to the support of all living organisms.  Yet, we are headed to a crisis in managing it.  For its fifth installment, Ear to the Earth 2010 will turn its attention to the current states of water and our social and cultural attitudes towards it. For five days eco-composers and sound artists will explore the topic of “Water and the World” through compositions, installations and presentations featuring the sound of water and bringing forth critical environmental issues — melting ice and rising sea levels, access and privatization, pollution, storm intensity, salinity, to name a few. The festival will take place at Frederick Loewe Theater, Greenwich House Music School, White Box, and Kleio Projects in New York City.

It all kicks off with a rare New York appearance by probably the dean of Canadian composers, acoustic ecology pioneer R. Murray Schafer (Oct. 27).  Highlights include a presentation on how animals (including fish) taught us how to dance by bioacoustician Bernie Krause (Oct. 29); Kristin Norderval’s new vocal electronic work on a virtual polar icecap meltdown (Oct. 30); Michael Fahres’ video concert of dolphin sounds and Senegalese master drummers (Oct. 31); Phill Niblock and Katherine Liberovskaya’s live audio/video work on the sounds of the Rhine and Danube rivers (Oct. 31); Charles Lindsay and David Rothenberg’s new live performance work on water in western United States (Nov. 1); Andrea Polli and TJ Martinez’s documentary on surfing as a way to reflect on climate change (Nov. 1); as well as performances and presentations by Matthew Burtner and Scott Deal, Yolande Harris, David Monacchi, Maggi Payne, and Matt Rogalsky.

On Oct. 30, New York Soundscapes – an evening of premieres offering panoramic portrayals of the metropolis’s audio personality and urban ecology  – will feature a team of up-and-coming sound artists focusing on NYC water-related issues such as consumption (Miguel Frasconi), the Gowanus Canal (Aleksei Stevens), and the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel (Paula Matthusen).  In addition, this year’s festival will present Daniella Topol and Sheila Callaghan’s highly entertaining, yet disturbing, theatrical work on struggles around water, and sound installations by Annea Lockwood, Liz Phillips and Jennifer Stock.

Everything you need to know about schedules, venues and tickets is here at the EMF website.  Read on for some personal words from a few of the particpants:

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Pyramid and Michelle Yom at Labotanica (Houston, TX)

This Friday, October 1st at 7pm, Michelle Yom will present her sound performance installation Back To Imagined Spaces at Houston’s alternative arts and music venue Labotanica located at 2316 Elgin Street. This is a part of Labotanica’s ongoing Hear/Her/Ear series spotlighting women in experimental music.

I got a chance to hear Michelle last month in a solo vocal set at Avant-Garden where she recorded and looped her singing in real time to additively build a series of haunting chorales. Michelle is perhaps best known as a flautist with a strong classical technique and the skills and imagination of a great improviser. Her flute and drums duo Doggebi features Michelle with drummer Spike The Percussionist – a musician I name checked in my Houston Mixtape #3: The Epicenter Of Noise – freely and (almost) breathlessly improvising music that is somehow stark yet filled with a minutiae of details.

Back To Imagined Spaces imagines the human body as a collection of cells that sing and are heard in a “self-imposed timeless space” contained within the pyramid Michelle has constructed inside Labotanica. Regarding the music she will perform, Michelle writes: “The first set is a series of staccato vocalizations with syllables from the mantra, Asato Ma Sad Gamaya, processed through seven delays. The second set will be a live performance of tonal pieces titled Heart, Ears, Kidney, and Stomach, also using vocal sounds. The pieces are intended to capture a version of imaginary but prudent sounds, much like taking a microscope and focusing the lens into singing, living cells.”

Also on Friday’s program are performances by artist, vocalist and electronic composer Melanie Jamison and Labotanica’s tireless curator, visual and sound artist Ayanna Jolivet McCloud.

There is a $5 cover charge for the show. All proceeds go to the musicians. Michelle Yom’s installation will be up October 1st through October 9th, 2010.

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A few of the of the unusual and interesting events coming up soon, soon soon:

Victoria, B.C. : Wednesday May 12th, 8pm at Knox Presbyterian Church (2964 Richmond Road, Victoria / $10), LaSaM (Luminosity and Sounds by adventurous Musicians) is presenting a program titled “And Beethoven Heard Nothing“. As they tell it, the show will be “exploring Beethoven’s inherent belief systems, his deafness and the sonorities of his later work. Sonic phenomena; tinnitus and deafness; acoustic space, climax and stasis; memory and silence… The ensemble has pulled experiences of Beethoven’s thought and music through the filters of contemporary soundscape and performance practice into an evocative environment of dancing shadows, image and light.”  Directed by musicologist Dylan Robinson and composer Tina Pearson, with technical direction by George Tzanetakis and live video projections by Tim Gosley. Besides Pearson (flute, voice, glass) and Tzanetakis (clarinet, saxophone) collaborating musicians include Chris Reiche (piano), Cathy Lewis (voice, percussion), and Alex Olson (bass). Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Society will be on hand with information; the performance will be followed by a discussion about the project, and about how we use our ears in contemporary urban life.

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Baltimore, MD : Friday May 14th is the kick off for the 2010 edition of the Megapolis Audio Festival, running all the way through Sunday the 16th. Right from the horse’s mouth, there’ll be ”circuit bending /noisemaker constructions, sonic slumber parties, free-form audio editing sessions, kickass musics, interactive demonstrations, urban sonic explorations, experimental musical practice and theory, film with funfun sounds, musical performances, subversive audio tours, (un-boring) lectures, and moremoremoremore.”

The line up is mind-boggling in its scope, filled not only with listening but workshops, installations, player participation and likely wild parties hither and yon. A special shout-out to my composer friend Erik Spangler, who in his alter-ego known as DJ Dubble8 will be working with Baltimore’s intrepid Mobtown Modern ensemble.

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Toronto, ON : Saturday, May 15th is the day to catch Contact Contemporary Music: Six Team League at the Music Gallery (197 John St., Toronto / 416-204-1080 / $20).

In celebration of Canada hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics with a nod to the National Hockey League’s “Original Six,” Contact Contemporary Music is pitching in with an ambitious attempt to connect the country through music. Six ensembles across the country will simultaneously present and perform a concert of six new works by six composers from six regions of the country in a musical sweep from sea to sea to sea.

The participating ensembles are the Motion Ensemble (Fredericton, NB) who have commissioned composer Joel Miller; Bradyworks (Montreal, QC) who have commissioned composer Michel Frigon; St. Crispin’s Chamber Ensemble (Edmonton, AB) who have commissioned Dave Wall; Redshift Music (Vancouver, BC) who have commissioned Jordan Nobles; and Contact Contemporary Music who have commissioned Juliet Palmer..

Six composers. Six ensembles. Six cities. Six concerts. Six Team League.

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Saint-Gilles, Belgium : Also on Saturday, May 15th, 8pm but half a world away (Maison du Peuple de Saint-Gilles, Parvis de Saint-Gilles, 37-39), the brilliant pianist Stephane Ginsburgh will be joining  many other wonderful musicians, in a free concert titled “Constellations-Figure“. A clumsy translation:

What is a constellation? A design, a network. Links forged between the points seen from afar, but apparently close. They are a familiar and enigmatic. A graph that tells us about relationships, geometric and experienced. Paths traced between places and individuals symbolic or real. What form a constellation? The proximity of the points or the path of truth? Twenty artists are encouraged to draw their constellation, while participating in the figure which will rise by the force of things. Do you like the Milky Way?

Did I mention many other wonderful musicians? It’s a “Night of Soloists”: Jean-Michel Agius (voice), Primitiv (beatbox), Laurence Cornez (piano), Tom De Cock (percussion), Fabian Fiorini (piano), Stephane Ginsburgh (piano), Philippe Liénaert (piano), Céline Lory (piano), Barbara Mavro Thalassitis (voice/dance), Laurence Mekhitarian (piano), Gerrit Nulens (percussion), Isabelle Roeland (voice), Jessica Ryckewaert (percussion), Jan Rzewski (saxophone), Johanne Saunier (voice/dance), Laurence Vielle (voice), Gilles Wiernik (voice).  It’s a cryptic but promising event, in a beautiful and historic location.

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Big ups to my composer compadre Ken Ueno. He’s had a heck of a busy year. In addition to an active teaching schedule at University of California-Berkeley, where he’s an Assistant Professor of Composition, he’s been busily composing, performing, and supervising recordings of his music.

His new disc on the BMOPSound imprint – the only disc I’ve ever received in the mail with a warning label on it (extreme dynamic range) – is an engaging collection. Featuring the Boston Modern Orchestra project, conducted by Gil Rose, its a collection of his concerti for other musicians – violist Wendy Richman, biwa player Yukio Tanaka, and shakuhachi performer Kiku Mitsuhashi – as well as works featuring his own overtone/throat singing. Another of his concerti, Like Dusted Sparks, written for percussionist Samuel Z. Solomon, appears on Deviation the new CD by the Boston Conservatory Wind Ensemble.

This weekend he’s in NYC to perform a new work with Du Yun at the Flea, part of their May mini-marathon. According to Ken, “Our piece is called Gold Ocean. It’s a multimedia post-modern opera, featuring the juxtaposition of contemporary classical with electronica/pop and Asian sonic references.”

Du Yun is having quite a weekend too. In addition to her performance with Ken, her opera Zolle was premiered on Friday at New York City Opera’s 2010 Vox Festival.

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PhilipsPavilion1958-450

An illegal immigrant with a civil engineering degree in Paris, fugitive from his native Greece for his WWII resistance activity (for which he nearly died, and lost one eye) Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) eventually found himself working for the famed architect Le Corbusier, first as one of any number of assistants but soon enough as collaborator. Yet he was always drawn above all else to the need to compose music. Nadia Boulanger, Arthur Honneger, Darius Milhaud –all were either rejecting or rejected. It wasn’t until Xenakis stumbled upon Olivier Messiaen that he found a teacher that saw past the inexperience and willfullness:

I understood straight away that he was not someone like the others. [...] He is of superior intelligence. [...] I did something horrible which I should do with no other student, for I think one should study harmony and counterpoint. But this was a man so much out of the ordinary that I said… No, you are almost thirty, you have the good fortune of being Greek, of being an architect and having studied special mathematics. Take advantage of these things. Do them in your music.

Thrown almost at once into the hotbed of post-WWII modern music, surrounded by the likes of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, Jean Barraqué and Pierre Schaeffer, yet still working for Le Corbusier, Xenakis soon found ways to integrate his love of mathematics and architecture with new musical forms based on points and masses, curves and densities, later even physics and statistics — but somehow always tied to a deeply Greek historical and humanistic root system.

In the late 1950s Le Corbusier received a commisson to create the Phillips Pavillion for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Le Corbusier made a preliminary sketch, but it was Xenakis who would develop and see the structure through to completion. Not only that, Xenakis (along with Edgard Varèse) would create music to inhabit the space, complementing a multi-projection visual program by Le Corbusier himself.

While only standing a short time, the echo of that space, event and music would continue well past 1958; it was constantly mentioned in all the books while I was a university student, and the pieces made for it have become “classics” in the field of early electronic music, still listened to and loved today. (There’s a small documentary on the Pavilion that you can see on YouTube.)

The reason I’m telling you all this? Because from January 15th through April 8th, The Drawing Center in New York City is hosting the show Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary. And in conjunction with this show, the Electronic Music Foundation is sponsoring a number of Xenakis events, including on the 15th a virtual recreation of the experience of the Phillips Pavilion at the Judson Church (55 Washington Square South).

We’ve asked The Drawing Center’s Carey Lovelace and the EMF’s own Joel Chadabe to give us some background and info, which follows just after the jump:

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A number of  Sequenza 21 contributors and readers also populate the site ImprovFriday. It’s a web community that encourages sharing of improvisations, compositions with an element of improv, and recent compositional sketches at a series of web events run on … you guessed it, Fridays.

While this all sounds very free form, the group has specific guidelines for participation, found here. Employing these operating principles are a wide ranging group of spontaneous creators: diverse in style, outspoken yet constructive in critiquing each others’ work, but unified in ambitious music-making.

The community’s first compilation recording, ImprovFriday Vol. 1, is now available from online vendors Amazon and  iTunes.

For Sequenza 21 readers, the list of participants contains several of our ‘usual suspects:’ Steve Layton, David Toub, J.C. Combs, Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, and Bruce Hamilton. Included below are a few sound snippets for your preview.

Steve Layton: Spaceship

David Toub: Virtual Music 2

J.C. Combs: The Giant Eye of the Fifth Dimension

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For a lot of you Vancouver, British Columbia is one of those “way out there” places.  But coming from its U.S. “way out there” sister Seattle, I know that the art and music scenes are anything but moribund (though the Canadian government seems well on its way to getting in line with the venerable U.S. tradition of “screw the arts, let them find their own damn money!”).

One of the things keeping it hopping is Vancouver New Music, whose 2009-10 season is underway. As part of said season, VNM is presenting a fairly mind-stretching festival, the 21st through 24th of October, titled “Copyright/Copyleft.”  The four-day festival will rely heavily (but not only!) on electronic musicians, many of whom appropriate and transform existing music, video and audio material into their own work.

The line-up is adventurous: Andrew O’Connor‘s large analog tape-loop soundscapes; Jackson 2Bears‘ remix and re-narrative of American Native cultures; grandaddy of “Plunderphonics” John Oswald, Eric Hedekar‘s; Jake Hardy‘s and Aja Rose Bond‘s extended-DJ techniques; Percussion/improv/thinking-man legend Chris Cutler; People Like Us (aka Vicki Bennett‘s) disjunct enviroments; Sonarchy‘s “miserabilism”; Scanner‘s highly influential electronica; David Shea‘s unique mix of electro and acoustic; Mark Hosler‘s (Negativland) film, presentation and critique of mass media and culture; and Uri Caine‘s phenomenal reworking of the music of composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Mahler.

The VNM Festival website will give you all the details about dates, locations, times, tickets, as well as info on and preview sounds from each artist.  While you’re over there, do check out the rest of Vancouver New Music’ great season, too.  Maybe you’ll be able to find some time come and visit the excellent stuff that happens “way out there.”

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The San Francisco Electronic Music Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this week.  On the final festival night, Saturday, September 19th, the program will include a special all-electronic performance of the opera I, Norton, by San Francisco Bay Area composer Gino Robair.

I, Norton is based on the proclamations of Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, who lived during the Gold Rush era in San Francisco. The concert begins at 8:00 p.m. at the Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th Street, San Francisco. Tickets are available online from Brown Paper Tickets.

Gino RobairGino Robair has created music for dance, theater, gamelan orchestra, radio, and television. His works have been performed throughout North America, Europe, and Japan. He was composer in residence with the California Shakespeare Festival for five years and served as music director for the CBS animated series The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat. His commercial work includes themes for the MTV and Comedy Central cable networks. Robair is also one of the “25 innovative percussionists” included in the book Percussion Profiles (SoundWorld, 2001). He has recorded with Tom Waits, Anthony Braxton, Terry Riley, Lou Harrison, John Butcher, Derek Bailey, Peter Kowald, Otomo Yoshihide, the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, and Eugene Chadbourne, among many others. He is a founding member of the Splatter Trio and the heavy metal band Pink Mountain. In addition, he runs Rastascan Records, a label devoted to creative music.

S21: His Imperial Majesty Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, is an “only in San Francisco” kind of personage.  What inspired you to make him into the central character of an opera?

GR: He’s the kind of complex character one needs for an opera. And I like the fact that he’s mythologized somewhat.

Although many people see him as this incoherent, homeless vagrant, I think the reality is that he was bright man who was determined to make a difference in a world that was hostile, confusing, and often out of control. We’re talking about the Old West, here!

Remember, he was a Jewish immigrant from South Africa. Try to imagine the culture shock he experienced arriving in mid-19th-century California during the Gold Rush. It makes total sense to me that he’d conclude that the only way to solve the problems in his new environment was to roll up his shirt sleeves and do the job himself.

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SFEMF

The San Francisco Electronic Music Festival (SFEMF) kicks off next week, and several of its original founders will be performing in celebration of the festival’s tenth anniversary.  One of them, Donald Swearingen, will take the stage on Thursday, September 17th along with Maria Chavez, Mark Trayle, and Mason Bates.  The show starts at 8 pm in the Brava Theater, 2781 24th Street, San Francisco. Tickets are available online or at the door.

It’s hard to coax Donald Swearingen away from his many projects, but I did manage to get him to share some background and a few hard-to-find details about his upcoming SFEMF performance.

S21: How has the SFEMF evolved since you helped found it in 1999?

Now in its 10th year, the child has definitely come of age. It’s grown into larger (and progressively more comfortable) venues, and from embracing primarily Bay Area artists, to an impressive roster of local, national, and international talents, both obscure and well-known. All this is a result of the dedication and ongoing efforts of the steering and curatorial committees, whose vision and energy have been the essential ingredients in the success of the festival. I should mention that I personally have not been directly involved in these activities in recent years, serving only to offer a comment here or there. But I’m amazed at the amount of effort (and it indeed takes lots of effort) that goes into the planning and execution from year to year. Read the rest of this entry »

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