Archive for the “Electro-Acoustic” Category

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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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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Jack Curtis Dubowsky EnsembleSan Francisco-based composer, conductor, writer, educator, and filmmaker Jack Curtis Dubowsky is a very busy man.  This Wednesday night, September 9th at 7:30 p.m., he’ll take the stage along with the Jack Curtis Dubowsky Ensemble in San Francisco’s Meridian Gallery, located at 535 Powell Street, convenient to Powell Street BART.  Next month, he has a new opera premiering. But fortunately, he wasn’t too busy to talk to me.

S21: How does it feel to be leading off the Meridian Gallery’s 11th season of Composers in Performance?

JCD:  It’s an honor to be selected to be a part of the Meridian Gallery’s prestigious Composers in Performance series. Anne Brodzky, the gallery director, is wonderful.  Tom Bickley is a brilliant series curator; the composer/performers he’s invited have been consistently cutting-edge, engaging, and talented.  I also owe thanks to Adria Otte at Meridian who has been very helpful.

Innova, the label of the American Composers Forum, has released Earth Music, a compilation CD of music selected from the first ten years of the series.  This CD has amazing solo performances on it.  It shows the high level of quality and wide variety of music at the series as well as Meridian’s commitment to new music. Read the rest of this entry »

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Miller TheaterRonen Givony’s Wordless Music is back at Miller Theater this Sept. 9-12, doing it’s indie-rock/electronic/classical/new-music thing. The 9th brings back the 802 Tour (Nico Muhly, Sam Amidon and Doveman, w/ special guest Nadia Sirota); the 10th welcomes Do Make Say Think and DMST founder Charles Spearin’s “The Happiness Project”; the 11th features Tim Hecker, Grouper, and Julianna Barwick; and the 12th caps it off with Destroyer and Loscil performing a rare collaborative set of original music from each artist’s catalog, then the JACK Quartet. All shows start at 8pm, with tickets setting you back $15-$20. Columbia University’s Miller Theatre is located north of the main campus gate at 116th St & Broadway, on the ground floor of Dodge Hall.

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That’s what early settlers said about the wild mint growing all over the peaceful hills and oceanside that would one day be paved over and known as San Francisco.  In fact, for many years starting in 1835, that’s what the settlement was called, only in Spanish: Yerba Buena.

History lives on in the name of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, located on 3rd Street between Mission and Howard. YBCA’s New Frequencies performance series, curated by Performing Arts Manager Isabel Yrigoyen, is well underway, and offers a couple of intriguing choices in coming days.

First on Saturday evening, August 22, we have local avant-cabaret luminary Amy X Neuburg, backed up by the Cello ChiXtet of Jessica Ivry, Elaine Kreston and Elizabeth Vandervennet.  Their set consists of selections from The Secret Language of Subways, a song cycle for voice, cello trio, electronic percussion and live electronic processing which Neuburg conceived of while riding New York City subways.  It begins promptly at 8:00 p.m. in the YBCA Forum, and serves as an opener for Argentine singer/composer Juana Molina, who’ll take the stage at 9:05.  Tickets are $25 general and $20 for YBCA members, students, seniors, and teachers.

If visual art is your thing, you can have that plus contemporary music on the same evening on Thursday, August 27. Gallery visitors will find that’s one of the nights musicians have been called in to respond directly to the work of the eight visual artists commissioned for the Wallworks exhibition.  The August 27th contingent will be composer, pianist, and electronic musician Chris Brown, Mason Bates (as DJ Masonic), and upright bassist David Arend. Their sounds are free with gallery admission: $7 regular, or $5 for seniors, students, and teachers. (And non-profit employees, KQED members, and folks carrying a valid public transportation pass or a public library card.)

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San Francisco’s Mission District, home of so much that is cool, is a natural neighborhood for the arts.  The San Francisco Community Music Center located at 544 Capp Street is the the Bay Area’s oldest community arts organization and San Francisco’s largest provider of low-cost, high quality music education.  In 2008, 2,300 students of all ages, ethnicities and income levels enrolled in Music Center programs and over 16,000 people enjoyed musical performances at no or low cost.

Starting this Sunday, the SFCMC will host the eighth annual Outsound New Music Summit, a festival which for all its success and longevity has somehow stayed the Bay Area’s best-kept secret.  Sunday night’s “Touch the Gear” expo is free and open to the public, featuring 20 individual artists and ensembles and their homemade, customized, and startling instruments and electronic rigs.  All of them will be set up and ready to show you, the audient, how to make music and noise like they do.

Four concert nights follow on the subsequent Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Artist Q & A sessions at 7:15 p.m. each evening set you up for performances starting at 8:00 p.m., starring:

  • Alicia Mangan & Spirit,  ROVA Saxophone Quartet, and Vinny Golia (solo and with locals in a mixed ensemble) in “Free Improvision/Free Composition”
  • Forms of Things Unknown, Peter Kolovos, Conure, Hans Fjellestad, and Thomas Dimuzio in “Industrial Soundscapes”
  • Jess Rowland & The Dreamland Puppet Theater, Kathleen Quillian & Gilbert Guererro, and Bonfire Madigan in “InterMedia”
  • Natto, Ghost In the House featuring Waterphone inventor Richard Waters, and Left Coast Improv Group in “Deep Listening and Introspection”

Full scheduling details and performer bios can be found in the online schedule. Tickets are available in advance from Brown Paper Tickets, or for $10.00 at the door.

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Tom NunnI’ve been working so hard today I’ve forgotten to eat, and it’s in that spirit of lightheadedness and poor impulse control that I share with you the following San Francisco Bay Area new music scene update.

The Lab’s 25th anniversary performance series is well underway, and in just one night, they’ll run the gamut of styles celebrating their audacious artistic vision.  On Thursday, July 2nd, Mills College’s own Chris Brown will curate and perform in a concert featuring Charles Johnson, Chad and Curtis McKinney, Tom Nunn and William Winant.

When Johnson et. al. take the stage, you’ll hear amplified string and percussion instruments tuned in just intonation, combined with analog electronics configured to create difference tones.  Chad and Curtis McKinney are twin brothers whose SuperCollider-based computer network music makes a tightly interwoven, visceral and strongly rhythmic combo. Chris Brown will put on his electroacoustic hat, teaming up with instrument inventor Tom Nunn to tangle with legendary percussionist William Winant.

If you can’ t make it this week, never fear, since the series will continue next week with Miya Masaoka and Tomas Phillips on Thursday, July 9th, and a multimedia event the next night with Nao Bustamante, Margaret Tedesco, and Cliff Hengst.  Performance artist Bustamante will embody 1940s Dominican movie starlet Maria Montez, using video and the body as a source of backdrop, narrative, and emotion, taking audiences on a journey all over the body and its bejeweled parts.

The Lab is conveniently located at 2948 16th Street, San Francisco, near the 16th and Mission BART station.  They’ll let you in for $8.00 at the door. For more information, call (415) 864-8855.

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The San Francisco Bay Area  has a unique way of celebrating the first day of summer.  Our most popular new music event, the Garden of Memory, comes around every summer solstice, and reliably attracts more than 1,000 visitors while creating a parking nightmare for miles in every direction.  In 2007 I was forced, like many attendees, to park in the nearby cemetery and accidentally backed over the curb.  I left my car there and hurried away apologizing profusely for actually driving over somebody’s grave.

Every year over 30 composers, improvisers, and sound-artists take over the columbarium at the Chapel of the Chimes, located at 4499 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. The concert takes place on the summer solstice regardless of the day it falls on, and this year it’s Sunday, June 21st, starting at 5:00 p.m. and continuing until 9:00 p.m. or sundown, whichever comes first.

The first time I attended the Garden of Memory concert was also the first year I participated, though I wasn’t on the list of lucky featured performers.  In 2003 my friend Christi Denton was assigned a space in the columbarium, as all participating artists are, for her multi-speaker sound installation.  Recordings of me playing flute multiphonics, and giving a tarot card reading, were among those she looped for the installation, whose speakers hung above a collection of ferns in one of the columbarium spaces, like the fruit of a robot tree, filling the room with the disembodied voices and music of women.

Few new music events in this or any city are as family-friendly, visually stunning and sonically varied.  If you plan to spend your Sunday evening in the Garden of Memory, public transit is recommended.  Admission is $15.00 general, $10.00 for students and seniors, and $5.00 for kids under 12 (kids under 5 are free). Tickets are available at the door, or in advance from

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4Seda Röder is a Turkish pianist who currently teaches in Boston.  Those of you who are interested in electroacoustic music may remember her performance back in April during the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival at the CUNY Graduate Center.  If you live near Boston, take a look at her website: she will be playing four concerts in the area between September and the end of the year.

Seda has been very active recently, performing and recording works by young Turkish composers including Tolga Yayalar and Hans Tutschku. She believes that most Americans don’t know much about young Turkish composers — I believe she is correct!

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