Modular Synthesizer Demo for Purim

Purim is the “most synthesizer-y” of Jewish holidays, given that one of it’s central rituals is noisemaking. This year we created a synthesizer demo running sounds from a gragger through several modules.

The demo uses a mixture of pre-recorded gragger on the QuBit Nebulae and live sound via the Mikrophonie and Make Noise Echophon. The full list of modules used in the Purim demo is:

  • Make Noise Echophon
  • Qu-Bit Nebulae (v1)
  • Rossum Electro-Music Morpheus
  • Mikrophonie
  • Make Noise Maths
  • Make Noise Tempi
  • Malekko Heavy Industry Noisering

I do wish I already had a Qu-bit Nebulae v2 for this project.  You can see our review of v2 from NAMM 2018 here.

Purim is a holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from the king’s wicked advisor Haman, as told in the book of Esther. Traditionally, the gragger is used to mask the name of Haman when said out loud during readings.

NAMM 2017: New offerings from Synthrotek and Division 6

Our friends from Synthrotek teamed up with Division 6 for a delightfully noisy and retro NAMM display.

This unique enclosure has that future retro look at we at CatSynth adore. It is unfortunately one of a kind at this moment. But we had a chance to admire it. Sitting above the panels, however, was a new product, the Division 6 “Business Card Sequencer”, available as a kit. It’s a dual 16-step sequencer with CV and gate out, as well as clock in. Quite handy and smaller than my iPhone.

Division 6 also introduced Mr Crotchety. It is a control-less Eurorack module that generates a non-linear CV source. It also has the best name of any product I encountered at NAMM.

Synthrotek is also continuing to come out with new modules and such. This ribbon controller looked quite interesting to us, and fits well in the 1U area of their cases.

We can also see at the top of the image the enclosures that allow the Business Card Sequencers to be mounted in groups into a Eurorack system. And off to the right is the new Roboto module. It’s hard to see in this picture, so here is a demo from Synthrotek.

Roboto is an audio-signal transformer based on old voice-transformer chips. One could of course use this for “robot”-like vocoding, but also for manipulating another other type of sound that crosses the wires of a modular synth. We also quite like the logo. There was also an affordable in interesting-sounding reverb module, with degrees of freedom that turn it into an instrument rather than simply an effect at the end of the chain.

We are looking forward to seeing more of these modules. But we really want that future retro case!

@catsynth in the namms!!!

A photo posted by Synthrotek (@synthrotek) on

CatSynth in the Window, Artists’ Television Access

I participated in quite a few performances in 2014, with a lot of challenges and memorable experiences along the way. But there was perhaps none quite as unique or purely fun as my solo set in the window gallery of Artists’ Television Access (ATA). It was part of a month-long program called Almost Public/Semi-Exposed, a “series of installed performances ranging from movement to musical, ritual to reenactment, interactive to endurance.”

[Photo by David Samas]

My performance, entitled “CatSynth in the Window”, was a solo with Moog theremini, analog modular, full cat-print costume and body movement. The theremin was a controller for various sound-generated modules, including the Metasonix R54 and Benjolin by Rob Hordjik. And at three hours with just one break, it was among the longest continuous performances I have done.

[Photo by David Samas]

Immediately I know this was going to be a great experience. The window was my stage, and the city bustling by on Valencia Street was my audience. Many walked by with just a curious glance. Some stopped to listen for a few minutes. Others stayed a while, contacting friends to come check it out. One little girl called me a witch.

[Photo by David Samas. Click to enlarge.]

Sonically, the performance was relatively sparse, with usually no more than two sound sources at once. Motion and gesture were an central part of the performance, as was interacting with the people on the street. Here is a video excerpt.

[Video by Claire Bain]

Although I was inside the window, the sound was being broadcast through a speaker in the entryway of ATA to the outside so that people could clearly hear as they walked by. One unexpected challenge was the jazz band practicing inside the main ATA space. But I made the most of it using my skills as a jazz pianist and riffing off the standards they were playing. The audience interaction was among the most rewarding parts of the event, matching the gestures and motions suggested by people outside. For an extended period of time, one of the neighborhood’s icons Diamond Dave was completely enthralled by the performance and interacting with me.

In this next video, you can see a bit of our impromptu “duo”, as well as some of my attempts to play against the jazz ensemble.

[Video by David Samas]

The performance was an endurance test, physically and mentally, but it was an incredibly rewarding experience and I hope to be able to do it again, perhaps bringing to different venues and cities. It was interesting to see how a diverse flow of people choose to observe or interact. Indeed it was a mutual coming together at times, quite democratic and independent compared to a traditional concert setting. I would also like to think it was a positive contribution to the ATA site itself and to life along Valencia Street. I like how vibrant the street and neighborhood is, but providing a little weirdness and unusual performance brings back a bit of San Francisco’s long history of unique culture back.

A big thank you to Ariel Zaccheo and Tessa Siddle for curating this event, and to the folks at Artists’ Television Access for providing us the time, space and support.

Report from BPOW!!! Part 2: The Concerts

Today we conclude our reports from the Battery Powered Orchestra Workshop (BPOW!!!) in Portland, focusing on the evening concerts. Like the workshops, which we covered in Part 1, the concerts focused on DIY technologies, as well as analog synthesis.

The Saturday-evening program opened with Stephanie Simek performing on her custom multi-armed turntable.


The arms on the turntable were outfitted with contact microphones which picked up vibrations from the grooves of hand-cut records. Each arm fed a separate audio channel, creating a multi-track, spatialized performance from a single record. Musically, the repeated sounds of jungles, space, human activity and instrumental sources formed complex rhythms with changing syncopations and graduation motion over time. The effect was quite hypnotic. Even with the enveloping sound system, there was something intimate about the performance, probably related to the visuals and distinct sound of the record player.

Simek was followed by F-DT (Future Death Toll). F-DT is an artist collective and performances feature a rotating lineup, but on this occasion it included Edward Sharp and Nathanael Thayer Moss. F-DT describe themselves as “a throbbing mess of noise that eats technology and shits performance art.” And it was certainly a performance filled with loud noise in a variety of aural ranges – high electrical noises and pounding low-frequency patterns – set against a relentless stream of glitchy visuals and text.


Although it is hard to tell from this photo, much of their gear was colored orange, which seems to be an important part of the group’s identity. The music and presents is undeniably challenging, but well worth for those who make the effort.

Then it was my turn to take the stage. My setup focused on the analog modular synthesizer, along with another analog synth, iPad, the dotara (Indian string instrument), and Skatch Box. I also used the Synthrotek 4093 NAND synthesizer that I built during one of the workshops earlier in the day.


The 4093 worked flawlessly, as did the modular and the Luna NT analog synth. The acoustic instruments (dotara and skatch box) also worked well. As with any experimental electronic improvisation performance, there were a few technical glitches and a few things I would have done differently in hindsight. But overall, I thought it was a good performance, and it was very well received by the attendees. You can see and hear it in its entirety in the video below:

CatSynth (Amar Chaudhary) at BPOW, August 10, 2013 from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The final act of the first night was Mechlo. His performance combined lo-fi glitch audio and video from an NES console.


Clearly, there were modifications made to allow the system to be performed in a way that a traditional NES could not. Nonetheless, the graphics and audio were reminiscent of what one would expect from the classic 8-bit games. There were repeated modulating patterns, some of them more melodic, some noisier, with occasional glitches and pauses.

The Sunday evening concert opened with a performance by analog modular virtuoso Jeph Nor with Dan Green on analog video. Green brought an LZX modular video system, while Nor had a large collection of audio modules from different manufacturers.


Nor built complex patterns of sound that went from sparse and resonant to thicker and more pad-like. There were moments of eerie ambience and others that had a machine-like precision. Overall, he was able to give his improvisation with this instrument a musical and even narrative quality. The visuals focused on patterns of colors, curves and lines that were constantly changing, but occasionally slowing to a standstill before shifting rapidly and switching to a completely separate collection of shapes.

Next was Mike Todd performing custom visuals and sounds. Unlike the sharper edges from Nor and Green earlier, or the noisy intensity from F-DT the day earlier, Todd’s performance was software and more organic. The visuals, based on his own software, were composed of curving liquidy shapes that seemed alive. Similarly, his music had an equally liquid quality, with more open space between fast elements, as if a swarm of moving organisms.


Todd was followed by JMEJ, who assembled sonic circuits live on stage. One can think of this as “analog live coding”.


The process was fun to watch. As one might expect, the sounds were a bit on the noisier and unpredictable side, but with a lot of good crunchy lo-fi texture. As the performance continued, the circuits grew more complex and culminated in this tangled product:


The final performance featured Claus Muzak performing some of his electronic-music compositions.


This was a more structured performance, divided into songs. His music had a strong rhythmic and harmonic foundation, realized with a diverse collection of synthesizer and drum-machine sounds. It was dark and richly textured, and at times danceable, especially when he employed rhythmic lines with high-Q filters. It was probably the most “traditional” of any of the performances on either night, well crafted electronic music that would be at home in a club setting. But it was a fitting conclusion for evening’s performances and for the festival as a whole.

You can see and hear brief excerpts from all the performances in this video:

BPOW!!! Battery Powered Orchestra Workshop – Aug 10-11, 2013 from Molecule Synth on Vimeo.

Overall, both the concerts and workshops from BPOW were a rewarding experience. It would be great to visit again to participate in future events, and in the meantime I look forward to hearing more from the artists involved. Thanks to Travis Feldman of moleculesynth for organizing BPOW and Myles de Bastion of Cymaspace for hosting.

Godwaffle Noise Pancakes (March 3, 2013)

Pancakes and noise music may not be the first combination one thinks of for a Sunday brunch. But that is precisely what is offered at Godwaffle Noise Pancakes, a monthly noontime show organized by Grux at The Lab in San Francisco. I had the opportunity to perform at the most recent event on March 3.

I opted for a “purple theme” revolving around the purple Monorocket case I have for my Eurorack modular system. I selected an outfit and hair to match, and even found an old toy keyboard that was purple.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.]

The performance itself was on the subtle side, attempting to dial in on specific sounds and module combinations. It was an exercise in managing unpredictability and finding musical structures and phrases even in the noisiest of situations. You can see the performance in the video below.

Godwaffle Noise Pancakes live performance, March 3, 2013 from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The hall was quite dark during the set and my attempts to lighten the video resulted in a lot of artifacts. But it does complement the sound in a way. One take-a-way for future performances with the instrument is to be mindful of how one adapts the output of the small Eurorack jacks to standard live-sound systems. Investing in some strong audio adapters for the modular itself will cut down on some of those unpredictable pops. But overall I was quite happy with the set, and got a lot of positive feedback (about the visual as well as the aural).

The next performance featured Abyss of Fathomless Light featuring Bert Bergen. His fast moving performance combined vocal recordings on a series of cassette players with analog electronics into a thick and fast moving soundscape. He was followed by fslux, whose performance moved between longer more mellifluous sounds featuring her vocals and harsh electrical output from effects pedals.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.]

The performance by J. Soliday (Jason Soliday) was undoubtedly the loudest and noisiest of this noise-based show. There were long sequences of repeated loud glitches that required a bit of effort to listen to, but also a few gaps and pauses with space for quieter detail.

The final performance featured a collaboration by Wobbly and Thomas Dimuzio. I have seen them perform together before, but this was the first time with the technological combo of Dimuzio on analog modular and Wobbly on iPad and other digital synths.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.]

This was the longest performance of the afternoon (all the others including mine were quite short), but also the most captivating. They were able to create enveloping soundscapes that at times felt otherworldly and at others more meditative. The overall texture was lush, but there were dry moments with more staccato details from both the analog and digital instruments.

Overall, it was a fun afternoon of music. I am glad I was able to participate and hope to do so again soon.

Rubber ()) Cement, bran(…)pos, Hora Flora at Luggage Store Gallery

Today we look back at a recent show featuring noise and theater at the Luggage Store Gallery, part of Outsound Presents’ regular Thursday-night experimental-music series.

The first set featured Hora Flora, a project of Raub Roy. Most often, we associate noise music with electronic affects, but this set focused on acoustic noise opportunities. It opened to the sound of electric toothbrushes on drums. It turns out this sound can be quite rich, and also quite loud at times. Over the course of the performance, he used other acoustic generators for excite the drums, most notably large colorful balloons.

The set continued in this way, with the balloons and toothbrushes on the drums creating ever changing acoustic noise drones, with other elements such as didgeridoo and portable cassette players layered on top. The cassette players were very deliberately placed at even intervals on the beam that spanned the length of the gallery in front of the audience. I was right near one of them, but the sounds were still quite subtle when combined with the overall drone texture.

Horoflora was followed by bran(…)pos. I had last seen him perform at the 2011 Outsound Music Summit. Once again, he was performing from within a curtained space with video projections on the outside, but the setting was far more intimate setting. From my vantage point, I was able to see both his live performance “behind the curtain” as well as the enveloping video projection.

In his performance physical use of his face both generated and shaped the sound, which in turn controlled the video. The performance opened with expressive percussive sounds, which become more resonant through electronic processing and gradually formed a rhythmic pattern. It continued with a series of slurps, crunches and other forms of face percussion mixed with breath, voiced sounds and synthetic sounds. In addition to electronics for direct vocal processing, there were synthesizers as well, including an Access Virus:

Overall, the performance had the phrasings and overall structure of storytelling, but in a language whose words I cannot understand. It did come to a strong finish with growls and roars against a frantic thudding pulse.

The final performance featured Rubber (() Cement (pronounced “Rubber oh Cement”). The set was quite the spectacle, with a large costumed figure, a space creature of sorts, next to a towering old-school computer system made from cardboard. The visuals and sounds reminded me a bit of Caroliner Rainbow, but on a smaller scale, and on top of the audience instead of separated by a formal stage.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.]

Somewhere inside that lumbering lurching figure was a large custom string instrument. The plucking and striking of the strings formed the sonic base of the performance, which were both processed electronically and countered by other synthesizer sounds emanating from the “computer”. I suspected that the things would get quite loud, and indeed they did, with lots of loud shrieky pedal noises processing the strings and reprocessing themselves in complex ways. Of course the focal point remained the physical and visual aspects of the performance. In fact, that is a bit of an understatement, as part of the audience experience including being “attacked”. I got swiped at least once by one of the extending parts appendages, which are actually quite heavy – I was nearly knocked over. Things got a little crazier as the creature moved out into the audience. But it was all in good fun, and I don’t think anyone was hurt. Definitely an unusual experience for this series.

Overall, it was a great show attend, with different sites and sounds than usual. The audience was different as well, with the artists bringing their own followings. I hope to see more of them at other venues in the near future.

Myrmyr and Tiny Owl, Luggage Store Gallery

June began with a particularly strong electroacoustic and noise performance at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco with Myrmyr and Tiny Owl.

Myrmyr is the electroacoustic duo of Agnes Szelag and Marielle Jakobsons, and their performance was in anticipation of the release of their new album Fire Star. Their work incorporates strings (in this case, electric violin and cello along with other instruments) and advanced electronics. I have heard and reviewed Myrmyr before, but this set was perhaps the most beautiful I have heard from them. Set amongst a dizzying array of electronics and wires, it opened with a series of struck string sounds that invoked the sounds of strings in South Asian or East Asian music. Szelag’s voice emerged over a series of rich arpeggios and became part of the texture via live looping. The complex harmony resolved to a long major-seventh chord, after which the strings became harsher and more percussive. Amidst pitch and delay effects, a plucked cello entered in counterpoint to the voice and other instruments. The overall effect was quite tonal and dream-like, and gave me the impression of glass objects.

[Myrmyr. Photo by Michael Zelner.]

The next piece started with strings, both plucked and tapped and used as a live-looping source. A rhythmic pattern formed from the loops, which built up in complexity and volume with lots of distortion. Over time, the distorted sounds became clearer and more ethereal as the strings cut out and left only the bells and electronic effects. These were in turn displaced by more liquidy sounds and the return of cello and violin, this time bowed. The piece featured interesting harmonies and vocals.

The final piece was from the soon-to-be released album. It became with a drone, with harmonium sounds and voice building up into a rich texture. As they fade out, a plucked string instrument (possibly guzheng after reviewing Myrmyr’s website) enters on a minor pattern. The sound was accompanied by bells and distortion effects. The music built up to a big recognizable chord that was unresolved. Another build-up followed, this time with voice that turned into a rich harmony with a particularly plaintive violin line.

[Tiny Owl. Photo by Michael Zelner.]

Myrmyr was followed by Tiny Owl, a band consisting of Matt Davignon (drum machines and synthesizers), Lance Grabmiller (computer and synthesizers), Suki O’Kane (percussion), and Sebastian Krawczuk (double bass and objects). Their performance consisted of one long constantly evolving piece. It opened with an impromptu round of “Happy Birthday” for Matt Davignon (it was indeed his birthday) that appropriately elided to a series of glitchy noise sounds. Soon the bass drum and cymbals and string bass entered. The overall undulating timbre seemed very insect-like, but there also bits of melody that came and went in opposition to the overall swells and dips in the sound. One gesture that I particularly liked involved drum machine “gurgling” set against bass. The gurgling sounds, which formed a complex timbre, were gradually slowed down to the point where it became a series of rhythmic elements – moments like this always make me think of Stockhausen’s Kontakte II. Eventually, they merged back into the overall ambient sound. Over time, the overall texture became busier, but also more drone like, with high pitches and even some screeches eventually emerging. Pitched noises moving up and down like factory machinery were set against a drum rhythm reminiscent of “Wipe Out” (that very insistent sixteenth-note rhythm that every young percussionist attempts to play). As the percussion (drums and objects) grew more rich, so the electronics became more intense with bursts of machine noise and longer notes with strange harmonics. The section of louder sound and more complex rhythm grew to a climactic point and suddenly faded out with just a low rumble and a sparse texture of percussive sounds. This part of the performance was drier, with more punctuated elements and scratching sounds. During a gentle rise in pitch and volume near the end of the performance, the sound seemed to merge with a passing siren on Market Street. (It wouldn’t be a Luggage Store Gallery performance without at least one siren incorporated into the music.)

The show concluded with both groups uniting for short jam. It was fun to hear the combined sounds: noise drones punctuated by strings, and at least one more siren from the street.

Outsound Music Summit: SoundScapes

We resume our reports from the 2010 Outsound Music Summit after a brief break. In this article I review the last night of the festival, titled “SoundScapes” and featured musicians whose music focuses on noise and sound textures. While this is often from electronic sound sources such as effects pedals or DIY synthesizers, many were from acoustic sources such as metal objects or conventional instruments like piano.

The evening was framed by the theatrical announcements of the artists by guest emcee Cy Thoth, a regular DJ on KFJC 89.7 FM.

[click image to enlarge]
The concert began with Phog Masheeen, a trio featuring Mark Soden, Jr, Dr. Francene Laplan and William Almas. They presented a single large-scale work for electronic and acoustic sound plus video called “Anthroscopic Tourism.” I was not quite sure how the medical term “anthroscopic” related to the sounds and images in the piece, which focused on the interplay of Kaplan’s pots and pans set against electronic sounds and loops and Soden’s electronically enhanced performance on trumpet and a large pipe from a Yamaha motorcycle. Soden had demonstrated some of the techniques he was using with the trumpet during the Touch the Gear event. But he added to the the performance techniques Soden used with his instruments rubbing dry ice against them. As most readers know, dry ice is extremely cold (and difficult to handle); and this it can have a strong effect on the shape and behavior of metal tubes. At one point, he smashed a block of dry ice before picking up pieces to use. He also had a blowtorch. The music often involved loops (sample based or otherwise) against which Kaplan played rhythms and timbres on the pots and pans – this was offset by the more freeform sections with Soden’s trumpet and pipe. Almas’ visuals included a variety of urban and industrial scenes, text, and footage of old musicians, which were mixed with live video of Soden’s performance.

[click images to enlarge]

Next up was Headboggle (aka Derek Gedalecia). The tone was set from the beginning both in terms of sound and slapstick comedy by his stepping on bubble wrap that happened to be placed behind the table with his electronics, and then slipping on the way to the grand piano. Actually, the comedic timing of his various slips, slides, tripping over his own feet and double-takes was expertly done, as in an old silent film or Vaudeville act. There was a bit of a scare for several of us in the audience when it appeared he had broken the bench of the piano, but I was assured this was all part of the act, this particular bench was found broken, and that no pianos were actually harmed in the making of this performance. Musically, he combined chaotic oscillators from Ciat Lombarde synthesizer – a reminder to finally put together my Ciat Lombarde kit – with classical and ragtime piano phrases, loops and deep bass sounds from a Micromoog. The piano and electronics are of course quite contrasting, but every so often the sounds and phrases (and physical humor) converged quite well.

[click images to enlarge]

Headboggle was followed by Kadet Kuhne, who presented video and live-music piece Fight or Flight, described by our emcee Cy Thoth as “space madness.” In fact, it was a very polished live electronic performance, very dark and ambient (although interestingly Kadet Kuhne talked in the pre-concert Q&A session about her desire to perform “lighter” ambient music). It began with low frequency sounds and a rumbling buzz, and included doors opening and closing and various sounds of machinery, with electric hums, blips and glitches. It was quite captivating and easy to get lost in. At one point, arpeggios and then beats emerged from the combination of noise percussion and more harmonic sounds, which got progressively louder as the piece built up to a climax and then faded to nothingness. The music was set against a video that focused entirely on a cloth-encased figure suspended in mid-air. It wasn’t clear at first whether this was a cloth figure or an actual person, though as the video progressed it became clear that it was the latter. The frequent shot and angle changes gave the video a glitchy quality which matched many of the electronic sounds in the music.

[click image to enlarge]

The final set featured Chen Santa Maria, the duo of Steve Santa Maria and George Chen. Both members of the group played electric guitar and a variety of electronic effects. The set began with a guitar drone set against high squeaking humming sounds. These sounds were soon joined by full guitar chords with heavy distortion and undulating raspy sounds from synthesizers or effects units. There were bursts of noise distortion and high shrieking. This was definitely a loud set. But there were still details to listen to (with appropriate ear protection). The harmonic patterns of the distorted guitars created rhythms, which was set against a more formal triplet rhythm from the electronic sound sources. This rhythmic pattern essentially continued for the remainder of the set, with periods of driving guitar, bursts of noise and more high shrieking tones which then decayed into a low rumbling noise. As the set drew to a close, the sounds became more “digital” with lots of blips and choppy sounds, but then this was replaced by a loud square wave. The square wave started out at a moderate pitch, but got lower and lower until it became a series of audibly distinct pulses, and then came to an abrupt stop.

Although this was the last performance of the festival, I will be presenting one more article, where I return to the MultiVox night which included my own performance with Reconnaissance Fly and the Cornelius Cardew Choir…

Metal Machine Manifesto – Music for 16 Intonarumori

Last Friday, I attended Metal Machine Manifesto—Music for 16 Intonarumori at the Yerba Buenca Center for Arts here in San Francisco.   This concert, a joint performance of SFMOMA and Performa, was part of a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the launch of futurism, or more specifically the Italian Futurist movement launched in 1909. A century ago, the futurists were producing art, music, architecture and performance that still feels very modern, even more so than some of the more conservative post-modern art of recent decades.

In the area of music, one of the most influential composers and writers was Luigi Russolo, who wrote the Art of Noises, and developerd the intonarumori or noise makers.  The work of Russolo and others in futurist music paved the way for experimental and technologically-focused music from George Antheil to the electronic experimental and noise music of today that we at CatSynth perform and celebrate.  Indeed, RoseLee Goldberg in her introductory remarks to the program refers to the music of the futurists as the “original DNA of noise music.”

The intonarumori were hand-cranked instruments designed to produce “noises”.  Their sounds included whirrs and buzzes, clangs, scrapes, and also sirens and mechanically plucked strings.

For this performance, Luciano Chessa, a “foremost Russolo scholar” oversaw the recreation of 16 intonarumori, which were used to perform both pieces by the original futurist composers, and contemporary pieces for these instruments.

The recreated intonarumori looked much like the old pictures, with simple wooden boxes and large cones for sound projection.  You can see and hear some of the futurist noise makers in this video from Chessa and composer/performer Mike Patton:

After the concert I a chance to see the intonarumori up close and even try a couple of them out.  This medium-sized instrument produced repeated plucked-string sounds.

This one was purely mechanical, though another that I tried which produced automobile noises appeared to have an electric motor.

The concert itself featured Luciano Chessa as conductor for most of the pieces, and members of the Magik*Magik Orchestra under the direction of Minna Choi.

It opened with Paolo Buzzi’s 1916 piece Pioggia nel pineto antidannunziana.  This was a rather theatrical piece, with dramatic conducting by Chessa and various words in Italian shouted through a megaphone.  The noise intoners here were used to literally reflect the urban noises of the time such as sirens and the whirring of machinery.

In the the more contemporary pieces, the noise intoners were used in other contexts rather than as simulation and expression of the modern noisy environment, but as instruments that could be played subtly and expressively. Such was the case with Theresa Wong’s Meet me at the Future Garden.  Hits and clangs and mechanically plucked strings were set against Wong’s percussive vocals and Dohee Lee’s more dramatic low voice with loud vowel intonations.  From Wong’s program notes: “2 a.m. sharp, in a primordial cooperation of pulsating forest, I will sing you a song tactitle tick tocking of residual harmonies, caution manifest launching the dominance of mutual respoect and hypersensitivitiy this message sent from my iphone [sp].”

let us return to the old masters, a collaborative composition by members of sfSoundGroup, took its inspiration directly from a quote of Francesco Balilla Pratella ‘s Manifesto of Futurist Musicians to “destroy the produce for ‘well-made’ music”.  The piece itself was composed during the rehearsals for the concert.  The sfSoundGroup members have excelled at extended technique and performance of complex compositions with their traditional instruments, and brought that skill to the intonarumori.

The first half of the concert ended with one of the most disinctive pieces of the evening, Donno Casina by Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi.  The performance featured two the larger “bass” intonarumori, along with Kihlstedt on vocals and violin, Bossi on accordian, and Moe! Staiano playing a large drum and collection of colorful metal objects.  The distinctly futurist sound of the intonarumori was blended with Kihlstedt’s more contemporary extended vocal and violin techniques, and Moe!’s intense and theatrical percussion performance.

In addition to having the best title of any piece in the concert, James Fei’s New Acoustical Pleasures (A Furious Meow) was the most subtle.    It was made of “quiet noises” with lots of empty space between sounds and relatively little movement, and reminded me of some of John Cage’s more static pieces.  The short, soft tones from the intonarumori were quite a contrast to the loud blaring representations of modern life of the original futurist pieces.

While listening to John Butcher’s penny wands and the native string, I came up with the word “scrapier” to describe the piece.   And I am pretty sure that is not a real word.  Nonetheless, the piece was “scrapier” than the others.  The performance, which featured Gino Robair, included lots of scrapes and grinding sounds building up to a crescendo and then coming to an abrupt stop.  After a brief silence, the scrapes and grinding sounds resumed.  This pattern repeated a couple of times, with variations in each repeitition.

After Fei’s and Butcher’s pieces, the full ensemble returned for Mike Patton’s << KOSTNICE  >>.  All sixteen intonarumori were played together to produce a thick “orchestral” sound along with drums.

Luciano Chessa’s L’acoustic ivresse (Les buits de la Paix) also featured the full ensemble plus bass vocalist Richard Mix.   There were similar thick clusters as in << KOSTNICE >>, but this time framing Mix’s vocals.  There were moments when the vocals and ensemble played off on another, with Mix’s strong bass voice and traditional singing style simultaneously blending and contrasting with intonarumori.  This performance received one of the longer and more spirited rounds of applause of the concert.

Elliott Sharp’s Then Go, which featured Dohee Lee, received a similar reaction.  This was another full-ensemble piece, where the noise tones were very well synchronized to Lee’s dramatic singing.  She also tapped (or stomped) her feet in time with percussive sounds from the ensemble in a strong rhythmic pattern.  Through the rhythm, piece seemed to connect both the futurist sounds (as archetypically modern sounds) with something much more traditional, even primal.

The concert concluded with a realization of a fragment from Luigi Russolo’s 1913 Risveglio di una città.  Like the other original futurist work in the program, this piece directly referenced “sounds of the modern world” like cars and sirens.  This very short fragment of a piece abruptly ended with Chessa dropping his baton.

(co)sine – LIVE – Luna's Cafe … and Mimì makes the rounds

From sendling we have this video of artist (co)sine. Great stuff, and it's at Luna's Cafe! How could I not repost.

Scrolling down one post earlier at sendling, we see a familiar face. Remember Mimì? Well, it seems that she's been making the rounds since her debut here at CatSynth, popping up at sendling and matrix. Go Mimì!