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Today we look back at my solo performance at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco two weeks ago. This was part of the regular Outsound music series every Thursday, and on this night featured two very contrasting sets: my solo electronic work, and then an acoustic horn trio.
We being with a view of the setup:
My solo rig has slowly turned into a table from an Apple store, with an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook all in use. At the same time, I continue to blend old and new technology with the presence of the traditional Indian instruments, such as the ektar and gopichand, and Chinese instruments. I set up the monomer to mostly face the audience and provide interesting displays on the grid, unless I specifically needed to interact with it.
[Click image to enlarge]
From my perspective, as well as a couple of people I talked to in the audience, the most successful piece was the new string-centric piece that combined the guzheng model on the iPad with live sampling of the ektar and gopichand. This piece mixed traditional instruments of two cultures with advanced technology. In addition to the iPad, this piece used the mlr application with the monome for sample playback and looping. Most importantly, however, was how it came together musically with the harmonies and timbres of the instruments standing on their own to create a meditative soundscape.
The other piece that worked well was my update of the meditation with prayer bowl and DSI evolver, which also incorporated the Smule Ocarina on the iPhone. I used the feedback technique again where the iPhone is placed in front of a speaker and starts to play itself. Here is a video excerpt:
Overall, it was a good performance and provided an opportunity to try out new things. It was nowhere near as tight and polished as my set at the Quickening Moon Concert back in February, though (or as well attended).
I was followed on the program by the horn trio of Darren Johnston, Matt Nelson, and Cory Wright. Their improvised music moved back and forth freely between rhythmic avant-garde jazz, long drones and all-out skronking.
Although it was a completely different instrumentation and format, there were a few similarities between the trio and my set, particularly towards the beginning. The opened with a series of complex rhythms with pauses and odd time relations that reminded me a bit of the piece I did with the monome+mlr. Every so often, the rhythms came together into a uniform pattern and then into long notes that formed perfect intervals or occasional consonances with thirds. Then the drone broke apart. On the opposite end, there were noise elements, especially on the trumpet and more atonal harmonies. At one point, the sound was reduced to very soft breath noises, followed by a swell with staccato notes and warbles, getting ever busier and louder.
The next segment began with solo muted trumpet. While listening, I was thinking how muted trumpet always sounds “jazzy” no matter the style of music being played. The jazz feel was sustained as the other performers came in, building a texture that was both elaborate and nostalgic. The jazz feel gave way to more percussive sounds, such as rubbing the headjoint of the soxophone on the body of the instruments. The mutes themselves became percussion instruments, as did a beer bottle. The percussion sounds were loud and resonant, set against clarinet and saxophone headjoint.
The final piece opened with a nice strong baritone saxophone solo. At the same time, the other performers began dropping and throwing objects on the ground. Then everyone came in again on horns with fast and loud notes. The saxophone in particular kept the percussive quality going.
It was a short set, but overall quite good and kept my attention throughout.