We pick up our reports from the epic musical month that was June.
On June 15, I performed a brand new solo set at Second Act in San Francisco, part of a monthly evening of experimental electronic music. It was a bringing together of my more experimental electronic work with the jazz and funk direction my music. The modular and Moog Theremini were featured heavily, but so were the Moog Sub Phatty as my “left hand” bass, and of course the Nord Stage, aka “The Big Red Keyboard”. I also used a Casio SK-1 extensively. You can hear the entire set in this video.
I thought it went quite well musically. I like how the funk bass worked with the Sub Phatty and Phonogene on the modular. The venue was full, and I got an enthusiastic response from the audience. I don’t think they were expecting this level of jazz and funk, but seemed to really appreciate it. I will definitely continue working in this direction in future solo sets.
The concert began with a noise set by Passions Nouveau, who performed with synthesizers and sundry electronics.
The set unfolded as a single continuous soundscape, with noise pads and drones, but occasional loud swells and complex details.
I was followed by bran(…)pos. It had been a few years since I shared a bill with him, but has excited to hear what he had come up with recently. As per his pervious appearances, he performed inside a tent onto which a mixture of live and processed video was projected.
And once again the performance centered around the use of his face and voice visually and sonically. But the instrumental accompaniment was a new direction, mixing sounds from the turn of the 20th century with pitched synthesizers and beats. It was a very polished and complex sound overall, bringing a tightness to his unique style of performance and presentation.
Overall, it was a great performance, and I was happy to be a part of it. Performing at Second Act is always a great time, and I would like extend my thanks to the folks who continue to make this venue and series work for the musical community.
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.
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.
The concert portion of the Outsound Music Summit began on Wednesday with an evening entitled “Face Music.” The four solo performances all centered around voice, but more on unusual uses of the voice and the face for making musical sounds than on traditional singing. Within this context, each of the performances was quite different.
Theresa Wong opened the concert by stepping out in front of the stage with only a microphone. At first it seemed like she was just standing still, but gradually one could hear the very subtle vocal sounds she was making. These soon grew into loud clicks, slurps and other percussive voice sounds, which she played around with for some time. There was a section where she used a mixture of noises and slowly descending squeaks reminded me Xenkis’ 1950s electronic compositions. Her second piece, which featured voice and cello, was more lyrical, with rich high voiced sounds (closer to singing) against more inharmonic cello overtones.
Joseph Rosenzweig used his voice to drive various electronic processes. For the first part of the set, he mostly used breath sounds, which were processed with distortion and other effects that became quite loud and intense. There were also moments that were more subtle, with softer metallic sounds behind the voice. As his vocalizations grew more complex, some parts began to take on the sound of speech, and there were moments while watching him that it seemed he was actually “speaking” the amplified electronic sounds. Over time, the arrangement grew to include multiple layers with percussive effects on more traditionally voiced sounds that feed into buzzing short loops and long drones of FM-like bell sounds – at this point, the electronic parts began to separate from the vocal source and take on a life of their own, with subtle high sounds, and then a low rumble against high vocalizations.
Aurora Josephson opened the second half the concert with candles, incantations when led into a performance of John Cage’s Experiences no. 2. The quiet, subdued performance focused more on traditional pitched singing. Experiences no. 2 is in a pentatonic scale and very lyrical, with a folk-song or spiritual quality. It was an oasis of calm, and a great contrast to the performances that preceded and followed.
[Bran…(pos). Photo by CatSynth.]
Bran…(pos) concluded the concert with an intense and theatrical set that probably most fit the term “face music”. He disappeared behind a screen onto which a colorful image of a butterfly was projected. From behind the screen, one could hear disembodied sounds of chewing, crunching, churning, squeaks, pops and other percussion that one can make with the face and mouth – at once they were everyday sounds, but also heightened through amplification and rhythmic placement. After a period of time, the otherwise still video started to glitch, with grainy video images briefly appearing on the screen. After a moment, I realized that this was in fact the face of the artist from behind the screen. Soon, the live video replaced the still images entirely. (From my vantage point, I could actually glimpse the “man behind the curtain” while watching the live video.) The sounds and visuals together gave the impression that he was “eating” the microphone. After a while, soft resonant bell-like sounds emerged in the background behind the face sounds, and gradually loops and rhythms began to emerge as well as the facial gestures in the video grew more frantic. There was a moment when the “face music” seemed to stop leaving only a drone of pure synthesizer sounds, after which Bran…(pos) returned with a more traditional voice sound. The background elements grew more industrial, with strong resonances the morphed into large bells. The set ended in a visual of melting red.
You can see a video of Bran…(pos) below:
The overall trajectory of the concert was good, as was the contrast, ranging from Theresa Wong’s nearly silent and unaccompanied opening to Bran…(pos)’s frenetic and gear-intensive end.
The Outsound Music Summit continues through Saturday evening with additional concerts. Look for more reviews here, or follow @catsynth for live tweets.