One of our CatSynth TV episodes this week featured a close-up demonstration of the Wicks Looper by Rarebeasts, a tiny musical instrument that can make beats, loops, and all sorts of noises. We also added a Korg Delay Monotron for filtering and delay effects in the last portion of the demo.
The Wicks Looper is a fun instrument that I have used in several live performances, though less so lately. Its audio jack is a bit fussy at times, but as long as I remember I know how to make it work reliably. Both it and the Monotron should see more use again this year as I plan out new ideas for solo performances. And we still love that cat logo that looks so much like our dear Luna. But there is also a (non-black) Luna who lives with the human who created the instrument, a fact involved in our discovering it in the first place.
Rarebeasts has moved on to newer custom electronic instruments that are quite sculptural in nature. You can see their work at their Etsy shop.
Specifically, I-87, a limited-edition American IPA made by Davidson Brothers Brewing Company in Glenn Falls, New York. Glenn Falls is a little north of Albany and just south of Lake George.
As we can see from this map, it is just east of Interstate 87, here the Adirondack Northway, so the name for the beer is not at all surprising. US 9 also goes through the town center, as does one of its myriad auxiliary routes, NY 9L, and NY 32 which like US 9 and I-87, follows the Hudson River.
As for the beer itself, it is definitely an IPA and has the characteristics one would expect, including the hoppy flavor. But it also had a bit of a sweet/caramel flavor as well. I’m by no means an official beer expert, but I quite liked it. I will have to drop by the brewery when I’m that far north in New York state again.
See more of Glenn Falls, New York and many other fine towns across North America in our Highway☆ app, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
It’s Boxing Day. And Sam Sam wants to celebrate with one of her favorite activities: boxing!
While our friends in the UK, Canada and elsewhere in the former British Empire actually celebrate the holiday, we at CatSynth in the United States just love the name. But we have long been curious about its significance and origin. From Wikipedia:
There are competing theories for the origins of the term, none of which are definitive. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest attestations from Britain in the 1830s, defining it as “the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box”.
The term “Christmas-box” dates back to the 17th century, and among other things meant:
A present or gratuity given at Christmas: in Great Britain, usually confined to gratuities given to those who are supposed to have a vague claim upon the donor for services rendered to him as one of the general public by whom they are employed and paid, or as a customer of their legal employer; the undefined theory being that as they have done offices for this person, for which he has not directly paid them, some direct acknowledgement is becoming at Christmas.
Far Out Gallery in the Sunset district of San Francisco is currently hosting a solo exhibition of works by Anne Herbst, and we were on hand to see it and cover it on CatSynth TV.
Of course, the cat-imagery particularly caught my eye, but there are many layers beyond that. Even in the cats, one can see some of the other elements that permeate Herbst’s art, including undulating lines and traces of her body that are used both as textures and bounding elements.
There are also the frequent connections to her personal history in the inclusion of faces and hints of other people. The connection to blood comes up both in the use of color, imagery, and the context of a couple of the paintings. It features in a self portrait as well as a piece for her father’s 90th birthday, both of which are featured in the video.
Herbst took the personal history to a new level for this exhibition by re-imagining childhood drawings with her current artistic style and practice.
We see the lines, shapes, and character of her current work brought to the original cat figure from the drawing. One can also notice the blood-like elements and color in this piece.
Creatures of all sorts abound throughout. In addition to the cats, the turtle seems to be a recurring animal, and was featured prominently in the work we most associated with the exhibition title “Ripples.”
Far Out Gallery has been a great discovery for us, a place connecting us more deeply to that sometimes remote western edge of San Francisco. We are happy to have been there for both Anne Herbst’s show and Kasper Rodenborn’s earlier this season. We hope to see more in the future.
Today we look back at the recent performance by Pet the Tiger invented instrument collective in Golden Gate Park. It was part of a series hosted by Dan Gottwald featuring invented-instrument performances in the tunnel near the Conservatory of Flowers. You can see and hear excerpts from the concert this CatSynth TV video.
The centerpiece of the performance was the harmonic-series gamelan, a set of instruments that employ tuning based exclusively on the harmonic series. This leads to just-intonation relationships among pitches, but not necessarily those of conventional Western twelve-tone music. The results are haunting and exquisite. This is especially true of the 5-octave metallophone demonstrated by David Samas in the video, and played by Samas and others in the concert.
There was also a large kalimba-like instrument performed primarily by Samas and Derek Drudge, and a large instrument created and played by Bart Hopkin.
In addition to the metallophones, there were various wind instruments. Peter Whitehead played an instrument that resembled a longitudinal bass flute, and whirling tubes, all of which also conformed to the harmonic series.
There was also a stringed instrument performed by Ian Saxton.
Harmonic series relationships are well known to be very pleasant to the ear, and there was an overall pleasing tone to the music, amplified by the acoustic properties of the tunnel, the lighting and the fellowship of performers and audience. In addition to the long meditative pieces, there were sections combining music with anxious dystopian poetry, and even a rendition of George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Overall, it was a lovely and poignant evening, with the light show from the Conservatory of Flowers in the distance and a warm friendly atmosphere in the tunnel that mitigated the approaching chill of the night in Golden Gate Park. The series is over for the season, but we do expect to hear more of Pet the Tiger and these inventor-musicians in the near future.
Today we look back at last week’s show at Canessa Gallery in San Francisco, featuring Elliott Sharp, Tania Chen + Wobbly, and Euphotic. This show was the subject of CatSynth TV Episode 8, and you can see and hear a bit of each set.
We were quite pleased to see Elliott Sharp. We saw him back in the 1990s, but it’s been a while since he made it to the Bay Area.
He has a unique and idiosyncratic sound, with fast runs, harmonics, and extended techniques, along with electronics. The electronics, which appeared to include some looping, sampling, and delay, did not overpower his guitar playing, and the individual gestures, from frenetic fingerpicking to expressive scratches, came through strongly. Although his style is unusual, it is still quite melodic and harmonic, something that comes out particularly in a solo-performance setting.
The evening opened with Euphotic, a trio project featuring Tom Djll (electronics, trumpet), Cheryl Leonard (instruments from natural found objects) and Bryan Day (invented instruments).
The sound was subtle and detailed, with a lot of short sounds clustering like schools of fish. Djll’s electronics bridged the space between Cheryl Leonard’s organic sounds and Bryan Day’s more chiseled electro-acoustic creations. There was also a quality in Day’s performance that foreshadowed Elliott Sharp’s sound and style later in the evening.
Euphotic was followed by a duo featuring Tania Chen on electronics, voice and found objects, with Wobbly (aka Jon Leidecker) on electronics. He had an array of iPads linked together.
The performance centered around “Feasibility Study”, an episode of the television show Outer Limits, slowed down beyond recognition. Chen’s vocals and found-object performance featured material and ideas from the episode, including chomping on biscuits and pop rocks to represent the rock-like aliens in the video. She also performed a melodic section on an iPad, which complemented Leidecker’s complex electronic processing. His sounds were slower and more undulating, providing an eerie setting for the overall performance.
We had a great time at this show, as did the rest of the audience that filled Canessa Gallery to capacity. We look forward to more interesting music from these artists and from this venue. And thanks to Bryan Day for continuing to host this series.
The awards made this opening night a little different from the past, with the awardees sharing the spotlight with the artworks. But it was a great addition, especially as KSW celebrates its 45th Anniversary. Comedian and performance artist Kristina Wong and visual artist Michael Arcega were on hand for their awards, while comedians Ali Wong (you may have seen her show Baby Cobra on Netflix) and Hasan Minaj (Daily Show) accepted in absentia. There was also a very touching presentation to the late poet Justin Chin, which included an introductory statement written by our friend Maw Shein Win. As a former APAture artist myself, it’s always amazing to see how many people have come through the festival over the years and gone on to do great things in their fields.
[Kristina Wong (right) receiving her APAture Focus Award from Weston Teruya]
This year’s featured visual artist was Rea Lynn de Guzman, a works in a variety of media including painting, printing, and sculpture. For APAture, she created a textile sculpture representing a traditional Filipiniana “Maria Clara” dress that floated in the middle space. It was very much in keeping with this year’s theme of “Unravel”, as de Guzman states in her own words:
Among the other pieces that particularly spoke to me was Jerome Pansa’sStands (Body of Six), with its six polls topped with triangles painted in solid geometric patterns. It would work at CatSynth HQ!
[Jerome Pansa. Stands (Body of Six)]
Webster Quoc Nguyen packs many symbols into his triptych Double Consciousness. The figures use a bold, illustration style that is both fun and a bit dark at the same time as he juxtaposes symbols of Western influence, Asian stereotypes, and Catholic iconography and practice.
[Webster Quoc Nguyen. Double Consciousness.]
As it was crowded that night, I will need to go back and see these and the many other pieces in more detail on a quieter day. We at CatSynth are also looking forward to the upcoming APAture events featuring other artistic disciplines:
Music Showcase: Saturday, 10/7, 6PM. f8 Nightclub & Bar | 1192 Folsom St Film Showcase: Thursday 10/12. 7PM. Z Space (Z Below) | 470 Florida St. Book Arts Showcase: Sunday 10/15 1PM. Arc Gallery & Studios | 1246 Folsom St. Performing Arts Showcase: Saturday 10/21 2PM. Asian Art Museum | 200 Larkin St.