Outsound GearExplore at Chamber Music Day

Back in mid-October, a few of us from the crew at Outsound Presents participated in Chamber Music Day at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.

There were over 140 musicians participating, with performances and demonstrations scattered around the museum. And “chamber music” was defined quite expansively to include a wide variety of instrumentation and genres, ranging from traditional classical music to experimental avant-garde ensembles and crossover groups. Our contribution was a demonstration of electronic-music gear – a mini version of “Touch the Gear Night” from the Outsound Music Summit. I primarily focused on software-based sound generation, with an iPad and a Monome connected to a MacBook running Open Sound World. Matt Davignon presented his setup featuring drum machines and effects pedals. CJ Borosque demonstrated her input-less effects change where the noise in the signal chain is the source for sound manipulation; and Rent Romus demonstrated live sound processing with a setup that included a Korg Monotron.

There was quite a large turnout overall for Chamber Music Day, and we had a lot of traffic at our demonstration table. Reactions ranged from mild curiosity to deep technical conversations. We were a particularly big hit with children, who are naturally attracted to hands-on demos and electronic gear.

[Amar Chaudhary and Matt Davignon demonstrating gear for young attendees at Chamber Music Day. Photo by Scott Chernis.]

This trio of young ladies spent a lot of time at the table exploring the various devices in great detail.

[Exploring the gear. Photo by Scott Chernis.]

They were particularly interested in the iPad. Here they are trying out the Korg iMS-20 app.

[Playing the iPad.  Photo by Scott Chernis.]

I would like to think that some of the kids (as well as a few of the adults) went off and downloaded some music-making apps for their devices and started playing. Or perhaps a casual guitarist found a new way to make sounds with his or her pedals.

Overall it was a great experience, and an opportunity for us to share what we do with musicians outside our small “new-music” community and with the general public. Thanks to the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music (SFFCM) for inviting us to participate. To find out more about Chamber Music Day and their other events and programs, please visit their website.

[All photos in this article by Scott Chernis and provided courtesy of SFFCM.]

Gilbert and George, and the End of the Heatwave

Two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to the Gilbert and George retrospective at the de Young Museum here in San Francisco. They started out as performance artists, including themselves in their work as “living sculptures,” usually well groomed and well dressed in business suits. In addition to their live performances, they also made films such as Gordon’s Makes Us Drunk (basically, the pair getting drunk on Gordon’s gin).

Their most well-known works are their photo-montages, and these made up most of the exhibition. These are large scale works (measured in meters), with photos and graphics. It seems they always include themselves somewhere within the piece, along with both Christian and sexual symbolism. Some more basic, with black-and-white photos or subtle colors, such as England, 1980, while others, such as Death, from Death Hope Life Fear, are quite garish in their colors and graphics. You can see some examples here.

Although in most of the photo-montages it is easy to pick out the pair, in a couple it was more subtle, and one can play a kind of “Where’s Waldo” game. Indeed, one of my favorites was a wall of London street names, I could not find them anywhere in it, but I know they must be there somewhere.

I actually heard about Gilbert and George first in 2004. I had begun a collaborative art project and my partner gave be a book to read about artistic collaborations, focusing on conceptual art and performance art in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This was an era and style of art I often overlooked, and since then I’ve been more open to conceptual art, especially those based on words and text, but also in those that focus on the body. Needless to say, that collaborative art project never came to fruition.

The building in which the de Young Museum resides is itself a work of art. I have several pictures from past visits that will be subject of future “Wordless Wednesdays.” The architecture is characterized by grids of holes in the walls, some of which one can see through. There is also a tower with an observation deck, offering views of Golden Gate Park and the city. On this particular visit, one could see the fog rolling in from the west over the park and the outer districts:

The fog represented the end to the heatwave we experienced two weeks ago in San Francisco.