CatSynth pic: Kitten on Keys

Kitten sleeping on piano keys

Cats napping on keys seems to be a theme this week ?

Submitted by ⓉⒺⒸⒽℕ⌽▃ⒾⒹ●⒞⒪⒨ via Twitter.

Martha and Monica: Morton Feldman’s On Patterns in a Chromatic Field

12719352_10153950108344314_418060891337331788_oWe at CatSynth have had quite a few unique musical experiences this season. Today we look back at another of them. In early February, the duo Martha and Monica (Hadley McCarrol on piano and Monica Scott on cello) performed Morton Feldman’s Patterns in a Chromatic Field in its entirety.

“In it’s entirety” is no small thing, as the piece consists of a single continuous 90-minute movement. It’s a feat of endurance for both the listeners and performers. But McCarrol and Scott made it seem straightforward and effortless. The performance began with very sparse but unsettled harmonies, with the texture increasing but then returning to sparseness again. It was only the final third that the texture and intensity grew towards a bolder and thicker sound. All the while, the music was constantly changing, repeating a few times, leaving a bit of space, and then going on to something else. This is consistent with Feldman’s interest in sound as something ephemeral and lost, and in creating a sonic space where memory is subverted or “disoriented.” The spaces in between the sounds are important as well, given moments of reflection and mental echoes.

All of this might make the piece seem daunting to listen to, especially at the length of a typical feature film. But the combination of space and disorientation were helpful, making it more like thoughts passing in a meditative space. The anxiety in a passage builds, but then dissipates – one acknowledges it and moves on. The passage of time itself became background noise and the sounds became more spatial than temporal. This effect might be more pronounced for someone like myself who sees shapes when listening to music, but I suspect other deep listeners had analogous experiences.

Unlike Feldman’s earlier pieces, this one was fully notated using common practice notation. This would both facilitate and make more challenging the process and playing and learning such a piece, where every note makes a difference. It was overall an impressive feat of musical performance, and glad I got to spend an afternoon hearing and seeing it.

Outsound New Music Summit: Vision Music 

The final night of the Outsound New Music Summit featured three sets combining music with visuals. The room was dark, with all illumination coming from the visuals on the screen and the sonic elements abstractly arrayed around them.

The evening opened with Mika Pontecorvo’s project Bridge of Crows performing an improvised set to a segment Pontecorvo’s film The Bedouin Poet of Mars: The Last Poet.

Mika Pontecorvo
[Photo: PeterBKaars.com]

The film’s story is a bleak tale of a poet who is the last survivor of a once-thriving civilization on Mars, searching for a home for himself and the last surviving plant. He sees the results of several self-destructive civilizations on his journey. Despite the dark subject matter, the visuals themselves were lively and abstract at times, with lots of interesting visual and image processing.

Bedouin Poets of Mars : The Last Poet

The music moved in and out of a variety of textures and dynamic levels, though the focus remained on the visuals throughout. Joining the regular ensemble was Bob Marsh, wearing one of his trademark suits and performing on a string instrument made from a tree.

Bob Marsh
[Photo: PeterBKaars.com]

One disadvantage of the darkened environment was that I did not get to see much of Marsh or his instrument, which I would have liked to. Rounding out the ensemble were Kersti Abrams on winds, Elijah Pontecorvo on electric bass, Greg Baker on electronics, hydrophone and clarinet, Mark Pino on percussion, and Mariko Miyakawa on vocals.

Next up was Tender Buttons, a trio featuring Tania Chen on small instruments, with Gino Robair and Tom Djil on analog modular synthesizers. The trio performed sounds against live interactive video by Bill Thibault.

Tender Buttons
[Photo: PeterBKaars.com]

The set was anchored by Chen’s piano, which ranged from intricate and complex to loud and aggressive, augmented by small toy instruments. The piano interlaced with Thibault’s abstract visuals, which started out simply but grew more complex over the course of the set. Throughout, the visuals displayed words from Gertrude Stein’s poem Tender Buttons, but were increasingly mixed with the more complex elements.

Tender Buttons
[Photo: PeterBKaars.com]

Robair and Djll provided a variety of adept sounds from modular synthesizers and circuit-bent electronics to complement the piano and video.

The final set featured live interactive video by Bill Hsu with James Fei on reeds and Gino Robair returning on percussion.

James Fei with Bill Hsu visuals
[Photo: PeterBKaars.com]

I am quite from the minimalist quality in Bill Hsu’s visuals. The began with very simple geometric elements, but soon hope added a bit of controlled chaos that led to very organic elements on the screen.

Bill Hsu visuals

Befitting the visuals, the music in this set was more sparse, with moments of quiet and loud solo bursts from Robair and Fei. Robair percussion worked best with the early geometric elements, and Fei’s complex runs on saxophone worked well with the more organic visuals.

I enjoy sets that integrate visuals and music into a single unit. It can sometimes be a challenge to take everything in, much less write about it afterwards. But I hope this gives a little insight into the evening. It was a good closing concert for this years Summit, and was appreciated by those who came only that night as well as the loyal audience members who were there most or all days. This concludes the 2015 Outsound New Music Summit, and I look forward to its return next year.

CatSynth pic: Nora!

Nora the piano cat

Another photo of the beautiful Nora, the piano-playing cat. Submitted by AnalogKeys (originally from Femme Abstruse) via Twitter.

“♡ॢ₍⸍⸌̣ʷ̣̫⸍̣⸌₎”

CatSynth pic: Kitten on the Keys

B4ug0HzIUAAV3sc

Submitted by ⓉⒺⒸⒽℕ⌽▃ⒾⒹ●⒞⒪⒨ via Twitter.

CatSynth pic: Singing kitten

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Submitted by Reconnaissance Fly bandmate Polly Moller via Facebook. Let’s just consider this another one of those synths that is more analog than analog 😉

This also seems like a convenient time to shamelessly plug our new album Flower Futures.

CatSynth pic: Piano kitten

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Bon alors, mi ré ♪ ♫♪♫

Submitted by Polly Moller via Facebook. You can read more about our most recent collaboration here, and find out the latest on our band Reconnaissance Fly, including our upcoming show on October 8.

CatSynth pic: Mojo on the piano

From the Facebook group Black Cats Are Good Luck.  Not a synth per se, but keyboards and pianos are fair game here.

“The amazing Mojo =^.^=”

If you have a cat-and-music picture to share, you can do so via our Facebook page, tweet us @catsynth, or contact us.

CatSynth pic: happy cat and digital piano

Another from PulseWidthMod on flickr. That expression is just too cute 🙂

CatSynth video: Cat listening to music – Chris Marker

This short film by Chris Marker is gorgeous and made me smile. So peaceful and elegant.

Submitted by PuffyStudioCat via our Twitter @catsynth.

We have mentioned Chris Marker before. It was his film Sans Soleil that helped me to discover shrine near Tokyo dedicated to cats.