Today we look back at my performance with Tania Chen at Spectrum in New York, a little over a week ago.
[Photo by BC]
Our duo is built around a mixture of experimental improvisation with electronic instruments and other elements, and songs with lyrics, melodies and chords, often segueing seamlessly from one to the other. Spectrum has a wonderful Steinway grand piano, which allowed to Tania to exercise her piano skills while I focused on chords and rhythm with a Nord Electro keyboard and DSI Prophet 12 and Moog Mother-32 synthesizers. At times the sound was dark and droning, others very sparse, and many times quite humorous – after all, we did sing a “Cheezy Love Song.” The songs themselves were quite structured, but there as well as the improvisations in between we were able to play off one another to create patterns and textures.
[Photos by BC]
I particularly like the sections combining the acoustic piano with the Prophet 12, and our dueling Casio keyboards. And yes, we had a lot of fun. You can see our full performance in this video below.
Overall we had a great time performing and it was quite well received by the audience. It wasn’t actually our first show together in New York. That was at the Brick Theater in Brooklyn and will be discussed in a separate article.
Our performance was in the middle of the bill. The evening began with a set by Hey Exit, a solo project by Brooklyn-based Brandan Landis.
Using guitar, electronics and video, Landis created a dark soundscape, sometimes noisy and drawing from his backgrounds in punk and noise, but at other times quite haunting and ethereal. The room was particularly dark, with light only from the video screen and a nearby candle.
Hey Exit was followed by a solo set by Jeff Surak featuring sundry electronic and acoustic sound sources.
Much of the set featured long drones with rich timbres, but also details such as beating patterns and occasional breaks in the sound. The timbres could be tense at moments, but overall tt was a very meditative performance; and a perfect sonic segue into our very different set.
We were immediately followed by Jarvis Jun Earnshaw performing with guitar, voice and electronics.
His sound at times was reminiscent of cafe folk singers, but his voice was anxious and abstract. The entire performance mostly followed the pattern of combining these elements with high-feedback delay and other effects.
The final set Jenn Grossman, another Brooklyn-based musician and sound artist.
[Photo by BC]
Her electronic set featured vocal experimentation with electronics, including rhythmic and ambient elements. Although also making use of drones, it was very different from Jeff Surak’s sound, more harmonic and thicker, more like a dreamy movie scene versus a tense dark space. There were percussive hits and noisy bits as well, which gave the music a defined texture.
It was overall a great experience being back at Spectrum and performing along with all the other acts. And we had a sizable and appreciative audience, despite the space being a little hot that evening. Thanks as always to Robert Pepper (Alrealon Musique) and Glenn Cornet for hosting us, and hopefully I will play there again soon.
Tania Chen and I take our duo to the Ambient Chaos series tonight at Spetctrum in New York. We had a great show on Tuesday at The Brick Theater, and looking forward to another one tonight. If you are in New York and would like to join us, the full details are below:
Ambient-Chaos is back with it’s May edition.
121 Ludlow St, Fl Second, New York
$10-20 dollar floating donation.
Acts: Load in is at 6:30pm, 30 minute sets.
7:30 pm sharp start time!
Live video by Jim Tuite!
Acts in the order below.
1) Hey Exit
“Beginning as a free improvisation project in 2009, Hey Exit was restarted in 2015 with a focus on modern pop and electroacoustic composition. Led by Brooklyn’s Brendan Landis, Hey Exit draws on his background in punk, harsh noise, and traditional Japanese music.”
2) Jeff Surak
Improvised electro-acoustic musique concrète.
“We always enjoy his restrained yet unwavering approach, fearlessly exploring dark zones of implied violence and subdued terror.” ~ The Sound Projector
3) Amanda Chaudhary and Tania Chen
Tania Chen is a pianist, experimental musician, free improviser and sound artist, working with pianos, keyboards, found objects, toys and vintage and lo-fi electronics.
Amanda Chaudhary is a composer and performer specializing in contemporary and electronic music; an artist; and a developer of advanced software for creativity. She performs regularly around the Bay Area and beyond, both solo and with various bands and ensembles. Her solo work involves experimenting with innovative sounds via analog synthesis and custom software with computers and mobile devices for new modes of expressive musical performance. She often incorporates folk and toy instruments from around the world, along with jazz, dance music and other idiomatic styles into her visually captivating performances.
4) Jarvis Jun Earnshaw
Born in London 1982, Jarvis Earnshaw spent most of his childhood in Japan, and graduated Bunka Gakuin Art School and is a graduate of the Pratt Institute. His musical career as well as his Art career has been recognized worldwide, having solo exhibitions, residencies and performances throughout Europe, Japan, India to New York and LA. His work is often described as a cinematic experience, utilizing guitar, sitar and audio cassette tapes provoking memories of past and beyond, warm and rich as does the noise from a record needle touching an LP; at times violently explosive yet soothing and irresistible. Currently based in Brooklyn, New York, he has been engaged in numerous projects throughout the Art and Music scenes including performances and collaborations with: Walter Steding, Kenny Scharf, Amazing Amy the contortionist, Rumi Missabu of the Cockettes amongst many others, and currently also plays bass in the punk band Question. His photos have been featured in Asahi Camera Magazine, has had a solo exhibition at the New York Public Library Thompkin Sq. branch and will be performing at the Bruno Walter Auditorium/Lincoln Center on April 21st 2016 in celebration for the inauguration of the “Rumi Missabu Papers” to the NYPL.
5) Jenn Grossman
Jenn is a sound and experiential media artist based in Brooklyn. Her interests lie in modes of heightening emotional, social and sensory awareness through ambient soundscapes, multichannel composition, vocal experimentation, public sound intervention, and collaborations with dancers and filmmakers. She has installed and performed at venues such as Harvestworks, the MoMA PS1 Printshop, the New York Transit Museum, Reverse Gallery, Open Source Gallery, Club 157, for the Deep Listening Conference’s Cistern Dream Session, Brown’s OPENSIGNAL Festival, the Gallatin Arts Festival, amongst in everyday spaces such as the park archways and tunnels, garbage cans, street vents and stairwells.
This past week Polly Moller and I brought our duo Ode to Steengo to Spectrum in New York, part of a rich night of experimental acoustic and electronic music in the Ambient-Chaos series.
The evening began with an acoustic brass duo featuring Torben Snekkestad on trumpet with David Whitwell on trombone.
The two engaged in a very musical exploration of the extended timbres of these instruments. Indeed, I was quite captivated by the sounds of Whitwell’s drones and multiphonics, which sounded more like my Minimoog than a concert brass instrument. His use of a single-reed mouthpiece within the trombone’s mouthpiece was likely part of how he achieved these sounds. The pair also included sections with percussive pops and very quiet tones.
The duo was followed by the Jazzfakers, featuring Robbert Pepper on violin and electronics, David Tamura on saxophone and electronics, Raphael Zwyer on bass and Steve Orbach on drums.
Before they start playing, they look like they could be a conventional jazz quartet, but once they start one realizes they are anything but that. Their energetic performance flowed between free improvisation, electronic noise, and more familiar rhythmic and harmonic hooks. What started as a thick noise drone quickly moved to frenetic fast-moving notes from all four performers, and then hit textures in between. They are also a lot of fun to watch.
And then it was time for us to take the stage. Ode to Steengo is a piece based on spoetry (spam poetry) derived from Harry Harrison’s “Stainless Steel Rat” series. Polly Moller and I performed it several times as an electro-acoustic duo in 2008 and 2009, and then later in our band Reconnaissance Fly. We have since reprised the piece as a duo a few times. We jokingly called this version “Steengo takes Manhattan.”
[Photo by BC]
This performance was quite sparse, both in comparison to previous instances and to the Jazzfakers’ set that preceded us. But we were able to get quite a few interesting textures, some liquidy sounds from the analog modular controlled by the Moog Theremini, Polly’s flute and chanter, and a bit of live processing with a rather temperamental analog filter. As always, we try to bring a bit of wit and irreverence to our experimental music. You can here our full performance on this video.
Overall, it went well. We had a great time performing and we received a warm response from our New York audience.
We were followed by alphamale, a solo electronic-and-viola project.
Her set started off as a thick drone of electronics. After a time, she began to incorporate the viola as well. Overall the texture remained one of long tones and ambient sounds. It was once again a contrast to our set and the others that preceded us, and quite pretty to listen to. At times it had a dark sound – it is hard to discern if the melancholy was truly in the sound or part of a built-in set of expectations around the viola. Nonetheless, it was nice to see someone using this instrument in a solo electronic setting.
The final set of the evening featured Rawmean, another solo set, this time with guitar and electronics.
Very quickly, it was clear that this was more of a beat-and-grove set, with thick layers of guitar. The guitar work was interesting in that he was doing quick staccato motions but producing thick droning chord pads via the connected effects. The grooves and rhythmic patterns were fun, veering between straight 4/4 rhythms and the occasional odd times. Overall, the texture did remain quite constant, with a steady stream of beats that periodically changed. As I sometimes have suggested in these reviews, some sets that contain otherwise engaging material are better when shorter, and I think this was one of those instances.
Five sets in an evening is a lot, but overall we kept things moving. We had a good turnout for the first three sets, with a bit tapering off for the last two. But it was a diverse and rewarding evening of new music, and we were grateful to be a part of it. Thanks to my friends Robert Pepper (PAS) and Mike Durek (The Use) for putting this show together, and as always to Glenn Cornett of Spectrum for providing this venue for new and visiting avant-garde musicians.
Today we look back at the November 26 Ambient-Chaos night at Spectrum in New York. I was happy to once again perform there, and hear some of what the local experimental-music scene has to offer.
The performance itself, the New York debut of my feminine persona, went quite well as was very well received. It was anchored by rhythmic elements on the Dave Smith Evolver, overlaid with iPad synths, the garrahand drum, sketch box, and a miniature subset of my analog modular system.
[Photo by Painter Jung Nam Lee at Spectrum Manhattan, New York Nov 26, 2013]
Performing at Spectrum is always a great experience, sonically as well as visually. Lighting and shading was part of the design of my set and worked perfectly with the ever changing light patterns in the space. I was also happy with the narrative structure within the music. You can see and hear the full set in the following video:
I was preceded on the program by Schuyler Tsuda, who performed a set featuring his sonic sculptures. In a space lit only by candles on stage, he struck, bowed and scraped a variety of sonic objects. There were long ambient metallic sounds punctuated by shorter percussive events. The overall effect was eerie and sometimes a bit anxious, but also immersive and inviting. It is difficult to capture in a still photograph, so here is a video clip:
The third set featured John Dunlap on guitar and vocals as part of a duo that also included saxophone and electronics.
Their playing was loud and frenetic, and quite a contrast to both my set and Tsuda’s. Dunlap also incorporated throat singing into his performance.
[Photo by Painter Jung Nam Lee at Spectrum Manhattan, New York Nov 26, 2013]
The final set brought together the RMA Trio along with a guest vocalist/actor to read excerpts from an upcoming play.
The text was in German, and if I understood correctly (which is doubtful) it was based on Hamlet. There was a variety in the instrumental pieces, including both percussive and harmonic piano, drums and guitar effects.
Overall, it was a great show, and a decent turnout considering that it took place in the middle of a nasty rainstorm. Thanks as always to Robert L. Pepper (PAS) for hosting this series, and to Glenn Cornett for making Spectrum a destination for musicians and sound artists in New York.
Today we look back at the November 15 Ambient-Chaos night at Spectrum in New York. Spectrum is a new loft space dedicated to experimental music, and I was happy to have the opportunity to both hear new music and perform there.
The performance opened with LathanFlinAli, a trio consisting of Lathan Hardy on saxophone, Sean Ali on bass and Flin van Hemmen on drums.
Their music was an intense free-jazz style that moved between individual hits, bends and other sounds to more idiomatic and rhythmic sections. Every so often the intensity would swell to a loud hit or brief run on all three instruments.
The trio was followed by Groupthink an electronic duo featuring Darren Bergstein and Edward Yuhas. While the first performance was all about percussive hits and rhythms, this set was the complete opposite with ambient drones and thick electronic textures.
Throughout the evening, large programmable lights were pulsating, casting different color patterns on the wall and onto the stage. It probably worked best with Groupthink’s music.
It was then time to take the stage. I brought a relatively compact instrumental rig with a laptop, iPad, a garrahand (a metal drum from Argentina), a Luna NT analog synthesizer and a DSI Evolver.
The garrahand was the centerpiece of the set, both as solo tuned percussion and as a source for laptop-based processing. The texture of the overall performance was quite varied, ranging from analog noise to more melodic phrases on the percussion instruments. You can see a brief excerpt of this set in this video:
The final set featured Charity Chan on piano and Lukas Ligeti on drums. From the start, the pair’s sound was loud, aggressive and highly percussive. Chan definitely put the piano through a workout with her intense playing both on the keyboard and on the strings inside the instrument:
Ligeti was equally intense on drums, moving between loud hits and resonances.
The motion required for this music made the pair fun to watch as well as listen to.
Overall, it was a fun night of music and great way to start things out in New York. I am grateful to Robert Pepper (PAS) and Glenn Cornett
for hosting me at Spectrum, and hope to play there again.
We at CatSynth never miss an opportunity to combine mathematics and cats. Recently, our friends at Walking Randomly posted this image:
Unlike the number theory and other mathematics we like to post here at CatSynth, the Fourier Transform is part of our stock and trade. There are many variants, including the Discrete Time Fourier Transform which one of the basic tools of signal processing and sound synthesis:
Basically, what a Fourier Transform does is decompose a signal (or any time-varying mathematical function) into separate frequencies. If you have a spectrum representation of a sound, this is output of a Fourier Transform. Similarly, if you have a graphic equalizer on your stereo, it can be seen as operating on a very low-resolution Fourier transform, as it allows one to raise and lower different frequency ranges of sound.
For images, “frequency” corresponds to detail. Highly detailed areas of image that change from pixel to pixel are high-frequency, while areas of constant color or intensity are lower frequency. Another variant of the Fourier Transform, the Discrete Cosine Transform, or DCT, is more often used with images because it tends to put more information in lower frequencies.
Theoritcally, one should not lose any information when taking a Fourier Transform of a signal (or image) and taking the inverse to retrieve the original. However, in Bennieston’s image, which applies two DCTs to the original image, results in the “ghost” that loses a bit of the original detail. Certainly, some is due to the rounding error when doing any calculations on the computer, but it seems like more than that. Most, likely, the DCT is more sensitive the boundaries, i.e., what happens at the beginning or end of a signal.
DCTs are often used in “lossy” image and audio compression, such as JPEG for images. However, I have rarely seen them used in music applications, where one tends to see more general Fourier Transformations, which correspond more closely to an intuitive understanding of musical frequency.
As such, it would be interesting to work with DCTs in a musical context and see what transpires. If we ever get around to this project, we will certainly post it here on CatSynth.
This post is part of the Carnival of Mathematics which is being hosted this weekend by Logic Nest.