We resume our reports from the 2010 Outsound Music Summit after a brief break. In this article I review the last night of the festival, titled “SoundScapes” and featured musicians whose music focuses on noise and sound textures. While this is often from electronic sound sources such as effects pedals or DIY synthesizers, many were from acoustic sources such as metal objects or conventional instruments like piano.
The evening was framed by the theatrical announcements of the artists by guest emcee Cy Thoth, a regular DJ on KFJC 89.7 FM.
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The concert began with Phog Masheeen, a trio featuring Mark Soden, Jr, Dr. Francene Laplan and William Almas. They presented a single large-scale work for electronic and acoustic sound plus video called “Anthroscopic Tourism.” I was not quite sure how the medical term “anthroscopic” related to the sounds and images in the piece, which focused on the interplay of Kaplan’s pots and pans set against electronic sounds and loops and Soden’s electronically enhanced performance on trumpet and a large pipe from a Yamaha motorcycle. Soden had demonstrated some of the techniques he was using with the trumpet during the Touch the Gear event. But he added to the the performance techniques Soden used with his instruments rubbing dry ice against them. As most readers know, dry ice is extremely cold (and difficult to handle); and this it can have a strong effect on the shape and behavior of metal tubes. At one point, he smashed a block of dry ice before picking up pieces to use. He also had a blowtorch. The music often involved loops (sample based or otherwise) against which Kaplan played rhythms and timbres on the pots and pans – this was offset by the more freeform sections with Soden’s trumpet and pipe. Almas’ visuals included a variety of urban and industrial scenes, text, and footage of old musicians, which were mixed with live video of Soden’s performance.
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Next up was Headboggle (aka Derek Gedalecia). The tone was set from the beginning both in terms of sound and slapstick comedy by his stepping on bubble wrap that happened to be placed behind the table with his electronics, and then slipping on the way to the grand piano. Actually, the comedic timing of his various slips, slides, tripping over his own feet and double-takes was expertly done, as in an old silent film or Vaudeville act. There was a bit of a scare for several of us in the audience when it appeared he had broken the bench of the piano, but I was assured this was all part of the act, this particular bench was found broken, and that no pianos were actually harmed in the making of this performance. Musically, he combined chaotic oscillators from Ciat Lombarde synthesizer – a reminder to finally put together my Ciat Lombarde kit – with classical and ragtime piano phrases, loops and deep bass sounds from a Micromoog. The piano and electronics are of course quite contrasting, but every so often the sounds and phrases (and physical humor) converged quite well.
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Headboggle was followed by Kadet Kuhne, who presented video and live-music piece Fight or Flight, described by our emcee Cy Thoth as “space madness.” In fact, it was a very polished live electronic performance, very dark and ambient (although interestingly Kadet Kuhne talked in the pre-concert Q&A session about her desire to perform “lighter” ambient music). It began with low frequency sounds and a rumbling buzz, and included doors opening and closing and various sounds of machinery, with electric hums, blips and glitches. It was quite captivating and easy to get lost in. At one point, arpeggios and then beats emerged from the combination of noise percussion and more harmonic sounds, which got progressively louder as the piece built up to a climax and then faded to nothingness. The music was set against a video that focused entirely on a cloth-encased figure suspended in mid-air. It wasn’t clear at first whether this was a cloth figure or an actual person, though as the video progressed it became clear that it was the latter. The frequent shot and angle changes gave the video a glitchy quality which matched many of the electronic sounds in the music.
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The final set featured Chen Santa Maria, the duo of Steve Santa Maria and George Chen. Both members of the group played electric guitar and a variety of electronic effects. The set began with a guitar drone set against high squeaking humming sounds. These sounds were soon joined by full guitar chords with heavy distortion and undulating raspy sounds from synthesizers or effects units. There were bursts of noise distortion and high shrieking. This was definitely a loud set. But there were still details to listen to (with appropriate ear protection). The harmonic patterns of the distorted guitars created rhythms, which was set against a more formal triplet rhythm from the electronic sound sources. This rhythmic pattern essentially continued for the remainder of the set, with periods of driving guitar, bursts of noise and more high shrieking tones which then decayed into a low rumbling noise. As the set drew to a close, the sounds became more “digital” with lots of blips and choppy sounds, but then this was replaced by a loud square wave. The square wave started out at a moderate pitch, but got lower and lower until it became a series of audibly distinct pulses, and then came to an abrupt stop.
Although this was the last performance of the festival, I will be presenting one more article, where I return to the MultiVox night which included my own performance with Reconnaissance Fly and the Cornelius Cardew Choir…