Once again, the San Francisco SPCA has partnered with Macy’s flagship store in Union Square to feature adoptable pets. I have visited a few times during my walks around downtown SF this holiday season, and on Saturday say these playful kittens and many others.
Besides providing an adorable respite from the usual holiday commercial overload, these windows serve to highlight the plight of adoptable pets in our communities that need homes. Indeed, all these pets are available for adoption and many do fine loving homes from people who see them in the windows. I am confident this vivacious youngster will find a home soon.
There are also adult cats in the windows for adoption, and I hope the find homes as well. Adult cats from previous homes can make great companions, especially for quieter households. (Luna was a previously homed adolescent when I adopted her.)
I did love seeing these two intertwined, especially because one looked like a very young Luna. Perhaps they will be adopted together?
It’s always fun to come see the cats in the windows and help support the cause of caring for homeless pets. If you do visit before it closes on January 4, please make a small onsite donation. You call find out more about the holiday windows program and how to support all the SF SPCA does for animals in our community via their website.
I participated in quite a few performances in 2014, with a lot of challenges and memorable experiences along the way. But there was perhaps none quite as unique or purely fun as my solo set in the window gallery of Artists’ Television Access (ATA). It was part of a month-long program called Almost Public/Semi-Exposed, a “series of installed performances ranging from movement to musical, ritual to reenactment, interactive to endurance.”
[Photo by David Samas]
My performance, entitled “CatSynth in the Window”, was a solo with Moog theremini, analog modular, full cat-print costume and body movement. The theremin was a controller for various sound-generated modules, including the Metasonix R54 and Benjolin by Rob Hordjik. And at three hours with just one break, it was among the longest continuous performances I have done.
[Photo by David Samas]
Immediately I know this was going to be a great experience. The window was my stage, and the city bustling by on Valencia Street was my audience. Many walked by with just a curious glance. Some stopped to listen for a few minutes. Others stayed a while, contacting friends to come check it out. One little girl called me a witch.
Sonically, the performance was relatively sparse, with usually no more than two sound sources at once. Motion and gesture were an central part of the performance, as was interacting with the people on the street. Here is a video excerpt.
[Video by Claire Bain]
Although I was inside the window, the sound was being broadcast through a speaker in the entryway of ATA to the outside so that people could clearly hear as they walked by. One unexpected challenge was the jazz band practicing inside the main ATA space. But I made the most of it using my skills as a jazz pianist and riffing off the standards they were playing. The audience interaction was among the most rewarding parts of the event, matching the gestures and motions suggested by people outside. For an extended period of time, one of the neighborhood’s icons Diamond Dave was completely enthralled by the performance and interacting with me.
In this next video, you can see a bit of our impromptu “duo”, as well as some of my attempts to play against the jazz ensemble.
[Video by David Samas]
The performance was an endurance test, physically and mentally, but it was an incredibly rewarding experience and I hope to be able to do it again, perhaps bringing to different venues and cities. It was interesting to see how a diverse flow of people choose to observe or interact. Indeed it was a mutual coming together at times, quite democratic and independent compared to a traditional concert setting. I would also like to think it was a positive contribution to the ATA site itself and to life along Valencia Street. I like how vibrant the street and neighborhood is, but providing a little weirdness and unusual performance brings back a bit of San Francisco’s long history of unique culture back.
A big thank you to Ariel Zaccheo and Tessa Siddle for curating this event, and to the folks at Artists’ Television Access for providing us the time, space and support.
This year marks the centennial of the birth of Sun Ra, an artist whom we at CatSynth quite admire. There have been many tributes this year, and Reconnaissance Fly was fortunate to have played in one of them this past Wednesday.
“Friendly Galaxies”-Celebrating Sun Ra at 100 was “a celebration of the cosmic musical force of Sun Ra and his legacy….bands,beer,the sounds of joy!!! universal convergence” at the Center for New Music here in San Francisco. It featured three groups who combined his music and poetry with their own artistry. We even had Saturn cookies!
And Reconnaissance Fly was up first! We definitely got into the theme of the evening, with otherworldly and science-fiction themes. And our set included two of Sun Ra’s pieces from the album Lanquidity: the title track and Where Pathways Meet.
We also included selections from our own music that matched the sound and vibe including Itzirktna and Undeciphered. You can hear our performance of Undeciphered in this video.
Overall, this was one of our better-performed shows, and we received a great response from the audience.
We were followed by Electropoetic Coffee, a music-and-poetry duo featuring Ross Hammond and NSAA.
As usual, Hammond’s guitar work was virtuosic and filled with lush and complex moments. I am pretty sure the poetry and spoken featured some of Sun Ra’s own writings, a topic that was part of the groups introduction. It was interesting to hear the combination of words and music. At times they came together strongly, at others seemed to drift a bit in different direction. Overall, I did like the performance and how it fit into the evening. But I do think would have been stronger if it was shorter – I don’t think the 45 minute duration served them well and it would have been better to keep it compact and energetic.
The final set was a special group for the evening, the UBU RA BIG BAND. It featured Joe Lasquo on piano and electronics, with Jon Raskin, Steve Adams, Lisa Mezzacappa, John Hanes, Myles Boisen, Aaron Bennett, Dan Plonsey, and David Slusser, along with a vocal team that included Katt Atchley.
This was truly a treat to hear. These are of course all top-notch musicians who can hit the appropriate sounds and rhythms for jazz as well as dive into free-improvisation. Their arrangements of Sun Ra’s compositions were tight and energetic, and just fun to listen to. And this band really grooved, in that funk/jazz/fusion way that I adore. One of my favorites was the final piece, UFO, a straight-ahead disco tune from 1979. I wanted that one to keep going.
Overall, this was a fun show and a joyous celebration, and something I think we were all proud to be a part of. We had a full house, all of which seemed to be very much in the moment as well. Certainly a memorable night and a fitting tribute. A special thanks to Jan Michaels for organizing this event and to the Center for New Music for hosting us!
Kearny Street Workshop’s APAture 2014 festival opened last Friday with its visual arts showcase at Arc Gallery. The show featured a diverse collection of works in different media by emerging Bay Area artists.
Although there were quite a few pieces in the show, the gallery presentation was clean and spacious, which always makes it more inviting to spend time with art. There was also a good balance of three-dimensional pieces in the show, so that it wasn’t confined to the walls.
Situated in the center of the main gallery was a set of stoneware heads by featured artist Victoria Jang.
The heads appear artificial, identical fabrications reminiscent of characters in anime. But they were each hand sculpted from a traditional process of stoneware and glaze and contain visible flaws. The glaze accentuates the flaws and brings them out for the viewer.
Another sculptural piece that made strong use of the space was Marya Krogstad’s Stone Hills. This visually simple piece was a bringing together of many elements, including bell heather plants, concrete blocks, mirrors, and homemade telescope.
Nancy Otto’s large abacus with hand-blown glass beads in visually inviting in itself. But as one gets closer, one realizes the beads each bear a headline related to the effects of climate change.
It is a bit of a mystery how the form of this ancient computing device and climate change are related.
There were also several video installations in the exhibition, including this rather captivating and colorful video performance by Laura Kim.
Kim places herself in a space filled with basic colors and shapes, taking on the poses and expressions common in popular music videos and live performance. The geometric quality made it fit well as a contrast with the more organic and soft sculptural works. It was also just plain fun to watch.
Another work that was fun but also very meticulously crafted was Yuki Maruyama’s sticker drawings. One first sees a large nebulous field of small red dots, but as one gets closer one can see that each is an individual drawing in itself.
The small nature of each drawing and the somewhat comical or suggestive quality in many of them invites the viewer to keep looking at them one by one, and indeed to come back a few times during a visit to the exhibition.
There were of course more traditional two-dimensional hanging works as well, including this watercolor by Cathy Lu entitled Girls Playing (float), a riff on the theme of “boys playing” common in traditional Chinese art.
A darker and more tragic tone is present in Lana Dandan’s digitally processed photographs depicting buildings in Beirut, Lebanon, bearing scars from that’s country’s civil war.
Despite the emotional tone, I did find myself drawn to the beauty of the buildings themselves, simple modern forms in concrete.
The mathematical concepts and processes in Vincent Yin’s ink-on-paper works also caught my attention. Yin attempts to answer the question “what does probability look like” by representing numerical data with drops in different ratios of color.
It is interesting to step back and look at the whole rather than the individual elements.
There are more works at the show beyond what I am able to cover. I recommend stopping by to see it at Arc Studios, 1246 Folsom Street in San Francisco, before it closes this weekend.
As a final disclosure, although I have covered quite a few of Kearny Street Workshop’s programs in the past here on CatSynth, this is the first time I am doing so since joining the organizations board of directors. It’s an exciting role to take on, but I do plan to continue providing reports on APAture and other events.
The 2014 Outsound New Music Summit concluded with a night of improvising ensembles, including a couple of very memorable performances.
The evening being with the Obstreperous Doves, a project by Bill Noertker that brought together Nava Dunkelman, Christina Stanley, Karl Evangelista, and Dave Mihaly in an exploration of assertive and complex improvisation.
[Photos by Michael Zelner]
Besides giving us a chance to use the word “obstreperous” – and it is indeed a fine word – the ensemble allowed the talents of all five artists to blend while still letting them each have a voice. Christina Stanley provided noisy and harmonic violin sounds as well as her voice, including a strange but amusing story layered on top of pieces. Nava Dunkelman offered up a wealth of percussive sounds that also sang at times. Karl Evangelista was in usual form with his intense and intricate guitar playing. The group lived up to its name with lots of noisy percussive sections, but also moments of more harmonic jazz phrases, and quiet instances as well.
The Obstreperous Doves were followed by the Bob Marsh’s ensemble the Emergency String (X)tet. They premiered a Terrascore by Marsh composed for his 70th birthday.
A terrascore is “a musical geobiographic representation of an individual.” In this case it focused on locations significant to Marsh’s artistic life: his home town of Detroit, Chicago, Berkeley and San Francisco. The ensemble improvised with Marsh conducting from a score based on geographical information from these places, along with field recordings that he made. I’m pretty sure I recognized the one that represented the area around the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco. The other members of the ensemble included Mia Bella D’Augelli, Jeff Hobbs,
Christina Stanley (pulling double-duty on this night), David Michalak, Doug Carroll, and Kanoko Nishi-Smith.
The final performance was a trio that brought together vocalist Jill Burton with Tim Perkis on electronics and Doug Carroll (also pulling double-duty) on cello. This was a first-time collaboration by the three of them. The result very captivating performance. It started with a very mysterious and haunting solo by Jill Burton, who then demonstrated the range of her extended vocal techniques blending with Perkis’ liquidy electronic sounds and Carroll’s scratchy percussive cello. It was also a theatrical performance, with expressive gestures and movement by Burton coupled with Carroll’s cello antics, sometimes turning the instrument backwards or upside down. But all along with a sonically beautiful and varied experience, that contained the right amount of silence amidst the energy of the sounds.
[Photo by Michael Zelnzer]
It was a very strong finale to this year’s summit, and it was interesting to compare and contrast the book ends of the Jill Burton trio with Pitta of the Mind from the opening. It was probably among the best years overall since I started attending this event in 2008; and I look forward to what comes next year.
We continue our reports from the Outsound New Music Summit with the concert on Friday, August 1. This evening featured two very contrasting sets, both in composition and volume.
The first set featured the duo of Teddy Rakin-Parker and Daniel Pearce. They performed new works by composer Renee Baker that were commissioned for the Outsound Summit.
Baker’s compositions “use a wide range of graphics and cued micro-improvisations as a means to denote the various developmental stages of our planet’s evolution.” Musically, the result was a mixture of subtle sounds, often low in volume, with occasional bursts of energy and percussive elements. The latter worked particularly well for this duo, with the cello becoming a percussion instrument alongside the drums.
If the initial set was subtle and focused on details, the second set was the complete opposite. Joshua Allen’s Deconstruction Orchestra was a loud event with no fewer than 22 instrumentalists on stage.
The ensemble performed The Structure of Sound and Space, an original deconstructivist-inspired suite of cell structure game compositions. Allen conducted the group through gestures and a series of instructions on sheets of paper. The piece and the ensemble were described in advance as being “cathartic”. That characteristic was hard to discern, but they certainly were loud. It seemed that most of the ensemble was playing at the same time, creating a very thick, intense and sometimes chaotic texture; though there were points where subgroups performed and there were several solos by ensemble members. It was certainly a spectacle that had to be experienced live.
The full ensemble featured Aaron Bennett, Sam Flores, Vinny Golia, John Ingle, Matt Ingalls, Josh Marshall, Dave Slusser, Rent Romus, Cory Wright, Peter Bonos, CJ Borosque, Matt Gaspari, Ron Heglin, Jeff Hobbs, George Moore, Matt Streich, John Finkbeiner, Henry Kaiser, Lisa Mezzacappa, Timothy Orr, and William Winant.
Overall, this was a somewhat shorter program than the other nights, but it packed quite a punch.