CatSynth Video: Silent Strike – Modular Cat

From Silent Strike on YouTube, via matrixsynth.

https://www.facebook.com/silentstrike…

Winter Modular Eloquencer is the main sequencer with all 8 tracks used for: bass from Verbos Harmonic Osc, 4 drums from 2 Erica Pico Drums.
The chords are formed by Intellijel Shapeshifter, Mutable Instruments Elements and Braids, through Makenoise Erbe-Verb and Erica Black Hole DSP.
The lead and blips are from Tiptop Z3000 and Malekko Anti-Oscillator, triggered by the Varigate 8+.
Other modules, vcas, mixers etc: MI Veils, Doepfer A-132-2, A-143-2, A-134-1, A-138b, A-138p/o, Waldorf KB37, Low-Gain Submix7, Makenoise Maths and Optomix.

That cat is too adorable ūüėĽ

APAture 2013 Opening Night

After a four year hiatus, Kearny Street Workshop’s APAture festival is back. The previous APAture in 2009 was my first look into the Bay Area’s vibrant scene of emerging Asian Pacific American artists. This time around, I not only attended the festival and gallery exhibition opening, but participated as well as one of the featured musicians. I created a set that featured the dotara, a South Asian folk instrument, as well as a sketch box, DSI Evolver, and analog modular.

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The presence of blue and purple in the setup is not an accident, as the color blue was central to this performance. It was part of my costume and the lighting as well.

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[© 2013 Susa Cortez/Kearny Street Workshop.]

The piece unfolded with the usual black-cat-blue-light opening, followed by a gradual swelling and fading of sounds from the modular. The dotata and sketch box were fed into the Make Noise echophon for effects reminiscent of old studio tape delays, alongside more modern noisy elements from the other modules. Overall, the performance was well received. For some, it was their first experience with electro-acoustic improvisation, and expressed to me their curiosity about it afterwards.

The opening night also included an opportunity to see the work of the visual artists participating in APAture. There was quite a range of work, and several pieces were quite strong both technically and conceptually. Jessica Tang covered an entire wall with panels connected by strands of red string. A closer look revealed that the panels were successive runs of Google translator on a block of text. The view can observe the decay of meaning and language through her piece:

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Yuki Maruyama’s wooden blocks function as 3D versions of manga (comic) frames.¬†The blocks can be assembled into new comic narratives, i.e., an “exquisite corpse”. Having three dimensions, however, allows for more combinations and interpretations of the assembled comic.

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More traditional artistic media were represented as well. Wenxin Zhang’s presented stark versions of portraiture and architectural photography.

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One of the more amusing pieces was an interactive conceptual work by Alison Ho, in which she invited visitors to stick gold stars with various Asian stereotypes on a blown up image of her face. Her piece was intended to challenge the notion of Asian American’s as a model minority. Clearly, many people were having fun with it.

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[© 2013 Susa Cortez/Kearny Street Workshop.]

Other works that piqued my interest was¬†Mido Lee’s¬†starkly beautiful photographs of dead/forlorn trees, including some from desert landscapes; and a minimalist ring of light presented by featured artist¬†Michael¬†Namkung.

APAture has continued throughout October with events focus on different media, including writing, performance, and comics/zines.   The next event will be music night on Friday, October 25, at SUB/Mission (2183 Mission Street, San Francisco). If you are in San Francisco, do check it out.

A Tale of Two Duos

Today we look back at duo performances from the middle of September: an electro-acoustic spoetry performance with Polly Moller, and a punk-themed Pitta of the Mind performance at Bay Area Ladyfest. Musically, conceptually, and socially, these were contrasting experiences, but both very rewarding. Both duos combined voice with live electronics, and both involved my feminine persona . They also provided opportunities for different styles of playing and collaboration.

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 reprised the piece for our duo performance at The Nunnery in San Francisco on September 15. It was a more expansive interpretation, with more instrumental breaks and live processing of voices. It was also different in that I used the analog modular for the electronic parts. The Make Noise Echophon was great for processing Polly’s vocals and wind instruments. And overall, I thought this was our best performance of this piece to date. The technology, timing and overall musicianship were strong, and we both had a good time while playing. You can enjoy it in its entirety via the video below:

Amar Chaudhary / Polly Moller Duo: Ode to Steengo, The Nunnery 9-15-2013 from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The performance by Pitta of the Mind at Bay Area Ladyfest in Oakland was something altogether different. Maw Shein Win and I interpreted several classic punk-rock songs as “art-damaged” music and spoken word performances. Musically, this involved a mixture of idiomatic and freeform improvisation on electric piano, mixed with some odd synth sounds. As with Steengo, the performance itself was a lot of fun, and in this case we made that a deliberate and overt part of the show. This was especially apparent in our final piece, an interpretation of The Ramones’ “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” where we invited the audience to sing along with us.

Pitta of the Mind at Bay Area Ladyfest: The Ramones “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” from CatSynth on Vimeo.

Both performances were well received by the audiences, which filled their respective venues, and of course I hope to do both again. Pitta of the Mind already has two more performances scheduled this year, and of course Polly and I perform together quite often. It is a good reminder to make time for duos as a specific performance format even while spending much time on solo work and on full-size bands.

Outsound Music Summit: Touch the Gear Expo

The 12th Annual Outsound Music Summit began this past Sunday, opening as always with the Touch the Gear Expo. Musicians and sound artists from the Bay Area and beyond were on hand with their musical devices and inventions for the public to observe and try out. I participated this year with two technological extremes: soft synths on an iPad, and a full two rows of Eurorack format analog modules.

iPad and Eurorack modular

Both offerings were quite popular, eliciting curiosity from visitors of all ages.

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[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

There were quite a few analog synthesizers on hand, including a vintage Serge modular courtesy of Synthesizerman (aka Doug Linner).

Synthesizerman and Serge Modular
[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

One of the more intriguing analog synths I encountered was this creation by Andy Puls.

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The circular pattern represents a step sequencer controlling an internal sound generator. Conductive pegs can be moved around on the bars to change pitches and other parameters. There are also knobs as well. The overall geometry, control design and lights made this a visually appealing instrument.

Nick Wang also demonstrated some custom analog boxes with controllers, oscillators and a VCF.

Nick Wang synth demo

Fernando Lopez-Lezcano demonstrated his elaborate homemade analog synthesizer. I have had the privilege of hearing him play it in a formal performance.

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[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

Matt Davignon demonstrated his devices for working with fixed-media sources, a bit of a preview of what we can expect for Friday night’s PMOCOTAT performance.

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Acoustic creations, in particular sounds from natural sources, were a common theme this year as well. Cheryl Leonard demonstrated her expertly tuned instruments made from stones, bones, shells and wood gathered at the extremes of the earth. She also demonstrated her virtuosity with using these elements together, such as generating rhythms from a series of bones passed over the shells.

Cheryl Leonard
[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

David Samas was also on hand with his musical creations from natural sources found here in northern California.

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Missing from the picture above is his tuned aluminum rod, from which one can get quite a powerful sound with a well-rosined hand. I had the opportunity to try it out myself.

Bryan Day presented his instruments made from found objects, including the tape measures featured prominently in the image below. Other sources included springs and metal rods. His creations are quite ergonomic and easily to play, putting unusual sources into compact and intuitive arrangements.

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Horaflora combined acoustics and small electronics in a couple of lively offerings, including drum heads excited by magnets. I heard him play this in a program several months ago.

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Horaflora also demonstrated exciting natural acoustic elements atop a subwoofer connected to an iPhone synth. You can see and hear a bit of my attempting to demonstrate these elements together with him in the following video:


David Molina (aka “Transient”) also blended acoustic and electronic ideas. He had a variety of small instruments and sound sources on hand, which he used to generate source material for complex loops and textures controlled in real time via Albeton live.

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In his own words, this was only “about half of what he will be using in his performance on Friday.”

Tom Nunn, a prolific inventor whom I interviewed in 2012, was once again presenting his creations. This time it was an exceptionally colorful set of his Skatchboxes.

Tom Nunn skatchboxes
[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

There were others presenting as well, and unfortunately, I did not have time to see everyone and also attend to me own station. But I hope to see more of all the participants in more musical settings.

The Outsound Music Summit continues on Wednesday night with the first of the formal concerts, you can see a full schedule here. And of course, you can always follow along with @catsynth on Twitter if you can’t attend in person.

CatSynth at the 12th Annual Outsound Music Summit, San Francisco

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The annual Outsound Music Summit will be starting this weekend at the Community Music Center (544 Capp St) in San Francisco. And once again, we at CatSynth will be there. I will be participating the Touch the Gear Expo this Sunday (July 21, 7PM) with technologies ranging from iPad soft synths to the analog modular system. I am also curating the concert on Friday, July 26, featuring Transient, a project of David Molina, Matt Davignon’s PMOCATAT ensemble, and a reunion of Fuzzybunny, an electronic improvising trio featuring Tim Perkis, Chris Brown and Scot Gresham-Lancaster. It should be a great show.

The best way to experience the Summit is in person, so if you in the Bay Area, I encourage you to attend one or more of the programs. Ticket information can be found here. But for those who cannot attend, you can follow @catsynth on Twitter and Instagram for live updates, and here on the blog for more in-depth reviews of the shows.