The Outsound Music Summit continued on Friday with a concert entitled “Emanations and Artifacts”. All three sets featured manipulation of found sounds (as well as found visuals) but to very different effect.
The program began with Transient, David Molina’s electro-acoustic, ambient, experimental project. He was joined for this performance by Anna Geyer who provided visuals from a large collection of 16-millimeter film loops, some found, some hand-painted. The projectors and film segments hanging were themselves works of art.
The performance itself was a fully improvised collaboration of sound and visuals. But the music had a very well crafted and even narrative quality to it. It was anchored by a series of stories told by undocumented workers in the U.S. about their experiences. Over this, Molina layered elements based on a wide variety of live acoustic artifacts from small bells and shakers to cello and banjo. These sources were composed using Ableton Live! into loops, rhythms and drones to create a complex ever changing soundscape.
The entire 40-minute performance was captivating and full of interesting details, stretched metallic sounds, scraped strings turned into rhythms. Perhaps my favorite part was Molina’s first bowing the banjo and then strumming the instrument over the looped recording. This was combined with deeper electronic sounds and set against a set of film clips that featured cats (yes, there was some cat spotting on this evening).
The next performance featured the PMOCATAT Ensemble, Matt Davignon’s projected based on cassette players and other sources restricted to cassette-like fixed-media manipulation. I was part of this ensemble, and managed to find a cassette-player iPad app for the occasion.
The ensemble performed four pieces by Davignon as well as two by guest composers Daniel Steffey and Benjamin Ethan Tinker. Davignon’s pieces had a playful quality to them, and integrated the participants’ regular instruments into the media and the concepts of each piece. Perhaps my favorite was the “Avant-Jazz Trio”, which was billed as neither a trio nor really jazz. However, the end result, which featured manipulated recordings of bass, piano, drums and horns did have a jazz-like quality to it, and an ensemble-like texture. The effect was helped by the performers listening to one another as the would in a true jazz-improvisation ensemble as well as Davignon’s conducting.
The pieces by Steffey and Tinker had very different tones. The source materials were more abstract, often deliberately noisy. The unfolding of Steffey’s piece reminded me of many of John Cage’s experimentations with media-based pieces, although in this case it was overlaid with recordings of speeches collected as a personal response to the George Zimmerman / Trayvon Martin case. Tinker’s piece used pre-composed cassettes that the performers manipulated based on a beautifully designed graphical score. The sounds were then passed through a looper and other effects and mixed into a single source.
The final set was the much anticipated reunion of Fuzzybunny, an electronic-improvisation trio consisting of Chris Brown, Scot Gresham-Lancaster and Tim Perkis. Their music is described as “All-out ‘carnallectual’ electronic improv, rocky-roaded with pop-music fragments and sonic gags define some kind of new style, difficult to describe.” And this was their first time playing together as group in a decade.
The performance started right way into their high-intensity onslaught of electronic sounds, pop-music clips, and loud hits. Perkis anchored the music with his steady laptop emanations while Chris Brown deftly moved through a variety of rhythms and familiar samples from popular music – I have a particular soft spot for the R&B clips – and Scot Gresham-Lancaster explored timbral possibilities of guitar and looping. The prevailing texture was loud and driving, but there were more subtle moments as well, with wobbly synthetic sounds, quieter percussive hits and scratchier recorders of older pop music. But then they would hit us with something surprising and louder. For a band that hasn’t played together in over ten years, they were very tight. And one could tell they were having fun (something that Brown mentioned during the pre-show Q&A as well). It was certainly a fun performance for those of us in the audience as well, and there was no question that we were going let them play a little longer, especially if it turns out to be another ten years before we can hear them together again.
Overall, it was another strong performance for this year’s summit, and one I was proud to be personally involved with as both a performer and curator.