Pitta of the Mind, Red Thread, and Pet the Tiger at Turquoise Yantra Grotto

Today we look at back at the show “Noisy with a Chance of TEXT” that took place at the Turquoise Yantra Grotto in San Francisco earlier this month. The program of experimental music with textual elements intended to “break the ultimate taboo in noise: meaning” and featured performances by Pitta of the Mind (my duo with Maw Shein Win), Red Thread (CJ Borosque and Laurie Amat), and Pet the Tiger (David Samas and Peter Bonos). A secondary theme of the night was cats – with abundant animal print in the setting and attire of the participants.

The concert opened with an introductory set by Pet the Tiger, combining David Samas’ vocals and custom musical instruments with instrumental performance by Peter Bonos.

David Samas and Peter Bonos

Their performance combined a wide variety of sounds into a short period of time, with experimental voice, instrumentation and electronics. It set the tone for the evening of sometimes complex music but also warm and inviting at the same time.

Next up was Red Thread, a duo of CJ Borosque and Laurie Amat.

CJ Borosque and Laurie Amat

The set started (and ended) with extended-technique trumpet and voice, but in between it was a very sparse and captivating presentation of CJ Borosque’s poetry. Throughout, there was a counterpoint between the straight recitation of the text and Laurie Amat’s virtuosic vocal techniques.

Then it was time for Pitta of the Mind to take the stage.

Pitta of the Mind

We took the animal-print theme quite seriously with our costumes, and Maw Shein Win read a selection of animal-themed poems while I performed music on a variety of iPad synthesizer apps. You can see our full performance in this video:

Pitta of the Mind at the Turquoise Yanta Grotto, April 5, 2013 from CatSynth on Vimeo.

I particularly liked how well timed and structured the performance turned out, including the “cat piano” interludes. It was also great to see how much the audience got into the theme, meowing back at us. Afterwards, I was joined on stage by David Samas in an impromptu duo where he combined his extended vocal techniques with my improvisation on an analog modular synthesizer. It’s amazing how much Samas was able to “sound like a synth” with his voice. Again, you can see the full performance in the video below:

Amar Chaudhary and David Samas at Turquoise Yantra Grotto, April 5, 2013 from CatSynth on Vimeo.

Overall, this was one of the most fun experimental-music shows I have participated in for a while. Not only was it strong musically, but we had a large and appreciative audience that packed the intimate space of the Turquoise Yantra Grotto. I certainly hope for more shows like this in the near future.

Godwaffle Noise Pancakes (March 3, 2013)

Pancakes and noise music may not be the first combination one thinks of for a Sunday brunch. But that is precisely what is offered at Godwaffle Noise Pancakes, a monthly noontime show organized by Grux at The Lab in San Francisco. I had the opportunity to perform at the most recent event on March 3.

I opted for a “purple theme” revolving around the purple Monorocket case I have for my Eurorack modular system. I selected an outfit and hair to match, and even found an old toy keyboard that was purple.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.]

The performance itself was on the subtle side, attempting to dial in on specific sounds and module combinations. It was an exercise in managing unpredictability and finding musical structures and phrases even in the noisiest of situations. You can see the performance in the video below.

Godwaffle Noise Pancakes live performance, March 3, 2013 from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The hall was quite dark during the set and my attempts to lighten the video resulted in a lot of artifacts. But it does complement the sound in a way. One take-a-way for future performances with the instrument is to be mindful of how one adapts the output of the small Eurorack jacks to standard live-sound systems. Investing in some strong audio adapters for the modular itself will cut down on some of those unpredictable pops. But overall I was quite happy with the set, and got a lot of positive feedback (about the visual as well as the aural).

The next performance featured Abyss of Fathomless Light featuring Bert Bergen. His fast moving performance combined vocal recordings on a series of cassette players with analog electronics into a thick and fast moving soundscape. He was followed by fslux, whose performance moved between longer more mellifluous sounds featuring her vocals and harsh electrical output from effects pedals.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.]

The performance by J. Soliday (Jason Soliday) was undoubtedly the loudest and noisiest of this noise-based show. There were long sequences of repeated loud glitches that required a bit of effort to listen to, but also a few gaps and pauses with space for quieter detail.

The final performance featured a collaboration by Wobbly and Thomas Dimuzio. I have seen them perform together before, but this was the first time with the technological combo of Dimuzio on analog modular and Wobbly on iPad and other digital synths.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.]

This was the longest performance of the afternoon (all the others including mine were quite short), but also the most captivating. They were able to create enveloping soundscapes that at times felt otherworldly and at others more meditative. The overall texture was lush, but there were dry moments with more staccato details from both the analog and digital instruments.

Overall, it was a fun afternoon of music. I am glad I was able to participate and hope to do so again soon.

Pitta of the Mind and Mezzacappa-Phillips Duo, Luggage Store Gallery

Today we look back at my latest performance with Pitta of the Mind at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco, a show that also featured a set by the Mezzacappa-Phillips duo.

Pitta of the Mind is my music-and-poetry duo with poet Maw Shein Win. It was our fourth performance as a duo, and probably our most polished to date. As with our previous performance at last year’s Skronkathon, we selected a color as the overarching theme for the set. That time it was silver, this time it was blue, which was reflected in our costumes, props (including a little blue tree), and the content of some of the poems. The selections were a bit darker and melancholy than at the Skronkathon, and overall the set had a more serious feel. There were, however, humorous moments in both words and interpretive dance moves from Maw. For the music behind the poems, I used a variety of iPad apps including Sunrizer, Animoog and Bebot. The challenge was to provide sound that fit with the poems without overpowering them.

[Maw Shein Win. Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

After the main course of our poetry-and-music set, I played a solo improvisation on the analog modular system as dessert.

[Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

A subpatch with the E350 Morphing Terrarium from Synthesis Technology, the Make Noise Maths, and the KOMA Eletronik SVF-201 filter formed the foundation, with other modules patched in and out during the course of the performance. I was aiming for noisy rhythmic patterns, and sometimes succeed, while at other times allowed the sound to move in the direction of longer drones or unstable chaos.

[Click to enlarge.]

The set was well received by the small but appreciated audience, and we got quite a few positive comments for both words, music and our coordinated blue outfits.

Lisa Mezzacappa and Noah Phillips opened with with a set of improvised music for upright base and guitar, respectively. Both are virtuosic improvisers, and I expected good things from their set. They explored a wide variety of extended techniques, some percussive and some more drone-like, and moving freely between more structured and free-form rhythms. Overall, the timbres, harmonies and textures were quite beautiful and visually evocative.

[Noah Phillips and Lisa Mezzacappa. Photo: PeterBKaars.com.]

Interestingly, this was not the first time we shared the bill with the Mezzacappa-Phillips duo. We were all together at a show in Oakland in 2011. I’m glad we had the change to perform together again.

CatSynth pic: Cat – Synth – Space (Eurorack Modular)

By musicalgeometry on flickr.

This cat has quite the collection in this Eurorack modular system. I see several modules that I have as well, including the Make Noise Maths, and 4ms Pingable Envlope Generator. I also have the outboard version of the Kenton MIDI->CV converter.

Farewell to 2012

It’s time for our traditional end-of-the-year image. It is always a challenge to decide what to include, but we thinks this captures a few of the significant elements. 2012 was a crazy and at times and a bit nerve-wracking, but it full of richness and opportunity. I except more of the same in 2013. It’s going to be a busy and challenging year ahead, but I hope to be able to continue to keep this site going and maintain the friendships I have made here.

Weekend Cat Blogging: The Messy Desk

Luna sits in the command chair of our office/studio. Our common tools of late, the laptop, the Eurorack modular, and coffee mug sit nearby. The stack of CDs was for our recent radio show. This is of course the spot where most CatSynth posts originate as well.

The desk is quite a mess at the moment, which I don’t particularly like, but I haven’t had much time to remedy. I feel far more creative and relaxed in a clean space, but in this busy month we will do the best we can.

Weekend Cat Blogging #373 is hosted by Pam at Sidewalk Shoes.

Carnival of the Cats will be hosted this Sunday by When Cats Attack!

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

CatSynth video: Luna and Eurorack Modular

Today, we at CatSynth have our very own “CatSynth video”. Luna looks on from her favorite beanbag chair as I attempt to operate the newly installed Eurorack modular synth.

This particular improvisation features the Metasonix R53, Make Noise Echophon, MOTM E350 Morphing Terrarium, and Circuit Abbey ADSRjr.

Our video was also posted yesterday by matrixsynth 🙂