Jay Korber Benefit Performance, Berkeley Arts

Last Friday, a large portion of the Bay Area new-music community gathered at Berkeley Arts in an evening of large-ensemble improvisation and to raise money to help fellow local musician Jay Korber. Korber had been seriously injured recently when he was struck by a street sweeper truck in San Francisco, and this concert was a benefit to raise funds and support his recovery.

The first half of the concert featured a specially convened Moe!kestra conducted by Moe! Staiano. The ensemble consisted of woodwind, percussion and electric-guitar sections. I managed to incorporate myself into the “guitar” section with an iPad and amplifier. Moe!’s conducting consisted of a series of simple gestures aimed at individuals or groups of performers that led to both an expressive and varied performance and entertaining conducting.

In the above photo, Moe! is actually giving a “V” sign to some of the guitarists, and not giving them “the finger”, although that gesture was used by both conductors during the course of the evening. You can hear our first piece from the performance here (recording courtesy of friend and fellow participant Neal Trembath):

The second half of the concert featured an ensemble conducted by Gino Robair:

This group was heavier on horns, and overall had a jazzier feel to it. While the majority of the set consisted of large-scale free-jazz improvisation with dynamic runs, hits, and responses, the final piece was based on a Miles Davis riff that was initially repeated and then deconstructed. It was a bit of a musical in-joke, but I for one like having familiar idioms alongside experimentation.

In all, it was a fun night of music and fellowship, and the event raised quite a bit of money for Jay Korber. We wish him a full and speedy recovery.

Analog modular improvisation

Here is a little track I created last night improvising with a few of the modules in my Eurorack system. Enjoy!

This analog modular improvisation featured the Wiard Anti-Oscillator and Noisering from Malekko Heavy Industry, Make Noise Maths, and KOMA SVF-201.

Sound track: Big Yellow and Friends (July 9, 2012)

Today we have a little musical improvisation I created primarily using the Metasonix R53 (aka “Big Yellow”) along with several other analog modules, including with Wiard Anti-Oscillator and the E350 Morphing Terrarium. It was a relatively spontaneous expression, a bit raw, but I thought it came out well.

And here is a picture of “Big Yellow”.

SIMM Series: Hay/Honda/Kuehne trio and Forward Energy

Today we look at a recent show in Outsound Presents’ SIMM Series that featured two different but energetic ensemble performances. Jim Ryan’s Forward Energy was back for a CD release performance. And they were preceded by a trio of Emily Hay on flute+vocals, Motoko Honda on piano, and New-York-based Valerie Keuhne on cello.

[Emily Hay and Valerie Kuenhe]

Before the show, I went up to the piano to take a closer look at the array of gear arranged on top, including a Korg Kaoss Pad and 4ms Noise Swash. These were used by Motoko Honda during the set, though she mostly used it to control audio from the other performers.

The set opened with cabaret-style piano (no electronic effects yet), joined by flute trills and melodies. Keuhne’s cello complemented Hay’s flute, but then grew more intense and frantic, eventually reaching high-energy “bow-wrecking” levels. Hay switched from flute to vocals that nonetheless retained a flute-like quality. The rhythm of the voice and piano were set strongly against the cello.

Keuhne started the second piece, again with fast bowing, harmonics and percussive effects. Her performance was forceful and featured rich tones. The piano and flute came in more subtly, with processing by the Kaoss Pad. It was easier to hear the electronics with the flutter technique on the flute and percussive vocal effects, with a variety delays, pitch bends and harmonizations. While controlling the effects, Honda continued her vigorous piano performance, using the inside of the instrument in addition to the keys.

Hay opened the next piece with flute mouthpiece and electronic effects. Here I think the 4ms pedal was being used, particularly on the buzzing effect of the low drone from the cello. The overall texture became quite noisy, but the vocals and scraping effects from the cello came through. The final section featured the full ensemble, and particularly forceful piano performance by Honda that included shaking the instrument. The ending was a little quieter from all, but nonetheless still vigorous.

After a short break between sets, Forward Energy took the stage in a performance celebrating the release of their new CD The Awakening. The group featured Jim Ryan on voice and saxophone, Rent Romus on saxophones, CJ Borosque on trumpet, Scott Looney on piano, Eric Marshall on bass, and Timothy Orr on drums.

The set started off immediately with a burst of energy. After this opening fanfare, the music relaxed into a fast jazz rhythm with repeating atonal patterns. The horns (Ryan, Borosque, Romus) took turns with solos separated by ensemble improvisation sections. There were passages where the three horns played together as a single instrument; and Rent Romus’ solo had a more soulful and deep quality compared to the overall frantic and anxious quality of the piece. Scott Looney’s piano solo switched back and forth between rhythmic chords and fast runs that I couldn’t possibly play myself. The bass solo by Marshall was accompanied by scraping metallic percussion and prepared piano, including drumsticks and metal percussion on the strings.

The rhythm section opened the next piece, with resonances in the piano and slow percussion tones. This eerie mixture was set against slow trumpet. Then all at once the ensemble started playing loud and fast. Then a sudden silence followed by prepared piano. It kept going back and forth this way, soft versus angry. I found myself particularly noticing the various gongs that Looney was using inside the piano to both visual and aural effect

The final piece was where the reeds pulled out their virtuosic techniques. Rent Romus played double saxophone (similar to a few nights earlier at the Music of Invention concert), and Jim Ryan launched into his poetry (one friend on Twitter referred to this as “Jim going bore poet”) with lines ranging from “Naked on the plane of full being” to “Did you ever see an elf die?” I can with all honesty that I have never actually seen an elf die. It was delightfully weird, and I think some of the lines took the other musicians by surprise. The prepared piano accompaniment was noisier and scratchier than in the previous piece, which gave the overall background a more staccato and pointed texture.

Overall, the performance did live up to the name of ensemble, and it was clear that everyone, especially Jim Ryan, had a great time with it.

Regents Lecturer Concert, CNMAT (March 2011)

Today we look back on my solo concert at the Center for New Music Technologies (CNMAT) at U.C. Berkeley back in early March. It was part of my U.C. Regents Lecturer appointment this year, which also included technical talks and guest lectures for classes.

This is one of the more elaborate concerts I have done. Not only did I have an entire program to fill on my own, but I specifically wanted to showcase various technologies related to my past research at CNMAT and some of their current work, such as advanced multi-channel speaker systems. I spent a fair amount of time onsite earlier in the week to do some programming, and arrived early on the day of the show to get things set up. Here is the iPad with CNMAT’s dodecahedron speaker – each face of the dodecahedron is a separate speaker driven by its own audio channel.

[click image for larger view.]

Here is the Wicks Looper (which I had recently acquired) along with the dotara, an Indian string instrument often used in folk music.

[click image for larger view.]

I organized the concert such that the first half was more focused on showcasing music technologies, and the second half on more theatrical live performance. This does not imply that there wasn’t strong musicality in the first half or a lack of technological sophistication in the second, but rather which theme was central to the particular pieces.

After a very generous introduction by David Wessel, I launched into one of my standard improvisational pieces. Each one is different, but I do incorporate a set of elements that get reused. This one began with the Count Basie “Big Band Remote” recording and made use of various looping and resampling techniques with the Indian and Chinese instruments (controlled by monome), the Dave Smith Instruments Evolver, and various iPad apps.

Electroacoustic Improvisation – Regents Lecturer Concert (CNMAT) from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The concert included the premier of a new piece that was specifically composed for CNMAT’s impressive loudspeaker resources, the dodecahedron as well as the 8-channel surround system. In the main surround speakers, I created complex “clouds” of partials in an additive synthesizer that could be panned between different speakers for a rich immersive sound. I had short percussive sounds emitted from various speakers on the dodecahedron. I though the effect was quite strong, with the point sounds very localized and spatially separated from the more ambient sounds. In the video, it is hard to get the full effect, but here it is nonetheless:

Realignments – Regents Lecturer Concert, CNMAT from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The piece was implemented in Open Sound World – the new version that primarily uses Python scripts (or any OSC-enabled scripting language) instead of the old graphical user interface. I used TouchOSC on the iPad for real-time control.

I then moved from rather complex experimental technology to a simple and very self-contained instrument, the Wicks Looper, in this improvised piece. It had a very different sound from the software-based pieces in this part of the concert, and I liked the contrast.

The first half of the concert also featured two pieces from my CD Aquatic: Neptune Prelude to Xi and Charmer:Firmament. The original live versions of these pieces used a Wacom graphics tablet controlling OSW patches. I reimplemented them to use TouchOSC on the iPad.

The second half of the concert opened with a duo of myself and Polly Moller on concert and bass flutes. We used one of my graphical score sets – here we went on order from one to the next and interpreted each symbol.

The cat one was particular fun, as Polly emulated the sound of a cat purring. It was a great piece, but unfortunately I do not have a video of this one to share. So we will have to perform it again sometime.

I performed the piece 月伸1 featuring the video of Luna. Each of the previous performances, at the Quickening Moon concert and Omega Sound Fix last year, used different electronic instruments. This time I performed the musical accompaniment exclusively on acoustic grand piano. In some ways, I think it is the strongest of the three performances, with more emotion and musicality. The humor came through as well, though a bit more subtle than in the original Quickening Moon performance.

月伸1 – Video of Luna with Acoustic Grand Piano Improvisation from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The one unfortunate part of the evening came in the final piece. I had originally done Spin Cycle / Control Freak at a series of exchange concerts between CNMAT and CCRMA at Stanford in 2000. I redid the programming for this performance to use the latest version of OSW and TouchOSC on the iPad as the control surface. However, at this point in the evening I could not get the iPad and the MacBook to lock onto a single network together. The iPad could not find the MacBook’s private wireless network, even after multiple reboots of both devices. In my mind, this is actually the biggest problem with using an iPad as a control surface – it requires wireless networking, which seems to be very shaky at times on Apple hardware. It would be nice if they allowed one to use a wired connection via the USB cable. I suppose I should be grateful that this problem did not occur until the final piece, but was still a bit of an embarrassment and gives me pause about using iPad/TouchOSC until I know how to make it more reliable.

On balance, it was a great evening of music even with the misfire at the end. I was quite happy with the audience turnout and the warm reception and feedback afterwards. It was a chance to look back on solo work from the past ten years, and look forward to new musical and technological adventures in the future.

Solo Electronic Set and Johnston-Nelson-Wright Trio at Luggage Store Gallery, September 16

[Note: for Weekend Cat Blogging, please scroll down or click here.]

Today we look back at my solo performance at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco two weeks ago. This was part of the regular Outsound music series every Thursday, and on this night featured two very contrasting sets: my solo electronic work, and then an acoustic horn trio.

We being with a view of the setup:

My solo rig has slowly turned into a table from an Apple store, with an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook all in use. At the same time, I continue to blend old and new technology with the presence of the traditional Indian instruments, such as the ektar and gopichand, and Chinese instruments. I set up the monomer to mostly face the audience and provide interesting displays on the grid, unless I specifically needed to interact with it.

[Click image to enlarge]

From my perspective, as well as a couple of people I talked to in the audience, the most successful piece was the new string-centric piece that combined the guzheng model on the iPad with live sampling of the ektar and gopichand. This piece mixed traditional instruments of two cultures with advanced technology. In addition to the iPad, this piece used the mlr application with the monome for sample playback and looping. Most importantly, however, was how it came together musically with the harmonies and timbres of the instruments standing on their own to create a meditative soundscape.

The other piece that worked well was my update of the meditation with prayer bowl and DSI evolver, which also incorporated the Smule Ocarina on the iPhone. I used the feedback technique again where the iPhone is placed in front of a speaker and starts to play itself. Here is a video excerpt:

Overall, it was a good performance and provided an opportunity to try out new things. It was nowhere near as tight and polished as my set at the Quickening Moon Concert back in February, though (or as well attended).

I was followed on the program by the horn trio of Darren Johnston, Matt Nelson, and Cory Wright. Their improvised music moved back and forth freely between rhythmic avant-garde jazz, long drones and all-out skronking.

Although it was a completely different instrumentation and format, there were a few similarities between the trio and my set, particularly towards the beginning. The opened with a series of complex rhythms with pauses and odd time relations that reminded me a bit of the piece I did with the monome+mlr. Every so often, the rhythms came together into a uniform pattern and then into long notes that formed perfect intervals or occasional consonances with thirds. Then the drone broke apart. On the opposite end, there were noise elements, especially on the trumpet and more atonal harmonies. At one point, the sound was reduced to very soft breath noises, followed by a swell with staccato notes and warbles, getting ever busier and louder.

The next segment began with solo muted trumpet. While listening, I was thinking how muted trumpet always sounds “jazzy” no matter the style of music being played. The jazz feel was sustained as the other performers came in, building a texture that was both elaborate and nostalgic. The jazz feel gave way to more percussive sounds, such as rubbing the headjoint of the soxophone on the body of the instruments. The mutes themselves became percussion instruments, as did a beer bottle. The percussion sounds were loud and resonant, set against clarinet and saxophone headjoint.

The final piece opened with a nice strong baritone saxophone solo. At the same time, the other performers began dropping and throwing objects on the ground. Then everyone came in again on horns with fast and loud notes. The saxophone in particular kept the percussive quality going.

It was a short set, but overall quite good and kept my attention throughout.

Instagon 543 and Richard Bonnet, Luggage Store Gallery

Last Thursday I participated in Instagon 543 at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco. Instagon is an improvising ensemble where the personnel change every time, i.e., no two performances contain the same group of people. In addition to myself and Lob, the group’s founder, this version included Lena Strayhorn, Mark Wilson (aka “Conure”), Alan Herrick, Martin of Vernian Process, and Blancahillary (aka Hillary Fielding).

I had brought instruments from opposite ends of the size spectrum: the Nord Stage and the iPhone 4, on which I played the Smule Ocarina and Leaf Trombone apps, as well as Bebot and Nlog which I have used in previous performances. Lena Strayhorn had acoustic instruments (to be played into a microphone) including a flute and a large one-of-a-kind kalimba-like instrument. Mark Wilson had a large array of electronic sound sources and effects, Alan Herrick performed via laptop, Martin and Blancahillary played guiltar; and Lob played bass and the main mixing board.

[Photo by Yvette Lucas, via Lob]

Basically, everyone was improvising independently, with Lob controlling levels via the mixing board. As he brought performers in and out of the mix, everyone was (presumably) listening and adapting their performances, which turn may or may not be presented in the mix. Thus there was a complex feedback loop with the live mixing and the instrumental improvisations.

Musically, the overall the theme was “drones and creepy.” As such there were lots of long, drawn-out tones from everyone, with periods of noise and static, heavy distortion or large tone masses. I used the electric piano on the Nord to contribute to the “creepy” theme, with augmented chords and effects that resembled a 1970s horror-film soundtrack. It was in fact hard to sometimes hear who was performing what, although Lena Strayhorn’s acoustic instruments were quite distinctive, and Blancahillary’s guitar playing was more staccato. I found that the Ocarina iPhone app was picking up and responding to the ambient sound from the speakers, so I spent a fair amount of time with it, bring the iPhone closer to the speaker to manipulate the sound. Its output was of course then fed back into the overall mix.

[Photos by Yvette Lucas, via Lob.  Click images to enlarge.]

An additional level of “chaos” was Blancahillary’s “performance” with aluminum foil. She unrolled a large sheet, first using it as an acoustic sound source by shaking and crumpling it. She then tore off pieces which were lobbed at audience members and at other musicians, and finally she fashioned a large piece into a mask (covering her nose and mouth) that matched her silver pants.

As one might expect from a complex non-linear feedback system, there was quite a bit of chaos, relatively controlled chaos. There were many moments there in fact quite loud, and the overall texture was quite dense. But there was still a lot of variation and an overall structure to the set.

At the very end, Lob introduced each of the musicians and provided an opportunity for everyone to play a momentary solo so that the audience could hear his or her contribution to the overall performance.

We were preceded on the program by a solo performance by aris-based guitarist Richard Bonnet.

[Click image to enlarge.]

The first pieces in his set were based on more conventional musical techniques, but very well done. He opened with a series of percussive and harmonic tones that moved between more dissonant (seconds, tritones) and consonant harmonies. He used some delays that produced rhythmic patterns that gradually disintegrated. From these pieces, he built up a big cloud of sound that narrowed to a lone almost pure high tone. The second piece was more virtuosic in terms of finger work. It felt “bluesy” in terms of slide technique and vibrato, but the harmonies were very different from any standard blues. The third piece was more of a minor ballad with lots of melodic material and implied harmonies. It resolved into something that sounded more latin but then suddenly became more abstract with back-and-forth between fingerwork and chords.

In the remainder of the set, Bonnet brought in more experimental techniques. The next piece was darker, with lots of low tones and real-time manipulation of the tuning pegs, and use of an e-Bow for long drones. The overall tone with more “electric” between the use of the e-Bow and distortion. The melodic lines were more abstract and interspersed with sustained lines, timbral effects and harmonies. Some of the sounds seemed more synthesizer-like, but his conventional guitar technique continued at the same time. The piece ended with darker and grainier sounds, a long high note coming out of a dark cloud, and then fading out.

[Click image to enlarge.]

The final piece explored “prepared guitar”, in which various objects are placed in and around the strings to alter the sound and behavior of the instruments. Some of the objects included a bottle, a metal slinky that produced very scratchy sounds, and a chopstick under the strings. This was combined with delays and other electronic effects. The overall sound was eerie and haunting with sliding notes, like an old suspense film, with percussive and scratching sounds that not surprisingly reminded me of a prepared piano. From the delay lines and loop emerged that became a background jazz riff, but some buzzing and other complex sounds. This was probably the most fun piece of the set, and a good conclusion.

Conduct Your Own Orchestra Night

Last Thursday, I participated in Outsound Presents Conduct Your Own Orchestra Night at the Luggage Store Gallery. During the course of the evening, several conductors took turns conducting an “orchestra” of improvising musicians for ten minutes. Each conductor took a very different approach, using a variety of gestures, instructions and symbols to guide the performers.

[Bob Marsh conducts the orchestra.]

As with other recent guided-improvisation pieces, I used a graphical score for my conducting. The performers were each given a set of 16 graphical symbols. During the course of the performance, I held up large cards each containing one of the symbols, directed either at individuals, groups or the ensemble as a whole.

You can see some of the symbols below:

[Click to enlarge.]

This is the second page of the 16 available symbols, generally these were the more complex. Viewers might notice that symbol 12 is a cat. Like other symbols, I expected to be interpreted relatively freely – but by coincidence percussionist Ann O’Rourke had a cat-shaped metal CD rack as an instrument, so it became a very obvious cue for her to play the “cat.”

Ann O’Rourke’s piece was based entirely on pairings of words, such as “fearful/choppy” and “fearful/flowing” or “hesitant/slow” and “confident/fast”. The orchestra was divided in half, with one side receiving one pairing and the other side receiving the other pairing.

Brandan Landis’ conducting was more physical/body-oriented. He did not use any visual cues (textual or graphical), but instead used dramatic body movements to guide the orchestra. Some of these were rather intense and the piece ended with his collapsing on the floor.

Mark Briggs used short rhythmic patterns and cues to individual performers to build up a complex rhythmic texture. I was given a very simple repeated pattern to perform, which allowed me to remain immersed in the overall rhythm of the piece.

Tom Bickley led the orchestra in a very sparse and beautiful piece with individual sounds from cued performance set against silence. It was the sparse texture that made this among my favorite pieces of the evening, musically speaking.

Bob Marsh used his own instructional cards and gestures to conduct the orchestra, and contributed his own vocal performance on top.

Other conductors included CJ Borosque and Matt Davignon, who used a combination of instructional cards, including one that instructed a performer to make a loud sound when Matt pointed a finger gun and shot him/her.

KFJC 50th Anniversary at Flux 53

Last Tuesday I attended performance celebrating the 50th anniversary of KFJC radio at FLUX53 in Oakland.

robair_marsh_dedionyso_cThe evening opened with a trio of Arrington de Dionyso, Gino Robair, and Bob Marsh. The set began with the drone of an electric harmonium, the space was then filled with the chirping of Marsh’s performance on Alesis Airs, Robair’s percussive and chaotic Blippo Box sounds, and de Dionyso’s reed instruments. All the sounds, acoustic and electronic, had a similar quality, and seemed to come together in a pattern I would describe as “yodeling”. This was followed by a combination of low reed tones and bass synthesizer sounds, both of which had complex overtones again masking the separation between acoustic and electronic.

Photo by Michael Zelner
Photo by

During the next portion of the set, de Dionyso performed on a double-reed instrument that I am pretty sure was a nadaswaram, a South Indian instrument similar to the Indian shehnai, but larger. Surprisingly, it sounded more like a saxophone than what I would expect (based on my familiarity with the shehnai and double-reed instruments in general), and was set against bass synth tones and more “liquidy” sounds. The sounds evolved into a drone layered with scratches and bending notes, and then into something more evocative of old space or science-fiction music, with descending synthesizer timbres. From this mixture, a minor harmony eventually emerged.

Photo by Michael Zelner.
Photo by

Robair then brought out his “signature cymbal”, and played bowed metallic resonances against gurgles and whispers. de Dionyso sang into various resonant objects as well, such as a partially filled metal water pitcher, and the detached bell of a bass clarinet.

There was more of the “space harmonies” and drones, groans and static. And vocal syllables against machine-like sounds, softer percussive synthesizers and metallic resonances. The sounds faded out, leaving just the original harmonium droning. Then suddenly there were bells and loud “skronking” (fast-moving loud notes), and then the set was over.

In the intermission, Walter Funk presented the Hologlyphic Funkalizer, an installation that uses a video synthesizer to interpret audio signals and project them onto an oscilloscope. I had actually seen a previous performance at the 2008 Edgetone Music Summit where Funk also played in the duo Kwisp. This time I was treated to a more detailed presentation and explanation of the technical details, including the Max/MSP programs that generated the audio signals and the analog video synthesizer. You can see visual examples at his website.

The LARGE ensemble, which was indeed large, performed a series of conducted improvisations, with Gino Robair and Bob Marsh alternating as conductors. Marsh conducted the piece in dramatic fashion. It began slowly with atonal pitches, squeaks, bends and glissandi on various instruments. The woodwinds began to add more “pointed” notes, with some short runs and phrases. The full ensemble then came to a loud stop followed by silence; then back to more of the longer notes from the beginning, then another loud hit and silence. This repeated a few times. Out of last silence emerged guitar scratches and harmonics set against scraped percussion, eventually joined by plucked string basses with bending notes, then the smaller string instruments. The texture grew dense again with long notes followed by faster runs. The music became loud and energetic and “argumentative”. And then it stopped.


[click to en-LARGE]

The next piece, conducted by Robair, had a sparser texture that seemed to focus on individual timbres of the instruments and specific sounds. It started with analog synthesizers and noise generates (Travis Johns) set against fast gurgling trumpet (CJ Borosque). They were soon joined by string bass and guitar also playing faster tones, while the violins faded in with a long steady-state tone. I could envision the ensemble being played as if it was a synthesizer rig rather than a series of separate instruments and performs. The texture grew thick, with some deep bass electronic sounds set against the strings; then it grew sparse again, with drums, trombone and bass clarinet. After some jazz-like runs on the basses, the ending centered around loud multiphonics and overblown tones from the bass clarinet.

The next piece started off like a standard from the 20th century classical repertoire, with detached pitches, atonal harmonies and percussive sounds. The music carried the tension and anxiety of a film score. Eventually the whole ensemble crept in. I also particular liked a section with clanging metal percussion against a very low synthesizer drone.

Robair then introduced the next piece as “Stretched out Xenakis in G.” It very quickly lived up to its name, with very slow pizzicato glissandi, and drones set against percussion scrapes. It was interesting to watch some of the instructional cards being used in the conducting, some had very literal musical meanings like “louder”, “soft”, “sweet”, “fast”, but others had more unusual instructions like “subvert.” Eventually, the ensemble settled into a textural equilibrium with everyone playing at once, and then instrumentals were replaced by voices singing in such a way to keep the existing texture going. The voices and instruments moved towards subtle harmonies or unisons (which I realized were of course all on on near G). Against this harmonic structure I heard the scraping sounds from Tom Nunn’s skatch box. The texture of the music grew more complex, and was then suddenly replaced by a violin solo of a minor melody that sounded quite Eastern European.

At this point, Marsh again took over conducting, and both he and Robair alternated every few minutes while the music continued uninterrupted. There were sections featuring mallet percussion, and squeaks on a soprano saxophone set against Nunn’s scratches, and a big “drum solo”. Later on, the mallet percussion rhythms took on a jazz feel in terms of syncopation and harmonies, an effect that was augmented by the presence of guitar chords. The texture eventually grew noisier again, with noise generators and loud, excited playing by the whole ensemble. The instrumental ensemble again became a chorus of voices, this time sounding a bit drunk. As the music grew software, Marsh held up the final instructional card: “God is in the details.” After this, the music came to a loud finish.

Ivy Room Experimental Improv Hootenany, November 16

Last Monday, I performed again the experimental improv “Hootenanny” at the Ivy Room in Albany, CA. This is always a fun series to participate in or attend. It starts a little later at 9PM, and is set in a rather plush bar that makes a great setting for drinks and experimental music.

Free Rein. Photo by Michael Zelner

The evening opened with Free Rein, consisting of Andrew Joron (percussion, theremin), Joseph Noble (woodwinds) and Brian Lucas (guitar).  They began with Joron playing a bowed metal percussion instrument and Noble on flute.  The bowed instrument had discrete pitches and the music was quite tonal and repetitive, almost hypnotic. They were joined after a while by Lucas on guitar, and together weaved between pentatonic and chromic sounds that were sometimes quite lush, and other times sparse. Joron switched the theremin at some point during the set, and there was a particularly interesting duo of theremin and pennywhistle.

Free Rein gave way to The Lords of Outland with CJ “Reaven” Borosque (electronics), Philip Everett (drums), Ray Scheaffer (bass), and Rent Romus (alto saxophone).  There sound was loud, fast, dramatic, with many of the standard idioms from free jazz, run of fast notes (particularly from Romus on sax), squeaks, and loud hits.  It was interesting to have the electronic noises set against the jazz sounds.

Lords of Outland.  Photo by Michael Zelner.

Lords of Outland. Photo by Michael Zelner.

The set was very energetic and seemed to go by fast, and I had to keep track of time lest I miss the start for the set that I was curating.  On cue, as they faded out, we began to fade in.

Photo by Michael Zelner

Photo by Michael Zelner

The set I curated included myself on electronics, Brandan Landis on prepared guitar, Beau Casey on violin and David Slusser on saxophone and the Slussomatic. As usual, I began by ringing one of my prayer bowls, which was answered by the metallic sounds of the prepared guitar and the violin, followed by the Kaos Pad and Evolver, and then the Slussomatic.  None of us have played together as a group before, but I was happy with the way we able to play off one another.  There were a couple of moments that particularly stood out for me, such as a rhythmic ostinato that emerged organically and I then reinforced; we went on with that pattern for a while, adding accents and syncopations; towards the end, the full ensemble played a series of loud and dramatic swells (anchored by a noise patch on the Evolver) that brought the set to a close…

Elizabeth Torres with Cansafis Foote. Photo by CatSynth.

…which segued to the next set featuring Elizabeth Torres on tenor sax, with Cansafis Foote on baritone sax and Mario Silva on trumpet.  The set began with Torres and Foote as a duo, moving between very synchronous playing in which the two saxophones acted as one instrument, and Torres’ improvising freely against a driving but ever-changing rhythm provided by Foote.    The duo was then joined by Silva, again moving back and forth between more free improvisation and rhythmic sections.

Thanks again to Lucio Menegon for hosting the series and Suki O’kane for being “virtual Lucio” on this particular night.