Posts Tagged ‘jaroba’

Jaroba + Keith Cary, Bryan Day, Turquoise Yantra Grotto

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Last week I attended an evening of “sonic innovations” at the Turquoise Yanta Grotto, a new venue for experimental and eclectic music here in San Francisco.

Based in a modernist Eichler-style house nestled in the Diamond Heights neighborhood, the Turquoise Yantra Grotto hosts a monthly series in an intimate setting. The performance space itself is a giant musical instrument, with every inch covered with sonic creations that provide both aural and visual interest. Among the more formal instruments one can find here is this gamelan piano, but one can see that even it is adorned with other musical possibilities.

The sonic possibilities extend out into the adjacent courtyard where tuned metal cylinders share space with tropical birds.

The first set featured a collaboration by Jaroba and Keith Cary on a variety of invented musical instruments, with Jaroba focusing on winds and reeds while Cary focused on strings.

Their collaboration worked well musically, moving back and forth between harmonic and inharmonic sounds, playing with the defined rhythmic structures, and weaving in some idiomatic elements like a bass line from one of Cary’s instruments. I do also like drones or wild runs of notes, but musical phrasing and rhythm makes a performance more distinct and memorable. I was also quite fascinated with Jaroba’s changing instruments, which included combinations of pipes, standard mouthpieces, bells, and amplification. One of the most fun was a long tube that fed into a large bullhorn. The resulting sound reminded me of an analog synth moving from long sub-bass notes with a rhythm of their own to high piercing cries.

Jaroba also played an old found instrument: a “player saxophone” that used player-piano style roles. It turns out that this is a Q.R.S. Playasax from the 1920s. I found it intriguing as an usual piece of “music technology.”

Host David Samas joined the duo for a final piece, featuring the gamelan piano shown above and other of the instruments around the venue. His use of metallic sounds filled in the space between the winds and strings nicely.

The second set featured Bryan Day on an intricate contraption of his own design.

The music was quite a contrast to the first set in that it featured metallic sounds instead of winds and strings. There is something captivating about the sound of metal, whether it is tuned or not. In the case of Day’s sounds, it is clear that worked quite hard to get his sounds and modes of interaction. The “instruments” in the rig ranged from tuned tape measures to suspended magnets to small bits of metal with contact microphones. This was definitely an electro-acoustic setup rather than acoustic, and I even saw a Kaoss pad in the mix.


[Photo courtesy of David Samas.]

The sounds were as varied as the sources, and assembled together into long rhythmic phrases. There was enough rapid motion to focus attention on the musicality, while pauses allowed the timbres to linger and the audience to take in the unusual sounds. You can hear a short except of Day’s performance in this video.

As with the first set, David Samas joined Bryan Day for a closing piece, and provided contrasting sounds and textures including wood, water and shells.


[Photo courtesy of David Samas.]

Both the timbrally rich music and setting of the concert made for an evening that was both captivating and peaceful at the same time, even with sounds that could get loud and noisy at times. I am glad to have discovered this venue and series, and look forward to many creative concerts there in the coming months.

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Garden of Memory 2009

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We passed another summer solstice a couple of weeks ago, and once again I marked the occasion by attending the Garden of Memory performance at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland.

For more views of the Chapel of the Chimes itself, please visit the review from last year. It is full of light and a mixture of large and intimate spaces, and a really interesting place to wander and hear different sounds.

The size of the event itself can be a bit overwhelming, with so many performers and galleries throughout the complex. One approach is simply to wander and discover the different spaces and music. But I tend more towards trying to go through the entire space systematically and see as much as possible, which I did with some success (I did unfortunately miss several performances).

Just like last year, I was greeted at the entrance by a performance by Jaroba and Byron Blackburn. Jaroba again had a gopichand in his collection of instruments.

In the main chapel, I saw performances by Sarah Cahill and the William Winant Percussion Group. I thought the latter sounded a bit like Philip Glass with its repetitive patterns, pentatonic scales and harmonies, and marimba rhythms. At the end of the performance, I found out it was in fact a piece by Philip Glass.

The more electronic “stage acts” were in the Julia Morgan Chapel at the other end of the building. Amy X Neuburg gave another of her charismatic and very tight performances that we at CatSynth have reviewed in the past. This was followed by Paul Dresher and Joel Davel, whose performance featured a marimba lumina as well as a large and intriguing bowed string instrument:

Musically, the performance began with repeated undulating tones, minor modal harmonies, and syncopated rhythms, with expressive bowing on the large instrument throughout. Gradually the performance become more “electronic” – even though the entire performance involved electronics from what I could tell, the sounds became more characteristic of electronic music – with more effects, noises and hits as the rhythmic pattern faded out. There was a “surprise note” followed by more percussive computer-like tones, bends and glissandi on the stringed instrument, looping and effects. The instrument was also “prepared” with metal objects during this part of the performance. Eventually the rhythmic patterns returned, but they seemed “darker.”

Matthew Goodhart’s installation in the Chapel of Patience (I really like the names of the different chapels and halls there) featured cymbals with transducers, producing long metallic tones and visual effects and they reflected the light:

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Leaving the cymbals, I then followed the sound of Gino Robair’s bowed gongs to find his performance along with Polly Moller and Tom Duff:


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My favorite moment during their performance involved Tom Duff singing God Save the Queen set against cymbal resonances and a perfect fourth by a tone tube (I forget the formal name) and Polly on bass flute.

In the previous two photos for the Goodhart installation and Gino Robair’s ensemble, one can truly get a sense of the setting. Each of the squares in the grids represents the location of cremated remains, someone’s final resting place.

I tend to be drawn to metallic sounds, so a next followed the hall to an installation Loving Kindness by John Bischoff. Although this was a computer-controlled electromechanical piece, with motors affecting the sound-making objects, it reminded me musically of Stockhausen’s Kontakte (a favorite piece of mine).

From metal we then move to strings, with Larnie Fox and the Crank Ensemble. The plethora of plucked string tones fit perfectly with the visuals of the musicians moving around a large square of cable. It was held in place by some of the performers while one moved around:

I did also notice the “live knitting”, which was an integral component of the performance.

Tucked away in a small chamber and easy to miss was an installation by Joel Colley featuring a macabre set of animal skulls atop stones, with ambient sounds in the background.

Over the course of four hours, it is not surprising that some performers will need to take breaks. It did mean I missed a couple of interesting performances which did not publish specific times. Pamela Z did publish performance times, so I did get to see part of her performance with the iPhone Ocarina application.

Michael Zbyszynski performed more traditional wind instruments, flute and saxophone, but with modern extended techniques mixed with jazz idioms, in the Chapel of Resignation.

Nearby, in one corner of the main atrium, Thomas Dimuzio and Wobbly performed on guitar and live electronics, respectively. The music unfolded as long ethereal sounds with strong resonances, and some bowed metal sounds as well.

Maggi Payne presented this cool-looking installation founded that blended quite well into the permanent elements of the room:

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In a nearby room was a performance by the ensemble Vorticella. We previously reviewed Vorticella, which consists of Krystyna Bobrowski on horns, Erin Espeland on cello, Brenda Hutchinson on aluminum tube and vocals, and Karen Stackpole on percussion, as part of the Flower Moon concert. Once again, the four very different performances produce a rich and complex music.

In the next room was a duo of Svetlana Voronina and Joe Straub with glockenspiel and electronics. Before hearing them perform, I wandered over during one of their breaks, and found their setup visually interesting:

[click to enlarge]

Upstairs, I caught part of a performance by the ensemble Natto, which featured electronics, flutes, strings and a Chinese lute (I believe it was a pipa). The music consisted of heavy strumming, electronic “wipes”, harmonics on the wind instruments and resonances and delays used for pitch effects.

In the upstairs section of the main atrium was a continuous vocal performance by the Cornelius Cardew Choir of Pauline Oliveros’ Heart Chant. The audience was invited to participate.

The upstairs of the atrium is also the place to arrive during the climactic moment of the evening at sundown. As sundown approaches, everyone is invited to ring bells – many people rang keychains. There was an interesting timbral and spatial juxtaposition of the sunset bell-ringing and Dimuzio’s and Wobbly’s drone sounds on the lower level.

The theme of bells and metal sounds continued as I left after sunset, passing a set of large chimes that seemed to mark the end of the event.

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Garden of Memory 2008

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I had to the opportunity to attend the Garden of Memory, a walk-thru performance to celebrate the summer solstice at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland.

The Chapel of the Chimes is a columbarium, a building dedicated to the placement of cremated remains. It is an exquisite building both in terms of shape and lighting, and thus a rather interesting place to experience late evening sunlight:

There were so many performances throughout the building that it was difficult to see them all, and we only provide a small sampling here.

Outside the chapel, I saw a performance by Jaroba that featured the gopichand, a single string instrument from India that we have mentioned on numerous occasions here at CatSynth.

Inside the chapel, performances ranged from more conventional to the more exotic. Sarah Cahill performed the music of James Tenney and others (yes, here at CatSynth James Tenney is considered “conventional”). Dan Plonsey’s Daniel Popsicle played several avant-guard jazz sets for most of the evening on the roof garden.

Edmund Campion, a former colleague of mine from CNMAT, performed with Daniel De Gruttola and John Campion, with digital piano, cello, live electronics, poetry, and a row of triangles. I was listening to hear how the triangles were being processed or used to trigger other sounds in the performance.

In the meditation chapel, Randy Porter performed a set of compositions that featured a 1940s portable electric organ, prepared guitar, and series of “brass instruments”, consisting of tubing and custom horns. The result was both musically and architecturally interesting, and seemed to “fit” into the space:

Custom instruments were in abundance, with these offerings from Walter Kitundu, including the “phonoharp” illustrated below:


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I am definitely curious to check out more of his instruments.

This installation by http://www.maggipayne.com/]Maggi Payne[/url] used one of the many fountains to control one of my favorite hardware synths, the E-MU Morpheus:


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I haven’t even plugged in the Morpheus since we moved into the new CatSynth HQ :(. Maybe this will provide some inspiration to do so.

More tubes, this time with both air and water. Krystina Bobrowski performs on special water glasses with electrical pickups, with Brenda Hutchinson (in the background) playing a large metal tube.

Brenda Hutchinson has also been involved in a project called dailybell2008, in which people observe every time the sun crosses the horizon and mark the event by ringing bells. The solstice sunset is a particular special crossing, and most everyone in attendance participated in bell ringing at 8:34 PM. Given the time and the location, it was also an occasion to remember those who have left us.

After sunset, darkness began to descend quickly and many of the chambers in the building, providing an appropriate end to the event.

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