Despite being extremely tired from a major event as well as a rehearsal this past weekend, I did manage to catch a performance of jazz and improvisational antics at Berkeley Arts this Sunday evening. The evening opened with Base 4, a jazz trio featuring Bruce Friedman on trumpet, Derek Bomback on guitar, and Alan Cook on drums and percussion.
They performed very abstract versions of standards, including Afro Blue and Solar, two favorites of mine. There was also free improvisation and some lesser-known compositions. It was a technically strong performance, a full of creative details.
Then we switched rooms for a completely different experience with the “Bay Area Improvising Tag Team Ensemble.” Not really an ensemble, this cast of characters assembled by Moe! Staiano performed free improvisation “refereed” by Gino Robair. Basically, performers were given signals of when to start and stop, and could within that context tag one another to play together and switch instruments. There were, however, penalties that could be levied against performers. A penalty meant holding a can of motor oil and not playing until it lapsed or another penalty was committed.
As with sporting events, one could find disagreement with the referee. In this case, I strongly disagreed with Gino’s giving Polly Moller a penalty for using a wah-wah pedal. We at CatSynth approve of wah-wah pedals.
Here are some other scenes from the evening’s performance. We begin with Matt Davignon on turntable and Moe! Staiano on drums.
Bandmates Polly Moller (Reconnaissance Fly) and Melne Murphy (Surplus 1980).
Mark Clifford and Kyle Bruckmann. Mark does not usually play bass.
Brian Tester and Yacob Roli Glowniss.
Rounding out the ensemble for the evening were Dominique Leone, Jacob Felix Heule, Jason Hoopes, and others who I have missed.
Overall it was a lot of fun to watch, especially when things got more rhythmical or when a penalty was eminent. The performers who I talked to seem to have a lot of fun as well.
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.
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.
Both offerings were quite popular, eliciting curiosity from visitors of all ages.
One of the more intriguing analog synths I encountered was this creation by Andy Puls.
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.
Fernando Lopez-Lezcano demonstrated his elaborate homemade analog synthesizer. I have had the privilege of hearing him play it in a formal performance.
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.
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.
David Samas was also on hand with his musical creations from natural sources found here in northern California.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today we review the February 8 concert at the Luggage Store Gallery, featuring poetry, music and virtuosic guitar. The evening opened with the music-and-poetry duo of Matt Davignon and Hugh Behm-Steinberg.
I had seen them perform together before, and it was interesting to see how the collaboration has evolved since then. The structure has become more abstract, moving from a poetry reading accompanied by live electronics to an electronic-music duo using Behm-Steinberg’s words and voice as the sound source. Snippets of poetry were transformed through the many pedals, wires and other bits of electronics into percussive loops, slowly undulating sustained sounds, and other elements.
The reading of poetry becomes a source for synthesizer and drum machine sounds. #outsound
There still were places where the words and phrases remained intelligible amidst the electronic sounds, particularly at the beginnings of pieces. I thought it was good to have this in order to stay connected to the idea that there was poetry involved and that it wasn’t just an electronic improvisation duo. Having just performed there the week before in a poetry-and-music duo, it is quite tempting to compare our respective performances. Pitta of the Mind took a more traditional approach to the use of words, preserving the structure of the poetry and practice of reading alongside a variety of electronic sounds and stage performance, while the Davignon/Behm-Steinberg duo took a more abstract approach blending words and music into a single soundscape.
The next set featured a solo performance by Bill Walker on guitars and electronics. He brought a variety of electric and lap-steel guitars and array of electronics for looping and other effects.
His guitar-playing was itself virtuosic, easily moving between different styles and playing and textures ranging from long drones to fast-moving percussive sounds. His use of looping allowed him to build up more complex layers with different textures. The lap-steel guitar sections, which included a visually interesting custom-built instrument, were haunting without resorting to some of the instrument’s cliches. It was an impressive display of both instrument technique and coordination of electronics, and was quite a beautiful performance overall.
Bill Walker is making his guitar into a whole band, including percussion. #outsound
During his performance, Walker played compositions in tribute to his father, as well as to Kim Flint, who was very active in the looping and electronic-music communities, and the founder of Loopers Delight. There were also moments of humor in his set, such as a piece based on samples of Mr. T.
Overall, this was another strong performance in the Thursday-night series at the Luggage Store Gallery, and I was glad I braved a downpour to go see it.
The 2012 Outsound Music Summit began this Sunday with the annual Touch the Gear Expo. Visitors have a chance to see and try out the equipment used by musicians and sound artists. Although we had fewer presenters this year, we had a variety of instruments and devices, and a fairly sizable crowd of visitors.
In the above image, we see Matt Davignon presenting effects pedals driven using a Casio keyboard, and Joe Lasquo presenting laptop-based programs with Max/MSP.
One of the fun aspects of Touch the Gear is getting one’s hands on instruments that one only sees on stage. For me, one of those opportunities came when I got to play the Arp 2600 that Benjamin Ethan Tinker brought to the event. It was only a little over a week earlier that I heard him play it at the Luggage Store Gallery.
But it there is the discovery of new and never-before seen musical creations. The most unusual for me was this creation by Omer Gal:
The organic head-like element contained several mechanical and optical sensors that one could touch or put ones hands near to affect the sound. A second part of the installation included a mechanical “robot” that played a set of strings with a pickup. The performer can affect the operation of the robot and the sound through electronic controls.
Other unusual electro-acoustic instruments were presented by Walter Funk and Dan Ake. Walter Funk’s metallic instrument called Ulysses offered opportunities to explore different resonances and timbres through sheets of metal, rods and springs arrayed throughout its body. Dan Ake’s invention was a series of gridded metal inside a large wooden box, than one could excite with a variety of objects, such as bows, rods and a glove with long wooden fingertips.
I was presenting at this event as well. I always try to bring something a little different each year. This year, I decided to go with two ends of the technology spectrum: an iPad running Animoog and iMS-20, and a Eurorack modular system with a Metasonx R53, Make Noise Echophon, Malekko Heavy Industry Anti-Oscillator, and several others. Both technologies caught people’s attention, with some more excited about the analog modular system with its physical knobs and cables, and others gravitating towards the iPad.
Andrew Wayne presented a very tangible set of objects containing unpopped popcorn kernels in aluminum trays and other contains, augmented with contact microphones and electronic effects. He assembled his own contact mics to use with these acoustic sources.
Other participants included CJ Borosque with an Alesis Air, Laurie Amat with vocal and ambient sources into a Line 6, and a surface by April-Jeanie Tang with rubber-ball mallets. Through contact miss, the action of the rubber mallets and the surface and transmitted to effects processors for a deep, haunting sound. Tom Duff presented a series of software processes that could be randomly controlled from a MIDI controller. Despite the randomness, it was quite expressive after playing with it and dialing in on particular processes. He also had a couple of critters from Bleep Labs.
Long-time participants Tom Nunn and David Michalak were back again with the most recent incarnations of the sketch box. You can read an interview with Tun Nunn and discussion of his musical inventions here on CatSynth.
And finally, Bob Marsh was back with his intriguing and “charismatic” metal creations.
I do tend to gravitate towards metallic sounds when looking for new material, something which seems to be common among those who are looking for invention and discovery in musical sound.
On Monday night, the summit continued with the Composers Symposium, a panel discussion featuring four of the composers in this year’s festival: John Shiurba, Christina Stanley, Benjamin Ethan Tinker, and Matthew Goodheart were on hand to discuss their work. And as a first this year, I acted as the moderator for the evening. It was a great experience, and I did not have to do very much besides seeding the discussion with a few questions. From those starting points, a lively discussion ensued among the composers as well as dialog with the audience. We talked about the role of notation in each of the composers’ music, such as Stanley’s use of paintings as her scores and Shiurba’s use of graphical elements derived from print newspapers (a major theme of his piece this year); and the dual role that these artists played as both composers and performers. One of the things that made this panel work was the variety of musical disciplines, styles and backgrounds among the participants, as well as the interest that the audience brought to the discussion with their numerous questions. Everyone had criticisms of the terms “new music” and “experimental music” that are often used as blanket designations for the music featured in the summit and indeed much of the music reviewed here on CatSynth, but that was to be expected. The two hours of the discussion went by rather quickly, and I’d like to think everyone on the panel and in the audience found the experience enjoyable and illuminating. I would definitely like to do more of these at events in the future.
Today we look back at a recent concert at the Luggage Store Gallery that featured composer, performer and musical inventor Paul Stapleton in three improvisation sets with a variety of collaborators from the Bay Area and beyond.
In all three sets, Stapleton performed on his “Bonsai Sound Sculpture” a contraption with various metallic and electronic elements, including bells, metal rods, a thumb piano and a turntable. While this provided a common grounding element for all three sets, it did not limit the variety of sounds or musical possibilities. It was apparent that Stapleton could explore quite a range of sound and musical structure within just a few minutes of the first set which also featured Ted Byrnes on percussion and Laura Steenberge on bass.
The performance started off with frenetic motion before shifting into a software texture with gamelan-like sounds followed by percussive bowing of long tones. As the intensity ebbed and flowed, the most distinctive element was (for lack of a better term) the “turntable thingy” in Stapleton’s sound sculpture, though I did like the rhythmic work by Byrnes on the drums and how it played against the bells and other metallic sounds.
The next set featured Stapleton together with Edward Schocker on Asian wind instruments and Matt Ingalls on clarinet and violin. I have only heard Ingalls on violin a few times, but this was the instrument he used to open the set. He was then joined by Stapleton bowing a section of the sculpture and Schocker on a small reed instrument that I believe was a pir’i – the small instrument packed quite a punch with wobbly tones the weaved in and out harmonically between the long bowed tones. This gave way to a period of high scratchy timbres and then an interlude of rough metal thumb piano and Ingalls on clarinet. Schoker also switched to sho, a free-reed instrument, in a section with Stapleton that was more drone-like There was a varied texture over all, but some exceptionally loud sections.
The final set of the evening brought back Byrnes and Steenberge on percussion and bass, respectively, along with Matt Davignon on turntable and electronics and John Ingle on saxophone. Things got off to a staccato start, with lots of short notes, and turntable gestures. Indeed, one of the fun parts of this set was to hear how Davignon and Stapleton used their turntables differently, with Davignon using the instrument to manipulate recognizable recorded sounds with voices. The turntables also interplayed with cymbals and with vocalizations by Ingle. In addition to flurries of short notes, there were loud rough textures, a very “jazzy” moment, and static noise set against soft percussive tones.
The evening went by quite fast, with each set relatively short. But I thought it worked well this way, keeping up the energy and variety. Say what you need to say, and then stop. And on that note, we sign off.
Earlier this month, I participated in a show at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco called Space Music Night that turned out to be quite memorable. So what exactly is “space music”? It is not straightforward to come up with a definitive answer, except that it should reflect some sense of “outer space” as one might imagine it. Or, perhaps more accurately, as people might have imagined it in the 1960s and 1970s. The music that we performed that evoke “space rock” that one might associate with early Pink Floyd or Gong, but also more freeform ambient soundscapes. The latter comes closer to ambient music one might hear on NPR’s “Hearts of Space” program but without crossing over that dangerous line into New Age. The music was certainly contemplative at times, but retained an edge to it and often veered back to rock and jam idioms, and moved back and forth between defined harmonies and more abstract timbres. The “space” effect was also heightened by having a dark room with abstract video projections by Tim Thompson.
The show was divided into two sets with four musicians each. Although many of us were familiar to one another, this was the first each each set of four played together as a group. The first set featured Matt Davignon on drum machines and effects, Kristen Miltner on electronics, Karl Evangelista on guitar, and Andrew Joron on theremin. Musically, this set had a very thick electronic texture with a soft beat from the drum machines that came in and out of presence. The electronics and heavily processed guitar provided anxious harmonies, and the theremin seemed to be narrating a space story with warbles and slides that approached the rhythm of human speech. At moments, the rhythm dropped out altogether, while at others it came closer to an extended jam. You can hear a bit of the set in the following video:
In the second set, I performed with iPad and the Dave Smith Evolver, along with David Leikam, Sheila Bosco on drums, and Steve Abbate on guitar. Perhaps it was the instrumentation of the set, or the musical leanings of the performers (including myself) towards strong rhythm, but we very quickly gelled into a steady rock jam rhythm that extended for most of the length of the set except for avery deliberate breaks. I mostly used Sunrizer on the iPad to provide ethereal harmonies to set again Leikam’s Moog Rogue and his “electric bass cello” and provide structure for melodic improvisation. This was definitely approaching the “space rock” idiom that inspired the evening.
I was quite happy with how well we able to play together despite having not played together before, and indeed a few people afterwards expressed some surprise that we hadn’t. But perhaps we will get a chance to play again.
There were over 140 musicians participating, with performances and demonstrations scattered around the museum. And “chamber music” was defined quite expansively to include a wide variety of instrumentation and genres, ranging from traditional classical music to experimental avant-garde ensembles and crossover groups. Our contribution was a demonstration of electronic-music gear – a mini version of “Touch the Gear Night” from the Outsound Music Summit. I primarily focused on software-based sound generation, with an iPad and a Monome connected to a MacBook running Open Sound World. Matt Davignon presented his setup featuring drum machines and effects pedals. CJ Borosque demonstrated her input-less effects change where the noise in the signal chain is the source for sound manipulation; and Rent Romus demonstrated live sound processing with a setup that included a Korg Monotron.
There was quite a large turnout overall for Chamber Music Day, and we had a lot of traffic at our demonstration table. Reactions ranged from mild curiosity to deep technical conversations. We were a particularly big hit with children, who are naturally attracted to hands-on demos and electronic gear.
[Amar Chaudhary and Matt Davignon demonstrating gear for young attendees at Chamber Music Day. Photo by Scott Chernis.]
This trio of young ladies spent a lot of time at the table exploring the various devices in great detail.
[Exploring the gear. Photo by Scott Chernis.]
They were particularly interested in the iPad. Here they are trying out the Korg iMS-20 app.
[Playing the iPad. Photo by Scott Chernis.]
I would like to think that some of the kids (as well as a few of the adults) went off and downloaded some music-making apps for their devices and started playing. Or perhaps a casual guitarist found a new way to make sounds with his or her pedals.
Overall it was a great experience, and an opportunity for us to share what we do with musicians outside our small “new-music” community and with the general public. Thanks to the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music (SFFCM) for inviting us to participate. To find out more about Chamber Music Day and their other events and programs, please visit their website.
[All photos in this article by Scott Chernis and provided courtesy of SFFCM.]
The Outsound Music Summit began this Sunday with the annual Touch the Gear Expo. Visitors have a chance to see and try out the equipment used by musicians and sound artists. We had a a diverse group of participants this year, and this short video gives a good overview of some of the sound and visuals that one would have encountered:
We had a decently sized turnout for the event, and the evening went by quickly. While not at my own station, I did my best to see others work, but did not get to everyone. For those who followed my live tweets from the event, the remainder of article might seem redundant, but I do provide more detail.
I brought a small rig that reflects my recent solo work, with an iPad as both a synthesizer and controller for software on the laptop, a monome, the Wicks Looper and a Korg Mini-Kaoss Pad.
The iPad was primarily running TouchOSC, controlling a version of my piece Charmer:Firmament running in Open Sound World on the laptop, as well as a few popular instruments like the Smule Magic Fiddle and Bebot. The monome was controlling sample loops, and the Wicks Looper was feeding into the Kaoss Pad.
Next me, Matt Davignon presented a turntable and effects pedals that was quite popular with visitors. There is still something compelling about a tactile and intuitive interface such as a turntable that compels people to want to play it. In contrast, the monome in particularly seemed to intimidate people.
There were many non-electronic offerings as well, including the quartz cantabile by Todd Larew. Who needs electronics when you have fire as your primarily technology!
Bob Marsh wandered the hall in a suit covered in plastic water bottles, some containing mechanical sound generating elements, and was quite a presence throughout the evening.
He also brought several other articles of sonic clothing for people to try on and play.
Tim Thompson brought his space palette, a large wall-sized controller in which one controls sound and visuals by moving in the various spaces in the panel.
I had seen him perform with the space palette before, but this my first opportunity to try it out myself.
Another original instrument, the Ernestophone, featured one main string and several sympathetic strings, and a very rich sonic palette of overtones.
Phogmasheen presented an instrument made from pick heads and cake pans.
One strikes the metal elements with mallets or sticks, and then pickups process the output electronically.
This is not the first time I have seen a classic 1950′s HP oscillator at Touch the Gear, but it’s the first time I have seen one paired with a Peerless transistor radio, for a very retro noise experience.
Noise rigs are a common theme, particularly chains of effects pedals and mixers that operate solely on the noise inherent in electronic circuits but then amplify and shape it through non-linear processes of the effects change into rich and chaotic sound palettes. One example is this colorful rig from CJ Borosque. I was able to get subtle an expressive control of the sound by focusing on only a couple of knobs.
Other participants included Tom Nunn presenting one of his sonic inventions, Rick Walker demonstrating high virtuosic use of live-looping hardware and Laurie Amat getting rather humorous results from the sound of the crowd in the hall processed through a classic green Line6 delay pedal.
The panel discussion on Monday night, entitled “Elements of non-idiomatic compositional strategies” was quite a contrast to Touch the Gear Night. Four composers, Kanoko Nishi, Andrew Raffo Dewar, Krystyna Bobrowski, and Gino Robair engaged in a discussion moderated by Polly Moller about their music, influences and views on composition in front of an intimate audience with plentiful wine, cheese and dark chocolate.
One of the interesting questions was whether each of the composers began their ideas with sound, or a focus on sound. Not surprisingly, the answer was no – although sound was the medium of creativity, the source ideas can come from anywhere. In speaking about his piece for the Friday concert at the summit, he described how the work was influenced very directly by paintings by the Argentine artist Eduardo Serón. Gino Robair similar painted a very visual and conceptual influence for his suite based on the engravings of Jose Guadalupe Posada of late19th -and early 20th-century life in Mexico, and the skeletons and skulls in particular. Kanoko Nishi referred “music completely devoid of symbols”; and Krystyna Bobrowski described her work with her created instruments as a “sonic bloom of resonance”, perhaps my favorite phrase of the evening.
Other topics discussed included composing for instruments or sounds versus composing for particular musicians, i.e., “instead of preparing the piano, prepare the pianist” (as I pianist, I am not sure how I feel about being prepared), and questions about the rewards of composing experimental music – because it was accepted by panelists and audience alike that their are neither financial nor sexual riches to be gained by this pursuit. Perhaps the response that rang most true to me was that composing music is an obsessive-compulsive activity that some of us just have to do whether we like it or not.
For those who not familiar with the terms, think of idiomatic music as music that falls into recognizable patterns and genres that one can readily identify, so non-idiomatic music is music that attempts to defy such categorization. However, I often find the dichotomy not particularly useful. I sympathize with the composers’ desire to two work that transcends past categorization, and I often strive to do the same thing – but we can’t help but be influenced by the music and sounds around us, and shouldn’t necessarily fear the appearance of these influences in music that we call “new”. It was also interesting how much all four panelists distanced themselves from mathematics, even while acknowledging the deep and longstanding interconnection with music.