Outsound Music Summit: Face Music

The concert portion of the Outsound Music Summit began on Wednesday with an evening entitled “Face Music.” The four solo performances all centered around voice, but more on unusual uses of the voice and the face for making musical sounds than on traditional singing. Within this context, each of the performances was quite different.

[Theresa Wong. Photo: PeterBKaars.com. (Click image to enlarge.)]

Theresa Wong opened the concert by stepping out in front of the stage with only a microphone. At first it seemed like she was just standing still, but gradually one could hear the very subtle vocal sounds she was making. These soon grew into loud clicks, slurps and other percussive voice sounds, which she played around with for some time. There was a section where she used a mixture of noises and slowly descending squeaks reminded me Xenkis’ 1950s electronic compositions. Her second piece, which featured voice and cello, was more lyrical, with rich high voiced sounds (closer to singing) against more inharmonic cello overtones.

[Joseph Rosenzweig. Photo: PeterBKaars.com. (Click image to enlarge.)]

Joseph Rosenzweig used his voice to drive various electronic processes. For the first part of the set, he mostly used breath sounds, which were processed with distortion and other effects that became quite loud and intense. There were also moments that were more subtle, with softer metallic sounds behind the voice. As his vocalizations grew more complex, some parts began to take on the sound of speech, and there were moments while watching him that it seemed he was actually “speaking” the amplified electronic sounds. Over time, the arrangement grew to include multiple layers with percussive effects on more traditionally voiced sounds that feed into buzzing short loops and long drones of FM-like bell sounds – at this point, the electronic parts began to separate from the vocal source and take on a life of their own, with subtle high sounds, and then a low rumble against high vocalizations.

[Aurora Josephson. Photo: PeterBKaars.com. (Click image to enlarge.)]

Aurora Josephson opened the second half the concert with candles, incantations when led into a performance of John Cage’s Experiences no. 2. The quiet, subdued performance focused more on traditional pitched singing. Experiences no. 2 is in a pentatonic scale and very lyrical, with a folk-song or spiritual quality. It was an oasis of calm, and a great contrast to the performances that preceded and followed.

[Bran…(pos). Photo by CatSynth.]

Bran…(pos) concluded the concert with an intense and theatrical set that probably most fit the term “face music”. He disappeared behind a screen onto which a colorful image of a butterfly was projected. From behind the screen, one could hear disembodied sounds of chewing, crunching, churning, squeaks, pops and other percussion that one can make with the face and mouth – at once they were everyday sounds, but also heightened through amplification and rhythmic placement. After a period of time, the otherwise still video started to glitch, with grainy video images briefly appearing on the screen. After a moment, I realized that this was in fact the face of the artist from behind the screen. Soon, the live video replaced the still images entirely. (From my vantage point, I could actually glimpse the “man behind the curtain” while watching the live video.) The sounds and visuals together gave the impression that he was “eating” the microphone. After a while, soft resonant bell-like sounds emerged in the background behind the face sounds, and gradually loops and rhythms began to emerge as well as the facial gestures in the video grew more frantic. There was a moment when the “face music” seemed to stop leaving only a drone of pure synthesizer sounds, after which Bran…(pos) returned with a more traditional voice sound. The background elements grew more industrial, with strong resonances the morphed into large bells. The set ended in a visual of melting red.

You can see a video of Bran…(pos) below:

The overall trajectory of the concert was good, as was the contrast, ranging from Theresa Wong’s nearly silent and unaccompanied opening to Bran…(pos)’s frenetic and gear-intensive end.

The Outsound Music Summit continues through Saturday evening with additional concerts. Look for more reviews here, or follow @catsynth for live tweets.

Report from the Outsound Music Summit Benefit Dinner and Concert

With a little over a week to go before the Outsound Music Summit, we look back at our benefit dinner and performance.

The benefit took place at the Numi Tea Garden in Oakland, a beautiful space that blends into the industrial architecture of its surroundings. You can see this photo which I posted on a recent Wordless Wednesday. An interesting bit of trivia for music-tech geeks that I learned is that the space now occupied by Numi used to be home of Zeta Music Systems, the makers of the Zeta electronic violin.

The dinner, by chef Miles Ake was itself a piece of performance and conceptual art. It was based on the ingredients of a classic Gazpacho recipe, listed in mirroring order at the beginning and end of the menu. The description and the presentation of the food itself unfolded like a multi-movement musical composition. From Ake’s statement:

The root of the word Gazpacho is derived from a Mozarab word caspa, meaning “residue” or “fragments,” which refers to the small pieces of bread and vegetables in a Gazpacho soup. throughout the meal the gazpacho as an entity wil go through a series of fractured movements. This fracturing is not a means to disconnect, but rather as a process of extraction, distillation and isolation of distinct parts. The structure of the menu is an anagrammatical game or a rewinding (moving backwards in time to replay a track) while simultaneously moving forward without redundancy in form/texture/taste using to compositional terms (verse, refrain, notes, scale, etc….) to build a lexicon of culinary elements.

The dinner opened with an interpretation of the soup itself, which set the tone and direction:

The panzanella and ricotta/pepper dishes were perhaps my favorites palette-wise and reflect the colors from the base ingredients:

The “bloody margaret” with gin and olive gelée served in an old-fashioned glass and the raw fluke were the most unique. The desert was an experience as well, with “three textures of olive oil”, including a very creamy foam-like texture that I have never had before.

The music for the evening featured a performance by Vorticella, a quartet of Krys Bobrowski, Erin Espeland, Brenda Hutchinson and Karen Stackpole. Their improvised performances feature a wide variety of instruments, ranging from standard cello and horn, to Karen Stackpole’s array of gongs and blocks, to unique custom instruments like Bobrowski’s gliss glass:

[Click image to enlarge.]

Vorticella derive their name from the single-cell creatures. The bell-shape features prominently in the instruments, such as the gliss glass, horn, and other wind instruments. The themes of a single-cell organism functioning as a compact unit, but then breaking off new copies at any given time, permeate the direction and texture of the group’s improvised performances.

I have heard Vorticella before at the Garden of Memory events and the Flower Moon Concert in 2009. This was however an exceptional performance. Although the instrumentation is diverse and music improvised, it had a very coherent texture and direction and was well crafted. Like the single-cell organism, they seemed to function as one, with music that could have come from a master synthesizer soloist or from countless hours of careful sound design in a studio, but it was all unfolding organically in front of us. The wind and metal elements set the overall timbral environment in which the details unfold. Think of wind blowing through giant metal pipes, and then tapping on the side of the pipe or bowing it – these could be seen as basic ingredients, in a way similar to Ake’s use of the gazpacho ingredients to produce the entire meal. I found myself alternating between the rich overall timbre of the ensemble and focusing on individual details, whether Bobrowski’s visual presentation on the gliss glass, Stackpole’s constant shifting among different pieces of percussion, or Espeland’s playing the cello with two bows simultaneously. There was a good mix of long drone-like sounds and punctuated percussive elements – appropriate space was left for the latter.

So with the benefit dinner behind us, we are on to the actual summit, which begins next Sunday July 17 with the annual “Touch the Gear” night and continues with concerts the following week. You can find out more info, including tickets and passes to the concerts here. Those on Facebook are also encouraged to visit Outsound Presents’ page which features more photographs of the dinner and music.

Outsound Music Summit Benefit Dinner, June 27

The 2011 Outsound New Music Summit is about a month away! For those not familiar with this event, it is a weeklong series of new and adventurous music that has been happening every summer in San Francisco for the last ten years. “Every year the Outsound New Music Summit showcases some of the most innovative and pioneering new music that is happening in California and beyond.” You can read my reports from last year as a reviewer and as a participating artist.

This year we are hosting a benefit dinner on Monday, June 27 at the Numi Tea Garden in Oakland, with music by Vorticella, and dinner by chef Miles Ake. I invite readers in the Bay Area to support new music and consider attending this event. You can find info and tickets at http://www.outsound.org/summit/11/outsound_benefit.html. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from our chef statement that reads like a statement one would see at an art exhibit or concert program notes:

The a list of ingredients when put together form a classic Gazpacho. This will function as a prompt or an armature that dishes can be built upon. The root of the word Gazpacho is derived from a Mozarab word caspa, meaning “residue” or “fragments,” which refers to the small pieces of bread and vegetables in a Gazpacho soup. throughout the meal the gazpacho as an entity wil go through a series of fractured movements. This fracturing is not a means to disconnect, but rather as a process of extraction, distillation and isolation of distinct parts. The structure of the menu is an anagrammatical game or a rewinding (moving backwards in time to replay a track) while simultaneously moving forward without redundancy in form/texture/taste using to compositional terms (verse, refrain, notes, scale, etc….) to build a lexicon of culinary elements.

I quite like the visuals, architectural elements and references to language and pattern matching.

Of course, beyond the benefit dinner, we want people to attend the performances in July and support this artists!

Outsound Music Summit: MultiVox

Today we at CatSynth conclude our series from the recent Outsound Music Summit with my own report from the MultiVox program that featured Reconnaissance Fly, the Cornelius Cardew Choir, and Amy X Neuburg. We did feature a guest review by Joe McMahon last week, which covers the same show from an outside perspective. My own perspective is anything but outside, given that I was in two of the three groups performing at night.

This was a professional show, with formal load-ins, sound checks, and staging. Reconnaissance Fly features a full rhythm section, so we had a lot of equipment to set up:

[click image to enlarge]

On the left is Tim Walters’ bass and Macbook running SuperCollider. In the middle is Moe! Staiano’s drum set, and on the right is my own keyboard+electronics setup featuring the Nord Stage, the trusty Korg Kaoss Pad, and the little stuffed cat for good luck. Here is another perspective with more detail:

[click image to enlarge]

The Evolver was actually for the Cardew Choir, but I set up everything at once. One can also see Moe!’s toys and other support percussion instruments.

Onto the show itself. Here is the full band on stage, with myself, Polly Moller (flute/vocals), Tim Walters (bass), Moe! Staiano as our special guest “concussionist”.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.  Click image to enlarge.]

We performed a full nine-piece set from Flower Futures, our “spong cycle” featuring music set to spam poetry. The set now has an eclectic mix of styles, from experimental avant-garde to prog rock, along with latin and jazz influences. We as always with Small Chinese Gong and ended with An Empty Rectangle – we always like playing that last one, but it’s even better with Moe!’s drums! I particularly enjoyed playing the medley of Electric Rock Like a Cat and Sanse is Credenza – the end of the first piece, with free-improvisation on flute set against B-diminished chords, elides into an early 1970s jazz fusion jam on the same chord (think “Chameleon” from Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters album). This is a relatively high-energy and somewhat challenging piece, and while it was fun to play, it also felt good to then return to the relative calmness of Oh Goldfinch Cage, which featured samples of “human calls” for training birds to speak, with phrases like “Hello, how are you?” and “pretty bird”, processed with ring modulation and turntable effects.

[Photo by Bill Wolter.  Click image to enlarge.]

Overall, it was a great performance with a lot of energy. It’s easy to lose sight of that in the midst of playing, where one focuses on mistakes and challenges – personally, I forgot to check that patches for the Nord were all queued up at the start of the performance, and the heat from the lighting and large crowd added unexpected challenges. But it was received well by the audience (a full house), and it seemed like they were asking us for an encore!

The Cornelius Cardew Choir was a stark contrast to Reconnaissance Fly in terms of form and energy. Our first piece, Joe Zitt’s “That Alphabet Thing” was a cappella with a freeform structure. Basically, it unfolds by each singer intoning the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, starting with A and gradually working his or her way to Z. Everyone moves at a separate pace but mindful of others not to get too far ahead or behind, and there were a lot of fun moments of interplay among different choir members, such as back-and-forth with “Hi!” for H-I or “why?” for Y.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.  Click image to enlarge.]

We wear white lab coats.

This was followed by “El Morro” by choir director and co-founder Tom Bickley. The piece was inspired by a trip to the El Morro monument in New Mexico and featured the text from inscriptions on a rock spanning carved messages from two centuries of Spanish, Mexican and American passers by, soldiers as well as other travelers. Each of us had a set of inscriptions to recite on a single pitch per inscription, set against an electronic background of rocks, birds of prey and highly processed vocal incantations. This was a rather complex piece conceptually, though not difficult to perform. Because we were so involved in the performance and the conceptual nature, it is hard to know how it was received in the audience.

The set concluded with a performance of Polly Moller’s Genesis. We had seen a previous performance of Genesis at the Quickening Moon Concert. The previous performance was entirely instrumental. This time, the parts of the spatial and higher dimensions were voice. I performed part of “universal time”, using the sequencer on the Evolver as the time-keeper and performed various modulations of the tempo and timbre. Polly played the role of the “new universe” with a flute solo featuring multiphonics and other techniques. Tom Bickley conducted the piece by walking around the stage and carrying chimes.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.  Click image to enlarge.]

This was a very meditative performance, with the chimes, the flute multiphonics, the ever changing electronic rhythm and timbre, and the vocalists singing their respective dimension numbers in different languages.

The final set of the evening featured Amy X Neuburg. As always, her “avant cabaret” set was very polished and spoke well to both her technical expertise with her instruments and her versatility as a performer. She employs several styles of singing, often in a single piece, moving from classical to cabaret/jazz to experimental vocalizations. Her synchronization with looping electronics is very tight, seemlessly adding and subtracting samples and recordings within the rhythms and phrasings of the song.

[click image to enlarge]

There were pieces familiar from past performances, such as “Life Stepped In” where she deftly mixes looping technology and theatrical vocals. She also did a few improvisational pieces, the first of which featured the Blippo Box. This is an instrument with chaotic oscillators that never quite sounds the same twice, but she always manages to control it quite well – in this performance she made it sound like a voice, to which she responded with her own voice. She also performed an improvisation with a Skatch Box which she made at the “build your own Skatch Box” presentation earlier in the week (and which I unfortunately missed). It’s hard to make a skatch box sound like a voice, but she could make her voice sound like the growls and scrapes that it produced.

[Photo by Michael Zelner.  Click image to enlarge.]

She ended her set with a tribute to Kim Flint, who was very active in the looping and electronic-music communities, and the founder of Loopers Delight, and who passed away after a tragic accident in Berkeley in June. He was someone I knew as well from both music and social events. Amy’s tribute was a performance of the first piece she ever created using the Echoplex, which he co-invented.

Outsound Music Summit: SoundScapes

We resume our reports from the 2010 Outsound Music Summit after a brief break. In this article I review the last night of the festival, titled “SoundScapes” and featured musicians whose music focuses on noise and sound textures. While this is often from electronic sound sources such as effects pedals or DIY synthesizers, many were from acoustic sources such as metal objects or conventional instruments like piano.

The evening was framed by the theatrical announcements of the artists by guest emcee Cy Thoth, a regular DJ on KFJC 89.7 FM.

[click image to enlarge]
The concert began with Phog Masheeen, a trio featuring Mark Soden, Jr, Dr. Francene Laplan and William Almas. They presented a single large-scale work for electronic and acoustic sound plus video called “Anthroscopic Tourism.” I was not quite sure how the medical term “anthroscopic” related to the sounds and images in the piece, which focused on the interplay of Kaplan’s pots and pans set against electronic sounds and loops and Soden’s electronically enhanced performance on trumpet and a large pipe from a Yamaha motorcycle. Soden had demonstrated some of the techniques he was using with the trumpet during the Touch the Gear event. But he added to the the performance techniques Soden used with his instruments rubbing dry ice against them. As most readers know, dry ice is extremely cold (and difficult to handle); and this it can have a strong effect on the shape and behavior of metal tubes. At one point, he smashed a block of dry ice before picking up pieces to use. He also had a blowtorch. The music often involved loops (sample based or otherwise) against which Kaplan played rhythms and timbres on the pots and pans – this was offset by the more freeform sections with Soden’s trumpet and pipe. Almas’ visuals included a variety of urban and industrial scenes, text, and footage of old musicians, which were mixed with live video of Soden’s performance.

[click images to enlarge]

Next up was Headboggle (aka Derek Gedalecia). The tone was set from the beginning both in terms of sound and slapstick comedy by his stepping on bubble wrap that happened to be placed behind the table with his electronics, and then slipping on the way to the grand piano. Actually, the comedic timing of his various slips, slides, tripping over his own feet and double-takes was expertly done, as in an old silent film or Vaudeville act. There was a bit of a scare for several of us in the audience when it appeared he had broken the bench of the piano, but I was assured this was all part of the act, this particular bench was found broken, and that no pianos were actually harmed in the making of this performance. Musically, he combined chaotic oscillators from Ciat Lombarde synthesizer – a reminder to finally put together my Ciat Lombarde kit – with classical and ragtime piano phrases, loops and deep bass sounds from a Micromoog. The piano and electronics are of course quite contrasting, but every so often the sounds and phrases (and physical humor) converged quite well.

[click images to enlarge]

Headboggle was followed by Kadet Kuhne, who presented video and live-music piece Fight or Flight, described by our emcee Cy Thoth as “space madness.” In fact, it was a very polished live electronic performance, very dark and ambient (although interestingly Kadet Kuhne talked in the pre-concert Q&A session about her desire to perform “lighter” ambient music). It began with low frequency sounds and a rumbling buzz, and included doors opening and closing and various sounds of machinery, with electric hums, blips and glitches. It was quite captivating and easy to get lost in. At one point, arpeggios and then beats emerged from the combination of noise percussion and more harmonic sounds, which got progressively louder as the piece built up to a climax and then faded to nothingness. The music was set against a video that focused entirely on a cloth-encased figure suspended in mid-air. It wasn’t clear at first whether this was a cloth figure or an actual person, though as the video progressed it became clear that it was the latter. The frequent shot and angle changes gave the video a glitchy quality which matched many of the electronic sounds in the music.

[click image to enlarge]

The final set featured Chen Santa Maria, the duo of Steve Santa Maria and George Chen. Both members of the group played electric guitar and a variety of electronic effects. The set began with a guitar drone set against high squeaking humming sounds. These sounds were soon joined by full guitar chords with heavy distortion and undulating raspy sounds from synthesizers or effects units. There were bursts of noise distortion and high shrieking. This was definitely a loud set. But there were still details to listen to (with appropriate ear protection). The harmonic patterns of the distorted guitars created rhythms, which was set against a more formal triplet rhythm from the electronic sound sources. This rhythmic pattern essentially continued for the remainder of the set, with periods of driving guitar, bursts of noise and more high shrieking tones which then decayed into a low rumbling noise. As the set drew to a close, the sounds became more “digital” with lots of blips and choppy sounds, but then this was replaced by a loud square wave. The square wave started out at a moderate pitch, but got lower and lower until it became a series of audibly distinct pulses, and then came to an abrupt stop.

Although this was the last performance of the festival, I will be presenting one more article, where I return to the MultiVox night which included my own performance with Reconnaissance Fly and the Cornelius Cardew Choir…

Guest post: Friday at Outsound: Reconnaissance Fly, Cornelius Cardew Choir, Amy X Neuburg

[While I work on the reviews for the Friday and Saturday shows at the Outsound Music Summit, we have a guest review from Joe McMahon, ambient music/soundscapes – pemungkah.com. Given that I was a performer in two groups on Friday, his review provides an interesting outside perspective.]

Friday at Outsound: Reconnaissance Fly, Cornelius Cardew Choir, Amy X Neuburg

An interesting evening of word (and other vocalization) related music. Reconnaissance Fly led off with their songs based on “spam poetry” – the sometimes strangely numinous texts randomly generated to try to evade spam filters. RF can, and does, play in a massive variety of styles, from samba and tango through pop, prog rock, and jazz, all the way to full-on avante-garde improv. These wildly disparate styles and surreal text are combined in pop song structures into catchily mind-bending conceptual smoothies. It appeared that the audience was ready for an encore, but time was short. The piece which included what seemed to be samples from a “teach your bird to talk” record and Polly Moller’s exceptional flute multiphonics and extended techniques was particularly fascinating, and Moe!’s drumming lent serious propulsion and quirky humor as well.

The Cornelius Cardew Choir did three pieces: the first was based on the alphabet and reminded me a bit of “In C”, as the choir started at “A”, both reciting the letters and making their sounds, the individual members determining the speed at which they moved through the alphabet. Charming and fun. The second piece was based on rock inscriptions; very dense and almost surflike; I had a little trouble spotting a structure in this one, but that’s probably more the result of a long day on my part. The last piece added electronics and flute; a very evocative, ritualistic piece – fascinating textures and quite wonderful.

Last on the bill was Amy X Neuburg, who wowed the crowd as always, performing, among others, several pieces from her _Residue_ album; her performances of these have evolved interestingly. In addition, she improvised a new piece on the spot using her Blippo Box and her just-built Scatchbox, and a tribute to Kim Flint the late founder of the Looper’s Delight mailing list.

A very enjoyable evening; looking forward to hearing more from all the performers.

Preparing for tonight’s performance

This week has all been about the Outsound Summit, either attending programs or rehearsals, including two rehearsals for Reconnaissance Fly and one for the Cornelius Cardew Choir.

For Reconnaissance Fly, We now have our full Flower Futures set:

1. Small Chinese Gong
2. One Should Never
3. Neat As Wax
4. Emir Scamp Budge
5. Seemed to be Divided in Twain
6. Electric Rock Like a Cat
7. Sanse is Credenza
8. Oh! Goldfinch cage
9. An Empty Rectangle

There is actually a tenth movement, but we had to leave it out of this performance for timing reasons. One of the pieces, “Electric Rock Like a Cat”, was first premiered on KFJC last weekend. And three others are brand new that we only read and rehearsed in the past week. This included a final rehearsal last night. Sadly, it means I was not able to attend last night’s performance, but the extra rehearsal time paid off and I think we are going to play a great set tonight!

Technologically, things are relatively simple compared to the solo shows like the Quickening Moon Concert. I will primarily be using a Nord Stage keyboard for classic Fender Rhodes and organ models and acoustic piano, with support from the Korg Kaoss pad on several pieces and a loop/sample playback application on the iPhone. Tim Walters will be using SuperCollider for signal processing alongside bass guitar. Moe! Staiano will probably have toy instruments along with his drum set. We don’t have any live processing of Polly Moller’s flute or vocals in this particular set. I like the way our music has evolved to require less feats of technology and more musicianship.

For the Cardew Choir, I will be performing the role of “Universal Time” in Polly Moller’s Genesis using a combination of “space like” and “drum like” patches on the DSI Evolver. Other than that, the set is all vocals.

For those in the Bay Area who would like to attend, the show is 8PM at the Community Music Center, 544 Capp Street in San Francisco. You can get full schedule and ticking info here.

Outsound Music Summit: Touch The Gear Expo

Once again, the Outsound Music Summit opened with Touch The Gear Night this past Sunday, in which the public is invited to come and, well, “touch the gear” and interact directly with many of the festival artists who use technology in their music. “Technology” included software, electronic devices, DIY projects, and mechanical and sculptural instruments.

I attempted to both cover the event for CatSynth and demo some of my own gear, which made for a hectic but fun evening. I kept my demonstration relatively minimal, with my Monome 8×8, the Korg Kaoss Pad and the Dave Smith Evolver:

[click to enlarge]

Basically, this was a subset of the gear I used at the Quickening Moon Concert (which was part of Outsound’s regular Thursday series at the Luggage Store Gallery). The monome was driving a simple software synthesizer, which along with the Evolver was being processed by the Kaos pad. The monome in particular attracted a lot of attention with its clean geometry and texture, and mysterious nature. It’s just an array of lighting buttons with no marking whatsoever, which invites curiosity.

Travis Johns brought a highly portable version of his worms in compost, this time attached to an analog ring modulator and open-source software the implements Slow Scan Television.

[click to enlarge]

One could hear the noise generated by the worms (which was a low-level rumbling static sound) and see the corresponding image generated by the SSTV software projected onto a screen.

Walter Funk presented a variety of instruments and objects, including Phoenix, a metal music object created by Fred the Spaceman. It was attached via contacts to an effect processor and a speaker, and could be struck or shaken to produce a variety of sounds.

[click images to enlarge]

He also had an old Realistic (remember that brand?) variable-speed tape recorder that included a bucket-brigade (BBD) chip which could be used for a variety of pitch and time shift effects. It would be interesting to modify the unit to take live input in addition to recorded tape input, although the use of tape is part of the charm of such a device. Additionally, he had a small custom analog synthesizer made from inexpensive breadboards made by Elemco that were originally designed for test equipment.

Tom Duff demonstrated the Sound Labs Mini-Synth, a DIY synthesizer kit designed by Ray Wilson. It’s a basic subtractive analog synthesizer, a la a Minimoog. More intriguing were the two generations of Bleep Labs Thingamagoop and Thingamagoop 2. The Thingamagoop 2 includes the photocell-and-light control and analog sound-generation from the original, plus an Arduino for digital sound and control. I want one of these! It was also fun to put the two generations of Thingamagoops together to control one another.

Cheryl Leonard brought some musical objects from Antarctica, including flat stones, bones and limpet shells. The stones had a high but short sound when struck or rubbed against one another. These were used in her Antarctica: Music from the Ice project.

The limpet shells had a resonant sound with well defined pitches. I found myself playing a subset of three shells that together produced an interesting set of harmonies and intervals.

Bob Marsh demonstrated Silver Park, a beautiful instrument that started as a proposal for a park in Detroit with metal sculptures and structures.

[click to enlarge]

Marsh sometimes performs with Silver Park as part of his Mr. Mercury project. The instrument version features springs in addition to the original metal objects, which add to its timbre. In a quiet room (unlike the room we were in) it can be played acoustically, but it can also be played with microphones and electronic effects. Whenever I see pieces like this, I am inspired to create one of my own, but also reminded how much work it is to create sculptures with metal, adhesives, etc. I did get some tips on some “baby steps” to work with similar sounds without necessarily committing to a sculptural artifact.

Another visually powerful instrument was Dan Ake’s 12×13, a large box with 1/4″ metal rods and washers. When the box is spun, the washers slide and shake along the rods producing a metallic cacophony of sound and visual motion.

By spinning the box, or leaving it tilted at various angles, one can get the full effect of the falling washers, or freeze them in mid-fall to cut off the sound.

Philip Evert performed with an auto-harp processed by a large series of effects boxes. The control and sound of the effects chain was largely indeterminate, though the demo that I heard began with ring modulation before becoming a more complex mix.

Tom Nunn brought his Skatchboxes for visitors to try out. Here were see T.D. Skatchit demonstrating the main Skatchbox.

[click to enlarge]

He is a virtuoso on this instrument, and we have reviewed his collaborations with Nunn in previous performances.  The Outsound Summit included a demonstration and class on building your own Skatchbox, which sadly I was not able to attend.

Mark Soden (of phog masheeen) demonstrated a chain of effects processors including a Electrix Filter Queen that produced chaotic oscillations when driven with an appropriate sound source. He had a Roland SP-555 to drive the effects, but the more interesting demo was using a trumpet with contact microphones on its body. One could generate sound by blowing, tapping, or otherwise exciting the body of the trumpet which then drove the chaotic effects processing.

Amy X Neuburg demonstrated the two instruments I have seen her use in her live sets. The Blippo Box produces chaotic signals that are compelling and very easy to play – the effect of turning knobs on the sound, even if it was unpredictable, was very smooth. Of course, the challenge is that the instrument is so chaotic that is very difficult to reproduce the same exact sound twice. She also showed her looping setup, which included a drum pad and an Echoplex.

Rick Walker demonstrated his new “Walker Manual Glitch pedal”. It featured both built-in sound generators and live input, and the ability to “glitch” or reply snippets of sound from any of the sources. This seems like it will be a powerful instrument, especially when combined with loops as input or a live improvised performance.

Thanks to Matt Davignon for organizing this event!  He was also a presenter and showed off his drum machines and effects boxes that he has used in many previous live shows.

CatSynth at the Outsound Music Summit

Starting tomorrow, and throughout next week, I will be involved in the Outsound Music Summit here in San Francisco. In addition to participating as a performing artist, CatSynth is an official community media sponsor of the festival! I will attending (almost) all of the events, providing some live updates via Twitter, and of course more detailed reviews here on the blog. For those who wish to follow along, you can join us on Twitter @CatSynth, or subscribe to our feed, or simply check back in to the site periodically.

Please visit the Outsound Music Summit site for more info. You can find a detailed schedule of all the programs, and ticketing information for those who will be in the Bay Area next week.

In terms of participating in the events themselves, I will be at the Touch the Gear Expo on Sunday. I am not yet sure the exact list of gear I will present, but it will almost certainly include the Monome, the Kaoss Pad and the Evolver.

On Saturday (that’s tomorrow), I will be performing with Reconnaissance Fly live on KFJC Radio. The performance is listed as 4PM U.S. Pacific Time, and is available online.

Finally, on Friday, July 23, I will be performing at the summit, both with Reconnaissance Fly and the Cornelius Cardew Choir.

Polly Moller’s collected and adapted spoetry texts form the basis for a new “spong cycle” — a song cycle based on spoetry. Entitled “Flower Futures”, this otherworldly ten-movement work shifts constantly in imagery and sound. Movements feature free improvisation, graphic scores, and full scored music, each with a spoem as its basis. Reconnaissance Fly, consisting of Moller plus Amar Chaudhary (keyboards and electronics) and Tim Walters (bass guitar and electronics) will perform “Flower Futures” along with special guest concussionist Moe! Staiano.

The Cornelius Cardew Choir is a SF Bay Area-based vocal performance ensemble. Situated at the intersection of community & experimental music, these professional, amateur, & novice singers work collectively to turn ideas into sonic action. The Choir’s set will include “Genesis” for twelve improvisers by Polly Moller, with the composer herself portraying the New Universe.

It is going to be a busy week…