As per usual, Luna is enjoying morning sunshine by sitting underneath one of our many glass tables at CatSynth HQ. Unfortunately, her favorite one is completely covered with piles of clothing right now, but that doesn’t stop her from claiming her usual spot.
The glass dining table has become a staging area for a major clothing purge. Here things are separated into items to be sold, donated or given to friends. After a zealous start, I have been busy with work and rehearsals for upcoming shows (including a performance tonight), so the piles remain for now. But Luna and I will both be happy when they disappear.
Today we look at back at the show “Noisy with a Chance of TEXT” that took place at the Turquoise Yantra Grotto in San Francisco earlier this month. The program of experimental music with textual elements intended to “break the ultimate taboo in noise: meaning” and featured performances by Pitta of the Mind (my duo with Maw Shein Win), Red Thread (CJ Borosque and Laurie Amat), and Pet the Tiger (David Samas and Peter Bonos). A secondary theme of the night was cats – with abundant animal print in the setting and attire of the participants.
The concert opened with an introductory set by Pet the Tiger, combining David Samas’ vocals and custom musical instruments with instrumental performance by Peter Bonos.
Their performance combined a wide variety of sounds into a short period of time, with experimental voice, instrumentation and electronics. It set the tone for the evening of sometimes complex music but also warm and inviting at the same time.
Next up was Red Thread, a duo of CJ Borosque and Laurie Amat.
The set started (and ended) with extended-technique trumpet and voice, but in between it was a very sparse and captivating presentation of CJ Borosque’s poetry. Throughout, there was a counterpoint between the straight recitation of the text and Laurie Amat’s virtuosic vocal techniques.
Then it was time for Pitta of the Mind to take the stage.
We took the animal-print theme quite seriously with our costumes, and Maw Shein Win read a selection of animal-themed poems while I performed music on a variety of iPad synthesizer apps. You can see our full performance in this video:
I particularly liked how well timed and structured the performance turned out, including the “cat piano” interludes. It was also great to see how much the audience got into the theme, meowing back at us. Afterwards, I was joined on stage by David Samas in an impromptu duo where he combined his extended vocal techniques with my improvisation on an analog modular synthesizer. It’s amazing how much Samas was able to “sound like a synth” with his voice. Again, you can see the full performance in the video below:
Overall, this was one of the most fun experimental-music shows I have participated in for a while. Not only was it strong musically, but we had a large and appreciative audience that packed the intimate space of the Turquoise Yantra Grotto. I certainly hope for more shows like this in the near future.
We close out the year with one final gig report: my performance at the CCRMA Transitions concert at Stanford University’s computer-music center. The two-night event took place in the courtyard of CCRMA’s building, with a large audience beneath the stars and between an immersive 24-channel speaker array.
I brought my piece Realignments that I had originally composed in 2011 for a 12-channel radial speaker and eight-channel hall system at CNMAT, part of my Regents Lecturer Concert there. This version, outdoors in front a large audience and clad in a provocative costume, was quite an experience, and you can see the full performance in this video:
The Transitions version of the piece was remixed to use the eight main channels of the speaker array at CCMRA. Once again, the iPad was used to move around clouds of additive-synthesis partials and trigger point sources, which were directed at different speakers of the array. The overall effect of the harmonies, sounds and immersive sound system was otherworldly. I chose this particular costume to reflect that, although I had also used it a couple of weeks earlier in my duo “Pitta of the Mind” with poet Maw Shein Win at this year’s Transbay Skronkathon. I am planning more performances with this character (but not the same costume) in the coming year.
This is one of the new pieces I have this fall for San Francisco Open Studios!
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Today we review The Fashion World of John Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk currently on display at the de Young Museum. This is currently one of the more celebrated exhibitions happening in San Francisco, and one that seems to suit the city well and capture its attention. As such, there has already been a lot written about it. In this article, I aim to provide a more personal view through my focus on geometry, architecture and the urban environment while still presenting the major themes of fashion, gender and playfulness from the show.
The exhibition is not a typical fashion retrospective, but rather a unified multimedia art installation and a creative work in its own right. As such, it is even “signed” by Gaultier.
The signature sets the tone for the playfulness and whimsy that permeates Gaultier’s designs and the overall exhibition. There is also a quality of otherworldliness to the pieces and the installation, nowhere more apparent than in the opening room, where beneath blue light the dressed mannequins are animated with eerily realistic video faces that talk and sing.
Simplicity does not seem to be part of Gaultier’s vocabulary. His creations are, to say the least, complex and intricate, even a bit overwhelming at first. But there are still things for those of us who focus on patterns and geometric forms in art, such as the simple flowing lines in the dresses in the image above, or his repeated use of the blue-and-white-striped sailor shirt in different guises.
[Photo by Maw Shein Win.]
The use of the traditionally masculine sailor theme in the above dress-and-hood combination is just one of the many examples throughout the exhibition where Gaultier plays with gender expectations. There are examples of traditionally feminine dress forms that have been recast for male bodies and somehow take on a masculine quality. Conversely, the stereotypical appearance of Hassidic men has been recast into a garment for women. In other cases, gender was more ambiguous. Even the piece that opens the show has an androgynous quality, at once graceful but also very slim and strong.
As in the above example, there was a very architectural quality to many of the pieces, with the interior girder structure visible. This was most apparent in a risqué garment composed of straps that included a long train as well as a geometric headdress. Technological and architectural inspiration was also apparent in some of his film-costume designs.
[Photo by Maw Shein Win.]
The city and the urban environment were major themes of the exhibition with one room titled “Urban Jungle” and arrayed with variety of haute couture in different styles and materials, set against a night-time skyline of San Francisco. My favorite, not surprisingly, was this cat-themed piece:
On closer inspection, one can see that the “cat print” is actually composed of countless beads, making it an incredible work of craftsmanship as well as a fun design.
The urban environment was also explored in a section that contrasted sleek and modern styles one might see in a high-end city boutique with fashion inspired by street art and the London punk scene.
The two fashions depicted above might seem far apart socially, but to me they work together. I could see the punk-inpired gold dress in a high-end store wonder, and would love to see the red-and-block outfit posed in front of graffiti.
One item that stood quite apart from the rest of the show, but was quite endearing and memorable, was the inclusion of Gaultier’s childhood teddy bear, perhaps his first model.
Overall it was a fun and well-executed exhibition, and quite creatively inspiring. Fashion has long been on the periphery of my artistic vision, but seeing it like this is in invitation to bring it more front and center.
[Photo by Maw Shein Win.]
The show will be on display at the de Young in San Francisco through August 19. I recommend checking it out if you can.