Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Two Upcoming Concerts: May 4th and 24th

For fans of my compositions: I’ll be doing a concert in May and appearing at the Seattle Composers’ Salon. Both of these are at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford (Seattle). I will also play in another upcoming concert at Woodland Park Presbyterian Church (also in Seattle) sometime in September – more on that one in upcoming postings, though I know at this point that Wayne Lovegrove (guitar) will also be playing his original compositions too.

First, the Seattle Composers’ Salon, on May 4th (Fri.). This is “an informal presentation of new music by regional composers. The salon meets the first Friday of every other month, and features finished works, previews, and works-in-progress. It brings together composers, performers and audience members in a casual concert setting that allows for discussion and experimentation.” At this particular Salon, I’ll be presenting a selection from my extended piano piece “Ukiyo-e” (the name refers, technically, to various types of Japanese art, though it’s used mostly to mean woodblock prints). OR, a trio of Bruce Greeley (bass clarinet), Natalie Mai Hall (‘cello), and Mike Sentkewitz (string bass) will present an excerpt of my new (right now, unfinished) piece “SoundScrolls VII”. In either case, there will be a discussion of the music; and, of course, three other composers: Ann Cummings, Emily Doolittle, and Yvonne Hoar.

The Salon performance is mostly to promote the longer concert on May 24 (Thurs.). This will be three of my roughly half-hour pieces: “SoundScrolls VII” (with the above-mentioned trio); “Four Places on Planet Earth” (with Keith Eisenbrey and Matt Kocmierowski, percussion and found objects); and “Ukiyo-e”. It should be a good, if somewhat sparse, concert; all three of these pieces encourage the creation of silence (though in the case of “Four Places”, the “silence” is that of prerecorded ambient nature sounds and gongs).

Both concerts start at 8:00. Both are at the Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Seattle.
Be there or be an equilateral quadrangular parallelogram…!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Video/Sound Installation Review: CARTASONIC – Jack Straw Studios, Seattle

"CARTASONIC combines field recording, projection, and montage to convey the layered architectural history of Civita di Bagnoregio, a remote Italian hill town."

Having heard some of Perry Lunch’s work as a member of the Seattle Phonographers’ Union, I decided to have a look at the installation she put together with Lara Swimmer and Robert Zimmer, at Jack Straw Productions.

images projected onto the walls
shades of grey
one is always on the left wall
bells peal when it appears – a churchlike building under construction
other wall; small images fade in: a door, a brick wall, an enigmatic space
slowly missing bits appear, fit together, puzzle pieces
a façade
above the doors, pictures of walls are at a different angle
voices mumble, cough, pray, recite
mysterious place
where is it, exactly?
images disappear, leaving a white line or a void

This is both an art piece (not exactly a video installation) and a musique concrète composition. The images are projected (one of them is associated with loud bells ringing) while the recorded sounds shuffle in and out of reality – mostly voices in addition to the bells, and an occasional birdcall. The effect gives the impression of a historical documentary, though without narration. The pictures are all of fronts or sides of buildings in the remote Italian hill town, though their exact juxtaposition may or may not have anything to do with their layout in the “real” town. In the end it is up to the museum-goer to decide exactly what this documentary is about, and whether this is a real or imagined location.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Concert Review: Clifford Dunn & Anne Le Berge, with guests – Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center, Seattle, 4/6/2012

"Improvisations and compositions by Clifford Dunn, flute and electronics; Anne LaBerge, flute; Lisa Miller, piano; Tom Baker, guitar and Jessika Kenney, voice." - From Wayward Music Seattle

I missed the beginning of this concert due to a scheduling conflict. When I got there, about a half-hour after the beginning, Clifford Dunn (who also did a great performance in my “StormSound” concert last year) was playing the flute in an electronic environment created on his laptop.

Electronic “environments” seem to be a promising trend in experimental music and improvisation. I first encountered them on a CD of selected works of Pierre Boulez; there, amid the more-or-less classical ensembles, was a piece (“Dialogue de l'ombre double”) for clarinet and electronic environment. The clarinet part was not improvised, but a complex serialist composition with possible “detours” and alternate versions. The electronic sound “listened in” and reacted according to what the clarinet was doing. Fascinating. I’ve heard another recording of the same piece since then, and it’s as similar as two versions of the same jazz number would be (not as similar as two version of a standard classical piece), but at the same time, it seems completely different…

Obviously, such interactive “environments” work well for improvisation. In Mr. Dunn’s piece, the electronics processed the flute and returned it in various guises, some flutelike and some more percussive; some looped and some more linear. There were also prerecorded voices (usually not intelligible) that came and went without rhythm – a possible opposite of hip-hop vocals. Unfortunately I can’t comment more on the piece since I walked in partway through and I don’t really have a sense of how it developed or where it came from.

The next two pieces were by Anne La Berge, a guest flutist from Amsterdam. These were, again, for flute(s) plus interactive electronic environments. The first, for two flutes (Ms. La Berge plus Mr. Dunn) was a fragment of a memoir by Madame Curie, and included dissonances to create a tragic mood amid the sounds of triumph and obsession. As Ms. La Berge commented before playing, “scientists, like artists, are often in love with their work even though it’s killing them…”

“…And now for “Grunt Count”. This is a bit of fancy computer programming by English composer Martin Parker, and it can be very loud. So, if I see any of you with your hands over your ears, I’ll consider it a positive comment.” Ms. La Berge began her second piece, a tour-de-force “solo” that stretched the boundaries between music and noise, delicate beauty and fearsome, overwhelming ugliness. A description of the piece offers an intellectual analysis; however, this does not include the stage presence of Ms. La Berge – her performance was also a dance, using the microphone as an instrument to modify and stretch the sound of the flute. Quick motions brought the flute only millimeters away from the microphone (and the sound was correspondingly earsplitting); at other times she played several feet away from the mic, as if it wasn’t even there; delicate flute stylings amid numberless other sounds. Quite a piece!

The second half of the show was given over to one long improvisation, with both Clifford Dunn and Anne La Berge, and guests Eyvand Kang, violin, Lisa Miller, piano, Tom Baker, guitar and theremin, and Jessika Kenney, voice. This “band” produced one of the most atmospheric, mysterious, and luminous improvisations I’ve heard in a long time. It was difficult to distinguish the instruments (the flutes were, again, processed), as it was difficult to distinguish between dissonances and resolves. The sound was continuous, but created the effect of silence, and, unlike some free improvisations that take more than a half-hour, it did not seem to ramble. The time passed quickly, and the piece ended refreshed. This was a perfect example of how free improvisation should be done.