Why New Music Louisville: The Evolution of NuMuLu (part 1.5) – New Solo Cello Repertoire and Extended Techniques

So much music, so little time...
So much music, so little time...

So much music, so little time…

As I was looking for scores for my students who performed at the ISSMA Solo and Ensemble Contest this past Saturday, I came across a number of my collection of sheet music for new solo cello works. I’ve not looked through them until lately as I’ve started up my two lastest new music projects (The Mothership Ensemble and Camera Lucida). The photo above barely scratches the surface of what I’d collected in that last half of the 90s before transitioning into more Performance Art and Experimental Noise Music.

I know that I said I was going to go directly into part 2, but I think this short detour through 1.5 is warranted as I’ve been slowly coming back into doing this repertoire again.

During my senior year at the DePauw Music School, I actually performed my senior recital in the first semester.  The repertoire was pretty traditional–though I did include a number of early 20th century works on it (Webern’s Three Short Pieces for Cello and Piano, Hindemith’s Sonata for Solo Cello, and the sublime movement from Messaien’s Quartet for the End of Time “Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus”) in addition to the Beethoven and Schubert works I performed.

My plan was to do a “second senior recital” which would be a lecture/performance and I would focus on new music. That never happened as I was quickly getting burned out on the whole conservatory and traditional music scene. By then I was already exploring the more experimental side and often performing/premiering new pieces by student composers.  Also, my cello professor, Eric Edberg, was starting to get his cello students into improvisation which is an essential skill for any well rounded musician doing new music. I would often just spend a couple of hours improvising alone or with friends and we occasionally recorded those sessions.

Eric also started getting into looping and we’d sometimes go over to his house for cello studio parties and just play with the Jamman Looper he had. I seemed to take to it intuitively enough as this first attempt with any looper shows:

I would later spend a summer house-sitting for him and record dozens of hours worth of improvisations with the looper such as this one in which I explored microtones (yeah, I was heavily into Harry Partch at the time).

During this that early Chello Shed period, I performed a number of these solo cello works.  Sometimes this was within the context of presentations or lectures, such as Xenakis’ Nomos Alpha.

"Xenakis: The Structure of His Nomos Alpha" Lecture/Performance based on the Thomas DeLio's published analyses of the work.

“Xenakis: The Structure of His Nomos Alpha” Lecture/Performance based on the Thomas DeLio’s published analyses of the work.

Other times, these would simply be “recitals” where I’d often also include many of my own experimental compositions. In that two year period of Chello Shed events I probably performed a couple dozen pieces for solo cello, cello and electronics, or experimental cello pieces–including a good half dozen of my own.

Since I’ve come back to new music for solo cello in the past couple of years, I’d already spent nearly the past decade exploring a variety of other techniques and genres which incorporate the cello.  I’ve recently become very interested in repertoire that focuses on the cello and voice (and there are a fair number of works like this) since I’ve spent nearly all my time back at the cello regularly singing while playing the cello.  Repeat performances of “Wormhole:Caesura” (string trio and baritone) by Rachel Short (the other director of the Mothership Ensemble) had me singing the Baritone line while playing the cello due to vocalist issues after the premiere performance. I’ve also recently performed Joan LaBarbara’s “a trail of indeterminate light” which requires the cellist to sing while performing during one section.

A piece I’m looking forward to performing in the near future, as this year will mark the 75th birthday of Louis Andriessen, is “In Voce.”

I’ve been surprised (and pleased) at how quickly some of these skills have come back to me–and I remember how quickly it was to pick up and learn new repertoire–especially as you get immersed in it. And with my two current (and yet to be announced upcoming) new music projects I imagine I’ll be all over the map with new repertoire and tricks in the near future. It’s good to be back in this scene on my own terms and without the constraints of academia bogging me down.

Next post in this series will definitely be about the Indianapolis activities and the INDYtron festival and resource website and how that is the intermediary link to NuMuLu–I promise!

Why New Music Louisville: The Evolution of NuMuLu (part 1)

New Music Louisville - NuMuLu 
numulu.org

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve started a new organization that focuses on featuring and promoting new and experimental music in the Kentuckiana region. In that post I mentioned the Chello Shed which was a similar kind of initiative I started in late 1996  after I finished my degree in cello performance in Greencastle, Indiana. In my post about DePauw University School of Music’s 21st Century Music program I spent blogged in some detail about it.  As I said, it was

a brainchild of mine that was a concert/lecture series and alternative venue that I created in 1996. It’s been revived at various locations since many of the events took place in the various places I lived in Greencastle.  Sometimes other music students requested I do an event in their dorm room and often events would be “site-specific”–taking place around Greencastle or on DePauw’s campus.

Some of the presentations were more formal while others, like “The Packing Tree” (1997), was essentially a Flash Mob performance with audience participation. While I can’t claim to have done this several years before Bill Wassik’s first official flash mobs in Manhattan (and really, performance artists have been doing things like this for decades) it and some of the other impromptu performances I did or organized had a similar vibe.

One of the reasons I created the Chello Shed was educational–as much for me as for anyone who attended the events. I’d started it not long after the internet was becoming available in educational institutions primarily because I’d spent so much time reading (in traditional print media) about all the experimental activity that had been happening since the beginning of the twentieth century.

The net at the time didn’t have these resources as readily available (no ubuweb.com, for example) at the time and I’d also created some websites (via free hosting services like angelfire and geocities) dedicated to specific topics.  for example, my “Green Music Box, Even” was a site that was dedicated specifically to the music of Marcel Duchamp (such as his Erratum Musical from 1913) Here’s a mirror of the old geocities site main page. There had been several recordings released of Duchamp’s music, and I’d slowly accumulated articles and other written pieces about his music and I felt the world wide web would be a great way to disseminate info about it. Now, these works have become something of a repertoire pieces performed in various interpretations, such as this piano version by Stephane Ginsburgh:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYwrvHTgepY

I was just as interested in performing all these works I had learned about (as well as composing my own) so the Chello Shed served that purpose.  The first performance I did was actually in the woods behind Blackstock Stadium on October 5, 1996.

Program for the first Chell Shed event in 1996 October 5
Program for the first Chello Shed event in 1996 October 5

The program included Raoul Hausmann‘s short phonetic poem “fmsbvtzu pgff kwie” (1919); La Monte Young‘s “X for Hentry Flint” (1960) which I performed on the frying pan; La Monte Young’s “Composition 1960 #5 (1960); Emmet Williams‘ “Voice Piece for La Monte Young” (1962); and two movements from Kurt Schwitter‘s epic 40 minute long phonetic poem, the “Ursonate” (1922-1932)–which was originally based on the Hausmann poem above.

Here’s an excerpt from the first movement of the Ursonate (below) and here’s the score with streaming audio excerpts to all four movements.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6X7E2i0KMqM

The second performance (October 26) after I attended a four day Symposium “Performance Art, Culture and Pedagogy” at Penn State (read a report about it by my late friend, Lisa Wolford, at the Theatre Topics Journal).  By that point I would be performing my first experimental performance art pieces (“Something or Other” and “Five Aphorisms of an imagined wise man”) in the vein of the early Dada, Futurists, and later Fluxus artists.

The third Chello Shed event was a reading of John Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing” followed by a discussion.  I would eventually read several of Cage’s “Lectures” as well as perform several of his works at the Chello Shed.

http://vimeo.com/65158507

Occasionally I did delve into non-arts related presentations but for the most part during that one and a half year period from 1996-1997 the Chello Shed had presented well over a hundred performances, presentations, and discussions. I had the opportunity to perform several dozens of my own and others’ experimental works which spanned genres like the Fluxus Event Scores, Phonetic Poetry, Text-Sound-Art, Performance Art, Experimental Theater, Electro-acoustic and acoustic compositions.

I’m in the process if finding the old programs and flyers from those activities and have started listing them in a note at the Chello Shed facebook page here. As you can see, the NuMuLu thing is really just a continuation of something I’d been doing nearly 20 years ago (I still can’t believe it’s been that long) and now that I’ve settled back into the Kentuckiana region, I might as well do it here.  In part II of this, I’ll talk about the Indianapolis activities and the INDYtron festival and resource website and how that is the intermediary link to NuMuLu.

Creating Sustainability as an Entrepreneurial Musician

Jon Silpayamanant as a Klingon Cellist at the Joliet Public Library Annual Star Wars Day in the Chicago-land area.

Jon Silpayamanant as a Klingon Cellist at the Joliet Public Library Annual Star Wars Day in the Chicago-land area.

“An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious – just dead wrong.”
~ Russell Baker

I’ve been blogging about the economics of large scale organizations a lot lately and must confess that it’s related to research I’ve been doing with my wife in the service of figuring out how and why things work in the field(s) of performance.  One of our future goals is to have a side business consulting for performers and we believe that understanding what works and what doesn’t work is going to be far more useful than just accepting untested or unquestioned received wisdom.

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Action Painting, Performance Art and Music

Jon Silpayamanant as Noiseman433 and DJ Leprakon doing a collaborative experimental noise and action painting performance at Va Va Vegas Burlesque show in Louisville, Kentucky at the Art Sanctuary (June 18, 2010)

A recent post by Eric Edberg, Painting to Music, reminded me of some of my past experiences in this interesting collaborative genre.  I mentioned a performance painting done by David Garibaldi (which I didn’t get to see, sadly) at DePauw while I was in school at his blog. A brief warning before scrolling down to some of the video documentaries as these are probably not safe for work (NSFW).

Here’s a video similar to what was described to me by a friend who did happen to see the performance:

I think that live painting (in performance) can be traced at least as far back as the 50s and 60s (maybe earlier, but I haven’t really researched this much and am just going on my general knowledge of the modern arts scene).  Jackson Pollock, who wasn’t necessarily a performer in the sense that David Garibaldi is, might possibly considered the first.

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the perils of having too many bands…

Last night I was meeting and rehearsing with my Central Asian music and dance project, Raks Makam, and tonight I get to meet and rehearse with my String Quartet.  The previous night (Tuesday) I rehearsed with the IUS Orchestra which, as I said I do in alternation with the Klezmer group, The River City Klezmer Band, every Tuesday.  Tomorrow night I meet with my Arabic band, Ahel El Nagam, and the bellydancers we’re playing for this Sunday to run through things.

Around this time last year I first started playing with the Klezmer group and my Balkan band, Kermes (now on hiatus) as well as intermittently with the IUS Orchestra.  I started a new project with Celeste–a “Vintage Experimental Goth Music and Dance duo” called Secondhand.  Raks Makam had been on hiatus for a bit since Taletha, my then partner, relocated to Colorado but is not back into the full swing of things with new collaborative partners.

My solo experimental noise act, Noiseman433, which had been on hiatus four a few years, was resurrected last year for a show opening for The Enigma last year and has been performing pretty regularly since.  Reminds me that I have to update the website!

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