Computers, flutes and music…

It’s been so long since I’ve had a chance to hear electronic music.  About six years ago (has it really been six years?!?) I wouldn’t have been able to not experience it regularly but last night’s Computer music recital was an interesting trip down memory lane.

The recital featured guest flautist and composer, Lisa Bost, who played marvelously.  Great stage presence and spot on technique coupled with a fearlessness in her confidence in performing the demanding compositions.  Lisa alternated between flute, alto flute, piccolo, and bass flute for the three compositions and end improv with the composers–I was particularly pleasantly surprised with the Bass flute as I had never heard, much less seen, one live before.  She pulled off the extended techniques without flinching and with a very natural drama that just comes with good performers that are comfortable onstage.

Unfortunately I arrived a bit late so didn’t get to hear the whole concert, but the program was as follows (at the Bird Recital Hall on the UofL campus):

Reperametrization 1 for flute and electronics by Ryan Ingebritsen (Lisa Bost, flute; Ryan Ingebritsen, live electronics)

Out of Hand for trumpet, trombone and live electronics by John Gibson (Michael Tunnel, trumpet; Brett Shuster, trombone; John Gibson, live electronics)

Arguro for flute(s) and live electronics by Krzysztof Wolek (Lisa Bost, flutes; Krzysztof Wolek, live electronics)

Lines for video by Stephanie Loveless

carry stress in the jaw for bass flute and live electronics by John Ritz (Lisa Bost, bass flute; John Ritz, live electronics)

Collective Improvisation (Lisa Bost, flutes; Krzystof Wolek, computer; Ryan Ingebritsen, computer; John Ritz, computer)

As I was late, I didn’t get to hear the first piece by Ryan at all–which is a shame as I really enjoyed waht he was doing during the collective improv at the end.  I only managed to hear John Gibson’s “Out of Hand” from outside the recital door as i hadn’t gotten there early enough, but from what i could tell, it was something i would have found very interesting though I have no idea how much of a role the composer had with the live electronics component.

Fortunately, I was able to enter the recital hall and get situated before Krzysztof’s piece which was a very subtle one.  Most of the flute parts were longer sustained notes or trills than in, say, John Ritz’s piece later so most of the processing built on that.  very much a process composition with a sea of sounds constantly splashing around and swelling and ebbing like tides.  Lisa switched (if I’m not mistaken) from alto flute, to flute, to piccolo for three distinguishable sections (whether or not it is actually scored to be distinguishable is another matter all-together) and I wasn’t entirely sold on the section with the piccolo.  Which probably has little if next to nothing to do with Lisa’s ability to play it, or Krzysztof’s ability to write (and process the sound) for it as it’s just not an instrument I’ve every really cared for.  I just don’t particularly like the timbre all that much and neither the performer or composer could do much with it to change my mind–hah!

John Ritz’s work was almost minimal in comparison.  Tiny blips and bleeps here and there (almost literally as he was taking advantage of the multiple speakers/channels in the recital hall to nice effect).  His live processing was almost understated, which really contrasted with how percussive and short the bursts of sound Lisa was getting with the flute.  more often than not Lisa was using her mouth/voice to create effects.  There were two (I think only two) sections where the score required Lisa (I’m assuming it was scored that way) to pull off the mouthpiece and just use it to generate sound.  I didn’t find that particularly effective and it almost felt like a gimmick.  Also, given the time it took for her to pull the mouthpiece and put it back on–setting down the flute in between–tended to distract from the flow of the sound.  Not that that is a problem, as the work was already sparsely populated with bubbles of noise as it was–but it did seem to have its own kinda of flow, and those breaks with the mouthpiece really completely lost the flow of the piece (for me).

What really stood out, to me, was the Collective Improvisation at the end–and actually, John Ritz’s piece didn’t so much end as it morphed into the improv as Ryan and Krzysztof joined in gradually (though noticeably as he had to walk onto the stage to his rig).  I talked to Ryan after the performance and he remarked how fun the improv was because there were times he couldn’t tell who was doing what during that portion.  Something that my collaborative partner in T.E.C. (Turntables, Electronics, and Cello) used to always say and marvel at when we’d do performances (see vid clip below).

Live T.E.C. performance at the Bloomington Playwright’s Project in Bloomington, IN (2003 November 20)

It was during the sea of sound at the end that things really shined! Even after hearing what little bit of each composer’s works I did during the recital (minus Ryan’s) it was relatively easy to tell who was making what body of sound–if not the tiny details. And sometimes just having a visual connection between seeing one of the performers turn a knob or raise a slider or step on a pedal the audience is in a bit of a privileged position to make those connections if it needs to. The performer can’t always do that with electronics in a collaborative setting like this.

I almost wished it would have lasted for hours–but they ended it precisely where it needed to be ended attesting to their musical sensitivity.

What I wasn’t expecting, since it’s been years since I’ve been to events like these, was Stephanie Loveless’s video, “Lines.” As the program describes it:

Hand-processed Super-8 images and a piano phrase are stretched, repeated and abstracted by processes of re-photography, re-phonography, and digital manipulation.

It was a pleasant surprise even if I wasn’t particularly impressed with the piece. Not that it was bad–far from it, it was well constructed but I was expecting it to be a little more abstracted and was disappointed that the imagery was almost immediately recognizable (which may have been intentional anyway). The soundtrack worked much better for me than the actual video. But that’s probably another artifact of my experiences since I used to do a lot of experimental video work and live multi-media performances and performance art works using my own videos as components in the staging (see video clip below).

Live solo Performance Art show by Jon Silpayamanant at the Emison Art Gallery in Greencastle, IN (2002 February 28)

As for its inclusion in the program–it worked perfectly as a ‘pause’ piece to break up what would have otherwise have been five electro-acoustic performances in a row. A very nice touch for what could have been an overload of electro-acoustic music compositions.

As I said, this brought back many memories.  I can’t even count the number of shows I’ve done with T.E.C. and as Noiseman433 (see clip below) and how many hundreds of experimental musicians and musicians doing work with electronics I’ve seen over the years, but one thing this concert did was really make me itch to do some of those things again.  And with that, i leave you folks with this noise set I did in Newport, KY several years ago.  Enjoy!

Jon Silpayamanant as Noiseman433 performing at the Southgate House in Newport, KY (28 March, 2003)

*note–for those of you who are reading this via the import to facebook, I’m not sure if the videos will even show.  If not, then please feel free to go to the original post at the following link:


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