Experimental Cellos and Cellists

Charlotte Moorman playing Nam June Paik's TV Cello
Charlotte Moorman playing Nam June Paik's TV Cello

Some time ago I had started a community on livejournal (back in January of 2003) called “Avantcello.”  It was a space for folks interested in non-standard cello practice to post their interest or work.  I had given a number talks on Experimental cellos and cellists over the years up till that point and wanted to have some place to connect with folks who were interested since I wasn’t really finding any sort of community at the Internet Cello Society forums interested in this kind of thing.

Back in the mid to late 90s I was really experimenting a lot with cello.  I was heavily into improvisation and started performing my own house concert series doing works by some of the “Academic Avant-Garde” composers and Fluxus artists as well as getting into electronics and amplification.  I pretty much quit playing [the cello] by 1997 and got involved with the non-academic Experimental and Noise Music scene.

I toured around a bit and did a number of Performance Art shows (another interest I had at the time) as well as multi-media performances involving Experimental video that I was starting to do. In the end, some of that was becoming unsatisfying as well though I enjoyed the journey.  The cello was starting to call me back.

By mid [May] 2003, I had begun playing the cello again regularly after the hiatus (I had performed on the cello less than a handful of times in those years since the end of 1996 to 2003).   And ironically it was an ad hoc collaboration I did for an Experimental music show in Indianapolis with an experimental turntablist I had met through that music community who was based out of Muncie, Indiana and who called himself (onstage) Bobby Vomit.

I was organizing a show for a touring Experimental music group from Texas, Rotten Piece, who were planning on bringing a Saxophonist from Nashville to do one of their side-projects the Glass Snake Lizards.  That side project consisted of clarinet and saxophone improvising while being heavily manipulated in real time with electronics.  I figured, I had electronics and an instrument, I should do something with Nate [Bobby Vomit].

And that was how T.E.C. (Turntables, Electronics and Cello) was born.  Here’s an excerpt of one of our performances at the Bloomington Playwright’s Project in Bloomington, Indiana from 20 November 2003:

The whole set for that performance can be viewed here.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve recently been asked to perform at a Louisville Avant-Garde Music concert series so I’m looking forward to breaking out the electronics/cello again.  I just returned to doing my solo Noise project last summer for some events so maybe it’s time I made a return to some of the more exploratory creative work I had been doing as well as posting some things about what I’d discovered or will be discovering in the world of experimental cellos and cellists.

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