Outsound: Vibration Hackers

August 24, 2013 at 1:41 pm 1 comment

#MAX, up close. Photo by Peter B. Kaars

#MAX, up close. Photo by Peter B. Kaars

It’s hard writing a concert review weeks after the fact, and admittedly harder when you’re talking about electronic music — a genre that poses inherent problems of language. The music lends itself to some obvious descriptors (“swampy,” “crinkling,” “droney”) but it’s hard to resist calling everything “metallic” and “abstract.”

That said, I did enjoy “Vibration Hackers,” the computer-music night at last month’s Outsound New Music Summit. Three real-time ensemble performances were interspersed with two fixed-media performances — “tape music” pieces — all with some organic sounds mixing with the inorganic.

As with the SF Tape Music Festival, speakers were installed all around the Community Music Center. The Center’s cozy size made it a little difficult to get the full surroundsound effect, as the speakers closest to me dominated the sound. I could have fixed that by moving to a more central spot, but the house was pretty full, and I was content not to move. It was still a good listening experience.

One advantage to this type of music is that the performers don’t need to be on stage. So, in a nod to the “guys checking email” aspect of laptop concerts, the fixed-media performers — Fernando Lopez-Lezcano and Ilya Rostovtsev — worked from a console in the middle of the audience. And the opening act, #MAX, played from the balcony area that’s behind the audience.

The highlight for me was the more-than-duet of Ritwik Banerjee, Joe Lasqo, and their music software agents, Maxine and Maxxareddu — all accompanied by trippy, kaleidoscope-infused visuals by Warren Stringer. They didn’t have Maxine and Maxxareddu play unaccompanied, something I was kind of hoping would happen, but that was fine — the quartets with Banerjee’s sax, Lasquo’s piano, and the two machines created a sublimely bustling collision of sounds.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest.

Cables! The setup for an electronic-music show is more involved than for a string quartet.

Cables! The setup for an electronic-music show is more involved than for a string quartet.

#MAX prepares on the balcony at the back of the house.

#MAX prepares on the balcony at the back of the house.

#MAX's visuals included a changing screenshot of text. The curtain distorted it into a babble of language, matching the performance's tangle of speech and sound.

#MAX’s visuals included a changing screenshot of text. The curtain distorted it into a babble of language, matching the performance’s tangle of speech and sound.

The console where the solo performers -- Lopez-Lezcano and Rostovtsev -- would perform. Neither Peter Kaars nor I seems to have gotten a good shot of Rostovtsev, sorry!

The console where the solo performers — Lopez-Lezcano and Rostovtsev — would perform.

Lopez-Lezcano at work. I thought he made good use of the multiple speakers, creating an immersive piece. Rostovtsev's sounds were less subtle but quite pleasing: deep basses, rattling bones, and monumental bells. Neither Peter Kaars nor I seems to have gotten a good shot of Rostovtsev, sorry!)

Lopez-Lezcano at work. I thought he made good use of the multiple speakers, creating an immersive piece. Rostovtsev’s sounds were less subtle but quite pleasing: deep basses, rattling bones, and monumental bells. Neither Peter Kaars nor I seems to have gotten a good shot of Rostovtsev, sorry!)

Lasqo and Banerjee opened their performance by playing the Cornell video clip that inspired them.

Lasqo and Banerjee opened their performance by playing the Cornell video clip that inspired them.

Banerjee, with Warren Stringer's visuals.

Banerjee, with Warren Stringer’s visuals. Maxine played hornnotes of her own, creating a virtual dual-sax front.

A shot that includes Banerjee actually playing the saxophone, in case you were wondering.

A shot that includes Banerjee actually playing the saxophone, in case you were wondering.

CCRMA Ensemble, setting up.

CCRMA Ensemble, setting up. Chris Chafe on celletto.

The horizontal plank is a daxophone: carved, polished wood that resonates when bowed or rubbed. More about that here.

The horizontal plank is a daxophone: carved, polished wood that resonates when bowed or rubbed. More about that here. The musician is John Granzow. Photo by Peter B. Kaars.

CCRMA Ensemble's performance included a theremin-like instrument triggered by proximity. It's on the table and being conducted by Roberto Morales-Manzanares (white shirt), who also played flute.

CCRMA Ensemble’s performance included a theremin-like instrument triggered by proximity. It’s on the table and being conducted by Roberto Morales-Manzanares (white shirt), who also played flute. Rob Hamilton on guitar.

Entry filed under: Bay Area music, shows (past). Tags: , .

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