Tape Music Festival 2013: Parmegiani

'Futuristic' Parmegiani album art c.1970
Cover of Parmegiani’s album, L’œil écoute/Dedans-Dehors. Futuristic in a 1970 way. Source: Bowlegs Music.

This year’s San Francisco Tape Music Festival will include an evening-long celebration of acousmatic composer Bernard Parmegiani. The festival runs Jan. 25-27 at ODC Theater (3153 17th St., San Francisco).

Acousmatic” is a word I learned just this week, and it seems to be a more accurate (but less fun) description of “tape music.” Either way, the concept is: sounds that are set down in recorded form and meant to be performed by playing the recording.

But it’s not like playing a record at home. The performance involves 16 or more speakers situated around the room, usually played in the dark to heighten the auditory experience. The sounds scatter about you with remarkable clarity — bells, liquids and thunders dancing about the room. Cinema for the ears, as they say. (See the Bruno Ruvario review, the 2012 Tape Music Festival review, and notes about the festival from 2012 and 2009.)

Here’s what else is happening during the festival:

  • Recent pieces by Bay Area composers including Pamela Z (a 2008 piece called “Spangled”) and sfSound’s Matt Ingalls
  • “Classic” works by folks like Luciano Berio (from 1961) and Hugh Le Caine (from 1955)
  • A new realization of John Cage’s “Williams Mix,” which also got presented last year. The piece instructs the “performer” to record various urban sounds, so it’s a completely different piece every time.
  • A 1980 piece by Jonathan Harvey, who passed away in December.

Given that last bit, it’s nice to note that Parmegiani is still alive at age 85. His evening of the Festival — Sunday, Jan. 27 — will feature pieces from the ’60s and one from 2004, followed by the 45-minute “De Natura Sonotorum,” created in 1975.

Parmegiani studied under one of the pioneers of this music, Pierre Schaeffer, and he’s considered a huge influence in the acousmatic music world. He was around when these sounds were just being pioneered, and his career has been voluminous. (If you’re curious and have some coin to spare, there’s a 12-CD collection of his work available on eMusic.)

Of course, there are study materials lying around the Web as well, albeit of YouTube audio fidelity.

Here’s a full reading of “De Natura Sonotorum:”

A small piece of “De Natura Sonotorum:”

A neat piece called dance, based on one sound source (voice):

Nels Cline Is Sold Out at Duende

DSCN0944AAt no point did it occur to me that all four Nels Cline Singers shows at Duende would be sold out, but they are.

A couple dozen tickets are being released each night, so you can still see them through Saturday. Just hang around the bodega (coffee/wine bar) part of the restaurant a couple hours before the 9:00 p.m. show. (That recommendation comes from the Duende Facebook page.)

Each show includes one set of the Singers trio and one set with a special guest added — Ben Goldberg (clarinet) on Friday and Zeena Parkins (electric harp) on Saturday, if I recall correctly.

Music at Duende is held in an upstairs loft with wood paneling. Sound does travel between the stage and the restaurant. In the case of the well amplified Nels Cline Singers, this wasn’t a problem. What the restaurant patrons thought, I don’t know, but there’s a good chance they barely noticed the music over the natural buzz of the place. It was really crowded.

I saw Wednesday night’s opening show, and it was good. Great vibe, with an audience psyched about not only the music but the venue. This isn’t the first music Duende has hosted (Patrick Cress’ Telepathy had been there the night before, according to the schedule) but the four-night residency had a Grand Opening feel.

The show started off with gentle Nels, playing “Lullabye for Ian,” but that eventually merged into a louder, electronics-laden zone, where the folks who’d come to see Nels shred madly got satisfied. Nels at one point drew up a sample of their playing that also included a drumbeat, and he looped it for a kind of auto-rock beat. They had a lot of fun with that.

Trevor Dunn on bass stayed mostly in the background, although he did get some nice melodic solos on “You Noticed” and “Blues, Too” — both jazzy songs, with Dunn soloing during quieter times. Scott Amendola on drums was in full rock mode for much of the set, pounding away happily. (I did hear one person complain he’d overdone it.)

As for the food, it’s pricey, but of course you’re paying for the experience, including snappy decor, unknown cooking ingredients from Spain, and a wine list of obscure bottles with random-adjective descriptions (not that music reviewing gets any less abstract). I stayed on the bodega side and ordered a small plate and some wine from the cashier; both were good, and so was the lemon ice-cream sandwich that I got on the way out. It was a treat. I’m looking forward to going back.