The Festival will present four other full sets of music across three evenings, including an 11:00 p.m. set on Saturday. But Sunday, Jan. 8, will be a retrospective of Oliveros’ tape-music works.
The Tape Music Festival presents what we nowadays call electronic music — experimental and computerized stuff, but pre-recorded rather than performed live. Back in the 1950s, this stuff would be presented by playing reel-to-reel tapes, hence the festival’s name.
What sets the SF festival apart is that the music is played in the dark and the sound setup surrounds the audience with speakers. So it’s better than sitting at home tracking down these pieces on YouTube — and it would also be a nice shared experience as a way to commemorate Oliveros’ life and career.
Here’s the program for Sunday night:
Time Perspectives (1961)
Bye Bye Butterfly (1965)
Rock Symphony (excerpted) (1965)
Big Mother Is Watching You (1966)
Alien Bog (1967)
Lion’s Tale (excerpted) (1989)
Sayonara Sirenade 20/21 (2000)
There will be another Oliveros celebration on Friday, Jan. 27, this time at the Uptown Nightclub (1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland). That could be interesting, because it will pit Oliveros’ quiet aesthetic against a bar atmosphere. The Uptown has hosted creative music for years, so they must have an inkling what they’re getting into. It’s a pleasant surprise to see them give a Friday night to this kind of music.
For the dedicated fan, Important Records packaged 12 CDs’ worth of Oliveros’ early electronic works. It’s available in physical and digital forms.
Most of the shows are at the Brava Theater Center (2781 24th Street, San Francisco). Check the full schedule for more details.
Thursday, Sept. 8: The kickoff show, held at the Exploratorium, will feature Gen Ken Montgomery performing a Cassette CONcert, an idea developed by the late German musician Conrad Schnitzler beginning in the late ’60s. It’s an intriguing spin on the idea of tape music, the preconfigured electronic-music pieces that became an art form in the ’50s. In this case, Schnitzler provides a series of tapes, and it’s up to the musician which ones to play and when.
This means the concert can take variable form and length (Montgomery reports of one concert that lasted 50 hours). It’s a very Cageian idea, this reconfigurable composing; it also makes me think of Pierre Boulez’s Domaines, the modular piece performed by sfSound in July.
Friday, Sept. 9: This show includes composer Maja S.K. Ratkje, the Norweigan noise artist who also travels in classical-music circles. Her recently released Crepuscular Hour, a piece that includes three choirs, noise musicians, and a church organ, “seeps through the liminal cracks between light and dark, the spiritual gloaming during which living bodies and minds change their patterns of behaviour,” as The Quietus describes it. Performance photos on Ratkje’s website are stunning.
Saturday, Sept. 10, 4:00 p.m.: There’s a Saturday evening show at Brava, which will include local violin-and-electronics artist Thea Farhadian. In the afternoon, though, there’s a tribute to Contrad Schnitzler happening in the Brava neighborhood. Gen Ken Montgomery will host a “participatory” Cassette CONcert, where you’re welcome to bring a cassette deck and become part of the performance. Elsewhere, there’s going to be a small exhibition of Schnitzler’s archives.
These are happening at Explorist International and Adobe Books — 3174 and 3130 24th St., respectively. I don’t know which event is at which location, but Adobe Books has hosted small concerts in the past, so it might be the CONcert venue.
Not to sell Farhadian short. She has a new album coming out on Creative Sources in November and is a KZSU Day of Noise alum. Here’s a sample:
Sunday, Sept. 11: The SMEMF guest likely to draw the most attention is an East Bay native: Daveed Diggs, performing with the L.A. rap trio clipping. (the period is part of the name). Diggs is better known for less experimental work, being one of the original stars of the Hamilton musical. As the Marquis de Lafayette, he performs some impossibly fast raps in a French accent. With clipping., the speed and energy are there, but in a darker vein — a sinister vibe with lots of F-words and some sharp political messages.
The connection to SFEMF is that the backing music consists of spare, noise-based electronic rhythms — which, for me, is a refreshing change from rap’s usual course of mindless nostalgia samples and weak elementary jazz riffs. For rap fans, it’s a different sound — and for SFEMF, it’s a very experimental turn and a bit of a risk.
Being a jazz DJ, I would often pay tribute to musicians who had recently passed away. And I would remark on how these artists should be getting this attention while they’re alive, not only so they can appreciate being appreciated, but also to spread the word about a spark still glowing and, in many cases, still creating.
I can’t say I’m a student of Parmegiani’s work, and I didn’t manage to attend his tribute concert. But I’m feeling a strange sense of contentment over the fact that someone gave him a spotlight while he was still around to bask in it, even if only in spirit.
You can sample Parmegiani’s work on YouTube, of course. I embedded a few videos in a previous post.
“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):
Bruno Ruviaro demonstrated some nifty ideas around electroacoustic music and voice performance Friday night, and he also got to show off the Laptop Ensemble that’s going to be the seed for Santa Clara University’s first Laptop Orchestra.
University events can be nice. You get a plush, acoustically pleasing theater and an appreciative crowd — in this case about 70 people including Ruviaro’s students, fellow SCU faculty, and other colleagues, and some curiosity seekers like me.
Two pieces used the stage theatrically, with physical movement adding a dimension of storytelling to the music. “Clippings” started with flautist Rachael Beetz and soprano Jessica Aszodi seated on opposite sides of the stage, backs to one another. Aszodi played a wine glass and made small, almost flute-like whining sounds that Beetz responded to, a blind conversation. (That movement was even called “Whine.”)
Then Beetz went upstage and Aszodi downstage, still with their backs to each other, for a second movement of rapid-fire monologuing by Aszodi, a phonetic jungle gym that reminded me of Finnegan’s Wake. The final movement had them on opposite sides of the stage again, this time slightly facing one another. The whole effect was like minimalist experimental theater.
Later, Aszodi took to the stage alone for a piece titled “Unspell,” vocalizing against the electronics Ruviaro triggered from the soundboard in the middle of the auditorium. Aszodi rapid-fired through passages of French, English, and possibly something in between, running a gamut of emotions from contented bliss to jilted anger. She’s an accomplished opera performer with a lot of stage presence and a wide range of emoting — her facial expressions alone told the story.
The text itself, inspired by a Roland Barthes book, mostly concerned the narrator waiting for a lover, at different times either voluntarily or by order, and it included the classic scenario of not daring to use the telephone in case the lover should try to call. The electronics lingered in back, setting moods including a rabid buzz, or a series of joyous, bouncing notes, like metallic balloons being released.
Aszodi spent most of “Unspell” standing front-and-center on the bare stage, then sat at the edge of the stage for the conclusion, reading off of a music stand placed there. It was a clever way to end with more of a tête-à-tête setting.
The six-person laptop ensemble involved Ruviaro conducting the players through cues while leaving them options for their playing — varying different types of waveforms. Each laptop got its own speaker, so that your ears could tie a location to each player, just as with acoustic instruments. That came into play early, as the piece, “Intellectual Improperty 0.6,” started with a continual buzz that turned out to be ratchety clicking coming from each laptop. The nature of the sound became apparent as players dropped out or moved to the next phase, reducing the sum-of-parts to some discernible components. It was a nice effect.
The second half of the piece was dominated by recognizable piano sounds, some sampled from Beethoven’s “Diabelli Variations.” (I’ve mentioned that piece before, in a surprisingly similar context.) It started with high plinks invading the sound one by one, eventually descending into a big rumbling thunder, the evolving back into recognizable piano sounds near the ending.
Laptop music does have that “people checking e-mail” quality, which Ruviaro joked about in the program notes, but this was an enjoyable piece. Being closer to the stage, to better hear the sound separation between players, might have been interesting.
Ruviaro also performed two prerecorded electroacoustic pieces, with speakers around the auditorium playing the sounds in the dark, just like at the San Francisco Tape Music Festival (coming up Jan. 25-27, 2013.)
“Fonepoemas,” which opened the concert, was apparently sampled from different vocalizations of the name “Tania.” I completely did not pick up on that; I was enjoying the sci-fi insect chatter of it all.
The other piece, “Study on Japanese Themes,” was not the zen stillness I expected. In fact, it was lively and driving. I liked it a lot. It drew from sounds by composers Ryoji Ikeda and Keiichiro Shibuya, combining hundreds of tiny bits of sound through a technique called concatenative synthesis.
Overall, a very enjoyable faculty concert, even though I felt sorry to miss the Jay Korber benefit in Berkeley.
Ruviaro isn’t done, of course. In the spring quarter, he’ll offer a class whose members will become the SCU Laptop Orchestra, and they’ll play a concert on the afternoon of Thursday, June 6.