April 5th Show

A menagerie of styles tonight, going from minimal electronic to low-fi acoustic to noise. I was especially pleased to play two tracks from artists who have sent me their work: asher, who pointed me to his composition “for c.”, available for download from term ; and Thanos Chrysakis, who recently sent me three CDs of his works; I played the most excellent track “Inscape 5” off of the album “Enchanted Mountains”, available online from Statisfield.

Thanks again for sending tracks my way; I have a lot that I’ve gotten recently, and it’s taking me some time to listen to them all.

(I apologize for cutting off the last track in the archive/podcast below; I’ve changed the recording settings to hopefully prevent this from happing in the future.)

  1. Repa’s clicking hands by Mecha Fixes Clocks. Orbiting with Screwdrivers. alien8 recordings.
  2. for c. by asher. two compositions. term.
  3. Standard Stoppage by Holland Hopson. With Hidden Noises. Grab Rare Arts Best.
  4. Boxes on Shores by Zelienople. Ink. Loose Thread Recordings.
  5. Oceans on Hold by Sickoakes. Seawards. Type.
  6. Simultanéité aérienne by Jean-Marc Vivenza. an anthology of noise and electronic music / fourth a-chronology 1937—2005. Sub Rosa.
  7. Inscape 5 by Thanos Chrysakis. Enchanted Mountains. Statisfield.


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Acoustics + Electronics || Okkyung Lee and Hahn Rowe at The Stone

I recently made a trip down to the great city of New York, the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn thereof. While my partner in exploration and experiences Christine has already given a fair bit of information (see the end of the entry for the current-post-relevant bits) about the trip, I wanted to write a bit myself regarding the concert at The Stone, John Zorn’s semi-new performance venue in the East Village.

I’m not sure when or where I read about this place, but it must have been sometime last fall or summer. I recall thinking that attendance at some show there was mandatory for my next NYC trip; a space led by Zorn and used for only the most interesting and intense in the modern avant-garde? A place where I could listen to the newest music without the distractions of loud inebriated folks? A definite treat/dream indeed. Added to this is the innovative means of programming. The Stone is run more like a time-based gallery, with different works of art each night. The shows are set-up by a different guest curator each month, an interesting if possibly-exclusionary and elitist means of selecting who gets to perform.

Christine and I were only in Manhattan for one evening, so that meant we had only one opportunity to hear a performance; no selection of artists here. But just looking over the lineup for March indicated the power of the sounds that have been heard in the space: Elliot Sharp playing Elliot Sharp; Christian Marclay doing his thing on turntables; Walter Thompson’s soundpainting, and so on. Amazing performers who, I would hazard a guess, had amazing performances in the space. On Friday night was the duo of Okkyung Lee and Hahn Rowe, and as we found out before the last piece of the night, had never performed together prior to that evening. So you could say that what we heard was less a performance and more of a jam; there were no stoppings during the pieces as you might expect from a true rehearsal, but the cohesiveness and togetherness of a performance was lacking as well.

The sounds that came forth were intriguing by themselves. Hahn Rowe on guitar, suite of stomp boxes, and laptop provided hesitant accompaniments to Lee’s improvised cello lines. Rowe seemed to be unsure of the power of his setup; plucks by hand or with a pick led to a variety of sounds, some of which were changed almost instantaneously by a stomp of his foot, too audibly given the size of the space and our proximity to the performer as an audience. I had a hard time understanding his reasons for choosing a particular filter or modification of the guitars sounds; not that I was looking for discrete, direct explanations, but rather an intuitive understanding of the connections between the sounds. Before the third piece of the four performed, the laptop part of the equation gave out, with Rowe continuing on the Fender amp hiding behind the curtain (always lying in wait?) Lee replied to this change of plans with “I dont mess with that stuff… that’s why I play cello [because it’s acoustic].”

Lee’s performance on cello showed her mastery of traditional technique, but extended into realms no traditional teacher would teach. All too often I see performers in avant-garde groups playing string instruments but lacking the abilities that only come with extensive practice of the etudes, scales, and bowing exercises that form the basis of study most of us hate as youngsters. Yet Lee took this to a level that, while undoubtedly not completely original, was original enough in the setting to be interesting and desirable. Her modus operandi seemed to be: choose a particularly interesting method of producing sound with the cello, using both the left and right hands, and explore a portion of the space of possibilities. This translated into, for example, extended glissandi along the length of the fingerboard, in varying speeds and amounts, reminiscent of the sweeping sounds of Xenakis. On another piece Lee held the bow near the bridge, in sul ponticello fashion, but proceeded to push with immense force and at a set of angles, all designed to produce a cross between creaking and crackling. These methods of interacting with the instrument not only provided a set of novel sounds but also an engaging visual counterpart to the performance.

The downfall of the performance I alluded to earlier. It was obvious from the sounds heard that what I was listening to was a rehearsal of two musicians, and not a performance of a group. Only rarely was I able to discern the interplay of a developed improvisatorial situation. In the first piece I could detect a hint of riffing based on the visual movements of Lee and Rowe; increased circular hand movement in one led to increased circular hand movement in the other. However, besides this most obvious visual interaction, I was not able to tie both strands of their music together. In fact, I did not see them look at each other once during the entirety of their performance. While they could have looked at each other out of the corner of their eyes, for such a nascent collaboration I expected more visual interaction between the two of them.

While I expect this review comes across as negative, I don’t want to give that impression; my take is that both Rowe and Lee are imminently talented musicians with much to recommend of their individual playing. I eagerly look forward to the development of the collaboration and hope to hear records of later performances.

March 22nd Show

I devoted the bulk of this show to a new (at least at the station) live piece from Tony Conrad and Faust. Originally from 1995, the piece was entitled “From The Side Of Man And Womankind” and is off of the album Outside the Dream Syndicate ALIVE. Complete with shredded and bleeding fingers, a brick smashed by a sledgehammer to end the concert, and a near-riot (and no, this is not a Stravinsky reference) by the audience, the sounds are what’s important. Relentless in its intensity, I luckily didn’t receive any calls asking why the same note was played for over ten minutes.

Thanks to all of you who have sent links to tracks for me to play; with the show coming up on Wednesday, I hope to feature some of these. Keep them coming!

  1. Tomobiki by John Zorn. John Zorn’s Cobra :: Tokyo Operations ‘94. Avant.

  2. From The Side Of Man And Womankind by Tony Conrad with Faust. Outside the Dream Syndicate Alive. Table of the Elements.

  3. for c. by asher. two compositions. term.


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March 15th Show

Slightly “reserved” in tone tonight, featuring some excellent drone by Kowalsky, Growing, and Charalambides. I found an interesting new artist in Et Ret, went back to my semi-indie roots with Mogwai, and threw in some contemporary classical with Kotche and Lucier (who was recently in the area at a concert of electro-acoustic music; I spoke with him a bit after the show, which was quite a delight (more about that in a future post)).

  1. Friend of the Night by Mogwai. Mr. Beast. Matador.
  2. Q by Alvin Lucier. Wind Shadows. New World Records.
  3. Mobile Parts 1, 2, & 3 by Glenn Kotche. Mobile. Nonesuch.
  4. Ashes from Evermore by Gregg Kowalsky. Through the Cardial Window. Kranky.
  5. voice box by Charalambides. gold leaf branches compilation. digitalis industries.
  6. (Unknown) by Growing. Color Wheel. Megablade.
  7. Letting Go of the Balloon by Et Ret. Gasworks. Western Vinyl.

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The high-pitched sounds of a bus’ brakes

An occasional feature here will be the reviews of sounds: those heard in a concert hall or club; those that came from the CD, vinyl, or MP3; or just merely those that I came upon during the day, out in the world. This first post is of the last kind and is, perhaps in some interpretations, an ode to varied sounds of brakes.

I can’t remember exactly when it was, but it was definitely last week. Taking the bus from some place in Cambridge to some other place necessitated using the MBTA buses, a notoriously annoying affair made worse by increased prices, unavailability of competition…well, you can get the sordid details by reading the linked website. Suffice it to say, oftentimes the brakes on the buses have some of the most ear-piercing, sharpest high-frequences that cause you to recoil in pain. But that night…the sounds were smoother, still high in frequency, but with a broader spectrum. Lower intensities in the upper frequencies. Perhaps the driver was not slamming on the brakes so hard this evening. Surprisingly they were almost pleasant; I was happy when my body sensed the slowing of the vehicle and I knew the almost-enjoyable brake sounds were forthcoming. Maybe it was simply the dissonance between what I remembered of these sounds and what I was experiencing then.

My vocabulary of these sorts of sounds is unfortunately not as developed as I would like, otherwise I’d try a more evocative description. Maybe three reviews down the road.

the sigtronica website rises

I’ve finally re-designed and updated the sigtronica website. In the coming days I’ll be adding old playlists and archives along with more links and thoughts. The posts will be time-travelling, as the playlists will be appearing on the date that the show aired. Isn’t the power of technology to completely mess with time amazing?

Thanks for listening!

March 8th Show Playlist

This show featured all new tracks (well, from the new section of the station, at least) and a mix of noise and minimalism.

  1. Care Fumes by Terrestrial Tones. Dead Drunk. Paw Tracks.
  2. Flag Torn Apart by Kites. Peace Trials. Load.
  3. Lightning Ghost by Bird Show. Lightning Ghost. Kranky.
  4. Soul oscillations by Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid. The Exchange Session Vol. 1. Domino.
  5. Seik Kyu Ahla by Kyaw Kyaw Naing. Bang on a Can Meets Kyaw Kyaw Naing. Cantaloupe.
  6. The Farthest Place by John Luther Adams. The Light That Fills the World. Cold Blue Music.
  7. granular haze by Chihei Hatekeyama. Minima Moralia. Kranky.

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March 1st Show Playlist

Going back to the late 1950s, I featured “Kontakte” by Stockhausen. With sounds that are as novel today as they were then, “Kontakte” is one of the great pieces in electronic music history. I paired that with a “recent” electronic work by Xenakis, entitled “S.709”. With some newer electronic work, this featured a spattering of where electronic music was and where it is heading.

  1. The Sailor by Terrestrial Tones. Dead Drunk. Paw Tracks.
  2. Eve by Günther Rabl. An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music / Third A-Chronology. Sub Rosa.
  3. Kontakte by Karlheinz Stockhausen. Elektronische Music 1952-1960. Stockhausen-Verlag.
  4. S.709 by Iannis Xenakis. Electronic Music. Electronic Music Foundation.

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February 22nd Show Playlist

Some old works on vinyl tonight, with pieces by Babbit, Oliveros, and Lucier. Great stuff, and I’m not sure if it’s available on CD (at least I doubt these particular performances are available). With bracketing by newer tracks from Merzbow and Tsunoda

  1. Rice 1 by Merzbow. Houjoue. Dirter Promotions.
  2. Sine Music (A Swarm of Butterflies Encountered over the Ocean) by Richard Maxfield. Ohm: the early gurus of electronic music. ellipsis arts….
  3. Reflections (for piano and synthesized tape) by Milton Babbit. New Music for Virtuosos. New World Records.
  4. On/Off Edit by Yoshihiro Hanno / Multiphonic Ensemble. an anthology of noise and electronic music / second a-chronology. Sub Rosa.
  5. Sound Patterns by Pauline Oliveros. Music of our Time: Extended Voices. Odyssey.
  6. North American Time Capsule 1967 by Alvin Lucier. Music of our Time: Extended Voices. Odyssey.
  7. Seashore, Venice beach_31Jul01 and An aluminum plate with low frequencies_1 by Toshiya Tsunoda. Ridge of Undulation. Hapna.

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