peteg's blog - noise - music

Ensemble Offspring: Spectral Tech.

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A freebie from the UNSW Creative Practice Lab (thanks Tom). Lev was in town so he got to partake in Maccas for dinner at the Quay (automat orders only; where else to eat dinner down that way?) and four new pieces from 7pm in the Sydney Con's Music Workshop. Maybe half the seating was occupied, and the vibe was clearly friends, family, composers, enablers. Wikipedia's notion of spectral music differs from the description we got partway through, which IIRC suggested this style had roots in the early 20th century. Nothing much for me to grab onto, and too sparse to space out to. Very angular.

Modern Gong Ritual @ The People's Republic.

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Two guitars (Kent Steedman of the Celibate Rifles, Michael Trifunovic) and a bloke banging things (David Bullock, who seems to have such a vast collection of things to bang that Ensemble Offspring should be jealous). Billed as "ambience with attitude"; the first set brought the attitude, the second the ritual. I enjoyed spacing out to the latter and the accompanying video projections by William Bullock.

I stumbled upon Patrick White's Memoirs of many in one by Alex Xenophan Demirjian Gray on Nick's vast shelves. Sounds more promising than Flaws in the Glass, so I'll try to read both.

Jerrah Patston, Reverend Jemima @ The People's Republic.

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It's been an age since I went to a gig. Rained during the day but dry there and back on the CB400; she needs a service. Jerrah (playing with Sam Worrad and Jerry Kahale) is irrepressibly happy to be performing, funny and uncynical. The format is short vignette pop songs; My Country Town stuck out for me. I can imagine him winning a Golden Guitar with a leftfield country classic. Afterwards Reverend Jemima did 2-3 minute competent punk rock, which I've lost any taste for.

Dave dug up this ABC story on Jerrah from almost a year ago. Earlier I made what is looking to be a mistake by fishing Josephine Wilson's 2017 Miles Franklin-winner Extinctions out of the Randwick City Library.

The Necks at Sydney Opera House, Drama Theatre.

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$59.00 + $8.50 web transaction fee = $67.50, booked 2017-04-01. Part of the Vivid Festival, where they attach unimaginative strip lighting to the Bridge and shine suggestive abstractions on the sails of the Sydney Opera House. Yeah. There's a lot more neon in the shop windows on the streets of Sydney than in the recent past, which makes me wonder why the public should fund such creative poverty. They also fence off great swathes of pedestrian walkways; Sydneysiders no longer need to get on peak hour trains or cheap flights to Asia to feel like cattle.

Anyway, they promised to email me a ticket, and didn't, so the box office guy gave me one and implied I could calm down a bit. The pre-show email said it'd start at 7:30pm sharp, which it didn't, and some people were let in about 10 minutes in, so if you ever see the video that's me standing up three rows from the front to let them past.

Unlike last time I struggled to get into it. For much of the second set I couldn't pick out the bass; I was sitting too close to the front left speaker, I guess, too close to the drums. It may also be that the acoustics of the Drama Theatre are not as good as elsewhere in this building.

Benjamin Woods's review gives some idea.

Melanie Oxley and Chris Abrahams at the Camelot Lounge.

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Notionally $20, but apparently $21.40 + $1.50 booking fee, booked 2017-03-22. Dave gave me a lift to Marrickville in the rain, and I walked home after. I saw these guys back in 2002 or so, at The Basement, but tonight I wasn't really in the mood. They chugged through their songbook somewhat hastily, and at least some of the crowd got right into it.

ACO Underground at Giant Dwarf.

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Notionally 8pm, but twenty minutes or more late, $35 + $3.30 booking fee. The evening was sunny despite predictions of much rain from the BOM; I did walk home through some rain but it wasn't torrential. Before they started I got talking to a lady from Elizabeth Bay / the lower North Shore. She was familiar with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and was expecting some fun, and told me that "giant dwarf" is Andrew Denton's nickname. (This venue was previously the Performance Space, which is now at the Carriageworks.) I was wearing my Pixies tour t-shirt and hoping for Bird Dreams of Olympus Mons, but instead got some Doors (Alabama Song, but really: "Well, show me the way / To the next whisky bar...") and Nirvana (Something in the way, which I know from Tricky). There was also some Bach, Nick Drake, a piece by Richard Tognetti, and something challenging from Eastern Europe. Tonight it was just four: Satu Vänskä, Julian Thompson, Jim Moginie, Brian Ritchie.

The Farmer's Cinematheque and Chris Abrahams @ The People's Republic.

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I had a nice ride back from La Perouse to the People's Republic, which I'd been to a couple of times before. The movie was a sort-of compilation of found footage of farm life from a while back. The daughter of one of the filmmakers provided the narrative focus and was present at this screening, as was Chris Abrahams who did the soundtrack. The whole thing was mildly familiar to me, though I never saw VFL played in western NSW. I got talking to an Irish bloke and his partner afterwards, before Chris Abrahams blessed us with a piano set. He apparently has a new album out.

I'm totally wasted: it's just too damn hot.

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Vale, Leonard Cohen.

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Vale, David Bowie.

Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad Qawwal & Brothers at Logan Center for the Arts.

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It was a perfect day for cycling, so I figured I'd ride down to University of Chicago along the Lakeshore Trail for this gig. Had lunch at the Chicago Curry House, which was OK for a buffet, a snooze in the park near 39th Street Beach, and a coffee at the Bridgeport Coffeehouse in Hyde Park. There's more to that place than I realised. I got some takeaway dinner at Siam Thai on 55th and hightailed it over to the Logan Center for the Arts. I was a bit surprised that I'm fit enough to do bike rides of this length without too much discomfort. Well, at least when there are no headwinds.

The place (same as for Ishiguro) was packed for the first act: Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa. The City of Chicago World Music Festival blurb:

Aziz Sahmaoui sets out once more with his magical group, conjuring up sonorous dreams and intoxicating trance states. On this new journey, in which heady refrains are coupled with a divinely undulating groove, the Moroccan poet-singer has achieved a glorious harmony between Maghreb rock, jazz and gnawa music. With the full fire of his spellbinding voice, the cofounder of the Orchestre National de Barbès and former associate of Joe Zawinul, he confirms his reputation as one of the foremost singer-songwriters of contemporary world fusion music, a reputation that reaches across Europe and beyond to the Middle East and the United States. They will be touring the US in Fall 2015 fresh off their latest, critically-acclaimed release, Mazal.

Yeah, north African dance music, high energy and happy stuff. After intermission the Pakistanis set up, with almost no English, and about a third of the crowd departed, as if they hadn't known what they had signed up for, after a couple of songs. I somewhat concur as the first two-thirds was not especially inspired call-and-response. As they loosened up, and responded from some good natured heckling from those in the crowd who spoke Punjabi and so forth, things got more free-form and electric. They closed with Kangna and another piece of a similar style. A bit muted, but still awesome, and let's not bother with a denouement. There's not a lot to look at, though I'm sure there's a fairly rigid hierarchy at work within the ensemble.

The City of Chicago World Music Festival blurb:

Fareed Ayaz, Abu Muhammad Qawwal and Brothers are masters of Qawwali Sufi music as well as classical genres such as tarana, thumri and khayal. They learned the art of Qawwali from their father, the late Ustad Raziuddin Ahmed of the Delhi Gharana, a music school founded in the 14th century that can be traced back over 700 years to its original founders, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia and Hazrat Amir Khusra. The group sings in multiple languages including Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Hindi, Farsi, Arabic, Bengali, and Purbi. Weaving together devotional and secular traditions, Ayaz and company have been bringing Qawwali music to international audiences for over thirty years.

Country of Origin/Based: Pakistan
Genre: Qawalli

I took the Green line back to Lake-at-Morgan, and cycled home from there. I'm told that things get a little sketchy after dark between Hyde Park and the City, and anyway I was tired.

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center: The Emerson Quartet.

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Goldstar ticket: $22.50 + $5.50 service fee = $28.00, bought 2015-05-18. As usual with these last-gasp ticket purchases, I should have stayed home. There's no doubt these guys are tight, but the tunes tonight were not to my taste: Liebermann: New Work for String Quartet (CMS Co-Commission, NY premiere), Mozart: Quintet in E-flat major, and Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence. Uncomfortably cold too, at least in just a tshirt. Pizza at Giordarno's with Christian beforehand.

The Scrapes: discography to date at Bandcamp.

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I heard that these guys from Brisbane have a gig at an underground venue in Sydney in May, and as I won't be there the best I could do is buy their entire back catalogue. Their new album has slipped its promised deadline by at least a day. I like their mix of doom-drone, Dirty Three knockoffs and the odd atmospheric original so far. Kali Yuga Sunrise sounds like a mix of the Dirty Three's Indian Love Song with Valgeir Sigurðsson's World Without Ground from Architecture of Loss, and perhaps Lungs, for Merrilee off Ekvílibrium, with a dash of Ben Frost.

Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O., but not really.

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$12.00 + $3.36 service fee + $2.50 delivery fee = $17.86, bought 2015-01-30. The thing with buying tickets with such lead times is that you never know how things are going to be when the gig rolls around. I was pretty tired, a little sick, and certainly not up for a superlate night listening to loud, repetitive psychedelic rock an hour's walk from home. But what the heck, I went anyway. This was my first time at the Empty Bottle, past the hospital on Division. I'm guessing it was at about a third of capacity. I had a couple of Left Hand Milk Stouts to ease the passing of time: arrived there at 8.45pm, somewhat enjoyed the support (ST 37, I think, from Austin, Texas; one guy had a "free shrugs" t-shirt) from 9.30pm, and tried to get into the Japanese guys around 10.30pm. I bailed at 11pm as the last 70 bus down division had gone and it was a school night.

The Church at Double Door.

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$30.00 + Ticket Fee $6.50 = $36.50. Bought January 30. Apparently sold out. Still crook, coughing and spluttering, getting messy; would've preferred not to go, but maybe the last chance to see these dinosaur psychedelic pop rockers, for me at least. Caught the 70 bus down Division, walked up Milwaukee to North in the last of the sub-zero weather for the right now. First time at Double Door. It's direct opposite the Damen blue-line station, and is something like a mildly scaled-up Hopetoun Hotel: on the affirmative, 550 capacity, bar running down the side, standing-room only, small stage, painted black. And for the negative, it's ugly with a poor beer menu. I got there around 8.20pm. There was a small queue at the door.

While waiting around I got talking to a bloke who'd flown up from Kansas City, with a far better idea of what to expect than I had. The warm up band played a short set: The Sharp Things from NYC, who couldn't help themselves but poke fun at the amiable mid-west crowd. Small break, and without too much fanfare, The Church. Kilbey played it somewhat mystical, wearing a third-eye t-shirt, gathering himself before particular songs, like they meant a lot to him, getting quite twitchy at times; he looked like a rock god etched from heroin. The acoustics were so-so, but he did sound English and from the wiki I see I'm not wrong. Ian Haug looked like the music wasn't taxing him. As always I got lost in the bass, and a lack of familiarity with their material made it difficult for me to get into it.

LAMPO: Jennifer Walshe and Tony Conrad as Ma La Pert

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A Liz Fraser-alike b-boxing, or scatting ala Megan from The Herd? The place was packed, possibly due to a glowing preview in the Chicago Reader. To me it sounded like mild audience abuse with an Irish lilt, a cello, and a violin plugged into some analog electronics; chopping this stuff up doesn't make it more inventive. The walk over was in sleet. I was sleepy all day after taking the train back from West Lafayette.

Jennifer Walshe and Tony Conrad will perform together as Ma La Pert, an improvisational collaboration that blends a variety of traditional and non-traditional instruments such as violins, autoharps, drums, vocalizations, found objects, and costumes to generate unique sounds during their live performances.

Jennifer Walshe is a London-based vocalist, composer, and conceptual artist who often works under various identities individually as Grupat, and also with different collaborators across Europe and the US, including Ma La Pert with Tony Conrad and with Tomomi Adachi on the People’s United Telepathic Improvisational Front. Walshe’s work has been exhibited in New York, Dublin, London, and Toronto.

Tony Conrad is an experimental filmmaker, artist, composer and musician based between Brooklyn and Buffalo, NY. He is known for his early pioneering drone-based minimalist music, as well as his involvement in the Theatre of Eternal Music (The Dream Syndicate) and collaborations with numerous filmmakers, artists, and musicians such as John Cale, La Monte Young, Mike Kelley, Marian Zazeela, Jim O’Rourke, Lou Reed, and Walter De Maria. In addition to experimental filmmaking, Conrad has composed numerous audio works for amplified strings, and has more recently focused on examining traditions in Western music and geometry from Pythogoras to the present.

LAMPO: Arnold Dreyblatt.

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The first piece was a piano-stringed bass fitted with some electronics. He played it by banging it with a bow, which yielded some kind of dance music that evoked the opening of Félix Lajkó's Remény. It had its moments; the preview on iTunes is far more vanilla. The second was all laptop and often verged on audience abuse, and took the artist a few solid belts of vodka (I think) to get through. The bloke on my left was Facebooking the whole time, and the bloke on my right was swigging sake (I think). Both far older than I.

Their blurb:

The Graham Foundation and Lampo are pleased to welcome American media artist and composer Arnold Dreyblatt who will perform two works: Turntable History / Spin Ensemble (2011), a multi-channel sound composition derived from Dreyblatt's own recordings of a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scanner, and Nodal Excitation, a 1979 work for amplified "excited strings" bass, strung with piano wire. Arnold Dreyblatt is a composer, performer, and visual artist. He studied music with Pauline Oliveros, La Monte Young, and Alvin Lucier, and has been based in Berlin, Germany since 1984. Among the second generation of New York minimal composers, Dreyblatt developed a unique approach to composition and music performance. As he began his music career in the late 1970s in New York, he invented a set of new and original instruments and performance techniques, as well as a just intonation tuning system. He has formed and led numerous ensembles, working under the name "The Orchestra of Excited Strings." In 2007, he was elected to the German Academy of Art (Akademie der Künste, Berlin).

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center: Drumming at Harris Theater.

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Goldstar ticket: $20.00 + $5.25 service fee = $25.25 on 2015-01-23. I figured I'd pay a bit more and see if the seating improved. I was a fair way back but had a great view, which is something when the drummers are this skillful. Before the gig I had a Chicago-style lasagna-pizza at Giordano's near the Harris Theater.

They started with three surrounding a kettle drum with some auxiliary percussion in between for Nebojsa Jovan Živković's Meccanico from Trio per uno for Percussion Trio, Op. 27 (1995, 1999), which, being exhilarating, set a high bar the later pieces struggled to meet. Conlon Nancarrow's Piece for Tape arranged for Percussion (arranged by Dominic Murcott) (1950s) was unmemorable. Thierry de Mey's Musique de tables for Percussion Trio (1987) was some kooky wax-on wax-off stuff that evoked my last trip to Campbelltown. I don't clearly remember John Cage's In a Landscape for Marimba (transcribed by Ian David Rosenbaum) (1948), nor Toru Takemitsu's Rain Tree for Percussion Trio (1981), both of which drew me to this concert in the first place. Grr. Steve Reich's Drumming: Part 1 for Percussion Quartet (1970-71) exhibited the skill of all four drummers. Bartók's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937) was difficult to stomach.

I took the Red Line home due to it being damn cold, a little windy, and my being toasted.

Sounds of the South Loop: Metropolis Quartet.

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Goldstar ticket: $7.50 + $3.00 service fee = $10.50. The 6pm start was a bit awkward. I took a bus down State and grabbed a very quick and quite servicable pad thai at Opart Thai. 2nd Presbyterian Church is quite elegant with great acoustics. I was the youngest in the crowd by at least a decade. The instruments were an oboe, a cello, a viola and a violin, and were all well-played. There was no program so I have no record of the pieces; one was a composition by the Sounds of the South Loop artistic director Kim Diehnelt (I think). I enjoyed the lot.

Realising I had just enough time, I forsake an evening in Chinatown and instead took the Red Line back to Division so I could extract The Moon of Hoa Binh from the Near North branch of the Chicago Public Library. It's on a three-week interlibrary loan. 1700 pages. More on that later.

New stuff from Félix Lajkó.

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It's been a while since I've looked this guy up. He's revamped his website, had a shave and got a haircut, but fortunately not a real job. He's distributing his new stuff via iTunes, which makes it twice as expensive as before. My $US28 got me:

  • Mező / Field, zither and cello. Some awesome stuff.
  • Jelszó, violin, piano and more.
  • Végtelen, with orchestra, but not in the Metallica way. Some familiar tunes from years ago, some with very American-cartoon-music twists. Amusingly the band plays his music even while he doesn't.

LAMPO: Tristan Perich: Noise Patterns at the Logan Center for the Arts

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After lunch at the local downmarket Chinese (Empire Restaurant on Division, precisely what you'd expect; their Singapore noodles was solid), I took the red line down to Garfield and schlepped across to the University of Chicago. There is much urban blight and a sense of emptiness on that route; Hyde Park is a gentrified pocket in an undeveloped / boarded-up area. Turns out it was winter (exam?) break and almost entirely closed; I stumbled over some performance thing for parents and children while searching for the feted Hallowed Grounds. I ended up at the Plein Air Cafe, near the Oriental museum. Electricity, decent coffee, croissant, no wifi. A place to take your children for a snack if you're an early-career academic. Later on I grabbed a cheap and quick Pad Thai from Noodles etc., nearby.

The Logan Center for the Arts is a swank building on the edge of a swank campus, which reminded me most of Washington University in St. Louis. It is predictably huge, especially given that Google claims only about 15,000 students study there. Perich's "1-Bit" branding underplays the complexity of his mechanism: in the after talk he threw around probability distributions, duty cycles, and more in a general geek-out. I enjoyed some of his sound, but found it overly harsh for the most part; it is of the sort that people have been getting from their microchip projects on initial startup since 1974. I grant that he's put a lot of effort into composition, though it still felt like a formless, centreless kind of work that is far more alienating than Ben Frost's modulated noise. I was half hoping that he'd momentarily break into something mindblowingly coherent. Perich seemed to understand this as he introduced a solid beat somewhere after the midpoint. The whole thing went for an hour and I didn't find it was something to relax to, in contrast to most improv; perhaps the view out of the 9th floor windows was too captivating. I'm certainly keen to head back.

Their blurb:

The great Tristan Perich returns to Lampo to present "Noise Patterns," his new composition for sequenced 1-bit patterns of white noise, programmed for and performed by microchip. The work expands on his "1-Bit Symphony" and tonal pieces for electronic circuits and acoustic instruments.

N.B. the code in "Noise Patterns" outputs random sequences of 1s and 0s. The "notes" of his "score" are then varying probabilities of randomness, ranging from the sound of white noise to sporadic, instantaneous pops, which Perich composes into rhythmic patterns. In a wave of 1-bit noise, the music is an investigation into the foundational limits of computation.

Artist and composer Tristan Perich (b. 1982, New York, N.Y.) is inspired by the aesthetic simplicity of math, physics and code. Best known for his constructions that explore the physicality of sound and the polyphonic potential of 1-bit audio, his "1-Bit Music" (2004-05) and "1-Bit Symphony" (2010) celebrate the virtuosity of electricity. Neither release is a traditional recording. Instead, each is a music-generating circuit, housed in a CD jewel case with a headphone jack. Perich also has composed several works for musicians with 1-bit music accompaniment, and is in the music group the Loud Objects (with Kunal Gupta and Katie Shima), which performs by soldering its own noise-making circuits live in front of the audience. His award winning work coupling 1-bit electronics with traditional forms in both music ("Active Field," "Observations") and visual art ("Machine Drawings," "Microtonal Wall)" has been presented around the world, from Sonar and Ars Electronica to the Whitney Museum and Museum of Modern Art.

Tristan Perich first appeared at Lampo in October 2010, performing his "1-Bit Symphony."

Presented in partnership with the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago.