Archive for July, 2009

Sounds from the Floating World
Robert j Kirkpatrick Sounds from the Floating World (HER 010)

1) Ten Ten Kyoto Overlay…………..(10’10”)
2) Ryoan-ji (for John Cage)…………(13’13”)
3) Tokyo Electric……………………….(33’33”)
4) One Ten Over Kyoto………………(01’10”)

Press Release:

Hollow Earth Recordings are pleased to announce the immediate availability of our tenth release: Sounds from the Floating World. This compact disc contains four tracks assembled from recordings that Mr. Kirkpatrick made in the parks, public transportation, gardens, temples and various other venues in the environs of Tokyo and Kyoto Japan in the fall of 2008. The pieces contained within are examples of what the artist refers to as assemblages and overlays. An overlay is a field recording which is used as a sound source for a new recording along with an additional performance. An assemblage is a piece constructed from field recordings to form a new narrative in which this individual recordings are single elements, sometimes layered, sometimes allowed to play out on their own. The compact disc comes packaged in a vinyl sleeve allowing it to present the artwork in an ideal five by seven format. Each of the three major pieces on the compact disc have an associated photograph which can be best appreciated in this format. For additional details on the pieces and their associated art please see the Sounds from the Floating World page.

Considering the integrated nature of the artwork and the music a physical copy of this release is the ideal way to experience it. Thus this release is being initially offered as a limited run CD-R with handmade packaging by the artist. As with all of our releases it will be made available for download, in this case after it has gone out of print. As per the artists intentions these will be sold for little more then material and shipping costs: US$5.00 domestic, US$7.00 international. For inquiries or to order via PayPal please contact us at mgmt AT hollowEarthRecordings DOT com or use the PayPal buttons located on the Sounds from the Floating World page.

So this is my latest CD released on my own Hollow Earth Recordings label.  This one is pretty different then my usual abstract experimentation’s in that it is constructed pieces sourced from field recordings I made in Japan.  Each of these pieces has a narrative arc which in itself is fairly abstract especially considering that this arc is fairly removed from the source recordings. It also works as a sketch of parts of modern Japan, I can’t be help reliving my visit there every time I listen to it. Anyway it is harder for me to assess the potential audience for this one, those who aren’t as into my purely instrumental music could find more to like here, but perhaps some that do like that music will have little time for lo-fi field recordings.  So if curious one of the tracks was created for and published as part of Bagatellen’s excellent Listen project and can be downloaded here. With not necessarily indicative of the entire album (its an Overlay, and the other two main tracks are Assemblages) it still makes for an excellent taste.
Meridian Gallery ready for the twoduos

Meridian Gallery ready for the two duos

The day I arrived in San Francisco after spending the previous three weeks bicycling there from Seattle, there turned out to be an interesting show at a gallery just a few blocks from my hotel. The Meridian Gallery was a very nice downtown gallery with several floors, nice hardwood floors and what was probably very nice lighting (it being dark when I arrived).  The show consisted of two duos Trevor Healey/Aram Shelton whom I’d never heard, nor even heard of and James Fei/Kyle Bruckmann of whom I was fairly familiar but had not heard as a duo. I’d gotten to see Bruckmann perform a number times as part of the 2006 Seattle Improvised Music Festival and had greatly enjoyed both the performances as well as chatting with him a bit. Fei I knew only from recordings and none too recent either, so I was looking forward to this duo quite a bit.

Trevor Healey/Aram Shelton at meridian Gallery

Trevor Healey and Aram Shelton at Meridian Gallery

First up was the duo of Trevor Healey and Aram Shelton performing on Clarinet/laptop and guitar/pedals respectively. They began by basically building up to a wash of sound via loops of highly repetitive melodic fragments from the clarinet and guitar.  This was direct looping via pedals or software and it once again reinforced my belief that looping is pretty much the death of creativity. It basically is lazy and obvious and the list of successful pieces involving loop, especially in abstract musics is very short.  Anyway once they’d built up a suitably dense (though not aggressively loud) wash of sound they’d drop in more sound oriented stuff on top of that. These sounds were often interesting – processed breathy bits on the clarinet, pull offs on the guitar, or manipulating the strings or pickups with various objects and so on. Then at some point they’d cut the loops and it’d just be these sparser and more interesting sounds. These were by far the most interesting parts of the set and I felt clearly could have been how they played the set. I always wonder when I see things like this if it is fear on the part of the musicians that if they just played sparse abstract sounds that the audience wouldn’t buy it, that they feel some sort of sustaining foundation gives them permission to be more abstract. From these short more spacious sections they would then build the next wash of sound and the process repeats itself. I think they did this four times and I have to say I was bored by the second time.  I think these guys have the potential for interesting music, but they need to break free of their own restraints.

Kyle Bruckmann and James Fei at the Meridian Gallery

Kyle Bruckmann and James Fei at the Meridian Gallery

After a short break and a realignment of the gear James Fei and Kyle Bruckmann took to the stage to perform with oboe/electronics & Sax/electronics, irrespectively. The first piece they played was structured as oboe/electronics, electronics/electronics, electronics/sax concluding with oboe/sax. The first two parts were fantastic with Fei’s electronics evoking sparse David Tudor type sounds of feedback, electrics and amplification.  This was riveting to me, I’ve been extremely interested in the last 3-4 years in applying some of the sounds and techniques that Tudor innovative into more contemporary notions of structure and texture.  This is the first electronics performance I have witnessed that came anywhere near that ideal, and it was really well done. Fei had this suitcase full of electronics, some custom, some homemade and some Buchla and other production modules in it. He controlled this this in a very organic way with what looked like a homemade, or boutique controller with optical sensors. He was able to generate bursts of static, feedback or open circuit type of sounds, but with a level of control that evoked Tudor as well. Bruckmann in this initial segment added in sparse, tastefully placed breathy oboe that fit right in with Fei’s scattered electronics. The next segment though was the highlight of the performance and the whole evening as Bruckmann turned to his little case of electronics and analog synth modules for an extended dual electronics movement. Bruckmann’s electronics work was like cut up tones a expansive room feedback which slipped below and contrasted intriguingly with Fei’s fragmented Toneburst-ish sounds. Hard to say how long this segment lasted, perhaps ten minutes or so and then Fei cut out his electronics and picked up his soprano  Sax as Bruckmann continued on electronics. His saxophonics started out breathy and choppy which worked well with the more sustained low tones from Bruckmann but as this segment progress it became overly active to which Kyle responded in kind. I wasn’t feeling this nearly as much and it wasn’t too long before Bruckmann picked up his oboe for the final dual winds section. The dual winds continued in this active and energetic vein to what I felt was rather mixed success.  The first two-thirds of the set was really great, like I said some of the best electronics I’ve seen in a long time and different from what a lot that I see.  While the later third wasn’t so much to my tastes I was overall really into this piece.
Kyle Bruckmann and James Fei at the Meridian Gallery

Kyle Bruckmann and James Fei at the Meridian Gallery

I’d figured they were done but after a short pause they played a second shorter piece of oboe/electronics then electronics/electronics that wasn’t at all as interesting as the previous piece but did end very nicely. It began with pops and clicks from Fei on the sax that Kyle emulated and then went to busier oboe. This all felt to me like rather outdated vocabulary and I wasn’t into it at all. When they both switched to electronics, this time in a bit more droney vein,  but layered in a choppy way with nearly subharmonic tones that subverted the soporific nature of much drone music.
I talked to Bruckman and Fei after the show and a pair of nicer guys is hard to imagine.  Kyle was doing a couple more shows the following day, but I was really just too burned out to make them.  James and I talked about Tudor mainly, which he was also a massive fan. I ended up picking up his Studies on the ANS (Krabbesholm) a solo disc of music made on this odd Russian optical synthesizer.  All in all I was really glad I made it to this show, though of course I was exhausted and not necessarily in the best mental space for this kind of music. I’d almost thought I’d made a mistake in coming during the first set, but the second made my quite glad I’d made the effort.
A few more (grainy cameraphone) photos from this show can be seen here.

Merce Cunningham in "Antic Meet", 1958

I became aware of Merce Cunningham via Cage of course and I was aware of how much of the music of that period that I so admired was paired with his dances.  Calvin Tompkin’s piece on Cunningham in The Bride and the Bachelors, though made me want to see some of these dances. Thanks to video I was able to see some of his works, dances that I found quite compelling and constantly engaging. I have little experience with dance in almost any form, so I really can’t comment much on them beyond that.  His use of many of the ideas that Cage championed such as chance operations, his decoupling of the dance from the music and his use of vital contemporary artists such as Rauschenberg and Johns for his sets and costumes kept his work endlessly fresh and compelling as far as I can tell.

On the day this news broke I was in San Francisco, seeing a bit of the city after a long bicycle trip. I took the train home that night and on the following day, yesterday, I passed through the small southwestern town of Centralia where Merce was born and raised.  Its dusty streets, a few shops and signs of it all collapsing from reliance on old industries such as logging were visible from the station. Such an out of the way backwater for one of the most adventurous innovators in modern dance. I thought of Merce as the train left the station and Centralia bound for Seattle, where he would attend Cornish, decide to dance, meet Cage and it was with much regret that I never got to see him or his company perform.  There had just been an article published in June outlining Cunningham’s plan for his company after his death and one of his plans was for a two year retrospective world tour of the company after which they would disband.  I for one intend to make one of those shows and see some of theses dances for myself.  Merce will be missed, but what a legacy.

Excellent NY Times Obit
Very nice Seattle Times Obit

So long and thanks for all the fish

So long and thanks for all the fish

I’m off for the rest of July, doing a little cycle touring.    For all your bloggin needs in my absence please explore the links in the sidebar. I will return to normal posting in August. You can follow me on my journey over on the blog I setup for the tour.