I meant to post this a while back, but what follows is a short review I wrote of a performance that took place at Cornell in early October with some well-known free-improv performers.
Tim Hodgkinson, clarinet
Chris Cochrane, guitar
Miguel Fasconi, glass objects
Barnes Hall, Cornell University, 3 October 2011, 8PM
In this, their first public presentation as a trio, Tim Hodgkinson, Chris Cochrane, and Miguel Fasconi gifted a performance of subtle intensity. Each one is prominent in his own right, with Iancu Dumitrescu, Anna-Maria Avram, Bob Ostertag, Ikue Mori, and Morton Subotnik among their combined set of collaborators. Hodgkinson performed on his trademark clarinet, Cochrane on guitar, tuning fork, pedals, and diminutive amplifier, and Fasconi amongst a set of fragile, yet resilient, glass objects carefully spaced on a closely miked table. This disparate arrangement nevertheless produced a superposition of abilities that never brought too much attention to any individual. The “Sudden” of the concert’s title referred not to contrasts in amplitude but rather to immediacy, to prompt relationships formed between the performers. Even when playing separately, their restraint enabled a certain resonance to be shaped between them, the attentive audience, and the prior sounds resting in the air.
Onstage in Cornell University’s Barnes Hall, under the nighttime shadow of an ivory tower, the first half wove a set that continually pushed against its limit, playing the weft of rhythmic gestures against the warp of held tones. Sensitivity ruled, as each took time to let the other two mesh their phrases together. Cochrane’s looped rhythms became linked to Fasconi’s playing of two undulated glass plates against each other, with unvoiced clicking keys on Hodgkinson’s clarinet completing the gesture. Electromagnetically-induced vibrations in guitar strings became multiphonic squeals became frenetic ringing of water filled-cognac glasses tilted to change their frequency. At one point Fasconi shook matroyshka doll-like fragments of glass, producing not only a rhythmic base but also a pulverized cloud of fragments dissipating into the air. Even at its most energetic there was restraint, waiting, letting things be.
The second set moved through a series of solos. Fasconi began at the rear of chapel-like hall, coaxing wispy phrases out of a hollow glass tube submerged in a flask. Returning to the stage, he blew into a coiled glass tube, at times letting the gurgle of sloshing water reverberate. Cochrane provoked the audience through feedback-snarled riffs that stood in direct contrast to what was already in the air; yet he massaged these wails into a harmonious dronescape that would make the Theatre of Eternal Music proud. Hodgkinson slowly meandered about the stage, his multiphonics being picked up by the mics scattered about and thus creating a wonderful phasing effect. Returning as a trio they became more animated with less room to breathe. Cochrane’s tuning fork rumbled against his pickups while Hodgkinson raced between registers. Fasconi’s screeching glass-on-glass induced a visceral reaction akin to fingernails on a chalkboard. Nevertheless, using mallets to ring tuned cylinders, he induced haunting bell-like sounds that, closing the performance, counteracted the deadening effect of the ever-present carillon in the tower outside.
Old children's electronic toy, audience participation
Untitled, for violin, circuit bent toy, and electronics, was an attempt to provide for audience participation in a concert hall setting. The idea was to provide an audience member with a simple, circuit bent electronic toy that he or she would then perform with a violinist on-stage. Engaging with the practice of circuit bending during a performance would hopefully encourage others to explore these techniques. Important to the score is the accompanying set of instructions, Simple Ways to Circuit Bend a Toy.
The PDF below is the score itself, written originally in lilypond. If you would like the source code, as well as the special graphics I made to indicate the particular buttons to press and knobs to turn associated with the toy I used, please send me an e-mail.
Score for a piece with any number of performers, instruments, and electronics. From the score itself:
“This is a piece that enables you, the performer, to choose what types of sounds the audience will hear. The piece is structured in five numbered sections, each of which is around 30 seconds long. In each section you will perform the sounds indicated by the given letter for around 15-20 seconds. For the last 10-15 seconds of each section, you will select the material that will be part of the next section, and then pass your score, with this chosen material, to another stand nearby. You should be making any sounds on the instrument during this time.”
First performed in a rehearsal with the Cornell Wind Ensemble in 2008. During this performance I also added granular synthesis and other noise produced in pure data, which is an optional addition not mentioned explicitly in the score.
On Fire, now known as Eksi Ekso, was a Boston-based chamber rock band in which I played electric viola. While I moved away before they became Eksi Ekso, I did stick around long enough to record on their first release, I am Your Bastard Wings.
That people have emotional responses to music is a truism. However, we have little understanding of the ways in which music brings about these emotions. Indeed, we lack decent ways to measure these responses in a quantitative way. As an early step in this area, we devised a listening experiment with a novel response paradigm. Listeners chose from a set of around twenty emotional descriptors, selecting a strength value for each chosen word. Importantly, we did not prevent the listener from selecting conflicting words, or limit her to only one choice. We then used unsupervised machine learning techniques to explore the space of responses. Early results show good agreement with prior studies, but with the potential for more nuanced understanding. We plan to extend this work into considering a broader space of influencing factors on emotional response.