In 19th Century classical music, orchestral “tone poems” by Liszt, Dvorak, and Smetana employed musical instruments to suggest sounds of nature. But with the advent of portable recording equipment, composers began to incorporate environmental and ambient sounds into their musical compositions, literally transforming THE NATURE OF MUSIC. Join us for special events paying homage to the best of these musical pioneers. Co-presented by Other Minds and The David Brower Center.
Composer Matthew Burtner makes music with glaciers, a business fraught with the hazards of calving, melting and, on occasion, over-modulating. His recent impressive CD release, Glacier Music, will be the subject of his interview concert with OM Artistic Director Charles Amirkhanian.
Burtner composes music for concert instruments accompanied by glacier sounds, recorded by the composer at very close range. He currently serves as Professor of Composition and Computer Technology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and Director of EcoSono, an environmental arts non-profit (www.econsono.org). His music and research explores embodiment, climate change, polymetrics, and noise. He was born in 1970 in Naknek, Alaska, a small coastal fishing village where he was inspired by the vast natural resources of his native state. He presented recorded performances of Sound Cast of Matanuska Glacier (with string quartet, wind trio and Chapman Stick). A highlight of the evening was a video of a dramatic collaboration with Time Lapse Dance (NY). His music has won competitions and prizes at Bourges (France), Gaudeamus (Netherlands), Darmstadt (Germany) and the Russolo (Italy) international competitions.
With the two pieces in Anne Guthrie’s program for our 11th iteration of The Nature of Music, Other Minds reached a milestone, with the 100th and 101st world premieres of the organization’s 25-year history. The first work on the program was Lenser 7730, a solo for electronically spatialized horn, field recordings, and video, all of which draw inspiration from sounds and shadows of translucent objects. Guthrie then presented Hackle, an indeterminate spatial work for voice, 24 tuned musical glasses, oboe, French horns, amplified guitar, and electronics. The work sets text from Cole Swensen’s The Glass Age, and uses samples of music by Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn , and piezoelectric crystals – a mysterious sound-producing alternative energy source.
Linda Bouchard’s works are defined by the importance of color and textures, and the structures of her compositions are intimately linked to the orchestral choices she makes for each composition, be it a solo piece or a composition for full orchestra. Her compositions are often inspired by nature’s geometry, structure, and textures, as if writing music could begin by staring with a magnifying glass at nature’s elements — water, gas, rock formations, chemical reactions — then from those images creating a series of abstract landscapes.
Born in Québec, Canada, Linda Bouchard has been an active composer, orchestrator, conductor, and producer for over thirty-five years.
As a performance duo, Joshua Churchill and John Davis operate spontaneously to create densely layered organic and atmospheric works, combining Churchill’s dynamic soundscapes with Davis’s handmade, and often hand processed, 16mm and Super 8 films. For Other Minds, Joshua Churchill and John Davis will present a collaborative performance that engages viewers in meditative and abstract environments, using imagery and sounds are rooted in the environment and its natural rhythms. Joshua Churchill and John Davis‘ collaborative work has recently been featured at Dark Sea Cinema in Oakland, The San Francisco Cinematheque Crossroads Festival at SFMOMA, MONO NO AWARE in Brooklyn, and The San Francisco Electronic Music Festival.
Michael Pisaro is a composer and guitarist, and a member of the Wandelweiser Composers Ensemble. He is also a member of the composition faculty at CalArts in Valencia, CA. He has written over 80 works for a wide variety of instrumental combinations, including several pieces for variable instrumentation. Pisaro performed two works at this event. Transparent City was performed by Michael on guitar, with material recorded at locations in Los Angeles. asleep, forest, melody, path, a piece devoted to the investigation of a location through field recordings and live performance, was performed by Michael and the Other Minds Ensemble (Wendy Reid, Randall Wong, Michael Jones, Liam Herb and Lula Asplund) with pre-recorded material.
Internationally-renowned sound artist Bill Fontana uses sound as a sculptural medium to interact with and transform our perceptions of natural and architectural spaces. He often uses a rich orchestration of live sounds from numerous locations in a landscape, collapsing the experience of square miles of geography to the space of a room. For The Nature of Music series, Mr. Fontana spoke with Charles Amirkhanian on February 15, 2018, and gave a presentation about his innovative sound works and sculptures. He focused on Shadow Soundings, a recent piece he executed in Lisbon based on the sights and sounds of their Golden Gate Bridge lookalike, the 25 de Abril Bridge. He also discussed his work for the International Renewable Energy Agency, Primal Sonic Visions.
We were thrilled to have one of the world’s leading figures in environmental music, Annea Lockwood, with us on November 9 to discuss her music of the world’s rivers. Annea’s work ranges from compositions for conventional voices and instruments to graphic scores, electronics, and manipulated sounds, both natural and “unnatural.” She began with a presentation on her sound maps of the Hudson and Danube rivers. She discussed her sound installation concurrently on view at The Lab in San Francisco, and a performance she gave at The Lab the following week, where she, William Winant and Fred Frith performed Jitterbug, the score of which is an actual striated rock. The evening concluded with a Q&A session led by Charles Amirkhanian.
Marielle V Jakobsons is a composer and intermedia artist based in Oakland, CA. Her compositions evoke minimalism with melodic drone and enveloping polyrhythmic soundscapes of synthesizers, strings, and voice. She builds installations and instruments which bring focus to visceral experience of sound and light, most recently with her “Macro-Cymatic Visual Music Instrument.” Marielle collaborates extensively in the experimental arts as a sound designer and composer for interactive media and film. As a solo multi-instrumentalist, and with her bands “Date Palms,“ “Myrmyr,“ and other collaborations, she has published recordings on Thrill Jockey, Mexican Summer, Students of Decay, Digitalis, Important Records, and toured internationally.
Andrew Roth, one of America’s most creative and versatile sound designers presented a program and retrospective of his work. His creative mediums span the gamut from audio cds to creating sound environments for amusement parks, radio, television, film and video games. His work not only evokes a sense of place but also of time, notably recreations of sound worlds that no longer exist, e.g., the 1850’s SF Barbary Coast and SF’s Playland at the Beach (1913-72). His most recent cd, Natural Sounds of Japan, is neither quite meditative nor music, and yet it somehow manages to be both. The variety of the sounds, from creaking ice through bird calls, which for most listeners will sound exotic, to waves breaking on a pebble beach, are fascinating.
Alvin Curran has been a leader in many areas of experimental music since the Sixties. In keeping with the theme The Nature of Music, the composer screened some of his private videos of the major environmental performance works he’s created. As a pioneer in this genre (also practiced by John Cage, R. Murray Schafer, Charlie Morrow, Pauline Oliveros, and later John Luther Adams, among many others), Curran’s work is distinguished by a heightened sensitivity to overall formal construction but without reference to mathematics or music theory. Curran is an eclectic entertainer and, in magpie fashion, open to any and all content, and adept at its employment. His genius is in the unfolding of his pieces in time, and holding back surprises until just the right moment. At a Curran event, anything is possible.
Raven Chacon (born Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation, Arizona, USA) is a composer of chamber music, a performer of experimental noise music, an installation artist, and is recognized as one of the few Native Americans working in these multiple genres. He performs regularly as a solo artist as well as with numerous ensembles in the Southwest. He is also a member of the American Indian multi-media art collective, Postcommodity, recently the recipient of an unrestricted $50,000 award from the Ford Foundation for their work to “help advance freedom, justice, and inclusion, and strengthen our democracy.” Chacon’s work explores sounds of acoustic handmade instruments overdriven through electric systems, and the direct and indirect audio feedback responses from their interactions.
Cheryl E. Leonard is a composer, performer, and instrument builder. Over the last decade she has focused on investigating sounds, structures, and objects from the natural world. Her recent works cultivate stones, wood, water, ice, sand, shells, feathers, and bones as musical instruments. Leonard is fascinated by the subtle intricacies of sounds. She uses microphones to explore micro-aural worlds hidden within her sound sources and develops compositions that highlight the unique voices they contain. Her projects often feature one-of-a-kind sculptural instruments that are played live onstage and field recordings from remote locales. Leonard enjoys collaborating across artistic disciplines and creating site-specific works.In addition to developing her own projects, she has composed numerous soundtracks for film, video, dance, and theater.