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.
Bill Fontana (born USA, 1947) is an American composer and artist who has developed an international reputation for his pioneering experiments in sound. Since the early 70’s Fontana has used sound as a sculptural medium to interact with and transform our perceptions of visual and architectural spaces. He has realized sound sculptures and radio projects for museums and broadcast organizations around the world. His work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, the Post Museum in Frankfurt, the Art History and Natural History Museums in Vienna, both Tate Modern and Tate Britain in London, the 48th Venice Biennale, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, and the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney. His major radio sound art projects include works for the BBC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, National Public Radio, West German Radio (WDR), Swedish Radio, and Radio France among others.
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. He was a student of many notable teachers, including James Tenney, Wadada Leo Smith, Morton Subotnick, and Michael Pisaro.
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, and has designed sounds for exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle.