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Photo of Michael Pisaro by Yuko Zama.
Composer Michael Pisaro

Michael Pisaro, born in Buffalo in 1961, teaches composition at CalArts in Valencia, CA. He is a composer and guitarist, and a member of the Wandelweiser Composers Ensemble. He has written over 80 works for a wide variety of instrumental combinations, including several pieces for variable instrumentation. A particularly large category of his music is solo works, notably a series of 36 pieces (grouped into 6 longer works) for the three-year, 156-concert series organized by Carlo Inderhees at the Zionskirche in Berlin-Mitte from 1997-1999. Another solo piece, pi (1-2594), was performed in installments by the composer on 15 selected days in February, 1999, in Evanston, Illinois, and in Düsseldorf in 2000-2001.

His work is frequently performed in the U.S. and in Europe, in music festivals and in many smaller venues. It has been selected twice by the ISCM jury for performance at World Music Days festivals (Copenhagen,1996; Manchester, 1998) and has also been part of festivals in Hong Kong (ICMC, 1998), Vienna (Wien Modern,1997), Aspen (1991) and Chicago (New Music Chicago, 1990, 1991). He has had extended composer residencies in Germany (Künstlerhof Schreyahn), Switzerland (Forumclaque/Baden), Israel (Miskenot Sha’ananmim), Greece (EarTalk) and in the U.S. (Birch Creek Music Festival/ Wisconsin). Concert length portraits of his music have been given in Munich, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, Vienna, Brussels, Curitiba (Brazil), Berlin, Chicago, Düsseldorf, Zürich, and Cologne.

Most of his music of the last several years is published by Timescaper Music (Germany). Two CDs of his work have been released by Edition Wandelweiser Records. He has performed many of his own works and those of close associates Antoine Beuger, Kunsu Shim, Jürg Frey and Manfred Werder, and works from the American experimental tradition, especially John Cage, Christian Wolff, Robert Ashley and George Brecht.

For The Nature of Music series, Mr. Pisaro performed and discussed two compositions, both involving field recording and live playback.

  1. Transparent City consists of field recordings (all from Los Angeles) and sine tones, with the composer playing electric guitar.
  2. asleep, forest, melody, path was played by Pisaro and the Other Minds Ensemble performing an aleatoric score alongside nature sound recordings played in canon with themselves. The members of the Other Minds Ensemble at this performance were Michael Jones, Liam Herb, Wendy Reid, Randall Wong, Lula Asplund and Sally Decker.

To learn more about Michael and his work, you can go to his Wikipedia page. There is also a lengthy interview of Michael by Nathan Thomas, viewable on the Fluid Radio web site.

Event Program

Program Notes

Transparent City is a series of electronic pieces assembled from the combination of field recordings made in Los Angeles and sine tones. Each piece is ten minutes long

In each case there is a visitation. Sonically, there is nothing simpler or more abstract than the sine tone: it might well be the opposite of sonic dust. Its temperature is always the same (somewhere near 0° Celsius). In each piece a set of four sine tones occurs in segments over the course of the ten minutes (according to a procedure which distributes the tones individually and which also controls their durations). Using another procedure, the frequency of the tones is calculated to never be the same, so that each of the 102 pieces has a distinct collection of four frequencies (which must lie between 60 and 3100 Hertz).

The trajectories of the two elements, field recording and sine tones are therefore distinct, unrelated. But the ear and the mind do strange things. Sometimes the tones are imposed directly upon the atmosphere, like a kind of monument; at other times they disappear into the air; sometimes you hear them when they are not there at all. Somewhat like the Martian spaceship in the film Five Million Years to Earth they are, at the same time, a foreign object and the foundation of the world.

Performed by Michael Pisaro, guitar, with pre-recorded material.

asleep, forest, melody, path is the seventh in a series of pieces devoted to the investigation of a location through field recordings and live performance. There are up to six 10-minute sections to the piece. Each section is organized into four parts as follows.

First part (3′): a mono location recording is played in each of four channels, with a fixed delay in the start of the recording as it moves through the four speakers, creating a four-part “canon” of the recording.

Second part (3′): the recordings from the first part are repeated, at a lower volume, while a soloist from the ensemble plays a melody with an open-ended (indeterminate) accompaniment by the rest of the ensemble.

Third part (3′): the soloist and ensemble play the same music, but without the field recordings.

Fourth part (1′): a silent pause.

A melody can be seen as a path through the frequency landscape. So the music the ensemble makes, follows its own “path” through each of the field recordings. The soloists, who have a set of written tones, are a bit like guides through the fog of tones and noises that the ensemble creates. The ensemble is equally influenced by environment and melody.

Performed by The Other Minds Ensemble (including Wendy Reid, Randall Wong, Michael Jones, Lula Asplund and Sally Decker) with pre-recorded material.

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Click here to download a copy of the Nature of Music 8 program.

Event Video

Artist Media: Video

Artist Media: Audio

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