Thursday, June 11, 2009

Special Upcoming NMGM Concert - this Sunday!

The Reparametrization Underground plays an afternoon of written and improvised music including works by Ryan Ingebritsen, Katherine Young, and Thelonious Monk. They will be joined by Auris featuring Christopher Preissing, Guillermo Gregorio, and Julia Miller.

Sunday, June 14th

Reparametrizaton Underground

$5 admission

The Reparametrizaiton Underground is a group of improvisers who engage in interactive improvisations where one sonic thread is manipulated and created by multiple acoustic and electronic performers. The ensemble seeks to foster organic interaction between the acoustic and the electronic. Instead of being directly manipulated by electronics, the instrumentalists and electronic performer work in tandem, weaving one sonic "thread," in which the action of each individual directly affects the others’ sound, creating a chance for completely original, uniquely democratic activity. Featuring an array of talent across many background and genres of music, this incarnation features electronic artist and founder Ryan Ingebritsen, flutist Shannon Budd, Violinist Erica Dicker, and Tubist/ multi-instrumentalist Dan Peck.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Jeff K: "10 Questions for Falesch"

1. Were you trained traditionally in music? Describe any formative experiences you have had.

No, I was not. I had no formal education in music and no childhood music lessons, but from about age five I had an interest in classical music, and in adolescence I added jazz to my world. I was constantly listening to music from recordings and from the radio (WFMT provided a musical education of incalculable value in my first two decades). I felt contented listening to the standard classical repertoire during that time, but did so quite critically -- I was capable of near rage when this or that conductor took a tempo or sought a dynamic I thought to be, um, "insensitive." Naturally, in search of interpretive nirvana, the result was umpteen recordings of the same work. At one time I had 22 recordings of the Eroica Symphony and almost as many of the Brahms 4th. This music, from the grooves of a hunk of plastic, was profoundly formative. In my third decade, with a good career in electronics engineering at hand, I continued and deepened my music listening. Music was still the central focus of my emotional life, but I hadn't yet overcome the silly notion that I was simply not put on this earth to be a musician. This was a source of dissonance in my life, to be sure. My appetite for other repertoire, eventually including the post-tonal, seemd to make it impossible for me to collect recordings enough to satisfy myself. In spite of the joy I was still getting from listening, I became frustrated not being involved in the actual creation of music.

2. When did you first compose a piece of music? What is your earliest opus?

Excluding banging on pots and pans to an Art Blakey record when I was 16, I made music for the first time at age 46. At this time I simply decided to crush that outsider-dissonance and made it my sole purpose: find a way to make my own music. That first music was for a play that was heard in the theater from a recording made via MIDI sequencing and samplers. In this first experience with electronic instruments I already felt an aversion to straight sampling of traditional instruments, so I mixed and layered samples with glitched and noisy sounds.

My earliest notated piece was finished two years later - a little solo piano piece called "Whirligig," which was performed by Wilbur Kruse, at, yes, the Green Mill.

3. When did you first use computers for composing?

Computers for musical "word processing" -- from the beginning (MIDI sequencing). Much later on I began to use software toolkits (MAX/MSP, etc) to explore my own sound-design and found some of the randomization functions useful in banging out local structures, experimenting with permutations of pitch sets, etc. I'm just now beginning to explore software for true algorithmic composition, but have never finished anything of that type.

4. Who are the living composers (both in Chicago and abroad) that you feel deserve attention?

These can be electroacoustic or not.Good, your wording frees me to give "electroacoustic" mere footnote status :-) Seriously though, a tendency to make it secondary is largely due to my having so recently come to it. My deepest musical experiences were happening long before I became aware of electronics in music beyond amplifying a guitar. So, here's a terrifying admission: Overcoming the belief that "profound" or weighty music can only be performed by humans on non-electronic instruments is a very recent accomplishment for me.I'm anxious about questions like this, because I'd like to offer hundreds of names. Okay, two of our Chicago composers immediately come to mind: Robert Lombardo and George Flynn. Music by these two has deeply moved me and I'd like it if their names were on the tips of tongues all over the planet.The footnote: In my view, Åke Parmerud, Jonathan Harvey, and Hans Tutschku are utter giants in electroacoustics. They find their way around the orchestra pretty well too.

5. What are you going to miss about Chicago? What is good and bad about the new music scene here?

A dense loaf of Polish Rye that weighs twelve pounds and offers good resistance to even the strongest of jaws. That will be missed. I think the new music scene here is superbly non-bigoted (among the practitioners, anyway). Chicago is justly internationally recognized for our "out jazz" and free-improvisation people and I like the interaction here between that scene and the so-called new-classical scene. This vibrant cross-pollination makes everybody more brave and open-minded. What's bad about the scene? Hmmm... No downtown support for new music, but what else is new? That seems to be endemic to our entire continent. I suppose it makes the experimenters hungrier, and that may ultimately be a good thing (at least for their music-loving great grandchildren)

6. What is your opinion about the intersection of political ideas and new music. Do you think it is futile for composers to be socially engaged? Do you consider your work to be political in any way?

I'm struggling with the word "intersection." How about these variants of the question: Can an art form like new music, or, can *any* art form influence politics of the day? Will a composer who is on-board with a particular political philosophy feel better about her music if she thinks that philosophy is somehow expressed in her music? Can issues of the day provide nuggets of meaning that readily get turned into musical structures and themes, somehow giving the music added extra-musical worth? These are questions that play well, I think, in the gaggles of post-modernism. My sympathies seem to fit better with good old-fashioned modernism - music for music's sake, etc. I admit to jumping on a topical/political platform in a couple of my own pieces, but I'm happy to say I've gotten over it. Those pieces were not at all political, only my program notes were political.There's no futility in social engagement, whether by a musician or a plumber. Anyone capable of communicating an idea can do some good, I'd say.

7. Describe your compositional process at the current time.

What are you working on now? I'm in between musical projects (my move to New York is imminent, so there will be a couple months of down time), but I just finished the first pop tune of my career! Back in March, the British electro-pop musician Imogen Heap dropped a vocal track on a music hosting web site I use. It's characterized as a remix competition, but it involved composing and producing everything underneath the solo vocal stem. At completion I wound up with a 28 track mixdown for the little 3-minute tune (yes, I took it seriously!). It's titled The Song That Never Was and my submission can be heard here (I use the presumptuous handle "AvantGuy"). My recent projects have been electroacoustic and involve noise textures and a solo instrument or the voice. I normally create some of the content first and then that will suggest to me a gesture or series of gestures. When I begin, any predetermined formal structure is only the barest of notions about a shape: maybe slow-fast-slow, or dense-sparse-dense, etc (I do like "three":) The content may be bit of processed vocal or instrumental sound, or it may be a pitch series with or without a particular instrument or electronic sound in mind at first. If it's a vocal piece with words, I gravitate toward nonsequitur and nonsense verse, although I have used poetry. A piece with wordless vocals would usually not feature the singer in a solo role.

8. What is your prediction for the use of computers in the future of music?

The important innovators in the field have and always will ensure the composer's own aesthetic sense remains at the core of the process. There will be electronic instruments and controllers that have the tactile subtlety of traditional instruments (and will require similar effort and study to master). This may take another century or more, given the slow evolution of truly interactive musicial instrument controllers. As for how this will affect future composers musical styles, I can't be specific, but I know it will be profound, but it will be very gradual. I just hope they never abandon counterpoint! :):) Traditional orchestral instruments will not die. Instead, there will be further advances in compositons that mix them with computer processes via a level of interaction that is infinitely more robust than we can achieve currently.

9. If you had to pick one work, or collection of works by a single composer to bring with you to a desert island, what would it be?

One work: Beethoven Eroica Symphony.

Collection of works: Beethoven Late Sonatas and Quartets.

You'll appreciate the fact in answering the question I had to decide against typing Das Lied von der Erde (Mahler), Into the Labyrinth (Maxwell-Davies), String Quartet (Lutoslawski), Trinity (George Flynn), Crescent (Coltrane), Mortuos plango, vivos voco (Harvey), Symphony #10 (Shostakovitch), Symphony #4 (Brahms), Gesang der Junglinge (Stockhausen), and 300 others. I wanted to conform to the spirit of your question, so that's why I didn't type those other names :)

10. What is your advice to young composers studying today, what do they absolutely need to know?

They need to know that beauty exists. They must be confident in their own definition, their own concept of beauty. They need to learn to submit totally and unconditionally to that beauty. Only then will they know how to create it themselves. Only then will they truly want to create it.

--Bob Falesch