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tag: live performace

Whiz-Bang Chamber Music

Live for modular synthesizer, by Brian Noll, aka Lightbath

I’ve been keeping a playlist of live ambient performances for awhile. Several things interest me about live ambient music. The main matter is the tension between action and stasis. Ambient music often aspires to a sense of time standing still, a time apart from time. Live performance to some degree or another, whether on stage or in a home-filmed video, aspires to some extent to express activity: something happened, and it is documented here. Two short segments comprise this elegant video by Bryan Noll. The switchover happens around the 1:40 mark of the 3:09-long clip. In both segments the same small number of synthesizer modules imparts a mix of artificially conceived plucked strings and shooting-star tones that fly through, making for whiz-bang chamber music. As Noll (who also goes by Lightbath) explains in the comments, there is some additional technology offscreen, in particular a keyboard on which he is playing the chords. At times throughout you see one or both hands enter the close-up shot to move a knob or a lever, a common activity in synthesizer performance that introduces adjustment as something between conducting and performing.

Video originally posted at Noll’s YouTube channel. More from Noll at fourhexagons.net, lightbath.com and twitter.com/lightbath.

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Archival Music from Bill Laswell

A 20-plus-year-old drum duet (Hideo Yamaki and Ginger Baker)

This track is archival, but it also serves as a current, potent little reminder of what’s going on at bassist-producer Bill Laswell’s quickly expanding Bandcamp page. The track dates from 1993, recorded the year prior for Japanese drummer Hideo Yamaki’s album Shadow Run. It popped up today on Laswell’s Bandcamp outpost. Like many Laswell productions, Shadow Run appears under an individual’s name, but that name stands in for a wide swath of favorite session players, among them Foday Musa Suso (kora, vocals), Bernie Worrell (organ), Toshinori Kondo (trumpet), and Laswell himself. And, on this track, the great Ginger Baker. The track, “Hoisasa,” is a duo of Baker and Yamaki going at their kits, sometimes in swinging unison, often in swaggering counterpoint. It’s a force of nature collaboration. Two other releases under Yamaki’s name also appear on Laswell’s page, both duos with Laswell himself.

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Synth City, Part 1 of 2

Suzanne Ciani on her March 5, 2016, Dial-Tones performance in San Francisco

This is a short interview I did via email with synthesizer player Suzanne Ciani, five-time Grammy nominee, in advance of her planned March 5, 2016, performance in San Francisco as part of the Dial-Tones concert event put on by Moog, the modular synthesizer manufacturer. The interview was for an article I wrote for 48hills.org:

Marc Weidenbaum: How did you come to be involved in the Dial-Tones event?

Suzanne Ciani: I am going to be performing at Moogfest this year in May and someone at Moog asked if I would do a brief performance in San Francisco for Dial-Tones … and since I live so close to the city, and since I am preparing for Moogfest, I thought why not make a brief visit to the city for a good educational cause.

Weidenbaum: I read that it’s been 40 years since you did a solo performance with a Buchla synthesizer. How have you been preparing for the concert?

Ciani: I’m preparing by just spending time with the Buchla system. If you just be with it and interact with it and continue to get to know it, things start to happen. My new system is very very different from the old one, as I am discovering, and it’s been a challenge to let go of ingrained expectations and focus on what is possible now. Also, a limited edition LP of some of my live Buchla concerts from 1975 is just about to be released by Finders Keepers records and I will be including some little snippets of those concerts to honor my roots, so to speak.

Weidenbaum: What unique challenges and opportunities does live quadraphonic performance provide?

Ciani: In the early days, when I was an avid performer on the Buchla, I always insisted on performing in quad … and even turned down a concert once at Lincoln Center because they wouldn’t put up two additional speakers. So, I think, since I am revisitng those old days in some ways, I should uphold the vision of that time. It is very natural to include space as a musical parameter in electronic music, probably the only genre where it makes sense.

Weidenbaum: There has been so much new equipment developed in the modular synthesizer world in recent years. Do you spend a lot of time keeping up, or do you stick with a fairly set amount of equipment for your own music-making?

Ciani: I do use various hardware and software tools in my recordings, but for electronic performing, I am/was a pure Buchla aficionado. I recently went to NAMM and was awed by the number of young modular synth designers. Amazing. This reminds me of the exciting period of early analog synths when instruments were identified with their individual designers as opposed to a generic company: Don [Buchla], Tom [Oberheim], Dave [Smith]. I hope that this time around the inventors stay in control.

Read more about Dial-Tones at 48hills.org.

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