Back in September, the first On Land festival brought a wide range of quiet-minded electronicists and other music-makers to San Francisco. I caught the first of the three concerts, which were conceived by the Root Strata record label, but unfortunately for me not the one featuring a solo performance by Boston-based musician Keith Fullerton Whitman. Of course, missed concert opportunities aren’t what they once were. Chances are, someone recorded what you didn’t witness — sometimes even the musicians themselves. And fortunately in this case, Whitman has just uploaded a high-quality recording of the nearly 20-minute set to his soundcloud.com/kfw space:
(Audio isn’t the only thing the web can be expected to capture for posterity. The above photo of Whitman performing this piece appears courtesy of flickr.com/photos/nedraggett.)
Fullerton has had lengthy, relatively uncompressed files on SoundCloud in the past, but with the exception of this piece — title: “Live Generator (1) @ On Land” — they’ve all been removed. So, interested parties are advised to take advantage of the little down arrow on the right-hand side of the above interface, and download the 184mb file. (Anyone with audiophilic tendencies take note: the above interface is not streaming the 184mb version of the recording. It’s streaming an MP3 compressed to less than 1/10th that size. For the full-on, you-were-kinda-there listening experience, be sure to get the full 184mb version.)
The 20 minutes feature Whitman in a playful mode. Childlike melodic snippets bounce back and forth in the stereo spectrum, while a rising drone provides a kind of sonic trampoline on which they can have their fun. The fast pace of the melody brings to mind sci-fi soundtracks and early electronic head music more than it does video-games, at least initially, though among the technology employed, according to Whitman, was an emulation of an early game system. He writes:
“… here’s a great recording of my set at the Root Strata ‘On Land’ festival ; this was my first attempt at performing the ‘Generator’ piece in front of people …. the instrumentation is simply two doepfer suitcases full of assorted eurorack modules, an outboard spring reverb, and (at the end) an iphone running a commodore 64 emulator …”
As the performance goes on, that rapid pixel pop gets more and more mangled, until it becomes distorted beyond recognition. In the process, Fullerton explores not only the melody as a kind of barrage, a pattern to set against itself, but also the individual tones, which at times get stretched out to many times their initial length until they threaten to scatter, revealing a whole new set of patterning.
Here, by the way, is my write-up of the first of the three On Land shows, on the afternoon of Saturday, September 19, featuring Danny Paul Grody, Marielle V. Jakobsons (aka darwinsbitch), and William Fowler Collins, among others: disquiet.com.