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tag: live performace

Anna Höstman Goes Dark

Exploring the aphotic zone with the Red Shift Ensemble

Don’t judge a track by its waveform.

Certainly, if there are hard edges evenly spaced, then expect something with a beat. To sort out the pace, your imagination must factor the number of perceived units to the track’s length. And still you might be wildly off.

And if the waveform varies widely, ranging from short snatches of excited activity to long swaths of even keel, the best you can do is to expect the unexpected.

The waveform for “Blind” by Anna Höstman, a composer based in Victoria, British Columbia, suggests itself as a series of swells, vertiginous ones by the looks of it. To a degree that turns out to be, upon listening, the case, but just barely. While “Blind” does move from slow pulse to slow pulse, the heights are quite subdued, the string-instrument equivalent of someone humming inwardly to themselves, lost in their own thoughts. The result is serene tinged by tension, as played here by Red Shift Ensemble, a string quartet consisting of cello, violin, viola, and double bass. The combination of cello and double bass lends the music its depth, its rich lower end (contrast Red Shift with a traditional string quartet, which would have no bass, and a pair of violinists). Listening to the variation in “Blind,” to the subtle steps of tonal development, is quite rewarding.

In a brief liner note, the composer explains that the track is inspired by the aphotic zone, or the darkest depths of bodies of water, where light doesn’t penetrate. The performance was the piece’s debut, December 16, 2019, at the Pyatt in Vancouver. The musicians are Laine Longton (cello), Sarah Kwok (violin), Parmela Attariwala (viola), and Mark Haney (double bass). Also per the liner note, the piece was performed by Red Shift in “complete darkness.” Listen to the recording as the audience did: lights out.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/annacomposer. More from Anna Höstman at annahostman.net.

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Fridman Études

Stephen Vitiello and Taylor Deupree performing live at the start of the year

The Fridman Gallery in Manhattan has recently uploaded a host of videos to Vimeo from its New Ear Festival, which ran in early January of this year. It had a great lineup, including Mary Lucier, Susie Ibarra, a workshop with the New York Theremin Society, and a screening of the documentary Milford Graves Full Mantis, about the accomplished percussionist. One highlight is a duo performance by frequent collaborators Stephen Vitiello and Taylor Deupree. The half-hour set is built around the pair’s modular synthesizers, though it also leaves room at the opening for Vitiello’s electric guitar, a mix of long dreamy lines and anxious, muted plucking. The marvel of the performance is the ambient nature of their effort, which is to say: their collaboration is, in effect, purposefully less than the sum of its parts. The work is focused on nuance, on slight variations of tonality and layering. Gorgeous stuff.

Video originally posted at vimeo.com. More on the Fridman at fridmangallery.com.

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Steady State

Nudging an ambient beast

The machine does most of the work. It chugs along, lights blinking a telegraph of the underlying rhythm, knobs erect and at precise angles, tones rendered as held bits atmosphere, fraying as they go, the full effect a sort of aged glisten. Occasionally a hand comes into view, introducing a new note, altering the way a present sound is filtered, making other adjustments that may not be immediately evident to the listener — perhaps just to retain the work’s status quo. Sometimes when you’re the caretaker of a modular synthesizer, your job is not so much to play an instrument as it is to keep steady something that’s already moving on track, on target, in key. This video is Alex Roldan at play with his modular synthesizer, and it dates from late November of last year (earlier videos from him include drum covers of songs by Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin). Since then there have been another four modular ones from Roldan. Subscribe to his channel to encourage further endeavors.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted to Rodan’s YouTube channel. More from Rodan, who is based in Washington, D.C., at iamanalog.bandcamp.com.

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New Pedal at Dusk

A live ambient performance by half of the Japan-based duo Lullatone

This elegant, beautiful video tracks from various angles a test drive by one member of the act Lullatone on a newly acquired reverb pedal. As the sun sets, the pedal is put through its initial paces, segments played on a keyboard and then through the reverb, all set to layer as loops. Those individual layers are barely distinguishable from each other, so peacefully do they accrue as a singular, solitary spaciousness. At times the high notes bring to mind Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois’ production for U2. Throughout, both the video and the performance it documents are marvels of simplicity.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Video originally posted at YouTube channel. More from Lullatone, the duo of Shawn James Seymour and Yoshimi Tomida, who are based in Japan, at lullatone.com and lullatone.bandcamp.com.

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Distressed Tape

A live, rough-textured ambient performance video from Hainbach

Just yesterday, the musician Hainbach released a short video, barely five minutes long, of a noise-informed, texture-rich ambient performance. The instrumentation on this is simple: cassette playback, which Hainbach controls four channels on, and an effects unit. The piece develops in two primary ways: as the relative levels of those channels are adjusted, and as the various effects are put into effect.

A loop of murky, sodden, melting melody, seemingly on piano, is warped beneath the distressed qualities of the tape on which it was first recorded. Wafts of white noise, much like the flapping of a flag in the wind, surround that piano, while other lines slowly make themselves present, notably an echoing rhythm.

This is the latest video I’ve added to my YouTube playlist of recommended live performances of ambient music. Track originally posted at Hainbach’s YouTube channel. More from Hainbach, aka Stefan Paul Goetsch, who is based in Berlin, at hainbachmusik.com and hainbach.bandcamp.com.

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