What do a traditional Japanese dancer wired with sensors, music for cello and electronics, sounds from 1970s synthesizers, a bass clarinet soloist, and electronically processed ram's horn, share in common? These are just a sampling of the fascinating music brought together under the banner EMF @ The Flea. Bridging many worlds of contemporary music, with a special focus on electronics, this new concert series delighted New York City audiences throughout April, 2002.
EMF @ The Flea included performances by Harry Sparnaay, Interface (Curtis Bahn, Dan Trueman and friends), Laurie Spiegel, Bob Gluck, Mara Helmuth and Allen Otte, Hugh Livingston, Elliott Sharp, and Benjamin Chadabe. The series was the fruit of a collaboration between the Electronic Music Foundation and Composer's Forum, Inc. All concerts were held at the Flea Theater, located in lower Manhattan, New York City.
The series opened with bass clarinetist Harry Sparnaay, who performed solo works, some including tape and electronics. The program included compositions by Larry Moss, Joji Yuasa, Wayne Siegel, Claudio Ambrosini, Riccardo Piacentini, Maurice Weddington, and Roderik de Man. Sparnaay paired his formidable technique with a remarkable expressive range.
Interface featured the sensor instrumental duo Curtis Bahn (sensor bass) and Dan Trueman (sensor violin). The two were joined by Perry Cook playing a sensor-didgeridoo, video performers Luke Dubois and Mark McNamara, dancer Tomie Hahn, and an astonishing array of spherical speakers. The speakers, developed by Bahn, Trueman, and Cook, projected electronic sounds into space in a manner reminiscent of acoustical instruments. The performances were visually and musically engaging, with a focus on musically meaningful physical gestures.
The first week of EMF @ The Flea concluded with a panoramic journey through the musical world of Laurie Spiegel, a pioneering explorer of electronic instruments. On this particular evening, music from Spiegel's recent CD, 'Obsolete Systems' (EMF) could be heard, while some of her classic instruments from the 1970s and 1980s were on display. The composer observes, "When it was new, each of these music systems, now long obsolete, was state of the art, visionary, radically new and so revolutionary that it required extended explanations in response to common questions such as 'Why would anyone ever want to do that?'"
The concluding week of concerts began with a concert by composer / performer Bob Gluck, who treated his audience to works for traditional Jewish sounds, played with a host of home-built electronic and electronically expanded acoustical instruments. These included a sensor-fitted traditional Jewish ram's horn and a Turkish long-necked stringed Saz. The concert opened with the premiere of a new work featuring singer Zoe Zak in which Gluck integrated pre-recorded vocal sounds that he shaped in realtime with electronically manipulated sounds created by Zak. During the intermission, the audience sampled several of Gluck's sound installation sculptures, modeled upon traditional Jewish ritual objects, that were displayed throughout the theater.
The next concert opened with collaborative works by composer Mara Helmuth and percussionist Allen Otte. Several of their tape compositions drew upon a fascinating host of sounds, in one case juxtaposing cataclysmic geological eruptions and sounds of the insect micro-world. Otte was joined by soprano Audrey Luna, with tape music by Helmuth, to perform two songs from an evening-length monodrama, 'Clotho'. This work is based upon the life of the early 20th century French sculptress Camille Claudel, and includes four poems by Baudelaire.
The second half of the evening's program was presented by cellist Hugh Livingston. Livingston is a dynamic improviser who integrates electronics into his performances. One of the most engaging works was 'Qwfwq', a duet for cello and computer sound processing. Livingston responded to recorded cello sounds played and recorded earlier during the performance, now transformed, as well as sounds recorded during previous performances.
The final evening of EMF @ The Flea paired electric guitarist / saxophonist / computer performer Elliott Sharp and percussionist Benjamin Chadabe. Sharp opened with 'Tectonics', a solo work featuring a panoply of instruments and electronics. Recorded sounds were triggered by Sharp's live performance, and his improvisations were combined with sequencer-created grooves, often heavily processed and transformed. The concert, and the series, concluded with a whirlwind performance of spontaneous improvisations by Benjamin Chadabe. Chadabe offered an exploration of polyrhythmic, polytimbral, and multi-ethnic patterns in percussion, joined at one point by Elliott Sharp. The evening provided a fitting conclusion to what was a dynamic and diverse concert series.
The Flea Theater, usually a venue for off-Broadway theater, proved to be an excellent setting for new music. Located only a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Towers, the theater is a core element in the recovery of lower Manhattan from the devastation of September 11. EMF @ The Flea, produced by Bernadette Speach, with technical direction by Holland Hopson and guidance from EMF Founder and President Joel Chadabe, brought exciting new life to the neighborhood. The series enriched the dynamic musical life of New York City with new sounds and new musical technologies.
Bob Gluck, May 2000
Here's how Bob's own presentation was described:
41 White Street, NYC
Rabbi Gluck performs on home-built electronic instruments, including 'eBoard', a multi-sensor interactive instrument, and an electronically expanded shofar. Gluck's music incorporates sounds from many aspects of Jewish life: religious, secular, communal, and political. This performance will include the premiere of 'Shirim Hashmaliyim: Electric Songs', a series of Jewish text settings for voice and electronics, featuring singer Zoe Zak.
The sound installation will include three elements from the interactive sound installation 'Sounds of a Community'. Audience members trigger and shape recorded sounds by interacting with electronic musical sculptures. This show will include instruments modeled upon a menorah, a Sabbath dinner table, and a sacred book.
Speaking about a recent performance at his synagogue, Albany-based Rabbi Dan Ornstein commented: "Bob Gluck's interpretations of traditional Jewish musical and liturgical traditions are bold, innovative, and fun. Who else can turn the haunting and spiritually uplifting sound of the traditional shofar, (ram's horn), of the Jewish new year into a soul journey that takes the listener to so many different places?"
The late author and liturgist, Rabbi Chaim Stern: "Bob Gluck is adventurous and deeply committed to the spiritual journey inherent in all music. I commend him to all who would embark on a similar journey of the spirit."
Rabbi Gluck trained as a musician at the Juilliard, Manhattan, and Crane schools of Music, The University at Albany, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and completed an MSW at Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Work. His background also includes private cantorial training. Rabbi Gluck's music has been performed in Austria, Berlin, Boston, across New York State ... and on the web. His work has been discussed and reviewed in the Computer Music Journal, Moment, The Forward, Reconstructionism Today, Hadassah Magazine ... and is detailed in the recent book, The Essential Klezmer.
Gluck's 1998 CD, 'Stories Heard and Retold' (EMF Media), is a series of sonic collages drawing upon sounds from Jewish life. Critic Seth Rogovoy called it: "A thought-provoking combination of musique concrete techniques, found-sounds, ambient recordings ... a kind of soundscape of Jewish life -- the aural equivalent, say, of a painting by Marc Chagall or Chaim Gross."
Gluck directs the Electronic Music Studio at The State University of New York at Albany, and he serves as Coordinator of Jewish Campus Life at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His concerts and installations have enthralled audiences throughout upstate New York. This performance offers a rare opportunity to experience his unique creative synthesis of new technologies and Jewish music.
Zoe B. Zak (voice) is a performing and recording artist, and head of Sister Z Music, an "inner world music" record label. She performs regularly with her current ensemble, Zak and Sons. Zak's music invites the listener to journey where the ancient and the modern meet in a seamless and unique musical experience. Her background includes jazz and blues, as well as avant garde piano improvisation. Zak's recordings include 'Zoe B. Zak' (1998), with the six piece Zoe B. Zak Ensemble, a series of traditional Hebrew text settings, woven together with jazz, Middle Eastern melodies and world beat rhythms; and 'Come, My Friend' (2001), traditional music for the Sabbath in beautiful and sometimes surprising settings, featuring the singing of Zoe and Rabbi Jonathan Kligler. Zak has also co-produced and performed on many other recordings. For more information, see: http://www.zoebzak.com.
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