Kallay Tour Underway

A History of Elevators in Film (excerpt)

A History of Elevators in Film (excerpt)

The Birmingham Art Music Alliance kicked off the Beyond 12, 2015 Tour featuring pianist Aron Kallay last night with a performance at the Hoover Library Theater. Aron will perform six more times through April 8. This tour features three premieres of pieces by Alabama-based composers including Monroe Golden, Brian Moon and myself.

My work is titled A History of Elevators in Film, and like all the pieces on the program it features a retuned and remapped piano keyboard. In my case, I’m using Max to retune and remap pitches on the fly in response to the pianist’s performance.

 

Fencepost vs. Fencepost

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vs.

One is a refreshing pale ale from Back Forty Beer Co. with a modest alcohol content and an American hop profile: a touch of pine. The other is a wintry meditation on mortality from Post & Beam with an intoxicating Pythagorean minor third: slightly lower than equal tempered. Both are Alabama natives wistfully recalling a vanishing rural past.

This fall when I plow the fields under I’ll be thinking only of you.

 

Naturesongs at RPI

I’ll be playing saxophone as part of an ensemble performing James Tenney’s “Swell Piece #2 – for Pauline Oliveros.” A440, all the way. Looks like a great program.

Tuesday, April 10 4pm Free!
Naturesongs
Rensselaer Contemporary Music Ensemble
EMPAC
Troy NY

Fencepost

This month’s score from Post & Beam is Fencepost. This is the last song I wrote for the record and has become the sleeper hit of the release.

Download the score as a pdf file: fencepost.pdf
Download the score as a Lilypond .ly file: fencepost.ly

Notes on Fencepost

  • The cFCFAb tuning is one I came to after trying a more standard minor (fCFAbC) or sawmill (cFCFG) tuning. I use a Pythagorean temperament based on F which doesn’t change the tuning of the C’s and F’s very much, but makes the Ab significantly flatter than an equal-tempered Ab.
  • The whooshing, windy sound throughout (heard prominently during the intro) is generated by walking on a pair of foot pedals, almost the way you would pump an old pump organ. (You can see this motion in the video.)
  • While recording, I kept missing the foot pedals and accidentally stepping on a mic stand instead. I decided to embrace the resulting bass drum thumps and include them in the piece.
  • Yet another song with bird imagery (YASWBI).

Ice Age

This month’s score from Post & Beam is Ice Age.

Download the score as a pdf file: ice_age.pdf
Download the score as a Lilypond .ly file: ice_age.ly

Notes on Ice Age

  • I call this banjo tuning the “So What” tuning since it produces the same voicing as the horn chords in the Miles Davis tune “So What”. (Bar all four strings at the second fret. Strum. Release. Strum. Whattya know! Modal jazz and mountain modal banjo tunings…same difference.)
  • I wrote most of the lyrics while pushing my son around in his stroller, wondering what would be worse: global warming or my first upstate New York winter in ten years.
  • The electronics part was originally all about a piercing drone that slowly oscillates between a and b-flat. The movement between the pitches is based on the gestures played by the banjo and would sometimes produce amazing microtonal difference tones. Listening back to my recordings I realized how painful the experience could be for the audience. With the encouragement and discerning ears of Troy Pohl I pushed the electronics far into the background.

Shadow Theatre of Anaphoria

Kraig Grady has posted some entrancing videos from the Shadow Theatre of Anaphoria. I love the traditional shadow puppet forms with the decidedly contemporary lighting effects–and Grady’s non-equal tempered tunings are a delight to hear.

Sedition Edition

Here are some recordings and photos from my June 19 show at Sedition Gallery in Sydney, Australia. The performance was part of the Left Coast Festival 2010.

The first set consisted of duo improvisations by Holland Hopson, fretless banjo and  electronics with Mike Majkowski, double bass.

Holland Hopson & Mike Majkowski; Photo: Terumi Narushima

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Hopson Majkowski Improvisation 1.mp3

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Hopson Majkowski Improvisation 2.mp3

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Hopson Majkowski Improvisation 3.mp3

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Hopson Majkowski Improvisation 4.mp3

Next was a wonderful set by Kraig Grady, just tuned vibraphone and Terumi Narushima, just tuned pump organ.

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Grady Narushima.mp3

Holland Hopson & Mike Majkowski; photo: Terumi Narushima

Favorites from 2009

Here are few favorite picks of recorded media, live shows and print from 2009. As usual, I’m not much of an up-to-the-minute consumer so some of this may be old news. The exception here are the live shows, of course, so let’s start there…

Live Music

My two favorite shows were at EMPAC. The pummeling dished out by The Boredoms + 9 drummers easily takes the top spot. Garth Knox’s viola and viola d’amore might have been the polar opposite of The Boredoms but was no less riveting. I was also mightily impressed with 2009 ASAC guests Area C and Ben Bracken.

Recorded Music

The only new release on my list this year is Take Me To the Water from Dust to Digital. It’s a solid (maybe even stolid) collection of gospel–no real surprises or major standouts. But combined with the beautiful book I know I’ll be returning to this one often.

Two older CDs of music by Arthur Russel and Julius Eastman are now safely ensconced in my desert island collection:

Arthur Russel World of Echo
Where has this record been all my life? I had heard Russel’s avant-disco but was unprepared for the intimacy and sweet strangeness in this recording.

Julius Eastman Unjust Malaise
A life-changing collection of prescient music from a singular talent. There are so many standouts in this collection that it’s hard to choose a favorite.

And some assorted highlights from the year’s listening:

The Hub The Hub & Wreckin’ Ball
Tim Perkis/John Bischoff Artificial Horizon
Some of the synthesized sounds on these records date them, yet no one has better explored the potential for musicking with communication technology. The Hub is still at the heart of the genre, and sadly the genre is still too small. Maybe all those laptop orchestras with their hemi speakers will carry on some this work. They would do well to revisit these recordings.

Junior Kimbrough and the Soul Blues Boys All Night Long
Languorous sound that builds a Calatrava-style bridge between a juke-joint in Mississippi and the sacred sites of minimalism, drone and raga. On second thought, maybe that juke-joint in Mississippi IS a sacred site of minimalism, drone and raga.

Art of Field Recording Volume I
Another Dust to Digital release. I lived with these recordings for most of the year–and won’t be forgetting them soon.

Gloria Coates Symphonies Nos. 1, 7 and 14
This was recommended to me when it first came out. I’m sorry I missed it until this year.

Books

This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitan was probably the most fun I’ve had thinking about music and sound in a while. His Six Songs is less interesting/convincing, but a good intro to questions about music and evolution.

I enjoyed John Adams‘s Hallelujah Junction more than I expected, based on my experience with Adams’ music. (When will John Luther Adams write a book?) I found his tales about his origins and development illuminating and his writing refreshingly frank. It was especially interesting to read about his life in San Francisco during the 1960s which leads to…

The San Francisco Tape Music Center: an excellent overview of an under-appreciated group of electronic music pioneers and their fascinating intersections with popular culture. This collection puts a new spin on the usual Columbia/Princeton/Bell Laboratory history of electronic music in the US.

Music Technology

I expected 2009 to be about Max for Live, but I never got around to buying Live and then had no reason to get Max for Live. Instead, the one piece of music gear that’s made the most impact on my work in 2009 is an 1860’s style fretless tackhead banjo built by Eric Prust.

Back to the software side, the most notable music software I used this year was for the iPhone

Cleartune is easily the best tuner I’ve ever used. It still makes me a little giddy at how wonderful it is to be able to switch between equal tempered tunings and all manner of Pythagorean, just, meantone and historical tunings. My trusty clip-on tuner finally died this year; I’m not sure I’ll replace it.

SoundLevel is a free, bare-bones sound level meter app. I haven’t upgraded to SoundLevel Pro because the free app does me just fine. The convenience of always having a sound level meter on hand means that I’m much more likely to use it. In fact, it’s become an important step every time I set up a PA or go to a friend’s house to listen to mixes. Not to mention the ability to quickly check how loud that blender really is–time to put in earplugs!

On the productivity/inspiration side of things, OmniFocus for iPhone is essential for me. And the iPhone’s built-in Voice Memos app has become my favorite way to capture a sonic idea or lyric phrase–if only there were a better way to offload those files to my machine rather than having to go through iTunes…

Looking ahead to 2010

Maybe 2010 will be my time for Live and Max for Live. I’ve just started dipping into the Pinewoods International Collection of folk tunes and I expect the book will occupy me for most of next year. I’m hoping that by 2011 I’ll be able to frail my way with ease through all those odd time signatures. Finally, I’m looking forward to making more field recordings with my recently beefed-up rig which now includes a Fostex FR2-LE and a Rode Blimp.

Tax Refund

Here’s your tax refund from The Field Guide: two new recordings from my recent Albany Sonic Arts Collective performance at the Upstate Artists Guild. See photos from the show here.

The first piece features an in-progress version of my Fender Telecaster morphing into an electric 6-string banjo. I replaced the lowest string on the Tele with another high string to serve as a drone. Soon to come are railroad spikes so I can change the pitch of the drone string more easily and my usual allotment of sensors added to the instrument. This piece is played in a traditional thumb lead two-finger style using a modified mountain-minor tuning (dG’DGcd) run through a loopy MSP patch.

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Spring Dissent (Bubbling)

The second piece is a modified version of a work for banjo and electronics with the banjo replaced by my Base On, a circuit-bent walkie-talkie. Not much of the circuit-bent sound is heard, though, since it drives an elaborate resynthesis process in MSP that simultaneously retunes the pitches to just-intonation and smears the transitions with glissandi. A touch of feedback in the process opens up slightly unstable areas where the algorithm fights with itself to settle on a consistent pitch.

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Wichita Mind Control – Estate Capital