2007 EMM Festival in Kansas City

Jason BolteElectronic Music Midwest 2007 was a smooth-running, well-organized, sonically and musically superior event, put on by some truly lovely people. Indeed, before the festival was very far along (fifteen or twenty minutes into concert one), I was already kicking myself for not having known about this nine year old treasure, and was planning to attend the next one, in Chicago, and the next one after that, back in Kansas City, and….

Anya SuherThere were nine concerts in all, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (October 11-13), all held in the Performing Arts Center of the Kansas City Kansas Community College, inevitably and consistently referred to as KCKCC. Nine concerts in three days (one on Friday, four each on the other two days) might seem like a lot—the opportunities for listener fatigue many but for the good design: one hour concerts, lots of variety, plenty of time between each show for eating and drinking and just generally hanging out.

The pictures are of Jason Bolte, composer, who took over Ian Corbett’s duties at the mixing board for this festival and Anya Suher, audio engineer, who recorded the festival. Some of the following names are not linked to another site. That is simply because the only references I could find to them were to things like the EMM archives, which simply reproduce these concert programs.

Concert 1

Nihan Yesil, STOL

 

Jay C. Batzner, Blue Jaunte (whispers of Gouffre Martel)

 

Clifton Callender, Metamorphoses with Evan Jones, cello

Jacob Gotlib, Tower of Babel

Jen-Kuang Chang, The Manhattan Project: To the Victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with Sarah Louden, flute

Jason Bolte, And Death…

Mike McFerron, Canticle with Ashly Evans, mezzo-soprano

It takes a certain amount of nerve to start an electroacoustic concert—and even more nerve to start a whole festival—with one of the hoariest of hoary clichés, but that’s what happened here, with the backwards tam tam sound that begins STOL. Fortunately, Nihan Yesil is a talented composer who knows exactly what she’s about, as evidenced by the long, the very long, silence that follows the sudden cut-off, a silence very gradually filled with tiny sounds and then with great, hall-filling ones, prompting me to write in my notes (and not for the only time) about how impressive the sound system was. The festival is very fortunate in its sound engineer, Ian Corbett.

The rest of concert one ranged from the surprisingly pretty The Manhattan Project to the loud mayhem of And Death… (the most visceral piece of the evening and way too short), from the transparent clattering, clanking, and clicking of Tower of Babel to the long lines of Blue Jaunte to the smooth changes between very different styles in Metamorphoses. The evening closed with Canticles, by one of the festival’s coordinators, Mike McFerron. Canticles is a really rich, dark piece (with the really rich, dark voice of Ashly Evans) that has a shattering crescendo—and an equally shattering decrescendo.

 

Concert 2

Kip Haaheim, Meditation on the Nature of Dragonflies

Sean Peuquet, Instead of Anything, Anything

Jonathan Hallstrom, Spaces Within Which to Dwell

Liza Seigido, Sirens

Dohi Moon, Interpretations I & II

Michael Boyd, Bit of Nostalgia…, with Michael McCurdy, percussion/actor

Ivan Elezovic, Mediterranean-Riots-Colors

Michael Pounds, Meiso (Meditation)

The second concert included two “straight” electroacoustic pieces, Instead of Anything, Anything (with a lovely bit for amplified clock near the end) and Interpretations I & II of the music of J.S. Bach; two pieces for video and electronics, Spaces Within Which to Dwell (a clock and a room) and Mediterranean-Riots-Colors (yes, very colorful, in both ways). All very good. All very different from each other.

There were also two “tape +” pieces, Meditation on the Nature of Dragonflies for tape and cello (the tape part largely or solely cello sounds, I’d guess) and Meiso (Meditation) for tape and koto, with a very lovely bit where the koto was very closely miked.

Nice though these six pieces were, for me the high points of the morning were the two theater pieces, Sirens, for solo voice turned into a chorus of mythical and dangerous singers by means of three microphones that the soloist makes very small sounds into, sounds vastly altered and amplified, and Bit of Nostalgia, performed brilliantly by the composer on laptop and Michael McCurdy on newspapers, veggies, blender, and other objects while calling out various things, like “1982,” and “Hotdog Surprise.”

 

Concert 3

David R. Mooney, A Little Noise Goes a Long Way

Philip Schuessler, Supercell, with Michael McCurdy, percussion

Nicholas Drake, Improvisation No. 1: Agitation

Brooke Joyce, Prairie Etudes, with Susan Tomkiewicz, English horn

Michael Drews, Conflux

 

M. Anthony Reimer, Melancholy, with Jay Gemkow, violin

Tom Williams, Shelter

 

The extraordinary percussionist, Michael McCurdy, returned for Supercell, which is mostly small, subtle sounds (and lots of vocalization), punctuated by loud electronic roars. A Little Noise Goes a Long Way is not noisy enough—very nice otherwise, though, with blocks of noise arranged “melodically.” The blocks of sound in Nicolas Drake’s piece, in contrast, are arranged rhythmically. It is a lovely, percussive piece. Indeed, concert three was quite definitely the concert of lovely sounds, from the long, single, non-virtuosic lines of Melancholy and the pretty images and sounds of Prairie Etudes to the rich, dark, gorgeous sounds of Conflux and the extremely lovely noises of Shelter that encircled us in sound. (I particularly enjoyed the stuff coming from behind us, the louder, more eruptive sounds—sadly unavailable to me on my old school stereo with the two channel CD of this).

 

Concert 4

A presentation of the 60×60 project, sixty sixty-second pieces by sixty composers. Do this once, and you’ve still got fourteen minutes of fame left.

 

Concert 5

Timothy Stulman, 5 Sense Off

Ian Corbett, Three Improvisatory Groovescapes, with Paul Rudy, trumpet

I. What’s that? Be-Phunk?

II. Slurpy, Syrupy, Mmmm…..

III. “Play, Maceo, Play”

Eric Simonson, Imaginary Cavern Study

 

James Mobberley, Alter Ego, with Carter Enyeart, cello

Jack W. Stamps, Dispatches From Unnoted Stations, Book 1: MICROCHIP-ÉCLAIR

John Latartara and Michael Gardiner, Transparent Things

 

Benjamin Williams, Mirrored Pursuit, with Christopher Janwong McKiggan, piano

Kevin Kissinger, Three Legged Race, with Kevin Kissinger, Theremin

Concert five gave us live theremin (Three Legged Race), an overtly Reichian piece; funky-town (Mirrored Pursuit and Three Improvisatory Groovescapes, the latter originally for sax, but played this evening, to great acclaim, by Paul Rudy on trumpet); and the “apparent worldwide network of clandestine short-wave radio stations” (music and text by Jack W. Stamps, with the voices of Stamps and Yevgeniy Sharlat), with the voices altered sometimes to the point where only the rhythm of speech is left.

Otherwise, we had the loud, aggressive, percussive music of Imaginary Cavern Study (with soft, gentle, percussive bits as well); the innocently gentle hook of Alter Ego, which led (as it had to) to the rowdy rest of the piece; and the very small sounds extremely amplified of 5 Sense Off, which also had a section of alternating between a rhythmic lick and unrhythmic crowd in a lobby sounds. Those are eventually merged, naturally.

The high point of this concert, of this festival, for me was the laptop duo of John Latartara and Michael Gardiner (Parallel Lives). My memory is not specific enough to tell if their performance of Transparent Things consisted of bits and pieces of their Beethoven Hammerklavier or if they just used the beginning of that to go various other places. Regardless, this was a very solid performance, with the most satisfying use of silence.

Concert 6

Jim McManus, Snap Out of It, with Jim McManus, electric bass

Nickolas Hartgrove, Inside My Head Forever

Spencer Topel, Gnomoncholia, with Spencer Topel, violin

Robert Voisey, Constellations Midwest Music Mix

Joshua Clausen, I’ll See You Tomorrow, with Elizabeth Bunt, saxophone

Tim Reed, Roberto

Christopher Biggs, Exterminate All the Brutes, with Elizabeth Bunt, saxophone

James Caldwell, More Pocket Music

IX. 0:36 (2004)

VII. 2:05 (2001)

VIII. 1:26 (2006)

X. 0:59 (2006)

Madelyn Byrne, Dream Tableaux

After an evening of serious eating and drinking and frivolous attempts to sleep, the 10:30 concert Sunday morning rolled around way too soon. This concert had more “tape +” pieces than any other of this festival—Snap Out of It for electric bass and zippy little electronic responses, Dream Tableaux for classical guitar and electronic wash, Gnomoncholia for violin and tape (a dream duet of early twentieth century serialism—very pretty), and three pieces for saxophone and tape, I’ll See You Tomorrow, Roberto, and Exterminate the Brutes. The first featured hard-edged electronics and equally hard-edged playing, the second (with the sax part prerecorded) more lyrical, the third a high energy piece with broken up phrases and clever use of space, both that between phrases or bits of same and from speaker to speaker around the room.

That leaves only More Pocket Music—lots of jingly, jangly stuff, some HPSCHD-like stuff, and some very nice hard-edged whispering—and Inside My Head Forever, which gave us a hook, followed it with pop music, as per expectations, and then broke things up a bit (but not too much), as per another set of expectations.

 

Concert 7

Jeremy C. Baguyos, Fanfare, with Timothy Howe, trombone

Lauren Wells, Trains!

Joseph M. Vogel, Dancing Light

Brad Decker, Bembero

 

Eric Honour, Dreamtime, with Eric Honour, didgeridoo

Kyong Mee Choi, Photogene

 

Wilfried Jentzsch, Kyotobells

In Fanfare, written for Timothy Howe, the live electronics extend (as it were) the trombone into beautifully harsh and clanky realms. One could expect a piece called Trains! to be equally harsh and clanky, especially given the ! mark, but it’s a subtle piece, subtle and atmospheric, with long, slow changes, like the tones appearing out of a low electronic wash that eventually become distinct as train whistles. Bembero also works the metamorphosis theme, with a swingy bit that gradually turns into a music box sound and morphs into African drumming, as it were. Kyotobells transforms the sounds of the bells into very dense noise.

If it seems perhaps a bit daft to single out only certain electroacoustic pieces as illustrative of metamorphosis or transformation, I can only say that the other pieces weren’t so much about the process. Dancing Light, for instance, is about co-incidence, with a singer humming and ahhhing to an electronic accompaniment of hums and ahhhs. Similarly for Dreamtime, with already transformed didgeridoo sounds (among others) accompanying the live instrument.

 

Concert 8

Arthur Gottschalk, Cello: Fishing at Antibes, with Taylor Richardson, cello

Hunter S. Long, One Blends Softly…

Schuyler Tsuda, Parasites, with Schuyler Tsuda, laptop

Angela Veomett, Eve Song, with Jessica Petrus, soprano

Kadet Kuhne, Infinite Delay

Cello: Fishing at Antibes offered long, sweet cello lines to an electronic wash, then the paradoxically named One Blends Softly… gave us an ear cleansing razor buzz, some scratching, a thundery bass, and lots of hard, bright metallic sounds. Parasites, after some squiggly little insect sounds over a dark, rich, low frequency, settled into very saturated sounds, very noisy and high energy and all over all the speakers. Eve’s Song gave us a really good soprano, a really pretty snake in the video, and very lush sounds, then Infinite Delay plunged us—in both the video and the music—into a pool, where a straitjacketed person struggled infinitely past what one breath could hold, courtesy of looping.

 

Concert 9

Noah Keesecker, ToneGoblin

Adam Hardin, Echolalia, with Brad Baumgartner, bass clarinet

Tsai-yun Huang, Imaginary Place, with Tzu-feng liu, piano

Paul Rudy, The Best Medicine

Joo Won Park, Music for the Biceps, with Joo Won Park, bicycle pump and melodica

Cort Lippe, termites

Matt Dotson, Song Cycle for Haruki Marakami (MusicBart Bridger Woodstrup, video)

HyeKyung Lee, FUBU (conFUsion/conBUstion), with HyeKyung Lee, piano

The final concert finally brought us a piece by the other co-director, Paul Rudy, a medicinal piece that filled the hall with laughter. Lots of whirring sounds in this piece, and spinning things running down, along with voices saying things like “OK, go ahead and just start” and “Do it right this time.”

We had a handful more of tape + pieces, Echololia for electronically enhanced multiphonics, Imaginary Place, with the live piano played from the keyboard and the piano on tape from inside on the harp, and FUBU, which HyeKyung said she found conFUsing to write (her first piece for tape + piano), but that we found terrifically exciting to listen to and to watch. Her playing was certainly quite secure.

termites is a really bright, reverberant, in your face kind of loud sharp sounds piece, perhaps because the termites, so to speak, are the Convolution Brothers (Cort Lippe, Miller Puckette, and Zack Settel) eating a special Marimba, yum yum.

Music for the Biceps is just that, a performer working a bicycle pump to supply a melodica with wind.

Otherwise, there were two video and electronics pieces, ToneGoblin, which integrated images and sound most precisely, and Song Cycle for Haruki Marakami, which has words, video, and music, the words about the music, about other things, about a loud sound that’s not coming over the speakers. A very entertaining piece indeed.

A very entertaining festival indeed. Soon may October come ‘round again.

3 Responses to 2007 EMM Festival in Kansas City
  1. mixolydian
    April 7, 2008 | 9:35 pm

    Mr.Karman,

    I greatly appreciated your comments on “Sirens.” I sent a link to this article to everyone I know.

    Thanks and I am honored that you enjoyed my work.

    -Liza

  2. parallel lives
    July 20, 2009 | 12:21 pm

    Michael,

    Thank you for the kind words on our performance. It was great fun to be a part of that festival.

    -parallel lives

  3. The Cutting Edge
    June 18, 2010 | 10:08 pm

    Is this coming back to KC?

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