Machines & Strings, PART I

10.13.18 | Program notes

Music for Sitting in the Wet Grass

Madeline Falcone, McLean Macionis, and Nathan Turczan

Music for Sitting in the Wet Grass is an improvised work for solo player piano conceived by Madeline Falcone, McLean Macionis, and Nathan Turczan. Inspired by the spacey, measured chords of Tyshawn Sorey's Permutations for Solo Piano, Falcone, Macionis, and Turczan create a flat sonic landscape in which chords are repeated (or not), focusing on small one-note changes in a meditative study of piano resonance.

Conceptually derived from Turczan's exploration of  scale networks (as described by Dmitri Tymoczko), the music navigates a web of forty-eight seven-note musical scales and their intersections. Turczan is further developing ideas about networks -- harmonic, synesthetic and experiential -- in his installation Modal Intersections on display October 15 - 22 in the CalArts WaveCave B303. -MF, MM, & NT

About Lydia

Lydia is a modified mechatronic instrument built on an upright piano, utilizing the strings in new contemporary techniques.

Mentored by MacArthur Genius Trimpin, Lydia was developed for a project to modify an existing piano into a system for new composition. There are a series of spinning bow wheel motors that activate individual strings. There is also a set of push solenoids that activate sets of strings. Additionally, there is a saw installed at the bottom of Lydia that makes scraping sounds.

Lydia was created by Ajay Kapur, Eric Heep, Jason Jahnke, and Daniel Reyes in 2013. It was named Lydia after a collaboration at CalArts with Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde.

The Room will untidy

chrysanthe tan

The Room Will Untidy is a piece about the human avoidance of entropy, the tendency toward disorder. We know deep down that things will deteriorate. The ice will melt. Bodies break down. The dominoes will fall. A meticulously cleaned room will untidy.

I struggle to accept entropy. I do not like things outside of my control. I want things to be right. I want things scheduled. I want there to be an order. I don’t want my brain and body to fail. I don’t like surprises. Therefore, I plan. I plan for everything. And despite my best efforts, things go awry and askew all the time. Or maybe they are simply different, and that is okay. The irony of over-planning is that my lack of universal control is magnified tenfold. In the grand scheme of things, I am powerless, at least in the face of this inevitable thermodynamic principle.

Thus, I simultaneously go through bouts of radical acceptance. The Room Will Untidy is a portrayal of this back and forth, resistance vs. acceptance of entropy. The two spoken voices represent two inner voices within the same person, hence why the text provided below makes no delineation between characters. Accepting my place and powerlessness in the context of the vast universe is part of my homecoming quest on a grander scale.

The first story in the piece is about getting lost on a run in my mother’s homeland of Greece, where I was visiting for the first time for a composer residency. Getting lost is a common theme in my life, as I have virtually no sense of direction (I still get lost at school, despite spending four years here). The second story is a childhood memory of sitting in church after taking communion and painstakingly eating the blessed bread, the antidoron, one crumb at a time. I strived for complete perfection in my consumption of the bread, forever determined not to waste a single morsel. As a side note, the name of the actual bread referenced in this piece is prosphora (Greek for “offering”). This bread made of wheat flour, yeast, salt, and water, is unilaterally used for Eucharist in all Greek Orthodox churches and traditionally served post- service as well. - CT

glass hand^

jules gimbrone

Glass Hand is a 4-channel visual video score in which the composer’s notation comprises physical gestures conducted on the surface of a pane of glass. Glass Hand manifests as a type of synesthetic performance, asking of the musicians to interpret the score as it plays projected upon the stage as a composite and on their individual monitors. Gimbrone considers the pane of glass as an embodied intermediary surface functioning both as a gap for (mis)interpretation and/or point of translation and communication. Echoing Gimbrone’s sculptural work with liquid-filled glass vessels, transfusion–to pour over or through–becomes a compositional methodology giving form to sonic variables Pitch, Tempo, Timbre, and Volume by using Color, Movement, Opacity, and Pressure. Gimbrone’s investigation of surfaces relates to an ongoing interest in the phenomenology of resonance–social performativity, identity development, subject/object relationships–all being inherent to the accumulation of layers that are built on materially transparent, fragile, surfaces. Resonance, as a set of conditions or relationships between things, becomes activated and legible through light and sound then complicated through abstraction, perceptual manipulations, and synesthetic translations. -JG

Video by Jules Gimbrone, edited by Anika Larsen

madeline and the machine^

amy knoles



Garden of Obsolescence*

April Gerloff

Garden of Obsolescence is an interactive sonic experience that is intended to draw attention to the wasteful side of technology and it’s  rapid advancements. In the piece, the detection of useless technology will trigger sounds that are also visual through a cymatics display. The purpose of this piece is to keep us in the practice of thinking about how our interference with our environment, changes it through a similar ripple effect. We often are trying to obtain the latest technology such as new phones or midi controllers. Instead, I’d like to focus on how much we can do with dated technology, and how we can repurpose it, not just for art, but perhaps for functionality too. By using simple technology and concepts, I’m hoping to demonstrate that this type of problem solving is accessible to all of us. -AG


Stephanie Cheng Smith

HRAWF is a structured improvisation for amplified violin and generated audio. Originally an installation-performance piece created in collaboration with artist Anja Weiser Flower, HRAWF subtly responded to shadows cast by audience members observing Anja's work--a brightly lit sculpture in the center of a darkened room. In the version performed today, the interactive elements have been adapted as randomized events introduced into the control patch for the piece, thus influencing Smith's improvisation. The technical elements involve an Arduino and Max/MSP performance patch to control the generated audio. - SCS

Lydian Reflections*

McLean Macionis & Nathan Turczan

Lydian Reflections is a one-movement improvisational work for mechatronic piano and electronics by McLean Macionis and Nathan Turczan. The piece is the second in a growing collection of new works by the artists and expresses their fascination with theoretical, network-based harmony, MIDI modulations and digital signal processing. The Greek myth of Echo & Narcissus provides the narrative by which these technical concepts come to life. Turczan embodies the beautiful hunter Narcissus, communicating through phrases consisting of scraping metal and beating piano wire played using the mechatronic piano - affectionately named Lydia. Macionis, who embodies the mountain nymph Echo, reflects these phrases using an assortment of sound capturing tools, creating vivid and haunting repetitions Turczan’s playing. -MM & NT

Ripple Mirror Shout^

Sarah belle reid




^ preview performance
*world premiere