Machines & Strings, PART II

10.24.18 | Program notes

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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

amplified motor array

Stephanie Cheng Smith

Smith frequently performs with her motor arrays, an instrument originally built to evoke memories of the sounds of night-calling creatures. Traditionally performed acoustically, this new iteration adds amplification as a compositional element. The Arduino-based interface controls the vibration patterns and intensity of fifteen motors and LEDs. Magnets are also used to further affect the timbre of the attached bells. The sound itself is amplified through a variety of microphones and live-mixed as part of the piece, adding an atmospheric layer to the performance. . - SCS

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

Ripple Mirror Shout*

Sarah belle reid



Up-Tight II*

Ulrich Krieger

(1999/2010/2018) for amplified (or acoustic) string quartet
originally written for the Soldier String Quartet in 1999,
partially revised for the Formalist Quartet in 2010,
and completely revised & re-scored for the Isaura String Quartet in 2018.
Dedicated to the memory of Lou Reed (1942-2013)

Up-Tight II deals with the intersection of one of the traditionally highest forms of art music, the string quartet, and rock music, for the longest time seen as the music of underdogs—at least from the elite high art scene perspective. Art music always was the music of the ruling elite class and rock/folk music the music of the common people. But then, starting in the mid-60’s, musicians like Lou Reed and bands like the Velvet Underground were able to bridge this gap without compromising on the impact and directness of rock. Aesthetically Up-Tight II is extreme noise-metal for string quartet without watering down and without the trappings of appropriation.

 Up-Tight II is written in an open string scordatura with 16 different empty strings representing the overtone series from 16-31. The whole piece is played on open strings and natural harmonics going as far up in the overtone series as the 231st partial. This 30-minute long piece in three movements is a real physical challenge for the quartet needing at the same time to be intense, and at points even brutal, but also never loosing control of the demanding technical aspects of the piece. Originally this is an amplified piece with the string quartet, using pick-ups, running thorough distortion and volume pedals into guitar and bass amps. But during (acoustic) rehearsals I realized that with the proper physical impact by the quartet this could be done acoustically—the same way Venus in Furs could be played on an acoustics guitar as well as with a highly distorted noisy band. -UK

madeline and the machine*

amy knoles



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.

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


Ajay Kapur

Inaaya means "gift from God". This piece is dedicated to my new born son, Kiyan Deyva who has brought light in times of darkness. This piece is based in Raga Bhairavi and written for the KarmetiK Machine Orchestra, the Isaura String Quartet, Lydia (Mechatronic String Contraption) and a Yamaha Disklavier. 



*world premiere