I was at Fort Mason last night for a show at this weekend's San Francisco Tape Music Festival. We sat in a darkened theater & heard pre-constructed soundtracks. These are collages of mostly non-musical & electronic sounds. The oldest piece was Pierre Boulez's Étude from 1951, created with a tape loop on a tape recorder, but I suspect that most of the other pieces in the program were created with digital technology. It was certainly digital files that we listened to. A Mac laptop fed them into a mixing console which was manned by a team of operators, providing the only live element of the event. There were 2 large speakers on the stage, 2 smaller ones high on the walls on either side of the auditorium & one or 2 speakers at the back, possibly on the floor. Because I sat on the aisle near one of the side speakers, all the sound seemed to be coming from my left.
The pieces use a lot of the same sounds: electronic swooshes, birds chirping, metallic squeaks & pops, robotic chatter, croaking, earthquake-like rumbling. They could be soundtracks for science fiction or horror movies or for those scenes when a character thinks he is going crazy. The pieces are loud. I had to cover my ears for a long section of Maryanne Amacher's Synaptic Island which was piercingly high & punishing. The only piece that made me want to listen to it was Matt Ingalls's poem, which has silences & usually presents only a couple of sounds at a time, making it easier to focus on. It also has a rhythmic element & an over-all symmetrical structure.
The show lasted about 2 hours. The theater, seating at least 200, was sold out. People resorted to sitting in the aisles, & I had someone lying at my feet the whole evening. Many looked like college students, & there were many young couples. They were a great audience, attentive, quiet & appreciative. Everyone applauded after each piece, even though there were no live performers. My concert companion paid for my ticket, but we were both grateful for the reduced price offered to the "underemployed."
§ The San Francisco Tape Music Festival 2011
January 7-9, 2011
Donal Sarsfield - Of Noise Alone (2010)
Cliff Caruthers - Open Door (2011)
Kyle Bruckmann - Orgone Accelerator (2010)
Heather Frasch - Sonic Postcard: Philly (2010)
Dixie Treichel - Interstellar Espionage (2007)
Ilya Y. Rostovtsev - Understatements.[i] (2010)
Pierre Boulez - Étude (1951)
Thom Blum - Post from Rajasthan (2007)
The Art of Noise - Bright Noise / Flesh in Armour / Comes And Goes / Momento (1983)
Matt Ingalls - poem (2011)
Maryanne Amacher - Synaptic Island (excerpt) (1998)
Francis Dhomont - Vol d'arondes (2001)
Saturday, January 8, 2011 8pm
Fort Mason Center