the year in ears (2014 edition)

Ten years on is high time to resuscitate a fine tradition at House of Zoka: engaging in three-day knife fights about which live shows of the past year were the most rewarding to experience. Let it be said all live music is rewarding to experience. No I mean that. It’s a time-based art form that transcends ordinary reality with such consistent effectiveness, that the idea of ranking individual instances, even when one or two of them go horribly wrong, seems to indicate one might be missing the point.

However, I grew up in a tradition of negative analysis. There you have it. And here you have this: a top ten of 2014 with no fewer than 14 entries.

  1. Best Show to See After You Just Played an 8-hour Show With a Shamanic Korean Performance Artist
  2. Best Show You Did Not Expect But You Deserved
  3. Best Cover Band
  4. (5. and 6.) Best Investigations of Sound and Vision
  5. (and 8.) Best Downtown Shows In One’s Own Backyard
  6. Best Backyard Show in One’s (Burning) Downtown
  7. Best Front Yard Show At The End of One’s Backroad
  8. (and 12.) Best Drones
  9. Best Double Act of Relentless Churning To Completely Different Effects
  10. Biggest God Damn Surprise

put a fork in it

Meridian Music presents a new work for processed percussion using nothing but plates, cups, bowls, forks, spoons, serving utensils, graters, beaters, ricers, whisks, colanders, flour sifters, and one droning, not burning, can opener. No knives. Some electronics.

Put A Fork In It” is percussionist Suki O’Kane’s first and last composition for kitchen, meant to magnetize some of the Bay Area’s most inventive percussionists and electronicists in contemplation of ordinary objects and their musical properties. Suki is joined by Moe! Staiano and Anna Wray on percussion. Lance Grabmiller, Gretchen Jude and Zachary James Watkins on electronics.

Wednesday, January 9, 2012
Meridian Gallery: Composers in Performance
535 Powell Street, San Francisco
7:30pm
$10 general | $8 student/seniors

About the Performers

Lance Grabmiller is an electronic artist (shudder, Tiny Owl, &Friends, The Abstractions, Nanaqui, HSoA, Stars Like Fleas, C17H19NO3 and Paved in Skin), music publisher (Praemedia) and impresario.

 

Gretchen Jude is a performing artist blending a variety of performance practices for voice, improvisation, traditional Japanese music and Urasenke tea ceremony, electronic and computer music (Candy Acid, Glou-glou and Gestaltish).

 

Moe! Staiano is a percussionist (Vacuum Tree Head, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), band leader (Surplus 1980, Mute Socialite), and composer (Moe!kestra!).

Zachary James Watkins is a composer (Beam, sfsound, Microscores,  Seattle Chamber Players), multimedia performer and sound artist (Country Western, part of  Meridian Gallery’s Composers in Performance, movable, long commutes between loved ones, music for motors and resonant strings, Positively Right On), and Lecturer of Music at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Anna Wray is a percussionist (William Winant Percussion Group) at Mills College, where she is a Provost Scholar and recipient of the Carroll Donner Commemorative Scholarship.

About the Composer

Suki O’Kane is a classically trained mallet percussionist, a media ecologist, and a composer working with artists from an encyclopedic range of musical genres. One of the founding members of the lo-fi sampling ensemble The Noodles (with Michael Zelner), plays percussion with Moe! Staiano’s Moe!kestra!, Dan Plonsey’s Daniel Popsicle, Big City Orchestra, Tiny Owl and is an ensemble member of Thingamajigs Performance Group performing new works by Edward Schocker, Dylan Bolles and Zachary Watkins.

Suki has performed live and recorded with She Mob and the side projects of its co-founder Joy (Sue Hutchinson): mad folk duo Junior Showmanship and it’s alter-ego speed metal Winner’s Bitch. She has performed in realizations of Jon Brumit’s Vendetta Retreat; with Lucio Menegon in his Split Lip, Soundtrack Instumentals and Strangelet projects; and with Dohee Lee in realizations of the multidisciplinary performance and installation piece Mago.

Her compositions for theater include three commissions for Theatre of Yugen with playwright Erik Ehn: Frankenstein (2003), The Cycle Plays (2007) and Cordelia (2011), part of Ehn’s Soulographie project.  She teamed with Jason Ditzian to compose for Inkboat’s Line Between (2011). She is directing the development of music for What A Stranger May Know, Ehn’s 32-play cycle remembering the victims of the Virginia Tech Massacre while developing new site-specific work for the Illuminated Corridor, a nomadic public art project that creates streetscapes of live experimental music and performative projection in Oakland (2013), San Francisco (2014), West Marin (2014).

daniel popsicle vs brooklyn

It’s important to have the facts, first:

Wed 8/17 9:00 PM
$5-10 sliding scale
Subterranean Arthouse
[2179 Bancroft Way between Shattuck and Fulton Berkeley]
Daniel Popsicle vs Brooklyn
A night of banter-based musical performance, narrative and opera-in-progress when composer’s collective ThingNY violinist Jeffrey Young and cellist Valerie Kuehne come to town accompanied by her band DreamZoo.
Daniel Popsicle hosts, and plays, and, with any luck, recites banter composed for the band by Dan Plonsey, who has an amazing ear for turning overheard comments idly thrown into the universe of a rehearsal into not simply absurd, but touching, and, yes, sometimes searing portraits of humanity secretly concerned with identifying planes from their wing shapes, Wire Magazine, surviving the inevitable hurt of making art that garners no regard, and Norton-esque proclamations.

About the Artists

Valerie Kuehne is an electrically charged virtuoso of all purpose cello. Dynamic performer, fearless improviser, songwriter, vocalist, and classically trained connoisseur of Bach and Britten, Valerie can be found playing incessant shows in NYC, where she devotes formidable heart, intellect, creativity, and time to cross-pollinating sundry genres. Armed with finesse, Valerie is impressively present on stage, rendering poignant punctuations of changeable emotional weather. In any setting, her instrument aches with human implications and fiendish alien fuel. -Lizzy McDaniel (poet, phrenologist)
Read about her most recent brainchild, Dream Zoo discussed in an interview

Jeffrey Young is a composer and violinist from Brooklyn, NY who specializes in experimental classical music and rock music. Jeffrey’s recent accomplishments include the December 2010 premiere of Travels with Fascists and Pure-Hearted Souls, a piece written for his ensemble thingNY with himself as soloist. He has worked with Pierre Boulez during two summers at the Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland (to which he will return in summer 2011) and with Steve Reich and Julia Wolfe at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival in North Adams, MA. He has toured the U.S. and Canada with experimental chamber music/performance art group thingNY, psychedelic folk band Manson Family Picnic, indie rock band Food Will Win the War, minimalist chamber-rock band Slow Six, Pogues cover band Streams of Whiskey, and experimental singer/songwriter/cellist Valerie Kuehne’s Dream Zoo project. With the Oberlin Orchestra and the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, Jeffrey has performed in New York’s Carnegie Hall and Merkin Hall and Cleveland’s Severance Hall, as well as in China. He has been a featured blues soloist with the National Repertory Orchestra. In addition, Jeffrey is a first place winner of the 2003 Berkshire Lyric Theatre’s Emma Blafield Instrumental Award, and he has been elected into the National Music Honor Society, Pi Kappa Lambda. Jeffrey performs throughout New York City, with around 100 appearances per year at venues such as The Highline Ballroom, B.B. King’s, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Mercury Lounge, Galapagos, The Bitter End, The Tank, and The Stone. He has been featured on albums of classical music, indie rock, prog rock, hip-hop, kids songs, and more. He has also appeared on The Rachael Ray Show, FOX’s Fearless Music, and Bravo’s The Fashion Show. He graduated with a B.M. in violin and composition from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 2007.

 

strangelet + brale.co at ata

It’s important to have the facts, first:

Tue 8/16 8:00 PM $6-10
Artists’ Television Access [992 Valencia Street @21st SF]

Strangelet + Grale
Improvised sound and 16mm film from
Lucio Menegon‘s Strangelet [with Valerie Kuehne, Paul Pinto and Jeffrey Young (NY), Suki O’Kane and Michael Zelner with films by Alfonso Alvarez]
and
Brale.co [Bruce Anderson, Dale Sophiea, Gregory Hagan and Nico Sophiea with films by Lorin Murphy]

And then the story behind them:

Local filmmakers and musicians convene at ATA to welcome Lucio Menegon, King of Tone, back to town and with a gaggle of NY artists in tow:  Valerie Kuehne, Brooklyn-based cellist and impresarioPaul Pinto and Jeffrey Young of the performing composers collective thingNY. They are joined by inveterate performative projectionists and improvisers Alfonso Alvarez, Lorin Murphy, Bruce Anderson, Dale Sophiea (MX-80, O-Type), Gregory Hagan (Pale Reverse, Common Eider King Eider), Nico Sophiea, Suki O’Kane and Michael Zelner, who continue to conspire and inspire sound and vision throughout the Bay Area in likely and unlikely spaces, and in most recently in collaboration with the Oakland Underground Film Festival, the Illuminated Corridor, and the now-defunct Ivy Room Experimental Noise Improv Hootenanny & Social Club (founded by Menegon).

About the Artists

Valerie Kuehne is an electrically charged virtuoso of all purpose cello. Dynamic performer, fearless improviser, songwriter, vocalist, and classically trained connoisseur of Bach and Britten, Valerie can be found playing incessant shows in NYC, where she devotes formidable heart, intellect, creativity, and time to cross-pollinating sundry genres. Armed with finesse, Valerie is impressively present on stage, rendering poignant punctuations of changeable emotional weather. In any setting, her instrument aches with human implications and fiendish alien fuel. -Lizzy McDaniel (poet, phrenologist)
Read about her most recent brainchild, Dream Zoo discussed in an interview

Lucio Menegon is a guitarist, composer and sonic artist with over 25 years of performing experience and many more recorded releases and credits. His music ranges from intense free-improvisation to ethereal soundscape to more traditional, melodic song structure & composition. He performs solo, in collaboration with interested artists, bands and self directed projects – often in tandem with projected image and film. Currently based in NYC, he was an active member of the SF Bay Area music scene for 15 years, a founding member of The Bodice Rippers, Ramona the Pest, Zebu and curated the Ivy Room Hootenanny Creative Music series. His project Strangelet has involved over 25 artists across the North American continent, convening with and without him to realize the conversion of the universe into a hot, large lump of strange matter.

Paul Pinto is a composer, vocalist and founding artistic director of the thingNY. As a multi-instrumental and vocal improviser, Paul has lent his talents to collaborative projects in theatre and film. His music has been performed in the International Istanbul Film Festival, Glasgow’s Shakespeare in the City Festival and by ensembles and performers around the world, including Pauline Oliveros, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Ensemble loadbang, The Royal Scottish Academy Chamber Chorus, the Carnegie Mellon Concert Chorus, the ai Ensemble and IKTUS Percussion Quartet. Paul has studied composition at Carnegie Mellon with Leonardo Balada and Nancy Galbraith and at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama with John Maxwell Geddes. Paul is also a conductor and advocate of underrepresented experimentalists in classical music. At the helm of thingNY (called an “inventive new music cabal” by Time Out New York) Paul has premiered hundreds of works from emerging composers in thingNY’s five year existance. Paul has also led premieres of more established composers like Pauline Oliveros, Paul Burnell, Art Jarvinen, Kyle Gann and Gerard Grisey. In addition to thingNY’s experimental opera ADDDDDDDDD, scenes from his ballet, Miseke are available on DVD and CD through the educational UK label, Learning and Teaching Scotland. Paul has also released three solo albums: The Gentlemen (2009), a suite for vocals and electronics, and Every Note on the Piano (2010) and For Stefanos Tsigrimanis (2011) an elegy for turntables, voice, guitar and electronics.

Jeffrey Young is a composer and violinist from Brooklyn, NY who specializes in experimental classical music and rock music. Jeffrey’s recent accomplishments include the December 2010 premiere of Travels with Fascists and Pure-Hearted Souls, a piece written for his ensemble thingNY with himself as soloist. He has worked with Pierre Boulez during two summers at the Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland (to which he will return in summer 2011) and with Steve Reich and Julia Wolfe at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival in North Adams, MA. He has toured the U.S. and Canada with experimental chamber music/performance art group thingNY, psychedelic folk band Manson Family Picnic, indie rock band Food Will Win the War, minimalist chamber-rock band Slow Six, Pogues cover band Streams of Whiskey, and experimental singer/songwriter/cellist Valerie Kuehne’s Dream Zoo project. With the Oberlin Orchestra and the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, Jeffrey has performed in New York’s Carnegie Hall and Merkin Hall and Cleveland’s Severance Hall, as well as in China. He has been a featured blues soloist with the National Repertory Orchestra. In addition, Jeffrey is a first place winner of the 2003 Berkshire Lyric Theatre’s Emma Blafield Instrumental Award, and he has been elected into the National Music Honor Society, Pi Kappa Lambda. Jeffrey performs throughout New York City, with around 100 appearances per year at venues such as The Highline Ballroom, B.B. King’s, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Mercury Lounge, Galapagos, The Bitter End, The Tank, and The Stone. He has been featured on albums of classical music, indie rock, prog rock, hip-hop, kids songs, and more. He has also appeared on The Rachael Ray Show, FOX’s Fearless Music, and Bravo’s The Fashion Show. He graduated with a B.M. in violin and composition from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 2007.

 

popsicle vs. dandelion

Subterranean Arthouse is hosting a summer of Third Wednesday performances that look at m(d)usic, d(m)ance, flocks, pods and monsters with two of the Bay Area’s performing art collectives: Dandelion Dancetheater and Daniel Popsicle. These scheduled collisions of movement and music ensembles will surface their common interests, contrast their anxieties, and forge more ideas about dismantling the distinction between artist and ordinary person.

Convening

  • Wednesday, July 20
  • Wednesday, August 17 with special guests Lucio Menegon and artists from ThingNY
  • Wednesday, September 21

All shows begin at 9pm. Admission is $6-$10 sliding scale.

About the Artists

Dan Plonsey
Since 1978, Dan has written more than 200 works for large and small ensembles. Recent commissions have come from Real Time Opera (New Hampshire), the Bang on a Can People’s Commissioning Fund (New York), Theatre of Yugen (San Francisco), the Museum of Children’s Art (Oakland), Milkbar International Film Festival (Oakland), the Berkeley Symphony Children’s Concert Series, and New Music Works (Santa Cruz). Plonsey was awarded “Meet the Composer” grants to accompany the Bang on a Can and Milkbar commissions; he was awarded an American Composers Forum “Subito” grant for the work with Theatre Yugen. From the mid-90’s on, Plonsey’s largest body of work has been written for Daniel Popsicle, his 10-20-person
ensemble of unfixed instrumentation. Plonsey has also written many pieces for ensembles of multiple (3-13) saxophones; and for chamber opera. He recently began a series of concerti for “guitar and strange ensemble,” the first of which being What Leave Behind for Fred Frith and Toychestra. He recently finished an opera with libretto by Harvey Pekar (of American Splendor
fame), which premiered at Oberlin College, January 2009. In December, 2009, he also received the prestigious Broad Fellow Award.

Eric Kupers
Eric has directed, choreographed, and performed with Dandelion Dancetheater since its inception, creating numerous works that have been presented throughout California, nationally and internationally. He has spent the last decade focused on creating and developing a physically and disciplinary diverse performance ensemble within Dandelion, that is passionately
collaborative. He is deeply influenced by his work as a performer in the companies of Della Davidson and Margaret Jenkins. Eric is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Cal State University East Bay and is heading up the development of an Inclusive Dance Program at the university. Eric has created commissioned works for AXIS Dance Company (supported by a Princess Grace
Award for Choreography), Big Moves, Cal State University East Bay, California Choreographers Festival, Dancing in the Streets/NYC, and choreography for projects by John Killacky, California Shakespeare Festival, and Highland Summer Theatre. He has been a resident artist at ODC Theater, Jon Sims Center for the Arts and CELLspace.

dandelion dancetheatreDandelion Dancetheater
Through dance, collided with experimental theater, video, writing, music, and image, Dandelion Dancetheater aims a kinesthetic microscope at the ever-changing intricacies of the human heart. Its work is emotionally driven and grounded in a fascination with the intersections of bold risk-taking and public accessibility. The company, which was founded in 1996, is committed to the
individual and combined artistic visions of Kimiko Guthrie and Eric Kupers. It views the bodily exploration of human vulnerability, strength and paradox as a potent means for personal and collective growth, and through teaching and creating with people of diverse sizes, shapes, ages, cultures and abilities, Dandelion Dancetheater allow viewers of all walks of life to find
themselves reflected in its work.

Dandelion has received numerous awards and grants, including a Dancemaker grant from Dance USA/Irvine Foundation, a Gerbode Foundation Choreography Commission, a Rockefeller MAP Fund grant, an award from the Grants for the Arts non-recurring events fund, a grant from the Wattis Foundation, and repeated funding from the Zellerbach Family Fund, the Theatre Bay Area CA$H Program, San Francisco Arts Commission, an anonymous foundation and many individual supporters. Dandelion has received a Creative Work Fund grant with AXIS Dance Company to create the physically integrated dance piece “Dislocation Express” in 2011.

Daniel Popsicle
photo by Myles Boisen

Daniel Popsicle
was founded by Dan Plonsey in September 1999. As he tells it:

Sometime shortly before lunch in the mid-to-late 90’s, I had the opportunity to reconnect briefly with my teacher: composer, writer, artist, multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton. We, the Great Circle Saxophone Quartet, were passing through Middletown Connecticut. Among much warm and welcome encouragement, Professor Braxton urged each of us to write “music for the next millennium.” At that moment, a vision of the ensemble now called Daniel Popsicle came alive in my head.

It would include both western instruments and a motley assortment of mismatched instruments from around the world: emblems of a science fiction future that’s at least as much past: a smaller world, perhaps apocalyptically decimated. Only one saxophone — the rest having been melted down for unimaginablee future-to-the-ancient machinery. It would include women and men, good readers and bad, friends who would come to rehearsal by car, by train, or on foot from a house five houses away.

We cleared aside the minimum clutter necessary from the garage, then I wrote 15 pieces (each of which is represented entirely on one page of 16-staff manuscript paper), baked a couple pies, and Daniel Popsicle was formed.

Plonsey took Braxton’s call for “Music for a new millenium” to mean that it was time overdue for a paradigm shift in the musical world: that existing forms would be no longer sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of the new world-to-be. Daniel Popsicle therefore strives to evoke and bring into being a world less cynical, less troubled and less cluttered, in which art can be as simple as it wants to be, and in which everyone can participate. A world more in tune with our nature as animals, but striving beyond equity (a noble goal) to true generosity.

The music played by Daniel Popsicle is not classical, jazz, rock, or any established genre; rather it is simply Music of El Cerrito: music which is happening here, wherever that largely imaginary, ideal, idealistic here is for us, and for you too. The music is simple: emerging from whatever Plonsey was humming that day, which might have something to do with music he heard last week or as a kid growing up in Cleveland Heights. The music is there to sweep you along, down a creek in an innertube. The music is there to provide color for your art and imagery for your blackberry pie-making. (We hope that you have a bush nearby.)

 

npr redux

This moribund blog pressed into service coincidentally has the perfect entry from May 2004, a reflection on Neighborhood Public Radio. On my way to NYC to their installation at the Whitney Biennial I edited House of Zoka’s 2004 NPR appearance into a one-minute (and change) snapshot o, clearly an improvement, except you don’t hear the performance of The Public Toe Problem by Daniel Popsicle. You don’t need to. Just say it out loud and you can pretty much guess what it sounds like.

2004.05.21 ears

  • the sound of the mysterious michael z softly respirating in that ocean that will not admit me

A CD from Neighborhood Public Radio arrived with the air check of House of Zoka speaking extemporaneously about documentation of the Bay Area’s creative new music scene.

We listened to it while enjoying fresh pieces of rockfish baked veracruz-style in a chipotle salsa, which, as I ate, seemed to be slightly more sophisticated in flavor than I really deserved, yet, there it was, or wasn’t, because I was inhaling it.

Listening to you and your partner talk while you and your partner sit in silence, eating randomly exquisite food, is odd. Then, as you might expect, as we listened to ourselves begin to disagree on some subject, and begin to talk over eachother, we took up the issue from the radio program and began to have the very same disagreement, talking over the talking over. It was like putting the stereo between two mirrors and watching the sound stretch into infinity.

I pulled a bone from my mouth and set it gingerly on the side of the plate.
We’re always careful with the tiny things that could take us out.

2004.04.04 ears

  • TOO MUCH COINCIDENCE
    I am updating zoka.com, which is normally mysterious and counter-intuitive, with a gesture toward, as opposed to a meaningful summary of, the various House of Zoka music projects.

    1. This after planning all morning to paint the front door of my building with a homage to Magritte’s Treachery of Images: Ceci n’est pas une porte cassée. The door glass was broken over a week ago and was boarded up, but no repair seems forthcoming. It’s just a piece of plywood, so it deserves a treatment. Perhaps tonight.
    2. This after putting a nearly-forgotten cover of Mission of Burma’s That’s When I Reach For My Revolver by She Mob out for consideration to, get this, a compilation of women’s punk rock that features women punk rockers covering songs written by men. The editor is not getting many bites. I think it has something to do with women punk rockers having other creative priorities.
    3. This after wondering if there was any audio documentation for Daniel Popsicle on the web and so while a-googling
    4. I find this blog entry that not only describes the Daniel Popsicle experience (as a player or as a listener) perfectly, but had a Mission of Burma previ-link that included an eloquent and insightful reference to Magritte.
    5. And. Plus. A link to Radio Free Blogistan, which is how I got started here.
    6. I must know this person.
    7. Or do I?
    8. Oh. The sun just came out.
    9. Gnomesayin.

2004.03.09 ears

  • back to that fucking lee ranaldo song
    ASK. ME. IF. I. CARE.
  • deerhoof
    6 MARCH FROM THE LIMINAL GALLERY
  • The Mysterious MZ decided to record this and miscalculated what part of the warehouse they would set up in: the low stage in front of us or the big stage we were perched on. The latter. So he jumped down and crossed over to where the, what?, german? french? spanish? drunk? young men were tumbling over eachother in basically dangerous, but polite, abandon. MMZ tells me to stand in front of the mic stand and protect it.

    The whole show with my arms folded over my chest and my jaw set in enforcer position. What a happy way to enjoy Deerhoof!

    The next night at Bottom of the Hill was apparently identical but for a few. The Shan Franshiskans stood expressionless through the entire thing.

    I stayed home and listened to Milk Man, which may be a breakthrough, or the end, I cannot tell:

    3-29 – Glasgow, Scotland – TBA
    3-30 – London, England – Spitz
    3-31 – London, England – XFM session
    4-1 – London, England – Peel session
    4-2 – All Tomorrow’s Parties