Bridges of Königsberg on SoundCloud

Some months back, I was invited to join Christopher Burns and Peter J. Woods in an abstract/noise/ambient experimental trio.  We performed once at the Borg Ward on National Avenue in Milwaukee last year.  Having had a really enjoyable time making noise together, we decided to organize a recording session at Kenilworth Square East (KSE).  The session was fruitful, and provided further encouragement to make more noise together; this time under the banner of Bridges of Königsberg.

Christopher put some blood, sweat and tears into taking our recordings to the next level… or one might say he simply executed some basic editing and mastering, either or.  So now “the band” has four tracks that will be released on cassette (that’s correct) during Peter’s US tour, and a BandCamp release to follow.  For the time being, here’s a sample that Peter put on his SoundCloud account.

If our ambient-noise inspires you, stop down at the Borg Ward on Sunday, May 4th for the live-action version of… Bridges of Königsberg!


ACDFA North-Central Conference


Last weekend, I was involved as an accompanist with the American College Dance Festival Association’s regional conference, held right here in Milwaukee.  There was a lot of preparation and buzz within the UW-Milwaukee Dance Department as the conference drew near, and the conference as a whole, seemed to be a great success.  I had a fantastic time meeting some new people, both musicians and choreographers, and shared some great moments of collaboration.

One of my highlights of the whole event was accompanying alongside Terrance Karn (percussion) for Ananya Chatterjea‘s Contemporary Indian Dance workshop.  As I would expect of a regional conference, participation of staff and faculty from several different colleges and universities, automatically involves collaboration with individuals you’ve never met; creating exciting new opportunities to learn and interact spontaneously.  In my experience, this opportunity has sometimes been successful, and sometimes not.  This particular case was one of immediate connection, relaxed, but enthusiastic interest, and a great desire to fill the room with joyful, positive energy.  I must say, I don’t recall a time I experienced impromptu music making in a dance environment that was quite like this; I was literally “buzzing” when it was over.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is any documentation of the class (audio or video), so this will simply have to live on in my mind as one of the most amazing experiences in recent years.  I give great thanks and appreciation to Terrance Karn, Ananya Chatterjea, and the entire class of dancers for the incredible memories.

Another highlight was accompanying one of the Adjudicator classes; this one by Bill Wade of the Inlet Dance Theatre in Cleveland, OH.  I enjoyed Bill’s words of wisdom on the relationship between performers and audience members, and Dominique and Joshua’s demonstrations seemed to stun us all.  I felt the particular Live patch I was using for the class was just the right thing to keep the students engaged in the “assignment” for the moment.  I plan on putting together an audio sample of that patch in the near future.

Until  next time… cheers to more collaborative opportunities in the future!

A new semester of dance accompaniment

Last fall, I was excited to be chosen as one of the musicians to accompany modern dance classes for UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts.  This is something that I’ve wanted to do for some time, but until last fall there were no openings.  I had previously attended a handful of classes on a voluntary basis, joining my friend Seth Warren-Crow on percussion and electronics, and thoroughly enjoyed the process of improvising for dancers.  After all, music for dance has been one of my primary artistic outlets over the last few years, and to have the opportunity to practice this craft on a weekly basis is most welcome.

I’m now into my second semester of accompaniment and am developing more methods and techniques to use in the class.  While I continue to bring my saxophones (alto/tenor) for a strong physical/acoustic presence, most of my development involves my laptop set up.  This is a somewhat obvious statement for me, as the laptop work provides the primary foundation, while the saxophone embellishes the laptops pitch-based material and aids sectional structure through phrase development.  Also, I’ve been playing the saxophone for  decades, and have become quite comfortable in a variety of improvisational settings; the laptop environment provides me with new challenges and opportunities.

From my experiences with Seth, I observed that the rhythmic/pulse needs of the class can suddenly change.  This requires a dynamic response on the accompanists behalf; moving from a strong pulse to ambient and back.  Some of my previous work with Max For Live patches was certainly going to be beneficial.  I spent the previous semester fine tuning how I use my primary rhythmic M4L patch, C8 Sequencer; adjusting instances used, chance to trigger a sound, polyrhythmic complexity, and how this all is impacted by tempo.  I learned a lot about controlling all of this in real time and will be making some changes to exactly how this is all controlled.  For the time though, I’ve put together a demonstration/example of what’s been done so far and posted it to my SoundCloud account.  I imagine there will be similar posts in the future.

Motion Blur Video

To feature the release of Misdemeanors, Minor Vices performed at Sugar Maple, one of Milwaukee’s most supportive venues for new music.  At the conclusion of Chris Burns’ welcome/introduction to the show, he tapped a “Publish” button on his phone, making Misdemeanors live to the general public.  Along with the featured studio release, Minor Vices performed Motion Blur, a structured improvisation from the mind of Chris Burns.

While the entire performance was not released on video, preserving the new audio release of MisdemeanorsMotion Blur is available on YouTube.

Minor Vices Studio Recording

Minor Vices has been performing for over a year now, and while we continue to grow as an improvisational group, we have become acutely aware that we have very little audio or video documentation.  Fortunately that changed this past summer, when we gathered at the Kenilworth Square East studio space to record “Misdemeanors”.

From BandCamp:

Misdemeanors is a set of twenty-six miniatures, one for each letter of the alphabet. Written by Christopher Burns for Minor Vices, each movement sets a particular challenge or puzzle for the ensemble, who improvise in response to the given constraints. The result is vivid and imaginative music, articulated through bright colors and sharp contrasts.

After some minimal post-production work by Christopher, the final recording was released to BandCamp in October 2013.  You can listen to, or download the entire release here:

Minor Vices – “Misdemeanors” on BandCamp

As an additional bonus, Kevin had a pretty sweet camera with him, and was “on the ball” enough to get some good shots and share them with us.

“For Laura”

This past November, I was involved in a collaborative work led by Milwaukee composer Amanda Schoofs and choreographer Laura Murphy.  The piece was entitled “An Inherent Presence,” and was one of five collaborations performed for Intersect; an evolution of Danceworks’ previous interdisciplinary projects, directed by Dani Kuepper.

Amanda Schoof’s musical score, “For Laura”, superimposes dynamic, raw motion with provocative poetic fragments, and exists in the space between composition and spontaneity.  The music is realized by Steve Schlei on an iPad playing the TC-11 synthesizer app, Trevor Saint on glockenspiel and myself on tenor saxophone.  The dancers involved were: Alberto Cambra, Kim Johnson-Rockafellow, Dani Kuepper, Gina Lauenzi, and Christal Wagner.

Here’s an excerpt from Milwaukee Magazine’s review:

“The purest collaboration of the evening was an improvisation called “An Inherent Presence,” developed by choreographer Laura Murphy. Two onstage musicians—tenor saxophonist David Collins and Steve Schlei, playing the TC-11, a programmable synthesizer app on an iPad. The music was composed by Amanda Schoofs, though like the movement it was likely a structure that the musicians interpret in different ways for each performance. A quartet of dancers started out clustered in the back corner of the stage, and the music spurred them into different energy levels. Christal Wagner seemed to initiate different sections of the piece by articulating a gesture or motif, which was then expanded by the other three. And they all ran with it—with a kind of controlled, technically assured abandon that was thrilling to watch.”

Paul Mitchel was kind enough to share some photos he took during our dress rehearsal.

Please visit Paul’s website for information about his work.

Later this month, Amanda will be directing a recording session of “For Laura”, to be released later this year, so stay tuned!

Minor Vices at UWM Recital Hall

I’m very excited about the opportunity to perform with Minor Vices next week.  The performance will be next Thursday, July 11 (7:30 pm, UWM Recital Hall, 2400 E. Kenwood Blvd., free admission).

Here’s a short description of the event from Christopher Burns’ previously released promo materials:

“Minor Vices is performing new structured improvisations created expressly for the ensemble. Part of the evening will be devoted to “Xenoglossia,” in a version quite different from what you’ll hear on the record — the software can be used to transform the acoustic sound of the six Minor Vices musicians live, creating an unusual hybrid between instrumental/vocal improvisation and electroacoustic music. The other new work is “Misdemeanors,” a prose score which poses a series of twenty-six challenges for the musicians to solve.”

Minor Vices is David Collins, saxophones; Adam Murphy, clarinets; Trevor Saint, glockenspiel; Kevin Schlei, percussion and electronics; Amanda Schoofs, voice; and Seth Warren-Crow, percussion and electronics, and Christopher Burns playing electric guitar and piloting the laptop.

Hope to see you there!