I heard the recent controversy about the National Football League’s decision to play the “Black National Anthem” before the traditional Anthem at the opening game this season. I thought it’s about time for the traditional and alternative anthems to meet and rub elbows a bit. In honor of oh so many things these days, here’s an attempt at a New-America National Anthem.
Compositions used in the making of this mashup are:
“United States of America National Anthem” (Instrumental), aka “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
Poem by Francis Scott Key (1814), set to the music “To Anacreon in Heaven”, by John Stafford Smith (1805).
Recording used: youtu.be/w5x_9KEogM8
“Lift Every Voice and Sing”, aka “The Black National Anthem”.
Poem by James Weldon Johnson (1900) and set to music by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson (1905):
Committed – youtu.be/ngFDy52eCZY
Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School – youtu.be/FlvHj9w3ZTI
The San Francisco Tape Music Collective is dedicated to presenting performances of audio art. For over 20 years they have presented The San Francisco Tape Music Festival, diffusing works from composers throughout the world in addition to their own works through a pristine immersive 24-speaker surround-sound environment, in complete darkness.
Cenk Ergün had a great idea, inspired by the 2020 Pandemic and shelter-in-place: enlist a group of his musical friends, yours truly among them, to contribute sound recordings that Cenk would then assemble into a composition.
He executed the idea beautifully as can be heard in the new release on Bandcamp Amore Vieni for Isolated Ensemble. Check out the music and the story about how the piece came to be.
Another side to my music-making over the last 3 or 4 years has been playing in a duet with drummer extraordinaire and widely recognized Jazz disk jockey, Ron Pelletier. We’ve called our duet Due Pesci (“Two Fishes”) because we’re both pisces (the fish), astrologically, and in fact we share the same birthday, different years. Ron is Italian and came up with the name. It seemed apt.
I have a difficult time classifying this music. It’s not like other styles I’ve composed, like tape music or musique concrete, acousmatic, or place music. I think it’s closer to Jazz inhabited with the vaporous spirits of Jimi Hendrix.
The music results from live electronic processing, feedback, and synthesis that is sometimes loosely interleaved other times tightly commingled with trap drums and other percussion. The combination is elastic but often takes the form of a unified or fused voice that is an amalgamation of electronics and acoustics, circling in an embrace that sometimes completely blurs their boundary. Perhaps it is heading towards an electroacoustic Jazz.
The San Francisco Tape Music Festival 2020
Friday, January 10, 8:30pm
Saturday, January 11, 7:00pm
Saturday, January 11, 9:30pm
Sunday, January 12, 7:00pm
2961 16th Street
$20 general ($10 Sat 9:30 concert)
$50 fest pass (general seating all concerts) advance ticket purchase
or at the door (cash only) the day of show
(box office opens one hour before showtime)
Thinking about what I might play at the San Francisco Tape Music Festival next month I rediscovered a “tape” piece of mine along the way — a musical setting that I wrote 23 years ago for a poem by the Beat author Bob Kaufman. The poem’s title is, “To My Son Parker, Asleep in the Next Room.”
I hadn’t listened to this composition (or read the poem for that matter) for at least a decade, but my inspiration to hear it again came a couple of months ago and from the same source that originally inspired its creation, Bob Kaufman.
I had just heard about the newly published collection from City Lights Books of all the surviving as well as some never-before published poems by this late great poet of North Beach fame who died in 1986. He had so inspired me with his words, which I only happened to hear on KPFA one morning during my drive to work. But that’s another story…. (Thank you Vic Bedoian!)
So I got quickly reacquainted with my own composition which like the poem reemerged from the shadows like an old friend from the past. I realized pretty much immediately that I wanted to share them both with you — Bob Kaufman’s poem and my setting of it.
I’ll be giving a late afternoon recital of solo prepared and improvised electro-acoustic
pieces at the Prelinger Library in San Francisco on Sunday, Oct. 27.
The first work Nature or nurture is a suite of four pieces for prerecorded and live-processed sound. The structures are prepared and the details are improvised. The second piece Conjuring waves/Soniferous climates is sonic alchemy, conjuring and coaxing the sound through live processing of the Library’s space.
Charles Kremenak, my cohort in the Klooj ensemble, will also present a piece on the program.
Prelinger Library 301 8th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103 Sunday, October 27, 2019
4:30-6:00 PM Free or with donation to the Prelinger Library
Thom Blum (solo, electro-acoustics) Nature or nurture Conjuring waves/Soniferous climates
Charles Kremenak (media performance) MEMORetc.: lost communications & memory detritus in mail-art
This performance is one of the 2019 series by Klooj and Si-si D for their Prelinger Library Residency.
On March 17, 2017, Cascade was again diffused over the same CCRMA-hosted speaker network, but this time in its home location at Bing Concert Hall, Stanford University. CCRMA curated the two-night concert. Other composers included John Chowning, Natasha Barrett, Fernando Lopez-Lezcano, Eoin Callery, and co-SF Tape Music Collective members Matt Ingalls, Cliff Caruthers, and Maggi Payne, as well as others.
I performed my improvisation + fixed media composition, Spanish Panoramas – Guided Improvisations with SoundFisher at the 16th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference in Malaga, Spain on October 28, 2015. The concert was held in the 15th Century building that houses the contemporary Sala Unicaja de Conciertos María Cristina. I shared the bill with composers Roger Dannenberg, Nadine Kroher, José López-Montes, Bill Manaris, Takuro Shibayama, Yuri Spitsyn, and Sever Tipei.
A purely fixed media version of the piece will be made available on my SoundCloud page later this month.