It’s Back — San Francisco Tape Music Festival 2023

Nagra with loop

After a very unwelcomed two year absence, due to COVID-19, the San Francisco Tape Music Festival is returning, January 13, 14, and 15 2023 to the Victoria Theater in the Mission district. The sfSound organization and the San Francisco Tape Music Collective (of which I am a member) will present four distinct curated concerts over the three-night Festival. 

As always there will be the featured headliners, from Robert Fripp to Ennio Morricone, as well many other international and local composers. And, as always the pieces will be dynamically diffused, live, through a pristine web of 24 loudspeakers. Thank you, CCRMA.

On the “late” (9:30 PM) Saturday concert, I’ll be playing my newest set of three short pieces. I’m looking forward to projecting them and shaping the space in real time, controlling the mixer that’s set up in the theater’s sweet spot. 

Here are all the details. Go to Eventbrite for advance ticket purchases for both individual concerts (using a pull-down menu to select the date) and the festival pass.  

Here’s a preview published in December in Stephen Smoliar’s The Rehearsal Studio

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November 29 – Guest speaker at UCSB-CREATE seminar series

On November 29 I gave a 45-minute talk about my music at the Center for Research in Electronic Art Technology of the University of California, Santa Barbara. The seminar was hosted by Curtis Roads, Professor and Chair of Media Arts and Technology, and was presented over Zoom.

Although the seminar was not recorded the paper from which the talk was delivered will be posted here soon. The event announce is shown below.

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November 19 – Guest speaker at “Art-talk Salon”

In his light-filled Sculpture Studio, Artist Brian Goggin
The latest Project Artaud and Developing Environments Art-talk Salon

When: Saturday November 19, 2022, 2-5pm
(Note: If it rains we will reschedule for December 3)
Where: Project Artaud
401 Alabama Street
The Sculpture Studio #123
San Francisco, CA

2-3 p.m. – Art-talk (part 1): Thom Blum – Making Music with Found Sound,  with piano music played by Hadley McCarroll
3-4 p.m. – Art-talk (part 2): Improvisation with the environmental soundscape outside Brian’s studio
4-5 p.m. – Gramophone music and mingle

Thom Blum has been composing abstract electroacoustic and “tape music” since about 1973. He is primarily a self-taught composer but counts as his earliest mentors Curtis Roads, James Tenney, Earl Howard, and Ingram Marshall, all of whom he met while studying classical guitar and composition at California Institute of the Arts, in 1972. He’s lived in San Francisco since 1978 and composes from his studio, In situ.

Pianist Hadley McCarroll, hailed for her “… lively and exhilarating …” pianism (San Francisco Classical Voice), is a well-known San Francisco Bay Area-based collaborative and solo pianist. She has performed in the United States and internationally with, among others: Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet at the Chaillot Theater, Paris and the Joyce Theater in New York, the Royal Danish Opera, San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, and Utah Festival Opera. She has appeared at Festivals in the Olympic Peninsula and the Napa Festival del Sole. Quite active in the contemporary music scene, she has collaborated with Left Coast Ensemble, Composer’s Inc., and sfSound. Hadley has given solo performances ranging from Sonatas and Interludes by John Cage (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) to recitals of Beethoven, Ligeti, Liszt and Schumann at Old First Concerts.

About this talk…
Thom Blum – Making music with found sound

I’ve been making concrete and abstract music and sound objects for the past forty-five years. By “concrete”, I mean that I have a predilection for composing music with found sounds, and I’ve embraced the notion introduced by John Cage, Luigi Russolo, Pierre Schaeffer, and others  in the late 1930s and early 40s, that any sound can be considered a source for music if that suits the composer’s and listener’s intentions. I often use found sounds that I then edit and process using “tape music” techniques and computer-based tools. 

In the 2-to-3 p.m. hour I’ll describe some of the notions and concepts I like to explore in composing, including using found sounds. I’ll play brief excerpts from audio postcards and other works to demonstrate. During this hour I’ll also invite pianist extraordinaire, Hadley McCarroll, to come and offer us some of the more and less traditional music for piano that supports or conveys similar notions. 

During the 3-to-4 p.m. hour I’ll conclude the talking presentation, and  spend the bulk of the hour gradually conjuring  up an improvisation using and refracting the live ambient sound of “Jackhammer Park” adjacent to Brian’s sculpture studio. With luck and some patience we might be able to coax the environmental sounds into something (even more) pleasing to the ear. Joining again will be Hadley who will contribute piano passages when the moment calls out.

Note: Please consider bringing a beverage to share and some cash donation for the musicians (we will be passing the hat). Also, the Art-talk will take place outdoors. Your health is our concern. Please do not come if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID.

Thom Blum (photo by Ron Pelletier)

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Sound Sundays in July at the Prelinger Library

Continuing to stock and mine the sound-stacks on Sundays in July, when printed matter in the stacks of the Prelinger Library mingles and merges with its sound counterpart.

Come in, browse the unique collections a while, and experience the Library in a different way replete with vocalizations and sonifications.

Sundays from 2:00 to 4:00 PM
July 3, 10, 17, 24, and 31
Prelinger Library
301 8th Street (corner of Folsom Street)
Suite 215
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 252-8166

I’m looking forward to seeing you there.

For more information about the sound installation, You Are Here You Are You Here, and brief video walkthroughs recorded in binaural sound, check this out.

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Sundays in May — Sound Installments in Prelinger Library

On Sundays in May Prelinger Library visitors will find themselves urged into the stacks by an unusual sound environment that sometimes pipes up. A couple hours a week I power up, softly play, and occasionally improvise on a twelve channel spatially distributed sound system that I’ve created for the Library.

I hope you’ll stop by, browse the stacks a while and enjoy a unique almost synesthetic blend of printed and sonic matter. Come and check it out during any of these times:

Sundays from 2:00 to 4:00 PM
May 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29

Prelinger Library
301 8th Street (corner of Folsom)
Suite #215
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 252-8166

For more information and brief video walkthroughs of the sound installation, click me now.

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A “sonified library” in San Francisco

A couple hours a week I power up, play, and occasionally improvise with the sound installation that I’ve created here in San Francisco for Prelinger Library. These hours occur within the Library’s public hours, making it possible for visitors to browse the stacks with the unusual added dimension of sound — a parallel, library-like environment whose stacks contain sounds rather than books.

For the most part the sounds are fleeting and sporadic, sparse and quiet, and they are meant to enhance your browsing and exploratory experience in the Library; to enhance not dominate. Some of sound categories reflect specific topics in the Library, while other sounds are not representative at all. There are also distinct motifs that occur from time to time, like the sounds of doors opening and footsteps and nature. And there are occasionally longer fragments of composed musical sounds (“undulating beds”) that I scooped up from my sources or created specifically for this installation.

Prelinger Library Radio Walkthrough by Thom Blum

Friends from afar asked me to try and capture the experience of being in the Library while the sounds are running. I explained it’s a little difficult because of the spatial distribution and movement of the sounds. Depending on your location the sounds may appear to be mostly up close and coming from your right, or perhaps they’re more distant and behind you. But, armed (or “eared”) with binaural mics (SoundProfessionals Inc.) and my video camera (an iPhone), I started recording walkthroughs of the stacks while the installation was sounding. I would often go towards and into sections of the library where distinct sounds were calling out; topical sounds, for example of radio or protests. Sure enough I was lead to the expected subjects in the stacks.

Prelinger Library Nature Walkthrough (April 2022) by Thom Blum

In this way I have so far edited and stitched together three 1-minute “trailers” with binaural soundtracks (best heard with head/ear phones). My goal being to offer a rough approximation of the experience you could have while roaming the stacks at Prelinger Library at just the right time.

Prelinger Library Civil Liberties Walkthrough (April 2022) by Thom Blum

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Sound installation installments — Prelinger Library

For the next four Wednesdays, Prelinger Library visitors who are there any time between 4:00 and 6:30 PM will be treated to an “audio animation” of the stacks. I’ll be nudging the installation (instrument) through its latest paces and pirouettes. The Library is a gem within San Francisco so please do drop by.

Wednesdays from 4:00 to 7:00 PM
March 9, 16, 23, 30

?Prelinger Library
301 8th Street (corner of Folsom)
Suite #215
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 252-8166

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Openings – an audio animation of and at Prelinger Library, San Francisco

Prelinger Library and I will be co-hosting two initial launches of my new sound-art installation (see below for a description). Please drop by during one or both of these openings — They’ll be different — and spend some time floating and “wondering” through the Library’s unique stacks, as they’re reshaped and activated by a world of low-density, library-quiet sound.

7 to 9:30 PM, Wednesday January 26, 2022
4 to 7:30 PM, Saturday January 29, 2022
Masks are required. Attendees must show proof of full vaccination.

Prelinger Library
301 8th Street (at Folsom), Suite #215
San Francisco 94103
(415) 252-8166

[You Are [Here] You [Are] You Here], by composer Thom Blum, animates Prelinger Library through the use of sounds; something you don’t generally expect or want in your typical library. But Prelinger Library is in no way typical. You notice that as soon as you enter the space and peruse the stacks.

The sounds in the installation are infrequent and for the most part quiet and fleeting. While barely audible they inconspicuously call your attention to specific ephemera, knowledge, and artifacts that occupy areas of the Library’s stacks, nooks and crannies. At times it becomes a sonic treasure hunt.

The real goal of the sound installation is to pique the visitor’s curiosity and to enhance or transform the visitor’s experience of The Library, pulling one into and around the stacks in ways that wouldn’t normally happen were it not for the invisible sonic guides. It serves to give voice to, transform, and animate the Library and the gems it contains.

thom at

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Featured artist on The Watt From Pedro Show

Thom Blum, 2020 pandemic doo

Hear Mike Watt’s interview of me on his eclectic, boisterous, and fun podcast. (Recorded June 21, 2021.) Now in the show’s 20th year! Listen here:

Mike Watt in studio

The Watt From Pedro Show is available from your favorite slinger of podcasts and also here:

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Brutal Sound Effects Pestival #91

Once again~~~~~~~~~it’s~~~~~~~~~~~efficient?~~~~

Brutal Sound Effects Pestival #91
6pm PST!!!!


Fumio Kosakai (Incapacitants, CCCC)

Dominic Cramp
Anti Ear (New Orleans)
Bill T Miller Orgy of Noise Zonkulator (Boston)
Matt Robideux
Thom Blum
Instinct Control (Chicago)
Mas Coad (South of Los Banos)
Gargoyle Madrigal

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