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Interview: Tyshawn Sorey

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Composer and percussionist Tyshawn Sorey’s Koan II performs at Roulette on Wednesday, March 11th

Your trio record, Koan, is – beautifully – distinct in its stillness and minimalism. Koan II sees that trio expanded to a quartet. Could you please tell us more about Koan II and trace the evolution of the ensemble? 

This project is essentially a logical extension of the work done in 2008/2009 by the original trio of Todd Neufeld (guitar), Thomas Morgan (bass), and myself. It should really be called Koan III… In 2010, at the old Roulette, Koan II had its initial run with the trio plus the addition of Christopher Tordini (bass) and Ben Gerstein (trombone). I have since had a very deep affinity for the viola, and especially for Mat Maneri’s contributions in music. But I also wanted to play a bit with Mat in other configurations before doing a project of my own with him (we’ve only played several concerts together already), and I feel that this seems a good direction… I also decided to do this project without two basses as originally planned. For one, the lack of availability was such that I didn’t want to simply do the performance with two other bassists – I felt that the material we had performed at the old Roulette had an identity of its own. That music has not been performed since.

The music for this particular concert will be all improvised. The original trio has moved on to deal with the improvisational language that we have developed together. And naturally, both Gerstein (with whom I’ve developed a beautiful rapport during the past ten years) and Maneri are the perfect fit for this group… We all have shared affinities and connections to a multitude of scenes and art worlds. And Todd Neufeld, who I’ve also worked with for a very long time, sounds like no other guitar player I have ever heard – totally original, and he is a hard worker who is always in search of something greater and developed his own sound and language on the instrument. The music here, I think, will retain the intensity and intimacy found in “Koan” and its variations, but I also know that it will be radically different in other ways… I look forward to it!

Musically and extramusically, what are some of the influences that inform Koan II?

Writings on Zen, and various Japanese koans, everyday life (i.e., nature), the aural nature of sound – how it travels… The films of Stan Brakhage, John Cassavetes, and Andrei Tarkovsky…in particular. Also, the music of Christian Wolff, Paul motian, John Stevens, the AACM, Morton Feldman, of course, my colleagues…all music, really. The list goes on.

Also, — and this is a friendly question from our staff, who are big fans of your work, — could you tell us about your ‘stage hat’?

I don’t know, actually. It’s for comfort, I guess…? It’s clothing – I don’t know… [laughs] For one, it protects my hearing a little, without having to wear earplugs, which I absolutely despise.

 

 


Ha-Yang Kim is New + Adventurous

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What is your favorite Roulette memory?

My most memorable Roulette experience was not because it was exactly the most “pleasant,” but because the context was extraordinary.

It was September 21, 2001 I believe…10 days after 9/11. I was scheduled to play a concert with my cello-percussion duo, Odd Appetite, at the West Broadway location/Jim’s loft in Tribeca.  The entire area was closed off with barricades, in the thick of the aftermath of the fallen towers.  Thick layers of debris, ash and smoke filled the streets and sky. Other than police, firemen and authorized personnel, there was nobody else on the streets in that area.  It was like a spooky bombed-out war-zone, ghost town.

At the time, I didn’t know if it was entirely appropriate or inappropriate for the concert to go on, and if so, would anybody show up, would anybody bother coming to hear new music, especially so close to Ground Zero?

I spoke with Jim, and he said, “If you’re feeling ok to play, then yes, let’s do it.  Who knows if anybody will come, but let’s at least offer this to folks, the community, the city.”  So, that was it really.  We’d play for the hearts and spirits of everyone who was hurting, grieving, aching, and mourning.  We’d play to send out energy of healing, harmony, inspiration, and courage.

We were police escorted with all of our instruments and gear through the barricades, a surreal experience of moving through blocks of ash covered buildings, debris and papers everywhere on the streets, the strong smell of burnt rubble, ash…and that seemingly never-ending black smoke spiraling from Ground Zero which just burned and burned for so long, so intensely.

That night, people did come and they stayed.  Actually, they stayed for a while after the concert was over too.  People were smiling, eager to connect, to communicate, to listen and share.  Maybe we just needed to be together in a room for a few hours that night, feeling safe and just so incredibly grateful to be alive, to be sharing some new music.  Something so simple, so life-affirming and essential like that.

NYC-based Korean-American Ha-Yang Kim creates new music as a composer and cellist, regularly collaborating with ensembles and artists at festivals and diverse performance venues throughout the world.  She just punctuated a residency at Roulette with her performance “Terminals”, a full-length meditative audiovisual work on the peripatetic quality of contemporary life.

Roulette is a New York institution, central to the experimental art community.  A Roulette Membership brings you to the heart of that community, with tickets to special events and the chance to see as many New + Adventurous performances as you can.

Sign up today at roulette.org/membership by the end of today and receive a t-shirt like that one Ha-Yang is wearing.


Dave Ruder is New + Adventurous

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What is your favorite Roulette memory?

“I think playing in Gelsey Bell’s Our Defensive Measurements was a favorite Roulette moment for me. This was in early 2013. Gelsey did a great job of thinking about the space and how to move people around it. There’s just so many little details in the current Roulette space- I’m still finding new things every time I go- and Gelsey’s piece really explored all the little weird corners. This kind of exploration had initially been Varispeed’s goal when we did John Cage’s Empty Words at Roulette in the summer of 2012, but we ended up spending a lot of time on the lower tier of the stage and sending our collaborators off to explore the space. It was great to get to explore as a performer myself, including during one song having the audience huddled around the five performers in the house left corner of the balcony, everyone touching something soft. The stage was still lit, so it was like we were all up there together, packed in, pointing towards this empty thing. I can’t imagine many spaces in NYC where that works.”

Dave Ruder is a Brooklyn-based vocalist, clarinetist, guitarist, electronicist, composer, songwriter, writer/librettist, interdisciplinary collaborator, etc.  He will be premiering his commissioned piece for five vocalists and five instrumentalists, The Gentleman Rests, tonight at 8PM.

A Roulette Membership helps Roulette continue to New + Adventurous artists like Dave.  Become a Roulette Member today and you will also receive a t-shirt like the one Dave is wearing!

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Interview: Ha-Yang Kim

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Composer and cellist Ha-Yang Kim‘s TERMINALS is a full-length meditative audiovisual work on the peripatetic quality of contemporary life; arrival and departure points, the constant states of flux both in exterior locations and interior realms, sojourns through dense cosmopolitan urbania to vast natural landscapes, the extreme degrees of human connection-communion-discord-solitude. Through contrasting seamless sections of sonic and abstracted visual environments, TERMINALS is a contemplation upon the transitory fleeting nature of time, motion and stillness; illuminating the rich moments experienced in between the larger overlapping arc points, thus, the simultaneous vast and intimate spaces which comprise the journey itself. The work is composed specifically for frequent music collaborator Hahn Rowe, and video artist Ursula Scherrer.

Ha-Yang Kim presents TERMINALS at Roulette on Sunday, March 8th.

Your work TERMINALS addresses the “peripatetic quality of contemporary life”. Given the artistic and philosophical precedents addressing this concept, I was curious if there are certain visual, musical, and literary works that informed you and the piece? Are there personal experiences that informed TERMINALS? 

I think that the seeds for this piece, the desire to make it, developed over a period of time in which I was extremely itinerant, literally living out of my suitcase for more than a year. During that time, I was focusing intensely on my internal landscapes, observing what was continuous, innate, all the while living, transitioning and adapting to my outside life, which if placed on a map, would be all over the place!

I became interested in the co-existence of these two parallel spaces; the one internal, shifting yet continuous, and the other external, various systems, various realities, undertones and rhythms – all of it laying on top of each other, overlapping, dropping in and out. These opposing poles became my point of departure and in between them I wanted to explore sound, texture and scale.

I am fascinated by contemporary landscapes; the surfaces of our realities, the ease with which we can and do travel such great distances.

To that end, I don’t think that there have been specific conscious influences for this piece, but I undoubtedly have been influenced by all of my surroundings, travels and collective sharing, which makes this piece especially apropos in its theme.  It is a ‘local’ composition, but local in the contemporary sense of the global village.

In terms of musical influences for this piece, I recognize that I’ve been listening to a lot of indigenous music from all over; North African desert music to aboriginal pygmies, Siberian jaw harps to Khaen mouth organs from Laos.  Even visually, it is the archaic forms that emerge from individual and collective experiences in indigenous arts, that seem to confirm in an odd way, what I’ve been feeling from ‘terminal’ to ‘terminal’ in my contemporary life.

Could you describe the piece for us? What is the instrumentation?

My feeling from the get go was that I wanted the music to emerge organically, based around specific sound structures and themes, but I felt that beyond that, I was looking for something more alchemic, like maybe one experiences when oil painting, with color for example. This led me literally to the field, recording natural sounds that could be transformed, manipulated and combined to create synthetically organic atmospheres where we could lose a sense of boundary.

Thus digital fragmentation, musicality out of fuzz, myself with the cello, other string instruments like guitar, violin/viola, some percussion, synths, and my collaboration with the polymorphous Hahn Rowe all somehow are ingredients of what is the final instrumentation.

You are working with video artist Ursula Scherrer, who will be providing video projection for TERMINALS. Can you tell us more about the visual element of the piece?

The visual elements that Ursula brings to the table have been very influential. I have long admired her body of work and many of her existing pieces seem to fit in well with the sensibilities of this project.

Like the field recordings that I have taken and worked with, based on simple elements and then abstracted, she too will be using films that capture fragments of her surroundings, both natural and mechanical.

We decided that we wanted to show mostly works in black and white, projected on black curtains to emphasize contrast and give the added element of depth. This underlines in part the simplistic elements and forms inherent and also helps merge alchemically (somehow) the images with the soundscapes.

What was your compositional approach to TERMINALS?

In terms of composition for this piece, I consciously wanted to break away from some of the more ‘difficult’ notations that I’ve been working with in the past. Instead I really wanted to let this piece emerge from within, trusting that my meditations and focus have been sculpting this piece unconsciously for months. I wanted to explore thematic field recordings and from them feel out textures and zones that I could then compose with and/or from.

Another key element to conceptualizing this piece was the trust and respect I have for my collaborators. Over this specific period of time, we’ve been touching bases synchronistically, sharing and empathetically feeling these unique transitional points in each of our lives, rooted in emotion and yes, a lot of travel. It is a somewhat naked piece in that sense, as our foundation, along with the compositional structure is literally based on an unspoken, cathartic understanding and transformation.

So Terminals is in many ways also about these points of human connection, the points of invisible solidarity that come together when and where they must.

I have been working with Hahn for example for years now and once he was committed to the project, I began sculpting the piece leaving specific parts undefined where I knew that he would bring his own colors from his palette to fill in, from what I knew he was experiencing in parallel.

Your influences as a composer and cellist are quite diverse. I was curious if you could elaborate on the “sense of space and emptiness” you draw from East Asian music. There is something about the flux you mention in your description of TERMINALS that seems to parallel these musical characteristics. 

On space and emptiness, I am at this point yes, very influenced from diverse sources, East Asian aesthetics being one of them. Beyond the music, it is also cultural, so a tad bit hard to describe.

Parallels may exist in the music I am creating here, but my attention more simply is with creating a ‘living’ contemporary piece.  Death is a part of that.  So is the ephemeral. In the midst of all of everything, this traveling and this nonstop etc… I am interested in just being in touch with the simplicity of something / music becomes the carrier – the frequency of experiences – bare bones if you like.

Emptiness, snow blowing, wind swirls, density – as if we were the same. Or maybe an emptiness we leave behind when we’re on the go, leaving something, going to something else. Or on an airplane for 8 hours, 500mph, with nowhere else to go

What is essential


Shelley Hirsch is New + Adventurous

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What is your favorite Roulette memory?

“It’s not easy to choose one memory. I began performing at Roulette in 1983 and have attended more than 100 performances there, but one thing that stands out is a performance by the late great Jerry Hunt in 1986 (?). It was one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen/heard anywhere. Everyone in the jam packed audience was completely mesmerized. I was fortunate to perform on the same bill with him many times in the following years. He passed away in 1993. I found out that I was written in his will as someone who he would like to have access to, and perform with his work. I spent three years presenting homages to/virtual duets with him.”

Shelley Hirsch is an award winning, critically-acclaimed vocalist, composer, and storyteller whose mostly solo compositions, staged multimedia works, improvisations, radio plays, installations and collaborations have been produced and presented in concert halls, clubs, festivals, theaters, museums, galleries and on radio, film and television on 5 continents.  She has been on Roulette’s Board of Directors since 1988.

A Roulette Membership helps Roulette continue to nurture and support New + Adventurous artists as it has since its founding in 1978.  Become a Roulette Member today and you will also receive a t-shirt like the one Shelley is wearing!

roulette.org/membership


Darius Jones is New + Adventurous

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“Roulette is a haven for great artistic beings. I have always felt I can express all of me within those walls.” Darius Jones

Darius Jones is an alto saxophonist and composer who Roulette has had the privilege to present for many bold and inspiring performances. We are pleased to announce our Members-Only Event for the Spring 2015 Season: an exclusive performance of excerpts from The Over-Soul Manual by his Elizabeth-Caroline Unit followed by an artist talk on Tuesday, April 7th.

Darius premiered the Over-Soul Manual, a collection of etudes written for a the vocal quartet called Elizabeth-Caroline Unit, at Roulette last March as part of a Jerome Foundation Residency.  The etudes are vehicles to teach each vocalist the linguistic and sonic vocabulary of an alien birthing ritual, and are built using familiar musical elements based in an alien world so the syntax and speech patterns are different from ours.

Become a Roulette Member today for your ticket to this exclusive performance and discounts on all of Roulette’s New + Adventurous programming.

New Members will also receive a t-shirt like the one Darius is wearing!

roulette.org/membership


Interview: Dave Ruder

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Composer, vocalist, and clarinetist Dave Ruder presents The Gentleman Rests, a new work for five vocalists and five instrumentalists, at Roulette on Tuesday, March 3rd.

Please tell us more about your piece The Gentleman Rests. What is the instrumentation? Who are the performers?

The piece is for five vocalists who speak, sing, and everything in between – Michele Kennedy, Anaïs Maviel, Kyra Sims, Brian McCorkle, and Paul Pinto – as well as Sam Morrison (Rhodes), Jen Baker (trombone), Karen Waltuch (viola), and Brandon Lopez (bass).  It’s a mix of folks I’ve worked with for years and some folks who I’m very happy to work with for the first time.  Everybody’s got really different backgrounds (and really different voices!), which is always appealing to me as well.

 “…one of the most quietly dramatic events in recent American history–the joint session of Congress held on January 6th, 2001 to certify the election of George W. Bush as president, which was presided over by losing candidate, and still vice president, Al Gore. The mundanity and repetitiveness of normally unnoticed electoral formalities is interrupted by the airing of frustration from Congressional Democrats, while Gore tries to move the proceedings along and ensure a smooth transition of power.”

You describe the joint session of Congress on which The Gentleman Rests is based as “one of the most quietly dramatic events in recent American history”.  Could you elaborate on this?

I’ve never worked from “true events” as a template for a narrative piece before.  I guess I like this event because it’s kind of a drone situation in a few ways.  You know the outcome of the session (W becomes president), but you have to get through it for that to be true.  The language of the state certificates to affirm the election results is really beautiful & archaic & clumsy and they just keep going on and on (I’ve compartmentalized them to the beginning & end of the piece).  They’re not dramatic, they’re lulling.  What is dramatic is the efforts of the Congressional Black Caucus to try however they can to stop the results of an election that smelled funny for all kinds of different reasons – Florida alone had thousands of African-Americans turned away from polls, ballot (and ballot counting) irregularities that changed or nullified votes, seemingly arbitrary court-imposed deadlines, fishy political connections behind the scenes, etc.  Gore on the one hand seems heroic for ensuring the peaceful transfer of power, but on the other hand he just seems like an empty suit when you watch the footage, he’s an office and not a person.  Nothing surprising happened that day but something for better or worse very American happened.  The shape of it interests me.  I like the words of the CBC and Gore’s repetition.  It was suggestive of music to me I suppose.  I’m not staging this performance in any way but I can imagine interesting ways you could.

 As a Jerome commission, The Gentleman Rests is a composition presumably conceived with Roulette in mind. In terms of compositional process, did you write the piece specifically for this acoustic space? How so?

You know I was gonna play with this in staging but I’ve really focused on the sound alone for now.  The vocalizing is mostly pretty quiet, but there’s something really lovely about hearing amplified quiet sounds in a big space.  I kind of want people to have to lean in and that doesn’t work as well in a small space, Roulette’s perfect for it though.  My initial idea involved a lot of people moving up and down the aisles and using the tiers of the stage like tiers in a chamber of Congress, very site-specific.  But it made more sense to me to have five vocalists switching who they are all the time than having a single Gore on the dais and the CBC on the floor.  That said, the decisions I’ve made, I’d have to change them a lot to put this on in another space, and I feel like it’s gonna fit just right in Roulette.

You worked extensively with Robert Ashley, premiering both Crash and World War III: Just the Highlights, and are involved in quite a number of varied creative projects. What is your background as a composer and musician?

I was a pre-teen sax player who was pretty good at that, then turned into a teenaged rocker guitarist who didn’t really stand out, tried jazz and didn’t cut it too well, and then found experimental music at age 19.  A bunch of grad students brought me into the fold when I was an undergrad at Wesleyan (I hosted a radio show that they all took turns doing stuff on) and I realized for the first time I was pretty good at thinking in this realm.  I became a composer.  I’d always wanted to be a songwriter since I was 14 but I never wrote a song til I was 25.  I always wanted someone to ask me to be in their band but it never happened.  So I got good at weirder or conceptual stuff, at pieces.  It served me well.  I moved to Brooklyn after college (this was ten years ago), was humbled by my lack of chops on the clarinet (picked up at 20, largely self-taught), eventually joined a big band drone group led by Andrew Lafkas which I think got me a good track being a musician in NYC.  A little later, I met Aliza Simons, and we started playing songs we wrote together, which got me a great track, finally writing songs and working that way.  I went to grad school, met some lovely people at Brooklyn College, and then things changed in all the right ways when I staged an ad hoc reading of Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives in June 2011.

This piece had been the ne plus ultra to me for years.  It was the most amazing work of art I ever encountered, still is.  My simple idea was to stage it all in one day at the seven different locations and seven times specified in the piece.  I was and am really into site-specific art that surprises you and then goes on its way.  Long story short, Robert Ashley ending up attending this ad hoc performance and he loved it.  This was huge for me, even if nothing else would’ve come from that.  I had his appreciation.  He then invited me and my cohorts in what was later named Varispeed (who’d done the ad hoc performance and have done it more times since) to participate in a series of his pieces, culminating in him writing his final piece, Crash (which happens at Roulette in April!) for us.  He’s a major figure in my artistic life, having opened doors for me musically and then professionally.  A lot of the folks I’ve gotten to work with in the last four years can be traced back to that first performance he saw.

That said, in my work with Varispeed and thingNY, and writing The Gentleman Rests, it’s been hard to come out from behind his shadow some times.  We’re all very indebted to his work, particularly in the realm of musical speech.  I mostly write music with words (that’s what I greatly prefer as an audience member), and I don’t really care for traditional operatic voices.  I’m in bands but I’ve also always been a slightly awkward fit in rock scenes.  This particular kind of speech-y music is really my wheelhouse.
It’s not really novel as you can find examples of it everywhere, but to present it the way me and my compatriots do, with the baggage of being 21st Century American art music weirdos, I’ve found in writing this piece that there’s so many accidental references to his music, to Now Eleanor’s Idea or Concrete or Improvement.  It’s pretty thrilling for me to get to continue to do Ashley’s music, there’s just so much there every time you come back, and at the same time to be part of the work of folks like Paul Pinto, Gelsey Bell, Brian McCorkle, Aaron Siegel, etc who are appreciating this legacy and trying to deal with it in their own way just as I am.  There’s nothing like having a community of people with which to work through ideas!

I’m also really happy these days when I get to play songs (rather than pieces).  I’ve been playing in my friend Ellen’s band ellen o since last summer, these days I’m playing synth and singing, and that’s really the kind of music I’m thrilled to be making.  I was in bands in high school but haven’t been in many since.  It’s funny to be in your 30s and getting to serious about being in bands for the first time (I tried to book a mini-tour last year, though it didn’t work… the longest tour I’ve ever been on is two days), but in a lot of ways it’s a more satisfying framework for me than composing or playing pieces these days.  I’m really proud of the last album released by my band Why Lie? (with Aliza Simons) and on the second half of the evening at Roulette on 3/3 will be a new project with Jeff Tobias, Cory Bracken, Andrew Livingston, and Dave Kadden that’s playing very repetitive material in a rock-band-ish format.  I’m excited to see where we take this.

I’ve got my hands in a lot of cookie jars – I play a bunch of instruments in a bunch of styles, I run a little label, I used to curate a lot of shows, I work a day job in a musical administrative capacity – but there’s something about composing for me.  It was the first kind of music hat I felt I wore really well, and while I recognize it’s not how I want to be predominantly known, it’s wonderful for me to have the chance to stretch out and write a big piece.  Having this commission is a great excuse to check in with my most basic musical sensibilities and see what comes out when you turn on the faucet.  I didn’t know what it would be like.  It’s more about harmony than I ever expected (the knock on my in grad school was that I didn’t care what notes anybody played, and that was really true).  There’s something about layers of speech and singing and instruments that I’m working towards in a lot of formats.  I feel like if I were to start again today with a blank slate for this commission, I’d write something that would sound like songs for Dionne Warwick to sing with an enormous orchestra behind her, but the orchestra would loop 2-4 bars of music without variation for like 10 minutes at a time, and then she’d sing a verse, then a chorus, then 10 minute loop, chorus, verse, bridge, loop, etc.  I didn’t know that before, but I think that’s where I’m headed.


Jason Kao Hwang is New + Adventurous

What is your favorite Roulette memory?

My Burning Bridge concert at Roulette in the Vision Festival was quite memorable. The sound system was superb for both the band and our listeners. The performance of this music reached a new height and we were gratified by an enthused audience response. This was an inspirational experience. Thank you Roulette!

 

 

Jason Hwang

 

Jason Kao Hwang is a composer, violinist and violist who has created works ranging from jazz, “new” and world music.  He recently performed at Roulette with his groups AMYGDALA and SING HOUSE, and will be performing as part of Andrew Drury’s Content Provider next Tuesday, February 17.

Roulette’s support of artists has shaped the history of experimental art by presenting artists like Jason. Our Membership program directly funds artists from all experimental genres, and by becoming a Roulette Member you help keep Roulette at the center of innovative new music and performance.

Be part of the first 50 new Members this month and get a Roulette t-shirt like the one Jason is wearing!

Be New + Adventurous. Join today at roulette.org/membership.


Interview: Matt Mehlan

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In the annals of electronic music performance – movement, lighting, and video have been often given supporting roles. Occasionally the gimmick, the visual representation of a new bit of technology or newly imagined way to interface with a computer, even merely a side effect of the music being created. Yet as we further approach the total ubiquity of personal technologies, artists are finding new spaces to experiment with these mediums, where the interaction between them is often where the substance lies.

Curated by Matt Mehlan, Mixology 2015 presents a selection of artists working in these grey areas: choreographer Dana Bell’s live dancers mirrored in video projections and vice versa, Doron Sadja and his immersive color and light explorations, the YAMS collective traversing multitudes of mediums through the voices of 38 artists, Uumans dance/video/POV explorations, and Mark Fell’s monolithic deconstruction of “dance” music and live performance.

February 18th, 2015: Dana Bell // Doron Sadja
February 19th, 2015: HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?
February 20th, 2015: Mark Fell // Uumans

There have been over fifteen Mixology festivals at Roulette, each exploring in Artistic Director Jim Staley’s words the “uses and abuses of new and old technology”. This is the second Mixology festival you have curated. How have your curatorial ideas developed?

David Behrman said in his Roulette TV interview (and I’m very much paraphrasing and taking liberty) that at some point the computer became so intertwined with kind of inane, kind of stressful, day-to-day activities that it lost some of it’s excitement as a tool for art, and made acoustic instruments seem more precious. I think this could be said for everyone’s experience with computers at certain point – and that’s had a huge impact on people’s perception of electronic art… When Mixology started, laptop performance was a fairly novel/cutting-edge concept (as a reference point: a quick search shows Cycling ‘74, the company that makes Max/MSP, was founded in 1997…) and it has more recently become less so… So there was some energy toward retiring the Mixology idea at Roulette… but I thought that there was still some fertile territory in the idea of “uses and abuses of technology” if we could focus in on some conceptual specifics. Last year the concept was Post-PC electronic music, imagining a future where the computer is not the main vehicle for music making, but the means of creation still very electronic and/or computer-esque. This year, light and movement is the focus.

Can you tell us more about “grey area” you discuss below?

In the annals of electronic music performance – movement, lighting, and video have been often given supporting roles. Occasionally the gimmick, the visual representation of a new bit of technology or newly imagined way to interface with a computer, even merely a side effect of the music being created. Yet as we further approach the total ubiquity of personal technologies, artists are finding new spaces to experiment with these mediums, where the interaction between them is often where the substance lies.

Basically what I’m talking about here is that computers and software (as tools) are no longer inherently exciting. There used to be all kinds of performances where (and I might catch some flak for saying this) someone would get up on stage and sit behind a computer, and then a flute player would play into a mic and would come out garbled and we’d be impressed by the sounds – and wowed by the composer/computer operator’s ability to manipulate the sound with the computer. Or there’d be a live video of a dancer whose body would be pixilated on screen, and then… un-pixilated, in response to the music – and it seemed fresh and magical. You don’t see that much anymore because these effects etc have all entered the general understanding of sound and image – and been co-opted by various mainstream media makers – so as an audience we’ve all become a little more savvy, and expect more from these kinds of art-making. Sometimes it’s more conceptual content, and often it’s more context (Ken Goldsmith says “Context is the new creation”). This has pushed some artists into theatre, which is interesting. I also think is why so many composers are interested in making opera. There are many avenues for this kind discussion and I’m sure some evidence to contradict it… but it’s an impression I’ve had.

For Mixology 2015, I wanted to look at artists who are not making “dance” or “electronic music” or “video” or “sound art” – but whose practices are completely about a hybrid medium. Dana is a choreographer but video is integral, Doron is a sound artist but his performances are basically light shows, Mark Fell is finding visual representations of his very precise aural creations that take it to a whole other level…

I heard the artist Frances Whitehead give a talk recently and she mentioned “expertise in crisis”, and you see this everywhere right now – the “death of the artist”, the death of the genius, and rise of the versatile multitasker. I think it’s all a bit hyped as everything is, but the grey area is where everyone now exists. HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN? is a perfect example – a collective, visual artists, poets, musicians all coming together. The solitary artist/expert feels a little stiff and old fashioned by comparison.

However, the dominant narratives still push the myth of the troubled solitary genius and try to keep the romance alive, because it sells really well and is easy to describe…

Do you feel these artists have elevated these forms to primary roles as means to explore their interactions with music or as a means to integrate them with music?

I think it has to do with music not begin enough to satisfy the pursuits of these artists. In the same way that the ubiquity of computers make computers less exciting, music alone is a difficult means to being heard (pardon the pun) in such a noisy, and music saturated, universe.

In terms of the evolution of electronic music, where do you feel the idiom is headed? Perhaps sound, lighting, and video will ultimately just all exist without distinction under one art form?

As a term, I think “electronic music” is starting to be pretty meaningless. A look at any festival or music venues programming will probably have a significant “electronic music” quotient. Specifically defining any kind of art today, has so much more to do with either the tools of its creation, or the art’s context and purpose. I see it less as sound, light, movement, video becoming one “Art” form – and more that artists are now self-selecting what kind of context they want to exist in, and using whichever medium they have available.

How has movement been affected by the ubiquity of personal technologies?

One way is that we all measure our movements with GPS and health applications – but also everything is always documented, so maybe we have expectations or fear of our movements being caught on “tape” – we even consider everything performative…

In the case of capital M – Movement, the “Art” – I’m not sure yet. Certainly it’s easier now to make a video of yourself moving, critique and learn from it, than ever before, and all on a handheld device.

In addition to curating Mixology 2015, you will also be performing as Uumans. How does Uumans explore this “grey area”?

The entire UUMANS project is about grey areas: personality vs. anonymity, dance vs. Dance, video art vs. music video vs. advertisement, Art vs. arts and crafts, consumption vs. consumerism, sports.

Do you fear a future where personal technologies become sentient artistic technologies?

My favorite thing about the (what is called) “post-internet art” is how artists are using poetic digital malfunctions as the basis for some profound and modern critiques. It’s similar to what I was going for with this year’s festival, but with a different intent. Music at it’s base is a social practice, and it’s interesting how personal technologies and the networks of the internet continue to shape the way we’re social, and the way we try to communicate via a medium like music.

What’s really interesting about your question is that these technologies probably will reach the capabilities you’re talking about. We often forget when talking about AI, etc., that technology reflects the culture of the people who design and program it. So, whatever sentient artistic technologies are on their way – I hope that forward thinking and thoughtful artists have a hand in their design, and are given a fair share for their contribution.

Do personal technologies have souls?

Well, I think so – imbedded by their capital-C Creators.

What is a soul?

An aura of being.

What is a god?

Something worth having faith in.


Oliver Lake is New + Adventurous

What is your favorite Roulette memory?

I have only great memories of performing in the all of the Roulette spaces. Roulette has always been there supporting all of my projects over the last 20 plus years. Roulette is there for the creative artist, thanks to Jim Staley and staff.

 

 

Oliver Lake

 

Oliver Lake is a preeminent saxophonist in the progressive jazz scene, a position he has long held during his long and brilliant career.  He has performed at Roulette many times over the years; most recently in a Flowing Constancies with Jin Hi Kim and Samir Chatterjee, a performance that brought together these three improvising composers from distinct world music cultures with soloistic virtuosity and a unified group empathy.

Roulette’s support of artists has shaped the history of experimental art by presenting artists like Oliver. Our Membership program directly funds artists from all experimental genres, and by becoming a Roulette Member you help keep Roulette at the center of innovative new music and performance.

This month we’ve aimed to reach 50 new Members! As a reward, we’re giving subscribers a Roulette T-shirt like the one Oliver is wearing.

Be New + Adventurous. Join today at roulette.org/membership.


Are you New + Adventurous?

What is your favorite Roulette memory?

Around 1989 long before I moved to NYC my girlfriend (now wife, Alissa) took me to this strange, cool loft in Tribeca. We walked in through someone’s (now friend, Jim Staley) kitchen and living space and I just thought how art and life intermingled in New York was so hard core, so cool. Then we watched George Lewis (now husband of my colleague Miya Masaoka) perform solo trombone with interactive improvising video. I recently learned the show was produced by Catherine Pavlov (now friend).  This was 1989–before email was common, before the web… I had never seen anything like that. The whole thing made me think what an amazing world and city. Art was essential to survival. And Roulette was at the center of it. Roulette has become close to family.

 

Andrew Drury for web

 

Andrew Drury is a composer, improviser, percussionist, and educator.  See him at Roulette this Friday, February 6 as part of Jason Hwang’s SING HOUSE and for the release of his 2 new CDs, The Drum  and Content Provider on Tuesday, February 17.

Roulette’s support of artists has shaped the history of experimental art. Our Membership program directly funds artists from all experimental genres, and by becoming a Roulette Member you help keep Roulette at the center of innovative new music and performance.

This month we’ve aimed to reach 50 new Members! As a reward, we’re giving subscribers a Roulette T-shirt like the one Andrew is wearing.

Be New + Adventurous. Join today at roulette.org/membership.


Be New + Adventurous

What is your favorite Roulette memory?

A memory in two parts: In 2011 I attended the first event to take place in Roulette’s new space – the inaugural John Cage MUSICIRCUS marathon. A massive tidal cacophony of sound and music spilled, roared and reverberated from every stairwell, event space, and length of balconies (gorgeous chaos everywhere).

Then, a year later – stepping onto the hushed Roulette stage with a silence you could hear a pin drop into and starting to dance.

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Cassie Tunick is a performer, writer, teacher and long-time friend of Roulette whose physical improvisations have been seen on stages across the US and in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Estonia.  You may have seen her most recently at Roulette last Spring, when she performed her work Second Nature with Heather Harpham and Danny Tunick.

Roulette’s support of artists has shaped the history of experimental art. Our Membership program directly funds artists from all experimental genres, and by becoming a Roulette Member you help keep Roulette at the center of innovative new music and performance.

This month we’ve aimed to reach 50 new Members! As a reward, we’re giving subscribers a Roulette T-shirt like the one Cassie is wearing.

Be New + Adventurous. Join today at roulette.org/membership.

 

 


Interview: Andrew Drury

Andrew Drury's Content Provider by Reuben Radding

Composer, improviser, percussionist, and educator Andrew Drury celebrates the release of two long-awaited records, Content Provider, the eponymous debut of Drury’s quartet featuring Briggan Krauss, Ingrid Laubrock, and Brandon Seabrook, and The Drum, a collection of solo floor tom and percussion improvisations, at Roulette on Tuesday, February 17th. 

The program you are presenting at Roulette features two projects and celebrates their respective releases. Is there a complementary relationship between these two records?

“Complimentary” does seem like the right word. They express two apparently very different directions in my musical output. Content Provider comes right out of my jazz origins, playing drum set in all kinds of bands, composing for a band, and being part of the social organism known as a band. The Drum is a solo project coming from my involvement in sound oriented approaches to free improvisation that don’t have much surface resemblance to jazz or the kind of drumming I have done most of my life—it can sound more like classical, electronic, noise, or a movie soundtrack than what gets called jazz. On The Drum I use a single floor tom and a small number of other objects that employ extended wind and friction techniques I’ve developed over the last decade or so. But both express my fundamental love and fascination with drumming, improvisation, composition, and some kind of visceral or primal approach to performance.

Often the people who hear my jazz work don’t know about my extended technique work—or even about how lyrical or compelling other uses of improvisation might be to them. And the more “experimental,” “free improvisation” oriented folks think the more conventional approaches are passé or not as sophisticated. I want to both to be confronted with both. Music, creativity, and expertise are timeless (ancient and “as new as tomorrow”) and take many forms, so that’s what I’m striving for. These two projects are two sides of one coin and I think hearing one will make people hear the other in a different way.

Your program consists of four parts (ContenTrio, Content Provider, solo, and Content Provider + Special Guests). Are there specific musical ideas each group seeks to explore?

The core concept of the group, the quartet, is asking what can this group do given the abilities, resources, and imaginations of these three particular individuals: Brandon Seabrook, Briggan Krauss, and Ingrid Laubrock. They all have a lot of facility and their own voice on their particular instrument, they make magic happen when they play, and I dig ‘em as people too.

For the solo project it’s about zeroing in on certain sounds and techniques I’ve found through my free improvisation/extended techniques area of work and giving full attention and space to those, allowing them to form the basis for entire pieces or passages. There are a fair number of sounds I’ve gotten into that I think people should hear but it’s not always possible in group situations.

As a composer, improviser, and percussionist, can you tell us about your musical background and process?

I’m a drummer. I never received training on other instruments. I taught myself how to get around on the piano when I was a teenager. This background gives me certain abilities and limitations that I try to use to my advantage. Drumming has been central to my musical development and this affects how I conceive melody, phrasing, intervals, harmony, pattern, rhythm (of course), and the shaping of energy.  I’m grateful actually that I wasn’t burdened with compositional training because my independence from that allowed me to make music in a way that was very direct and personal to me.

Another part of my process, or background, is my non-musical or extra-musical aesthetic experiences. My experience of the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest and the Pacific Ocean. Poetry. Certain encounters with theater, dance, and performance art.  Lots of visual art. Travel. I feel like all these things give one a taste of something powerful—beauty maybe—that one wants to re-experience or replicate or communicate to others. And the medium I’ve been blessed or cursed with during my time on the planet is music so for me to convey or commune with this aesthetic stuff on the deepest level I have to engage in acts of musical creation. That’s the medium I’m best at. In another life it might have been mountain climbing, carpentry, who knows…

Anyway this background material is like magma under the crust of the earth and given some pressure and some fissures, it kind of erupts when I start playing around on the piano, singing into a recorder, or writing in a journal. And what comes out becomes the composition.

Part four of your set concludes with your piece, “The Band Is a Drum Set”. Does this title perhaps suggest something about your approach?

This particular piece I wrote in 1989 as an experiment for myself to see what would happen if a band with some horns played the kind of melodic figures that a drummer plays. (One of the musicians who played it on its premiere was Wadada Leo Smith!). The melody uses three pitches (analogous to snare drum, small tom, and floor tom) and phrases them in a way that I thought was characteristic of a Max Roach or Ed Blackwell solo. The piece was a success and I subsequently expanded and explored this idea in other pieces, i.e. imposing drum-like material on non-drum instruments more and realized there was something to it. It provides a slightly different algorithm for how a band can function, and a slightly different sound result. Plus the drums are an ancient instrument, a primal instrument that has been used for ritual and altering consciousness and perception, altering one’s sense of existence in space and time. I found that what I was also doing was trying to use a band to do that. Ingrid protested though—she wants me to write “The Drum Set Is a Saxophone”.


Tri-Centric Music Festival

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Last night, April 11th, 2014 was the first night of the Tri-Centric Music Festival at Roulette.   Members had the opportunity to come early for a pre-concert reception where we unveiled the 5 Anthony Braxton Scores that are currently on display at Roulette.

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Falling River Music

Excerpts from the liner notes to Anthony Braxton/Matt Bauder – 2+2 Compositions (2005, 482 Music) by Charlie Wilmoth:

Braxton has done so many things over the course of his amazing career that it’s difficult to ever say that he’s doing something he has never done. It seems safe to say, however, that in the last few years, Braxton has been paying more attention to timbre and texture than ever before. This interpretation of recent trends in Braxton’s work seems even more plausible when we consider his new Falling River Musics.

Braxton writes, “Falling River Musics is the name of a new structural prototype class of compositions in my music system that will seek to explore image logic construct ‘paintings’ as the score’s extract music notation.” Falling River scores consist of large, colorful drawings (reminiscent of the titles of Braxton’s earlier compositions) alongside much smaller writings.

These smaller writings are accompanied by an intentionally vague legend that begins near the top of the page with a quarter note. Subsequent drawings in the legend look less and less like musical notation, and they quickly become unrecognizable as such. Braxton refuses to assign any specific meanings to the notations of his Falling River scores, since part of their purpose is to allow each performer to find her own way through them. He explains, “I am particularly interested in this direction as a means to balance the demands of traditional notation interpretation and esoteric inter-targeting.”

Anthony Braxton is recognized as one of the most important musicians, educators ad creative thinkers of the past 50 years, highly esteemed in the creative music community for the revolutionary quality of his work and for the mentorship and inspiration he has provided to generations of younger musicians. Drawing upon a disparate mix of influences from John Coltrane to Karlheinz Stockhausen to Native American music, Braxton has created a unique musical system that celebrates the concept of global creativity and our shared humanity. His work examines core principles of improvisation, structural navigation and ritual engagement; innovation, spirituality and intellectual investigation. His many accolades include a 1981 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 1994 MacArthur Fellowship, a 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and a 2014 NEA Jazz Master Award.

 

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The Tri-Centric Music Festival continues through this weekend and next week!  Full schedule below:

Friday, April 11, 8PM at Roulette

Nate Wooley: Battle Pieces
Featuring Nate Wooley: trumpet; Ingrid Laubrock: saxophones; Sylvie Courvoisier: piano; Matt Moran: vibraphone

Anthony Braxton: Composition 146, “Moogie and Stetson” for 12 flutes, 2 tubas, and percussion
Featuring Taylor Ho Bynum: conductor; Jamie Baum, Domenica Fossati, Michel Gentile, Adrianne Greenbaum, Margaret Lancaster, Erin Lesser, Aleksandra Miglowiec, Leah Paul, Helene Rosenblatt, Peter Standaart, Heather Stegmaier, Sarah Bouchard Stockton: flute; Joseph Daley, Jay Rozen: tuba; Chris Dingman: percussion

http://roulette.org/events/tri-centric-presents-anthony-braxtons-composition-no-146-for-12-flutes-2-tubas-and-percussion-plus-the-nate-wooley-ensemble/

Saturday, April 12, 1PM Roulette

Roulette Kids! presents: Taylor Ho Bynum

Taylor Ho Bynum leads a workshop using Anthony Braxton’s principles of Language Music to introduce young people to ideas of group improvisation and composition—using sound as a “lego set” to create structures for play. All ages welcome, with special guests from the upcoming production of Braxton’s opera Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables).

http://roulette.org/events/roulette-kids-taylor-ho-bynum/

Saturday, April 12, 8PM at Roulette

Fay Victor: Neighborhood Dynamics
Featuring Fay Victor: vocals; Nicole Mitchell: flute; Vincent Chancey: french horn; Anders Nilsson: guitar; Ken Filiano: double bass

Anthony Braxton: Falling River Music Nonet
Featuring Anthony Braxton: saxophones; James Fei: saxophones; Ingrid Laubrock: saxophones; Jasmine Lovell-Smith: saxophones: Mary Halvorson, Brandon Seabrook: guitar; Tomeka Reid: cello; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet

http://roulette.org/events/the-tri-centric-presenting-series-anthony-braxtons-falling-river-music-nonet-plus-the-fay-victor-ensemble/

Sunday, April 13, 8-11PM at EYEBEAM

André Vida Moving Scores Final Day
Featuring André Vida: saxophones; Christa Robinson: english horn; Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon; Jay Rozen: tuba; Brett Sroka: trombone; Loren Dempster: cello

http://eyebeam.org/moving-scores

Thursday, April 17, 8PM at ROULETTE

Anthony Braxton: Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables) (Acts I & II) 8 P.M. at Roulette

Vocalists: Roland Burks, bass (Zakko), Kelvin Chan, baritone (Ashmenton), Tomas Cruz, tenor (Joreo), Lucy Dhegrae, soprano (Helena), Chris DiMeglio, baritone (Bubba John Jack), Kristin Fung, mezza (Alva), Nick Hallett, tenor (David), Kyoko Kitamura, soprano (Ntzockie), Kamala Sankaram, soprano (Sundance), Elizabeth Saunders, mezzo (Kim), Jen Shyu, soprano (Shala), Vince Vincent, tenor (Ojuwain)

Instrumental Soloists: Vincent Chancey (French horn), Jacob Garchik (baritone horn), Jim Hobbs (alto saxophone), Ingrid Laubrock (soprano saxophone), Domenica Fossati (flute),Oscar Noriega (clarinet), Dan Peck (tuba), Reut Regev (trombone), Stephanie Richards (trumpet), Katie Scheele (English horn), Josh Sinton (bass clarinet), Libby Van Cleve (oboe)

Dancers: Rachel Bernsen, Melanie Maar

Orchestra:
Violin: Erica Dicker (concertmaster), Ginger Dolden, Sam Bardfeld, Sarah Bernstein, Julianne Carney, Jason Hwang, Mazz Swift, Scott Tixier
Viola: Amy Cimini, Jessica Pavone, Erin Wight
Cello: Marika Hughes, Tomeka Reid, Tomas Ulrich
Bass: Ken Filiano, Mark Helias
Flute: Leah Paul, Domenica Fossati
Oboe/English horn: Kathy Halvorson, Katie Scheele, Libby Van Cleve
Clarinet/saxophone: Mike McGinnis, Jim Hobbs, Ingrid Laubrock, Oscar Noriega, Josh Sinton
Bassoon: Sara Schoenbeck, Katherine Young
French horn: Nathan Koci, Vincent Chancey
Trumpet: Gareth Flowers, Stephanie Richards
Trombone: Jacob Garchik, Reut Regev
Tuba: Dan Peck
Percussion: David Shively
Harp: Jacqui Kerrod

Conductor/Composer/Librettist: Anthony Braxton
Producer: Taylor Ho Bynum
Director: Acushla Bastible
Associate Director: Louisa Proske
Video Director: Chris Jonas
Associate Video Director: Dylan McLaughlin
Choreographer: Rachel Bernsen
Sound Design: Amy Crawford
Assistant Producer: Kyoko Kitamura
Production Assistant: Tyler Rai
Lighting designer: Yi Zhao
Costume designer: Nikki Delhomme
Stage Manager: Desiree Alejandro

http://roulette.org/events/anthony-braxtons-trillium-j-the-non-unconfessionables-acts-i-ii/

Friday, April 18, 8PM at Roulette
Anthony Braxton: Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables) (Acts III & IV)
(See Thursday, April 17 for full cast & crew)

http://roulette.org/events/anthony-braxtons-trillium-j-the-non-unconfessionables-acts-iii-iv/

Saturday, April 19, 3PM at Roulette
Anthony Braxton: Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables) (Acts I & II)
(See Thursday, April 17 for full cast & crew)

http://roulette.org/events/anthony-braxtons-trillium-j-the-non-unconfessionables-acts-i-ii-2/

Saturday, April 19, 8PM at Roulette
Anthony Braxton: Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables) (Acts III & IV)
(See Thursday, April 17 for full cast & crew)

http://roulette.org/events/anthony-braxtons-trillium-j-the-non-unconfessionables-acts-iii-iv-2/

Admission:

For Roulette, general admission is $20 – $35 depending on the performance. Members/Students/Seniors $15, FREE for All Access Members. More info here: http://roulette.org/events/


Interview: Theresa Wong’s The Unlearning

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A daring new work from a rising star, Theresa Wong’s The Unlearning unflinchingly examines the modern horrors of war, raising and expressing in avant-garde and world folk music forms the central question: What does it mean to be an artist in a time of war? In this interview, Wong discusses the influence of Goya’s The Disasters of War on her new project, her collaboration with Carla Kihlstedt that was central to The Unlearning, and of the deep philosphical and existential lessons she learned in tackling the big subject of our age.


Interview: Miya Masaoka & Michelle Handelman

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Composer Miya Masaoka and video artist Michelle Handelman discuss the origins of their new project: the personal stories and the ideas that their work address, the artistic impulse to create a socially and politically engaged form of art, and offer their thoughts on why it is important for us to resist.


Interview: Morton Subotnick

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Composer and electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick discusses the latest project, From Silver Apples of the Moon to a Sky of Cloudless Sulphur IV: LUCY, a collaboration with visual artist Lillevan, and talks about his influences, and the prescient early insights that propelled his extraordinary career and art.


Interview: Maura Donohue, Ross Feller, Koosil-Ja, Kora Radella & Jim Staley

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Maura Donohue, Koosil-Ja, and Kora Radella, along with composer/musician Ross Feller, gathered to discuss the dynamic intellectual, social & artistic landscape of their current practices in experimental dance, and to reveal, through reflection, the provident lessons from the past. What resulted was a passionate and insightful roundtable discussion from which emerged the meaning of dance as a vital artistic practice that exists in an active engagement with the world.


Interview: Mario Diaz de Leon

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The music of Mario Diaz de Leon covers a range of ideas, imagery, and emotions that not only cross genres but also the transition from youth to adult and back through reflection. A composer who writes elaborate and stunning works for classical ensembles in a number of configurations and instrumentation, Diaz de Leon retains the passion, ideals, and conviction of his youth through the metal and punk genres that first inspired and defined him. In this interview, Diaz de Leon discusses his influences, which range from Sepultura, Slint, Ligeti, and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and offers an insight into the thoughts and motivations behind his music, from works for the classical stage to the throbbing intensity of underground clubs