Category: Blogcast

Mixology Festival 2018: In Conversation with Wally De Backer (Gotye)

Taking place February 13-16, Mixology Festival 2018: Circuit Breakers presents four evenings and seven musical artists and ensembles who bend, blend, and extend electronic instruments and tools toward new realms of creative communication. Surreal songs, ritual roustings, radiophonic phenomena, and a multimedia mélange will incite, inspire, and inhabit. Active for over 25 years, Roulette’s Mixology Festival celebrates new and unusual uses of technology in music and the media arts. Primarily a snapshot of current activity, Mixology strives to reflect both the history and trends of innovation that impact the Zeitgeist.

Roulette: Please describe the Ondioline Orchestra, and how you came to take on this challenge?

Wally De Backer (Gotye): The Ondioline Orchestra is an ensemble dedicated to reviving and extending the legacy of Frenchman Georges Jenny’s pioneering electronic musical instrument, the Ondioline. The instrument dates back to the 1940s but offers expressive and timbral possibilities that I think are still unsurpassed in many ways. I love the late Jean-Jacques Perrey’s playing of the Ondioline dearly (the love of his music led me to meet the man over the last few years of his life), and I thought it was a shame that the instrument has been almost completely forgotten after he explored it virtuosically in the ’50s and ’60s, so the Ondioline Orchestra was put together to showcase a number of fully restored Ondiolines as well as Perrey’s wonderful music. I’m honoured to play with five incredible New York musicians, from a dynamite rhythm section comprising alumni of one of my favourite bands, Zammuto, as well as renowned theremin and synthesizer maestros Rob Schwimmer and Joe McGinty.

Wally DeBacker + Ondioline Orchestra / Photo: Anna Webber

Roulette: The history of the instrument and its makers and users is fascinating. Tell us about your research and who helped you along the way.

Gotye: Meeting Jean-Jacques Perrey was a dream come true for me, being such a big fan of his recordings for many years. Getting to know him personally over a number of visits to his home in Switzerland led to me becoming an archivist of his music, photos, and scores. This led to the release of an archival compilation of his early, rare and unreleased works with the Ondioline on a label I set up called Forgotten Futures. The record is called Jean-Jacques Perrey et son Ondioline and it features some sublime pieces I thought deserved to be heard not just by Perrey’s existing fans but by a wider listenership, so delicious are the melodies, and deft the timbral experiments he recorded with his Ondioline over the years.

I’ve received a lot of assistance with my research from Jean-Jacques’ daughter Patricia, as well as the daughters of Georges Jenny. They’ve been incredibly generous with their time and energy.

It would be impossible for me to have learned how to play the Ondioline, or for the Ondioline Orchestra to play at all actually, if it weren’t for the technician Stephen Masucci who has spent countless hours restoring the Ondiolines I’ve collected, often transforming them from rusty relics into beautiful musical instruments with full “original” functionality. The dedication he has made to reviving this very misunderstood and difficult-to-fix instrument inspires me greatly.

I’ve also been blessed to meet an incredible designer named Mike Buffington, who has deftly and painstakingly recreated the first ever English versions of a number of historical Ondioline documents that were originally published by Georges Jenny in French in the ’40s and ’50s.

So it’s truly a team effort to bring this instrument and a lot of lost work around it back to some attention.

Roulette: You have said the Ondioline is a uniquely expressive electronic instrument. How is that?

Gotye: The Ondioline has a wonderful confluence of mechanical mechanisms to allow the musician to play very expressively. The left hand or right knee control a lever that allows the player to shape the overall envelope of the sound. This alone allows you to whisper gently in higher frequencies, or to overdrive the instrument’s great-sounding tube amplifier to bring forth great fat bass tones.

The keyboard can be moved from side to get a manual vibrato that is remarkably musical. I’ve played other electronic instruments that offer vibrato on their keyboard, from Yamaha’s ’70s monster organ-synths, to more contemporary expressive controllers like the Roli Seaboard, and they can be very good if you develop a high level of technique on them, but there’s something about the fine vibrato that’s achievable with wood and copper of the Ondioline’s keyboard that I find really magical, a true joy to play!

Finally, I just love the sound of the Ondioline. The little switches it offers on its front can be combined together, or switched on and off while playing with your other hand, to make an astonishing array of timbres, very changeable and just very pleasing to the ear.

Wally DeBacker + Ondioline Orchestra / Photo: Anna Webber

Roulette: Who would you ideally like to collaborate with and why?

Gotye: I look forward to continuing to collaborate with people I already work with, as I feel there’s still so much more to explore. Whether that’s musicians in the Ondioline Orchestra, or my brothers in The Basics (though it might be a while for us to make new things since my current projects in New York require so much time and energy). I would love to work with the incredible thereminist Carolina Eyck sometime. We’ve done a little recording together, but I’m excited to see if maybe someday we could work on something original with theremin and Ondioline together- I think they would be interestingly complementary instruments.

Roulette: What artists inspire you, living or dead, in any medium?

Gotye: Balint Zsako, living. Also, I prefer to be living in order to be inspired by him and his work, which inspires me in every medium he addresses.

Roulette: What is it about Roulette that makes you want to show your work here?

Gotye: I loved Suzanne Ciani’s show that I attended there and I’ve always thought the programming is diverse and adventurous. I think the space has a great feel, and I’m excited to play in-the-round in the middle of the beautiful wood floor. I think it will make for a wonderful intimate setting for this music. Also, I live just up the street, so I can ride my Ondioline straight down the hill.

Mysterious Fragments: A Conversation With Gary Lucas

Mysterious Fragments: A Conversation With Gary Lucas
by Kurt Gottschalk

Gary Lucas has more than a few of notches in his guitar strap. He was a member of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. His long list of collaborators includes Leonard Bernstein, John Cale, David Johansen, Joan Osbourne, Lou Reed, Peter Stampfel and the late and much celebrated Jeff Buckley. He has made new guitar arrangements of compositions by Dvorak, Wagner and Henry Mancini, as well as Albert Ayler’s free jazz, Kraftwerk’s proto-synth pop and Chinese pop songs from the 1930s.

But asked what among his many efforts is his favorite kind of project to take on, he offers a simple answer: playing his own music to accompany old movies.

“It’s one of my favorite things to do in music,” he said in the matter-of-fact-if-slightly-amused way he has of saying most everything.

Lucas has performed his scores live for 15 films, most of them feature length. Last winter at Roulette, he played along with Too Much Johnson, a recently discovered Orson Welles silent slapstick comedy. On Friday, February 2, he returns to Roulette’s stage to present and perform alongside five short features by the film and television director Curtis Harrington.

“It was on my list of to-do projects, in part because I think this guy needs to be better known,” Lucas said.

Like Lucas, Harrington (who died in 2007 at the age of 80) had a career that crossed many streams. He started making movies as a teenager and worked as a film critic in the 1940s, then later as a cinematographer for the pioneering underground director Kenneth Anger, all the while making his own experimental films. In the ’60s and ’70s, he turned to horror and cast Dennis Hopper, Debbie Reynolds, Gloria Swanson and Shelley Winters in his features. In the ’70s and ’80s, he directed episodes of Baretta, Charlie’s Angels, Dynasty and Wonder Woman for network television.

“Harrington had quite a long and really productive career,” Lucas said. “He’s a good example of someone who transferred unto somewhat mainstream studio fare and still kept artistic integrity.”

When Lucas talks about what attracts him to the work of Harrington or other artists,  he could just as easily be talking about himself.

“I love stuff that crosses boundaries and eludes categories,” he said. “I love art where you, the viewer, has to do some work, where it isn’t all cut-and-dried and laid out for you.”

Hovering between genres and expectations is Lucas’ comfort zone. 

“I don’t like to put labels on people,” he added, shedding new light on an evocative album title by his old boss. “I come from the Beefheart school. You know, Lick My Decals Off, Baby, get rid of the labels.“

Lucas’ love of film runs deep. As a youth, he set up a makeshift cinema in his parents’ basement and screened horror films for neighborhood kids, charging a nickel a piece for entry. It was around that time that he first heard of Harrington.

“I first encountered his name in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, which was the bible to me growing up,” he said. That’s where I first came across The Golem.”

That 1920 film, properly Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (or The Golem: How He Came Into the World) was Lucas’ first scoring project and close to 30 years later might still be his best known work for film. It’s a dream-like silent horror film about a man-made monster based on an old Jewish folktale. With the Harrington shorts, Lucas will return to his love of the surreal and the macabre.

“They’re not horror films,” he explained. “They’re mysterious fragments. They have more to do with poetry, Borges and Edgar Allen Poe. I find them really hypnotic. It’s like entering into a series of dreams.”

The selection of films will touch on Poe, in fact, with Harrington’s 1942 short Fall of the House of Usher, in which the director also stars. Also on the program are A Fragment of Seeking (1946), a retelling of the Greek myth of Narcissus considered an early foray in the New Queer Cinema movement; 1948’s Picnic, which turns a dark lens on middle-class American life; the industrial landscape of On the Edge (1949), in which Harrington cast his parents for the lead roles; and The Assignation (1953), Harrington’s first color film, which follows a masked figure through the winding paths of Venice and was long thought to be lost.

Lucas watches the films along with the audience, facing the screen as he plays. He generally uses acoustic and electric guitars for his scores and employs electronic effects to build sometimes dense, atmospheric passages. The concerts generally involve a fair bit of introduction as well, with Lucas as part storyteller, part film professor. The scores themselves are largely improvised with cues and themes worked out in advance.

“The way I approach my scores is a combination of composed cues and improv,” he explained. “I get very familiar with the films. I see them numerous times and I sit there and tinker. Hopefully it’s seamless so that the whole thing fits like a glove. For these films, there’s so much beauty up on the screen, it’s just a joy for me to sort of glide into it.”

Asked if there are other films he’d like to score, Lucas replied enthusiastically.

“I haven’t begun to fight,” he said. “I’m ready to move on to the next one. There are a few in my mind that I’m mulling over but I have to keep it close to my vest. I don’t want to jinx it.” 

Like his scoring of films, Lucas has a long history with Roulette.

“One of my last shows as a duo with Jeff [Buckley] was at Roulette in April of ’92,” he said. “There’s clips of us performing “Grace” and a Van Morrison song up on YouTube. We had a great show as I recall. I was always happy to invite Jeff on my gigs.”

And before that, he remembers playing shows at Roulette’s original location on West Broadway in Tribeca.

“I always loved it,” he said. “I felt free to play whatever I wanted to play because I knew I’d get an audience of good listeners.”

Spotlight On: Sarah Goldfeather

Spotlight On

Roulette catches up with artist Sarah Goldfeather for a quick Q+A. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

I am a violinist, a singer, a songwriter, and a composer. I run, perform, and write music for a band called Goldfeather, a soprano-violin duo called Cipher, a septet called Exceptet. I also enjoy puns and funny socks.

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.

Exceptet was the result of an impulse to start a new music ensemble with a silly name that took commissioning and performing music seriously. We have in fact commissioned and performed works from nine young and talented composers since our 2015 inception. Our project with Roulette will be an evening-length concert that focuses on three brand new premieres — substantial pieces by Brendon Randall-Myers and Matt Evans, and a short piece by myself. Each piece will come from a distinctly different sound world, and will shape out an evening of contrasting musical voices that work with sound and space. Brendon and Matt are both high-caliber musicians on and offstage, and we at Exceptet are thrilled to be collaborating with them. Brendon’s piece will feature each member of the septet; Matt’s piece will utilize the space by breaking the group into subsets; and my own piece is the synthesis of my normally disparate worlds of pop songwriting and contemporary classical music.

What is your favorite Roulette memory?

There have been a great many highlights, but one concert in particular that sticks out was Invisible Anatomy’s semi-staged evening-length work, Transfigure. The show was visually stunning, the music captivating and memorable, and the performers were incredibly engaging — I remember being completely absorbed and inspired. The performers were stationed in the middle of the space, and I recall appreciating how versatile Roulette is as a performance space.

What is your favorite record?

It is difficult to pick just one, but if I had to choose a record that influenced most of my musical tastes today, it would probably be Sunlandic Twins by Of Montreal. The songwriting is incredibly creative and the harmonies and textures take so many unexpected yet satisfying twists and turns. Coincidentally, the album was the exact length of my commute to my high school youth orchestra, so I really got to sing along the whole way through twice every Saturday morning for a few glorious adolescent years.

What are your top three favorite or most visited websites and why?

In 2003 I started my very own Geocities account and dedicated a whole page titled “Good Sites,” which consisted solely of numerous Lord of the Rings Parody websites. Since then, my tastes have broadened somewhat. Aside from the popular news/social media/email correspondence sites, I am most fond of Goodreads.com, which I update fastidiously; Megan Amram’s twitter account, because she might be the funniest person who has ever lived; and omfgdogs.com, to be experienced on a laptop with the volume all the way up.

What is influencing your work right now?

Interpersonal relationships of the past and present, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, music with unusual chord changes and/or unexpected meter changes, Kimbra as an artist, the music of Mitski, Anna Meredith, Ted Hearne, and Scott Wollschleger, the writing of Lydia Davis, Maggie Nelson, and Louise Gluck.

How long have you lived in New York City and what brought you here?

I have lived in Brooklyn for over 7 years, and honestly it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how I ended up here — I suppose a friend from college asked me to move to Brooklyn with her, and it certainly seemed like the proper place to migrate after graduation. I didn’t really have a plan back then, and certainly didn’t have any illusions that it was possible to be a musician at the time. Looking back, I’m grateful I followed that whim, as I don’t know if I could have grown as an artist and musician without this wonderful musical community stationed here.

———–

Exceptet performs Mouth Full of Ears by Sarah Goldfeather, alongside new works from Matt Evans and Brendon Randall-Myers on February 8, 2018.

Spotlight On: Jessica Cook

Spotlight On

Roulette catches up with artist Jessica Cook for a quick Q+A. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

I am a choreographer living in Brooklyn for 12 years; grew up in Durham, North Carolina. I studied Dance at SUNY Purchase and moved to Bushwick in 2005, where I made costume-based performance and worked with a slew of choreographers in the city. I have collaborated with various Roulette-affiliated artists over the years including Matt Mehlan in UUMANS, Jessica Ray, Stephe Cooper in EAGLEAGER, and Kyli Kleven. I drink a lot of coffee, collect a lot of garbage, and take a lot of videos. Becoming a real New York rat!

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.

I’m creating a sound score using repetitive movement patterns paired with found objects and materials that become layered, amplified, and distorted over time. It’s a trio with Katie Dean, Ayano Elson, and myself. I am figuring out how to create various sculptures with sound, bodies, objects / architectures that all incrementally warp and recontextualize atop an island made of paper and foam.

What is your first musical memory?

My Dad playing a busted zildjan cymbal around the house.

What is your favorite Roulette memory?

Playing next to Greg Fox and his metal band in MUSICIRCUS. I did a soft / sad / quiet duet — it was a good combo.

What’s your absolute favorite place in the city to be and why?

McGolrick Park in Greenpoint. Lots of coffee options, Romanesque columns, good dog / owner combos, and shameless squirrels.

What artists are you interested in right now?

Eva Hesse, Alma Thomas, Alice Coltrane, Whitney Houston, and my sister Sheryl Cook — she does it all.

———-

Jessica Cook performs Dog Flats alongside Ayano Elson and Katie Dean during Roulette’s ongoing [DANCEROULETTE] series, taking place February 6-7, 2018.

Spotlight On: Lucie Vítková

Spotlight On

Roulette catches up with residency artist Lucie Vítková for a quick Q+A. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I am a composer, performer and improviser of accordion, Japanese hichiriki, synthesizer, harmonica, voice, and dance, originally from the Czech Republic. My work consists of broad range of activities and activisms. I like to explore a perception of everyday life through musical analysis and analyze music through the lens of social relationships. In the past years, I have been focusing on the environment as a new way to educate myself in music. I have been transcribing sounds of environments into scores, and that way following and absorbing its aesthetics. I have worked musically on cityscapes, domestic space, and on sounds of things, especially researching trash. I have traveled and moved a lot, studying in Brno in the Czech Republic, The Hague in the Netherlands, CalArts in Valencia, Berlin, and New York.

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.
A year and a half ago, I began to play in the Japanese Gagaku Ensemble at Columbia University. This summer I was chosen for the master / protégé residency in Tokyo, which was transformative for me. In the Gagaku Ensemble, I play Japanese hichiriki, a straightforward double reed instrument, which has became one of my solo instruments. For my upcoming project at Roulette, I decided to devote my musical research to the hichiriki, and I am preparing an evening of pieces related to this instrument. In those pieces, I am merging the construction and physicality of the hichiriki, habits around its use and making, and Japanese Gagaku notation with research on ethnomusicological methodology, the influence of continuity and discontinuity in Michael Jackson’s work, my environmental performance practice, dance, and accordion playing. I am preparing scores for lights, choreographies for sounds, scenes focused on things, and playing with water and wind.

What is the best way to spend an afternoon in New York City?
I live in Washington Heights and I love to go to Fort Tryon Park, which is just a 15 minute walk from my place. With that little botanical garden right at the entrance and stunning views, sometimes it feels like a very luxurious backyard. There seems to be a lot of people that have a similar relationship with that place. It’s a common thing to do, even if we don’t really talk or engage — just being in that space together brings a peaceful experience.

What is influencing your work right now?
Classes at Columbia University such as Music, Memory and Migration of ethnomusicologist Alessandra Ciucci and the Ecofeminism class of Branka Arsić, my involvement in Japanese and Raaga Ensembles, and working with my NYC Constellation Ensemble.

How did your interest in your work begin?
Probably when I was four and began to take dance and piano lessons, or listening to my mom and uncle playing guitars by the fireplace, or my father introducing me to The Wall by Pink Floyd at a very early age.

———
Lucie Vítková performs Spectacle as part of Roulette’s artist-in-residency program on January 27, 2018. Tickets + Info

ACFNY Presents: Studio Dan / Breaking News

What: US premiere performance of commissioned pieces by George Lewis + Oxana Omelchuk from Austrian ensemble Studio Dan.
When: Sunday, December 3, 2017, 8:00pm
Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR
Cost: $25/20 Online: $20/15 Doors
Info: www.roulette.org / (917) 267-0368
Tickets: General Admission $20, Members/Students/Seniors $15, $25/20 Tickets at the door

Brooklyn, NY – Austrian ensemble Studio Dan presents an evening of US premieres and performances of commissioned pieces by George Lewis and Oxana Omelchuk, followed by works by Johannes Kreidler, John Zorn, and others.

The key work for the concert is George Lewis’ new piece commissioned by the group, followed by another commissioned piece by Belarusian composer Oxana Omelchuk, featuring two solo trombones. Both pieces will be premiered in October during the 50th edition of musikprotokoll held in Graz, Austria. The second half of the program will be dedicated a collection of short pieces for smaller ensembles, including Johannes Kreidler’s concept piece “Charts Music,” composed with the aid of stock exchange and trading charts.

Founded in 2005 for the first JazzWerkstatt Wien festival, Studio Dan started as big band, but has since morphed to perform in various permutations, depending on the project. The group operates on the borders between diverse subgenres of contemporary music: improvisation, new music, jazz, and (art) rock, and others. Studio Dan curates and produces new programs, concert series, and recordings, working alone or in cooperation with large institutions. In 2016, Studio Dan brought new programs to several internationally-renowned stages as Wien Modern, Kampnagel Hamburg, musikprotokoll graz, and the Tagen für Neue Musik in Zurich. The ensemble also presented works Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, Cornelius Cardew, George Crumb, and others during a  four-concert series at Vienna’s Porgy & Bess. Past guest soloists and collaborations with Studio Dan include Vinko Globokar, Elliott Sharp, Michel Doneda, and Friedrich Cerha.

Program:
Johannes Kreidler (1980) – Charts Music
George Lewis (1952) – New Work
Oxana Omelchuk (1975) – wow and flutter
Caitlin Smith (1983) – Wie schön ist es zu leben
Christoph Walder (1967) – vozmozhnost
John Zorn (1953) – Ceremonial Magic

Paul Pinto // Iktus Percussion vs. Paul Pinto

RTV sits down with Paul Pinto to discuss his performance with Iktus Percussion at Roulette, what aging does to the male psyche, and the artist vs. the athlete.

Paul Pinto creates and produces experimental music and theatrical works in traditional and non-traditional spaces, and is the founder and co-director of ensembles thingNY and Varispeed. His own compositions blend chamber music with theatre with a focus on total performativity. Specifically, his work centers on the human voice and the endurance of the human body. Paul has chosen to work equally with traditional instruments, lo-fi electronics, unconventional sound-makers and amateur musicians, creating one-minute opera, concert length chamber music, and durational performance art. Paul is currently a member of the HERE Artists Residency Program (HARP), where he is developing a new opera for 2017 called Thomas Paine in Violence.

Produced By
Jim Staley

Directed and Edited by
Wolfgang Daniel

Photographed by
Wolfgang Daniel
Sonia Li

October Show Highlights

 

 

 

Spotlight On: Teerapat (Gof) Parnmongkol

Spotlight On

Roulette catches up with artist Gof Parnmaonkol for a quick Q+A about his favorite artists, the best places to eat around Roulette, and his favorite spots in NYC.

What is the best way to spend an afternoon in New York City?
Reading and biking in Prospect Park

What artists are you interested in right now?
Puppies Puppies, Slavoj Zizek,Tristan Garcia, Tehshing Hsieh

What is your favorite place to eat or drink near Roulette?
Bedouin Tent (Middle Eastern; 405 Atlantic Ave at Bond St) and Ganso Ramen (Japanese; 25 Bond St at Livingston St).

What is your first musical memory?
The sound of airplanes landing and the hissing sound of a cassette player

Who would you ideally like to collaborate with?
Jacques Derrida and Alejandro Jodorowsky

What is your absolute favorite place in the city to be?
The dressing room on the 8th floor of the Whitney Museum

———

On Wednesday, October 4, Teerapat (Gof) Parnmongkol performs as part of RE to present Lunar Eclipse, an interactive audiovisual performance within an inflatable dome sculpture. Tickets + Info

Issue No. 004 of Roulette’s Zine is Here!

 

Fall zines have arrived and they are jam-packed full of new + exclusive content, including a feature on Phill Niblock​ from Kurt Gottschalk​, an interview with MSHR from Mia Wendel-DiLallo​, artist spotlights, season calendar, neighborhood dining recommendations, a word search, and much more. Pick up your copy in the lobby before a performance and keep your eyes pealed for these seafoam beauties around town.