Tag: David Weinstein

Cecilia Lopez on Folly Systems: Embracing Contradictions

by David Weinstein

Cecilia Lopez with her installation RED at Roulette, 2019

The sound and installation artist Cecilia Lopez was invited by Outpost Artists Resources to curate a festival that the Queens-based media arts center is co-presenting with Roulette on November 13 and 14, 2019 (11 artists, 2 days). Lopez spoke by telephone from Buenos Aires with Roulette Director of Special Projects David Weinstein to discuss what inspired her to take on the project.


What is the concept and context of the festival within the current art and technology scene?

When I was approached with the idea, the question was to curate a new media or a real time media festival that involved technology with live performances. All these terms raise questions, right? This is mostly what I do in my own work and I like the intersection of these things. That said, I find that there’s usually a little bit of an arms race aspect to it, in how people relate to technology and how its uses are imposed.

For me, technology is never neutral and lots of things are in play in the use of it. So I thought about who is using technology with a subject-based idea, like identity or experience or even simply what does technology mean? You know, it doesn’t matter how technical it gets. The question is more, what technology means for us, and what even constitutes technology? A piano is technology. Some people in the festival use very technical stuff and some do very artisanal things.

How did you select the work? Talk about a few of the artists and how their technology and approach fit the project.

I’m interested in concepts of precariousness and the organic even with electronics. Limitations are very freeing. So I’m trying to give a perspective on these questions. I chose work thinking about all this, which led to a wide range of people, which is interesting for me too. I was like, okay, this is cool. This works. For example, Amanda Gutierrez uses VR, and it’s a walk through a neighborhood with people that narrate their experience there so it’s not removed from our reality. It’s not abstract. The concept is at the service of something else. So, what’s that something else and how does that service happen? It’s about that interaction.

I’m interested in the complication of the subjective experience through mediation, layers; sort of like how we perceive our surroundings. I use the word mediation when there’s a distance, not removal, but a layer influencing the actual experience. Nao Nishihara builds machines but they’re very rudimentary and it’s old-fashioned in a way. So he’s less technological in terms of technique but the performance aspect creates a poetic interplay between the body and the mechanical. Ragnhild May builds clusters of wind instruments and wears them as an outfit and the visual/theatrical/sonic elements intersect with super technological stuff like algorithms and Arduino.

Image result for ragnhild may
Danish visual artist and composer Ragnhild May with her self-designed instrument: a one-woman recorder orchestra consisting of 132 recorders, a Nilfisk vacuum cleaner, and 5 air mattress pumps.

Aki Onda’s work addresses musicality and time and performance in a very particular way with simple means like glass bells and lightbulbs and projections. So again, it’s the layers between objects and actions that generate an augmented perception. Gil Arno will present an amplified customized projection machine that he’s built that generates pulsating images on an offstage screen, but watching him work is part of the experience.

What will the audience encounter that may surprise them?

The theater won’t be fixed in a typical auditorium format. There are things that require someone moving through the space. There are things that are more screen-based. It’s a traditional theater, and you can’t change the way it looks. But I feel like you can also use that dissonance in your favor to make it even weirder, you know? It sets up a contradiction, kind of like nonsense, which I’m interested in.

What do you hope emerges as the most valuable lesson or message from the festival?

Given the world we live in, I feel like being critical about the use of technology is sort of crucial and perhaps a way of questioning the system. I think a lot about these non-neutral aspects of technology and how the non-mechanical amplifies these questions. When things are not so normalized or not so standardized it brings them back to who made it, how did they make it, where…there’s lots of meaning in that for me.


Co-presented by Outpost Artists Resources and Roulette, Folly Systems comes to Brooklyn as a two-night festival presenting the work of a wide group of artists working at the intersection of performance and media art. Featuring artists Amanda Gutiérrez, Art Jones, Shelley Hirsch, Ragnhild May, Aki Onda, Gill Arno, Forbes Graham, Jean Carla Rodea, Nao Nishihara, Ian Kornfeld, and Ying Liu.

Folly Systems

WNYC: Phill Niblock, Jim Staley, and David Weinstein in Conversation with Alison Stewart

On this episode of WNYC’s All of It hosted by Alison Stewart, Phill Niblock (46:12) and two of Roulette’s co-founders, director and producer Jim Staley and director of special projects David Weinstein, join us to discuss Niblock’s upcoming “6 Hours of Music and Film,” his annual Winter Solstice concert, which takes place on December 21 at Roulette. Roulette has several other upcoming events, including: on December 20, a solo concert by guitarist Bill Frisell, on January 25, the Tri-Centric Vocal Ensemble will perform works from Anthony Braxton’s Syntactical Ghost Trance Music system, on January 30 and February 5, Roulette will present the first concerts by their Van Lier Fellows, bassist Nick Dunston, and vocalist Anais Maviel, and February 19-22, Roulette will host Mixology Festival 2019, curated by David Weinstein.

Poem User Assembly by David Weinstein

“The photo shows an installation/performance of The Poem User Assembly that took place at Roulette probably mid-80s. That is me in the middle and David Linton off to the side. The machine was made of cannibalized tape recorders that played lines of a poem “Inside Juke” by Diane Ward. There were 64 lines recorded on magnetic tape and glued to the “pie” segments displayed on the racks. 8 playback heads enabled users to swap out any 8 lines of the poem in any order and listen to the voices read the segment.”

— David Weinstein

Roulette Announces Tracking The Odds: The Roulette Concert Archive In Collaboration With Wave Farm

What: A new radio broadcast from Roulette + Wave Farm explores Roulette’s extensive performance archive.
When: Third Thursday of Every Month @ 1:00 AM ET
Where To Listen: http://bit.ly/tracking-the-odds

EDITOR’S NOTE: As of February 2019, the broadcast/streamcast time is moved to the 4th Monday of the month from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET and all are archived.

Brooklyn, NY – As part of Roulette’s ongoing mission bring the experimental performing arts to a wider public through its rich performance archive, Roulette is pleased to announce Tracking The Odds: The Roulette Concert Archive — a new monthly hour-long radio special produced by Roulette in partnership with Wave Farm’s WGXC 90.7-FM in Hudson, New York. The broadcasts will feature selections from Roulette’s legendary experimental music space dating from the early 1980s to the present, including thousands of rare, formative, and often unheard recordings by innovators and adventurous musicians. Spearhead by Roulette co-founder David Weinstein, the program will air the third Thursday of each month at 1:00 AM EST and will be archived on Wave Farm’s website.

The inaugural broadcast will take place July 20, 2017 and will feature an uncharacteristically raucous set from The Deep Listening Band, featuring Pauline Oliveros on accordion, David Gamper on keyboards, and Stuart Dempster on trombone and didjeridu from October 2008.

David Weinstein co-founded Roulette in 1978 at the height of the downtown experimental arts revolution alongside Jim Staley and Dan Senn. Currently, he works as the director of the Historic Audio Restoration Project of Clocktower Radio and the host of the weekly radio program, Ridgewood Radio, produced with Outpost Artists Resources in Ridgewood, Queens and broadcast on the WFMU’s Give The Drummer Radio. Weinstein was Program Director of the legendary Manhattan alternative space Clocktower Gallery from 2009-15. From 2004-2008, he was Director of Public Programs at MoMA PS1 and Managing Director of its radio station, Art Radio WPS1.org. He was the curatorial director of MoMA PS1’s summer concert series, Warm Up, in 2007-08. Born in Chicago in 1954, Weinstein studied music composition at the University of Illinois with Ben Johnston and Salvatore Martirano. He has taught music, sound and multimedia at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Yale University, and the City University of New York. Weinstein has lived in Brooklyn since 1979.

Wave Farm is a non-profit arts organization driven by experimentation with broadcast media and the airwaves. Wave Farm’s programs—Transmission Arts, WGXC-FM, and Media Arts Grants—provide access to transmission technologies and support artists and organizations that engage with media as an art form. A creative community radio station based in New York’s Greene and Columbia counties, WGXC 90.7-FM provides a public platform for information, experimentation, and engagement.

A Mixography of Mixology

By David Weinstein

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The Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair

In 1913 composer Maurice Ravel was recorded playing his own piano music using the exotic Welte-Mignon recording process. This was a player piano that captured not just the notes but dynamics and tempos as well. In that incredible year and for some decades forward, many composers did the same, including Paderewski, Busoni, Grieg, Scriabin, and Debussy. The remarkable thing about hearing these is the loose and funky approach they had to the music. Some of these characters made extra cash playing piano in bar rooms and brothels. Imagine The Sunken Cathedral as a barrel house, stride piano romp. Our romantic interpretations go sour.

These recordings are an historical marker in our appreciation of the composer as performer. This tradition is ancient but thinly documented. Mozart’s “embellishments” in his live shows are legend, and are preserved in transcription. The practice certainly goes back millennia. Imagine riffing in Gregorian chant, for sure.

The Festival of Mixology is Roulette’s celebration of this tradition. Technology meets the hand of the maker. This is key. The composer’s voice is uninterrupted by interpreters or production noise. The MixFest focuses on “new and unusual uses of technology that incorporate sound”. Technology liberates the composer to be more than two hands. Over the last century that has become very interesting.

For example, the use of the turntable as a musical instrument. John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape No. 1 of 1939 used variable speed turntables and pre-recorded test tone records. Pierre Schaeffer went further using a disk-cutting lathe, four turntables, a four-channel mixer, filters, an echo chamber, and a mobile recording unit. He is also the first composer to use magnetic tape (incredibly liberating then, but clumsy compared to our digital currency). Schaeffer also started incorporating noises as musical material, which launched musique concrète.

Then we have arguably the greatest multimedia event of the twentieth century (though John Cage’s HPSCHD is a close second). The Philips Pavilion of 1958 in Brussels was designed by architect Le Corbusier, and elevated by the great composer/engineer Iannis Xenakis and the sounds of Edgar Varèse’s Poème électronique (hundreds of speakers throughout!). It combined architecture, multi-channel sound, projections, sculpture, light, and audience interaction. You can’t touch this. They tore it down.

My own first experience with electronic music performance was nothing like this. The lights went down and two pin lights appeared on the speakers. In the dark we listened to a spectacle of stereo sound. Years later a revolt occurred. Composer/performers actually appeared on the stage with their apparatus. Diddling and tweaking sounds. Over time this, too, grew tiresome. Watching someone work is a piece you only need to see once. So, composers began to get off the table of gear, with controller gloves and wands and all types of gadgets. What do we need to see? What do we want to hear?

Where do we go now?

This year’s Mixology Festival is an investigation into space. Multi-channel sound can create illusion and wonder and an artful experience. Curator Michael Schumacher has long championed this aural magic. His Diapason Gallery was the longest running, and only dedicated, listening space for sound art in New York. The hand, and the voice, of the maker will be heard. Go listen.

David Weinstein is a co-founder of Roulette and curator of the first Festival of Mixology in 1991. He is currently working to restore historic radio broadcasts, digitize the Roulette audio archive, and introduce new artists on his radio show on WFMU.

Roulette’s Mixology Festival Runs from Feb 22 – Feb 25 and presents works by: Jim O’Rourke, Olivia Block, Jason Lescalleet, Mario de Vega, Cecilia Lopez, Greg Fox, Stefan Tcherepnin, Eli Keszler, Kenneth Kirschner, Daniel Neumann, Anne Guthrie, Ben Manley, Liz Gerring, Michael Schumacher, Leila Bordreuil, and, Ursula Scherrer.