Author: Jamie Burns

Spotlight On: Gabrielle Herbst

Photo: Tom Saccenti courtesy New Sounds 

[RESIDENCY] Gabrielle Herbst: Vulnerability
Thursday, May 31, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I am a composer and vocalist currently living in Brooklyn. I went to Bard College in upstate New York and am originally from the Berkshires in Massachusetts.

I compose from a very intuitive place – not starting from a set of compositional rules, but rather from a place of openness, improvisation, and spontaneity. I’m interested in creating spatialized architectural sound that engulfs the listeners and transports them into a different state through color and texture. I compose for all instruments with the mindset of writing for the human voice: I imagine clarinets, cellos, and timpani singing. Vocal music has healing qualities that I think our culture is deeply in need of right now –returning to the source, the breath, the heartbeat. My music is very much seeking a return to the body – exploring sensuality and sensory perception, while clearing the busyness of the mind.

I am interested in experimenting with electronics and live processing in performance because I think it embodies our socio-technological environment, and I’m intrigued with digital sounds creating organic, beautiful sonic spaces.

I’ve been exploring two sides of my musical self – one as GABI and the other as Gabrielle Herbst. As GABI I compose short form songs for my own voice and small instrumental ensembles as well as electronics. Sometimes I perform solo, and much of GABI has been developed in the studio and taken on tour.

Under my full name, I compose operas and varied configurations of instrumental and vocal music in a more classical vein. The two intersect in many ways and influence each other, feeling like two characters of my personality – GABI being more raw and emotional, Gabrielle Herbst a little more orchestral, calculated and structured, utilizing standard notation. For GABI music, I often do not use standard notation and develop songs more on intuition, composing by ear and improvisation. In both projects, I am influenced by opera singing, vocal traditions from many world cultures, and pop singing, creating my own take on contemporary vocal and instrumental music.

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.

Written for two voices and two loop pedals, electronics, harp, violin, cello, flute, piano and clarinet, the opera I’m composing for this Roulette Residency explores themes of personal and collective vulnerability, anxiety, fear and struggle – investigating self-care and interpersonal relationships within our current sociopolitical climate. Progressing through dreamlike non-narrative tableaux, with close harmonization, textural rhythms, melismatic vocals, electronics and cross-genre pollination, this opera looks at inward struggles and connecting outwards. It will be performed by the Nouveau Classical Project, joined by Marilu Donovan on Harp as well as myself and Charlotte Mundy as the vocalists.

What is your first musical memory?

My dad singing. He is an amazing singer and used to sing to me as a baby.

How did you become involved with Roulette?

When I first moved to NYC after college in 2009 I set up a meeting with Jim and he was so incredibly supportive. I instantly become involved in the Roulette community, first as a sound intern, then working in the box office, and then as an artist. I’m forever grateful.

What is it like living and working in New York City?

Difficult but so fulfilling. I find the struggle of keeping up, both financially and artistically really beneficial to my work.

Describe your performance at Roulette in three words.

Vulnerable. Vocal. Raw.

Describe Roulette in three words.

Beautiful. Open. Unexpected.

Spotlight On: Ka Baird

Photo: Cameron Kelly courtesy ISSUE Project Room

[RESIDENCY] Ka Baird: centers: 4 channels
Sunday, May 13, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I am a composer and performer living and working in NYC. I am one of the founding and continuing members of the experimental outfit Spires That In The Sunset Rise, founded in Chicago in September 2001. Since relocating to NYC in November 2014, I have set off in numerous directions apart from Spires with new collaborations, as well as honing in on my solo work. My current work explores piano, electroacoustic interventions, extended vocal techniques, physical movement, and the electronic manipulation of the flute. I am interested specifically in performance  /sound as a means to break recurring thought patterns and create passages into pure energy potential. I also co-run the label and concert organizer Perfect Wave with Camilla Padgitt-Coles.

I have toured both nationally and internationally with performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), MoMA PS1 (Brooklyn), Roulette Intermedium (Brooklyn), Issue Project Room (Brooklyn), Fridman Gallery, Cafe OTO (London), and numerous festival appearances with Spires including TUSK (Newcastle, UK), Incubate (Tilburg, Netherlands), and Festival Of Endless Gratitude (Copenhagen, DK).

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.

I will premiere Centers: 4 Channels, two new pieces incorporating 4-channel synthesis with spatialized light and movement.  The first piece is titled piano:vivification exercises and the second piece is titled voices: visceral illocality.

What is your first musical memory?

Listening to cicadas.

What is influencing your work right now?

Immediacy & energy, rhythm & breath.

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

On the top open deck of the ferry going under the bridges at full speed.

What artists are you interested in right now?

Carolee Schneemann, Julius Eastman, Cecil Taylor, Raul de Nieves, Alvin Lucier, Moor Mother, Jon Mueller, MSHR, Maryanne Amacher, Maya Angelou, Ursula Le Guin.

What are you really excited about right now?

Hieroglyphics, binaural beats, bioluminescence, emergent systems, polyrhythms, chladni patterns.

Spotlight On: Che Chen

Che Chen with Talice Lee and Patrick Holmes
Wednesday, May 9, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

Interview with David Weinstein, Roulette Director of Special Projects

What is your first musical memory?

It’s not exactly musical, but when I was 7 or 8 I was waiting for the school bus one day and an older kid walked up munching on a cookie. He was chewing and breathing through his mouth at the same time and I could hear these hissing/crunching noises being filtered as his mouth changed shape. I didn’t  understand it then the way I just described it, but for some reason that really stuck with me and I tried making my own mouth sounds after that. Then I studied piano briefly and badly, but by the time I was 12 or so I’d saved up enough lawn mowing money to buy an electric bass out of the local paper’s classified section. I had a eureka moment when I discovered that instead of trying to learn the changes to my favorite songs, I could sound one of the open strings over and over again and make up stuff against it, which is basically what I still love doing the most: improvising against a drone.

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.

I wanted to go deeper into some ideas that we’ve touched upon in 75 Dollar Bill, my band with Rick Brown, but that haven’t been the main focus. Microtonality, sustained tones, extreme slowness, a more nuanced modal concept. I’ve been constructing my own tunings and modes for this piece. Indian music, Arabic Maqam, and Mauritanian music have always been fascinating and elusive to me and I’ve taken certain ideas from these traditions, but I’ve tried not to take too much of their “sound.” I’m more interested in the deep structural logic of how melodies and tunings are constructed. The piece will be performed by a trio with Patrick Holmes on clarinet, Talice Lee on violin and myself on bass recorder and electric organ. Everyone also sings. It has composed elements–melodic cells and unison lines–but most of the performance will be the musicians taking turns improvising on the modes while being supported by the other two players, with everything framed within these microtonal organ chords.

All the profiles of you mention the Mauritanian encounter. What is the whole story? How has that influenced you?

No way to put the whole story in words, but I went to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (in West Africa) in 2013 and took guitar lessons with a phenomenal musician named Jeich ould Chigaly. I should really say I took lessons with his whole family, because I also got schooled by his wife, the incredible singer and ardin player, Noura mint Seymali, and even his then 5-year old son, Mohammed, as well as other relatives and friends passing thru their house. In the Moorish modal system there are five main modes, each with a “black” and “white” form. Jeich showed me one form each day so it couldn’t have been anything but the briefest introduction, but it still completely reconfigured my approach to playing guitar and really threw me into the deep end with a lot of the things I was thinking about. It was also incredibly eye opening just to be in that part of the world and to get a glimpse into how music functions in a society that is so different from America. I was there for less than two weeks but I am still digesting the experience.

Your use of electronics tends to be cassette players, radios, even toy instruments. Are you averse to high-tech or is there a special magic to the lo-fi tools?

In general I prefer the directness of instruments but when I use electronics that kind of physical relationship to the sound is still something that I look for. That’s what makes it musical to me. Magnetic tape is great for that. I think if I was a little younger it might be a different story, but I understand how to hack analog technologies in a way that I don’t with digital technology at all.

Talk about quarter-tone tuning, microtonal music, your interest in overtones. These clearly enter into your guitar and violin playing and even with sax and keyboards.

My first day in Mauritania my Jeich took me to a dirt floored workshop in Nouakchott where a guy refretted the cheap guitar I had brought with me in quarter-tones. He used a hack saw, a file, pliers, a pair of calipers that looked about 200 years old and some super glue. It took him less than an hour. The traditional Moorish instruments are all fretless for playing untempered intervals, so to make use of guitars, they put a new fret in between every two of the guitar’s normal frets. The result is a kind of 24-tone equal tempered fretboard (rather than the usual 12), but they use a lot of intervals related to the 11th harmonic, which are very close to quarter-tones, so it sort of works out. Going to Mauritania was great because I got to see the music in context. I think a lot of microtonal music here is very theoretical or academic but this was wedding music–people were partying to this stuff! That was another thing I took away from it. My interest in other kinds of tuning really just comes from listening to sounds, the harmonic series, etc. I don’t have a problem with equal temperament, on the contrary I think it made a whole new kind of music possible that was never possible before. But if you are playing melodically against a pedal tone, especially if you are playing slowly, equal temperament really becomes a handicap. It limits you to a small set of intervals, most of which are quite out of tune. When you start looking at untempered intervals there so many other colors, which are both more vivid and more harmonious.

Assess the current New York music scene, especially the newer projects that you have encountered. Who inspires you? Where do you go to find them? And don’t be shy to mention the downside or challenges that you’ve observed.

I’ve been in the city for about 15 years at this point and feel like I really grew up here musically. It’s great to see a lot the people that I’ve known for years really starting to crush it now. Some are more out in public while others are privately plugging away, but I feel like many of my peers are really starting to speak in their own voices now, which is inspiring. It’s a slow growth thing. It’s also incredible that people like Phill Niblock, Henry Flynt or Yoshi Wada are still around town going about their business, and they are pretty easy to find if you want to. Or that Mamady Kouyate runs a west African guitar band that plays every week in Brooklyn. As for difficulties, it seems harder than ever for non-institutional, underground music spaces to exist. Without places to experiment and incubate ideas, let alone just to congregate, the community can’t really stay viable. Despite a pretty hostile real estate environment, there are some real gems out there, like the Sunview Luncheonette in Greenpoint or the Outpost in Ridgewood, where I’ve been running a monthly series for the past year or so.  

Spotlight On: Cecilia Lopez

Cecilia Lopez: machinic fantasies
Tuesday, May 8, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I am a composer, musician and multimedia artist from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’ve been living around. New York for the past three years, studying and working on different music and installation projects. My work often explores the physical and perceptual matters of sound through a variety of mediums like composition, objects, video or combinations of them. I also play piano and different synthesizers. I sometimes write songs. I sometimes sing. I used to play in a band, which is called Vigilante Margarita. I am the third of three siblings. I have a black cat named Igor that lives in Buenos Aires.

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.

The project is based on past explorations that I did around a revolving sound sculpture that functions as a live “mediation machine.” I think of it as a performative installation because it’s presented as a composed space where certain multichannel video and sound techniques are used to play with concepts like immersion, meditation and synchronicity, but it’s also a musical work composed to follow a timeline. The objects in question are like artisanal filter machines made with revolving oil drums. The barrels have a speaker inside that plays music or sound, which is filtered by their spinning as the sculpture is moved by hand. This explanation might sound very complicated but in fact the perceptual principles behind the piece are very simple. I am interested in questioning ideas of content, transmission and the oppositions between object/subject and form/structure. I would say that it’s sort of an industrial or lo-fi science fiction fantasy (à la Raymond Roussel) that plays with very primitive principles of sound an image.

What is your first musical memory?

I can’t really say what my first musical memory was, but I can say that I spent endless hours the first seven years of my life on a swing that my parents have installed in our house’s attic, listening to the radio and singing along with an old cassette player.

What is influencing your work right now?

I work a lot with processes for filtering either sound or visual content. In that way my work is very

permeable. Many things that have been influential for me have ended up becoming material for some of my works. That goes for music, sound recordings from specific places, literature, the world that surrounds me, etc. What is interesting to me about this way of working is that abstract ideas about our perception of sound can be put in conversation or in opposition with more narrative or conceptual ideas that I feel are important.

What is your favorite place to buy records?

Despite the current trend, I really don’t buy records. I don’t own a record player and

in the last few years, my nomadic life has caused me to avoid accumulating stuff… So I am totally out of the vinyl fetishist loop. That said, I can answer the question by describing my extremely modest record collection: Eliane Radigue, Feedback Works; Wendy Carlos, Switch-on Brandenburgs; Anthony Braxton Duets with Muhal Richard Abrams, and a Spanish-language soundtrack from the TV show “Speed Racer.”

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

Phill Niblock’s Experimental Intermedia. You know, there is something about that place… also that was my first connection with New York since I met Phill before coming here. It’s been one of the most interesting, familiar and friendly places that I can think of in this hectic landscape.

Describe your performance at Roulette in three words.

Precarious augmented reality



Spotlight On: María Grand

María Grand: Revés/Rêves: Dreams of a Departed Maestra // Magdalena Album Release Show
Tuesday, May 1, 2018 @ 7:30 pm

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I’m a professional liver. I live for a living. When I’m on stage playing music, when I’m rehearsing, teaching, practicing, composing, serving my own vision or someone else’s, I feel very much alive. I feel excited. Sometimes I want to pinch myself – am I really doing this for a living? Can life be this good? Some of my favorite moments on stage are listening to my colleagues. Whenever I hear music something happens inside me. I’ve always been very drawn to it, but recently it’s becoming pure joy and I’m very much excited about the prospect of dedicating this life to being a sound vehicle.

I love cats; I’m a pretty lovey dubby person. I’m really into my family and my friends, especially my mother; I like to hang out with people.

I study communication and take a course that’s called human validation; it’s basically like radical group therapy. I’m interested in everything that makes this world a better place and connects us to ourselves and each other. It’s amazing how much better you can understand other people when you learn about how we communicate. This is all tied into music, because music is just another language; another expression; another possibility to convey love and all the other emotions.

Describe the project you are developing for Roulette.

My beloved dance teacher Noemí Lapzeson passed away a few weeks ago. She was my first female mentor. She was a master at her craft, and studying with her really made me understand how far you can go with an art form. I met her when I was a very young child, and I connected with her because she was an Argentinian woman living in Switzerland, and I was born in Switzerland from an Argentinian father. She was a treasure, a world of expression, just a gigantic jewel. When she died I was heartbroken and my vocalist friend Ganavya Doraiswamy started researching her art, trying to find ways to create meaning out of what was happening. She found a piece that’s entitled Combines, and that features Noemí, my teacher, and Celeste Dandekar, an Indian and British dancer. We both felt drawn to this. Then Ganavya had the idea to do a project around that piece, to pay homage to Noemi. I said yes; she gave me permission to use the idea for this commission at Roulette. So I started creating this multimedia work that’s loosely based on Noemí’s dancing, and that will be a musical tribute to her movement quest.

The people working with me are Ganavya Doraiswamy; Joel Ross, a vibraphonist; and Rajna Swaminathan, a mridangam artist. I’ve known them separately for many years, and now we get to express something together. With them I know I can go anywhere, they’ll follow me fearlessly. And so, we are expanding our art, to welcome the spirit of Noemí.

The second part of the evening will be my album release. The album is called Magdalena; it talks about the feminine, what was hidden during years of patriarchal dominance, and the beautiful mystery that remains under the layers of misunderstanding. This will feature my band DiaTribe, with David Bryant on piano, Rashaan Carter on bass, and Jeremy Dutton on drums. I am very excited to be bringing all these things out of my ears and into the world.

What is your first musical memory?

My father playing an Argentinian song called Tonada Del Viejo Amor, it made me cry so much. And then, singing with my parents at a concert on the lake in Geneva. I kept wondering why they repeated this one section of a bolero so many times; I’m sure it made sense, but at the time I couldn’t figure out why we were repeating it, and I was upset; it stuck with me because I really cared about music even at that early age, and I wanted to understand what was happening. One of my strongest early musical memories is playing in the street with my father. Music was everywhere. I used to ask my mother to play a Billie Holiday record to put me to sleep, and it made me cry sweet tears every time. Also, singing late in the night in my room, before going to sleep. When I stopped my father would come to the room and ask me to keep singing.

What is your favorite Roulette memory?

I took my crush, years ago, to hear Muhal Richard Abrahams. It was wonderful. The musicians were reading aloud from newspapers during the show. Everything was very new to me. I didn’t know you could write music like that.

What is the best way to spend an afternoon in New York City?

I like going to the Cloisters or to the Russian Baths. But there’s also the Met — the section on Egypt is my favorite, and behind the museum there’s an actual obelisk. You can go see it and feel it, it’s called Cleopatra’s Needle.

What is influencing your work right now?

These days I think a lot about the marriage of listening and playing; offense and defense; the inner and outer worlds. I’ve come to the conclusion (so far) that they’re all the same. When I speak and when I listen I’m basically doing the same thing because deep inside there’s the witness that sees it all. But then the witness has a lot of humor and so maybe it’s active? I’m not sure. I’m looking for an underlying principle that is beyond active and passive. That’s what I try to think about when I’m creating music because at some point I discovered that a lot of times I was lacking deep listening – and when I started listening to myself, quite a few times I didn’t like what I heard. When I put more energy on listening than playing while I’m actually producing sounds, I find that things come out better, because it brings me a kind of detachment that actually allows for things to flow.

What are you really excited about right now?

I’m really excited about so many things every day. Life is exciting. I love creating new projects and having the freedom to imagine things and making them real. Lately a very exciting thing in my life has been working with Alicia Hall Moran. Watching her creative process and participating in it is some of the most rewarding work I’ve done. I did a short run with her and the band Harriet Tubman, and I learned so much. I really appreciate the opportunity to learn from anyone who is more experienced than me and who has paved the way in this music for lots of other people to walk through. It’s a very special thing. So one thing that I’m really excited about is paying tribute to my elders; to my community; and of course, the very first elder Mother we all are in debt with is Mother Earth.

Maria Grand’s performance at Roulette is made possible by the Jerome Foundation and the Selvage Fund of the East Bay Community Foundation

Stepping Out of The Space: Kit Fitzgerald and Peter Gordon in Conversation with Charles Eppley

Kit Fitzgerald and Peter Gordon perform Into the Hot, Out of the Cool, featuring large-scale video paintings by Fitzgerald and a six-piece musical ensemble directed by Gordon, at Roulette on April 22, 2018 [tickets available here]. Below is a transcript of a conversation between this pioneering duo and Charles Eppley. This interview has been edited for clarity and readability.

Photo: Paula Court

Charles Eppley: Would you describe your individual and collaborative artistic practices? What will you be doing Roulette?

Peter Gordon: I’m a composer. I make music. I perform music. I play saxophone, synthesizer, other keyboards, and winds. I also work with electronics and digital recording media. My work encompasses instrumental works and large groups, such as the last time I performed at Roulette with ten musicians [in my ensemble] the Love of Life Orchestra. When Kit and I work together, [we perform with] a large screen and video projection, which I regard as part of the ensemble. My music goes between through-composed notation and various ranges of improvisation, as well as working with electronic processing in the studio.

Kit Fitzgerald: I am a video director and visual artist. I come out of painting originally, and make single channel

works and live video performance. The single channel works range from something with a musical track — some sort of music video — or any number of works that use [various] personas, factors, or abstractions. It’s a wide visual spectrum. In my performances, I work with pre-composed and mixed materials, which [encompass] live drawings, animations, and [lens-based] camera material. As part of the [musical] ensemble, I use a process of live performance through the ‘cool medium’ of video technology. I see myself as a part of the ensemble, performing live video.

CE: The phrase ‘cool medium’ here is a reference to [media theorist] Marshall McLuhan and his distinction between ‘cool’ media that engage multiple senses, such as television, and ‘hot’ media’ that engage a single sense, such as radio?

KF: Indeed… the live drawing, the touch of the hand, the warmth of a human intimate expression. I perform with the ‘cool medium’ of video technology itself.

CE: Your projections are not pre-recorded, staged, or used as a background [for the ensemble to perform over], which is to say conceived of as less than the live music. In this dynamic, the projections function as a direct component of the total ensemble?

PG: Yes. Things have changed since when we first started doing this in the 1980s. Video projection was not as ubiquitous then as it is today. You now see that projections are very often a second-thought in a performance: an ambience, a decoration, or a set of colors, slides, some sort of banner. When Kit and I work together, the projection is front-and-center in the context of a musical ensemble, where instrumentalists come to the front and take different roles. The overall fabric [of our collaboration] has the video projection functioning in this way. At some points, the projection could be in the background, it might be dark, or it might be really front-and-center.

KF: The musicians can also see and respond to the projection. The video is a live component as important as any other instrument.

PG: One thing that we are trying to do at Roulette, which we have not done and we will see if it works, is to explore the ways to embed musicians and performers within an overall frame that includes a full screen, rather than, like in the past, musicians on the stage and the screen above. I am not sure what the solution is right now, but we’re trying to find ways to–  

CE:–unify the composition?

KF: Yes. We want one full visual expression. The title of the new piece is Into the Hot, Out of the Cool, which describes a journey through different artistic areas and expressions. In terms of the visuals, we are working with pre-recorded camera imagery that will be key components, perhaps separate chapters, and a whole new series of drawings, which I think is a key part of what I bring to the projection. I see the video projection, whether I am working with paint, or live or pre-recorded camera imagery. It is a canvas.

PG: Working within that canvas, I find that we work modularly within certain shorter pieces that become assembled more as a suite. So, at times, certain things take the fore. Musically, I see it less about the ensemble per se, and more about solos and duos and smaller configurations of instrumentalists working with the image. Sometimes they are directly synced up with what is happening on the screen, while other times there might be a, how can I say, a stepping out of the space… there might be fragments of narrative storytelling that speak with the audience. I think that the overall [piece] will have that intimate quality derived from what Kit is doing, and what I am doing, and how it all interacts to open up different windows, and reveal other perspectives.

CE: What is the instrumentation? What are some of the narrative themes at play?

PG: Part of the storytelling is about coincidence and biographical coexistence. The story has a spiralesque structure that might start out with a general story. For example, I may talk about a room where I once had piano lessons [as a child], but [the room] also happened to be in the house of a future supreme court justice. [The piece might] talk about connections between music and politics. With each time a spiral story might end up sort of a, well, I won’t say a poignant comment, but a directed comment that has a larger socio-political impact than expected, as it starts out as a casual and random story.

KF: That realm of storytelling will also be encompassed in the video. I have footage with storytellers and, you know, it has a very modular structure.

CE: You began to work together in the early 1980s. How did you first meet? How did you start collaborating?

KF: Well, [among our first collaborations] was Return of the Animals (1984) at Rivoli Castle in Turin, Italy. It was a Love of Life Orchestra [work] with live animals. I was projecting visuals. This was early. We were in the hills of Italy and I used the castle wall as my projection surface. It was spectacular, but for me it was missing an ability to perform, you know, as part of the ensemble. I [had recently become] a sponsored artist by the Fairlight [digital audio company], which created their Computer Video Instrument (CVI). It was a live analog processor with a paint box… the perfect instrument for me, so we began doing performances together.

PG: We had worked together on other collaborations before…

KF: We made film and single-channel video works [prior to] Return of the Animals. I made video for Peter’s music, but we worked with other artists as well. For example, while Peter worked with Lawrence Weiner on a project [ed. There But For (1981)], I began working on it from the visual end. We showed a lot of work at La Mama in the East Village and began to develop [substantial] pieces, such as The Passion of Passion (1985) and Spectaccalo (1987). We toured throughout Europe. Return of the Native (1988) was presented at the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). That was a single large screen with the full Love of Life Orchestra ensemble, which at that time was constituted fifteen musicians. From the beginning, screen projection was conceived as a large canvas…

PG: We first began doing gigs with the Love of Life Orchestra in 1977. We had on either side of the stage a black and white television set because Ernie Brooks, our bass player, did not want to miss the NBA finals or something. We had to play the ballgame in an art space. We incorporated it into the set. When we worked with John Sanborn, we placed monitors around the stage, which was kind of cool. They were the same size as a person, except glowing. So, we had multiple monitors, but we needed to go with a large singular image. Some of it came out of club culture: playing in clubs, making records that were played in clubs. For example, Kit was involved with the early Danceteria video lounge. When you’re in a club, the whole experience surrounds you, and there are speakers all around. We were interested in working with that [sort of] cinematic, big-screen experience, which is all encompassing.

KF: We will work with just a single screen at Roulette.  

CE: How do you feel that your practices overlapped with the introduction and institutionalization of video art in gallery and museum spaces during the 1980s. The white cube is quite different than the club and black box theater. Did you see yourselves in that narrative?

KF: There was no separation. My work was being shown at MoMA. It was happening at many places: museums, galleries, clubs, performance venues. Some spaces perhaps showed it better than others, but there was no opposition, no either/or. I had video installations at the Whitney and at the Kitchen. We were doing everything in every conceivable space.

PG: Yeah. However, I think there was a certain type of video art in which the video was more of a tool through which to reach another idea. Nam June Paik dealt with the materiality of video quite powerfully, but others —

CE: – used video technology as a means through which to get to some other thing, or a broader concept, while not totally engaging with the medium?

PG: Yes. The actual material itself was, how can I say, subservient to some process that it was meant to illustrate. In contrast, Kit’s work really embraces and moves forward with all of the possibilities of video technology as an instrument, [showing how it] can be learned and mastered [like other mediums].

Similarly, music functions as a conceptual element, but it is also something that you can have in your life and hang back with. There is a spectrum of experiences. Some things are intellectual. Others, if you hit that sweet spot, can be really fulfilling. There is a certain element of video art that does not sustain the soul in that way. You would not want to put it on unless you found out new things about your life each time you [experienced] it. We have these personal choices in music. We connect to some pieces [more than others]. You go back to it. It could be a guilty pleasure, or a great work.

At the time that Kit and I began to work together, I was doing a lot of work with [the composer] Robert Ashley and his experiments in video opera. I think Bob was trying to reach that type of [impactful] experience. Maybe we are just talking about the sensuality of the medium? I think Kit’s work is interesting on many levels because it has a sensual quality.

KF: Indeed. That’s the connection to painting. Painting has that sensuality. What does painting have in that regard that video does not? A kind of sensuality and repeat engagement? You can come back to video and it says something else to you, or you find something else in it. That is the nature, or aspiration, of the video works that I make.

PG: Where does the aura of this, whatever this electronic or reproductive art is, exist? How do we maintain it or bring [forth] these sensual qualities? What is the sociological function of art in relation to our current technologies and tools? It’s not always obvious. I know that I have taken things for granted, musically or conceptually, and had to let go of certain attachments. I realize that things work differently now. Things are put together and perceived differently. As artists, these are some of the issues at which we are grasping.

CE: This paradigm of sensuality, as you describe it, has been fairly well established in terms of sound and music. People mostly understand what one means by the sensuality of music. But with video, people might find it more difficult to understand how this could ever be a sensual medium. A core aspect of Kit’s practice is to explore and challenge that dynamic. Could you describe how the vast range of materials and technologies employed in your moving image works, comprising film, video, and animation, address this issue of sensuality?

KF: I have always thought that the television image had a great possibility of beauty, but it was never performed at that level. The video image is a wonderous, gorgeous image. Part of what I do is seek beauty in that [televisual] medium, whether that is with a camera, which is of course understood through its filmic or cinematographic quality, or through the use of color, shape, and form in the [live video] paintings that I create. It is always an exploration of that form and an attempt to realize a potential of the exquisite beauty of what is, by standard, a rectangular image. I was instantly attracted to it once I was handed a video camera. I had done filmmaking, photography, and painting, but it seemed to me that video was like a watercolor at thirty frames-per-second. I have always seen the fluidity of the image.

CE: You mentioned TV Lab earlier in the conversation. Some of the early televisual experiments in video art, such as the National Center for Experiments in Television (NCET), were supported by public television networks. In this context, broadcasted video art arguably operated in a sort of public sphere, and perhaps constituted a unique type of mediated public art. What was your experience at the TV Lab in relation to this broader socio-political context of the public TV audience?

KF: The TV Lab at Channel 13 (WNET) was a key place [for video art]. Basically, it supported the work of artists such as Paik, William Wegman, Shirley Clark, Stan Van Der Beek, Bill Viola, John Sanborn, and myself. Money from the Rockefeller Foundation [and the New York State Council on the Arts] supported this one editing area at the station, and we had our own studio. Before I came into New York City, there was a studio over on 46th street near the United Nations building, which was a blue screen studio that had a whole control room with a Paik-Abe Video Synthesizer, a Rutt/Etra Video Synthesizer, and the best engineer, John Godfrey, who helped engineer works by video artists.

We were seeking to come up with the new language of television. Eventually, that studio closed in the late 1970s and the work was then done in the Channel 13 headquarters near Columbus Circle, but we still had our own edit rooms. As new technologies came through — like a digital effects box or the sort — it would be acquired for the artists’ use. We had the newest technologies to work with and to find out: what is the language of the medium of video and television? It was grant-based, you had to apply and be accepted, and your work was broadcast [to channel subscribers]. We worked within the context of television to support and create our art on a regular basis.

CE: The work at TV Lab was received by many people beyond the art world.

KF: So many people. We had so much support. By that point, cameras were light enough and I was going out into the field to shoot on location. I’d come back [to Channel 13] and edit major artworks. Paik also did a huge volume of work. We were supported in taking our work around the world and presenting it elsewhere under the auspices of the TV Lab program. It was an opportunity to gain access, resources, and distribution within a larger television environment. It was a way for artists’ video to be presented on television. There was also an aspect of bringing art to a television audience. I directed many different documentaries on art and artists. For example, I produced and directed a documentary on Kenneth Anger and another documentary on avant-garde film. The TV Lab was a very vital place [for video art], and key to the development of my artwork at a time when I had just arrived in New York.

CE: You mentioned the camera image, which refers to an exterior image that has been captured and electronified within the video apparatus, stored via tape or whatever storage medium. You also use animation and video processing, which is totally internal. With video feedback, you don’t need a lens-based image. Do you differentiate between such processes in your video practice?

KF: I do differentiate because they are different ways of creating. You may not be on location or working with a camera, but a camera is to me a tool in the way that a stylus is to a tablet when I’m drawing. The camera is an extension of my body, not a foreign object. It’s a whole dance, you know, between the lens and the camera and myself. I don’t see the lens as a production element, but a tool, like a paintbrush is to a painter. My work is writing the language of the medium, as I imagine it is for whatever medium [in which other artists work]. When I was an artist-in-residence at the TV Lab, we were [tasked with] creating a new language for television. That’s the work that I continue to do in my studio. I see the medium as very physical. Maybe that’s part of what we were talking about before, whether in a museum or gallery installation versus a club or performance space. It’s a really physical medium, captivatingly so, and full of subtle innuendo.

CE: What do you look forward to when working with Roulette and what do they provide to your work?

PG: Roulette is a great space. Things look and sound good and there has always been a certain openness to new music and experiences. I first performed at Roulette in the early 1980s, when it was still on West Broadway.

KF: In fact, I recently participated in a Culture Hub event at La Mama in recognition of the work of Bill Etra, who co-designed the Rutt/Etra Video Synthesizer. [The event] was coordinated by Benton Bainbridge, who spoke about having seen me perform my piece, Not In Here With That Thing You Don’t (1990), at the 4th Annual Festival of Women Improvisers at Roulette [on March 8, 1990]. I think that was my first live video performance at Roulette. The space was fantastic and encouraging.

PG: Roulette is an important part of the art and music community in New York. It is a place where you can go and experiment and try different things. I have heard all sorts of different music and performances at Roulette. Some I’ve loved, some I’ve hated. It’s all okay.

CE: Roulette is a meeting ground for lots of different disciplines.

KF: Definitely.

CE: Can you talk more about [your involvement in the] Festival of Women Improvisers?

KF: Composer Myra Melford organized [the concert]. [The festival] was fantastic, but it did not make its way over to Roulette’s Brooklyn location. I went in with my Fairlight CVI and created live paintings with video processing and projection. [Ed. The performance featured music by Gordon and Blue Gene Tyranny.]

CE: Peter, you worked worked with Robert Ashley on his now infamous television opera Perfect Lives (1983), and also released a solo album, Star Jaws (1978), on Mimi Johnson’s record label, Lovely Music. How did you get involved with Johnson and Ashley?

PG: I was a graduate student in 1973 at UC San Diego. Ashley came down to perform one of his operas. I was struck by his way of working and talking about music. I transferred up to Mills College, where I was a student at the Center for Contemporary Music. Ashley and Terry Riley were [teaching] there. It was amazing. When we moved to New York around the same time in 1975, I did some work for Ashley on Music with Roots in the Aether (1975) as a recordist. When he began to put together Perfect Lives, he also asked me to produce the electronic orchestra. That really gave me a [great] opportunity. I cut my teeth in the recording studio. I worked in a twenty-four track analog studio and was given free reign to experiment. I was able to treat this professional recording studio as an extension of a modular synthesis studio. I worked with Bob on that and, more recently, when Alex Waterman began putting together the newest Spanish version, Vidas Perfectas (2011-2014), he asked me to create a new electronic score that revisited Bob’s music within a new technological context. It was a very special opportunity.

CE: I saw a filming of Vidas Perfectas at the Whitney Museum [during the 2014 Biennial]. They only let about twenty people in per session and you were sitting behind the cameras. You could see the stage director queuing Camera 1 and Camera 2. You see them move around and it gave me a new perspective on Ashley’s work, the mechanics of television, and videography as an artistic practice. In the context of your collaborative work with Kit, these are similar video experimentations for thinking of a new language for television.

KF: Yeah. Victoria Keddie and Scott Kiernan of E.S.P. TV put it out front in that small space at the Whitney. Peter was also doing a live mix.

PG: Yeah. The only difference is that you get less of a sense of the difference between film and television today. Traditionally, film was shot pretty much with a single camera and assembled linearly in the editing studio. For television production, especially in early live TV, you would have multiple cameras, which would be switched live. You would have a live performative element and a live audience. There is a different texture to cathode ray tubes as opposed to film projections. It’s hard to describe verbally, but there is a choreography, or a rhythm, that happens with live television.

KF: There is a physicality to the medium of video and television that you do not get with film. You feel them differently.

PG: Yes. There is a physicality.


Charles Eppley works as a freelance arts writer and is Curator and Managing Editor at His writings appear in Art in America, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, Digital America, AVANT, Surround Journal and Swingset Magazine. Charles has taught courses in art history, music, and media studies at The New School, Pratt Institute, and Stony Brook University. 

Roulette Artistic Director Receives Champion of New Music Award

Jim Staley – Roulette Artistic Director

Brooklyn, NYRoulette Intermedium founder and Artistic Director James S. Staley has been announced as a recipient of the American Composers Forum 2018 Champion of New Music Award. Established in 2005, the Champion of New Music Award recognizes and honors individuals and ensembles that have made a significant and sustained contribution over time to the work and livelihoods of contemporary composers. Staley’s career as a presenter and supporter of pioneering artists spans several decades.

In 1978 Staley co-founded Roulette Intermedium, the now-iconic experimental performing arts venue. Roulette began as a collective of composers, musicians, and dancers doing projects in Chicago, Minneapolis, and New York City. It soon found a home in a Tribeca loft, where it operated for years and where Staley still lives, and quickly gained a reputation for presenting tomorrow’s most acclaimed avant garde artists. Julius Eastman, Arthur Russell, and John Zorn were among the many artists who premiered early work at Roulette in the 1980s. In 2011, Staley moved Roulette to a 400-seat state-of-the art theater in Downtown Brooklyn and expanded the concert series to include more dance and new media offerings. Roulette now presents more than 120 experimental performances each year and continues to support the work of artists, particularly composers, who boldly challenge disciplinary boundaries and create compelling art. In 2018 alone, Roulette will award $87,000 to eleven extraordinary musical artists of promise for the creation of new and adventurous work.

In addition to his work at Roulette, Staley is an accomplished trombonist and improvising musician. He has released numerous albums, played on many records, and is a member of the Tone Road Ramblers, a new music ensemble formed in 1981. Long-time collaborators include Sam Bennett, Bill Frisell, Fred Frith, Shelley Hirsch, Wayne Horvitz, Ikue Mori, Zeena Parkins, Elliott Sharp, Davey Williams, John Zorn and choreographers Pooh Kaye, Debra Loewen, and Sally Silvers.

The American Composers Forum will present Staley with the Champion of New Music Award at an event at Roulette on September 25, 2018. His fellow 2018 awardees are pianist, writer, and producer Sarah Cahill and flutist, composer, and educator Nicole Mitchell.


**Photo credit: Doron Sadja

[DANCEROULETTE] Kyle Marshall Choreography: Colored

What: An interactive dance piece celebrating the twisted beauty of blackness.
When: Tuesday, April 10, 2018, 8pm
Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR
Cost: $15 Online, $20 Doors
Info: / (917) 267-0368

Brooklyn, NY Colored presents three black dancers whose movements contend with tokenism, appropriation, stereotype, and representation while demonstrating the inherent struggle in abstracting the black dancing form. The piece features original music by Matt Clegg and Pastor T. L. Barrett and will involve some audience participation.

Kyle Marshall Choreography (KMC) is a dance company that sees the moving body as a celebration of a beautiful form, a container of history, and an igniter of social disruption.

Kyle Marshall is a dancer and dance maker working in New York City and New Jersey. Marshall currently dances with doug elkins choreography etc. and is an apprentice for the Trisha Brown Dance Company. In the past, he has worked with Tiffany Mills Company, Ryan McNamara, Heidi Latsky, and was a founding member of 10 Hairy Legs. He organized Kyle Marshall Choreography in 2014 to help support his dance-making. Marshall’s work has been performed at venues including Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out, DanceNow Joe’s Pub, NJPAC, NYC Summerstage, Montclair Dance Festival, Movement Research at Judson Church, Wassaic Arts Project, Triskelion Arts, and Dixon Place. He has also received residencies from the DanceNow at Silo, Jamaica Performing Arts Center, CoLab Arts and was the 2016 Dance on the Lawn Montclair Dance Festival Emerging Commissioned Choreographer. In 2017, Marshall was awarded the New Jersey Artist Fellowship in Choreography. Marshall graduated Magna Cum Laude from Rutgers University with a BFA in Dance.

Kyle Marshall choreographer
Oluwadamilare “Dare” Ayroinde
Kyle Marshall
Myssi Robinson

Pastor T. L. Barrett

William Hooker: The Great Migration

What: Through music, narrative, and dance, William Hooker tells the story of African-American migration from 1935 to 1950.
When: Thursday, April 5, 2018, 8pm
Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR
Cost: $20 Online, $25 Doors
Info: / (917) 267-0368

Brooklyn, NYAvant-garde percussionist William Hooker offers a multi-disciplinary contemplation and exploration of African-American migration from the American South to points north during the years 1935–1950. The Great Migration features music (with veteran performers like William Parker and David Soldier), dance, video, and narratives from 97-year-old Alton Brooks and Nannie Lampkin, who experienced this historical period firsthand.

A body of uninterrupted work beginning in the mid-seventies defines William Hooker as one of the most important composers and players in jazz. As bandleader, Hooker has fielded ensembles in an incredibly diverse array of configurations. Each collaboration has brought a serious investigation of his compositional agenda and the science of the modern drum kit. As a player, Hooker has long been known for the persuasive power of his relationship with his instrument. His work is frequently grounded in a narrative context. Whether set against a silent film or anchored by a poetic theme, Hooker brings dramatic tension and human warmth to avant-garde jazz. His ability to find fertile ground for moving music in a variety of settings that obliterate genre distinctions offers a much-needed statement of social optimism in the the arts.

William Hooker – Percussion
Ras Moshe – Reeds, Flute
Eriq Robinson – Electronics, Images
Mark Hennen – Piano
Goussy Celestin – Narrator, DanceWilliam Parker – Bass
David Soldier – Violin, Banjo
Ava Mendoza – Guitar
Alton Brooks & Nannie Lampkin – Primary Narratives

Mario Diaz de Leon and TAK Ensemble: Sanctuary Release

What: Mario Diaz de Leon and TAK Ensemble celebrate the release of Sanctuary, Diaz de Leon’s first album-length classical work.
When: Tuesday, April 3, 2018, 8pm
Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR
Cost: $20 Online, $25 Doors
Info: / (917) 267-0368

Brooklyn, NY —  NYC-based composer and performer Mario Diaz de Leon presents work from his first album-length classical work, Sanctuary, which was released by Denovali in the fall of 2017. It was written in collaboration with TAK Ensemble, a brilliant quintet devoted to energetic and virtuosic performances of contemporary music, who will appear with him at Roulette in an expanded lineup featuring marimba, synthesizer, soprano voice, flute, violin, and bass clarinet. Combining stark rhythms with ecstatic gestures, Diaz de Leon’s new work embraces elements of post-minimalism to dramatic and expansive effect. Bassoonist Rebekah Heller will open the evening with the NYC premiere of Labrys, a tour de force of virtuosic and luminous sonic alchemy, and the latest addition to Diaz de Leon’s acclaimed set of works for live soloist and electronics.

Mario Diaz de Leon is a composer, performer, and educator, whose work encompasses modern classical music, experimental electronic music, extreme metal, and improvised music. His debut album, Enter Houses Of was released in 2009 on John Zorn’s Tzadik label and praised by the New York Times for its “hallucinatory intensity.” His second album, The Soul is the Arena, was named a notable recording of 2015 by New Yorker Magazine. He has worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Talea, Mivos Quartet, and TILT Brass.  

TAK is a quintet dedicated promoting ambitious programming and fostering engagement within the contemporary music community and the artistic community at large. Their debut album Ecstatic Music: TAK plays Taylor Brook was released to critical acclaim by New Focus Recordings in 2016.

Bassoonist Rebekah Heller is a dynamic solo and collaborative chamber artist committed to expanding the modern repertoire for the bassoon. Her debut solo album, 100 names, was called “pensive and potent” by The New York Times, and her newly-released second album, METAFAGOTE, is receiving wide acclaim. She is the recently-appointed co-artistic director of the renowned International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).

Mario Diaz de Leon composer, lighting design

TAK Ensemble
Charlotte Mundy  soprano
Laura Cocks flute
Marina Kifferstein violin
Carlos Cordiero clarinet and bass clarinet
Ellery Trafford marimba and percussion
Tristan McKay synthesizer and Ciat-Lonbarde tetrazzi