David First and The Western Enisphere: Revolutions

Thursday, January 20, 2022. 8:00 pm
  • This performance will be live stream ONLY.
  • A live stream will be available free of charge at 8pm on the day of the performance and archived for future viewing.
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David First Western Enisphere 2022 (audio)

David First and The Western Enisphere: Revolutions

Thursday, January 20, 2022. 8:00 pm

David First and his ensemble, The Western Enisphere, return to Roulette to present the premieres of the new multimedia work Revolutions.

Revolutions is a deep dive into what has long been First’s holy grail: finding a fundamental link between video/visual phenomena and audio/acoustical phenomena. It explores what First calls “harmonic video” as the black and white visual relationships on display are the same frequency ratios one finds in the overtone series. The piece is also a direct response to the last major work First composed for the ensemble: The Consummation of Right and Wrong. In Consummation, the ensemble explored beating tone continuums, drone key/modal modulations, and a variety of rhythmic games that are all core elements of First’s “Gestural Improvisation” concepts. None of these concepts/techniques are employed in Revolutions. The explorations here are concerned almost exclusively with other facets of GI—in this case, with timbre and upper partial relationships of the overtone series, as well as polyrhythmic activity that parallels the same overtone series relationships.

Players in Revolutions are required to execute pitches representing the 16th through 32nd harmonics of the overtone series without resorting to, in most cases, simply isolating the actual corresponding harmonic nodes on their instruments. This range is where the overtone series officially begins to leave the world of what one might call “chromatic equivalency” behind, as well as leaving behind much of what players know about their instruments. In most cases, there are no pitches in the traditional 12-tone equal temperament system that are in even close proximity. The challenge can be daunting—if the pitches aren’t spot-on, the effect—the electrical power of the relationships under examination—is not revealed. The goal is to fuse with nature in order to tamper with it. Lastly, since First can never resist tinkering with things that may be already working, for this version he has added a new layer to the sound—upright overtone bass and overtone keyboards.

David First: audio/video electronics

Jeanann Dara: viola
Sam Kulik: trombone
Jeff Tobias: bass clarinet
Alex Waterman: cello
Ian Douglas-Moore: guitar
Tania Caroline Chen: keyboard
Will Stanton: bowed piano
Danny Tunick: tuned glasses
James Ilgenfritz: upright bass
Bern Gann: electric bass
Matt Evans: drum kit

Please note: this performance will be live stream only with no in-person audience. It will be available for free on Roulette’s websiteFacebook, and YouTube, and in perpetuity in the Roulette archive.

The Western Enisphere ensemble was formed in 2012 with the intention of developing a body of hyper-minimalist, audio/video just intonation/microtonal works steeped in David First’s concepts of Gestural Improvisation, which he defines as a set of procedures that isolates those musical elements traditionally considered ornamentation or aspects of expression and elevating them to the level of most significant extrapolative detail. The group specializes in a virtuosity of slowness and safecracker focus, with the goal of both resonating with, and attempting to subvert, the laws of nature. Past performances have taken place at various NYC spaces including Roulette (3x), Spectrum (4x), Silent Barn, La Sala, Eyebeam, Outpost, 285 Kent, a.o. In February 2020 they were the featured ensemble in a two-night celebration of First’s work, presented by the Bowerbird organization. Their 2020 3-CD release, “The Consummation of Right and Wrong” (Important Records) was hailed as “one of this year’s most necessary new-music releases” by Steve Smith (Night After Night)

David First has always been fascinated by opposites and extremes. At 20 he played guitar with renowned avant-jazz pianist Cecil Taylor in a legendary Carnegie Hall concert. Two years after that he was creating electronic music at Princeton University (recently released on Dais records) and leading a Mummerʼs String Band in Philadelphia parades. He has played in raucous drunken bar bands, semi-legal DIY basements, and in pin-drop quiet concert halls with classical ensembles. As a composer, First has created everything from finely crafted pop songs to long, severely minimalist drone works. His opera, The Manhattan Book of the Dead, was staged at LaMama’s Annex Theater (NYC) in 1995 and in Potsdam, Germany in 1996. His 2011 song and video, We Are (with vocals by TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone), was released to much acclaim in the Occupy Movement and was officially released on the compilation Occupy This Album which also featured tracks by Patti Smith, Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson, Yo La Tengo, Yoko Ono a.o. First’s performances often find him sitting trance-like without seeming to move a muscle, unless he is playing with his psychedelic punk band, Notekillers, at which time he is a whirling blur of hyperactive energy. He has been called “a fascinating artist with a singular technique” in the NY Times, and “a bizarre cross between Hendrix and La Monte Young” in the Village Voice. First has had music released on Ecstatic Peace, Pogus, Phill Niblock’s XI, Dais, Fabrica, Razor and Tie, Ants, Jajaguar, CRI, Homestead, and OODiscs. Recent projects include SWATi (Spherical Waveform Audio Trance Induction) – a collaboration with acupuncturist Isobeau Trybula at Worksong Chinese Medicine in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. SWATi is an outgrowth of his Operation:Kracpot which was an internet collaboration with geophysicist Dr. Davis Sentman of the University of Alaska (Fairbanks). Both involve the sonification of the atmospheric phenomena known as the Schumann Resonances and human brainwaves. Other projects include The Western Enisphere – an audio/visual exploration of just intonation psycho-phenomena, and the AM Radio Band, which incorporates the repurposing of vintage signal generators, audio oscillators and transistor radios. He is also the proprietor of Dave’s Waves Sonic Restaurant installation that has been presented in Lier, Belgium (2002), Berlin (as part of Sonambiente in 2006), Leeuwarden, the Netherlands (2013), Moscow (2018), and Brooklyn (2018—). First was the recipient of the Herb Alpert/Ragdale Award for Music Composition for 2019 and a 2019 NYFA/NYSCA Fellowship. He has also received a Grant to Artists from the Foundation of Contemporary Arts, as well as grants and commissions from the NEA, the Copland Foundation, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust and the Meet the Composer Commissioning USA program. He has written articles for New Music Box and Leonardo Music Journal, receiving the Leonardo Award for Excellence Honorable Mention for his article, The Music of the Sphere: An Investigation into Asymptotic Harmonics, Brainwave Entrainment, and the Earth as a Giant Bell.

Raised in Texas, Brooklyn based Jeanann Dara is a force in modern creation, collaboration and performance. She has developed her own sound with modern viola performance, improvisation and composition. Engaging sounds and manipulating the instrument with extended techniques, she pulls from her strong classical training and invites the listener to participate in the dynamic range from silence to noise and the anticipation in between. Jeanann received her undergraduate degree from The Juilliard School where she held the position as teaching assistant to Karen Tuttle, she received her 1st Masters degree in multimedia composition at NYU and just completed her 2nd Masters the Performance Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Jeanann is a sought after violist playing the works of numerous artists including work done for and with Jonny Greenwood of (Radiohead), MONO, Max Richter at The Sydney Opera House, Nora Jones, Joanna Newsom, Jon Brion, and joined Bjork on stage in support of her New York City multi show residency. She is also a violist in multiple performance ensembles including The Wordless Music Orchestra and Soloists, SEM Ensemble, Anthony Braxton’s Tri Centric Orchestra, Anti Social Music and Manhattan Camerata. In 2012 she co-founded The Western Enisphere, an improvisational drone ensemble, with composer and performer David First using gestural Improvisation, a hypno-acoustical mix of microtonal drones, poly- rhythmic ratios, AM radio transmissions, and hallucinogenic visuals. She has performed and composed with some of the finest experimental and new music artists such as Naama Tsabar, Brian Chase (YYY’s), Lea Bertucci, Sam Hilmer (Z’s), Zack Layton, John King, David Linton, Jherek Bischoff, Dary John Mizelle, Spencer c Yeh, the Cassatt Quartet, Nick Hallet (voice), Robert Dick (flute), Frances-Marie Uitti (cello), and performance artist, Rachel Mason. Her blending of genres between art and classical music has allowed her to perform original works in multiple galleries and performance spaces including The Stone, Issue Project Room, Lincoln Center, National Sawdust, Carnegie Hall, Microscope Gallery, Signal Gallery, Reverse Gallery, ART BASEL Miami, and the Satellite Art Show Miami.

Sam Kulik is a trombonist, bassist, singer, guitarist, tubist. Improviser and composer. Born/raised in rural Western Massachusetts, attended the Oberlin Conservatory, and then moved to New York City. Discography highlights include: Escape From Society, an album of original music inspired by Song-Poems with lyrics solicited on Craigslist; Talibam! and Sam Kulik Discover Atlantass, an original psychedelic environmentalist avant opera composed and performed on record and on stage by the three participants; Trillium E, an opera by Anthony Braxton; numerous releases by the bands Starring, Nervous Cabaret, and Skeletons. Theatrical collaborators include the Talking Band, Cynthia Hopkins, Banana Bag & Bodice, Kagel Nacht, and the Mettawee River Theater Company.

Jeff Tobias is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and writer currently living in Brooklyn, New York. As a saxophonist, bass guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist, he has worked in groups as a main musical contributor (Sunwatchers, Nutritional Peace, We Versus the Shark, Pegasuses-XL), as well as in a sideman capacity (Dark Meat, Arthur Doyle, David First, KATIEE and many others). In these groups and others, he has toured North America extensively as well as Europe. His music has been heard on NPR (RadioLab, All Songs Considered, Here & Now), WFMU (The Airborne Event, Liz Berg) and in a video game (Tony Hawk Pro Skater). His groups have been written about in Pitchfork, AV Club, Alternative Press, NPR’s Monitor Mix and elsewhere. He holds a degree in music composition from Brooklyn College, where he studied composition with Tania Leon, Jason Eckardt, Doug Geers and Doug Cohen, as well as saxophone performance at Brooklyn College with JD Parran.

Percussionist/conductor/composer Danny Tunick is active in the classical, rock, and jazz scenes in and around New York City. He has worked closely with many dance companies, including Karole Armitage’s Armitage Gone! Dance, Juliette Mapp (“One” and “Anna, Ikea and I” at Danspace Project, St. Mark’s Church), Tanya Calamoneri’s Company SoGoNo (“Two by Two”), and is currently working in collaboration with his wife, Action Theater performer Cassie Tunick, as “The 13th Hour of the 26th Day.” He’s also worked in the theater with directors such as Rinde Eckert Macarthur Award-winning playwright John Jesurun. He has composed the score for artist/director Jorge Columbo’s film entitled ‘Fishnet Minute.’ In the classical realm, he has performed in the premieres of works by innumerable composers, including Julia Wolfe, Annie Gosfield, Herbert Brun, Tania Leon, Arnold Dreyblatt, Charles Wuorinen, Eleanor Hovda, Glenn Branca, and Evan Ziporyn. As conductor, he has conducted works by the likes of Pierre Boulez, Charles Wuorinen, Zhou Long and ‘New-Complexitist’ James Boros. As percussionist, he performs with the Violinist Lydia Forbes in the violin/percussion duo Entropy, which has played throughout America and the Netherlands, most recently giving a recital at Princeton University. He has performed regularly with the Elliott Sharp’s ‘Orchestra Carbon,’ Princeton Composers Ensemble, the Ne(x)tworks Ensemble, the Common Sense Composers Ensemble, the Mellits Consort, the Dan Joseph Ensemble, and the Bang On A Can Festival, as well as being a member of Bang On A Can’s Spit Orchestra. He has performed world-wide, including at Mexico’s Cervantino Festival with the New Music group Cuicani, at which he was invited to give a talk on Contemporary Percussion performance as part of the ‘Confrencias Magistrales’ lecture series. He has toured Israel as a guest of the Israel Contemporary Players, performing the Israeli premier of Iannis Xenakis’ “Okho,” and premiered music of Bun-Ching Lam at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival. He was resident in Berlin, where he played music to accompany the premiere of John Jesurun’s new production of “Chang in a Void Moon,” and has performed throughout Europe and Russia with the groups Barbez, Rebecca Moore’s Prevention of Blindness, and Guv’ner. He received his BA in Music from the University of California at Berkeley, where he studied with William Winant and was awarded the Hertz traveling fellowship and the UC Regents Eisner Prize for the Creative Arts. He received an MM from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, studying under Raymond Des Roches.

Alex Waterman is a cellist, composer, writer, and teacher. He has completed three books with the typographer Will Holder–Agape, Between Thought and Sound, and The Tiger’s Mind, and they are completing a new book on the American opera composer, Robert Ashley: Yes, But is it Edible? Beatrice Gibson and Alex Waterman’s collectively written and scored film, A Necessary Music, premiered at the Whitney Museum ISP show and won the Tiger Prize for Best Short Film at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2008. His writings have appeared in Dot Dot Dot, Paregon, BOMB, and Artforum. He is currently scoring music for a new piece by Maria Hassabi–premiering at The Kitchen this Fall– and touring with Either/Or. Waterman is directing Robert Ashley’s opera Vidas Perfectas–which has been performed in New York and London (at the Serpentine Pavilion and Cafe OTO). Vidas Perfectas will return to New York in a ‘live television’ version at the Whitney Biennial (April, 2014) and travel on to Ballroom Marfa and the El Paso Opera. He teaches at the Bard College MFA program, New York University, and has taught–alongside Will Holder– at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

Will Stanton is a New York-based composer and audio engineer. As both a musician and engineer working in a range of genres, Will has engineered live, studio, and interactive projects for a variety of artists, musicians, and public figures. Some notable clients include Snarky Puppy, Ethan Hawke, Hauschka, Travis Scott, Mykki Blanco, Keyon Harrold, Dawn of MIDI, Roomful of Teeth, Meshell Ndegeocello, Nels Cline, Vicky Chow, Brian Chase, Mark Guiliana, Peter Evans, Corey Smythe, Bruce Livingston, Fox Business News, Siegel + Gale, George Soros, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Most recently, Will has split his time between film scoring projects, performing as a member of David First’s Western Enisphere, and touring with Julian Koster’s The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air). In addition to his current freelance practice, William has held positions at audio facilities including Stadium Red, ShapeShifter Lab, La Sala, Spectrum, Wythe Hotel, The Ark, Grand Street Recording, and Emoto Music. William is an alumnus of The University of Michigan School of Music’s Performing Arts and Technology program.

Ian Douglas-Moore’s music uses guitar, electronic tones, and field recordings to examine the textures of layered resonant sounds as they engage with acoustic space. When he’s not playing with the Western Enisphere, he improvises with saxophonist Paul Roth or guitarist Chris Libutti, or plays bass in the rock band Gold Dime. Recent releases include “Story Destroyer,” with Swedish sound artist Pär Thörn, and “Stubborn Plane,” with Philly-based percussionist Leo Suarez. His musical interests spill over into his work as an audio engineer, sound designing pieces by Annie Dorsen, Lauren Bakst, and others.

Bassist and composer James Ilgenfritz has worked in New York’s experimental music community for ten years, interacting with visual artists, improvisers, composers, and literary figures. As an improviser James has performed with Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Elliott Sharp, Anthony Coleman, Jin Hi Kim, Jon Rose, Steve Swell, Nate Wooley, Jeremiah Cymerman, and Brian Chase. As an interpreter of notated music, he has also worked with composers Lukas Ligeti, JG Thirlwell, Annie Gosfield, Pauline Oliveros, Ted Hearne, David T. Little, Karin Rehnqvist, Duane Pitre, Kevin Norton, & Gordon Beeferman. He recently completed a tour of the Midwest and northeast with his jazz quartet MiND GAMeS (with Denman Maroney, Andrew Drury, Angelika Niescier). His debut solo recording ‘Compositions (Braxton) 2011’ features his distinctive solo bass interpretations of the music of Anthony Braxton, and was called “a considerable achievement of solo instrumentalism and an important demonstration of the possibilities open to the double bass in the early 21st century” by Avant Music News’s Dan Barbiero. Current projects include his longstanding Anagram Ensemble (which has morphed from jazz quartet to experimental big band to avant-garde theatrical chamber ensemble), Hypercolor (with Lukas Ligeti and Eyal Maoz), Red Triangle (with Chuck Bettis and Nonoko Yoshida), COLONIC YOUTH (with Dan Blake, Philip White, and Kevin Shea), The Curators (with Joe Hertenstein and Mikko Innanen) and Radiant Tongues (with Jason Ponce). In 2011 James was Artist In Residence at Issue Project Room, where he premiered his opera The Ticket That Exploded (based on the 1962 William S. Burroughs novel of the same name). He is coordinator of the WSB100 festival, New York City’s month-long celebration of the life and legacy of William S. Burroughs on the occasion of his 100th birthday. James Ilgenfritz holds degrees from the University of Michigan & University of California San Diego, and is on faculty at Brooklyn College Preparatory Center & Brooklyn Conservatory.

Tania Caroline Chen is based in New York and London. She has made a name as a compelling and unpredictable sound artist in the realm of piano, astro-electronics, and the intrinsic sonorities of objects, words, and dream landscapes. She performs and creates acoustic, electronica, electronic and electroacoustic music, and she has also revisited scores from a 21st century perspective. Her video, acoustic and electronic compositions have been performed in the USA, Asia and broadcast on KPFA radio, Berkeley and BBC Radio 3. Her recent album John Cage’s “Electronic Music for Piano” was nominated in 2018 for a Grammy award. She has collaborated with David Toop and John Tilbury of AMM, amongst many significant experimental musicians. She has performed at Colour Out of Space Festival, Brighton, the Festival of Britain – an experimental music festival curated by Stewart Lee at the Southbank Centre, London; Spitalfields Festival in London, All Tomorrow’s Parties in Wales; the Cornelius Cardew Festival, Porto, Portugal; and High Zero festival in Baltimore. In 2019 she toured in Nova Scotia, Canada; playing at the Union Chapel, London; Northern Europe, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Tania Caroline Chen has performed and recorded the works of John Cage (Indeterminacy, Electronic Music for Piano, Music.of Changes I-IV), Morton Feldman (Palais de Mari, For Bunita Marcus, Triadic Memories), Earle Brown (Folio), and Cornelius Cardew (Piano Sonatas 1, 2 and 3; Octet 64), as well as compositions by Andrew Poppy, Michael Parsons, Luc Ferrari, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Eric Satie and Alexander Scriabin. Alongside, she creates her own sound compositions, whose material include piano, voice, electronics and video. Her commissions include Strands, Themes for a Story and Icons of Elegance, which have been performed and broadcast by instrumental soloists and ensembles in London, the USA and Asia.

Matt Evans is a composer and percussionist producing acoustic and electronic music, collaborative performances, and concept-driven recording projects through an eco-fictional lens. Taking cues from interwoven organic species, entangled online networks, and intersectional thinking, Evans uses drum-driven hypnotic soundscapes and embodied improvisatory performance to question the unknowable and absurd relationships between the human experience, capital-driven consumerism, and ecological systems. These projects imagine new ways to care for ecosystems and communities while engaging in art-making that applies research, ritual, and abstraction. Evans’ recordings and compositions collage paradoxical logics, surreal musical “creatures”, and visceral improvisations in the creation of musical worlds at the thresholds of reality. His albums catalog phantasmal sound-environments (eco-fictions), where burbles and skitters from vintage synths and peculiar percussion instruments are enmeshed like creatures in a sci-fi biome. He performs these works live from the drum kit, embodying the array of characters in these compositions as an acquiescent and ritualistic representation of these futuristic landscapes. When arranging this music for an ensemble, performer autonomy and interpretation are utilized to depict the entangled essence of the sonic terrain. Collaboration and community continue to be cornerstones of Evans’ broader artistic practice, having performed, recorded and co-led projects with Tigue, Bearthoven, OHYUNG, Ayano Elson, Ensemble Signal, Contemporaneous, Thee Obsidian Gong, Open House, Rokenri, and Private Elevators. Notable projects include residencies at Pioneer Works, Exploring the Metropolis, and The Shell House; talks at Wesleyan University and Dartmouth College; and performances at The Kitchen, Le Guess Who? Festival, EMPAC, Roulette, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Noguchi Museum, Yale School of Music and others. Evans has released recordings with Whatever’s Clever Records, New Amsterdam Records, NNA Tapes, Thrill Jockey, Cantaloupe Music and Perfect Wave. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Evans studied percussion at the Eastman School of Music and the Ohio State University before planting himself in the New York community.

Bern Gann has performed and recorded with many NYC-based bands Including Liturgy (where he spent ten years as a founding member), Guardian Alien, Matter Waves (With John Colpitts and David First), AM Gems,  and others. Gann has played extensively across Europe, including the Roskilde Festival (Denmark), Primavera (Barcelona), Iceland Airwaves Festival (Reykjavík), the Off Festival (Katowice, Poland) and the United States, including Metallica’s Orion Music + More Festival. He has released 5 albums with Liturgy, and 3 with Guardian Alien, primarily on the Thrill Jockey label.

Photos by Ben Tran and September Bottoms