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David First and his ensemble, The Western Enisphere, return to Roulette to present the premieres of two new multimedia works: Revolutions and Transmitters—hyper-minimalist explorations of psycho-acoustical/visual phenomena scored for video/analog & digital electronics and mixed ensemble.
Developed for video, mixed ensemble, and a rock & roll rhythm section, Revolutions explores a fundamental link between visual and acoustical nodal phenomena. “Just intonation video” is created through patterned black and white relationships comprised of the same frequencies as one also hears being emitted by digital electronic drones as well as by players executing these same precise pitches. In addition, players are asked to seek out and create value scales of timbral/rhythmic material inherent to their particular instrument in a core implementation of the concept First refers to as Gestural Improvisation, which he defines as a set of procedures that isolates those musical elements traditionally considered ornamentation or aspects of expression and elevates them to the level of most significant extrapolative detail. Proper employment of Gestural Improvisation takes what First calls “the virtuosity of slowness.” One has to learn to move at a glacial pace in order to perceive the teeming sea of values that lie between the official culturally sanctioned demarcations. It’s like spelunking, or perhaps cracking a safe.
In addition to First’s ensemble The Western Enisphere, performers in this will also include two members of First’s band, Notekillers.
Transmitters is composed for an open amount of players plus electronics—players manipulate various models of vintage, intermodulating high-frequency analog signal generators that broadcast directly to open channels on AM radios. Players will be stationed throughout the space and no sound reinforcement will be used. In addition, each player will gesturally improvise on their principal instrument along with the sound waves emitted from the radios following a score that will have them move through four discrete states—radios/principal instrument/radio + principal instrument/tacet in all mathematical permutations possible based on the amount of performers involved.
David First – composer, audio/video laptop, analog synth, signal generators, radios, harmonica, slide whistle, jews harp
Jeanann Dara – viola
Sam Kulik – trombone, signal generators, radios
Jeff Tobias – bass clarinet
Alex Waterman – cello
Ian Douglas-Moore – electric & acoustic guitar, signal generators, radios
Will Stanton – piano
Danny Tunick – glass harmonica, percussion, signal generators, radios
Stephen Bilenky – bass guitar
Barry Halkin – drum kit
The Western Enisphere music ensemble was formed in 2012 by David First with the intention of developing a body of hyper-minimalist, audio/video just intonation/microtonal works steeped in 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. Most recently the ensemble played a key role this past February in First’s two-night composer portrait “same Animal, Different Cages” presented by the organization Bowerbird in Philadelphia.
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 droneworks. 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 NYTimes, and “a bizarre cross between Hendrix and La Monte Young” in the Village Voice. A 45 single released in 1980, The Zipper, by Notekillers, was cited by Sonic Youthʼs Thurston Moore as one of the songs he played for the rest of the band when they were starting out. Moore called it a “mind-blowing instrumental single” in the British rock magazine Mojo and “a big influence” in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He has had music released on Ecstatic Peace, Prophase, Phill Niblock’s XI, Dais, 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 (a recording of which will have a spring release on Robert & Leopold). He is also the proprietor of Dave’s Waves – A 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 (2018-19). First was the recent 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.
SAM KULIK, trombonist, bassist, singer, guitarist, tubist. improviser and composer, was born and raised in rural Western Massachusetts, attended the Oberlin Conservatory and then moved to New York City. His most recent solo recording is a 3-hour baseball-meets-music odyssey entitled The Broadcast. The sprawling time span allows him to visit the many poles of his musical sphere: free improvisation, minimalism, the blues, rock and roll, swing, and so-called world music. Other 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 multi-instrumentalist, composer, and writer who has been an active part of the American DIY community for the past seventeen years. He is currently contributing alto saxophone and organ to the psych/punk/jazz group Sunwatchers (C Face Records) and playing bass guitar in the “rock instrument music” ensemble Thee Reps. He has performed and recorded with Matana Roberts, David First, Eugene Chadbourne, and many others. His debut recording as a composer, “Some”, was released by Soap Library in 2016.
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. Before moving to NYC, he lived in Berlin where he began ongoing projects with among others, saxophonist Paul Roth, with whom he founded Earwash Records, and Swedish writer/sound artist Pär Thörn. Ian has organized the experimental music series WOrk with David Watson, plays in a duo with William Duncan that merges acoustic instruments with beating sine tones, and performs with the bands Gold Dime and Pleasure Prince. Early in 2017 he began studying just intonation with David First.
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.’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.
WILL STANTON is a composer and producer with a passion for experimental music and new technologies. Drawing on his varied past as a classically-trained improviser and multi-instrumentalist, Will creates sonically compelling music and sound for records, film, dance, and concert hall listening. Through his experiences as a freelance engineer, and as a house engineer at new music venues ShapeShifter Lab, Spectrum, and La Sala, Will has worked with a wide range of artists, musicians, publications and public figures–including Nels Cline, Roomful of Teeth, Snarky Puppy, Vicky Chow, Meshell Ndegeocello, Ethan Hawke, Psychic TV, and George Soros. Will recently completed a national tour as front of house engineer for Julian Koster’s Orbiting Human Circus. Will is also a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Music’s Performing Arts and Technology program.
ALEX WATERMAN is a founding member of the Plus Minus Ensemble, based in Brussels and London, specializing in avant-garde and experimental music. In New York he has performed with the Either/Or Ensemble. Alex has worked with musicians and artists such as Robert Ashley, Helmut Lachenmann, Michael Schumacher, Marina Rosenfeld, Anthony Coleman, Ned Rothenberg, David Watson, Chris Mann, Alison Knowles, Thomas Meadowcroft, and Steve Heather. He has performed as guest musician with numerous ensembles, including Champs d’Action, Q-O2, and Magpie Music and Dance Company. Waterman has made music for numerous European ballet and modern dance companies including Freiburg Ballett/Pretty Ugly, Scapino Ballet, Nederland Dans Theater III, and others. In 2014 Alex completed his PhD in musicology at NYU and published a book about the composer Robert Ashley with the designer and writer Will Holder. Alex was also an artist in the 2014 Whitney Biennial alongside Robert Ashley. He directed and staged 3 operas by Robert Ashley including an all-new live television opera version of Perfect Lives in Spanish (Vidas Perfectas). His writings have been published by Dot Dot Dot, Paregon, FoArm, Bomb, and Artforum.
STEPHEN BILENKY and BARRY HALKIN are the bass player and drummer of Notekillers, an all-instrumental power trio (with David First/guitar) that call their approach to music “precision psychedelic pummeling.” Originally existing in fairly complete avant-oddball obscurity from 1977-81 in Philadelphia, Notekillers were profoundly reminded how little one can really understand about the whims of fate when twenty-some years after they broke up in utter frustration, Sonic Youth’s Thurston hailed their single “The Zipper” as “mind-blowing” and named them as a significant influence on his band in an issue of Mojo Magazine. Soon after that they were putting out a compilation CD of archival material from back in the day on Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label and soon after that the Notekillers decided to find out if the world would like them any more now than back then. The New York Times called the CD “astonishing,” adding that “It’s clear this band ranked with any of New York’s much celebrated no-wave acts.” The Village Voice called it “a harbinger of a new blues or funk that still hasn’t been invented.” And Time Out New York previewed a contemporaneous performance by saying “a reunion show at Tonic was so ungodly potent that we’re beside ourselves at the chance to see them do it again!” Inspired by all that to carry on in the new century, they followed up with two highly acclaimed releases in 2010 and 2016 of all new material and performing at various venues and festivals in North America and Europe, including SXSW, Pop Montreal, All Tomorrow’s Parties (UK/curated by Thurston Moore), and the Hopscotch Festival (Raleigh, NC).