Yesterday I launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign for a new project, an experimental electronic album for children that I plan to record in collaboration with my kids. Inspired by electronic music for children created in the 1960′s by Bruce Haack and Raymond Scott, “Intergenerational Electronics” will be grounded in exploration of traditional folk song and children’s stories as raw material for new textures and timbres that reflect the present moment. Backers of the project can play a role in selecting instrumentation for sampling, as well as narrative source material (folk songs, folk tales, poems). Our method will be built around an interactive system that will allow my children and I to shape sound together in creative play.
On April 11, 2015, I will be performing once again in my role as Guide/melodica in my piece Cantata For A Loop Trail with Rhymes With Opera. This new production of the work will take place at Bears Den Park in Bluemont, VA, which intersects with the Appalachian Trail. The revival of Cantata for this site is sponsored by Shenandoah Conservatory, at the invitation of David T. Little. As with the first performances this past June at Leakin Park in Baltimore and Inwood Hill Park in New York City, we will have 4 or 5 performances over the course of the day, taking up to 15 people at a time on the circular hike. Locally recorded sounds and interviews with long-time residents of the area will be mixed into the electronic part, which will be broadcast to small radios from an FM transmitter.
The electronic pieces from the Baltimore premiere may be heard here:
I would like to share video from one of my favorite performances from the Trans Art Mid-Atlantic tour with Austrian visual artist Astrid Rieder back in September. This was our last performance, at the wonderful Brian Morris Gallery in the Bowery, New York City. While most of the performances used a projector to show Astrid’s live drawing to the music on her sketchpad, this one used a large sheet of paper on the wall of the gallery.
Please skip ahead in the video to 5:58 for the start of the performance.
In late September, I will be performing on a tour with Austrian artist Astrid Rieder, “Beyond the limits”. I met Astrid when she was an artist-in-residence at the Austrian Embassy last year, as she was seeking out new music groups and composers in the Washington DC/Baltimore area. Astrid’s practice, which she calls “Trans Art”, focuses on real-time abstract drawing in response to live music, particularly modern classical and experimental music. Her sketchpad is projected for audience members to see as a parallel to the sounds and musical textures as they are heard in the moment.
For our collaboration I will be performing an improvised soundscape based on samples of my compositions from the past 20 years, as well as recent recordings of improvisations with my children. These samples will be performed with tactile surfaces (iPad, Kaoss Pad, Ableton Push) that allow a mode of music-making very similar to drawing or painting. A form of multimedia feedback loop will be created as I respond to her live drawing as a graphic score, which will in turn be responding to the textures of my music.
9/24- Austrian Cultural Forum in Washington DC, 7:30 PM
9/25- Gallery 788 in Baltimore, 8 PM
9/27- forty gold in NYC, 8 PM
9/28- Brian Morris Gallery in NYC, 6 PM
On September 14, 2014, at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African-American History, I will be performing a new piece that I am co-composing with Wendel Patrick (as Baltimore Boom Bap Society), based on the Star-Spangled Banner and a number of untold or forgotten stories related to it. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum is currently featuring an exhibit called “For Whom It Stands”, which focuses on different cultural and personal meanings of the American flag, and the national anthem, as expressed by artists of diverse backgrounds. This exhibit, and its accompanying concert, is presented in conjunction with many other events in Baltimore for the bicentennial of the battle at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.
The concert, “The National Anthem, Remixed”, is curated by beatboxer Shodekeh, and will feature performances by 3 groups: Baltimore Boom Bap Society, Classical Revolution, and Embody. My piece with Wendel Patrick as Baltimore Boom Bap Society, will feature melodic reconstructions of the anthem using individual notes sampled from recordings of it from late 19th-Century and early 20th-Century wax cylinders to iconic reinterpretations and recent versions posted on YouTube, as reinterpreted by Native Americans, African Americans, and Latinos. Our piece also explores aspects of the anthem as points of departure for very different musical textures, explored through turntables, samplers, and synthesizers. Our performance will also incorporate sampled vocals specially recorded for the project by our frequent collaborators Eze Jackson, Saleem, J Pope, and Black Root, along with a poem from community artist Ashley Minner.
A condensed version of my part for the remix-
Wendel Patrick also filmed and edited an excellent teaser for the concert-
A couple of months back, I received a New Music USA Project Grant for a collaborative performance with old-time music duo Anna & Elizabeth, called “From The Mountains: Hazel Dickens in Baltimore”. The premiere took place on April 12th at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, as part of Anna & Elizabeth’s Crankie Festival. This amazing event focused on pairings of music with scrolling illustrations called crankies. Prior to my piece there were incredible works by Katherine Fahey, Alex Fine, Matt Muirhead, McKenzie Ditter, Chris Owen, and Ashley Minner with youth from the Baltimore American Indian Center, all of which bent the little-known medium of the crankie in new directions.
The overarching theme of the evening was travel and migration. My piece focused on an individual who was part of a large migration of people from Appalachia into the large industrial cities after World War II. Hazel Dickens moved from West Virginia to Baltimore in the 1950′s when she was a young girl in search of factory work. In Baltimore she eventually found encouragement of her talents as a musician, through Mike Seeger and others, and she went on to become the first prominent female musician in bluegrass. She spent most of her life in Baltimore and Washington DC, but continued to identify herself with West Virginia and the struggles of its working people.
To illustrate Hazel’s story, Anna and Elizabeth worked together to create a pair of crankies on scrolls of transparency. Projecting the images by shining flashlights behind them, the drawings could then be superimposed, as well as enabling slow zooms, panning, and other cinematic techniques. In performance, the crankies were operated by Anna and Chris Owen, while Elizabeth sang and recited passages of Hazel Dickens’ narrative. I alternated between playing melodica, banjo, and sampler, on top of a pre-recorded audio collage.
Enjoy this video documentation of the performance, recorded and edited by Kevin Gift.
The year began with a few back-to-back shows in the second week of January. I played an ambient set, as well as an improvisation-on-a-composition preview with soprano Bonnie Lander, plus a more conventional DJ set, for the opening of an exhibition by artist Chris Owen at the Windup Space in Baltimore. I was back the next night to perform with my regular monthly improvised hip hop series, Baltimore Boom Bap Society. Two days later, in the same space, was the premiere of my new piece for Bonnie Lander with live electronics, titled Damascus Mix. We performed the piece on January 11th, as a prelude to Rhymes With Opera‘s staged production of the chamber opera Red Giant by Adam Matlock.
After we performed the piece together in Baltimore, Bonnie went on to perform it independently, with a fixed version of the electronic part, at Rhymes With Opera’s subsequent shows in Brooklyn, NY, and Jersey City, NJ. Here is a nice review from the Jersey City show, with a description of Damascus Mix in the second and third paragraphs.
Damascus Mix takes its starting point from a text cut-up of international news reports on Syria, along with a biblical passage alluding to Damascus. The live vocal part is inspired by the idea of changing stations on a radio, as well as exploring the spectrum between natural human voice and electronically generated sound (the electronic part relies heavily on the use of analog subtractive synthesis as well as granular synthesis with vocal samples). Bonnie and I developed the piece together through email exchanges and file sharing, as well as working together in person in the days leading up to the performance. Here is the electronic part, by itself:
Damascus Mix (instrumental) by Dubble8
Looking ahead, things get a little crazy…
March 14 – 23: Together with MICA Sound Art colleague Jason Sloan, I will be leading a week-long workshop at CMMAS (Centro Mexicano para la Música y Artes Sonoras) in Morelia, Mexico. The title of our workshop is Soundscape & Geography As Sources For Live Electronic Composition. We will bring 6 MICA students on the program, collaborating with local students from Morelia, and develop a collaborative performance project that will be performed on Friday, March 21st at CMMAS.
April 12: I will be collaborating with old-time music duo Anna & Elizabeth (Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth Laprelle) on a multimedia performance bridging traditional Appalachian and Hip Hop musical elements, while examining the history of migration from the mountains to Baltimore. More information coming soon. At The Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224
May 3: I am organizing and performing on the 5th annual all-night music festival at MICA- The Vigil, outdoors on the Cohen Plaza. Sample the best of Baltimore’s electro-acoustic musicians, experimental chamber music, drone, ambient, downtempo electronica…
June 21 & 22: Premiering my hiking opera Cantata For A Loop Trail with my favorite non-opera company, Rhymes With Opera. The Baltimore performance, on June 21st, will take place in Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park. A performance in New York the following day is tentatively planned for Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Stay tuned. Here is some video of an informal preview of several of the instrumental sections from the piece, which I performed with Ruby Fulton and George Lam this past September:
I am also working on a piece for pianist Jacqueline C Leung, a doctoral student of piano at SUNY Stonybrook. Titled Double Identities, the work will be focused on the cultural intersections and disconnects between the listening modes of Modern Classical music and Hip Hop. Double Identities is conceived for piano and turntable/DJ controller, and will form one part of a concert program that can be presented in schools, focused on the Classical/Hip Hop hybrid idea.
Ongoing this spring is a new class that I’m teaching at MICA- Remix As Performance. This is a class that has been gestating for a long time, bringing together a lot of my observations from experience with sample-based performance over the past 10 years.
Every first Wednesday night at the Windup Space, I continue to co-host Baltimore Boom Bap Society (live improvised hip hop) with Wendel Patrick. Each show features the two of us with a different group of musicians and poets. The series has been documented extensively by Tom Kessler, to whom we owe a huge thanks. Check out his YouTube page here.
A Baltimore Boom Bap Society album is in the works for later in the year.
On my plate this summer: teaching my intensive 4-week session of Introduction to Sound at MICA, becoming a first-time home owner in the fabled Baltimore neighborhood of Hampden, welcoming a new baby daughter, and generally drawing my attention inward to the home front. I’ll be taking a short break from my monthly improvised hip hop series with Wendel Patrick- Baltimore Boom Bap Society, after an amazing first 20 months. As I transition into a new family routine and get acquainted with my new space, I’m also expecting to re-focus for awhile on both home studio recording and notated composition, with fewer live appearances in the near future.
Look for a new album in November 2013, continuing and extending some of the territory I explored in “Cloudsplitter” (2012) – focusing further on a fusion of banjo and assorted other acoustic instruments, archival samples, ambient drones and sample-based beats.
Looking ahead further, in Spring 2014 I will be performing my “Cantata For A Loop Trail” with Rhymes With Opera at a series of outdoor locations. More info to come…
A sampling of music from this past year:
In The Pines by Erik Spangler
The Vigil all-night music festival
Saturday April 27, 2013
6 pm (4/27) to 6 am (4/28)
Cohen Plaza at MICA
1301 Mount Royal Ave., Baltimore, MD 21217
Hosted by the Sound Art program of the Interaction Design and Art department, in collaboration with the Video and Film Arts, Animation, and Interdisciplinary Sculpture departments
Cloudprints by Matthew Burtner, performed by Sound Art students, X|i|O duo, Kevin Gift and Erik Spangler [networked performance with the composer and Mobile Interactive Computer Ensemble at the University of Virginia]
- 6:00 PM Brown Center atrium
STEIM Sound Project group - 6:20 Brown Center atrium
Zak Greene - 6:40 Cohen Plaza – EAST
Schwarz - 7:00 SOUTH
Tyler Tamburo - 7:20 WEST
Jonathan Badger - 7:40 NORTH
Essays - 8:00 SOUTH
Oneiric - 8:20 WEST
Tendrills - 8:40 EAST
Whoarfrost - 9:00 NORTH
Out Of Your Head Orchestra - 9:20 SOUTH
Wendel Patrick & Max Beats - 9:40 WEST
[10 - 11 PM - Projected animations by students of Lawrence Arcadias (Animation)]
Erik Spangler & Jason Sloan - 10:20 SOUTH
Microkingdom - 10:40 NORTH
Network Glass - 11:00 EAST
[11 PM - 6 AM - Video art by students of Nadia Hironaka (Video) and Sarah Doherty (Interdisciplinary Sculpture)]
plake 64 & the hexagrams - 11:20 WEST
Beth Brown - 11:40 NORTH
Liz Meredith & John Somers - 12:00 AM SOUTH
Sam Jones - 12:15 WEST
Miles Clark - 12:30 EAST
Sam Kuo - 12:45 NORTH
Fiona Sergeant - 1:00 SOUTH
Will Schorre - 1:15 EAST
Mike Arreaga - 1:30 SOUTH
Helen Jackson-Adams - 1:45 WEST
Dylan Young - 2:00 SOUTH
Qian Zeng - 2:15 NORTH
Shawn Cook - 2:30 SOUTH
Andrew Kim - 2:45 WEST
Matt Lewicki - 3:00 NORTH
Sydney Spann – 3:15 EAST
Louise Lee/ Gihea Nho - 3:30 SOUTH
Jared Brown/ Adi Shachar - 3:45 NORTH
Cry Baby - 4:00 EAST
Dingding Hu/ Catherine Akins - 4:15 SOUTH
Nicole Lee - 4:30 WEST
Keaton Johnson - 4:45 SOUTH
Ian Privett - 5:00 EAST
Niki Murphy - 5:15 SOUTH
Boone Snavely - 5:30 NORTH
Richelle Vargas - 5:45 EAST
Matt Sullivan - 6:00 WEST
Back in October 2012, I released an EP focusing on a hybrid of old-time mountain music and instrumental hip-hop. Cloudsplitter consists of six tracks that I recorded while teaching myself to play banjo, in connection with two other projects: a cantata for a loop trail in the forest, and a soundtrack for a film focused on the lives of mountain people. You can listen to the EP here, or download it for $5 from Bandcamp:
You can also read a review of Cloudsplitter in Baltimore’s City Paper here.