Varner/Bentley/Campbell/welch: Solstice Meditations: Beauty and Crunch

Please join four of Seattle’s top improvisers – Tom Varner (French horn), Heather Bentley (viola/electronics), Greg Campbell (percussion/mixed brass), and Neil Welch (saxophone/electronics) as they celebrate the summer solstice in sound. In the second half of the program, special guest artists will be joining in.

Ricksplund + A Flawed Contraption

Ricksplund is a Provo, Utah-based improvising duo consisting of Steven Ricks (trombone, electronics) and Christian Asplund (viola, piano/keyboards, electronics). Ricksplund has existed for almost 15 years.  The most recent manifestations of this duo involve one improvising on their particular acoustic instrument (trombone or viola, respectively), while the other improvises adding effects, samples, and loops created from the live instrument’s sound.

A Flawed Contraption is a duo consisting of Seattle virtuosos/luminaries Greg Campbell (vibraphone and percussion) and Jesse Canterbury (clarinets).

The two duos will team up to premiere a new stopwatch-based, comprovised quartet by Asplund from his Ghost Speech series.

Chet Corpt & Sean Gaskell

Two American practitioners of the West African kora engage the shape-shifting landscape of the Mandinka sonic arts.

The kora is a 22 stringed harp, a creation of the great Mande civilization based in West Africa. It has migrated in somewhat recent years to be recognized as a music of global significance. Chet Corpt and Sean Gaskell are honored to be a small part of this development, initiated by the work of various kora masters, some of whom both have studied with.

Kora arises from a primarily oral culture, and one of the hallmarks of Mandinka sound arts is that it’s style and substance are remarkably fluid. There are no codified versions of songs, or even of the narratives behind them. There are, of course, traditional and ceremonial music performances in Mandinka culture, but in a concert setting each performance is intensely personal, and hopefully unfolds in new and unexpected ways.

St. Celfer + Raica

St Celfer (John Parker) makes future folk improvisations on glitch-tronics: sound is amalgamated and congealed into a resolution of crossed and overloaded signals. During the isolation of the pandemic, St Celfer devised instruments focused on the interface between human and machine. They mount to a single mic stand with interconnected gear attached and arranged so that the player can best make music in the moment. Each performance embraces sensory overload in order to unlock ways of perceiving a world made narrow: There is a lot of noise today – we need to hear the music within it. St Celfer has been featured as “New & Notable” in the experimental category on Bandcamp for 3 years running.

The cavernous and beautiful project of Chloe Harris, Raica walks a fine musical line between lucid animation and blurred darkness. Using only machines that communicate noises and blurps to a fascinating degree.

Red Pants Collective

The Red Pants Collective, an improvised movement and sound project formed by father/daughter duo Giordana and James Falzone, are joined by special guests Omar Willey on spoken word, Heather Bentley on viola and cello, and movement artists Maia Melene D’Urfé and Symone Sanz.

Mason Lynass + WMD + Party Store + Shelf Nunny

Four Seattle electronic musicians join forces to present an evening of cinematic, immersive ambient music, with engaging visuals in an inspiring venue for making expansive, patient electronic music.

WMD is the ambient electronic project of Michael Erickson. The prolific Electronic Musician from the pacific northwest creates lush, airy songs thrumming with the power of melancholia, nostalgia, and the bliss and sorrow of relationships.

Party Store is the recording and live performance project of multi-instrumentalist Josh Machniak. Embracing a minimalist approach, Party Store aims to capture and convey Machniak’s own form of experimental songwriting, drawing from influences that range from ambient, shoegaze, slowcore, lofi and folk. 

Shelf Nunny is the musical alias of Seattle based artist Christian Gunning. Focusing heavily on found sounds and cinematic soundscapes. Great for any fans of Icelandic group múm.

Mason Lynass is an electronic musician making generative, ambient, and IDM music in Seattle. His recent generative electronic music works explore themes of quantum listening, personal introspection, and human connection to nature and technology.

NonSeq: Zachary James Watkins + Trigger Object + Aaron Turner

One of Zachary James Watkins’ objectives as an artist is to expose natural phenomena. He is interested in the physical aspects of sound and has developed a sensibility that focuses heavily on Resonance. “Vibration is at the core of my experience of Resonance. I am moved by natural resonances that exist around us all. My own work strives to develop and nurture Resonances by negotiating sensitive relationships among a number of what I identify as critical ingredients for psychedelic phenomena: resonant bodies exciting harmonic energy creating diverse waves, beating and phase patterns diffused spatially with full dynamic range, and a deep attention to the body and how it engages with the environment. High Vibration Resonance.”

Zachary James Watkins studied composition with Janice Giteck, Jarrad Powell, Robin Holcomb and Jovino Santos Neto at Cornish College. In 2006, he received an MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media from Mills College where he studied with Chris Brown, Fred Frith, Alvin Curran and Pauline Oliveros. He has received commissions from The Switch Ensemble, Density512, the Beam Foundation, sfsound, The Living Earth Show, Kronos Quartet, and the Seattle Chamber Players, among others. He has performed in numerous festivals across the United States, Mexico and Europe, and his work is released on labels such as Sige, Cassauna, Confront (UK), The Tapeworm, and Touch (UK). Novembre Magazine (DE), ITCH (ZA), Leonardo Press, Walrus Press, and the New York Miniature Ensemble have published his writings and scores. Zachary has been an artist-in-resident at the Espy Foundation, Djerassi, the Headlands Center for The Arts, and the Amant Foundation Siena, Italy.

From the hinterland of Portland, OR comes Italian-born composer and multimedia artist Vern Avola, who as Trigger Object infuses a cheerfully unhinged flair to the music scene with their unconventional approach and dark sense of humor. Formerly operating as Avola, their 2023 album Psykor was selected as a top 50 release by The Wire, who aptly described their output as “a sprawling dustbin of cosmic oddities shot through with shuddering blasts and shuffling full spectrum noise.” Drone, rhythmic dance music, ambient, and harsh noise can all be found in their “delirious, Amanita Muscaria-soaked sense of dynamics.” (The Quietus)

Aaron Turner is a musician and artist based in Vashon, WA, publicly active since 1995. Most widely recognized for his role as a founding member of the metal bands SUMAC and Isis, he has also participated in projects such as House of Low Culture, Greymachine, and Mamiffer. Active primarily as a guitarist, he has maintained an abiding interest in tethering conscious content to subverted/intuitive uses of the instrument. His output has been informed by lifetime involvement with underground metal and punk, often materializing in highly abstracted forms utilizing improvisation and longform composition. He has collaborated with artists such as Tashi Dorji, Justin Broadrick, Keiji Haino, Patrick Shiroishi, Will Brooks (Dälek), Heather Leigh, Stephen O’Malley, Masami Akita, Caspar Brötzmann, Kevin Martin/The Bug, and many others. Turner was the founder/art director of the Hydra Head Records label, and more recently the co-founder SIGE Records with partner Faith Coloccia. Current projects include ongoing work with SUMAC, solo performances/recordings, as well as collaborations with Daniel Menche and Jussi Lehtisalo of Circle amongst others. His performance for this show will be examinations of the intersection between recognizable riff forms and improvised drones/textures, and the emotional resonances that lie therein. 

Curated by Kole Galbraith for Nonsequitur‘s NonSeq series.

The Hollinden Trio

Lots of ceramic pots, tiny percussion instruments, drums, an interactive computer and…a big red balloon!

Storm Benjamin, Jeff Lund, and Andrew Spencer present a diverse program of music on rather unusual instruments. The centerpiece of the program is Time and Space for three percussionists by composer and one-time Seattle resident Dave Hollinden. The piece uses fifteen ceramic flower pots, and a dozen drums to create an engaging work that combines unique techniques, transfixing interlocking rhythms, and a structure that compels the listener into a unique auditory space. The other trio on the program is Triangle Trio by Juri Seo. A lengthy triangle cadenza (yes…It’s true!) starts this clever work whose instrumentation consists of only triangle, castanets, and tambourine. The rhythmic interplay between the three instruments produces an exuberantly compelling work.

Three solo pieces round out the program. Stop Speaking by Andy Akiho is for solo snare drum and computer using the voice from the early Apple computer voice assistant. Written for a collection of tuned steel pipes, Solo for Anthony Cirone by Lou Harrison is an example of compositions for found instruments that emerged on the West Coast with composers like Harrison and Cage. Scratch by Rolf Wallin is written for solo percussionist and a big red balloon. It’s an engaging theatrical work that creates a sense of wonder at the multitude of sounds the balloon is capable of!

Evan Smith + John Teske

Saxophonist and composer Evan Smith will premiere a new set of solo saxophone music, taking advantage of the exceptional acoustics of the Chapel Performance Space. After years of composing shorter works for solo saxophone, Evan began developing a solo set to be debuted as part of a Racer Sessions curation in 2023. With the goal of moving seamlessly between these compositions and his own improvisational language, he has committed himself to continuing his extended solo performances, drawing on inspirations such as Evan Parker, Anthony Braxton, and Roscoe Mitchell.

John Teske will present new graphic scores and guided improvisations with an ensemble of local musicians. For the past 15 years, John has been exploring the distillation of musical concepts and how to perform with any collection of instruments. John will premiere new works in which he has re-interpreted concepts from western classical music as algorithmically-generated graphic scores, with inspiration from other genres such as drone music and metal. The ensemble will also revisit some of John’s original ‘vectorscores’ that make use of animation to promote spontaneous improvisation.

Any Ensemble:
Evan Smith, saxophone
Noel Kennon, viola
John Teske, double bass
Aaron Butler, percussion
Jonathan Rodriguez, percussion

Evan Smith’s musical landscape lives in multiple worlds. Most often seen touring with local pop outfit, The Dip, Evan has also been an active figure in Seattle’s free and improvised music scenes for over a decade. Originally settling in Seattle to pursue doctoral work in Saxophone Performance at the University of Washington, he has a long history with classical and contemporary concert saxophone works and has been dedicated to commissioning and performing new repertoire for the instrument.

John Teske writes contemporary concert music and presents site-specific performances. Teske’s compositional approach explores the balance between intentional composition and spontaneous expression. He uses algorithmic techniques to generate scores and musical systems that incorporate variation, chance, and improvisation.

Stefan Maier + RM Francis

An evening of live electronics and quadraphonic computer synthesis featuring Canadian composer Stefan Maier with a supporting set by RM Francis.

Stefan Maier is a composer and artist based in Vancouver, Canada. Highlighting material instability and unruliness, his work explores the flows of sonic matter through sound systems, instruments, software, and bodies, to uncover alternate histories, modes of listening, and authorship possible within specific technologically-mediated situations. His work has been presented by Haus der Kulturen der Welt (DE), INA-GRM (FR), National Music Centre (CA), Liquid Architecture (AU), Ultima festival (NO), Gaudeamus Muziekweek (NL), MONOM (DE), and Unsound Festival (PL), among many others. His work as a sound designer has been presented internationally, with recent projects presented at Sterischer Herbst (AU), International Film Festival Rotterdam (NL), Vleeshal Center for Contemporary Art (NE), and V-A-C foundation (RU). Stefan is Assistant Professor of Sound Art and Sound Design at the School of Contemporary Art at Simon Fraser University.

RM Francis is an artist based in Seattle working with computer-generated sound and language via recording, installation, and performance. He has presented work at the Mills College Center for Contemporary Music (Oakland), Gray Area (San Francisco), Kolonia Artystów (Gdańsk), as well as clubs, auditoriums, warehouses, and galleries throughout North America. His practice foregrounds computation-based compositional strategies, focusing on methods that exploit discrepancies between human and artificial auditory systems. His current work exploits latent phonological data extracted from non-linguistic sound in order to generate the tonal, rhythmic, and semantic content of synthesized speech. In addition to his solo projects, in recent years he has collaborated with Jack Callahan & Jeff Witscher, Jung An Tagen, and farmersmanual, among others.