Happy Valley Band + Carolyn Chen’s Signs of Struggle (Experimental Music Yearbook)
The Experimental Music Yearbook’s 2016 issue is celebrated with a performance of Carolyn Chen’s Signs of Struggle as well as a special Los Angeles appearance by David Kant’s Happy Valley Band.
Carolyn Chen’s Signs of Struggle is a piece for people listening and reacting to different degrees of uncertainty when given a series of variably cooperative, weight-sharing tasks. Using Antonioni’s Blow Up and Coppola’s The Conversation as sonic and procedural references, a choreography of sound, listening, and movement is explored by a frequently-blindfolded quartet. Carolyn Chen has made music for supermarket, demolition district, and the dark. Her work reconfigures the everyday to retune habits of our ears through sound, text, light, image, and movement. For a decade she has studied the guqin, the Chinese 7-string zither traditionally played for private meditation in nature, which has informed her thinking on listening in social spaces. Recent projects include a marble chase, an ASL interpreter strung to chimes at a distance, and commissions for Wild Rumpus and Klangforum Wien.
The Happy Valley Band is the Great American Songbook heard through the ear of a machine. Composer / bandleader David Kant uses custom-built machine learning software to “unmix” pop songs and transcribe them back into musical notation. Imagine James Brown backed by a simmering Sun Ra Arkestra, Madonna with a jittery freak-out synth rhythm section, and Herb Alpert with a Tijuana Brass that must have been led by Charles Ives. The machine analysis has no concern for the limits of human performance, and the resulting transcriptions are extremely complex, literal, and often impossible to play. The Happy Valley Band, an ensemble of Bay Area and New York City musicians, plays what comes out.
The Experimental Music Yearbook is a repository for composers, performers, and the public to glean the methods and styles of various artists working in the experimental music tradition. As the modes of experimentation in the sonic arts change from year to year, the Experimental Music Yearbook’s annual issues will build into a comprehensive, and varied, database of experimentation in music/sound. Since the inaugural edition in 2009, the Experimental Music Yearbook has featured contributions from such artists as Tom Johnson, Bill Dietz, Tashi Wada, Cat Lamb, Vinny Golia, Jessie Marino, Julia Holter, and many, many more. Along with the three permanent editors (Casey Anderson, Scott Cazan, and John P. Hastings), each year features a guest editor who provides curatorial direction. The 2016 edition features guest editor Jessie Marino (On Structure, Ensemble Pamplemousse). Former guest editors have included Michael Pisaro, Sara Roberts, Laura Steenberge, Olivia Block, and Travis Just. Live performances of contributions have occurred in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Cologne, Germany.