Line Space Line Festival of Improvised Music 2004: Making It Up As They Go Along

Rex  Butters By

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Line Space Line
Day 1

With an auspicious starting date of Friday the 13th, the first night of Line Space Line Festival of Improvised Music 2004 got underway. This year, the LSL masterminds brought improvising musicians together from around the continent and had them play together for the first time the night of the show. Several introduced themselves to each other while setting up for the night’s performance.

While LSL’s base, the Salvation Theater, grew hot and stuffy during last year’s SRO event, this year Silverlake’s 4016 Gallery generously donated a larger room to house the crowd. An occasional performance space, the Gallery provided ample seating, off showroom lounge, and a reasonable dressing area for musicians. Line Space Line’s brain trust Jeremy Drake, David Rothbaum, and Chris Heenan provided a core group of 35 hired guns and quick draw artists in configurations ranging from trios to septets.

Scott Looney, electronics; Alicia Mangan, tenor sax; Kevin Uehlinger, piano; Rich West, drum set; Ben Wright, double bass.

Wright got the party started with sly bass, and West began dropping beats. Mangan introduced her raw unique tone in a steady stream of ideas. Uehlinger caught the fever Wright and Mangan laid out while Looney and West got acquainted. West brought an array of small household items available at any SavOn, a collection of fine gongs and bells, towels, pie pans, a basic drum kit, and wicked imagination and technique. Looney created electronic sounds and tones, West swept through bells. Wright bounced between pluck and bow. West used the stick end of his mallets on a Glockenspiel, while Looney played humming atmospherics. Mangan returned, Uehlinger plucked the piano’s strings and muted them with his hand. Mangan and Looney got their exchange, with Wright and West creating spontaneous foundation. Mangan blew short statements, Looney’s electric wave took them out.

Uehlinger and Wright dove in first for the second performance. West joined with sticks on rims, and Looney played diminishing whoops. Mangan squawked and ran, West danced on cymbal rims, then the glockenspiel. Uehlinger invoked high end shimmer, and the rising intensity found all four musicians fully engaged. West muted with a blanket his mallet struck drums, and Looney washed the players in electric buzz.

Jeremy Drake, amplified acoustic guitar; Tucker Dulin, trombone; Hendrik Greidanus; David Rothbaum, Bb & contralto clarinets.

This quartet boasting two of the three LSL organizers started out playing many small sounds. Greidanus popped his dampened bass, Rothbaum and Dulin blew tonelessly, Drake mimicked the high sounds. After a long pause, the horns blew tonelessly, dropping to low rumbles and back. Greidanus played fast and soft, and Drake’s manipulations came faster, as Dulin and Rothbaum played ambiance.

Rothbaum used circular breathing on the Bb to begin the second piece. Dulin also held a tone and Drake maintained a feedback hum that grew louder. Eric Barber, tenor & soprano saxophone; John Berndt, reed, electronics; Bryan Eubanks, reeds; Sam Hoyt, trumpet; Eric Sbar, euphonium.

Traveling all the way from Baltimore, John Berndt opened the quintet’s set with his altered guitar. Local Eric Sbar played deep pulses on the euphonium, while Millbrook’s Sam Hoyt gave out pops and bursts. Berndt rode feedback noise while Sbar, Barber, and Hoyt played staccato. Berndt created metallic creaks with Portland’s Bryan Eubanks humming on soprano sax. With Berndt bowing and bending strings, Sbar took off. Eubanks held multiphonic tones on his soprano, joined by Berndt likewise engaged on alto.

Kyle Bruckmann, oboe, English horn, shenai; Tucker Dulin, trombone; Chris Forsyth, electric guitar; Hendrik Greidanus, double bass; Chris Heenan, reeds; Jonathan Zorn, analog synthesizer, harmonicas.

Brooklyn’s Chris Forsyth works with noise and sound in his collaborations with Ernesto Diaz-Infante and the psi trio. The noise of his cable crackling on his strings started this sextet’s performance. Greidanus scraped his bow, Bruckmann played small sounds, and Anthony Braxton protégé Jonathan Zorn played low growls on his analog synthesizer. Heenan blew pops and multiphonics, and Forsyth sustained feedback, while Bruckmann teased high squeaky tones out of his oboe. Bruckmann blew and sucked the English horn with no mouthpiece, and before Heenan took off on contra bass clarinet, Zorn played airy chromatic harmonica.

John Berndt, electronics; Mitchell Brown, electronics; Joseph Hammer, tape loops; David Kendall, electronics; Scott Looney, piano; DJ Ultraviolet, turntables.

The final set of the evening found four laptops sharing the stage with six sound sculptors. Looney played prepared piano, and the combined effect of Hammers’ loops and DJ Ultraviolet’s samples injected a dreamlike quality to the charged landscape generated by the technicians. In the end, the colliding sound, samples, and loops dissolved into a swirling mist.

Day 2

Chris Heenan, reeds; Dana Reason, piano; Karen Stackpole, percussion; Rachel Thompson, violin; Ben Wright, double bass.

The quintet opened with Reason gently plucking the high strings on the piano. Heenan joined her with soft blowing on the contrabass clarinet, while Stackpole coaxed tones from large gongs in her exquisite collection by precisely stroking their surface with the head of a stick. Her uncanny abilities with gongs and cymbals lit up each ensemble in which she participated. By jolting the large rack holding her many percussion devices she contributed sound. Bassist Wright dug in with his bow, later tapping the strings. After a group pause, Thompson broke the silence creating a squeaky door effect on violin. Stackpole got playful with muted bells, answered by Reason’s prepared piano tones. Stackpole again stroked gongs into singing. After another silent interlude, Reason picked high strings. Following rapid cymbal work by Stackpole, Wright and Heenan perked up. Rubbing his hand on the belly of the bass for sound, Wright worked into a spirited duet with Reason, that ended in silence, again broken by Dana, who ended it with silence.

With material muting his strings, New Mexico’s Wright ground and tapped a vigorous intro that swept Heenan in on alto. Stackpole bowed small cymbals, extracting rare tones, with Thompson scraping strings. Reason got busy on piano, and Stackpole attacked small muted bells.

Jason Mears, Bb clarinet, alto saxophone; DJ Ultraviolet, turntables; Noah Phillips, electric guitar; Kevin Uehlinger, piano.

This set marked the festival return of two participants in the maiden voyage, Festival 2003, reedman Jason Mears and electronic guitarist Noah Phillips. Mears knows how to sing on whatever horn he blows, and Phillips paints from a large sonic palette. With DJ Ultraviolet’s encyclopedic sound library and Anthony Braxton alum Kevin Uehlinger exploring the piano, this one time only quartet exploded, burned brightly, and quit. Beginning with Ultraviolet’s tweeting bird sounds, Mears joined the flock with avian alto. Phillips buzzed from behind his effects boxes, and DJ UV found a classical woodwind track to skew the band. As Uehlinger roamed the piano, Mears moved through multiphonics to bouncing startling runs off the woodwind record. Blessed with big ears, Mears never gets lost. Uehlinger and Phillips scraped their strings with very different effect, and Mears switched to clarinet. DJ UV pushed his fellows into frenzy with loud sound and noise cuts.

Part two opened with Noah’s discordant chords answered by Ultraviolet’s rippling sounds. Mears decided he had a lot to say on alto and told it. Uehlinger urged him on with dazzling runs of his own, sparring instantly. Phillips shifted from sound researcher to guitar technique technician, while Mears spun buckets of gold. A festival highlight, they left the crowd begging for more.

Eric Barber, tenor & soprano sax; Jessica Catron, cello; Hendrik Greidanus, double bass; Dana Reason, piano.

Another dynamic quartet, these four left no doubt we’d hit cruising altitude. Hendrik and Blue Mitt member Catron launched an attractive bowing duo. As Catron switched to pluck, Barber bathed the crowd in a warm opening run. Dr. Dana Reason entered with a light touch, as Catron took to tapping her bow, and dangling chain on her bridge. Barber continued fashioning a strong statement on tenor, and Greidanus kept bowing dexterous basslines. Barber sketched some solo sax, switched to soprano and adopted the more subdued mood of the others. Reason’s meditative wondering came to dominate, and the trio lay out to shine a light on her musings.

Initiating the second performance with his foot on the accelerator, Barber rode the soprano. Greidanus made athletic bass work his signature and signed his name all over this one. Catron matches Greidanus, then they switched to bows. Barber blew grounded tuneful full bodied soprano.

Their final entry featured tenor honks and long tones, plucked piano high strings, and multiphonics from Barber. The viols bowed ambiantly.
Kyle Bruckmann, oboe, english horn; Stephen Finn, percussion; Joseph Hammer, tape loops; Scott Rosenberg, reeds; Sam Hoyt, trumpet.

Another imaginative line up, matching five veterans of the Outlands. The performance marked festival debuts for pugilistic percussionist Stephen Finn, and reed deconstructionist Scott Rosenberg, the wise fool in whatever deck he plays. He began this set playing the mouthpiece of his flute, Bruckman brought the dry shenai, and Hammer’s tape loops kept dealing wild cards. Finn blew lusty drums and Hammer introduced rubbery sounds. Hoyt gave an emotional interlude, using his leg to mute his horn. Running loops of cut up tape, Hammer kept changing channels around his bandmates. Long eloquent lines from Hoyt combined with Rosenberg yelling into the bell of his baritone sax.

Having tested eachother out, the quintet pushed harder the second go. Hoyt blasted his trumpet and Rosenberg worked out on baritone sax. Bruckmann dusted the piece with brisk oboe, and colliding sounds burst from Hammer’s loops. Finn attacked his altered drums under the fierce wail produced by Hoyt, Rosenberg, and Bruckman. After spraying fire, Hoyt and Bruckmann locked into held notes while Hammer created murky slurs on tape and Rosenberg rolled flute parts on the concrete floor.

Jessica Catron, cello; Jeremy Drake, amplified acoustic guitar; Brian Eubanks, reeds; Chris Forsyth, electric guitar; David Kendall, electronics; Karen Stackpole, percussion; Rachel Thompson, violin.

Minneapolis artist Rachel Thompson christened the first of two festival septets scraping her violin. Stackpole lit an incense of sound with tuned gongs. Catron matched Thompson and Jeremy joined bowing. Eubanks tested the water on soprano. Forsyth began muting with sticks, but moved on to crunch notes that jolted the ensemble into action. Stackpole wound up and released a spindly mechanical spider on cymbals. Twirling a phillips screwdriver handle on his strings, while Drake aggressively bowed his prepared guitar. Stackpole plied her uncanny evocation of tones from bowed cymbals. Forsyth answered Drake’s bowing with pointy little dart notes. Stackpole raised songs from bowls, as Eubanks blew and sucked his soprano, played long tones. Catron played her own long tones. Singing gong, the electric throb grows. A beautiful set.

Day 3

Kyle Bruckmann, oboe, english horn; Jeremy Drake, amplified acoustic guitar; DJ Ultraviolet, turntables; Jonathan Zorn, analog synthesizer.

DJ Ultraviolet (Shawn O’Neal) represented one of the Festival’s best ideas. This quartet he shared with fellow electricians Jeremy Drake and Jonathan Zorn, and acoustic sound sculptor Kyle Bruckmann, rode in on a DJ UV sound wave. Bruckmann’s oboe slowly rose to interact with the wave. Zorn produced percussive electro thumps. A perfect context for Drake and his synthesizer sense of color, bowing, a cup vibrating on his strings. Bruckmann’s long high held tones circular breathed left him red faced from the strain. The sudden inclusion of a sitar courtesy DJ UV sharply contrasted Drake’s towel dampened strings. With no mouthpiece on the e horn, Bruckmann blew air through DJ UV’s classical piano record, spun forward and back. Zorn crackled over more piano and Indian music samples. Drake got screechy bowing a metal cylinder Bruckmann intoned a flutter on shenai that sounded motorized.

A brief reprise had classical orchestral samples as a backdrop, and Zorn’s raw rumbling. Drake gave his strings a full handed massage, picking and pulling. Zorn shot sound flares.

Mitchell Brown, electronic; Tucker Dulin, trombone; Brain Eubanks, reeds; Rachel Thompson, violin.

Mitchell Brown’s inventiveness contributed another festival standout. His appearance in an ensemble guaranteed you unique visuals to accompany his original sound endowment. This quartet found Brown astride a bass drum manipulating sounds created by bowing three strings stretched into bricks 4 ft in in front of him. The drum served as a resonator. From there through the laptop Brown again created an original voice. Eubanks blew soprano muted by tom tom, the bell pressed hard against the head. Dulin blew off the mouthpiece and used a plunger mute. Thompson held her bow still and moved the violin for a scratchy sound, contrasting Eubanks’ blunted sound. The sparse, austere piece continued with Dulin dragging the trombone on the concrete floor.

John Berndt, reeds, electronics; Chris Heenan, reeds; Sam Hoyt , trumpet; Scott Looney, piano; Scott Rosenberg, reeds.

Another inspired grouping, this quintet presented the rare sight of two contrabass clarinets in the same line up, and delivered an exhilarating performance. Barely introduced, Hoyt leveled rough low notes. Looney dropped small gongs into the piano, and Berndt blew sharp bursts. Rosenberg switched to soprano and spar with Heenan’s unpredictable alto resulting in a glorious honkfest. As Looney played the piano’s strings, Heenan took on Berndt, both on alto, both wailing. Rosenberg struggled with balloons and ended up back on contrabass clarinet. Berndt squealed through his mouthpiece. Hoyt percolated on trumpet. Heenan blew fluent cb clarinet.

Berndt started the second effort, Looney playing with his right hand and muting strings with his left. He also adds pie plates and gongs. Rosenberg blew sopranino muted on his leg. Berndt popped the mouthpiece, then played a sweet line with Rosenberg dogging him high.

Looney got part three going from inside the piano. Hoyt struck some lightning runs, and Heenan flowed on contrabass clarinet. Berndt blew sweeping alto.

Kyle Bruckman, oboe, english horn; Jessica Catron, cello; Brian Eubanks, reeds; David Rothbaum, Bb & contralto clarinet; Karen Stackpole, percussion; Jonathan Zorn, analog synthesizer.

The sextet opened with Rothbaum circular breathing clarinet. Stackpole's’ gong tones, and Eubanks’ multiphonics. Catron added long tones, then all went silent. Catron lightly tapped cello with bow, then silence. Rothbaum popped lightly, Eubanks produced high squeaks, and Zorn growled on synthesizer. Stackpole sent windup spiders over cymbals, and Zorn’s growl grew. As Rothbaum blew through half his clarinet, Bruckmann and Eubanks hit long high tones. Stackpole struck small gongs, building to the really big gongs, and from there to rattles and shakers.

John Berndt, electronics; Mitchell Brown, electronics; Dan Clucas, cornet; Hendrik Greidanus, double bass; Scott Rosenberg, reeds; Eric Sbar, euphonium, Ben Wright, double bass, musical saw.

The final septet of the Festival let the drawing of Greidanus' bow be their first McCAIN action. Wright demonstrated his prowess on musical saw. Berndt used his altered guitar like a tamboura. Brown nested in a tangle of wires and a blinking light, manipulating sounds through the placing large cardboard tubes on the electronic device. Berndt’s bowed guitar matched up with Rosenberg’s alto tones. Sbar blew mellow tones, and Clucas vibrated a tuning fork on his cornet. Sbar took the trombone out for a run and Clucas ran along with him. As the horn men gained momentum, Wright bowed high, and Rosenberg joins the rabid frontline. Berndt’s buzzing guitar signaled a cooling down. Wright jammed with Brown’s sounds. Clucas and Sbar played subdued muted, and Berndt generated springy sounds. Rosenberg played smeary alto.

Clucas switched to flute for the second piece, and Rosenberg played flute mouthpiece. Sbar and Clucas contributed another vigorous duet, soon to be a threesome with Rosenberg blowing in. Clucas closed it out with lip wrenching runs.

Day 4

Karen Elaine Bakunin, viola; Hendrik Greidanus, double bass; Rich West, drum set; Cory Wright, reeds.

LA violist Bakunin brought her energy, charisma, and luminous talent to give LSL Fest’s last night a truly grand finale. Her effusive inspiration proved contagious. The matchup with Greidanus, West, and Wright opened the evening with a fireworks display

Bakunin tapped her bow on strings she plucked with her left hand to start. West rung muted a triangle, and Wright joined on baritone. Bakunin peeled off maximum melodic runs, while West visited an array of little instruments. After a fiery display of Bakunin’s that ended sweetly melodic, an intensifying interplay between West and Greidanus boiled over. Bowing, plucking, playing muted, Greidanus worked up to a gallop. West from bare hands, brushes, sticks, to mallets and wound up riding with Greidanus.

Warmed up and friendly, the quartet went for gold. Bakunin spun long ribbons of melody effortlessly. After exhibiting athletic stamina during several brutal runs over the past evenings, clearly Greidanus saved the hard stuff for this piece. Wright joined the fun with a bubbling clarinet line. Some of his flashy phrases echoed through tapestries Bakunin wove. Greidanus dogged Bakunin’s marathon pace, finally losing the others in intense duet. Wright and Bakunin mix it up next, clarinet careening. As the performance wound down, West reactivated the triangle and and struck resonant wood blocks. Luckily, they recorded this one.

Eric Barber, tenor and soprano saxophones; Chris Forsyth, electric guitar; David Rothbaum, Bb & contralto clarinets; Rachel Thompson, violin.

Pops from Rothbaum christened this quartet, answered by Thompson plucking high. Barber hit some solid soprano, Playing muted guitar, Forsyth roamed into a flowing line that found companionship with Barber. Producing a sound like a didgereedoo, Rothbaum blew low rumble on contralto clarinet. Thompson complimented his sound with her low scrapes on violin. Forsyth continued his roll, and Barber switched to tenor to finish his.

For their second improvisation, Forsyth excited his strings with a tuning fork. Removing and reinserting his cable created crunch/pop electro sound. Rothbaum blew multiphonics. Barber blew high tenor, then coalesced his multiphonics with Rothbaum. With Forsyth rubbing the back of his guitar neck for noise, Barber honked. As Forsyth scraped the string ends from his machine heads, Barber fluttered, creating hypnotic effects.

Dave Kendall, electronics; Noah Phillips, electric guitar; Jonathan Zorn, double bass.

Zorn played harsh low notes as Kendall produced a deep hum from his synthesizer. Phillips played prepared guitar and buzzed with Kendall. He dragged the strings with a kitchen whisk. While Kendall played shiny space sounds, he danced on his effects boxes.

Brian Eubanks, reeds; Chris Forsyth, electric guitar; Joseph Hammer, tape loop; Rich West, drum set.

Eubanks cued an electronic device, and West tapped the Glockenspiel. Crackles from Forsyth collided with Hammer’s offspeed loops. West contributed uncannily perfect support from his prepared drum set. Pedal altered guitar faded in and out, Forsyth rocking on a pedal. Eubanks focused on high keening shrieks on soprano, penetrating the thick sounding loops. West flashed lightning all over his drum set, while Eubanks absorbs the guitar and tape overload noise and reinterprets it. It ended with Eubanks blowing air at Hammer’s hum and hiss.

Pt 2 opens with West smacking a drum burst, and smearing wrong speed loops. Forsyth let his fingers do the flying over distorted voices talking and singing like wind dreams. Eubanks played small beautiful parts with tape noise and guitar parts.

Karen Elaine Bakunin, viola; Harris Eisenstadt, drum set, percussion; Sara Schoenbeck, bassoon, Kevin Uehlinger, piano.

The final set of the Festival had all the earmarks of an event. Originally slated Eric Sbar called off, replace by Sara Schoenbeck. Schoenbeck missed an earlier scheduled performance when the Santa Barbara Symphony called over the weekend, and without being introduced, she received a warm welcome from the crowd. Bakunin returned, and making his Festival 2004 debut, Harris Eisenstadt handled percussion. From their simultaneous launch to the finish, they argued the need for seat belts at improvised concerts. Schoenbeck, Bakunin, and Uehlinger spontaneously created musical statements, and echoed, answered, finished each other’s thoughts. Eisenstadt’s mobile percussion approach kept him in the conversation. Schoenbeck briefly soloed before Eisenstadt joined on sticks and hands. Eisenstadt’s duet with Bakunin saw him flying at the speed of her imaginings. An electrifying exchange between Schoenbeck and Bakunin had the virtuosos taking turns leading. Uehlinger provided driving dramatic low work, and Eisenstadt’s drum work brought Schoenbeck and Bakunin into the heat of it with sweeps and precision.

For their final excursion, Eisenstadt supported the sketches Uehlinger created. As Eisenstadt gets down with hand and stick, Bakunin released another shower of music ending in long tones. Uehlinger’s abrupt strikes elicit abrupt strikes from Bakunin. As the piece softened into silence, Sara faded in long tones, answered by Bakunin. The ensemble hit a comfortable fluency and faded.

Once again, the Festival existed through generosity, cooperation, and dedicated hard work. If the program left an unanswered question, it was why no Bakunin/Schoenbeck/Stackpole trio performance? But that small quibble aside, having logged two good years, the Line Space Line Festival of Improvised Music threatens to become a sorely needed free music cultural institution.

Visit Line Space Line on the web at linespaceline.org .



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