A co-production of Zeitgeist and 113 Composers Collective, our 2022 Early Music Festival explores the powerful contributions of our musical pioneers with a celebration of composer Alvin Lucier. As part of the festival, Zeitgeist and 113 invited electronic sound artists to create realizations of Lucier's work Gentle Fire, written for synthesizer operators/sound creators.
Gentle Fire involves taking the sound of something you find unpleasant (breaking windows, sinking ships, jackhammers, snoring) and using an electronic process/synthesizer to change those sounds into a sound you find pleasant or soothing (Ocean waves, droning bees, birds). This process can take as long as you like, and you can use any process you wish. Lucier’s only instructions are that the two sounds be clearly heard, and the process be slow, gradual, and clearly heard.
We are honored to have received realizations of Gentle Fire created by sound artists from our local area and well beyond. We hope you enjoy the variety and creativity of their work.
If you are an electronic sound artist and would like to participate, sign up here.
"My Gentle Fire realization comprises the transformation of a subway passing by into a swarm of imaginary insects eating something woody collectively. I created the realization using granular synthesis on SuperCollider, coupled with simple editing (EQ, volume, reverb, duplication, and panning) on REAPER."
Jay Afrisando is an award-winning multimedia artist, composer, researcher, and educator. Employing multisensory and antidisciplinary approaches, he shares awareness of aural diversity, acoustic ecology, modernity, cultural identity, and worldly wonders often overlooked. He uses approaches, including video, spatial audio, fixed media, improvisation, and various collaborative methods, to provide critical experience and disseminate knowledge. His works have been presented at Sound Scene at Smithsonian Hirshhorn National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Walker Art Center’s Virtual Cinema, and ARGOS Projector: The Faraway Nearby, among others. He has been awarded the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship 2021-22 and the Minnesota Emerging Composer Award 2016.
"This 14:29 realization begins with a recording of a friend’s 1968 Dodge pickup truck with glasspacks and 2-inch tailpipes. The end consists of a recording of the natural sounds (mostly insects) at twilight on the same friend’s cattle ranch in eastern North Dakota. In between, the recordings are run through a series of audio effects that are manipulated as they play. At first, stereo delay is added to the Dodge recording, to which is added, in order and in series, stereo granular delay, stereo plate reverb, and mono stochastic delay. At this point the original recording is unrecognizable and can be faded out and replaced by the recording of natural sounds without drawing attention to the change. From here, each effect is removed in reverse order until all that remains is the recording of natural sounds. This realization is the second of two takes. The software system built for this realization may be performed live. Thanks to Thomas Anderson, who started and gunned his 1968 Dodge pickup truck for me while I recorded it."
Michael Wittgraf is an electronic music composer whose recent work explores live manipulation of feedback, interactive improvisation, and time as data. His music has been performed in North America, Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia, and appears on the Ravello, Eroica, New Ariel, and SEAMUS labels. He has awards, commissions, and recognition from many organizations Mike is a multi-instrumentalist, having performed with the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra on bassoon, in a number of rock-and-roll bands on keyboards, saxophone, and electric bass, and as a solo and collaborative performer on computer. He holds the title of Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor at the University of North Dakota, where his teaching specialties are music technology, composition, theory, and bassoon.
"I transformed the sound of a gas can to that of a serene landscape with bird calls. I used an algorithm called convolution that combines the sounds in a complex way to stretch them and emphasize what they have in common"
Brian Heller is an artist and technician who works with sound using a unique blend of skills. Over 20 years, he has built a practice integrating composition, audio engineering, and education. This diverse range of experience has taken him everywhere– recording in a grain silo, collaborating at a Bamboo festival, composing in an abandoned Manhattan storefront, writing for Electronic Musician magazine, and presenting on the history sound technology. His positions at the Banff Centre, the Tanglewood Music Center, and the Aspen Music Festival have allowed him the privilege of recording concerts featuring some of the great classical performing artists of our time. Brian graduated from The Hartt School. He is currently the director of the Sound Arts program at Minneapolis Community & Technical College, where he's been on the faculty since 1999.
PAUL SCHWARZKOPF / MANUAL CONTROLLER
"In an attempt to stay within the era that the score was written (1971), all sound samples used were sourced from the BBC Sound Effects Library (c. 1970 – 1982). The original audio was then heavily manipulated using extreme electronic effects such as pitch-shifting, bit-crushing, and glitch processing. Once the sounds were thoroughly dismantled, they were crossfaded into each other using a combination of different mixing techniques such as reverberation and filtering."
Manual Controller is the electronic music project of Paul Schwarzkopf. Utilizing both modern and vintage instruments, Manual Controller creates forward-thinking soundscapes with one foot planted firmly in the past. Manual Controller’s music can be experienced live throughout the Twin Cities at unique intersections of pedestrian weirdness.
"The 'unpleasant' sound in my iteration is my microwave reminding me that something I have heated up has been sitting for who-knows-how-long. The recorded loop itself is three beeps long, repeating in a nagging, metronomic style. My process of transformation involved experimentation to find a destination texture first, followed by the process of actually getting there via fading and automation. I ended up using 15 digital plugins to create my transformed audio, which finalizes as a rainforest/jungle soundscape. Because 15 plugins were used, it made logical sense that the loop recording should be divided into relatable groupings to symbolize progress, so they are grouped in 10 loop chunks; 5 loops that create and establish transformation, and 5 loops that allow for the listener to settle themselves within the textural and timbral changes."
Denver Nuckolls is a performer, composer, audio engineer, and educator based out of the Boston, MA area. He strives to create humanistic connections and transformative personal and communal experiences through his music, which is both electronically and acoustically oriented. Extramusical sources including painting and literature as well as his every day experiences serve as primary influences, resulting in a pensive viewpoint and an innate draw to the unfamiliar and intangible.
"I used sounds of glaciers cracking and melting and busy city freeway traffic. I then transformed these sounds into crashing waves and loon calls via extensive filtering and time stretching."
Charlie Gannon is a senior at the University of Minnesota studying classical saxophone performance with Dr. Preston Duncan. He began his studies with Dr. Duncan during his sophomore year of high school. He has performed as a soloist with ensembles including the Rochester Symphony and the Minnetonka Civic Orchestra. He also maintains an active gigging career in Minneapolis, working with local theater groups and bands. Additionally, he has won multiple competitions including the Schubert Club and Thursday Musical scholarship competitions. He was also named a featured artist in MPR’s Minnesota Varsity competition, earning the opportunity to record at MPR’s studios in Saint Paul, MN, and has co-hosted MPR’s weekly show Friday Favorites with host Steve Staruch. In addition to his academic studies and performance career, Charlie maintains an active and growing studio of saxophone students. He has a passion for working with students of all ages and strives to inspire a lifelong love of music within his students.
"The ugliest thought and sound imaginable triggering vibrations morphing through electronic drips, birds, didgeridoos, water streaming, rain falling and cleansing into a beautiful drone of hope. Gentle Fire was created with the ugly sound sample, with that signal running exclusively through a Make Noise 0Coast easel and performed live in my Monostery Studio. "
Christopher Scully-Thurston is a sound sculptor, installation artist, performer and composer living in Raleigh, NC, USA. He is a recent United Arts grant winner. As a Duke University Artist in Residence in 2021-23 with the team of Austin F Powers and Jennifer Scully-Thurston, they created SineWaves in the Triangle for the Agora Gallery and are currently designing, a full building art-creation covering the Rubenstein Arts Center at Duke University to be called Synthetic/Natural.
Using his long-time alias HyMettus Woods and/or as XSTSound, he is featured on the compilation Isolation and Rejection v3 and Rental Yields both released by Front and Follow Manchester UK; A Chattering of Runes Music based on Petroglyphs released by an eEl recordings; Dark Ambient 2 released by Sounds for the Soul. His release for the compilation remembering science fiction author Philip K Dick "Dreams Out of Joint '' on Machina Ad Noctem, Mexico City. The XSTSound music-concrete radio show No Conflick was broadcast worldwide as part of Radiophrenia from the Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow, Scotland.
Onyx Music reviewed "The experimental HyMettus Woods, bleeps, fades in and out of static in “A Scanner Darkly“, trying to find the rapidly fluctuating channel but constantly on the knife’s edge until the fuzz clears momentarily, rapidly gaining veracity." Last year HyMettus Woods released three albums: Soundtracks; Bits & Bobs; and Ambs & Weights; including tracks from daDark Outside broadcasts in the UK.
Christopher also creates for dance on film and choreographers, collaborating closely with his wife Jennifer Scully-Thurston's Rogue Dancer Productions and film festival.