Robert van Heumen Composer Improvisor Laptop-Instrumentalist Sound-Designer
Software Developer
play (music player)

Back to Recent posts | Next post »

STEIM visit to SF & NYC

In april 2005 I found myself in San Francisco, where I hooked up with Michel Waisvisz and Joel Ryan, who had just visited the CHI (Computer Human Interface) conference in Portland / Oregon, where Michel was asked to give a Keynote Speech.
I had organized some concerts and presentations in SF, which I was surprised to find was not very hard to arrange. There were all without decent fee (I was told I was rather late - all payed slots were full - don't know if this was just an excuse though), but they were gigs after all. We were going to play some of these concerts with Laetitia Sonami and Roddy Schrock, both Bay area residents and STEIM collaborators of course.

It started with me doing a STEIM / LiSa presentation at The LAB, an nice artist space in the Misson district. It was very nice walking there from Market Street, to see how the area changes from one street to another: while Market Street is kind of regular, not very special, the Mission district is very lively, very coloured, and very hectic.
The presentation started much later than scheduled, because of a not so thrilling audience size. The space was kinda big, a typical gallery space, empty, high ceiling with some pillars, and cold... the tech guy showed up very late, and was not so practical (searching for 15 minutes for some cable), so we ended up putting together the PA ourselves. 30 minutes after the scheduled demo time there were actually about 10 people present, interested to hear what I had to tell. I must admit that I was a little uncomfortable doing this presentation with Michel, Laetitia and Joel 'setting up' (and secretly listening in...)
After the presentation we did a concert, starting with Pamela Z doing her solo set, using some kind of electrode-sensors in a very text-based performance. Followed by Roddy and me in a duo set, which was actually the first time we played together. After us Joel remixed Evin Parker recordings (very nice), and Laetitia and Michel finished it off (Michel ending actually with sleeping on the floor under his table - busy week?).

The day after we had a great meal and even greater company at Laetitia's house in Oakland. Very nice meeting all these people, enjoying good food and wine. The ride back Roddy and I got offered was a little uncomfortable as the guy had drunk so much that I myself would have collapsed... but let's just think he was used to it...

The second event was at Mills College. We were welcomed very warmly by John Bischoff who gave me a tour of the 100+ years-old building. It was good to see that the place was a practical place, like steim. Not very fancy, but they actually had a nice collection of analog synths setup ready to use. And the concert hall was beautiful, high ceiling nicely decorated. A decent audience showed up (more than the usual numbers, according to some). A lot of wellknown faces: Chris Brown, James McCarthy, Bob Ostertag, Naut Humon, Ikue Mori, Otomo Yoshihide. As the space was a really big concert hall and we couldn't get the monitors to work, it was very difficult playing I found.

After that the events were less grand, but no less fun. I went to a local improv venue in Oakland, organized by Damon Smith and Scott Looney. The group musicians was rather big, with 2 Swedish players, 6 locals and me. The place was more or less the living space / studio of Scott, but actually enough space for the musicians and the 10 people in the audience. We did some tutti sets, and some duo's / trio's quartets. Informal, friendly, good contact with the Swedes. There seems to be a good electro-acoustic community in Stockholm. In general I had the feeling that the group of musicians was not very much used playing with electronic musicians.

The last gig on my last day was a duo gig with Roddy, where actually Dorsey Dunn and a friend showed up to join us. Which was good, because the place (rxgallery - in a weird part of town: fancy shops around the corner and homeless people on the steps) had barely done anything to promote the demo and concert, so there was 1 guy I did my presentation for, and 4 people (not including the musicians) to hear our music. Roddy and me both did a solo thing (I actually performed a live version of Solitude, the (composed) piece I'm working on at the moment), and Dorsey and his friend did a duo. It was fun, but the place was weird... weirder actually to read a couple of days ago that DJ Krush is playing there soon! It must have been the tax-filing-deadline...

During our stay in SF we also visited the new Recombinant Lab Compounds of Naut Humon / Asphodel Records in SOMA (SF). The space was not finished yet, but seemed very promising. 3 or 4 studios with multi channel systems, of which the biggest was going to have a 16.1 surround setup. In the same building are also a couple of spaces for lodging and a great green terras. Hopefully we are going to be able to spend some time there in the future :)

One of the days off I spend with a friend of Laetitia, Donald Swearingen. Composer, musician, hardware designer, and more. He designs and builds sensor interfaces, that are build with the same dedication and care that Jorgen uses. Even if you don't have any need for them, you want to have them just to look at them from time to time. I think we should find a way to get him over to STEIM.

In general I enjoyed my stay in SF very much. I found the city to be relaxed, and very light in character, with its coloured wooden houses, beautiful views over the bay and the sea, and lots of green parks for a nice stroll on a sunny afternoon. And most afternoons were in fact sunny!

On my way back to Amsterdam I stopped by for two days in New York City, for a presentation at Harvestworks. It goes without saying that I loved to be in NYC again. Even when flying in from SF it felt like coming home....
The night I arrived I went to check out the new John Zorn place The Stone ('every dollar goes to the musician - no drinks - only music') to see a performance by Ikue Mori solo (nice, but very abstract), in duo with Sylvie Courvoisier on prepared piano (great combination of sounds and very exciting interaction) and in a trio with Mark Feldman (that did not add anything after having heard the duo). I was happy to be at this concert, as Ikue was much more at home in this setting than she was at the public rehearsal we witnessed at Recombinant Lab Compounds in SF, where she was blown away by the analog force of Otomo Yoshihide (great player - not so great combination I think).

On saturday I spend some time in the Whitney Museum of American Art, and saw a show by Tim Hawkinson. Great work! Very low-tech installations, that make sound but mainly as a part of them being very mechanical.

The presentation at Harvestworks turned out to be really nice, with about 14 people attending, and most of them stayed the 2 hours I spend mostly talking. So much to tell, so little time... Carol Parkinson of Harvestworks was very enthousiastic about it, and seemed interested in having a more extensive LiSa/junXion workshop later this year. I wouldn't mind ;))