“An Evening of Fine Noise and Light” brought together my most recent work with aspects of my
history of self-idiomatic improvisation. The performance consisted of four main acts grouped into two segments with an intermission in between. The first set started with a new multimedia piece by rise set twilight, my duo with Linda Aubry Bullock, followed immediately by a solo contrabass improvisation by me; the second half of the concert began with a duo improvisation I performed with Pauline Oliveros, which lead into a collaborative improvisation with Oliveros and The BSC, a large ensemble from Massachusetts with which I have performed since 2000.
The performance by rise set twilight utilized a small collection of 1970s AM radios. The radios were performed live by Linda and me, eschewing any recognizable radio stations in favor of various flavors of broadband noise. Multiple AM radios, placed in proximity to each other, tend to cause high-pitched, changing feedback tones; this feedback was utilized as the radios were moved around on the table. The sounds produced live using the radios were sent through a stereo microphone to eight surrounding speakers, with a resonating low-pass filter on each output channel. Additional sounds, recorded in various field locations, were performed by Linda, including pre-recorded radio noise from a “radio drive” I had undertaken a few days before, in which I drove around town with the car radio and a portable radio tuned to pick up AM interference from the carʼs electrical system.
EMPAC Studio 1 was well suited for my intentions with the radios; almost all AM radio transmissions from outside were blocked by the building, so almost the entire AM band was various timbres and intensities of noise. While the appearances of the radios (see photos in Appendix) were nostalgic for the 70s styling, the emphasis was on their use as playable noise instruments, and mediators of the ambient electrical signals in the air. To have used the radios to play standard radio broadcasts would have placed an emphasis on their traditional roles. We chose to avoid radio stations because this work was not about broadcast culture, or the nostalgia of AM radio; f there was any nostalgia, or engagement with cultural memory, it was about the radios themselves as playable objects. We emphasized their toolness, and their own instrumentalizing behavior: while the performer plays the radio, the radio instrumentalizes the ambient buzz of electrical fields by turning them into sound.