Celebrating Electronics: Music by John Bischoff w/ James Fei and Tim Perkis
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Submitted by the Event Organizer
John Bischoff is a master composer/performer who explores boundaries and exchanges between analog and digital sound in real-time. The subtle interchange between these two realms is a form of musical alchemy, much in the tradition of the legendary composer/performer David Tudor. Bischoff’s circuit/laptop configurations create musical forms both spontaneously and algorithmically: a computer analyzes improvised analog sounds and creates musical structures based upon pre-conceived algorithms. He aptly describes this process as a “hybrid method that falls between traditional composition (invention ahead of time) and free improvisation (invention in the moment).” The conceptual basis underlying his music is rich; and the musical forms he creates are invariably elegant and coherent. That Bischoff creates his compositions live in performance attest to his artistic mastery. He is without doubt a leading composer/performer in the field of electronic music.
John Bischoff – electronics
Visibility Study (2015)
John Bischoff – electronics
League Trio (2021)
John Bischoff, James Fei, Tim Perkis – electronics
Visibility Study and Bitplicity start with pulse-wave oscillators sounding in audio and sub-audio realms that are animated by performer actions-primarily the momentary shorting of conductive points in each circuit. To accomplish this, the circuits are fabricated with critical trace points brought to the top of the circuit box in the form of brass rails. The rails run parallel to each other where they can be “shorted” with coins wielded by the performer. In some cases the coins are packaged into a variable resistance “sandwich” using anti-static foam as a filler. Compression of the foam varies the pitch of oscillation, an additional human-to-circuit control. (many thanks to Nicolas Collins for his inspiring book, “Handmade Electronic Music”)
The solos share common structures throughout:
– as pulsed tones come to life, they sound at the loudspeakers and often trigger digital sound at the same time
– the pulsed tones are also analyzed by the laptop for pitch content and elapsed time between events
– the pitch and timing of subsequent digital synthesis generated by the laptop is driven by this performance-acquired data-no pre-performance data is employed
– as the laptop generates sound it is open to interruption and re-initiation by ongoing circuit actions
The very ground of each event in this music is a physical interruption-a disturbance in a continuous tone or silence. The usual electronic music preferencing of an acoustic-style envelope-the shaping of an attack followed by subsequent sustain and then release-is replaced by an ever-present potential for either sudden sound or sudden silence. The artifacts accompanying these transitions provide a site for sonic ornamentation-unpredictably complex edges of sound that balance the overly formal interior of electronic tone production.
League Trio grew out of a desire to reanimate some of the group music practices of The League of Automatic Music Composers-a band active 1978-83 which both Bischoff and Perkis played in, and which Fei was interested in investigating. In the trio, symmetrical linkages between individual electronic music systems were established from the start-both “to” and “from” audio pathways wired between each pair of players, as well as data sharing via OSC (Open Sound Control) consisting of broadcast messages from each player to the other two. The messages reflect current musical action within 3 different timing realms: short, medium, and long. As in the earlier League, the musical nature of each player’s instrument is left up to the player and their individual approach to electronic performance. There is no overall “score” or pre-planned sequence-decisions are made in the moment by the composers and reflected in the sound we hear at the loudspeakers. The correlating influence of the information flowing between systems serves to counter-balance this independence of action and contributes to a classic synergy between whole and part.