Skaņu Mežs announces a series of online talks

Riga, Latvia’s Skaņu Mežs festival announces a series of six online talks, devoted to different fields of avant-garde music as well as ways of listening to it.  All of the online talks are available for free, and the first one will happen on March 6: music and sound art theoretician Douglas Kahn will talk about the work of composer Alvin Lucier. This series of talks is co-financed by the State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia.

The link for joining each talk via Zoom will be published a few days in advance both on social media and

Full program of the talk series:

May 6, 12:00 EEST

Douglas Kahn

Radiance Off Unison: On Alvin Lucier’s 90th birthday

„Move a sustained, identical pitch slightly off unison and what was simple becomes complex, a small deflection off course can turn turbulent. This talk is about what happens when moving onto and off unison in the arts and elsewhere, not just sound but also light and other energies. As an art student, on an impulse I sent a kitschy electronic bird Christmas ornament to Alvin Lucier as a gift. Arriving from total stranger, he used it in Bird and Person Dyning (1975), a composition where one listens to listening, and a decade later I became his student. In 2002 I attempted to understand a few of compositions grouped around his statement, “It isn’t a sound idea, it’s a control or energy idea.” With time spent reworking topics in the histories of science and telecommunications, a decade later I finished a book. You may know I am sitting in a room (1969), but what happens when the room is a planet? One lesson learned was that sound is one energy among others, and that different classes of energy, all of them physical and cultural, do work differently. I am wondering now how some of Lucier’s music shimmers and goes beyond shimmering.”

Douglas Kahn is a writer on the history and theory of sound, energy, science and media in the arts and culture, with a concentration on experimental and contemporary arts and music and ecocriticism. His books include Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (1999); Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts (2013); Energies in the Arts (2019); with Larry Austin, Source: Music of the Avant-garde, 1966-1973 (2011); and with Hannah Higgins, Mainframe Experimentalism Early Computing and the Foundations of the Digital Arts, (2012). “What is an Ecopath?” appeared in Sydney Review of Books (2020) and “On vibrations: cosmographs” in Sound Studies (2020). With Pia van Gelder of Australian National University, he is editing The Energies Artists Say. He currently serves as Honorary Professor, Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney; and Professor Emeritus at University of California at Davis and University of New South Wales, Sydney.

May 13, 19:00 EEST 

Francois J. Bonnet (Kassel Jaeger)

Concrete approach: Problematics of my book “The Music To Come”

„The purpose of this talk will be to expose the major concepts of the “musique concrète” approach, to show how such concepts are declined and have evolved in current practices and how, by extending them, they can prove to be decisive for an apprehension of the music that I call “to come” and that reveals itself less as a domain of cultural expression than as an “experiential” force.”

François J. Bonnet is a Franco-Swiss composer, writer and theorist based in Paris. He’s the Director of INA GRM since 2018. He has published several books: The Music To Come (Shelter Press), The Order of Sounds, The Infra-World and After Death (Urbanomic). He also produces radio shows for National Radio France Musique and he’s coeditor of the SPECTRES publication (Shelter Press). His music, often released under the Kassel Jaeger project name, has been presented worldwide. He has been collaborating with artists such as Oren Ambarchi, Giuseppe Ielasi, Stephan Mathieu, Stephen O’Malley, Jim O’Rourke, Akira Rabelais or James Rushford.

Kassel Jaeger’s works are a complex balance between concrète experimentalism, ambient noise, and electroacoustic improvisation. He has released several albums on various labels such as Editions Mego, Shelter Press, Black Truffle, Senufo Editions, Latency… His music has been played in renown venues and festivals all over the world such as Musica (FR), MaerzMusik (DE), Whitney Museum of American Art (US), Super Deluxe (JP), Atonal (DE), Accademia Chigiana (IT), Harvard Museum of Natural History (US), CTM (DE), SFEMF (US), El Nicho (MX), Ultima (NO), Elevate (AT) Madeiradig (PT), Donau Festival (AT).

May 27, 16:00 EEST

Keiko Yamamoto

Cafe OTO as a Body in Flux

Keiko Yamamoto is best known as one of the founders and artistic directors of East London performance space Cafe Oto that she started together with Hamish Dunbar in 2008. Cafe OTO provides a home for creative new music that exists outside of the mainstream with an evening programme of adventurous live music everyday. Cafe OTO programme is known for its boldness creating a meeting platform for upcoming artists together with well established musicians. OTO is supported by a wide range of interesting staff, volunteers and audiences who love the place and their voices are often reflected in its presence.

As an artist, Keiko works with songs, texts, images. She formed O Yama O with Rie Nakajima to explore the rhythms and movement of everyday life through improvisation and folk song, and the duo have formed a close relationship with veteran producer and musician David Cunningham, best known for his work with experimental pop group The Flying Lizards, and violinist Billy Steiger and percussionist Marie Roux, who play in an ensemble version of the group. O YAMA O have performed at numerous venues and festivals across Europe, and released a self-titled debut album on Mana Records in 2018. O YAMA O’s currently working on their second album.

June 10, 16:00 EEST

Jennie Gottschalk

Listening Alone & Together: Attentive Situations in Experimental Music

This is a ripe moment for thinking about how an active listening practice can anchor us in place, in time, and in connection with other listeners. We will look at some of the modes of shared listening that have developed within the field of experimental music. These modes of listening have been explored in the making, presentation, and reception of a work, and they include installations, networked music, parallel performance of open scores, and reflective listening and discussion.

Jennie Gottschalk is a composer and writer based in Boston. She is interested in simple materials and shared experiences. She holds a bachelor’s degree in composition from The Boston Conservatory (2001), and a master’s degree and doctorate from Northwestern University (2008). Her dissertation explores connections between American pragmatist thought and experimental music. She is the author of Experimental Music Since 1970 (Bloomsbury, 2016) and co-author of Being Time: Case Studies in Musical Temporality (Bloomsbury, 2019). Current projects include a score anthology, a bean cookbook, and a series of children’s books about listening.

The final two talks of the series will happen in the fall; their precise dates are yet to be announced:

Joe Morris

Perpetual Frontier: The Properties of Free Music

Joe Morris is a composer/improviser multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, double bass, mandolin, banjo, banjouke electric bass and drums. He is also a recording artist, educator, record producer, concert producer/curator and author. His is considered to be one of the most original and important improvising musicians of our time. Down Beat magazine called him “the preeminent free music guitarist of his generation.” Will Montgomery, writing in The Wire magazine called him “one of the most profound improvisers at work in the U.S.”

In 2012 he published the book Perpetual Frontier: The Properties of Free Music (Riti, 2012). His article Encryption was included in Arcane vol 7 (Tzadik 2014). His article Perpetual Frontier appears on (Pod39) May 2012. He has written numerous liner note articles on his music and for other artists for recordings on the labels Sony, Hat Hut, Aum Fidelity, RogueArt and others. His monthly column Intentional Evolution begins publication in the German magazine Jazz Podium in January 2020. He has presented workshops and master classes in a wide variety of settings throughout North America and Europe, including at Harvard University, Princeton University, Dartmouth College, University of the Arts, Berklee College of Music, University of Calgary, University of Guelph, University of Alberta, and Mannes School of Music. He has taught improvisation and/or guitar on the faculty at Tufts University Experimental College, Southern Connecticut State University and the Longy School of Music at Bard College. He is a lesson faculty member at New School Jazz and Contemporary Music. He has been on the faculty in the Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation Department at New England Conservatory of Music since 2000.

Frances Marie Uitti

The Composer Cellist: an Informal Talk

Frances-Marie Uitti, composer/performer, pioneered a revolutionary dimension to the cello by transforming it for the first time into a polyphonic instrument capable of sustained chordal (two, three, and four-part) and intricate multivoiced writing. Using two bows in one hand, this invention permits contemporaneous cross accents, multiple timbres, contrasting 4-voiced dynamics, simultaneous legato vs articulated playing. György Kurtág, Luigi Nono, Giacinto Scelsi, Jonathan Harvey, Richard Barrett, Horatio Radulescu, Lisa Bielawa are among many who have used this technique in their works dedicated to her.

As a teacher, Frances-Marie Uitti has given lectures and master classes at practically all the major European conservatories (Royal Conservatory in Copenhagen, Royal Conservatorium Den Haag, Sweelinck Conservatory Amsterdam, Royal Conservatory Brussels, Santa Cecilia Roma, Hochschule fur Musik in Koln, Hochschule Basle etc) and many music schools in the USA (see added list). In 1997 she was named a Regents Professor at the University of California San Diego and again in 2007 at UC Berkeley. In 1998 she shared teaching with Anner Bijlsma and Ralph Kirschbaum at the International Cello Festival in Aarhus. In 1999 she was invited to Mills College to give lectures and masterclasses as well as teach contemporary techniques. For many summers, she has taught at the Dartington International Chamber music Festival as well as being professor of cello at Darmstadt International Summer Festival. In 2002-2003 she was invited as Guest Professor at Oberlin Conservatory teaching classical cello repertory and chamber music.

Ms Uitti has also given masterclasses at the Juilliard School of Music, Yale University, Northwestern University in 2003. She was invited for a Fromm Foundation residency at Harvard University in the season 2003/04.
She is often invited to sit on the juries for the International Symposium of Composers Meeting (ISCM Festival), Gaudeamus Competition for Composers, Gaudeamus Performers Competition, ICMC London.

This series of talks is co-financed by the State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia.

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