385. Electro-Acoustic Music Class

- Electro-Acoustic Music Studio, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, us@

- Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - 4:00PM-5:30PM

- Ben Harris, a violinist & composer who I'd met thru working with him in HiTEC (see numerous entries from 2009-2010), was teaching this class & invited me to be a guest lecturer. A highly edited snippet of some of Ben's music can be checked out as part of the final HiTE Club (#4) event documentary on YouTube here:


Ben & I had discussed a little of my own history with creating my own electro-acoustic devices in the 1980s & 1990s & that stimulated me, in particular, to drag out the Speaker Switcher Suitcase that I made in 1992. This was a device I'd made as a somewhat portable system for enabling a primitive (pseudo-)16-channel surround. The basic idea was to have 16 mono (or 8 stereo) inputs w/ each input having its own small amp/volume & on/off switch & to have 16 speaker-outs w/ their own on/off switches & a potentiometer for 'panning' which functions as a volume control.

A few seconds of my working on this can be witnessed in Cheryl Fair's documentary about Baltimore's Garment District entitled "Sweatshop" here:


After I'd done the most meticulous electronics work I'd ever tried, soldering an enormous amount of extremely tiny connections using very thin wire, I discovered that only 15 of the input channels worked & that only 7 of the outputs worked - along with other inadequacies. Enormously frustrated by this, I put the device aside & only used it once in a presentation at the Lascaux Gallery in Pittsburgh in 1997 & then retired it.

Ben's interest prompted me to drag it out from its storage niche, along with speakers, & to pull together the relevant 3 CD players, 3 tape players, Gnome synthesizer, & mini-disc player along with sound f/x CDs, tapes of my Triple-S Variety Show electro-acoustic sequences, & my LatinAmeriMIX!can 'Magic Square' mini-disc (especially designed for live shuffle-mode purposes) & to play around with maximizing its limited spatial abilities.

For the lecture, the small (v)audience of students were given articles I'd written about my "Portable booed usic Busking Unit" & my "Terrence Dougherty" in advance, & I started off w/ an explanation w/ images of the Busking Unit followed by PXL footage of it in use in an outdoors public space in London followed by footage of it in 'performance' for the seals in the North Sea at Tentsmuir in Scotland, followed by footage of it in use at the Murraygate Mall in Dundee in Scotland.

Since Ben's class was also centered on the generation of visuals thru similar means as the soudn related to the visuals (& vice-versa), I screened my recently revised version of my1987 "Brain Waves Goodbye":


Then I probably demonstrated the Speaker Switcher Suitcase, which had taken at least an hour to set up. This was probably the highlight for me insofar as it was only the 2nd 'performance' using the thing & I had a pretty good time exploring the funkiness of its unreliable volumes, etc.. I started by moving a looped sound effect from the (v)audience left to the mid-left to the left-center to the center-front to the center-back to the right-center to the right & then explored multiple other switching variations while playing one sound f/x disc straight thru while selecting other f/x to be looped on the other 2 players while playing Triple-S trombone loops on tape & bringing up more complex sequences & interpolating a Gnome section (alas, the ribbon controller no longer works, amongst other things, so the flexibility was limited).

At some point I demonstrated the playing of samples made using the Gnome from back in the day when it was fully operational. These samples can be effected, multi-tracked, & looped live in various ways unavailable using the original small synthesizer.

From there, I screened a few minutes of "Last Man on Earth" that featured the Terrence Dougherty. an edit of a presentation of that at Naropa University can be witnessed here:


The students seemed to most enjoy a presentation of the Total Mobile Home Microcinema Suitcase that I made in 1995. I put the suitcase on the laps of the students & had it rigged so that when the lid opened a 12 minute loop of Triple-S Variety Show sequence excerpts would play from a hiddent tape player in the suitcase that would in turn be broadcast by radio mic to a receiver that sent the signal into a Pitch-to-MIDI Converter that would then trigger K1m wave table synthesis electronics that I'd developed from 1994 to 1997 & that I'd used in some of the sequences excerpted for the tape loop. As such, the students could remotely control, in a very limited way, the playing of these sounds by opening & closing the suitcase lid.

For a finalé of sorts I jumped 15 years ahead to present "Mark Dixon's Selectric Piano", a piece I made in 2010:



A movie about my homemade electronics entitled "Kit 'n' Caboodle (My Homemade Electronics)" has since been made by me using footage from this class as my framing device. It's broken into 5 parts on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel:

"Kit 'n' Caboodle (My Homemade Electronics) - pt 1: Function Generator": http://youtu.be/JM4yOAO27hQ

"Kit 'n' Caboodle (My Homemade Electronics) - pt 2: booed usic busking unit": http://youtu.be/YG2sZzSPNgQ

"Kit 'n' Caboodle (My Homemade Electronics) - pt 3: The Terrence Dougherty": http://youtu.be/7eH94cgjo4k

"Kit 'n' Caboodle (My Homemade Electronics) - pt 4: Speaker Switcher Suitcase": http://youtu.be/sXdMjUdEMsk

"Kit 'n' Caboodle (My Homemade Electronics) - pt 5: Total Mobile Home Microcinema Suitcase": http://youtu.be/3-6MvvN6zSI

- recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE


386. May Day Parade

- the streets of Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, us@

- May 1, 2011 - afternoon

- Well.. Such an event barely constitutes a 'performance' but I include it anyway because I love participating in parades & want to mention it somewhere. On May 1, 2001, a sizeable group of mostly young anarchists organized an unpermitted parade thru downtown Pittsburgh that was heavily suppressed by the police who, as is so often the case, were the real 'rioters' of the situation. Then, on May Day of 2010, another parade was organized in Polish Hill by a variety of mostly young people (not necessarily anarchists) in a neighborhood where many of us live & there were no police present & the parade was joyful & peaceful. Same went for this year. There was a well-rehearsed marching band, belly dancers, a bicycle-powered 'float', someone in a coffee-pot costume who actually dispensed coffee, & many other costumed celebrants & the like. I was wearing my turkey-feather outfit & was giving away balloons provided by my neighbor Mark.

- August, 2011 notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE


387. Reading w/ Amy Catanzano

- Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Café, Boulder, us@

- Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - early evening

- Amy was moving from Boulder to Pittsburgh so she & I gave a farewell reading at the Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe in Boulder. Thanks go to Brian Buckley & Kate Hunter for both founding Innisfree. Brian introduced us & then Amy & I alternated reading - presenting 6 short sets, 3 per reader, total. I, tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, began by reversing reader/audience roles by having the audience read my texts instead of reading them myself. This was a re-enactment of my 1st reading, given shortly after the release of my 1st bk, in September of 1977 at the Apathy Project in Baltimore. Amy followed by reading 6 texts from her unpublished manuscript, "Quantum Poetics: The Word and Its Earthwork". I, as my 2nd set (pt 3 here), read the entirety of my bk "Telepathy Receptivity Training" as it's published in my later quasi-compilation "footnotes". TRT consists entirely of texts thought of by me while on the verge of waking. The majority of these texts were jotted down upon awakening (some w/ graphics) between 1975 & 1991 when TRT was 1st published. A few more texts were added between 1991 & 2005 when "footnotes" was compiled. Amy's 2nd set consisted of readings from her bk "iEpiphany": "replicators.","guidestar.", "selfsame.", "towers.", "properties.", "battlezone.", "worldliness.", "metropolis.", "fractal.", "neuro.", "steadfast.", "mosaics.", & "true.". I, as my final set (pt 5 here), read the majority of my chapbk "vii".

"vii" consists of a variety of approaches to Conceptual Poetics, Flarf, & beyond that were carefully created esp to be a chapbk published by Kavyayantra (Poetry Machine) @ Naropa. Amy, as her final set (pt 6 here), read "The Barbelith Poems" & "Flowers of Space" from her book "Multiversal". Present in the (v)audience were such folks as poet Jack Collom, artist Paula Gillen, & writer Bradley Sands.

- August, 2011 notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE


388. Stray Birds

- Marsh Room, National Aviary, Pittsburgh, us@

- Sunday, June 26, 2011 - 11:00AM-11:30AM

- Michael Pestel organized a mnth long series of workshops & performances entitled "KIDBOP!" & "BEBOP!" in cooperation w/ the National Aviary, the Mattress Factory, & the Children's Museum. The basic idea was to bring Butoh dancer Taketeru Kudo from Tokyo, vocalist Caterina De Re from Australia by way of Seattle, movement artist Adelka Polak from Connecticut, dancer McLean Denny from Connecticut en route to Japan, musician Ben Opie from Pittsburgh, & (m)usician tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE (myself) from Pittsburgh all together in one place to produce bird-related events.

KIDBOP was a series of workshops for kids under 15 that started in the last 3rd of June at the Mattress Factory & the Aviary & that culminated in a performance at the Rose Garden at the Aviary on the morning of Saturday, July 2, 2011. BEBOP was a series of workshops for people 15 & older at the Aviary that culminated in 2 performances at the Mattress Factory: one on Saturday, July 9, 2011, 2PM; & one on Friday, July 15, 2011, 8:15PM.

This particular performance was the 1st of 5 performances of the project & just involved Michael, Ben, Kudo, & myself (as well as the birds of course!). Michael (flutes, recorders, bird-calls, etc) & Ben (reeds) played a slow duet while Kudo entered clad in a loin-cloth & w/ streaks of make-up on his skin. Kudo's movements were delicate & complex - he's apparently beeen described as bird-like - hence his presence in this project.

I was sitting w/ a table in front of me w/ electronics on it (DX-27S keyboard, ASR-X Pro sampler, K1m wave-table synthesizer, mixer/sampler, etc) & a table to my right w/ percussion on it (5 differently sized frog rasps, an octoblock, ratchet, corrugated tube, crow-call, siren whistle, etc) wearing my dyed turkey-feather outfit that I'd originally made for the "Harps & Angles" performances that Michael & I did together in 2003 & 2004 - & wch I've used in other contexts since. I started playing around 10 minutes into Kudo's arrival. I had intended to use the samples that I'd used for Michael Pestel's The Birds of Rio Negro ( Saturday, April 23, 2005) for the 1st half of a projected hour-long performance & the samples I'd used for the Braxton Plays Pittsburgh Plays Braxton (Marsh Room, National Aviary, Pittsburgh, us@ - Sunday, June 1, 2008) for the 2nd half but the performance only lasted a half hour so I never made it to the 2nd set.These samples consist of 2 octaves of excerpts from the music of Hector Villa-Lobos & 3 octaves of Brasilian bird sounds.

At Michael's request, Kudo was the visual center of attention, so my playing & probably everyone else's was calculated somewhat to reinforce his actions. He entered slowly, jumped up onto a railing, lay on the floor & acted as if struggling to arise, climbed a dead tree, walked along a ledge, & tip-toed across my percussion table with great precision.

A short vaudeo of this by Rene Rosensteel can be seen here:


- July/August, 2011 notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE


389. BEBOP (Big Experimental Bird Orchestra of Pittsburgh)

- Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, us@

- Saturday, July 9, 2011 - 2:00PM-3:00PM

- Michael Pestel & Taketeru Kudo had given a sunrise performance in the Mattress factory garden & beyond to start the day off. Then there was this afternoon event. The MF garden has the modified ruins of the basement of a house. It's surrounded by 3 walls with the MF main building on the 4th side. Thru the middle of it is a trough with running water that leads to a sculpted opening in a wall that one can peer thru. On both sides of the trough are recessed areas of varying depths. On the side furthest away from the main building, there's a wooden chair inside a circle of plants that almost completely obscure the chair. A few feet away from that is a descending stairwell at the bottom of which is a slightly wet area with some debris. Above this, it's mostly open except for one fragment of ceiling that can be walked across. If one were to descend the steps & to continue on, one would have to make a U-turn to the left & thru a doorway into a sunken ampitheater.

I was wearing sky camouflage with the front covered with square metal pins with cloud pictures on them. I set up an extensive percussion array at the bottom of the steps that included my skin-head bass drum with a dragon drawn on one of the heads, my Total Mobile Home Suitcase with a loop of Triple-S Variety Show electronics of mine, a vibra-slap, a ratchet, a Flex-a-Tone, train whistle, siren whistle, chain, an orange squeeze toy in the shape of a carrot with a face, a squueze toy in the shape of a human foot, a plastic toy in the shape of a highly stylized bee that makes a buzzing sound when struck, & many other things.

Given that I was below ground level I didn't see much of what happened in this 1st section. Movement artist Adelka Polak was seated in the plant-surrounded chair with her legs sticking out from the foliage. The (v)audience was seated in a tented area on an even concrete floor with their backs at a diagonal to the main MF building. To their left was Michael Pestel playing flute & recorder & various other small winds such as bird calls. Across from Michael was Ben Opie playing reeds. Furthest away from them, in the right corner, was Jim Storch with a more portable percussion set-up than included a Bodhran with an ad for Murphy's Irish Stout on it. Caterina De Re was vocalizing.

I think the event basically started with gangly tall dancer Mclean Denny started in the furthest corner of the amphitheater from the audience & slowly made his way around the perimeter & elsewhere. I was invisible to the audience but I occasionally threw an object out of my pit in their direction. The 1st thing I threw hit the arch over my head & bounced back at me. Ben Opie told me that the 1st thing I succeeded in throwing out of the pit, the anthropomorhpized carrot squeeze toy landed with astonishing accidental accuracy in the narrow water trough.

Mclean wended his way to the stairs & descended them heading into the ampitheater pit. Michael announced the 'end' of the performance, to applause, & then lead the (v)audience into the Mattress factory room adjacent to this garden where Butoh dancer Taketeru Kudo began his performance. He was dressed in a more urban manner than he had been previously. Ben Opie took position in the back audience right corner. Michael was closer to the audience to the right. Jim Storch was in the back left corner & Caterina was opposite Michael. Kudo was the center of attention. The audience were seated facing this in conventional positioning.

I began my participation in this 2nd half by ascending out of the pit, the sky rising from the underworld, rolling my bass drum across the garden area toward the new performance area & leaving it outside the open glass doors that opened from this area to the garden. Kudo began dancing while the 4 musicians in rectangular array played. I gradually brought most of my percussion from the pit to the new area - mostly staying out of the center peformance area - choosing instead to circle around the (v)audience on its backside & flanks. I'd do things like play the chime tree behind the (v)audience & play a tuning fork & spin it near an audience member's ears. I skidded small cymbals across the performance floor into the center of attention & walked a marching machine sound effect into the area too. This latter device consists of wooden dowels suspended by string within a frame so that when it's walked across a surface, such as this floor, it sounds like marching men. Michael stuck his foot thru it & played it that way - breaking the string but producing a nice effect.

I took my Total Mobile Home Suitcase & opened the lid to activate the playing of the hidden tape loop & the sound of cascading electronics emerged. It was exactly the type of sound I was hoping for. Kudo's Butoh dancing was strongly evocative of human struggle.


390. Stray Birds Sunset Full Moon

- Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, us@

- Friday, July 15, 2011 - 8:15PM-9:30PM

- Alas, I'm writing this description almost exactly a year after this event so I don't remember it as well as I'd like. This was the last of the month-long KIDBOP & BEBOP series that Michael Pestel had organized at the National Aviary & the Mattress Factory & that largely centered around Butoh dancer Taketeru Kudo he'd brought from Japan.

The main building of the Mattress Factory is a large formerly industrial space the main entrance to which is arrived at by passing a garden area where the ruins of a former building have been imaginatively repurposed by an artist unknown to me. The 1st gallery reached has a wall of sliding window doors on one side that look out onto the garden. The night began with dancer Mclean Denny coming out from behind a curtain in this entrance gallery. Projected onto the walls & perhaps the ceiling of the space were multiple videos made by Caterina De Re for this purpose. The videos, as I recall, were mostly nature details such as running water & plants - probably with shots of Kudo as well. Mclean exaggerated his height even further by attaching a branch to his back that extended a few feet higher. His motions were slow & considered. Michael played flutes & small instruments, Ben Opie reeds (& electronics?), Jim Storch probably percussion, & Caterina sang. They eventually led the (v)audience outside as the sun was disappearing over the horizon.

Kudo was to take over as the main dancer here - with the hope being that the full moon would be prominent. Alas, various things probably prevented this latter - such as buildings & clouds. The garden space has the cellar & steps remains from a building. Separating these remains from a more flat area is a narrow channel with water running through it. Walls on 3 sides enclose the space. Ground level is perhaps 8 feet higher above one of these walls. At this higher level, Matt was processing the running water sounds through computer effects which were then heard (although not by me) coming from speakers - possibly placed near the former building's basement steps. A tent roof was placed over the concrete floor seating area & the action took place in the garden.

The (m)usicians were placed much as we had for the July 9, 2011 event with the exception of myself. I was to the right of the audience facing the garden. I was wearing my suit covered with brightly colored turkey feathers (taken from feather dusters). I was playing a keyboard controller to activate bird samples that I'd made. I also had percussion (such as a thunder sheet), a Small Nondo (an instrument made by Neil Feather that consists of a sheet of bowed metal held in this bowed position by piano wire strung to create 2 strings across the Nondo's concavity - generally played by rolling a metal rod across the strings & hitting the strings & the bar with a drum stick) to my left, & the SonLuminous to the left of that. To my, & the audience's, right, & in the corner of the garden least visible to the audience, Jim Storch was playing. Ben was past him, more visible. Michael was closest to the audience to their left.

Kudo appeared from somewhere, probably the top of a containing wall, as he took over from Mclean as the main dancer. He & Caterina prowled the garden. By prearrangement, Kudo came to the SonLuminous (a sound sculpture consisting of metal rods with optical fibers interwoven with them) & butted his head into its rods to activate a clanging. As he did this, I switched on the optical fiber lighting, which had previosuly been off, for dramatic effect. Kudo eventually held a torch above his head with the flames fearfully close to branches & the tent roof. However, true to Kudo's highly accurate form, nothing caught fire.

- July, 2012 notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE


391. Premier of "Reductionism (#6)" + "Interpretive Duncing" + "Artifacts"

(preceded by "Volunteers Collective Revisited" + a piece by Roger Dannenberg)

- Garfield Artworks, Pittsburgh, us@

- Monday, July 25, 2011 - 8:15PM-10:00PM

- This Uncert was both the result of over a decade of work & a clear indication that even more work was probably called for. From 1997 to 1998 I had organized a series of site specific improvisational sessions that I'd called "A Year of Sundays". These sessions had been made particularly exciting by contributions from Michael Johnsen & Sharyn Lee Frederick as well as by the Anonymous Family Reunion. Michael Pestel had also been a primary mover & shaker involved. I'd made a 74 minute tape summary of the year - the 2nd side of which was an intricate computer edit. In 2000, my collaborator etta cetera & I were in Australia staying with my composer/performer friend Warren Burt. Warren helped me play this computer edit through a pitch-to-MIDI converter he had into a notation program. The result was the 1st of what I called a "Reductionism" - a monophonic rendering of a highly non-monophonic sonic event.

I eventually got my own pitch-to-MIDI converters. Over the years, inspired by this process, & using the score & the compuer edit to drive various types of synthesized sounds & samples, including ones from the original generative recordings, I produced a considerably less reductionist "Interpretive Duncing" piece. The piece evolved into something where a rather difficult monophonic score was to be used to play along with the "Interpretive Duncing" recording.

Having been fortunate enough to've worked with some accomplished musicians in my thought experiment orchestra, HiTEC, who might be interested in attempting to play this, I pulled together some of them: Ben Opie (alto sax), Roger Dannenberg (trumpet), Ben Harris (violin), Kerrith Livengood (alto flute), & Kenny Haney (bass clarinet) & we tried rehearsing the piece from the written score. Since the score is 73 pages long with about 30 seconds spent on each page there're alotof page-turns to distract from just trying to follow the notes.

After it became obvious that reading from paper was too difficult, I spent a month very laboriously creating a projected score for them to try to follow. A side-product of some of this process was the production of some 'noise' artifacts that I then incorporated into the piece. The musicians rehearsed 2 more times with the new projected version of the score & were then (just barely) ready to try it out publicly.


Given that this was mid-summer & that the venue was without air-conditioning, the atmosphere was almost overwhelmingly stuffy & claustrophobic. I started with my "Volunteers Collective Revisited" performance which includes some footage from the site specific (or CircumSubstantial, as I prefer) sessions that the "Reductionisms" grew (or shrank) out of. The musicians had been invited to play as part of this along with me (I was playing electronics) but everyone but Ben Harris forgot. This was followed by a performance of Roger's that should have involved projections but didn't because of technical mishaps.

By the time we got to the main event, people were already fried by the heat & humidity. I had forgotten to bring the remote for the DVD player, there were problems with the 2 video projectors, etc.. Because I'd forgotten the remote, I couldn't advance the DVD of the score to the appropriate section & completely forgot about doing so ANYWAY. After 5 or 10 minutes of playing the wrong version I realized what was awry & stopped the performance. THEN, we had to repatch things & go through a plethora of inconveniences - maddening both for the performers & for the players. Finally, we got it working well enough. The musicians persevered with almost superhuman strength. Roger had even rewritten the score to transpose it for trumpet & he & Kenny read off of that with a screen metronome to help them keep apace. At one point, one of the musicians stepped on one of the devices on the overcrowded stage & cut the prerecorded "Interpretive Duncing" + "Artifacts" sound off. It took awhile to figure out what was wrong & correct that mid-performance.

All in all, this was quite difficult to pull off & 'needs' to be redone under better climate control & projection conditions. A movie combining footage from the rehearsals & of the public presentation can be found here.

- July, 2012 notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE


392. The Great Ecstasy of OT-Level 3

- Darker Scratcher Amateur Surgery Show, Pittsburgh, us@

- Wednesday, November 30, 2011

- I was recruited for this by Rich Pell. He was planning to present a faux speed learning for advancing to the highest level of Scientology by asking an applicant (me) questions while I was to be E-Metered. This was to be bookended between 2 short Scientology videos. Rich was wearing a white lab coat. After Rich's intro he asked if there were any Scientologists in the audience who were "level 3 or higher" & I 'volunteered'. Rich & I had briefly discussed what was to happen beforehand but I was mostly on my own. My answers to the questions were sometimes cryptic - as if I had an insider's knowledge of code language. Eventually I feigned achieving a higher (or more ridiculous) state of consciousness that involved greater intensity of facial expression & a bit of foaming at the mouth. I tried to not ham it up too much but to, at the same time, be convincingly 'out-of-my-mind'. I felt some satisfaction when a member of the audience who'd been raised in a Southern USA holy roller church asked me if I'd been raised in the same environment because she thought that my actions were just like the "speaking in tongues" that she'd witnessed in church.

- December, 2011 notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE



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