Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Bhutan Music Foundation



We have launched The Bhutan Music Foundation, a non profit dedicated to promoting indigenous music in Bhutan and introducing western string tradition in Thimphu, the capitol. More information about the Bhutan Music Foundation will follow in the new website: http://www.bhutanmusicfoundation.org.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Stringless Cello update

With technology advancing at quantum speeds, I am discovering the importance of designing systems and objects with change in mind. For example, I asked Eric Jensen to design my electric cello in replaceable parts knowing that the electronics would leap ahead in just a few years- so we ended up with an instrument in which everything can be dismantled and the electronics stripped out and updated. With the stringless cello, I am discovering that replacement and upgrades are needed in ever shorter time frames. Lex van den Broek, who is masterminding the electronics and wiring is on top of the game with continual updates in hardware and function. In combination with Johan van Kreij, composer who is a wizard at MaxMSP, they make up a dream team in getting this project on stage. I am so excited to work with them and to be nearing the finish line!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

FabLab

Fablab is the best kept secret in Amsterdam! Located in de Waag at the Nieuwe Markt and run by musician, designer, inventor Alex Schaub, it is filled with a huge array of tools and machines for designing and creating anything from fashion articles to musical instruments. It has milling machines, a laser cutter, embroidery and state of the art sewing machines, and expert help by an array of young devotees. There is a live video link with MIT where one can sign up for weekly lessons from the sister lab.
My own stringless cello was embodied there and Alex gave me extensive help with Illustrator when I was in the re-design phase. It is in the finishing stages now and I'll do some extensive blogging about its features once we premiere it in public. The CNMAT version is described in my blog from February 19, 2009.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Scelsi/Uitti Resonators update


Scelsi/Uitti Resonators update

It has recently come to my attention that a Swiss "modification" of my resonator originally requested and created for G Scelsi, is in reality an almost exact copy of my work. The shape is practically identical to the original, the materials used are the same and the basic design features of the butterfly-winged free suspension between two strings with a swing mounting is copied.

Upon testing and comparing the copy to the original, we found that the former didn't resonate consistently on the up and down bows, with the up bow producing almost double the volume. The original produces an equal resonance at all dynamics, bow speeds, and bow placements.
Upon further examination it was confirmed that the size of the copy was 30% larger and heavier than the original, and that there were other features that might have caused volume discrepancies. Perhaps lateral rocking caused by the ring mounting on the tail is a factor.
(see comparison photo above)

The original resonators are the result of many months spent in experimentation and prototyping. Giacinto and I finally agreed to use this model for its appearance, sound quality, and volume. He subsequently handed it out to his interpreters for use in concert.
For further historical information on the original resonator, please see interview in the
Isabella Scelsi Foundation Magazine
.
http://uitti.blogspot.com/2009_06_01_archive.html


-just scroll down to the middle of the page-

The copies, produced in Switzerland without my knowledge or permission, are based on my original resonator which G. Scelsi gave to another musician to use in a performance.

To avoid confusion, recent and ongoing production of the original Scelsi/Uitti resonators are signed on the underside of the tail. Each is tested on the instrument for consistent sound and functionality.

I would be pleased to work with the above person or any expert craftsman to reproduce the authentic version of this resonator, provided it sounds the way Scelsi wished and is credited properly.

photo:
The above photo shows the original Scelsi/Uitti resonator at top, and the heavier, wider copy underneath with the ring mounting on tail.



Sunday, February 7, 2010

13AL


aluminum cello



Pfretschner aluminum cello 1920's.
 
Jasha Heifetz and Efram Zimbalist played aluminum violins. Here is an interesting article about JH from 1942, recounting how he sold it for scrap metal in the war effort. (ends up this was patriotic theater as he later got it back).
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19420211&id=je4ZAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6iIEAAAAIBAJ&pg=2547,4528270

As a child I was forced to play on a steel cello from the elementary school orchestra. Presumably the idea was that these instruments were indestructible. Its innards rattled and jangled in its ugly painted body and it shrieked and it howled and groaned. 
And I hated it. 
Not long afterwards I got a nice cello and forgot all about the steel one.
 I finished my studies and started to play concerts. Soon I found myself with a growing interest in contemporary music and improvisation with its expansion of sonoral colors and I began to perform on a posse of instruments. The 6 string Jensen electric cello, the Morin Choor, and other retuned instruments.
And with that, what began as a tiny needling recollection of that old metallic color grew into an obsession. I began to long for that razor-edged timbre especially in the higher harmonics. 
 The search began.
I wrote to the big commercial instrument chain, Lyon and Healy, thinking they might still produce such instruments, and would sell me one. No answer. I scanned the internet, writing to all big commercial instrument makers that supply the schools. Still no answer. 
Some years later I was browsing through one of my favorite shops, Palm Guitars,  a tiny bazaar crammed to the ceiling with instruments of all kinds from all epochs. The owner, Soren, is an expert on practically everything unimaginable and I'd spend hours picking through the heaps of amazing oddities. Once I found an original Stroh cello! (more on that later).  
When I asked about finding a metal cello for me he answered, "Oh I actually had one a few months ago. An actor came in and bought it for a theater piece; he cut a hole in the front to make room for a potted plant." 
!
I told some friends about my search and asked several to keep an eye out for me. Not long afterwards my sister Jane, got back to me with the news that there was an aluminum cello on Ebay. I didn't sleep for days... We put in a high bid and got it. I later went to meet it at JFK and brought it back to Holland to restore. Actually not much needed to be done- just fitting a sound post, new pegs and some touch ups. 
The sound is amazing with a big voice, deep bass, fast action, and those sharp edged highs. 
The mid range sounds a bit like a bowed sax, and made a good mix with Evan Parker.

photos from filming 192 speaker array Leiden, L Nakamura


dvd 13AL
F M Uitti and Yota Morimoto    

graphics Han Bennink 

available
www.jdkproductions.com


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Scelsi 4th Quartet problem with cello tuning up

Nerdy stuff: I've coached the Scelsi 4th quartet a few times and each time we've experienced problems with tuning the cello A string up to C. The string snaps under the high tension. I recently discovered that using a 1 mm gut string solves the breakage problem. These can be found where viola da gamba strings are sold. Thanks to Guust Francois, Amsterdam luthier par excellence, for helping out!

Friday, June 5, 2009

preserving the Scelsi Archives... first round

When working with Giacinto Scelsi I saw that the original improvisation tapes of were in danger of physical disintegration due to age, heat and humidity. After he died, the Fondazione Isabella Scelsi asked me to assist in the first round of preservation to digital format. Why me? I lived in his sister's apartment on the first floor (Giacinto in his famous apartment on the 4th floor) while rehearsing and assisting him to gather, organize, and edit his manuscripts for original publication with Schirmer. And as someone who'd listened to many of the ondiola tapes with Giacinto,  the infant Foundation thought I should also be the one to do the first backup from analogue to digital format. It is now being retransferred by professional archivists and will be made available for listening. 
The article in the Foundation magazine on my preliminary work appears here in Italian. I'll search for an English translation.
http://www.scelsi.it/larivista/pdf/RivistaScelsi_13_completa.pdf