While I had been working with Hal on the Girls on Fire archive project and putting together some new pieces/songs, I was especially looking forward to performing live with other sound artists. When Hal emailed a bunch of us out of town Electronic Cottage members with an invitation to perform at the next Apartment Music shows as part of his 61st birthday celebration, I jumped at the chance. I am a big fan of the Apartment Music series and have very much enjoyed the last two, Apartment Music 30 and AM31.
For me, the Apartment Music shows continue the legacy in Western music, art and intellectual activity of the salon gatherings in a patron, supporter or fellow artist’s home that began in the 18th Century and continues on to this day. The Hal McGee-organized Apartment Music shows are scheduled during weekend afternoons in his living room in Gainesville, FL.
The space allows for the beautiful Florida sunshine to stream through and for the space to be open to deep listening, openness and engagement.
I remember reading an interview with Diamanda Galás and how she mentioned that she wanted to cry when she heard tapes of her live shows in the California punk clubs of the late ‘70’s because the breathing room and silence in her pieces were gone as the audiences wouldn’t stop talking during her performances and she had to scream over them non-stop.
The Apartment Music shows let that breathing room and space back in. Like with many of Allan Kaprow’s happenings and in the true punk spirit, the performers and the audience are one and the same. We are surrounded by Hal’s “Merzbau in Gainesville” walls adorned by his cool splatter paintings, received postal art, posters for Eraserhead, Twin Peaks and Burroughs: The Movie. And then there are the shelves upon shelves of cassette tapes from the golden era of the art cassette music making; a truly amazing, priceless archive and library. All of this lends an almost spiritual feeling to the room. It is we, who perform now, who are carrying forth the Word and lifting the spirit with sound; be it called electronic music, noise or spontaneous improvised music. All part of the One Big Note.
Like the Happenings in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, there is a script or conceptual framework of sorts for the shows/events that Hal refers to as “stipulations”. These reasonable and logical guidelines help to ensure good feeling, respect and the best possible realization of the performances.
Keep equipment set-ups minimal, 10 minute sets and no high volume levels that would disturb next door neighbors. No drugs or alcohol. (The old straight edge punk in me really appreciated this stipulation.) Some participants like to joke about these rules but we all respect and understand that they are necessary part of the success and the continued future of these shows.
There are lots of delicious snacks and Hal’s excellent coffee.
Everyone is friendly and generous. In addition to sharing equipment cables to fellow performers when necessary, everyone brought self-made gifts for all. I came home with a load of wonderful zines, drawings, CDs and tapes as well as a Florida Noise sticker that I promptly put up on the wall in my office.
Aimee Naworal wrote a cool article about her art & literature haul at AM33
Another feature of the performances, especially during the set up times, is what I call (effect) Pedal Porn. During Fiver's Stereo/Jay Peele’s set up for Apartment Music 32, another fellow performer, Shelby Radcliffe directed my attention to Jay’s Moog Moogerfooger. I got so caught up in admiring it, I started touching it while Jay was trying to set up. He graciously accepted my apology. During Penny Grune-Fae’s set up for Apartment 33, I noticed that she was using a Caline Crazy Cacti overdrive unit. Penny says that she likes it. I have heard blues guitar players use that effects pedal/box so it is interesting that prepared guitar players do as well. Many of us use cassette players or digital dictaphones as sound sources as well as toys, household hardware and other found objects. It is like a multi-dimensional pop art assemblage.
Apartment Music 32
Saturday’s Apartment Music 32 big roster kicks off with Unfade, a duo comprised of Rachel Kinbar and Jonas Van den Bossche. Mic’d found objects, cassette recorders and voice filtered along with effected guitar. Weather and traffic sounds give way to taped voices and guitar crunch waves. Jonas applies a giant nail to the guitar grinding down on the strings with it. Not quite nine inches but certainly long enough to do some damage to your skull, thank you very much. Rachel plays a mic’d balloon and intones “We shed our skins, we become ourselves.” I agree.
photos of Unfade by Jen Sandwich
Most of us perform under various monikers. Today Trevor L. is performing as Lumen K. Deep layers sedimentary sounds and amplified volcanic burblings in the background as Lumen powerfully sings in a gospelized voice of a true story involving his parents when they were young and encountered a Zodiac Killer type entity and lived to tell their kids about it later. Very chilling.
Jay Peele/Fiver's Stereo continues the pulses—this time they are the sounds of breath and heartbeats with keyboards and effects like the Moogerfooger Analog Delay.
The pulse is put on pause for the screening of two of my videos
from the mid-‘80’s.
And then onto Jiblit Dupree’s (Danny McGuire) set of dark humor and confessional garage punk with a vintage Silvertone guitar and Epiphone amp. There had been rumors of a Dusty Twang reunion but alas, they remained rumors. Jiblit took requests and played a bitchin’ version of Black Flag’s arrangement of “Louie, Louie.” His guitar solo put Greg Ginn to shame.
Later on that day, he and I, inspired by Hal’s cover of the George Jones classic, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, jammed on acoustic and toy guitars, relaxed and sang our hearts out before taking a wonderful, keepsake FTW photo together.
And speaking of photos, Jen Sandwich was in attendance at Apartment 32, translating the frequencies and performances into trippy digital photography. Here is a link to Jen's Flickr album consisting of 53 photos from Apartment Music 32.
Following Jiblit, Shelby Radcliffe, introduces her set about the healing and meditative properties of what some call noise. John Cage would have appreciated this. Her set ably does invokes a relaxed, inward focused state of mind with a number of folks closing their eyes and gently bopping their heads to her synth and effects waves.
The next performer, Ironing (Andrew Chadwick) turns the beat around with mad scratching skills. He plays records on top of records at all kinds of crazy speeds and looped phrases and beats. He even plays with a portable turntable on top of his head. The best use of vinyl that I’ve seen in a long time.
photos of Ironing by Jen Sandwich
The next performer, solid, affable, The Glyph (Aaron Abrams), followed with a Danelectro Free Speech talkbox and Game Boy type handheld game consoles. Distorted, abstracted 8-bit melodies and the Glyph’s facial expressions made for a fun time.
photos of The Glyph by Sandwich
Then Girls on Fire did our first performance since 1983. Needless to say I was very nervous but everyone was supportive and the set was well received.
Girls On Fire performance photographed by Jen Sandwich
To close out Apartment Music 32, the mighty Canned Ham (A.J. Herring, Hal and Mark McGee) gave us the sounds of great organic clatter with toy piano, melodica, talking drum, washboard, pink two string toy guitar and declamations like “We’re so representational.” A great ending to a great afternoon.
Canned Ham photos by Sandwich
Apartment Music 33
The next day, we got one of those famous Florida afternoon showers and a different vibe at the Apartment Music 33. Anchored and floating in space. Kind of psychedelic.
Dylan Houser begins the show with Sony ICD-PX 470 recorders, synth and Behringer Ultra Metal pedals. Words and phrases arc off into heavy sound waves. The synth riff sounds like the march to the ocean for a primordial return. Talented multi-instrumentalist, Dylan can create beautiful, awesome music with anything he touches.
Penny Grune-Fae creates waves of infinity. Prepared guitar, toys and vibrators as sounds triggers on the guitar strings. She uses the pickup on her guitar to amplify the sounds emanating from a small cassette. Her piece is incandescence in sound. She brought homemade cake made by her sister and chocolate “bark” from the health food store where she works. Her mother is kind enough to include paper bowls and napkins along with the cake. Penny quotes her mother as saying “I love your noise friends.” I think she means it!
The day before at AM 32, I felt like I performed the Girls on Fire set like Mick Jagger presenting to the board of directors the fiscal year audited financial statements with prankster party sounds effect bombs going off. Today, I’m seated, relaxed and am channeling the Dada muses. I get through my entire post-Coltrane/Residents’ version of My Favorite Things.
DJ Hollow Life (Joe Billingsley) follows with Filtered beats and Furby sound triggers. I have memories of news stories during the Furby craze that they were banned in some CIA and military bases/locations because of a recording circuit board in the toy.
Up next is the garrulous Aimee and Adam Naworal of Tomokie’s Cup. Adam and Aimee don Mexican wrestler masks for their performance. The drone of the Adam’s electric bagpipe and the reverberated percussive intonations of the wooden sound sculpture made from door-stops and other hardware (assembled by Penny) that Aimee brings forth make for a nicely textured and chilled out set.
Elsie Shiro changes up the vibe with manipulated tapes, miked drum lid and reverb laden music boxes. Repeated phases like I’m right here” and “Oh no” are slowed down and repeated with screeching rewind. Repetition and memory. Some memories are not necessarily good. Innocence lost. Very intense.
Apartment Music 33 ends with a live in-person real time audio assemblage by Hal McGee. Random playbacks on the ICD-PX 470 digital recorders, Korg Monotron Delay and mixing/affects. GOF snippets from AM 32 back in the mix. Hal’s beautiful and thought-provoking poetic cut-ups. Philosophical questions that would stump Bertrand Russell. Do you believe in noise? Do you belong to silence? And wise advice to keep the chaos in the noise where it belongs. Then he quotes fellow ECer Don Campau, “Folk Music is whatever the folks are playing.” Apartment Music 32 and 33 are living proof. Right on.
After high school and a year in the DC noise band, Psychodrama, I moved to SF in 1982.