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katiskelton on 01/19/2012 at 02:00PM

Ted Hearne's Gaudeamus-Award-winning "Katrina Ballads" and R WE WHO R WE

On January 25, ISSUE Project Room will inaugurate its new space at 110 Livingston with Gaudeamus Muziekweek, a four-day festival celebrating groundbreaking and challenging new music by emerging composers from around the world. Working in partnership with Gaudeamus, ISSUE Project Room will present, for the first time in the United States, a series of performances highlighting some of the extraordinary talent that has emerged from the festival.

January 26 is dedicated to electronic music, featuring Dutch musician Wouter Snoei, an authority on 192-channel "wave-field" synthesis techniques. New York-based electronic artist Matthew Ostrowski will also perform, as well as the duo R WE WHO R WE, a collaboration between New York composer-performers Philip White & Ted Hearne.

Ted Hearne was awarded the Gaudeamus International Composers Award in 2009 for his Katrina Ballads, a 65-minute dramatic song cycle adapted entirely from primary-source sound bites from the newsweek following Hurricane Katrina. Hearne chops and manipulates the utterances of politicians, celebrities, survivors and relief workers as broadcast by 24-hour disaster coverage and reworks them into an oratorio for 11 instrumentalists and 5 singers.  Take a listen to the multistylistic "Brownie, You're Doing a Heck of a Job" (culled, obviously, from Bush's famous declaration to former FEMA director Michael Brown five days after the hurricane ripped through New Orleans).

R WHO WE R WE takes a similar course of lyrical and sonic reformulation of popular media sources but reapplies the critique to pop music. Hearne and collaborator Philip White deconstruct songs by Michael Jackson, Ke$ha, Eminem and others and reorder them into schizophrenic lyrical poems. Come see for yourself (and check out our brand-new space!) on 1/26! You can get tickets here.

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andrewcsmith on 10/07/2010 at 05:05PM

MV Carbon & Philip White: concrete noise

Photo by Lori Baily

There’s this feeling from some noise performances of a constant aural assault. It’s like being attacked, and the first impulse is to flee. This music—a duo set from MV Carbon (who completes her residency at ISSUE on Saturday evening) & Philip White, who opened for Merzbow in September—does the opposite. And by that I don’t mean that it’s all cuddles, but that instead of pushing you away it grips you. From that initial clutch it never lets go; there are a series of plateaus, but no full release.

Their sound is characterized by Carbon’s constant and unstable distorted drone, with the constant repetitive energy from White’s board, and how these noises begin to form themselves into repeated shapes. About halfway through this set (their last of the evening) MV Carbon grabs a tape deck and manually turns it back a few spins, letting it roll, then rewinding it again. This repeated action—just the noise of the rolling tape and some indistinguishable sounds on it—starts to develop a certain rhythm and melody after a few repetitions. It’s through this repeated close examination that Carbon creates music out of noises: repeating the chaotic sounds until they finally lose that amorphous quality we think of as “abstract” and become concrete.

If you haven't done so already, you must check out the video highlighting MV Carbon's residency after the jump.

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andrewcsmith on 08/02/2010 at 02:00PM

the way the rocks hold the current (II)

Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal

"Knob-twiddling" isn't quite the word for the force that Philip White puts on his handmade circuits when he starts a set. It's more of a lunge, with an aggressive twist of some knob (encased inside a tupperware container), which then feeds through a few more circuits, and eventually will come out of one of the fifteen speakers hanging over the audience. It alternates between stability—a constant drone, or short repeated pattern—and instability, where sounds continually and unpredictably change.

Philip White's piece, called "the way the rocks hold the current (II)," kicked off the month-long Floating Points festival at ISSUE Project Room, where each performer uses the hanging fifteen-channel speaker system. The piece had something in common with other types of repetition-based music, like Aphex Twin or Morton Feldman or the minuet, where each repetition is a bed on which other sounds might shift and also a short waypoint, building expectations of something that's about to change or stop entirely. These repetitions are a ground, like a time-based theme and variations, upon which White seems to collect his thoughts and spin other patterns until the original ones disappear. It's this barely contained polyphony that keeps the balance between sound and chaos.

White seems to borrow much from free improvisation (exemplified by his duo with Suzanne Thorpe as thenumber46) but there's something unpredictable about White's use of homemade electronics. Those who improvise on acoustic instruments have a certain connectivity and familiarity with their instruments where the instrument is often described as an extension of the performer's body. Yet, instead of a clear connection between the performer and the instrument, White's electronics pull the creation of the sound into another dimension, less connected to physicality. Given this, the sounds that begin his piece—alternately growls, screams, and static—wouldn't be out of place coming from a saxophone or maybe a bassoon. But the sounds are only part of it; this disconnection transforms him into a listener alongside us.

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