Homstal project

Homstal is an ongoing project that integrates saxophone improvisation, composition, electronica, and video. Each of these short pieces exists in some sort of live version involving real-time triggering and parameter mapping of audio and video events, as a fixed audio recording, and some sort of fixed video documentation. More recently, I have begun to create installation versions of Homstal pieces, as I find that traditional music performance venues are often ill-suited to multimedia work, both technical and aesthetically.

Creating good video documentation represents an additional challenge, as the experience of a performance with live projections is quite different from watching the same video on a screen. Most of the video clips posted below feature video that is part of the performance or installation, but I am working towards a hybrid of source material and performance footage where appropriate.

Homstal is a an olde English word that I came across in 2012; it means “home” or “homestead”. I like the ring of the word, and since much of the work on this project has been accomplished at my studio in rural Ontario, the name seems apt. Below are some audio and video clips of Homstal tunes, all works in progress.

National Day (2014)

The source video for this piece was recorded at a parade in Oslo celebrating Norwegian National Day, May 17, 2014. The amplitude of the saxophone is mapped to the brightness of the video, such that when I play the video appears. The Max patch also follows the pitches I play and generates a MIDI-based chordal accompaniment that varies with each pitch. The piece was put together during a stay at the Residency Eina Danz about an hour north of Oslo; the video clip is from the performance I gave at the end of the residency. Many thanks to Ella Fiskum and Sudesh Adhana for all of their support with this project.

Carolina (2013)

Carolina is a sort of melancholy piece built around the idea of timbre trills on the saxophone: multiple alternate fingerings for different notes on the saxophone yield subtle variations in pitch and timbre. This is matched by the primitive tuning of an old upright piano and in the constant variations of colour in the video. The video footage was shot near Greensboro, North Carolina in March 2013 and processed in Max MSP/Jitter. In the live version of Carolina, changes in the video shots and processing are controlled with a MIDI pedal, as is the triggering of audio sequences. The complete video is about seven and half minutes long; posted here is an excerpt of about two minutes duration.

DOT1000 (2013)

DOT1000 is a multimedia performance piece with structured saxophone improvisation triggering audio and video clips and live processing. While the title seems to suggest some sort of computer or synthesizer model, the video was shot in the 1000 block of Dot St. in WIndsor, Ontario. I play saxophone and keyboards in this recording, while Aaron Eichler plays the snare drum. This video is a mix of the images projected behind the performer(s) in a live performance.

Overtro (2013)

Overtro is a Norwegian word meaning “superstition”. The basic structural idea for this improvisatory piece is a unifying descending melodic/harmonic motive; a stepwise ascending bass line with a repeating three-chord progression kicks in part way through. The video accompaniment is made of a sequence of clips featuring scenes from Poznan and Lodz, recorded in Poland in the summer of 2013. For the video I used an app called 8mm to give a sort of 60s home movie feel to the scenes. On this track I play Rhodes piano and saxophone; Martin Schiller plays electric bass.

This is an important message for Julie Wade (2014-16)

For the last ten years I have been receiving phone messages from a telemarketer looking for someone named Julie Wade; I finally started saving the messages and they now form the basis of the audio track for this piece. This is an important message for Julie Wade exists as both an audiovisual installation and as a multimedia performance. In the installation version, a Max/MSP algorithm randomly accesses audio bits of the phone messages and disperses them among eight audio channels; each time a number is spoken, a random video clip featuring a number is triggered. There are additional background materials created from the processed sound of the dial tone as well as video taken from the window of a train going through a long tunnel at high speed. The installation is also open to interaction with a live musician; in the documentation above the saxophonist adds multiphonic sounds and breathy noises to the audio mix and in turn triggers an extra layer of video clips of an imaginary Julie Wade, waiting for her messages.

Eyeball (2013)

Eyeball is a saxophone improvisation that takes images from a webcam and processes them in real time using Max MSP/Jitter software. At the same time, the saxophone audio is processed in Ableton Live; a MIDI pedal controller allows for the audio and video to be changed together in real time. This video is a collage of video bits from the webcam and from additional cameras (recorded by Nic de Cosson and Anthony Giglio), all synchronized to the same unedited saxophone improv. The live version of this piece would normally run four or five minutes.

Dublin Corner Variations (2013)

Dublin Corner Variations is a short work based on a single shot of a busy intersection in Dublin, Ireland. The video is presented in six variations, each lasting less than one minute. Each variation features a different set of video processing techniques created using Max MSP/Jitter software; people, traffic and buildings fade in and out and are superimposed in multiple layers. Each variation is carefully related to a backing track of electroacoustic music created in Ableton Live.