African rhythms and musical sonograms

By Lawrence A. Johnson

The experimental music scene in Miami is fairly circumscribed, compared to larger music centers like New York, Chicago or San Francisco. Yet, amazingly for a contentious enclave like Miami, there’s less infighting and more joint planning and cooperation, which helps makes up for the lack of scale.

Two events this past weekend featured very different takes on electronic music, giving some idea of the interesting nuggets to be uncovered within Miami’s burgeoning contemporary music scene.

Lukas Ligeti appeared Saturday evening at the Harold Golen Gallery in Miami’s Wynwood district (above), as part of the 12 Nights Festival, a monthly concert series organized by Slovakian composer-performer Juraj Kojs.

As with most electronic composers, Ligeti “performed” largely by manipulating pre-recorded music from his Apple laptop. Unlike, most, Ligeti—son of the celebrated composer Gyorgy Ligeti—also utilized the Marimba Lumina, which he wryly referred to as “the traditional instrument of Silicon Valley.”

Developed by synthesizer pioneer Don Buchla, the contraption is a MIDI controller with built-in synthesizer, but resembles a plugged-in version of the traditional marimba, with color-coded mallets used to control and trigger the live and taped music.

Most of Ligeti’s program came from his new CD, Afrikan Machinery (Tzadik). The music manages to be complex yet accessible, with a welter of pile-driving textures and competing syncopations, imbued with the pronounced influence of African rhythms. The opener, Great Circle’s Tune I, is characteristic, building from a laid-back opening to a riot of electronic pulses and colliding rhythms.

At times there was a visual disconnect with Ligeti’s wielding of the color-coded mallets mostly controlling the sounds rather than actually playing—and somtimes when he appeared to be performing, his own percussion line was inaudible due to the mix. Yet in the final selection, Entering: Perceiving Masks; Exiting: Perceiving Faces, Ligeti finally cut loose with a breakout solo, showing that the drummer-composer is a worthy musician as well. Not everyone’s electronic cup of tea, but Ligeti’s music is consistently intriguing and often delightful.

On Sunday afternoon, Jason Freeman unveiled and discussed his work Sound Microscope at the Light Box Theater in downtown Miami, as a benefit for the South Florida Composers’ Alliance to raise money for the Subtropics Festival, to be held Feb. 26-March 15.

The Miami-born composer, now teaching at Georgia Technical University in Atlanta, said he was inspired by Google Maps to create this online interactive work. Freeman was intrigued by the ability to zoom in on a particular street on Google, and, rather than exploring geographical spaces, Sound Microsope is designed to allow auditors to zero in and “discover the hidden detail” of an individual sound, its timbre especially, which is then illustrated with sonograms.

Log on and check out Freeman’s Sound Microscope at the Interdisciplinary Sound Arts Workshop (iSaw) website:

[Photo by Ginga Asakura]

Posted in concert review, Performances

One Response to “African rhythms and musical sonograms”

  1. Posted Oct 03, 2008 at 1:32 pm by Sean

    Wish I’d seen Ligeti. Great review. And BTW the Sound Microscope is potentially addictive.

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Tue Sep 30, 2008
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