My New Piano or How to Become a Hermit

Kawai K5

Recently my wife, dog, and cat moved into a new house and downsized going from over 1400 square feet to 725. In this process I sold off and gave away a number of space hungry instruments including a chopped Hammond, one of my three Rhodes electric pianos, and my 1916 Wesley Raudenbusch & Sons farmhouse, upright-grand piano (see photo below). Sadly I had been neglecting acoustic piano in favor of Rhodes, synths, and an excellent Steinway Model D plugin from UVI. You can see this in the photo because I had allowed my wife to cover the top with the cat’s food and water, a cat bed, and decorations. Yikes! Continue reading

Musical Synthesis and Sonic Environments

Architectural Drawing of the SRT from Tonkin Liu

I am quite honored to have an article about my recent work published by the American Composers Forum (ACF). The article was written by ACF member Timothy Hansen and is available here. The focus of the piece is on my duets with the Singing Ringing Tree. From the article:

… “I started these duets close to home in Northeast Minneapolis,” explains Keston. “My neighborhood is crisscrossed with railways, rail bridges, and rail yards. I found that I could coax music from everyday ambience by emphasizing rhythms and textures with a portable synthesizer.” Once he had exhausted the possibilities of his local neighborhood he began to search for, as he describes it, “more exotic locations.” This was how, in 2014, with the help of a grant from the Jerome Fund for New Music, Keston found himself seated at the foot of the Singing Ringing Tree, ready to create a series of new duets with his strange, lonely collaborator.

Please read the short piece at ComposersForum.org. During the interview for the articles I was asked some interesting questions that didn’t make it into the the final draft. I’ll share some of those answers in upcoming posts.

Duet No.7 for Synthesizer and The Singing Ringing Tree

This is the last of seven videos produced documenting my five day recording session and performance series at the Singing Ringing Tree (SRT) in Burnley, UK. There’s a lot more content in the can, but for now this is enough to represent the project. My part of the collaboration with the SRT was simultaneously recorded on site using a Novation Bass Station II connected to a USB battery. I also ran the Bass Station II through a Moog Minifooger Delay.

My last day on site was also the windiest and it turned out that the best wind reduction happened to be a very thin cotton t-shirt wrapped around the binaural head as you can see in the photo below. The strong winds, although useful, made the process quite difficult, and the binaural effect seemed a little less prominent with any sort of wind reduction applied. However, I was able to get couple of good takes by carefully placing the dummy head next to the SRT and opposite the wind. Please checkout the playlist of all six duets (#2 was omitted) on my YouTube channel.

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Duet No.6 for Synthesizer and The Singing Ringing Tree

This is the sixth of seven videos produced so far documenting my five day recording session and performance series at the Singing Ringing Tree (SRT) in Burnley, UK. I performed accompaniment for the SRT binaural recordings simultaneously using a Novation Bass Station II connected to a USB battery. I also ran the Bass Station II through a Moog Minifooger Delay.

This piece was yet another captured during my third day on site. I chose to include this one to emphasize the potential for serendipity in compositions like these. About forty-five seconds into the piece you will notice the sound of a small, prop-driven, perhaps single engine plane flying overhead. Ironically the drone I was making was slowly modulating the pitch like an air-raid siren. Clearly hearing the aircraft in my headphones led me to slowly and deliberately morph the drone into a sound mimicking its engine.

NOTE: This is a binaural recording combined with a monophonic synthesizer track. Although it sounds great through speakers, circumaural headphones must be used to experience the binaural effect.

Duet No.5 for Synthesizer and The Singing Ringing Tree

This is the fifth of about seven videos produced so far documenting my five day recording session and performance series at the Singing Ringing Tree (SRT) in Burnley, UK. I performed accompaniment for the SRT binaural recordings simultaneously using a Novation Bass Station II connected to a USB battery. I also ran the Bass Station II through a Moog Minifooger Delay.

NOTE: This is a binaural recording combined with a monophonic synthesizer track. Although it sounds great through speakers, circumaural headphones must be used to experience the binaural effect. Continue reading