Solo Electroacoustic Piano at Jazz Central Studios


I feel excited and privileged to be playing a concert of original piano compositions on November 23, 2016 at Jazz Central Studios in Minneapolis. The compositions include acoustic piano pieces (unaltered by processing or electronics) and a number of electroacoustic piano pieces that will involve manipulating the signal from the piano in real-time. For example I’ll be using an analog delay to create pulsing washes of sound from the piano. There will also be examples of sampling and looping the piano and then manipulating the loops through more processing.

Although ACB readers will be more familiar with my electronic work, acoustic piano is the instrument that has stayed with me since childhood. I even had a weekly jazz piano gig that lasted eleven years! This upcoming solo piano performance will be my first in over a decade and it will be very different for me because I’ll be playing my own compositions instead of a the jazz standards I used to play.

Jazz Central Studios has a really great sounding grand piano in house that I’ll be playing during the show. I have performed at the venue a number of times recently thanks to friend, bassist, and collaborator, Casey O’Brien who is one of the current artistic directors for the non-profit organization. Here’s some more information about JCS:

Jazz Central Studios (JCS) is a tax exempt nonprofit organization committed to strengthening the Twin Cities jazz community by offering a live performance/educational environment that nurtures artistic growth. Our space consists of 1800 square feet which seats up to 50 people. It is complete with grand piano, house drum set PA, and lights.

In 2010, local jazz musicians Mac Santiago and Tanner Taylor established Jazz Central Studios as a rehearsal and recording space for Twin Cities jazz musicians. We encourage jazz patrons and musicians of all levels to become a part of Jazz Central Studios. Whether you want to develop your skills and career as a performing musician or you want to meet other jazz enthusiasts and support the local scene, there is a place for you here.

The music on November 23, 2016 will start at 8:30pm. The suggested donation is $10 for general admission and $5 for students. I hope you’ll join me! Here’s an excerpt from a recording of me (piano, electronics), Cody McKinney (bass, voice, electronics), and Graham O’Brien (drums, electronics) made at JCS by Diego Ramallo. In the recording I’m using a sampler to live-loop piano layers and then run things through delays and other processing.

Duet for Synthesizers and Mobile Conductor (2013)

Duet for Synthesizers and Mobile Conductor is a piece composed and performed by John Keston in collaboration with David T Steinman who also performs in the piece as the mobile conductor. Steinman creates a real-time audiovisual score that is broadcast into the performance space from a remote location. This score consists of textural, atonal, and arrhythmic “sound features” produced with artifacts from Steinman’s apartment. The imagery and amplified sound become content within the music as it is interpreted through improvisations by the synthesist, John Keston. Keston accompanies the sound features while controlling three analogue synthesizers (Novation Bass Station II, Korg Monotribe, and Korg Volca Keys). This use of an audiovisual score is a means to harness the sensory influence of non-musical sounds and images in our environments, elevating these sources to compositional structures.

Duet for Synthesizers and Mobile Conductor was performed on November 7, 2013 at the Strange Attractors festival, St. Paul, Minnesota. This video was captured during a private performance made shortly after the public showing. The piece is the first in a series of new Duets by Keston made possible by a grant from the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation.

Duets Setup

The shot above shows the setup I chose to use for this project. Although it is possible to synchronize these instruments, for this piece I decided to run them independently creating poly-temporal accompaniment for the atemporal audio I received from Steinman’s mobile conducting. Multiple free-running clocks were involved. For example, on the Bass Station II there are two LFOs, BPM for the arpeggiator and sequencer, and the second oscillator can be routed to modulate the the filter frequency. Both the Monotribe and the Volca also have BPM for their sequencers and a free-running LFO. In addition the Volca and Memory Man delays produced unsynchronized repetitions. All of these independent time sources helped create chaotic, non-interlocking rhythms that mimic and/or contrast the audiovisual score.

Mobile Rig

The sound and video from the mobile conductor was broadcast via UStream using a Logitech Broadcaster camera. This technique makes it possible for the mobile conductor to choose content for the piece from anywhere with internet access and still perform in near real-time with the ensemble. This made our performances with DKO at Northern Spark 2013 and WAM Bash 2013 possible. It also means that the quality of the video and audio from the broadcast is limited. Other examples of Duets (Duet Under Bridge, Duet for Synthesizer and Spin Cycle, Duet for Synthesizer and Rail Cars) do not have this requirement and do-have/will-have better sound and video quality than the Instant Cinema series.

DKO at FRANK Part 2: Everyday Music (2012)

This is an excerpt from a performance by DKO from the MCAD MFA open studio night on December 7, 2012 as discussed in the post Live Binaural Recording of DKO with Oliver Grudem. The document features Oliver Grudem (not shown) who produced the audiovisual score in real-time. The video and sound coming from the LED display and loud speaker below it was broadcast into the performance space as Oliver walked around the Minneapolis Uptown area during a snow storm. The visuals and sound from his walk provided a “score” for us to respond to as we improvised. Oliver was also able to hear our musical reactions to the audiovisual score as he was broadcasting and respond accordingly.

The piece was recorded with my custom built binaural head microphone to capture the sound localization of the performance space. NOTE: It is necessary to wear high quality headphones to experience the binaural effect. The spatial properties of studio monitors are also acceptable but will not produce the same localization of the sound sources. Thanks goes out to Eric Dowell for shooting video of the one hour long performance. I am working on editing a shorter version to briefly summarize the essence of the piece. This 13 minute video is a more in depth snapshot of what the performance entailed.

Live Binaural Recording of DKO with Oliver Grudem

On Friday, December 7, 2012 the MCAD MFA program had its yearly open studio night. Last year it was called SHOW + TELL, but this time we titled it FRANK. There was some amazing work up all over our Whittier studio spaces. I contributed by directing a performance featuring my trio DKO and MCAD alum, Oliver Grudem, who provided a real-time audiovisual score for the ensemble to “read”. This relates to my thesis research in progress, but in brief the audiovisual content was broadcast over a mobile network as Oliver traversed around the city sending us what he saw and heard as it happened.