Zero1 San Jose: Author and Punisher

I spent the first week of June at the Zero1 Festival in San Jose. It’s been such a busy month that its taken me up until now to start posting about it, but a lot of that is due to there being quite a lot of interesting work, too much to list. So I just have to pull a few noteworthy things out.

From just about everyone I talked to at the festival, the top, number one, highlight was the performance by Author and Punisher.

Author and Punisher at 01SJ

A&P is a noise musician of the wall of sound variety (an aesthetic close to my heart). The music is well constructed, and although I think some more thought could be paid to transitional elements, on the whole it’s very moving material. There are influences from industrial and metal, but while the overall sound is much like you would expect A&P’s personal style is definitely recognizable, and I’m looking forward to hearing more of his music.  

But, what really stands about about his performances (and I believe translates to the sound) is the use of very large tactile controllers. There were three main controllers at the 01SJ set; a metal rotating cylinder, a long sliding handle, and a box with two throttle levers. While these are just basically large MIDI controllers (they produce no audio signal) they allow A&P to play with inertia and forceful haptics in performance. Watching someone slam a huge metal sliding handle into a large metal block, and hearing the resulting cacophony (which looked to be NI Battery among other things) is a much more visceral experience than hearing the same thing come out of a fader box. The huge speaker stack also helped.

Author and Punisher at 01SJ

While the tactile controllers were the real unique part of the performance, this seemed to be a blessing and a curse in regards to perception of work. In my own work, I personally value the final audio result over all else, including performance, and I use real time improvisatory methods only because of the ways they effect the sound, not to add interest to the performance. My appearance on stage is just not a concern for me considering the type of music I do. A&P’s performances are significantly more visually appealing than my own, and this led to great reviews at the show and a large audience. However, the kind of music being made was the sort that most people wouldn’t give a second listen without this performative element. There are certainly similar genre works being performed all the time with smaller audiences and not much exposure. It would bother me that the performance interface, in addition to its role as a sound sculpting device, was also functioning as a gimmick that attracted an audience due to its novelty. I would hate to detract from the soundscape with distractions such as that…watching this performances have made me think a lot about the perception of my own live work and how to keep the focus on the important elements while also incorporating physical controllers.

About this entry