Noise will be Noise

The Declaration – scene – February 8, 2007

By John Ruscher

When you hear the word noise, you probably think of sounds that are not worth your attention. The buzz of construction as you walk to class. The hiss of the brakes on a UTS bus. The grinding of the espresso machine in Alderman Café. We usually consider noise as an unintended side effect of our lives.

For the seventh annual Technosonics Festival, however, noise will be the central focus. The festival, which is presented by the McIntire Department of Music and the Virginia Center for Computer Music, is described as “an evening of performed electronic and computer music, exploring the complex manifestations of noise.” While we often think of noise as something harsh and unpleasant, many of the works featured in the festival show that noise can be more natural and subtle.

U.Va. professors Matthew Burtner, Ted Coffey, and Judith Shatin will all present compositions that focus on the connection between wind instruments and noise. Burtner’s “Windsketches” will include two bass flutes and the metasaxophone, an instrument that Burtner himself developed. The metasaxophone extends the capabilities of a normal saxaphone through the use of sensors and a small computer that is attached to the instrument. Coffey will present a new piece that includes percussion, violin, computer, and shakuhachi, a Japanese flute that some Zen Buddhist monks use for meditation. Shatin’s piece, “Kairos”, is written for solo flute and computer.

In addition to faculty, a number of other renowned composers and musicians will perform at Technosonics. Ko Umezaki will perform a new composition for shakuhachi and computer. Brooklyn flutist and composer Jane Rigler will present “Circulo en Fuga” for two flutes and electronics. Ben Thigpen will present “0.9565217913,” a piece for multi-channel audio, and Frances White will play “The Sound of the Bell as it Leaves the Bell” (from Three Small Pieces).

The festival will conclude with a performance by noise and free improv trio the Pinko Communoids. Consisting of U.Va. grad students in music and sociology, and the Communoids use guitars, electronics, percussion and ping-pong balls to create spontaneous and intriguing soundscapes. They cite Sonic Youth, experimental composer Morton Feldman, and The Plastic Ono Band as some of their influences.

It’s not very often that so many talented composers and musicians come together to share their work. If you are interested in noises or in pushing the boundaries of music and sound, you should definitely check out this year’s Technosonics Festival.

Technosonics VII: NOISE will take place on Monday, February 12th at 8pm in the Live Arts building on the Downtown Mall.

John Ruscher is a fourth-year English major whose favorite whose favorite machine is the flux capacitor.

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