This was a 2 day (all day and all of the night) celebration of Don Buchla’s creative achievements in music and his development of what became known as West Coast Synthesis. Buchla was a contemporary of Bob Moog who operated out of Berkeley in the early days of synthesizer development and as early as 1963 was developing modules for The Tape Music Center. There is a ton of info out there on him, so I won’t get into his many contributions and long career as a designer/engineer etc.
I was only available to attend the second evening of performances but the entire weekend hosted by Gray Area SF was full of activities and panels and performances by an array of sound artists. Some acts were set up onstage with a few various ‘rigs’ and contraptions set up on the floor which made it an exciting experience as you never quite knew where to position yourself in between acts, it was a great way to experience a show with that format. In fact right from the beginning, walking into the dark hall drenched in red light was a welcoming experience with sound artist Layne set up on the floor working a smaller sized Buchla with some lovely drones and washes, a bit more of an ambient background thing but still very present and engaging. Also set up on the floor in the center was Keith Fullerton Whitman’s modular set-up from which he put down an intense set, melodic with a good balance of tension and release.
This first video is just a few of the artists who performed on Sunday including Layne, bran(…)pos who performed from some kinda whirlybird contraption with video projection and synth wackiness, bringing a carney vibe…there’s also a few minutes of Keith Fullerton Whitman down on the floor with the people!
Easily the big highlight was seeing Suzanne Ciani her set was also intense at times, you could really see her working to keep the machine under control and masterfully at that. I went with some friends to see her the following week at The Berkeley Museum and both times I felt something…which says a lot when it comes to synthesised sounds. Those may be the first times I have felt something more organic and less technical from a set of that nature, which is a major feat in my opinion. Below is the last 7 and a half minutes of her set.
Alessandro and I spoke a bit about our mutual love for 4 track tape machines which is what he used for his moving set to close out the night. He performed, against a projection of home movies, his latest work Avanti. Very personal, very moving and a perfect come down from the event as it was refreshing to hear someone work a simple tape machine after all of the mind blowing tech heavy sounds that we just experienced.
As I mentioned earlier we went to see Susanne again in Berkeley the following weekend so look to the next post for that video!
Also, fellow blogger Encyclotronic posted a variety of videos from the entire weekend, so if you can’t get enough, go check them out as well!
All Video and Pics by Jeff K. 2017