Electronic/Computer Music News - Jim Horton
Oakland based multi-media artist Paul Kalbach began his career as a hard-edge painter but soon evolved a more spontaneous style. His intent was to create musically-influenced gestures by listening to specifically composed electronic music through earphones as he worked. This is "transforming musical energy into visual energy."
His first piece using this method was Extraneous Static Refinement, Phase III (1972). Paul built a sculptural seat in the style of his paintings for his show at the Berkeley Art Center in 1973 into which was placed a tape machine that played his compositions in an extended endless loop. Viewers could sit and enter into the paintings while the music supplied an almost synesthetic sound track. he perceives both his paintings and music as "thick in texture with a lot of detail to listen to and see."
Next Paul made animated films of his paintings. "The paintings were just standing there while the music was going on in time. I wanted to get the paintings to move around."
The most current multi-media transformation in this series is embodied in two colorized video tapes. A Minor Pickin' (1979) incorporates one of his films chroma-keyed into a scene of Paul playing electronically processed guitar. Aeolian Dream-syzagy (video 1979) shows him playing synthesizer with slides of his visual work chroma-keyed into the background.
Paul's synthesizer looks and sounds like no other, because in large part, he built and modified it himself.The core of the machine is built around originally non-functional or unstuffed series 100 Buchla module cards. Much of the system is contained in a (classic and very attractive) Montgomery Ward Home Entertainment Center. The T.V. was removed to make way for electronic music but the unit still contains tuner, turntable, amp. and speakers. His electric piano started out as a cardboard box full of loose keys. He learned electronics by trial and artistic error and has been very resourceful in putting together complex "systems built from recycled television sets and the general debris of western civilization."
Aeolian Dream-Syzagy (1980) is a two-part concert piece for synthesizer, electric piano and twelve tape recorders. It was performed at the Fifth Annual San Francisco Free Music Festival.
In the first sections (Aeolian Dream) six tape recorders play sounds, most of which were made by exciting the strings of musical instruments with an airbrush. The instruments are various guitars, a sitar and ukealin; a turn of the century cross between a zither and a dulcimer. The other tapes are of Tibetan horns and a squeaky, hissing gas meter (from P. G. and E. Blues).
Playing with the tapes is a semi-automatic synthesizer patch, the heart of which is two sequencers interconnected to cross-modulate each other's rates. One of them is tuned to a pentatonic scale and controls two octave-related sawtooth oscillators. These are mixed and sent to a voltage-controlled band-pass filter, which itself is controlled by envelope modules, randomness and especially by a pressure-sensitive keyboard.
The output from the filter is reverberated and sent to a string of six tape recorders configured as a multi-output, approximately twelve second, delay line. Alternate channels are sent to right and left speakers through a touch-sensitive keyboard controlled mixer.
During the second section of the piece (Syzagy) all tapes are off and the piano is sent through the filter. here Paul jams with the synthesizer as if it were another person. The number of steps in the sequencer, the tempo, the cut-off frequency and Q of the filter are gradually increased until the piece ends with sonic images of bird song or perhaps more exotic "twittering organisms."
The rhythms and pentatonicism of Aeolian Dream-Syzagy give it its enjoyable Pacific Rim flavor.
space permits mentioning but two more of Paul Kalbach's works. Lassoed Rainbow (1975) is an eight movement piece that maps an octave of pitches onto the color spectrum. It was made to be an accompaniment to Alexandra Kasuba's tent-like fabric sculptures at the DeYoung Museum's Rainbow Show. Each color had an individual sound system. As a listener moved from chamber to chamber of the spectral tunnel different sections of the piece would be heard.
Carbon Dioxide Blues (1979) is a five minute video tape, colorized an icy electric blue. It shows Paul wearing rubber gloves, goggles and respirator, applying fragments of a ten pound block of dry ice to the strings of a piano. A very strange, high pitched scream is heard..... p.11