"... I decided to try to remove the apparatus of the published recording and work for, and on, radio directly, at least in this case. I've been making pieces for radio since the beginning (in that that was the way most people familiar with my music heard it), and have made three albums that were designed for radio from the ground up: Drive Time, the Rosetta Stone, and Hall of Flowers. With the latter two, letters were sent to radio stations telling them to play as much or as little as they liked, to not bother cueing it u and to use it as they wished (under announcements, et cetera...)." Philip Perkins
"to Berkeley Remote," an interview with philip perkins
H23: Regarding New Music America and your piece, South Florida Remote, commissioned by NMA...
PP: NMA/Miami presented a very wide assortment of musics in a large number of venues all over the Miami area. Unfortunately I, in my role as recording engineer for the forthcoming radio series on the festival, didn't get to see anything that I wasn't actually recording (accept for the Paul Dresher Ensemble concert). Among the notable concerts I recorded were: the Brazilian group Uakti (very original music played largely on custom built percussion instruments), the Kronos Quartet playing a new work by Kevin Volans, another by Elanor Hovda, and the U.S. premier of Steve Reich's "Different Trains", and Richard Landry's "Mass for Pentecost Sunday" for male choir, male and female vocalists, synths and solo sax. At the Strand, a club in the Art Deco district of Miami Beach, I recorded great sets by the Don Pullen / George Adams Quartet (N Y Jazz), Zeitgiest (new music percussion/reed ensemble).
David Linton (NY percussionist with electronics), Fritz Hauser (Swiss percussionist), and Yomo Toro (Puerto Rican cuatro virtuoso).
Among the installations I documented the most interesting was Russell Frehling's "Sound Field" at the Center for Fine Arts. My favorite work overall was the Swiss group String Field's 24-hour performance of their piece "Nine to Nine" with computer driven synths, piano, violin, cello, double bass, electric guitar, and hammer dulcimer, performed and recorded in the semi-outdoor atrium at Miami-Dade Community College. Stay tuned for the radio series.
South Florida Remote was commissioned by the festival for their radio series, to be broadcast during the festival on WLRN-FM in Miami, and, we hope, made available to other radio stations. The piece is basically a highly subjective documentary on the South Florida area, recorded during a visit I made last summer. I identified some signature signs of the area, and once back at my studio in SF proceeded to listen and listen until a structure became evident for assembling the work. The piece is on my CD called Shapiro, Vermeer, Florida and San Francisco (Fun 1006), with three other works.
H23: Tell us about your piece San Francisco Remote.
PP: It was an installation commissioned by the SF Arts Commission for their gallery in downtown SF for September and October of 1988. It is a specialized listening environment for an audio piece that continually creates itself in real time. The source materials for the work are radio broadcasts, with Fm Stations acting as melodies for words and sounds provided by communications broadcasts and sound so the street in front of the gallery. (?jh)
The 'scanning' nature of the radios, the random audio signal processors, the switching devices and the cross modulation and processing turn the original materials into a quickly changing audio tapestry that epitomizes the complexity of San Francisco's rich aural and radio-frequency environments. This work too is on my new CD in the form or a stereo documentation recording I made of it one morning before the gallery opened.
H23: What was it like to work with the Residents? Any stories?
PP: Working with the Residents was a pleasure and a tremendously eye-opening experience. They continue to astonish me with their originality and compositional genius, and remain highly valued friends. That is all I can say for print.
H23: Have you ever performed your music live?
PP: Yes, I have performed my own work live, but haven't for many years. The new radio piece is something of a return to that.
H23: Are there any musicians / composers you are currently interested in?
PP: At the moment I am collaborating with a composer from Miami named King Felix, who has a very interesting cassette out called Owl Plane Crash (ESY 010, Esync, Box 380621, Miami, FL 33238). Our work is similar in many respects, especially regarding albums of mine like Rosetta Stone, The Flame of Ambition, and Neighborhood with a Sky. He asked me to contribute some tracks for new project he's doing, and I've just finished the first batch and sent them off.
I'm also interested in Scott Fraser, my longtime partner in Fun Music and a very interesting composer. He has a new LP out called Architecture (Fun 3001), and has another album nearly completed. He uses many of the same sound resources that I do, but his interpretation is completely his own, and very interesting. I already mentioned String Field. I was very struck by their work and would love to figure out a way to bring them all back to the US and broadcast their 24-hour piece live over the radio for its full length.
I am an all out drooling groupie for the SF-based computer network band The Hub, which has a cassette out called Hub Music (Antelope Hi, 1048 Neilson St., Albany, CA 94706). The group includes Tim Perkis, John Bischoff, Scot Gresham-Lancaster, Chris Brown, Phil Stone, and Mark Trayle at present. All are good composers in their own rights, and together they make The Hub one of most happening new music performance groups going. Check them out. And of course, I'm interested in whatever "Blue" Gene Tyranny is doing on his own, especially his continuing Country Boy compositions.
H23: Tell us about the films you've directed. Any plans to do another?
PP: From the time I was in high school until about 1979 I worked with film as my main mode of expression. During this time I produced and directed over 50 short films in many different styles [a list of those still in distribution follows the interview]. The later, more competent films fall into three basic categories: 1, experimental animations using film which had been painted directly in various ways; 2, experimental animations using variations on traditional cel animation techniques; and 3, "diary" sorts of films, that are very much the filmic equivalent of pieces like South Florida Remote.
Along about 1978 or so I began to find myself more interested in the soundtracks to the films than the visual aspects, and pretty much ceased to make films on my own. I have a few ideas that I've been considering making into films or videos over the past three years or so, but then, who doesn't?
Perkins: "When South Florida Remote turned out to be a tape commission I pretty much fell back on my own methods, except that the final mix to stereo, including much of the signal processing and panning was done live in the studio.
Then came the commission for San Francisco Remote. Here I used a similar title because some to the concepts are similar, especially the idea of producing a live mix of everyday sounds. No radio here, but a gallery patron viewing an installation is much like a person listening to a radio; they are free to come and go from a piece as they please, spending as much time with it as they like. Again the idea of a piece in which one can come and go at any point, but here, no tapes. All the sound sources are live, and the piece being made out of them is being made in real time and never repeats.
The curator at the show at the SF Arts Commission Gallery was Russ Jennings, a well known new music supporter, producer, DJ, and Associate Music Director at KPFA. After San Francisco Remote closed, I spoke with him about wanting to extend the "Remote" series; what I had been wanting to do all along was to do a piece live on the radio..."
"In Berkeley Remote I will present a new piece of electronic art over the air on KPFA. The subject of the piece is the musicality of speech, and specifically speech heard over non-commercial, non-entertainment radio: CB, Police/Fire/Government, taxi, weather, et cetera.
I will use a number of pieces of specially built electronics to do this: audio-to-MIDI converters, which allow the radio voices to play MIDI-equipped synthesizers and samplers within certain predetermined parameters; vocoders, which allow the volume and timbre envelopes of the radio voices to be superimposed on other audio material (shortwave broadcasts, etc.); automatic audio switchers with random patterns, creating a non-repeating, quickly changing aural texture; digital signal processing being controlled by randomly produced control voltages; and, finally, the ability to override or add to the material mentioned above with a standard audio console taking tall these sources, plus live mics placed outside the studio, direct, for a live mix. Also, instruments will be played live as an accompaniment to the synths."
"The piece would never be the same since the 'engine' of the whole thing, the communications band and short-wave broadcasts and the patterns of automatic switchers never repeat. The piece is not dependent on the time of day for broadcast, and although a taped version might be enjoyable also, it is quintessentially a live radio work. The piece is slated to run for about two hours one evening early this year, as I said, LIVE. If it works out well, I intend to try and 'sell' the idea to other open-minded radio stations over the course of the year."
Philip Perkins chronology
1951 b. Coatesville, PA
1968 Began audio tape experiments while still in high school. Played in many top-40 bands. Avid still photographer -- many photos published.
1970 Entered Univ. of the Pacific. Found interest in motion picture production. Continued to work in experimental cinema through 1979 (Ann Arbor, Bellevue, Northwest, numerous other festivals). Became interested in electronic music via composer JP Taylor.
1973 BA Liberal Arts, UOP. Annual Book Award for Achievement in the Arts.
1973-5 Completed numerous film, video and audio works with composer/producer/engineer Scott Fraser in Eugene, OR. With Fraser and others, founded and ran the Eugene Filmmaker's Cinematheque, an open forum for media related art. Studied animated filmmaking with David Foster at Univ. of Oregon.
1975 MLS Media, U of O. Began professional work in the movie business in Eugene.
1977 Moved to SF.
1978-81 Member, Board of Directors, Canyon Cinema Cooperative.
1979 Electronic 'studio music' became main mode of expression. Founded Fun Music, a composer run record label, with Scott Fraser, David Ocker and "Blue" Gene Tyranny. Began work with the Residents.
1979-84 Photographed all Ralph Records videos (Residents, Snakefinger, Tuxedomoon, MX-80, Renaldo and the Loaf).
1981 Ordained "Mixer-Recordist" (sound department head on a motion picture job) by NABET local 15.
1980-84 Recorded with the Residents. Member of the Residents' Mole Show touring ensemble.
1984 Married Nancy Baddock.
1985 Son, Zachary Perkins, born
1987 Collaboration with vocalist/conductor Frederick Goff.
1988 Piece "South Florida Remote" commissioned by New Music America, Miami. Installation "San Francisco Remote" commissioned by the SF Arts Commission.
Philip Perkins recordings
Apartment Life (Fun 11-cassette)
Tapeworks (Fun 12-cassette)
Tool's Paint/Reading the Mail (Fun 1001-single)
Neighborhood with a Sky (Bird Variations) Fun 1002- LP)
PACAL (The Shield) (Fun 13-cassette) includes one piece not on King of the World.
King of the World (w/PACAL (Fun 1003-LP
Drive Time (Fun 1004-LP)
The Flame of Ambition (Fun 14-cassette)
The Rosetta Stone (Fun 15-cassette)
Hall of Flowers (Fun 16-cassette)
Hall of Flowers/The Flame of Ambition (excerpts) (Fun 1005-LP)
Shapiro, Vermeer, Florida and San Francisco (Fun 1006-CD)
The Other #1, Other Magazine, Nevada City, 1982
Fast Forward #10, Fast Forward Magazine, Australia, 1982
A Touch of the Bizzare, XXXX Records, Pembroke, MA 1983
Out of Context, Banned Productions, SF, 1987 Desperately Seeking Suicide, Priapismus Records, Munich, 1987
Audio Arm #4, Another Room Magazine, Berkeley, CA, 1987
No Other Radio, John Gullack, KPFA, 1988
recordings with the Residents
The Tunes of Two Cities, Ralph Records, 1982
Live at the Roxie, Ralph 1984
Assorted Secrets, Ralph, 1984
Assorted Secrets, Ralph, 1984
The Third Secret of Fatime, german bootleg LP,1984
PAL TV LP, Doublevision, UK, 1985
The Residents, austrian bootleg LP, 1985
Films, Philip Perkins, Director:
Crownfire, dist. Canyon Cinema, SF, 1973
Rain, Dist. Canyon Cinema, SF, 1974
A Window, dist. Portland Art Institute, Portland, 1975
A River, dist. Canyon Cinema, SF, 1976
Bright, dist. Portland Art Institute, Portland, 1976
Patchwork, dist. Northwest Media Project, Portland, 1977
Works on Paper, dist. Northwest Media Project, Portland, 1978
Time Passes, dist. Canyon Cinema, SF, 1978
Gila, dist. American Federation of Arts, NY, 1979
Contact: Fun Music, 45 A. Wright St., San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 824-6137
BERKELEY REMOTE a new LIVE RADIO piece by PHILIP PERKINS KPFA 94.1 FM Mar. 16, 1989, 9-11 pm. Produced by Russ Jennings Musicians Performing Live in the Studio FREDERICK GOFF (Vocals, Piano) TIM PERKIS (Computer-driven electronics) DOUG CARROLL (Cello, electronics) Contributing Musicians SCOTT FRASER JAY CLOIDT KING FELIX LIVE ON THE AIR KPFA-FM 94.1 March 16, 1989 9-11 pm (Scanners, CBs, communications band radios, synths, vocoders, random audio switchers, manual audio switchers, MIDI switchers, audio-to-MIDI convertors, computers, FX, samplers and samples, a few tapes, 6 humans and a great many patchcords.)
Typed by Cheryl Vega 8-9-95