This past weekend I played in the North Country Electronic Music Festival, produced by TurnMusic with Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, David Gunn, Anne Decker and David Morneau. It was held at ArtsRiot, just a stones throw from my studio.

It was a great afternoon of all kinds of different electronic sets ranging from the “explorations of rurality” provided by Rural Noise Ensemble to the laptop wizardry of Dave Seidel (aka MysteryBear to the song and beats of Forest Gray. And of course, there was plenty of modular to go around as well.

For my own set I did an instance of my Source.1 etude for double bass + electronics, “Source(Largo)” and kept it short. I also did an all modular improv set with Greg Davis.

One of the things I loved about the day was getting a chance to see what everyone was working on and the wide variety of sounds and approaches being utilized by those within a day’s drive of Burlington.

Musically, for me, highlights included seeing Mary Rowell perform several pieces. Her presence and execution are inspiring to me. Watching her perform is always a favorite thing.

Then there’s Rural Noise Ensemble’s contact-mics-on-saws-while-sawing routine, can’t forget that (or watching a poor sucker try to work at a piece of firewood with a hacksaw for six minutes). It gave me hope that experimental music will survive the zombie apocalypse.

The laptop programming of Francesca Hilditch was subtle and intriguing. She’s a student still, I believe. So I’m looking forward to hearing more from her. She told me she doesn’t yet have a double bass solo piece in her archives so maybe we can fix that oversight.

Definitely one of the standout pieces was the video + guitar-linked-to-voice-inflections of Matt LaRocca. He performed two works by JacobTV: “Grab It” and “White Flag” both of which I would love to see again a few hundred times.

l’Artiste Ordinaire fielded a benjolin so that gets my attention from the getgo. Combining it with a trombone–great choice given the flexible/indeterminate intonation of the benjolin–creates some thick and satisfying drones and passages. Excellent field recordings were incorporated into their work as well.

I spent a bunch of time schlepping gear back and forth to my studio so I missed some of the sets. But it was all great and I enjoyed seeing the variety of approaches and hearing the resultant sound.

Modular approaches

It was fun to see other approaches to modular synthesis as well. Daniel Warner, for instance, came with a very complicated and wiry patch already configured across several cases. He carefully tweaked and pruned throughout his set, generating a thoroughly satisfying pulse of low pass gates.

Greg and I started mostly from scratch as we usually have in our rehearsals, building up sound sources and control patterns, altering them, weaving in and back again. Starting from one idea and moving on to the next in an interactive flow.

Jerod Sommerfeldt had a hybrid system incorporating laptop and a small collection of modules. He was simultaneously patching wires and tapping at the keyboard.

Three different approaches to making sound with knobs and wires, both great fun to hear.

Instrument and electronics

In addition to my own double bass + modular electronics set, there were several other instrument + electronics pieces.

Josh Clinger did a trumpet + DJ set, bringing some genuine danceable beat to the festival. Mary Rowell played a piece of Eve Beglarian‘s and another by Craig Pallet. Composer and cellist Michael Close combined forces with guitar/electronics wizard Danielle O’Hallisey, and the benjolin with trombone of l’Artiste Ordinaire.

Here too, there was a variety of approaches: instrument with an electronic accompaniment, instrument with integrated electronics, instrument with layered/processed timbre, instrument with improvised electronic accompaniment.


In addition to all the sounds, the people and generally warm vibes from everyone was great. I ended the night in the company of l’Artiste Ordinaire–Melissa Grey and David Morneau–and Eve Beglarian sharing thoughts and plans and dreams and good food into the evening. At the close of the night, riding my bike back up to the Old North End in pleasant air, the beeps and whines and drones echoing along the way.