Ellen Band

Ellen Band
Sound Artist

Outatown Insight series at Lotus Music and Dance Studios
Improvised Music, Intermedia and Free Hot Liquids
January 23, 1998

I know Ellen Bands music from the Nonsequitur Aerial compilations, Railroad Gamelan is on The Aerial #6. Taking a recording of railroad crossing bells and the accompanying ambient traffic and train sounds, Ellen created a soundscape where you are there, sound and time are remanipulated into a aural fabric familiar, yet more organized than a casual chance listen by the tracks.

And so I was lucky enough to catch an evening of her music at the Lotus Music and Dance Studios…I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by a concert at Lotus, curated by Thomas Buckner and Tom Hamilton.

As the audience seated themselves in the semi-darkened room, Closet Bird played quietly. I thought it was the most extraordinary emulation of a bird by an analog synthesizer. I was visualizing the composer in a white lab coat, studiously and thoughtfully twiddling knobs an a wall of patch chords. Imagine my surprise when Ellen later told me Closet Bird is a tape piece, the electronic effects really being the result of multi-generational track bouncing and a parakeet singing along with it’s taped voice.

Frodo: A Portrait Of Janet used a wide variety of sound sources: loops of an automobile engine idling, water, Beethoven, answering machine messages while Janet Underhill played bassoon & contrabassoon using extended techniques. At one point, while the famous introduction to Stravinky’s Rite of Spring played in the background, Underhill mimicked the bassoon solo, playing a key note and joyously bending and twisting it into a tortured harmonic.

In Radiatore, a black curtain is pulled back to reveal a radiator. We hear the characteristic warming up of a radiator. A single disembodied leg appears, soon to be joined by a second undulating leg above the heating device. Eventually a whole dancer appears, snapping large magnets and chains against the radiator. The percussive sounds are amplified and resemble sounds typical of a radiator contracting and expanding from the heat. Dancer Nancy Adams also defied gravity by throwing objects to the ceiling – yet they didn’t come down because they magically stuck to magnets hung from the ceilings.

A sense of humor permeates Band’s work. From the call and response of a colorful local weather man and a digitally sound processed bassoon in Tabloid Meteorology to the trio of squeaky leather jackets in a totally dark room (Minimally Tough I).
Lotus Music and Dance Studios

This series was titled: Outatown Insight (but sometimes Warmer by the Stove). In the summer, the series is known as Cooler by the Shade. I found out about the show through an anouncement in the USNET newsgroups.

Lotus Music and Dance Studios
109 W. 27th St., 8th Fl.
New York, N.Y.

db
2/6/1998

Originally published on line at Juxtaposion Ezine.

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