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.


Originally published on line at Juxtaposion Ezine.


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