Californian composer Madalyn Merkey comes to ISSUE to create a new work for the architecture and acoustic properties of our 22 Boerum theater. Merkey’s real-time synthesis program will generate live synthetic sound, with accompaniment by violinist Dylan Neely. Acoustic elements mix with synthetic sounds, creating specific inner ear occurrences in the listener.
The evening opens with Battle Trance, who perform their album-length work Palace of Wind. This stunning composition for four tenor saxophonists sheds new light on the instrument's ensemble uses, with players using circular breathing to build continuous, hypnotic waves of sound; multiphonics layer to create intricate textures that reflect an ancient time; and blisteringly fast lines seem to liquefy into each other.
Madalyn Merkey is an artist performing in acoustic research and live computer music. Her practice began as a visual artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she transitioned to sound and time-based art. Two albums of her experiments with voice, Scent (2012) and Valley Girl (2014), have been released on Matt Mondanile’s New Images imprint. Merkey’s digital voice processing has a sensational effect, with the human voice modulating between foreground and background, creating an unusual occurrence in identifying the sound source. Recent projects combine traditional instruments and electronics in live performance. In observing the acoustic principles of an instrument, she designs a real-time synthesis program to generate complementary timbral events and contrasting scales. This survey has led to an ongoing series of site-specific electronic music performances, in which principles of location, room acoustics and surround sound, are the foundation to develop sound material. Merkey has written works for Northwestern University’s Block Cinema, the Reed College Chapel, and will premiere an eight-channel piece at the J. Paul Getty Museum in the year to come.
Battle Trance is a quartet of saxophonists Travis Laplante, Matthew Nelson, Jeremy Viner, and Patrick Breiner, existing in the cracks between contemporary classical music, avant-garde jazz, black metal, ambient, and world music. Their debut album Palace of Wind was developed in rehearsals were much like martial arts training: with intricate sounds rigorously copied and repeated by the ensemble members until they perfected the techniques. Many hours were spent building the sheer strength required to sustain continuous circular breathing for extended periods. Likewise, a steady focus on physicality was honed to repeat rapid note patterns for long periods without sacrificing speed. Their extensive training worked to dissolve the distinct individual identities of the players into a greater collective sound: The band did various long-tone exercises, similar to group meditation, the purpose being to blend together into one sound, so that the origin of the collective sound’s components is completely impossible to discern – even by the members of the ensemble. Members of Battle Trance have also performed with: Tune-Yards, Little Women, Tim Berne, Gerald Cleaver, Michael Formanek, Trevor Dunn, Ingrid Laubrock, Rafiq Bhatia, Ches Smith, Steve Lehman, Weasel Walter, Mat Maneri, John Hollenbeck, Tyshawn Sorey, Peter Evans, and many others.