‘from dream to dream’ book launch at Clifden Arts Festival

I’ve contributed an article entitled, ‘Pine Music and Polyphony; the trees, the water, you’ to the book ‘from dream to dream’ released by Interface Inagh in collaboration with Artisan House. Many, many thanks to the indefatigable artist, activist, singer and producer/editor of the book Alannah Robins
Book Launch – Three new titles to be launched by Dr Eimear O Connor: ‘from dream to dream’, ‘Hatchery’ and ‘Sehnsucht’

Thursday 26th September, 3pm at Omey Suite, Clifden Station House Hotel

in collaboration with Artisan House and thanks to LEADER – the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe Investing in Rural Areas and Galway County Council

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Sujin Lee – Language is Treacherous

I’m thrilled to have my music included in Sujin Lee‘s solo exhibiton ‘Language is Treacherous’ at the Wumin Art Center in Cheongju, South Korea.

I don’t know the ending—Я не знаю, чем это закончится (2017)
HD video, B&W, Color, Sound

The English part of the title “I don’t know the ending” comes from Marguerite Duras’s essay Writing (translated from French to English by Mark Polizzotti). In Writing, Duras talks about the mystery of writing, and she refers to writing as “the unknown.”

I don’t know the ending—? ?? ????, ??? ??? ?????????? features “That never came” by composer and sound artist Brett Sroka from the album As subtle as tomorrow by Ergo. It took me over a year to find the images for the music. There was a lot of waiting, pausing, and erasing involved in the process. It was a nice surprise when I realized the footage I was shooting in Vladivostok actually “belonged” to the music. Working on the piece made me imagine a piece of writing, which is done over an extended period of time (even a lifetime)—in fragments, continuously rewritten and overwritten, consciously and subconsciously. The video is part of that writing and is also my homage to the art-making process.

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IN HOUSE – Artists Who Work at Lévy Gorvy

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ReSignifications Sound Collage

This is a bit of a sound collage (a bit that ended up on the cutting room floor) I made in response to artist and cultural worker Shani Jamila’s series of collages which were installed at the Manifesta12 Biennial this past summer in Palermo, Italy.


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In Review: TILT Brass

In Review:
TILT Brass

Lévy Gorvy, New York, NY
Nov. 28, 2018

Words and Images: Steve Smith


Across town on Madison Avenue, Lévy Gorvy Gallery takes music seriously enough to retain the services of an astute cultural program curator, Brett Sroka, himself an accomplished composer and trombonist. On Sroka’s watch, the gallery has presented ambitious performances by Peter Evans, Burnt Sugar, Alicia Hall Moran, and Maria Chavez, each linked in some meaningful way to the art then on view. And on Nov. 28 Lévy Gorvy complemented its current show, Calder/Kelly, with a performance by TILT Brass, eight of whose members dispersed among the gallery’s three floors and stairwell for the premiere performances of Vertical Octet by the Brooklyn composer and improviser Lea Bertucci.

Performer: Tim Leopold
Artworks (clockwise from top): Alexander Calder, ‘Flocons de suie’ (1953);
Ellsworth Kelly, ‘White Cross’ (1959); Calder, ‘Untitled’ (1947)
Photograph: Steve Smith

From conception to execution, this event was a thoroughgoing success. The show, a mix of mobiles and stabiles by Alexander Calder (1898-1976) and paintings by Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015), is meant to commemorate the friendship between these two artists, who exchanged letters and artworks, and who spent some formative portion of their careers in Paris. In real terms, it was a conversation between Calder’s three-dimensional forms, whether solid and grounded or spindly and suspended, and Kelly’s planes of solid tone, whether monochromatic or with contrasting hues in proximity.

Searching for a composer similarly preoccupied by shape, space, and planes of tone, one could hardly do better than to choose Bertucci, whose recent works have pursued a similar focus on tones and overtones, on flatness and mobility, and on sonic volume situated within spatial volume. Many of Bertucci’s scores themselves approach a quality of visual art, and in 2017, with author and artist Michael Anzuoni, she oversaw the editing of The Tonebook, a gorgeous collection of graphic scores published by Inpatient Press. Peeks at some of the parts on music stands here before the performance started revealed a combination of conventional notation and graphic gestures.

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Burnt Sugar / Terry Adkins at Levy Gorvy

To celebrate the exhibition, Terry Adkins – The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled at Levy Gorvy Gallery last February, Greg Tate, with the Burnt Sugar Arkestra Chamber conducted a live score to Adkins’ video work Synapse — A Faustian portrait of Beethoven glacially transforming into a young black man and back, pondering the rumors of Beethoven’s Moorish ancestry, as well as his triumph over deafness.

Terry Adkins created performances he called Recitals as part of his installations and exhibitions, after they had been open for a time and he felt they needed to be “activated”. At Performa in 2013 Adkins dedicated his Sacred Order of the Twilight Brotherhood Recital to his friend, the composer Butch Morris, who had just died of cancer, sadly about a year before Adkins would also succumb to the disease. Butch Morris was the type of iconoclastic, under-recognized figure that Adkins might’ve explored in his work. He invented a ground breaking form of improvisation called Conduction, using a highly refined language of gestures to shape the music of an improvising ensemble in performance.

Acclaimed musician, writer and cultural critic Greg Tate became friends with both Adkins and Morris as a teenager in Washington D.C. in the 1980’s. Calling Morris his “sensei” Tate was inspired to study and begin practicing Conduction, forming the Burnt Sugar Arkestra Chamber in the late 1990’s. Their prismatic, organic integration of avant-garde jazz, electric funk, rock and contemporary composition was beautifully adapted for a live score to Adkins’ droning Synapse video, and to celebrate the lives and achievements of both Morris and Adkins.

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Galway Jazz Fest / Pat Steir Concert at Levy Gorvy

I’ve had an amazing few months traveling through Australia and Europe, leading up to two exciting events this week. I spent August as an artist in residence at CAMAC Art Centre in Marnay-Sur-Siene, France and for the past month at Interface in the stunning Inagh Valley of Connemara western Ireland, culminating with a performance at the Galway Jazz Festival this Saturday, October 10th. I’ll be performing with Rauno Nieminen, a renowned performer, luthier and scholar of the medieval instruments of Northern Europe, who I began collaborating with in Finland in 2014. When I first met him to experiment with processing his instruments through MaxMSP software, he said to me, “the kantele is the national instrument of Finland and the Kalevala (creation myth), so it will be important to destroy it.” Here is a recording of us doing that.

Next Wednesday, October 11th, I’ll be back in New York in my capacity as Cultural Program Curator at Lévy Gorvy Gallery where we will present a concert in celebration of the exhibition Pat Steir: Kairos. Starting at 7pm with a set by the phenomenal Sandbox Percussion, and followed by a set from singer Alicia Hall Moran, guitarist Brandon Ross and bassist Melvin Gibbs that promises to be fantastic.

I look forward to seeing you there or wherever we may meet again.

Copyright © 2017 ergo, All rights reserved.

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Frank Ténot

There's a joke about a guy who explains what he does in life by saying: "I'm a jazz musician but I'm only in it for the money." – For these past few weeks I had no idea that I was living amidst this obscure gem of jazz history: Frank Ténot, the founder of CAMAC, was a French media mogul and jazz impresario, who from 1955-71 broadcast the radio show "Pour Ceux Qui Aiment le Jazz" and later, "Salut les Copains" on Europe n° 1, from this very building in the little town of Marnay-Sur-Seine (where he was also later the mayor). These shows were largely responsible for introducing jazz to Europe. I discovered these magnetic tape archives, covered in dust and cobwebs in the former studio downstairs, and I'm told that greats such as Ray Charles and Duke Ellington performed right here. – This is an article about Tenot buying Jazzman magazine in 2003, one year before he died – http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/23/style/paris-jazz-frank-tenot-expands-his-empire-of-music.html?mcubz=1

A post shared by b za (@srokasonic) on

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Peter Evans at Lévy Gorvy – The Meeting of Edgard Varèse and Charlie Parker

“Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But man, there’s no boundary line to art.” – Charlie Parker

In celebration of Lévy Gorvy’s inaugural exhibition, Willem De Kooning – Zao Wou-Ki, I’ve curated a concert exploring the historic and unlikely meeting of French avant-garde composer Edgard Varèse and revolutionary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker.

To realize a program that juxtaposes the disparate music of these two 20th-century masters, trumpeter Peter Evans, uniquely qualified as an acclaimed jazz improviser and a virtuosic classical performer, has assembled a brilliantly versatile ensemble just for this occasion, including: Warren Smith – percussion, David Taylor – bass trombone, Jon Irabagon – saxophones, Levy Lorenzo – percussion/electronics, Alice Teyssier – flute.

The Chinese painter Zao Wou-Ki moved to Paris in 1947 with his wife Lan Lan, a composer; amidst the artistic circles there he befriended Edgard Varèse, the inconoclastic composer of dense works of dissonance, noise and visceral new electronic sounds. In 1964 Zao dedicated a monumental painting to his friend.

Dutch born painter Willem De Kooning often claimed his love of jazz as an inspiration for coming to America, once saying, “‪[Miles Davis] doesn’t play the notes, he bends them. I bend the paint.” With a technical facility that was both effortless and explosive, Davis’ mentor, Charlie Parker, would also influence every generation of jazz musicians to follow with the serpentine rhythmic swing and visionary harmonic flights that would become known as bebop. Shortly before his death in 1954, Parker sought out Varèse to study orchestral music with him, while they were both living in Greenwich Village.  Varèse said of Parker, “He was like a child, with the shrewdness of a child. He possessed a tremendous enthusiasm.” The two never met again, but the encounter would resonate with Varèse as well and in 1957 he composed a graphic score for improvisation and recruited some of the top jazz musicians of the day to perform it.

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NYC Jazz Record Best of 2016

I’m thrilled that Ergo – As subtle as tomorrow was included on the New York City Jazz record‘s Best Albums of 2016 in their January issue. Thanks to the many people that worked on it and everyone who gave it their time and ears. Upwards and onwards!

A photo posted by b za (@srokasonic) on Dec 31, 2016 at 9:18am PST

“Ergo has fine-tuned an unusual and evocative mix of tautness and incongruity…. There are a lot of unusual elements at play but what makes Ergo so great is that in the end all the parts fit.” – NYC Jazz Record

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