Archive | June, 2011

Interview with Chris Kallmyer

27 Jun

INTERVIEW BY ISAAC SCHANKLER.  Back in April Chris Kallmyer invited the ensemble TempWerks (Casey Anderson, Scott Cazan, Andrew Tholl and me) to perform in FERMENT[cheese], a concert and cheese tasting event at the Berkeley Art Museum.  (You can see video of it here.)  Since then I’ve wanted to ask him a few questions about his practice, which crosses so many interdisciplinary lines — as a performer, composer and sound artist he’s just as likely to be influenced by architecture or the outdoors as something of musical origin.  Additionally, Chris is the Curator of Sound Programming for the Machine Project.  Chris, thanks for letting me interview you! -IS


One of the things I really enjoyed about FERMENT (and that I’ve noticed about your music in general) was the sense of place/space — both in the sense of how it really utilized the unique qualities of the space and how it evoked a really strong sense of (an altogether different kind of) place.  I wonder what role you see place/space having in your music and how it affects your creative process.

Usually, I don’t create music before I visit and try to understand the space/place.  When I spend time sitting in an architecture or environment I begin to get a sense of what sounds I’d like to hear there — or what sounds will best expose the nature of that space to a listener.  Conversely, with a project like FERMENT, I’d like to graft the sense of one place or tradition (cheese making) onto the present space (the environment at the Berkeley Art Museum).  Focusing on place, is another way for me to focus on the present moment.

More recently, you wrote a giant piece for 100+ musicians that was part of the Northern Spark Festival in Minneapolis.  Are the things you write “bound” to specific places somehow?   What happens if that piece then happens in another place?  Is the music you make in California somehow qualitatively different from the kind you make in Minnesota?

Most of the things I create are bound to a space — but can be moved and altered to better fit different environments.  For a piece like FERMENT[cheese], I had already done two versions in the past, a six-channel rendition for Machine Project, and one with three home stereos for the Little William Theater (a coatroom at the Hammer Museum). Both of these versions were too active for the resonant space in Berkeley, so the project got redesigned into a two-channel (8 speaker) installation built from Max/MSP.  Furthermore, I wanted to invite [TempWerks] to perform inside the installation, and had to create version with room for the group.

I try to create music that is specific to context.  So, if the piece is created for Minneapolis, I’d like to use local musicians, local resources (the Mississippi river), although I fully recognize that I’m also tied back to my own aesthetic — so I’m afraid that my Minneapolis music (although inspired by, and created for that place) may have aspects similar to other works I’ve done recently.

Has your experience curating for Machine Project affected your practice in any way, unanticipated or deliberate?

I think it has.  I now think more about design, and how people interact with sound or an event.  In an unanticipated way, I’ve become fairly obsessed with creating site-specific design prompts – and because of this, have had a hard time developing projects that can easily tour from one space to the next.   But then again: this is an issue with design!  To tour, I need to create a project that fits in a suitcase, and would work in the average gallery setting.

I also kinda believe that composing is curating on a micro level.

The LA Times once said of one of your compositions, “not everyone would call this music.”  Dare I ask what your reaction or response is to a statement like that?

Ha! I think it is a great quote.

I hope to bring my music closer to the sounds we experience every day . . . so I run a risk that people will see my music as abstract or mundane.  But music should be mundane — like life.  I like sounds that are earthly, rough shorn and chaotic — but also beautiful and clear at times.  When people stumble into one of my pieces they often don’t know how to engage with it, or don’t know its going on.  This discovery of sound opens them to see it in different ways, or to fully ignore the piece!   People are welcome to do either.  Both are valid.

Well, and you present music in situations where you might not expect to find it otherwise.  Is this because you’re not satisfied with the traditional concert hall ritual experience?

Despite my usual mood about traditional concert ritual, I secretly love it.  I didn’t grow up going to see classical music, so its still very exotic, exciting, and fulfilling to me.  There is something very essential about sharing a sound with another person: sitting across from a musician in a comfortable environment, giving the gift of attention, and receiving a graciously prepared performance.  This form has lasted for thousands of years from early story telling to the present time.  I just think most of our performances are equally handicapped by this ritual, or limited arena for listening.  Our experimental music is presented in a traditional context, and I think we should experiment with the ‘container’ of our performances — and let each new environment or context dictate the music we play.

It seems to me you had a pretty roundabout path to being a composer, too.

I did have a bit of a roundabout path!

I used to play in an indie rock band in Washington DC, where I grew up in the Maryland suburbs.   I then went to music school to study trumpet where I heard classical music for the first time.  This was a huge.  Mahler, Strauss, Reich, Reiley, Bach, Machaut, etc. . .  I dropped my Music Education degree to prepare myself as an orchestral trumpet player.  I spent some time in northern Italy where I studied more trumpet, prepared for auditions, and played with orchestras passing through our small town of Alba (like the Romanian Symphony and the Orchestra della Valle d’Aosta).  I had a great time (wine, coffee, food, culture), but was totally miserable playing with these groups!  There was no sense of community, or camaraderie — so i quit doing that and applied to CalArts to study new music as a performer.  While at CalArts, I stumbled upon the writings of John Cage, James Tenney, R Murray Schafer, etc. . . and consequently began to compose dispersed works for brass musicians and car horns in our parking lot. In 2008, I started working with Machine Project on site-specific works for elevators, igloos, coatrooms, and bison dinners.

I’ve become comfortable with my hybrid practice as a trumpet player, sound artist, and curator.   In Los Angeles, I can fulfill all parts of my practice, collaborating with my peers on new projects, participating in the experimental music community, and working with local collectives like Machine Project and wild Up.

OK, thanks!  One last stupid question.  What is your favorite animal?

Right now, I’m very fond of cows.  Jersey cows.

Narrow Lands Production: Deborah Martin Notes from the Studio

21 Jun

This NOTES FROM THE STUDIO column features CP Core Artist Deborah Martin,  a contemporary realist painter, fine art photographer and curator. Visit her work online here.


The Drawer 36 x 36″

Oil on Canvas

I am in a painting frenzy working on 10 paintings that will be shipped out to Cape Cod, MA in mid July. While I attended the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston, I used to frequent Provincetown. Duirng one of my visits to Provincetown, I spent the night in the very house that several of the paintings and poems from this exhibit are based on. The house has since been abandoned. I actually had forgotten that I had slept in the house-with a gang of girls (strewn about on the floor.) The memory came back to me later while working on the selection of images for this series. I have made a complete circle.

NARROW LANDS is an ongoing multidisciplinary collaborative project between CP Core Artists Quintan Ana Wikswo and Deborah Martin. For any one living on the East Coast anywhere near Provincetown-I hope you will have a chance to see this exhibit.

Here’s a note from the press release:

Martin’s sea bleached and dusty-colored paintings exist in intimate conversation with Wikswo’s spare, sensual prose poems, yielding poignant and often enticing portraits of Provincetown buildings and the women who live and love within them.

Together, the works inhabit a uniquely Provincetown landscape, forming a powerful meditation on human erosion, transformation and renewal, and a powerful encounter with the Cape itself.

The fine art book NARROW LANDS: Paintings and Prose Poems has been published by CATALYSIS PROJECTS, and will be available in hardback and paperback.

Here is a preview of one of Quintan Ana Wikswo’s Poems that will be part of the upcoming exhibition and Narrow Lands Book.


by Quitnan Ana Wikswo

The veins on the back of her hand a delta, veins swollen and exposed. Under the nails – dulled and chipped – oyster shells nibbled in hopes of reaching the meat.

On her wrist, split blood vessels hunched and sharp as sea nettles.

Her nose arches over her long neglected mouth, and a dangling brown braid locked tight against the salt and moisture of the coast.

She wishes she’d been born looking like this, some fierce seafaring Venus sprung from a whale, split asunder and screaming on the shore.

But instead she’s grown this way, and slowly.

Slow enough to notice.

Hamper 36 x 36″

Oil on Canvas

This is a painting I am working on titled Hamper. I  have yet to tackle this hamper which is still outlined here in Pencil.

All three of the images included in this blog post are based on the house in Provincetown I made reference to. I hear that the house is owned by Penny and Chuck who are residents of Provincetown. My dear friend Linnie relayed that she ran into Penny and Chuck and had told them about these paintings coming to Provincetown. I wonder if they will come to the opening. As I write this I am thinking how strange this all is and how somehow we are all connected…

The Narrow Lands exhibit opens August 5th -24th, 2011 (opening reception  Friday August 5,  6-9pm) at The Patty Deluca Gallery in Provincetown, MA (courtesy of The School House Gallery.)

The work will be on display at The School House Gallery opening Labor day weekend September 2-21st, 2011 (with an opening reception on Friday Sept 2 7-10pm.)

Hanger 36 x 36″

Oil on Canvas

A Love Song for the Last Bookstore in Los Angeles

9 Jun

NOTES FROM THE STUDIO – Catalysis Projects’ Core Artist Quintan Ana Wikswo waxes passionate for the charms and magic of The Last Bookstore, a pleasure dome of literary delights in downtown Los Angeles.

Consider this a love song for the Last Bookstore in Los Angeles – but wait, it’s not what you’re thinking. This is no tragic love song for the disappearing anachronism of the Los Angeles bookseller. No. This is a joyful, jubilant falling-in-love song for a used bookstore called “The Last Bookstore,” – a funhouse xanadu, a valhalla nirvana that despite all odds is located in Los Angeles, rather than belle epoque Budapest, Barcelona, Mexico City, or London. It’s the boulevard of dreams-come-true that invites us on an expedition of cerebral stimulations.

If somewhere within you dwells a misrecollected pink, this will tickle it.

If there is a seventh gear for jubilation, here is where you shall shift into it.

Look at it this way: Gertrude Stein has brought you to a magical attic of succulents, birdcages, faux-taxidermy wooly mastodons, where the tufted charms of Henry Miller’s seductively tattered Chesterfield seduces you to recline, indolent, whilst dragging on a contraband Chesterfield – you are wrapped in a rapt ardor amidst the precise sort of hazy spectral ambience that drives a Bronte to orgasm. Now it’s yours. If you can’t hallucinate your way through the halcyon literary lexicon of 1930s Paris, Lisbon, Buenos Aires, Saigon or Prague, you can come here.

A lifetime could vanish happily amidst these spendiferous stacks of books. You’ll emerge, bespectacled and blinking, equally conversant with antimatter spaceships orEdwardian ghosts. You will have books in your hand, and you will feel transcendent.

And even better for me, it’s downstairs from my studio, on the ground floor of the inimitably noir-ish Spring Arts Tower, a 1923 structure by the renown architect John Parkinson located at the corner of 5th and Spring, in downtown Los Angeles…a semi-hidden gem of a building dense with affordable artist studios. I ask you: how often is a writer’s studio located directly above three thousand ingeniously-curated, spookily perfect used books that is also an enticing timespace portal to various mecca of literary avant-garde culture? Never. Now you understand why this is a love song. A very ecstatic love song.

If you live anywhere near Los Angeles, do your body, mind, heart and soul a favor – hie thyself to the corner of 5th and Spring downtown, and enter the wonderland that is The Last Bookstore. It is a phantasmagoric delight for the eyes, the cerebral cortex, and the human heart.

The space itself is monumental in design and execution with an eye for quirky, sultry, brooding steampunk magnificence, with a kick of lighthearted quirk.

This is a place to dwell for hours, if not days, fully enthralled.

Waiting for you are thousands of books in angled cases. They lurk and waltz and careen and impose themselves upon your best self beneath an ornate vaulted 1920s ceiling, where the visitor would be unsurprised to see the Hindenburg, Poe’s

hanging bats, or Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling.

At each stack, I expected to haggle with Borges over a book of Margaret Bourke-White photos. Or flirt with Mina Loy about Patti Smith’s Horses CD.

This is an Angeleno pantheon  to that uncommon variety of epic literary grandeur we find only in our fantasies. This is less a bookstore than a portal into a transcendent palace of literature, a resplendent temple to the word. Its ambiance befits a cathedral to the written word – commerce seems an afterthought (which is why all of us must visit it, with a few dollars in our pockets).

The Last Bookstore presents a dazzlingly shabby, majestically mythical old world intellectual playfulness that so often seems to elude Los Angeles. Go here when you feel that all hope is lost. Go here when you feel you were born in the wrong time, the wrong place, with the wrong dreams and impractical ambitions that lean more towards poetics than plastic surgery scars. This is a place to forget what’s irrelevant and remember why you were born: there’s a suspension of mundanity happening here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is more than a little magic going down. Something holy and enchanted.

In this cranial pleasure dome there is more to love than what meets the eye: the curation of the books themselves seems to inspire paranoia in every visitor: how did they know about my favorite books? My first five minutes yielded works by Jack Spicer, Mallarme, Anne Waldman, Paul Celan, and even the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti‘s works…in Italian. My beating heart henceforth shakes the building.

A few hours later, my studio assistant returned bearing a stack of vintage classic horror stories and fairy tales. Later that evening, the filmmaker leaving my studio after helping me on some video installations reported bliss at discovering a trove of beloved children’s books that would later leave his nephews in paroxysms of delight.

We were all experiencing literary paroxysms of the most delightful kind.

Please, my dear ones, bring your raw and bleeding heart in your hands, the nooks and crannies of your long-forgotten chimeras that say, why isn’t there anywhere to go in Los Angeles where I can simply read a book, and feel my skin shiver with delight in the polysyllabic written word, in goose-fleshed jubilation that our cave dwelling ancestors once learned to put grunt to charcoal and sketch out some marks with meaning. Words. We have them here, they abound and resound. They’re at The Lost Bookstore, on sale cheap. Go. Go. Go.

Learn more about Quintan Ana Wikswo here, or read her most recent short story here, in Gulf Coast journal.

The Ultimate Match

7 Jun

New Work by CP visual artist Kim Ye in collaboration with director Jeff Jenkins

What are the ideological underpinnings that govern romantic attraction and partner selection, and who is in the position to influence such personal preferences? In The Ultimate Match, a collaborative project between commercial director Jeff Jenkins of ContagiousLA and myself, we attempt to prod at this question with a 60-second satirical commercial. Some of the issues we were thinking about during the creation of this video include the redirection of personal desire,  construction of “the power couple”, Asian fetish, whiteness, eugenics, fetishism, politics of reproduction, implicit vs. explicit, and the economics of pairing.

The Ultimate Match from kim ye on Vimeo.

REVIEW: Microtextual at the Microfest 2011 concert series

5 Jun


Catalysis Projects

April 16, 2011

MiMoDa Studio, Los Angeles

Review by CP composer Veronika Krausas

One of my favorite things is bilingual poetry books – English on the right side and the original on the left.  Sometimes it’s a foreign language I understand but often not. Still, it makes me feel a little bit like a traveler to an exotic place – comparing the alternate versions.  It feels like a magical and secret world that is private and I’m opening up a little cabinet of wonders to enjoy and watch sparkle. 

CP’s MicroTextual, curated by Aron Kallay, for me was just like that – a land of wonder, from the moment you walked into MiMoDa.  The space was transformed to an art exhibit with soft lighting and mysterious scrolls hanging from the ceiling and paper-origami-poof lamps  (my term) and a super cool vibe.  This concert featured many of the Catalysis Projects artists and what a collection of creativity and performances it was.

The reason I bring up bilingual poetry books is that the work of Quintan Wikswo is a 3-D version but so much more.   Her ‘cabinet of wonders’ included two wonderful works combining her texts with sublimely beautiful video footage.  They’re from her Floriography collection:  Floriography I (Coimbra 1541) and Floriography II (Bavaria 1543).  Her term is a “diptych of text-integrated video installation.”  

Wikswo "Floriography"







On the back wall, in amongst the mostly red images floated text, in English, while Rafael Liebich read, as an echo, the same text in Portuguese, with trombonist Matt Barbier playing a microtonal composition by David Rosenboom.  In the second work, the texts were read in Hebrew to a soundscape of flies and frogs.  These pieces were a visual realization of bilingual poetry books.


Starting the program was the amazing Honey, Milk and Blood, a collaboration by composer Isaac Schankler and visual artist Kim Ye, inspired by the ideas of Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla.  The scrolls were explained – they were functional art!  It was the score for the dozen singers, dressed in off-white flowing clothes.  The soprano soloist Andrea Zomorodian was herself a sculpture, a kinetic sculptures by Ye, a mermaid plant with a long root carried out by her attendants.  LOVED the music, LOVED the kinetic sculptures – it was the first sparkle opening up the cabinet of wonders.


And what microtonal concert would be complete without some quintessential Harry Partch, the grandfather of American microtonal music?  The Barstow:  Eight Hitchhikers’ Inscriptions by Partch was brilliantly performed by baritone and guitarist John Schneider, one of the co-directors of the Microfest series this year and Aron Kallay on chromelodeon.  

The second half of the concert started with a minimal and very serene work by Cat Lamb, The Field (for Agnes)There was a world premiere by Jeffrey Holmes, Fragments for soprano and piano.  The vocal line is more of a chant or what Holmes calls “a spell” in a series of images that use text from a variety of anonymous Latin sources. It was a Teutonic saga full of rich harmonies and virtuoso piano writing.  The virtuoso piano part was expertly performed by CP member and organizer of the whole evening pianist Aron Kallay

Holmes: Fragments

The most amazing thing about this piece was visual and completely accidental. I just happened to be lucky enough to be sitting in the exact spot to notice – Katherine Giaquinto, the singer was standing in a spot that when I looked in the mirror on the opposite wall, her body was replaced by the reflection of one of those paper-origami-poof lamps.  This alternate body was like another sculpture by Kim Ye and added to the chant-like Latin text’s magical and removed quality.

The concert concluded with Luminenscence, a gorgeous work by this year’s other co-director of Microfest, Bill Alves.  In his program notes Alves writes:

… an oton [is] a ritual that is performed 210 days after the birth of a child when the baby’s feet touch the earth for the first time. Before that time she is considered still too close to the realm of the gods to be allowed to touch the ground. The only music at this ceremony came from the chanting of the officiating priest and the small bell whose sounds he wafted to the fascinated baby’s ears.  Those chants, or mantra, are … a way of tuning oneself to the vibrations of the universe. These are in a very real sense the sounds of the transition from the celestial to the terrestrial world.

The singers now changed from white to black – from light to dark – balancing the visual and aural in the concert, touching the audience’s feet to the ground.  The whole evening was a wonderfully surreal and dreamlike experience.


If you, like me, love bilingual poetry books – definitely check out The Madness of Amadis by Jean Cassou, translated by Timothy Adès  (Agenda Editions).  Cassou (1897-1986), was a war-time Resistance leader, created France’s National Museum of Modern Art, and a poet!  It’s wonderful poetry and a brilliant and sensitive translation.

PS #2

The concert was part of the Microfest Concert series that started in LA in by the fabulous John Schneider in 1997.

Eco Amazons by DORKA KEEHN

2 Jun

Recommended Reading by

CP composer Veronika Krausas

I have just received a new book – it’s an absolutely beautiful hardcover by the San Francisco writer, documentary film maker and activist Dorka Keehn, who is definitely her own force of nature.  I highly recommend it!

Eco Amazons brings together for the first time the women leading the charge to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth. Through intimate interviews conducted by journalist and activist Dorka Keehn and arresting images by award winning photographer Colin Finlay, Eco Amazons calls attention to this century’s critical environmental challenges by focusing on the remarkable women developing solutions and guiding us towards a sustainable future. Their efforts demonstrate how individual concern gives rise to passion, how passion leads to action, and how action effects meaningful change—efforts that can be emulated by each and every one of us.
If you’d like to order one, they’re  on Amazon OR at a 30% discount is available on if purchased by June 5, World Environment Day (WED).
If you are in the Bay Area and would like to meet Dorka, please join us at Gump’s, 135 Post St, SF CA on June 16 5:30-7:30 PM. Rsvp:
Through decades of WED celebrations, hundreds of thousands of people from countries all over the world have been galvanized for individual and organized environmental action. For more information and activities, please visit

Dorka Keehn

Dorka’s been a guest blogger for CP and here’s more information:
Dorka Keehn is a journalist and social entrepreneur. She is currently working on ECO AMAZONS, the first book on American women environmental leaders to be released on Earth Day, 2011, with images by Colin Finlay, one of the foremost documentary photographers in the world. She completed in November 2008,Language of the Birds, a large-scale solar powered permanent site specific sculpture for a new plaza in Northbeach, commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission, that was voted one of the best public artworks in the United States by Americans for the Arts. As a filmmaker, she has produced several films for television including the two-time Emmy award winning documentary, OF CIVIL WRONGS & RIGHTS: The Fred Korematsu Story (PBS POV 2001.) She is a founder of EMERGE AMERICA, the premier training program for Democratic women who plan to run for political office, and has been a leader in the women’s movement for over fifteen years. Mayor Willie Brown appointed her twice and Mayor Gavin Newsom re-appointed her to the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. Dorka was also the West Coast Director of Gloria Steinem’s Voters For Choice, the largest non-partisan, independent pro-choice political action committee in the U.S. And she has served on innumerable Boards of Directors of women’s, environmental, media and educational organizations.