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The Bell Cycle

works for winds, percussion, ring modulation,
and audience members' cell phones

Written for the the International Contemporary Ensemble

Bells have historically been a means of communication over distance - to mark time, signal alarm, announce celebration, call to prayer, etc.  Now bells are used primarily as musical instruments, but still carry with them these associations.  Despite the changes in long-distance communication, we still respond to the sound of a bell to answer the door, or a telephone, or to see that a message has arrived to our inbox.

Distance, acoustic space, and amplification profoundly effect our emotional response to sounds, be that music or the sound of a lone voice speaking.  Depending on the proximity and the space, one might experience the ringing of a bell to be painful or spiritual.  A voice from across the world can sound more intimate distorted through a phone than it would in the same room.

The pieces in the growing Bells series (Like sweet bells jangled, Armory Bells, Gramercy Bells, and the much expanded and reductively titled Bells) take a look into the sounds and meanings of our means of communication.  All are related in their use of live processing of acoustic instruments and with using cell phones as a means to creating a participatory PA system.  The pieces are concerned with communication, with space, and with distance (between notes, sounds, ideas, and physical distances between performers, audience, walls, speakers, and so on).   
The electronic component uses one of the earliest techniques in electronic music: a ring modulator that creates phantom duos, dependent on real-time input from pairs of live instruments, that plays the sum and difference of any sounds made together by the performers.

Please un-silence your phone - Together the audience and performers form another codependent pair, with the audience providing the means of amplification and spatialization for the electronics through speakers in their phones.  Signals from the ring modulator and other electronics are routed from computer as phone calls.  Audience members can dial and connect to one of several conference numbers, set their phones on speaker, and become part of a decentralized PA.  The live processing reaches all the phones, having first traveled along thousands of miles of wires and then beamed from cell towers.  The speakers of these phones all play similar material but each one crackles and distorts at different frequencies, creating a secondary textural level within the audience.  In "Bells", the phones also receive other transmissions: the 4 phone lines carry distant sounds of electrical interference from space, of messages in morse code, and of "number stations" (shortwave radio stations widely believed to communicate with spies in the field).

Solo percussion with electronics

Diving Bell (for triangles)
Crawlspace (for amplified acoustic computer)
Talking to Vasudeva (for river stones)
Simple Songs of Birth and Return (for mbira)
Dovetail (for snare drum)

Nathan's solo percussion pieces form the core of his own repertoire.  Each explores its instrument's character and materials using unusual amplification and live processing (excerpts and individual descriptions of most are on the sound page).  Together they form a set that is unified in approach but broad in its sound world.  It is also transportable: over years of touring this show, it is down to 100 lbs - all the instruments (including 40 pounds of rocks) and electronics in two flight cases.

Concerts also include other solos (with and without electronics), including Kaija Saariaho's Six Japanese Gardens, James Tenney's Deus ex Machina, and Xenakis' Rebonds.

Odd Appetite

Odd Appetite (Ha-Yang Kim, cello, and Nathan Davis, percussion) makes music that is inspired by their experience with Balinese and Karnatic traditions and filled with a fascination for acoustic phenomena. Giant gongs, microtonal bells, drums, pipes, and hammered dulcimer are heard alongside a de-tuned and amplified cello, processed with stomp boxes, all played with virtuosity, passion, and spirit.  Odd Appetite composes, collaborates, and performs its own music written for this unique instrumentation as well as performing commissioned works by select composers. 

The duo has appeared together as soloists at Carnegie Hall (with a gamelan orchestra) and at the Bali Arts Festival, and have performed at the Bang on a Can Marathon Festival in New York, and at festivals in Amsterdam, Istanbul, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Belgium, and the across the US. Ama, a CD of Ms. Kim's music released on Tzadik, features Odd Appetite in two compositions written by her for the duo.

Odd Appetite have been in residence and conducted educational outreach as guest artists at Brown University, Harvard, Brandeis, Wellesley, Dartmouth, and other colleges, as well as the Walden School for Young Composers and Monadnock Music in New Hampshire. The have received grants and support from the Argosy Foundation, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, and Meet the Composer.


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