from Artifact web pages put up by Tim Perkis, Chris Brown's Snake Charmer cd art 1001 1989 downloaded may 14 1995 823w


ART 1001

Live Electro-acoustic music composed and performed by Chris Brown, piano, keyboards, voice, and electronics. With William Winant, percussion.

* OBEDIENCE SCHOOL (9'34") Chris Brown, electric percussion-piano * ICEBERG (17'35") William Winant, percussion * SNAKECHARMER (10'00") Chris Brown, whistling, voice * HALL OF MIRRORS (10'58")Chris Brown, Fender-Rhodes electric piano * POST MORTEM (19'16") Chris Brown, Steinway grand piano

The five pieces on this recording are all solo performances which were recorded live in one take without overdubbing. In each piece a different acoustic (or amplified acoustic) instrument is played through an electronic system that responds automatically to the sounds and actions of the performer. The electronic sounds result from live processing applied to the acoustic sounds, and the ways that they respond are controlled in part by information sampled from the performance. The pieces are interactions between the performer and the electronics, so the details of each performance change while the structure, defined both by a musical score and an electronic response environment, remains the same. I want electronic sound to be alive to the nuances of human gesture and spontaneous musical thought. And I want it to enhance our experience of acoustics and of playing instruments, extending what we already do instead of trying to imitate, improve upon, or replace it.

Recorded January-April 1989 at the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College, Oakland, California; except for POST MORTEM, recorded May 1987 at Hyde St. Studios, San Francisco, California. Mastered at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California.

Produced by Chris Brown Cover art by Johanna Poethig Design by Michael Sumner

A R T 1 0 0 1 (c)1989 Chris Brown (BMI). All rights reserved.

ARTIFACT RECORDINGS, 1374 Francisco Street Berkeley, CA 94702 U.S.A.


OBEDIENCE SCHOOL (1986) is a piece for an improvisor and a home-made, computer controlled signal-processor, which is a bank of eight different voltage controlled effects modules coupled to a digitally controlled mixer. The piece is defined by a program that changes the nature of the signal processor (voltages and effects mix) based on data derived from the performer's sounds. The soloist is the master, feeding the computer and commanding its obedience, but the servant has a life of it's own; and both are snared in a symbiotic relationship that is never entirely predictable. In this performance I am playing an electric percussion keyboard I invented in 1981 called the "Gazamba". It is essentially a prepared electric piano made from the shell of a Wurlitzer electric piano, fitted with percussive tone generators made from small metallic objects such as springs, twisted music wire, tunings pins, and strings.

Recording Engineer: Chris Brown

ICEBERG (1985) was written for percussionist William Winant and is dedicated to him. It is scored for glockenspiel, crotales, and hi-hat, with each instrument being amplified and processed electronically in a different way. Two symmetrical pitch sets, one in the glockenspiel and one in the crotales, phase against each other, and in each of the twelve sections the tonal center moves down one half-tone, while the generative interval used in determining the pitch set is widened by the same amount. The electronic sounds are all live transformations of the percussion, and the performer plays in time with the automated switching of effects, starting simply, and then playing more complex and syncopated patterns against it. A linear frequency shift is used to gradually modulate the acoustic sounds downward, along with a digital delay which recirculates it, describing an underwater geography to the percussion.

Percussion: William Winant Electronics: Chris Brown Recording Engineer: Tom Erbe

SNAKECHARMER (1987) is a piece for an improvisor and a MIDI feedback network. A computer monitors the input from a microphone, trans-posing pitches and quantizing rhythms according to a program, then playing them back through an FM synthesizer and a harmonizer. Since the computer's pitch follower also hears the electronics, the system chases it's own tail (c.f. Ouroboros, the Snake), feeding back in modes that can be influenced by an acoustic performer (the Charmer). In this performance, I am feeding the system by whistling and singing to it.

For Johanna Poethig Recording Engineer: Andreas Mniestris

HALL OF MIRRORS (1987) explores changing combinations of parameter mappings between an improviser and the signal processor. A sequentially changing series of software "patches" relate the pitch and loudness of sounds to their own electronic modulation. The sound source here is a vintage Fender Rhodes electric piano with MIDI, which enabled the accurate pitch tracking of chords. The improvisation makes a gradual approach towards a tune, heard once fully at the end.

For David Poyourow Recording Engineer: Scot Gresham-Lancaster

POST MORTEM (1984), for piano and digital delay, reflects on an imagined transitionary state of mind, and also, more generally, on the nature of after thought.

Dedicated to the memory of Jack Briece and Rick Terry. Recording Engineer: James McKee

Artifact Artist Biography

CHRIS BROWN composes live electro-acoustic music using new instruments which he designs and builds. Among these is an electronic sound processor with acoustically activated computer controls. He has had commissions for interactive works from the Rova Saxophone Quartet and the Berkeley Symphony, and in 1992 he premiered the evening length piece "Lava" for eight instruments, interactive electronics, and quadraphonic sound. He also performs as a pianist with the improvisational ensembles "Room" and the"Glenn Spearman Double Trio". His music is recorded on Artifact Recordings, Sound Aspects, and Music & Arts, and he also appears on Black Saint andElektra/Nonesuch labels. He is Co-Director of the Center for ContemporaryMusic at Mills College in Oakland.