[I played many more concerts than listed here but I cant remember much about them.]
Jim Horton's Involvement With Playing Music 1of4 files
I was born on Sept 6 1944 in southeastern Minnesota and grew up in the small towns of Rochester and Austin. My father was an accountant, manager and later vice-president for a chain of dairies. My brother, sisters and myself were the "kid-test taste-crew" for experimental flavors of ice cream. My mother was a nurse and the famous Dr. Benjamin Spock of the Mayo Clinic at Rochester was my baby doctor. I was a data point for his influential "how to raise your baby" book. As a very young child I was an enthusiast for listening to "Whoopy John" and his polka band and was excited to hear over the radio Whoopy John himself announce: "This next tune is for little Jimmy Horton who's birthday is today!" In grade school my poetry was published in the local newspaper.
In high school I wrote songs for a folk music and Buddy Holly style rock band in which I sang and played guitar. For a while we had a regular gig playing Saturday night at a roller-skating rink. I also emergency substituted several times playing banjo with a polka music dance band. They hid me behind the accordion players since I was obviously underage.
I became very involved in shortwave radio listening. I heard live broadcasts of an impassioned Fidel Castro giving ten hour speeches to cheering, excited crowds and was fascinated by exotic music from far away places. But usually I listened more for the electronic sounds than for content. I hardware-hacked my receivers and designed and built many antennas and after much effort I was able to tune in the planet Jupiter! An astronomer had published the frequency in a magazine and described the signal as sounding like ocean surf so I got a record from the library to find out what that was like. I built a radio telescope antenna with a chickenwire reflector and tried to listen to the sun. I also heard the "dawn chorus" by using a long wire fence plugged directly into a hi-fi preamp. (Later I read that this is a dangerous technique.)
I was one of three singers in the tenor section of the church choir led by a very musical nun. It was nothing for us to learn a Palistrina mass or equivalent at a two hour rehearsal on Wednesday evening and sing it for high mass next Sunday. We did it every week; it was only later that I realized how ambitious she was. For several years in college I was a seminarian and we sang Gregorian Chant several times a day. Also at college I did some tape splicing and overdubbing experiments.
I went to grad school to study Logical Positivism with Herbert Feigel at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. I admire Logical Positivism in that it is the only philosophy ever invented that was clearly enough stated to be definitively refuted. A fellow student who was a Fortran programmer and myself experimented with computer generated poetry.
I dropped out of grad school and hitched-hiked to a warmer climate in San Francisco California. For several years I devoted myself to the empirical and philosophical study of psychedelic and mystical states of consciousness.
(Jan 1967-1968) Improvised bamboo flute music in the parks and streets. Very many handmade flutes. Hippy modal music in Haight-Ashbury, various Golden Gate Park be-ins, on Mt. Tam at the end of the world by asteroid crash excitement, on the dance floor at the Avalon Ballroom dancing and playing along with the Grateful Dead, etc.
STP. Stockhousen Records.
(fall 1968) Moved back to Minneapolis.
(1968-1970) Improvised flute music: w/ birds, w/ stuck Ussachevsky record, at several weddings and at anti-war events in Minneapolis Minn. I played on someone's 45 rpm single that made the charts somewhere in Central America.
(1968-early 70s) Flute improv w/ Tom Zahuranec on guitar. I met Tom in Minneapolis in late 1968. He had bought all of the advanced music records listed by Frank Zappa on the cover of one of his records. I also had a small collection of records and we spent many hours listening to and discussing music.
(1969) I and a fellow peace-nik did a live mix of Varese, Stockhausen, stuck-Ussachevsky, and Partch records as a sound track to the silent movie "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" at a benefit for SDS (Students for a Democratic Society).
(1969) Flute music to graphic score of traffic flow dynamics and accel/de- accelerations. I spent dozens of hours sitting at a desk in a room above a busy street listening and attempting to notate the traffic sounds just because they were interesting. Only later did it occur to me to use this manuscript as a musical score.
(1969) "Moon Landing Ritual" in Minneapolis with help from Tom Zahuranec and a commune of hippies. This was a magical ritual protesting nationalist and militaristic imagery surrounding NASA's moon landing events. It was held in a park at night with lots of incense waving, ceremonial burying of stolen military-spec transistors, text declamation, candles, bonfires, nude group ritual circle dancing, drumming and flute playing. We made dozens of handmade posters, each one differently designed for specific locations -- one appealed for a show of solidarity from "Trotskyite Brown Rice Eaters" and a group of older radicals who had been in the Great Strikes of the 1930s showed up and had a fine time. Hundreds of participants, mostly hippies, but a good number of students, ordinary working people and housewives really got into the spirit of this thing! The local tv stations showed up to this colorful, even at times lurid, event with their cameras and lights. Next morning's newspaper article was picked up by the wire services and (I was told) printed in papers around the world.
(1969?) My first electro-acoustic music piece; for amplified and filtered cymbals, flute and dual tape delay. The dual tape system (Riley's time lag accumulator) was explained to me by someone who had seen it in SF. I was influenced by Max Neuhaus' record: "Electronics and Percussion; 5 Realizations."
(early 1970?) A professor of botany who heard about the moon ceremony appealed to our commune on the basis of "Flower Power" to help him organize the first "Earth Day" in Minneapolis. We worked hard on this successful project. I played flute between the speakers on the program and for skits.
(date?) Tom and I went to a Merce Cunningham dance event and talked to the musicians (who were two or three of John Cage, David Tudor, Gordon Mumma or David Behrman-- I can't remember exactly) to ask where someone could study their type of music. The consensus answer was: Mills College in Oakland California with Robert Ashley.
(date?) I read the book "Silence" by John Cage.
(date?) I moved back to California.
(spring 1971 date?) "Guitar Tuning Piece" Wearing work gloves and jacket and a full face fencing mask I tuned up the strings on a guitar until they broke. "Polyphonic Poem" Two small choruses reading a poem back and forth. "Description of an Oncoming Storm" Exhibit of raindrop splattered notebook pages describing just before and the very beginnings of a rainstorm. These pieces were composed and rehearsed within a few days of a concert at a house in Berkeley. I also played flute in a Tom Zahuranec composition at this concert.
(date?) Tom and I rhythmically shook apart a chainlinked fence. It made beautiful sounds as it disintegrated. Tom was a genius at getting extreme music out of anything. Once I saw Tom, on peyote, walk by a radio and it just slightly changed frequency. He noticed it immediately and began moving back and forth exploring the effect and an hour or so later he was running in patterns around the room changing the radio from one station to another.
(early 1970s) I studied at the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College in the legendary Bob Ashley era. Although I was unregistered and unofficial I just showed up one day and began to do work that needed done at the studios. My friend Tom Zahuranec had the technician's job and after a while I acquired a set of keys. When I signed myself up for synthesizer studio time there were some objections, and by some I was never fully accepted, but Ashley left my name on the schedule and eventually somehow I got added to the list of graduate students. The concert series were outstanding. Ashley had a highly advanced artistic attitude and I learned a lot. Here is Blue Gene Tyranny's opinion with which I basically agree: "The whole atmosphere of the center was extremely conducive to imagination. The social thing was incredible. People could constantly give information and support. Just the way the center itself was organized, if you can say it was organized, was conducive to a great deal of creativity".
I especially got into the Buchla 100 synthesizer. This machine, the first integrated voltage controlled synthesizer ever built, was inherited by the CCM from the San Francisco Tape Music Center. It embodied concepts from the most avant-guard music of the post-war era. The idea of independent control of the "parameters" of music such as pitch, duration, amplitude, and timbre came from the the total-serialist's extension of Webern's procedures. The novel Sequencer modules could emulate the tape loop experiments carried out at the SFTMC. Also the device was never set up to "synthesize" acoustic instrument sounds or to act as a kind of electric organ--it's design seemed to proclaim the liberation of electronic sound. There is evidence that Don Buchla built this machine "by ear" while in highly sensitive states of consciousness. For instance the noise generator is a three dimensional sculpture of it's components (resisters, capacitors, transistors etc.) that had been bent to exact positions in space to make the unit sound good.
I had one 10 minute lesson from Zahuranec who played a simple patch that he had set up for demonstration purposes. (Tom was the best synthesizer player that I ever heard.) Although he claimed that it was an instrument I began my experiments by processing texts. However I soon adapted Tom's instrument idea and became intrigued by designing patches that would "let the machine play for itself" while I would tune the patch within a steady state pattern and occasionally help it transition to a closely related pattern. I thought of this as "drone music" but it wasn't meant to be calm or meditative --I would hunt for states of the music that I called "Wildness." At that time I believed that this "interactive" approach arose naturally from the system and it's interface of cords and knobs. It seemed to me that the "Electric Music Box" had a distinct "personality" and really wanted to play something interesting. Maybe these effects arose from interactions between instabilities in it's oscillators and nonlinearities in its sub-audio control voltage modules. My Buchla tapes were lost or stolen due to the facts of living the life of a street person.
(date?) Played flute and Buchla tapes at a wild, out of control Happening in Palo Alto organized by a truly acid-ecstatic recorder player. I overheard one professor type say to another: "You know he used to compose quite nice chamber music." It was great.
(1972 date?) A collaborative piece (I forget the title [decay the age??]) at Mill's concert hall w/ Tom Zahuranec, Jill Kroeson and Roger Kent. It was part of the Music With Roots in the Aether festival organized by Bob Ashley. I read Moog processed texts including a list of all color words in a long work by the blind poet John Milton. Jill played viola and Tom played the Buchla 100. The mix was played through 8 Polyplaner speakers being carried by assistants among the audience. These speakers were turned on and off by mercury switches electrical-taped to Jill's body and arms as she did advanced avant-guard topless dancing -- a fantastic "mythological" sight with all the color-coded wires suspended above her head! Meanwhile Roger was unrolling a very large transparent plastic sheet that extended from above the stage to the back of the hall. Naturally the sheet was dropped covering the audience at the end of the piece. Everyone expected it.
At the Music With Roots in the Aether festival at Mills I also did technical and setup work for Pulsa, an east coast group. They had a homebrew synth that sequenced 32 high intensity airport style strobe lights placed on both sides of the street from the dance building to the concert hall. At night a small plane seemingly confused by the lights made an apparent approach to land. We moved the lights indoors.
(date?) Played bamboo flute and ring-modulated jaw-harp for underground movie soundtracks at Roger Kent's studio at the Reno Hotel in San Francisco.
(1972) Did technical and experimental work on Tom Zahuranec's plant/synthesizer interface circuit for his plant music project which attempted to demonstrate the "Backster Effect" of plant response to emotional stimuli, including telepathic transmissions. I thought the 709 type "pop corn" op-amps were possibly more sensitive to esp than the Geraniums were. We tried hooking the system up to a Venus Fly Trap but unfortunately it died. This was an amazing audience participation piece!
(date?) I suggested to Tom Zahuranec and and he convinced a somewhat skeptical Robert Ashley that we should hook all of the electronic music equipment at the Center for Contemporary Music together and invite music fans to come to Mills and play the system. Announcements were made over KPFA and the CCM studios and hallways were packed with participants. Tom did the mix for the live remote radio broadcast. Roger Kent made tape loops of phone calls which were immediately put on the air. I played Buchla synthesizer when I wasn't trouble shooting. People spontaneously gathered around microphones to chant "Om."
(1973-1974) I read Harry Partch's "Genesis of a Music" and other music theory books and articles at the Music Library at UCB.
(dec 19 1973 date?) Participant in Jan Pusina's performance of John Cage's "Variation 6" at the Exploratorium. Here occurred one of the most musical things I've ever seen and heard: Tony Gnazzo bowing the amplified metal "Chaldni Plates." ("I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. I heard Tom Zahuranec play music with sleeping, self aware plants. I saw Tony Gnazzo bowing the amplified metal Chaldni Plates. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain." - Horus Aton, Bladerunner)
(date?) Built various modules for a Stan Lunetta style digital synthesizer. This device involved bringing the i/o pins of integrated circuits directly to a patch panel where every output jack was connected to an indicator light making the parallel data flow visually apparent. Various pulse waveforms were mixed for the audio. I did a concert or demonstration of just intonation playing the "Lunetta Synthesizer." From a Stan Lunetta interview in Ear, Vol. 9, Number 1, Valentines's Issue 1981: SL: rhythmically It's like if you get a series of possibilities, like "What's the common denominator of 5, 12 & 17," and you get 5 and 12 and 17 until they all come together and start over again. In a sense that's what the machine did. Also, if you set your odds correctly, it's going to tend to do something sensible. If you decide what its possibilities are going to be, you don't have just anything happening. You sort of tune its capabilities. Ear: How are the sounds generated? SL: It makes pitches through binary relationships. It counts to a number, and when it reaches that number it goes back and counts to that number again, and then it goes back and counts to that number again, and the rate at which it goes back and counts again is the frequency of the pitch.
(date?) Set up an analog computer to simulate objects of various mass falling on all the solar system's (highly idealized) planets. Listeners had to use their imaginations because the oscillator tone went up as the object "fell". Demo'd in the technician's room at CCM.