Over the past decade, sfSound has explored the territory between the concert hall and the experimental music underground. sfSoundGroup, the organization’s performing ensemble, is a fluid collective of multi-faceted interpreters and composer/performers dedicated to innovative collaborative work. Our programs feature our own compositions, improvisations, new commissions, and existing repertoire with an international scope and a distinctly West Coast spin — honoring and striving to continue the San Francisco Bay Area’s critical historical role in the development of the American Experimental tradition.
Since 2003, our sfSoundSeries has been presenting a mix of solo, chamber, and large ensemble works, often incorporating electronics and emphasizing the continuum between notated composition and free improvisation. In addition, we produce the annual San Francisco Tape Music Festival, host the sfSoundRadio internet radio station, and collaborate frequently with other like-minded artists.
This recording focuses on the acoustic music we create for and with each other, highlighting the wide range of approaches and aesthetics that inform our collective identity.
Kyle Bruckmann — oboe . English horn (1-9)
Tom Dambly — trumpet (1)
Christopher Froh — percussion (2, 4)
Matt Ingalls — Eb, Bb, and bass clarinets (1-5, 7-9)
John Ingle — alto saxophone (1, 3, 5, 7, 8)
Graeme Jennings — viola (2, 4, 5)
Christopher Jones — piano (4, 8, 9) . conductor (2, 5)
Benjamin Kreith — violin (5)
Hadley McCarroll — piano (2)
Stacey Pelinka — flute . piccolo . bass flute (2, 4)
Monica Scott — cello (3, 5-8)
Erik Ulman — violin (9)
Recorded at Skywalker Sound Studios
Leslie Ann Jones, engineer
Erik Ulman, producer
Mixed and mastered at Headless Buddha Mastering
Myles Boisen, engineer
David July/mountsutro.org, photographer
“Trio Largo” was composed over many rehearsals with my sfSound colleagues, experimenting with various extended techniques and improvisatory sections tailored to each player’s talents. The "trio" in the title applies to the tripartite form, the musical material (sustained timbres, fast hocketing, silence), and the work's experiments in orchestration (harmonic doublings, detuned unisons, misbalanced dynamics). The piece can be performed as a quartet alone (as in this recording), or with a background group of improvisers.
Reviled for his "shapeless sonic tinkering" by the Los Angeles Times, clarinetist, composer, improviser, and computer musician Matt Ingalls is the founder and Artistic Director of sfSound and the San Francisco Tape Music Collective. Often incorporating elements of improvisation, his music is heavily influenced by his long involvement in computer music. His acoustic music is marked by his exploration of extended instrumental techniques that “synthesize” new timbres and interact with the acoustic space, often as combination tones. He received Deuxième Prix, Lauréats des Puys (Catégorie Humour) in the 1994 Concours International de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges and was the first recipient of the ASCAP/SEAMUS Commission and Recording Prize. A professional software engineer, his audio tools Soundflower and MacCsound have been used widely throughout the world.
“Bacchanale” is a tiny oboe concerto, written in March 2009 as an 81st birth- day gift to the painter Cy Twombly, with the skills of Kyle Bruckmann and my colleagues in the sfSoundGroup very much in mind.
“Fragment for Jules Olitski” (2007)
Jules Olitski was an important American painter who died in February 2007; this piece was intended as a small tribute. It was written for the sfSoundGroup, for an August 2007 concert of miniatures, made possible by a Meet the Composer Creative Connections Award.
Erik Ulman is a Lecturer in Music at Stanford University. He studied with composers Brian Ferneyhough at UC San Diego and Helmut Lachenmann at the Stuttgart Musikhochschule; he has taught at UCSD and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ulman’s music has been performed around the world; among his distinctions are a commission from the Fromm Foundation at Harvard and a Hewlett Fellowship at the Djerassi Program. Also a writer and a violinist, Ulman and Marcia Scott co-direct the arts organization Poto.
“Mobiles #5” (2005) and “Mobiles #6” (2008)
“Mobiles” is a series of modular compositions written specically for sfSound, each involving group improvisation using pitch sets, chorales, melodic fragments, and rhythmic "generators." Mobiles 5 is written with a special nod to odd bed-fellows Wadada Leo Smith and Morton Feldman, while Mobiles 6, based on a 12-tone matrix, is an homage to both the synecdochic concision of Anton Webern and the harmonically suggestive dodecaphony of Luigi Dallapiccola.
Saxophonist John Ingle is an improviser, an interpreter, a composer, and a conductor of new music. He is a founding member of sfSound and is known for his unique tone, his adept control of extended techniques, and a huge dynamic range—from nearly inaudible whispers to room-filling resonance. John has a long and creative history at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA, and has been awarded grants from Meet the Composer, the American Composers Forum and New Langton Arts. He performs in duo with percussionist Kjell Nordeson and with composer/dulcimerist Dan Joseph, with whom he recorded the CD “Trancepatterns.”
He has a Bachelor of Music degree in Woodwind Performance from the University of Memphis, where he studied with Allen Rippe, and a Master of Arts in Composition from Mills College, where he studied with Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Curran and Glenn Spearman. John lives in San Francisco, CA and is an active open-water swimmer and the caretaker at SF's venerable Dolphin Club.
“Reflection | Refraction” (2007)
“Reflection | Refraction” is music made from incompatible materials. It is not about resolving conflict. Rather, underlying principles of contrast and conflict are catalysts for generating a tangle of musical relationships.
Chicago-based composer Christopher Wendell Jones is an Assistant Professor of Musicianship Studies and Composition at DePaul University. Christopher has presented his music in performances and lectures nationally and internationally at venues including the Darmstadt Ferienkurse in Germany, the Ictus International Composition Seminar in Brussels, Belgium, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, Merkin Hall in New York and the Milwaukee Art Museum. He has worked with a broad range of ensembles and soloists such as the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the Callithumpian Consort, the Fonema Consort, sfSoundGroup, guitarist Magnus Andersson, violinists Janet Sung and Mark Menzies, pianist Ann Yi and flautist Lisa Cella. He earned his doctorate in music composition at Stanford University, studying principally with Brian Ferneyhough and Jonathan Harvey.
All of my notated works are conceived with an improviser’s mindset, and with specific improvisers in mind. This involves not just framing improvisation with composed material, but also composing materials and initiating processes that are willfully eccentric, requiring resourcefulness, spontaneity, and often a healthy dose of slapstick in their execution.
Oboist and composer/performer Kyle Bruckmann’s work extends from a Western classical foundation into gray areas encompassing free jazz, electronic music and post-punk rock. In addition to sfSound, he is a member of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Eco Ensemble, Splinter Reeds, Quinteto Latino, and the Stockton Symphony, and Lecturer at UCSC. He has worked with the San Francisco Symphony and most of the area’s regional orchestras while remaining active within an international community of improvisers and sound artists, appearing on more than 60 recordings of various genres. From 1996 to 2003, he was a fixture in Chicago’s experimental music underground; long-term affiliations include the electro-acoustic duo EKG, the art-punk monstrosity Lozenge, and the Creative Music quintet Wrack. Bruckmann earned undergraduate degrees in music and psychology at Rice University, and completed his Masters degree in 1996 at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
released January 1, 2016
This recording was made possible with funding from the
Musical Grant Program of The San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music and Individual Donations
the latest music of the European Avant-Garde to the grittiest sounds of the West Coast Improv-Underground, encompassing recent trends in instrumental technique, conceptual art, music theater, and electronic sound.