LIVE REVIEW: Arnold Dreyblatt, Cryptwarbler, Koen & Devorah in Chestnut Hill, MA (04.26.24)

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LIVE REVIEW: Arnold Dreyblatt, Cryptwarbler, Koen & Devorah in Chestnut Hill, MA (04.26.24)

When the woman checking people in said there were tea and cookies in the back, I knew it would be a fabulous evening. A funky industrial setting and experimental music made it a unique outing, while loose tea and a selection of Trader Joe’s cookies elevated it. Night one of the Festival of Experimental Sound at Waterworks Museum in Chestnut Hill featured Alex Bernhardt (Cryptwarbler), Isabella Koen & Rachel Devorah (duo) and Arnold Dreyblatt.

First up, Alex Bernhardt (Cryptwarbler). Bernhardt’s experimental research in controlling aleatoric behavior from abnormal use of ROM led to development of a system of hybrid electrical-musical notation. He utilizes a Casio MT-240 synthesizer for circuit-bent improvisation. The piece sounded staticky and sonar and then like a train rolling into a station and pouring rain on a windshield. Perfectly suited industrial vibes for the locale. Water glugging. Sonar communications between submarines. Ominous, emotive and visceral music.

Next the duo of Isabella Koen and Rachel Devorah played a soothing and mesmerizing loop with womb-like sounds, lulling, percussive tribal beats and vocal samples. Sound artist/DJ/composer Koen’s compositions incorporate sonic signifiers from rave, hard techno, trance, and drum ‘n’ bass. Devorah is a sonic artist, technologist, educator, and labor organizer. She utilizes bespoke electronics and the French horn. Their robotic piece featured whirring, whirling, pinging and churning. They really vibed together and were clearly enjoying themselves. The sound moved toward upbeat, video-gamey. This was my favorite of the night.

Finally, Arnold Dreyblatt. Media artist and composer Arnold Dreyblatt has been based in Berlin, Germany since 1984 and is one of the second generation of New York minimal composers. He performs on new and invented instruments and utilizes unique tuning styles and performance techniques. On Friday night, he performed with a modified double bass and computer looping. His piece started with a high-pitched humming which elicited a response from the person at front row center who dramatically plugged his ears. The piece progresses to reverb, warbling, high-pitched buzzing and droning. This wasn’t all that pleasant at the start but was more enjoyable when spoken word laced through” “position of the words on a page,” “the number 64,” “letters instead of syllables,” hand written entries,” “sonar signals”–going soft-loud-soft and finally fading out. On his second piece, he used a bow to bang on the instrument creating twangy repetitive beats. Percussion looped in and there were a few melodic elements. It was transfixing and better than the first piece. He did some finger styling at the top of the neck, tapping and hand traveling up and down the neck to produce a heartbeat-like thumping. It was definitely an interesting and unique sonic experience.

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