Serving the San Francisco Bay Area New Music Community

Fri, Nov 22 2019 7:30 PM

Birgit Ulher
Born 1961 in Nuremberg, she studied the visual arts, which still have an important influence on her music. Since moving to Hamburg in 1982 she has been involved in free improvisation and experimental music. Since then she has “established a distinguished grammar of sounds beyond the open trumpet” ( She works mainly on extending the sounding possiblities of the trumpet by using splitting sounds, multiphonics and granular sounds and has developed her own extended techniques and preparations for producing these sounds. Besides this material research she is especially interested in the relation between sound and silence.
Since 2006 Birgit Ulher works with radios and uses extended speakers, fed with radio noise in her trumpet mutes. The trumpet functions as an acoustic chamber and modulates the radio noise, thus the trumpet is transmitter and receiver at the same time. Her work with radio is documented on the CD 'Radio Silence No More', released 2007 on Olof Bright.
The same concept is the basis of the duo with Gregory Büttner, where Büttner plays his sound contributions via a laptop with an output to a small speaker which Ulher uses a s trumpet mute.Their first CD 'Tehricks' based on this concept was released 2009.
She performs solo, with dancers, working ensembles, and one-time collaborations with musicians from around the world.

She has been organising the festival of improvised music Real Time Music Meeting for over ten years.

Music performances in Europe, USA, South America, Russia and the Middle East, together with UNSK (Birgit Ulher / Martin Küchen / Lise-Lott Norelius / Raymond Strid), the Trio PUT (with Ulrich Phillipp and Roger Turner), Nordzucker (with Lars Scherzberg and Michael Maierhof), Heiner Metzger, Martin Klapper, Tim Hodgkinson, Dorothea Schürch, Rhodri Davies, Robyn Schulkowsky, Michael Zerang, Damon Smith, Lou Mallozzi, Gino Robair, Ute Wassermann, Albert Márkos, Sven Ake Johansson, Gene Coleman, Ernesto Rodrigues, Heddy Boubaker, Tim Perkis, Bryan Eubanks, Ariel Shibolet, Christoph Schiller and Sean Meehan, Forbes Graham, Leonel Kaplan, Gregory Büttner, Lucio Capece, Eric Leonardson and Bill Hsu.

Lectures/Workshops at Queen's University of Belfast, Haifa University, SAIC - School of The Art Institut of Chicago, Hochschule für Musik Basel, Workshop Area Sismica in Forlí, Italy, Workshop Anáhuac 33, Mexico City, Workshop Galeria Mérida, Mérida Mexico and Certain Sundays, Berlin.

Residencies at AIR Krems, Austria 2017, ArtInRealeases - GIS Studio - AIR Mexico 2016, Mexico City, Künstlerhaus Lukas, Ahrenshoop 2015, QO-2 werkplaats, Brüssel, 2010, Casa Zia Lina, Elba, Italy, Foundation Thyll-Dürr, 2001 and 2003, Boswil, MKS, Switzerland, 1994

Tom Djll
Tom Djll’s approach to playing the trumpet has been characterized from its inception by an anti-professionalism that locates itself within a political economy, rather than a musical history. Although he had studied composition with AACM masters Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton, Leo Smith and others in 1979, Djll had barely taught himself brass rudiments at that time. Inspired by punk and DIY approaches to performance and soundmaking (Trans Museq, PiL, The Contortions, Alterations, Eugene Chadbourne), Djll eschewed formal lessons in lieu of nearly fifteen years of blazing an idiosyncratic pathway through the instrument based on his studies and performances of analog electronic music. Working with a Serge Modular Synthesizer from 1981 until 1999, Djll described his trumpet sounds as products of an “analog lip synthesizer,” among other colorful epithets.

Working with American free improvisation pioneers such as Ross Rabin (Scree-Run Waltz), J.K. Randall (Princeton University, Inter/Play), and Doug Carroll, by 1985 Djll had become fully committed to an approach to music making less soundobject-production-oriented than situationist: each performance iteration a hothouse creature grown out of its own spontaneously composed rules and languages, challenging not only the audience but the performers to radically re-embalm settled notions of time and causation. Many gigs appropriated an outrageously explicit political-performative practice, taking apart the contemporary discourse and the barking media. Djll broke off this approach in 1986 and traveled to Europe for a good chunk of 1987, re-assessing, and busking with a noteworthy avoidance of commitment.

In 1989 Djll’s trumpet+electronics breakthrough was realized with the recording of TOMBO, using the Serge system’s endlessly disruptive causation chains to process, feedback-process, and process-feedback trumpet and mouth sounds into a noise-body-without-organs, the rhythm of breathing constantly modulated by fingers jumping back and forth between valves, knobs and patch cords. TOMBO was subsequently published by ReR Quarterly, along with Djll’s essay “Synthesizer + Improvisation = Impossible?” (RéR Quarterly Magazine, 3/3. 1991, London: November Books: 12-15. ISSN·0954·8807) Djll’s collection Bootstrapping was named “Cassette of the Month” by EAR Magazine in 1991. Encouraged by this ringing endorsement, in 1993 Djll self-published MUTOOTATOR, the scintillating apex of his trumpet/Serge development. This set of improvised duets used a hybrid analog/digital live sampling and processing system (the “Mutootator”) of Djll’s own design, and featured William Winant, Tom Nunn, Jack Wright, Myles Boisen, and many others. MUTOOTATOR is recognized as a classic of improvised electroacoustic music. (Dan Warburton, 2006, Paris Transatlantic; Richard Kadrey, Covert Culture Sourcebook 2.0; Brian Marley, The Wire)

1991: Djll had his brain re-wired by Pauline Oliveros at one of the first Deep Listening Retreats at Rose Mountain in New Mexico. In 1993 Djll entered the graduate program at the Mills College Center for Contemporary Music on a full assistanceship (while obtaining his black belt in aikido and working a graphic design job). During this period he entered into a course of legitimate trumpet study with Jay Rizzetto, who would likely disavow any knowledge of Djll or his activities. His activities were endorsed by faculty member Chris Brown, who used Djll’s trumpet noises on his ferociously difficult LAVA (for brass, percussion, and electronics, recorded in 1995 for Tzadik). Djll continued working with Brown in live performances of LAVA and other works (Brown, DUETS, Artifact 1016, 1996) as well as other Mills faculty (William Winant, Alvin Curran, John Bischoff) and eminent visitors to the school such as James Tenney, Bun-Ching Lam, “Blue” Gene Tyranny, Tim Perkis, and Pauline Oliveros (with whom he had studied in 1990). In 1999, Djll broke up and sold off the Mutootator, citing a need to “spend more time with my family.”

Djll first encountered the “reductionist” wave in improvised noise-art in 1997, performing with nmperign in Aptos, California. Djll went on to appear on the critically hailed Signs of Life with Bhob Rainey and Jack Wright in 2000, subsequently touring with Wright in 2002 and Wright and Rainey in 2004 (immortalized on Road Signs, Soul on Rice Prods SRPD04, 2007 – “Essential listening for anyone following the micro-micro end of the current improv scene.” – Cadence). Around 2001 Djll began writing about music with what can only be called a vengeance, publishing in The Wire, Musicworks, Signal To Noise, and News of Music. Djll contributed to the premature demise of online publications One Final Note and Bagatellen, and was flamed out of IHM (just hours after joining) for his commonsense views on the insufferable preciousness of much of what the kvetchers were then calling “lowercase” — subsequently “eai.”

Since forming the supergroup Grosse Abfahrt in 2004 (with Gino Robair, John Shiurba, Tim Perkis and Matt Ingalls) the combo has been lauded for its collaborations with Serge Baghdassarians/Boris Baltschun (on Creative Sources), Lê Quan Ninh/Frédèric Blondy, and Mathieu Werchowski/David Chiesa (on EMANEM). A splinter group of this project is Kinda Green, a feisty duo with computer network pioneer Tim Perkis. From 2004 to 2010 they refined their John Cage tribute act, INTERMINACY, and were finally rewarded with a much-talked-about-but-not-reviewed-in-print appearance at the 2011 San Francisco Electronic Music Festival.

In the new millennium, Djll’s resolutely nonprofessional performance practice has centered itself in live instrument re-building, wherein the trumpet’s identity is broken down and reassembled onstage, using bits of plastic tubing, rubber bands, whistles, squeakers, toys and other horn parts. More recent performances have seen the re-entry of actual electronic sounds into the language. The festering soundworlds arising from this gallimaufry of resonator/muters suggest a parade of chancy characters; Djll (a professional namer in daylight hours) gives them monikers such as Whirly Honkblatter, Zeppelin Launch Simulation Drone, the Nude Rubberlips Orgasm Chanter, and the Dissociative Tubular Identity Disorder Scalar Ambiguation Horn. Djll self-published a CD of trumpet solos, Bellerophone, in 2007, along with SMUDGE, re-examinations of the trumpet+electronics problem, on his Soul on Rice label.

Djll’s 2012 formation of the freenoise band Beauty School (with Matt Chandler and Jacob Felix Heule) marked a new phase of his trumpet development, re-integrating electronics and situating the whole in a sonic environment uncompromisingly hostile to brassplaying heroics. Djll describes the amplified/distorted trumpet contributions as “sound clumps.” Scabrous in texture, spasmodically timed and placed, sound clumps are specifically crafted with the aim of blocking the major arteries of audiences’ expectations for melody, gesture, thematic development, and good taste.

Tim Perkis has been working in the medium of live electronic and computer sound for many years, performing, exhibiting installation works and recording in North America,Europe and Japan. His work has largely been concerned with exploring the emergence of life-like properties in complex systems of interaction.

In addition, he is a well known performer in the world of improvised music, having performed on his electronic improvisation instruments with hundreds of artists and groups, including Chris Brown, John Butcher, Eugene Chadbourne, Fred Frith, Gianni Gebbia, Frank Gratkowski, Luc Houtkamp, Yoshi Ichiraku, Matt Ingalls, Joelle Leandre, Gino Robair, ROVA saxophone quartet, Elliott Sharp, Leo Wadada Smith and John Zorn. Ongoing groups he has founded or played in include the League of Automatic Music Composers and the Hub -- pioneering live computer network bands -- and Rotodoti, the Natto Quartet, Fuzzybunny, All Tomorrow's Zombies and Wobbly/Perkis/Antimatter.

His occasional critical writings have been published in The Computer Music Journal, Leonardo and Electronic Musician magazine; he has been composer-in-residence at Mills College in Oakland California, artist-in-residence at Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center, and designed musical tools and toys at Paul Allen's legendary thinktank, Interval Research.

His checkered career as a researcher and engineer has brought him a variety of interesting projects: designing museum displays for science and music museums in San Francisco, Toronto and Seattle, creating artificial-intelligence based auction tools for business, building scientific experimental apparati, consulting on multimedia art presentation networks for the SF Art Commission and SF Airport, writing software embedded in toys and other consumer products, and creating new tools for sound and video production, research and analysis.

Recordings of his work are available on several labels: Artifact,Limited Sedition, 482, Lucky Garage, Praemedia, Rastascan and Tzadik(USA); EMANEM(UK); Sonore and Meniscus(France); Curva Minore and Snowdonia(Italy); XOR(Netherlands); Creative Sources(Portugal).

He is also producer and director of a feature-length documentary on musicians and sound artists in the San Francisco Bay area called NOISY PEOPLE (2007).

I like to consider human-machine interaction as a new form of social interaction. What's interesting to me about computers is their ability to serve as a framework for embodying systems offering complexity and surprise. Unpredictability is what makes social life so interesting, it is what makes art so interesting, and it's what can make computers, as partners in art making, interesting. I don't use computers to simply carry out ideas I may have: I'd rather work in situations that force me to respond to surprises that are dealt to me by systems whose complexity and unpredictability are so high that their behavior can not be known in advance. All of my computer based art work has been concerned with creating social (or synthetic social) situations, which have enough complexity to behave like real life: in fact, to be real life of some new kind. The system in question in almost all of these pieces consists of human beings and machines in cycles of mutual influence and response.

Cost: $10-20 glissando-ing scale
Audio samples in which musicians at this event play:
Videos featuring musicians playing at this event
Tender Buttons at Second Act, SF, 2016; live video processing by Bill Thibault