Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, December 7, 2001

Musician Steven Rosenthal, left, with his self-invented Dr. Seussaphone, will get a little help from Quadraphonix, from left, Shree Sadagopan with a baby sitar, drummer Jonathan Heraux, precussionist Eli Clemens and double bass player Susan Copp.

Musical improv
blends TV bites,
talking parakeet

Futuristic composer Steve
Rosenthal joins Quadraphonix
for an evening of invention

By Gary C.W. Chun

Steve Rosenthal had to wait for Generation X to grow up. The locally established experimental music composer thinks he finally found the perfect group of players to help realize his music, if only because they are of a generation that understands the concept of sound once considered avant-garde.

Susan Copp, Eli Clemens, Shree Sadagopan and Jonathan Heraux of the popular jazz/funk groove quartet Quadraphonix will be joining Rosenthal in an evening of loosely structured and improvisational music, made complete with catering provided by Sadagopan's India Cafe.

"The basis of the music is in an improvisational format," Rosenthal said. "There's a lot of room for that in my compositions, and it depends on the musicians to bring a lot to the table. It's a lot more about communication, something we hope will draw the audience to it."

Besides the quartet's regular grouping of electric guitar, drums, double bass and congas, Quadraphonix and Rosenthal will surround themselves with more than 50 types of instruments. Rosenthal said "found and invented" sounds will also thread their way through the evening's main composition, "Teach Your Parakeet to Speak or Supersexyhorizontalambienttrancygroove."

Combined with the computer voicing of English translations of Chinese phrases and tapes of random television audio made while channel surfing, Rosenthal will also be using an old vinyl recording that he came across during his day job.

"I've been a concert piano tuner for 26 years," he said, "and while I was tuning a piano at someone's home, the owner happened to show me this old 10-inch vinyl LP put out by the Hartz Mountain pet product company called 'Teach Your Parakeet to Speak.' So we plan to put that on a delay loop that will play during the entire piece," he said.

Besides that 20-minute piece, the X Music program will begin with four pieces showing tone, timbre and texture, entitled "CLANG BANG CRASH," "SING ZING PING," "KNOCK DROP BUZZ" and "7-5-3 (There are bar codes among us)," done in 15/8 time. The evening will end with a couple of compositions using Indonesian and African Pygmy musical structures.

X Music

Experimental Music with Steve Rosenthal and Quadraphonix
Where: The ARTS at Marks Garage, 1159 Nuuanu Ave.
When: 9 p.m. today
Admission: $10, or $7 with donation of two cans of food for the Hawaii Foodbank
Call: 521-2903

ROSENTHALHAS been involved with experimental music since the '70s, leading varying lineups of his Future Primitive Ensemble here and in San Francisco.

"The progression of music has been: What once was linear is now sequential," he said, "and once was academic experimental music has now moved outside to the street." He sees Quadraphonix as part of that transition, inhabiting a free-flow world of found sounds through sampling.

"Working with them solved a lot of things for me. First off, they've had a long relationship, playing within their own group. They're very open musically, sometimes doing improvisational sets. They readily switch off on instruments, so they understand the multitasking needed in experimental music, since they already think that way.

"Plus, they're focused on making their own music, and their own audience is great because they're attentive. So this is really a collaborative effort.

"The audience will see the compositions taking shape before them. And there will be a few surprises along the way -- some of them I haven't even told the group yet! But I'm delighted in working with them. I think this will be my most successful collaboration with local musicians."

As for Quadraphonix, the band's eagerly awaited CD should be out around January. The group wrapped up recording at TK Disc studio in Hawaii Kai with former Los Angeles recording engineer Miles Kristianson, a respected industry man who now lives here and whose résumé includes working with acts ranging from Jane's Addiction to Whitney Houston.

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