w2 recorded April 8, 2021

April 8, 2021

[1] 10:20
[2] 10:12
[3] 10:14
[4] 10:23

ELKA BONG, Detrimental Calculus

March 9, 2021


I recorded these tracks either right before or right after moving my studio. Sent them to Al who transformed, added to, subtracted from my material.

[1] Lapse 10:25
[2] Plus 10:29
[3] Minus 11:22
[4] Relapse 10:34

Al Margolis – transformations [1], [4]; ARP 2600 [2]; voice [3]
Walter Wright – AVSynth

Mixed by Al.

w2 recorded March 3, 2021

March 3, 2021

[1] 9:59
[2] 10:09
[3] 10:57
[4] 9:09

[1+2] 9:09
[3+4] 10:57
[1+3] 10:57
[2+4] 10:09
[1+2+3+4] 15:00

XFest MA 2021: Session 3

February 27, 2021

Saturday evening, February 27

I walk back to my house for dinner, return to Greg’s at 7pm.

At 7:30pm I check into the Green Room. A couple of people are already there. I invite Craig Chin to play in first set as I haven’t heard from Sophie Leetmaa. Of course, 5min after checking Craig in, Sophie appears. I transfer the first set of the evening along to the On Air Room.

At 8pm Dei welcomes the audience to Session 3. We experience another blackout during the first set. This time we’re ready for it, no panic. It lasts about 2min before our screens re-activate. Unfortunately we lose audio during the blackout. However that’s it, the rest of evening goes smoothly. We wrap up at 10:15pm, right on time.

The Backstage Room is active. Joe Brown, Emmanuel Lalande and Ras Moshe, among others, have been chatting all evening. Youtube viewers have logged on, commented and chatted with Dei and the artists. It’s our largest audience, albeit virtual, ever!

Greg, Dei and I relax. Greg breaks out the rye whiskey. I wander home around midnight.

Set 8 includes the four original members plus Craig. Ras Moshe has performed in all thirteen festivals, from 2009 thru 2021. Ras has the blinking blue glasses, Craig a mini smoke machine, and Ophra face paint. At 15:45 we lose audio, another blackout. This time we are prepared, the ‘Ooops’ sign goes up, we wait patiently and, at 17:45, we return.

Craig Chin – guitar, effects, smoke machine [Beacon NY]
Sophie Leetmaa – harp, electronics [Seoul South Korea]
Al Margolis – trumpet, tuning fork, objects, contact mics [Chester NY]
Ras Moshe – flute, saxophone, blinking blue glasses [Brooklyn NY]
Ophra Wolf – movement, face paint [Newburgh NY]

Set 9 includes two more XFest regulars. id m theft able missed a single XFest due to a snow storm and Joe Brown, the upside down eyes and nose bridge, is a regular. Joe and Bob Drake provide a rich electronic background for id m’s vocals, which support Callie’s movement. Keeping our fingers crossed, everyone is coming through without a glitch, including Callie’s video. Around 16min someone sneaks in an audio sample from, what sounds like, a car radio.

id m theft able – voice, objects, tape [South Windham ME]
Joe Brown – modular synth [Lowell MA]
Callie Chapman – movement [Somerville MA]
Bob Drake – synths, electronics [Cleveland OH]

Set 10 has an interesting array of instruments from Angela Sawyer’s suitcase of audio delights to Sam Wenc’s steel guitar. Duane Ingalls uses all sorts of objects and materials, musical or not. Duane’s internet connection breaks up intermittently while Allie Berger moves in support of and response to the music. The overall effect is amazingly or, perhaps, amusingly coherent.

Allie Berger – movement [Syracuse NY]
Duane Ingalls -objects, materials, percussion [Machias ME]
Angela Sawyer – voice, suitcase of audio delights [Boston MA]
Sam Wenc – pedal steel guitar [Brooklyn NY]

Set 11 is the final set of the festival. Unfortunately Psychedelic Snakeskin loses her connection at the beginning of the set. We’re left with Federico Balducci and Rick Breault from Massachusetts, and Peter Chamberlain all the way from Honolulu Hawaii. Notice the ‘Electric Counterpoint’ book on the stand behind Federico. Peter shows us his instruments, one by one as he plays them. We see Rick’s fingers on the laptop touch pad and, occasionally, punching buttons. Federico hides under his cap. We see his fingers on the guitar but miss his impressive bank of effects pedals. At the very end of the set, 22:30min into the recording, Psychedelic Snakeskin returns to bring the set to a close. Rick waves ‘goodbye’.

Federico Balducci – guitar [Springfield MA]
Rick Breault – laptop, field recordings [Lowell MA]
Peter Chamberlain – various electronic instruments [Honolulu Hawaii]
Psychedelic Snakeskin – object, tapes, contact mic [Jackson NY]

XFest MA 2021: Session 2

February 27, 2021

Saturday afternoon, February 27

I arrive at the command center at 1:30pm. Greg and Dei are setting up.

At 2:30pm I open the Green Room. The first set checks in. I hand them along to Greg. We’re on air at 3pm. Dei welcomes everyone to Session 2.

It’s Saturday afternoon, lots of traffic on the internet. Mia’s signal ‘glitches’, adding interesting video effects. The Youtube stream, which is delayed about 1min, starts without a hitch. We sit back an relax … then the Green Room and the On Air Room disappear! Greg’s monitor blanks out, a black screen. My monitor goes black. Panic ensues!

In a minute or two, our screen relight. Greg and I log back into OBS Ninja and re-open our rooms. Greg posts ‘Do Not Adjust Your Sets’ graphic to the Youtube stream. Dei, who is monitoring Youtube notices that the output stream from OBS has continued uninterrupted. We begin to relax, Greg removes the DNAYS graphic and the set continues. I welcome the second set, send them along to Greg.

And so it goes, no more panic attacks, we sign off around 3:30pm. The Backstage room remains open.

Set 5 brings together artists from the US and Europe. Mitchel Ahern and Kat Dobbins are joined by Richard Harrison from Manchester, England, and Mia Zabelka from Vienna, Austria. Mia’s internet connection features interesting video effects but her sound come through just fine until … oops! At 3:35min in, Greg and I lose our OBS Ninja connections. Our screens go blank. However, OBS seems oblivious and the Youtube stream continues uninterrupted. The performers remain blissfully unaware of the momentary panic in the command center.

Mitchel Ahern – home-brew harrow [Lynn MA]
Kat Dobbins – trombone [Melrose MA]
Richard Harrison – objects, percussion [Manchester UK]
Mia Zabellka – violin, voice [Vienna Austria]

Set 6 features artists from the US, England, France and Germany. Emmanuel Lelande’s disembodied hands, arms and instruments float over a colorized view of the ocean in Le Havre. Everyone else is in security camera mode. An interesting mix of electro-acoustics sounds.

David Birchall – guitar [Manchester UK]
Emmanuel Lalande – electronics [Le Havre France]
Tracy Lisk – drums [Philadelphia PA]
Marko Wunderlich – electronics [Kassel Germany]

Set 7 brings together a final group of international artists, featuring Sam Weaver’s back and his vintage analog synth. Birgit is in Marko’s studio, Al has his plants and Arnaud has collection sound sources. Another mix of interesting electro-acoustic sounds.

Birgit Goldbourne – saxophone [Kassel Germany]
Arnaud Le Mindu – objects, contact mics [Le Havre France]
Al Margolis – trumpet, objects, contact mics [Chester NY]
Sam Weaver – analog synth [Manchester UK]

XFest MA 2021: Session 1

February 26, 2021

Friday evening, February 26

The first night of the festival. On Wednesday and Thursday Greg and I ran tech rehearsals for all the performers. We checked their setups and internet connections. Artists in western MA had poor connections, which were prone to freeze, ‘glitch and/or drop out. The glitch effect was rather interesting. Artists from Europe also experienced some ‘noise’, however their audio came through loud and clear.

A couple of artists had to rework their setups to avoid ‘echoing’ and feedback. Those in Western MA and Vermont were advised to hook up directly to their modems with an ethernet cable.

At 7pm I walk to Greg’s house, the command center. A couple of early birds are already logged into the ‘Green Room’. Check in runs smoothly. I pass the first set off to Greg’s ‘On Air Room’ right on time, Dei has the ‘Backstage Room’ up and running. She logs into the ‘On Air Room’.

At 8pm Greg starts the Youtube stream. Dei welcomes everyone to XFest MA 2021. We’re off and running.

The internet is filling up fast, people watching sports and streaming video. We have a few glitches, lose people momentarily, but the sound continues uninterrupted. The second set arrives in the Green Room as the first set goes on air. The Backstage Room fills up with people. Intermission, I check sound levels, make sure everyone can hear each other and that I can hear them. Then I transfer the performers for the second set to Greg.

And so it goes, without a hitch. We sign off around 10:15pm. The Backstage Room, however, remains open ’til well after midnight.

Set 1 starts with (3) artists. Michael Barrett is missing, dropped by his ISP after being transferred to the On Air Room. He returns at 2:40min only to disappear again at 17:22min. Greg moves and resizes the performer’s ‘windows’ in real time.

Michael Barrett – electronics [Phoenix AZ]
Craig Chin – guitar [Beacon NY]
Nick Bohun – guitar [Peekskill NY]
Chris Strunk – snare drum [Jamaica Plain MA]

Set 2 starts with (4) artists but not because someone has lost their connection. Katherine Liberovskaya is streaming video to us using ZOOM. This time Greg composes the screen using Katherine’s video with the musician’s windows.

Bonnie Kane – saxophone [Holyoke MA]
Katherine Liberovskaya – video [New York NY]
Tracy Lisk – drums [Philadelphia PA]
Craig Pederson – trumpet [Montreal QC Canada]
Andrea Pensado – voice, laptop, piano [Salem MA]

Set 3 starts with all the artists on screen. Joe uses video effects to modify his image, Craig and Curt use colored lights.

Craig Douglas – voice, electronics [Easthampton MA]
Curt Haworth – movement [Philadelphia PA]
Joe Mygan – electronics [Northhampton MA]
Irman Peck – bass [Philadelphia PA]

Set 4, the last set of the evening, is another quartet. Loren’s connection adds an intermittent ‘glitch’ effect to her movement. This set has an interesting mix of instruments.

Mitchel Ahern – home-brew harrow [Lynn MA]
Kat Dobbins – trombone [Melrose MA]
Loren Groenendaal – movement [Philadelphia PA]
JB Ledoux – frottoir [Burlington VT]

XFest MA 2021 (Virtual)

February 26, 2021

XFest, this our thirteenth year, will be different. Due to the continuing COVID-19 lockdown, it has to be online.

In October Greg Kowalski, Al Margolis and I start experimenting with JackTrip. We need a platform that allows quality audio, not just ‘meeting’ software. It takes several weeks to get JackTrip up and running on our various computers, and to configure our hardware.

A USB audio interface, a microphone and headphones are required. Why headphones? The simple answer is to prevent feedback. Online ‘rooms’ collect audio from all performers in the room. However, the programs do not send your audio back to you; only the audio from the other performers. If you output this audio to your speakers, your mic sends the sound back to the room causing an annoying echo. So, headphones only!

We play online together, invite guests to ‘sit in’, only to realize that JackTrip is not ‘user friendly’.

Then, mid-December, Greg discovers OBS and OBS Ninja. Although OBS is designed for sharing video online, it features high quality, ‘pro’ audio. OBS would allow us to ‘stream’ the video to Youtube, making accessible to all the artists and the public. And, it has a simple, easy to use, browser interface. OBS Ninja is a web application that create an onlne ‘room’ linked to OBS.

In 2020 every artist played on both Friday and Saturday nights. There were (15) sets each night, on (3) stages. Each set was 20min long with no break between sets. Performers had 40min to set up or tear down while a particular stage was not active. The festival was in a large auditorium with a balcony and places for people to sit and chat. No ‘formal’ seating, people were free to come and go as they pleased. Performance was continuous, the atmosphere like an annual conference for our ‘community’ improvising artists.

In 2021 we don’t have 3 stages or a large auditorium, we’re virtual. Luckily, only (36) artists have signed up to perform, half the number who participated in 2020. We have a single ‘stage’, the OBS Ninja room. We have to schedule time between sets for set up (and tear down). This limits the number of sets and, therefore the number of performers each night. We decide to have performers play either Friday or Saturday night, (16) performers and (4) 20min sets each night, and between each set a 15min intermission.

By mid January, I have final confirmation from (36) performers. Included are several EU artists; (2) from France, (2) from Germany and (1) from Austria. Given a 5hr difference they would have to perform in the middle of the night. We add a third, Saturday afternoon session. We also decide to open two rooms, the ‘green room’ where artists check in 30min before their set. From the green room they are sent to the ‘on air’ room where the set is streamed to Youtube for the online audience, and for recording.

This requires a couple of computers, one hosts the green room, and a second hosts the on air room. The second computer would also run OBS, which streams the audio and video to Youtube. There’s a small delay, latency, in each room, and a longer delay, 20-30sec, going ‘live’ to Youtube.

Greg, Al and I experiment with this setup. Greg sets up the two computers, a MacBook as green room, and a ‘stoked’ PC as on air. We invite several artists to ‘perform’ including Dei Xhrist with her flaky internet connection and computer, and Peter Chamberlain from Hawaii. I realize that we need a ‘tech rehearsal’ before the actual event in order to sort out artists’ hardware, and to introduce them to the process. And, we realize that we need a third ‘backstage’ room for artists to meet with each other and the audience. This means a third computer as backstage.

The final schedule for Friday and Saturday was posted mid-February. Artists were sent an email outlining the technical specs for their home systems, and tech rehearsal invite.

Session 1: Friday evening, February 26

8:00pm Intro
8:10pm Set 1: Michael Barrett, Nick Bohun, Craig Chin, Chris Strunk
8:30pm Intermission 1:
8:45pm Set 2: Bonnie Kane, Katherine Liberovskaya, Tracy Lisk, Craig Pedersen, Andrea Pensado
9:05pm Intermission 2:
9:20pm Set 3: Craig Douglas, Curt Haworth, Joe Mygan, Irman Peck
9:40pm Intermission 3:
9:55pm Set 4: Mitchel Ahern, Kat Dobbins, Loren Groenendaal, JB Ledoux
10:15pm Outro

Session 2: Saturday afternoon, February 27 (with artists from EU/UK)

3:00pm Intro
3:10pm Set 5: Mitchel Ahern, Kat Dobbins, Richard Harrison, Mia Zabelka
3:30pm Intermission 4:
3:45pm Set 6: David Birchall, Emmanuel Lalande, Tracy Lisk, Marko Wunderlich
4:05pm Intermission 5:
4:20pm Set 7: Birgit Goldbourne, Sam Weaver, Arnaud Le Mindu, Al Margolis
4:40pm Outro

Session 3: Saturday evening, February 27

8:00pm Intro
8:10pm Set 8: Craig Chin, Sophie Leetmaa, Al Margolis, Ras Moshe, Ophra Wolf
8:30pm Intermission 6:
8:45pm Set 9: id m theft able, Joe Brown, Callie Chapman, Bob Drake
9:05pm Intermission 7:
9:20pm Set 10: Allie Berger, Duane Ingalls, Angela Sawyer, Sam Wenc
9:40pm Intermission 8:
9:55pm Set 11: Federico Balducci, Rick Breault, Peter Chamberlain, Psychedelic Snakeskin
10:15pm Outro

There were (3) sessions and (11) 20min sets over the two days of the festival. The control room was in Greg’s house, a block and a half from my house. Dei drove down from Manchester NH. I hosted the green room, Greg hosted the on air room and put together the live stream. Dei hosted the backstage room and monitored Youtube.

DOGTOWN recorded February 23, 2021

February 23, 2021


Processing sketch that includes a timeline, photos from a ‘walk in the woods’, and ROPS [Raster Operations] for combining the images in various ways. The sound track includes a variety percussion sources.

I created these last 4 pieces for XFest MA 2021, to be played during the 15min intermission between sets.

LEAVES recorded February 18, 2021

February 18, 2021


A complete piece, ‘scored’ more or less, a Processing sketch that includes a timeline, photos from a ‘walk in the woods’, and ROPS [Raster Operations] for combining the images in various ways. The sound is includes IFMSynth, objects, contact mics, and field recordings mixed in Audacity.

ELKA BONG recorded February 16, 2021

February 16, 2021


Al Margolis – paintings
Walter Wright – sound & video

A complete piece, ‘scored’ more or less, a Processing sketch mixes closeups of Al’s painting. The sound is a mix of IFMSynth and percussion edited in Audacity.