If the phrase "experimental electronic improvisation" sounds as appetizing as "figgy pudding," it's time to meet composer and performer Tristan Perich. His sound installations landed him exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in recent years, and the landscapes he creates are the perfect entry point to outre electronic music for any curious explorer. The composer returns to Chicago's bastion of experimental music, the nonprofit Lampo series, at the Smart Museum of Art Dec. 13 to introduce his "Noise Patterns" project, which features him manipulating his custom-made circuit boards. We caught up with him by phone as he trekked through the woods near his home.
CRAIN'S: You were all over the news last year for your "Microtonal Wall" installation at MoMA. What direction are you heading in for this new piece?
MR. PERICH: It's related to the MoMA piece in that there I used tone to create white noise, playing with the idea that like white light is the sum of all frequencies, you can create white noise by having essentially an infinite number of pitches at the same time. I was using 1-bit information to create very pure tones, and now I'm using it to generate random signals, working with different colors of noise and density.
Is this a natural evolution for you, or was there a catalyst that got you thinking in this direction?
I was working with randomness in my drawings. My previous pieces used the ordered side of this equation, and now I'm using the randomness side of this equation. I'm completing the conceptual picture.
What can you tell us about the system you've built?
The idea that it is self-contained is really important to me. One of the beautiful things about computation and software is that they can't be random on their own. You have to derive randomness from the real world. What I get from this system isn't pure randomness, it's a computational pseudo-randomness that is a weird artifact of the fact that these systems can't do it themselves.
What are you hoping the audience will take away from this performance?
It's surprisingly accessible. The music has this quality of waves of sound intersecting each other and pulsing and twitching. It's meant to be an immersive experience that really draws you into the sound. It's fun because it's a piece I get to perform. It's not just playback and it's not total improvisation because I'm working with these composed elements, weaving them together into a performance.
This is your second appearance at Lampo. What attracted you back?
Lampo is hands down the most interesting performance series I know in terms of curation. That's not overstatement. Looking at the artists that (Lampo director) Andrew Fenchel has brought out is inspiring, and I feel really proud to be among those ranks. I only wish I lived in Chicago so I could go to every one of those shows.
Originally published in Crain's Chicago Business on Nov 1st, 2014