Improvisational shows are popular, but they often focus on improv comedy. That’s not the case with performer Sean Hamilton and his show “LOCI.”
This Fringe show is a composition from an ongoing series for solo drum set and electronics. As Sean noted, “LOCI is an evening-length work — average run time is approximately 50 minutes — which is entirely improvised and features electronics programmed in Pure Data.”
He added, “All sounds generated by the electronics are created in real time as the piece unfolds.” It’s done through two primary means: using randomly generated numbers to “improvise” material, and by creating material as a reaction to the acoustic performer.
“This electronic improvisation,” Sean added, “informs the acoustic performer’s improvisation, resulting in a symbiotic relationship where two individual sound worlds coalesce to form one electroacoustic entity.”
The improvisational nature of the work, he added, makes it impossible to be reproduce in the exact way from one show to the next, so each performance is entirely unique.
Freeline Media contacted Sean to find out more about what Fringe audiences can expect.
Freeline Media: There are a lot of unique solo shows at Fringe, but I’ve never seen one that is entirely improvisational music before. Tell me about your music.
Sean Hamilton: My music is most often a combination of avant-garde classical music, experimental music, electroacoustic music, and free improvisation. I tend to think of my music as a construct of three primary concepts — sound color, rhythmic complexity, and the creation of sonic “space.” Sound color refers to the inherent properties of a sound, including its pitch qualities and sustaining characteristics. I am interested in a “sound for sound’s sake” approach, where these properties serve as the guiding factor for their musical use. My approach to rhythm deals largely with density and not so much the alignment of beats and rhythms to metronomic grid, as found in virtually all popular music of today. The creation of sonic space refers to an approach where the intended result is a seemingly motionless musical environment, created by the lack of clear activity, a dense monochromatic event made of many fast, short sounds — similar to bees buzzing — or a sustained repetitions.
Philosophically, I approach my work as a means of reflecting upon and processing life and its events, relationships, and circumstances. I believe that an individual’s personality, worldviews, lifestyle, and interests are an essential element of his or her creative output and consumption of art. I think it also important to note that I don’t approach my work with any sort of narrative approach or one-to-one metaphorical representation; it is my hope that each listener will find his or her own meaning in the work independent of my personal motivations.
When it comes to improvisation, it is my belief that improvisation is the reflection of a moment born from the conditions of that disparate point in time. When composing and improvising, I tend to use a “construction” approach where I start with a wide variety of basic musical components and build a work or improvisation by transforming, structuring, and manipulating those components. My improvisational work often deals with the shaping of improvisation through the use traditional and nontraditional notations, text, and formal limitation.
For instance, in “LOCI,” there is a fixed sequential structure consisting of a series of electronic events that process or produce sound in any number of ways. The performer is free to interact with the sounds produced by these events in any way he or she deems fit. There is no instruction for sound production, duration of passages, or total run time. As such, I hope that an interpretation of the work, then, is guided primarily by the possibilities provided by the interaction of the acoustic and electronic mediums.
FM: What can audiences expect over the course of 50 minutes.
Sean: “LOCI” is a single-movement, evening-length work with no breaks or pauses. Throughout the work, audiences can expect a dynamic performance featuring combinations of intense and visceral drumming contrasted with soft and delicate percussion, static electronic ambient passages, and noise-based textural passages.
One goal of the work is to create a homogeneous electroacoustic entity where the computer and performer are one equal voice. As a result, I strive to create a wide variety of textures, ranging very dense and complex to simple and sustained, that are otherwise unattainable with a purely acoustic instrument.
Audiences should also expect a wide array of alternative playing techniques and methods of sound production. In addition to the use of traditional implements such as drum sticks, an average performance includes moments when I may be producing sound with things such as a modified electric toothbrush, thin chains, or aluminum foil, or by placing sheet metal, tin cans, nuts and bolts, and other found household objects on the drums in an effort to alter their natural sound.
FM: Is this show interactive at all? Do you involve the audience in your performance?
Sean: This work does not require the audience to participate in a way that directly changes the direction of the piece or dictate any of the musical material. However, like many improvisational environments, the audience’s presence does affect the overall experience, influencing the mood in the performance space, which in turn affects the realization of the work.
FM: How did you conceive this as a Fringe show?
Sean: I began working on this series of music for solo drum set and electronics in 2015 and completed “LOCI” as one installation of that series in the early summer of 2016. While I have performed it nearly thirty times since its completion, I am still finding new ways of interpreting and performing the work.
In an effort to continue presenting it, and because of its ability to stand alone as a self-sufficient and complete show, I decided to submit it for performance at the Fringe.
FM: Tell us about your background — in both music and theater.
Sean: Currently, I reside in Tampa where I am most actively presenting performances with my solo drum set and electronics project. This project has seen performances throughout the United States and in the United Kingdom and has been featured at the 2017 SEAMUS National Conference, the Anxious Sound Series in New Orleans, and on WKCR-FM New York’s Afternoon New Music.
Additionally, I have previously served as an artist-in-residence with Leeds Improvised Music and Experimentation (LIME) in the United Kingdom, and presented numerous lectures on improvisation and composition at universities including The University of Leeds, New York University, and California State University Long Beach.
I hold a Master of Music degree in percussion performance and music composition from the University of South Florida where my studies largely focused on the avant-garde percussion repertoire, various techniques and styles of acoustic composition, and electronic music composition. I also hold a BM in music education from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania where my studies included classical and world percussion, composition, jazz, and pedagogy.
While I do not have an extensive background in theater, I am a regular collaborator with other disciplines, including dance and the visual arts, and have worked with artists including New Orleans Airlift, VERB Ballets, Lindsey Kelley Dance, and Eli Blasko. Beyond that, I make my day-to-day living as an audio engineer, primarily doing live sound for concerts and productions of classical music, choirs, rock and jazz bands, modern dance and ballet. Each of these backgrounds have influenced my creative work, particularly in the way I approach the kinesthetic and production aspects of performance.
“LOCI” will be presented at the White Venue on the following dates:
* Friday, May 19 ah 8:45 p.m.
* Sunday, May 21 at 4:20 p.m.
* Monday, May 22 at 7 p.m.
* Friday, May 26 at 5:30 p.m.
* Saturday, May 27 at 10:30 p.m.
* Sunday, May 28 at 7:30 p.m.
For a sneak peek, check out the audio/video at Sean Hamilton Music.
For tickets visit Orlando Fringe.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..