Three Beats: Haptic plays a piece inspired by Saturn's rings | Three Beats | Chicago Reader

Three Beats: Haptic plays a piece inspired by Saturn's rings 

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EXPERIMENTAL | Peter Margasak

Haptic to perform a piece inspired by the rings of Saturn

It's been a year since the experimental music trio Haptic has performed locally, but this week they seem to be making up for that absence. They'll perform twice over the next few days, playing two different programs of all-new material. (They also have a new recording.)

On Friday, October 21, the group will be at Experimental Sound Studio, performing the world premiere of a new composition written for them by Michael Pisaro, the most important American member of the Wandelweiser Group—an influential collective of experimental composers based in Europe. Pisaro has working on the piece, "Concentric Rings in Magnetic Levitation," since late 2009 after striking up an correspondence with Haptic's Adam Sonderberg. He designed the new work based on e-mail discussions with each member and building a catalog of the group's inventory of sounds. Inspired by recent discoveries about the electromagnetic nature of Saturn's rings, Pisaro created a piece that places various sounds in patterns that circle one another, using the 88-keys of a piano as the key framework.

On Tuesday, October 25, Haptic performs another new work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, in conjunction with the new minimalist and post-minimalist exhibition "The Language of Less (Then and Now)." Sonderberg wrote "Three Plus Three" with John Cage’s late "Number Pieces" in mind—a set of pieces that use specific durations to frame the abstract activities of the musicians. He created a grid to delineate how Haptic’s members and three guests—bass clarinetist Jason Stein, reedist Keefe Jackson, and violinist Nomi Epstein—will occupy an uninterrupted chain of 45-second segments over the course of the 45’45” piece.

The group has just released a new album Scilens (Chicago’s FSS label has released a cassette version, while the UK imprint Entr’acte has issued the music on CD). For the trio’s recordings individual members of the group create sounds and passages separately and Sonderberg has traditionally been the one to assemble them; sometimes materials can sit in their archives for five or six years before they end up being used. Scilens marks the first time someone other than Sonderberg has assembled the various materials that go into each of the group’s recording; this time he was helped by fellow member Joseph Clayton Mills. Speaking of Mills, "Laughter & Tears," his sound installation with Olivia Block, will run from 10 AM-10 PM throughout the sound system at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on November 4 and 5.

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