Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Keyboard Concerto: Carl Stone Makes His Computer Sing

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Keyboard Concerto: Carl Stone Makes His Computer Sing

Article excerpt

I think that watching somebody play electronic keyboards is about as interesting as watching somebody iron.

Laurie Anderson, from a 1955 interview

EXPECT no pretense when Carl Stone appears in his New Music Circle recital next Sunday at Washington University's Steinberg Hall.

Stone, a California composer who some might call an "audio-assembly artist," doesn't even bother to parade anything that looks like a musical instrument onto the stage.

"I play a computer keyboard," Stone acknowledged during a recent interview, "An ASCII, computer-type `A-B-C-D-E' keyboard.

"I was sort of inspired by a New Yorker cartoon I saw years ago. It featured a guy walking out in a Carnegie Hall environment - wearing tails and the whole thing - walking out to a computer terminal which is set up like a grand piano on stage. I thought that was a cool idea.

"The computer is my instrument," he reiterated. "I practice like a pianist would practice. My goal is to develop a kind of proficiency on my instrument that a great pianist would have on his or hers. I run through my pieces. I do exercises, like some pianists might practice scales.

"And it's a constant struggle, because playing the computer is a lot different from playing a traditional instrument, obviously."

In this day and age, when so much heavy weather goes down about musicians importing non-original or "sampled" sources into their work, Stone does practically nothing but.

He has, for instance, sampled and processed sequences from Motown classics and other pop music. Likewise, classical music, and folk flourishes such as Cajun accordion.

An 11-minute composition called "Mom's," which is the title track from his 1992 album on the New Albion label, incorporates what sounds like a South African electric guitar riff and a salsa-style horn section.

Stone reassembles these and other elements with a decidedly alternative musical agenda, weaving them into pieces that might by turns be described as "hypnotic" or "ambient" or "minimalist."

Comparisons with another noted California composer, Terry Riley, come to mind. And avant-garde pop fans wouldn't be too far off-base if they imagined a relationship between Stone's music and that of artists such as Robert Fripp or Brian Eno.

"I use certain musical material and sort of deconstruct it and re-contextualize it," Stone said. "I'm interested, especially, in using familiar material - sometimes `naive' or cliched material - and putting it in a new context so that you view it in a radically different way.

"My work has been compared to collage," the composer added. "And I can certainly see some parallel in the visual realm with what I do. I am using found resources, primarily, and my interest is in combining them sonically.

"But there's something about the term `collage,' that doesn't quite sit right with me. …

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