Gallery Write Up: Brett Sroka and Jeremiah Cymerman

On April 1st of 2015 at 7:30 PM within the Turner Gallery of Alfred University, two musicians, Brett Sroka and Jeremiah Cymerman, created a unique duet with their music. Jeremiah Cymerman played a clarinet to produce samples for Brett Sroka – this was Cymerman’s accompaniment to his music. The program that was used to record these samples is able to play these notes while the two musicians are not there – these samples grow and take over as time goes on, involving into a variety of noises. It comes to a point where they are unrecognizable as musical notes.

During the performance, Cymerman produced some sounds from the clarinet in very unconventional ways – breaking the bounds of how we perceive an instrument should be used. He took the end piece off so he no longer had the reed. He placed the clarinet right against the microphone in a variety of manners. These ways of producing noise were to ensure that Sroka had many different notes and samples to work with. Before now, I had not experience music in such an abstracted way. I had only heard instruments as they were “meant” to be played. To have heard this, while not precisely pleasant to the ears most of the time, was intriguing. The notes in from the clarinet evolved from that, to the sounds of a rainforest, to a sort of dark dreamscape with whispering voices, to tribal chanting and then onto a more peaceful sound, perhaps that of a meadow. The intention behind the performance seemed to be to produce abstracted notes to change the listener’s perception of what an instrument could be used for. Or a synthesizer.

Overall, this exhibition was effective in its intention. The unconventional use of the clarinet was not only fun to see but it produced such odd sounds that came back in a different way. These were no longer notes for the typical music but it seemed to push the bounds of what noise a clarinet could make, in general, and with the synthesizer.

This performance connects me back to what I have learned in class about experimental media. While not all of it was pretty or pleasant, it pushed the bounds of how media, art or visual perceptions were seen or experienced. This is opening the doors to how musical instruments could accompany themselves in a variety of ways. Cymerman even spoke about how he does solo performances where he not only plays the instrument but he has his own samples that he controls. While that differs from the duet, it goes to show that there are other possibilities. Possibilities I had not even thought of, let alone was aware of, before the performance that night.

This performance and lessons from Art History have made me curious about what I might try or accomplish were I to get my hands on such technology. It has certainly inspired thoughts of future projects. Of how to take one thing and combine it to another. To challenge the viewer/listener’s perceptions on how they think.

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