High-Tech Concert at Museum Will Be One of a Kind

More than half a millennium ago, medieval troubadours, minnesingers and trouveres roamed Europe, village to village, creating informal musical events that emphasized spontaneity, free use of various combinations of instruments and individual situations that couldn’t always be replicated. Now, that tradition is making a comeback in new music.

Of the many electronic wizards today who similarly assemble and dismantle their setups, creating new compositions each time, Carl Stone is certainly one of the more popular in Los Angeles. Friday, he and Japanese composer Ushio Torikai will collaborate in a program of three original compositions at Newport Harbor Art Museum as part of the museum’s Contemporary Culture Series, plus one solo effort by Stone.

“There’s a nice, open space at Newport Harbor Art Museum, where we’ll be performing,” Stone said. “It’s great because I don’t particularly like to perform on a stage.”

Stone has been a composer-performer specializing in electronic music since the early ‘70s, when he studied electronic music with Morton Subotnick at CalArts in Valencia. In addition to performing and organizing concerts all over the world, he hosts his own radio show, “Imaginary Landscape,” on KPFK (90.7 FM) every Tuesday night.


Torikai, who was born in Tokyo but now lives in New York, uses electronic setups that determine the process of the music. She met Stone a couple of years ago, and as they became more familiar with each other’s work, the idea of collaborating seemed natural.

“We will be performing pieces jointly composed and performed,” Stone said. “Equipment we will use includes two Macintosh computers, MIDI systems, synthesizers, samplers, CD players, a DAT recorder and lots of different sound sources.”

In “Nekai,” Torikai will also play an electronically altered shamisen (a traditional Japanese string instrument). The work’s title came from a Japanese radio show in which the announcer mispronounced their names, combining the end of “Sto -ne " with the end of “Tori -kai .”

Also on the program will be “Jang Toh"--named after a Korean restaurant in Los Angeles--that uses sound sources from CD players digitally fed into the computers.


“Each of us is trying to anticipate what the other will do while the computer is trying to read the data on the prerecorded CD,” Stone said. “It’s a bit like a game. The computer gets very confused, and the music gets very abstract.”

In “Zang"--named after an Afghan restaurant in Los Angeles--Stone uses a metal percussive sound source layered upon itself 2,000 times until it sounds like an unchanging drone. Torikai then reacts to the sound with processes from her own setup.

When asked about his propensity for naming works after restaurants, Stone confessed: “It’s a bit of a drag to sit around and think of names for pieces, whether it’s a word derived from whatever inspiration or musical process used or something completely different. So I like to use the names of restaurants--Oriental restaurants--because the words usually sound nice and I don’t have to labor over a title too much.”

The final piece on the program is called “Shing Kee"--after a Chinese restaurant in New York. It will be Stone’s only solo effort of the evening.


“I do very little collaborating,” said Stone, who performed for the first time with Torikai last weekend at the Lab nightclub in San Francisco. “Ushio does it more. I’m typically a solo performer, and when I do collaborate, it’s with some other discipline, like dance or poetry. This is definitely a new experience for me.”

Next week, Stone and Torikai will perform for the first Monday Evening Concert of the new season at Bing Theater, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. From next November to April, he will be touring Japan on a grant from the Asian Cultural Council.

Carl Stone and Ushio Torikai will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at Newport Harbor Art Museum, 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach. Tickets: $7.50, general; $5.50 museum members, students and seniors. Information: (714) 759-1122.