BIOGRAPHY WORKS RECORDINGS PAST SHOWS PRESS CONTACT
Sustained Chords For Amplified Instruments, 2016
Performed by Jamie Kempkers (cello), Zara Acosta-Chen (clarinet), Jonathan Chen (violin)
2 Channel Feedback, 2013
This work is for two channels of feedback that may be produced independently or fed into one another. While there is no score and much of the work is indeterminate, the overall goal of the performer is to produce unstable or fluctuating sounds rather than consistent pitches of substantial length. The recording here is from a live performance at Ange Noir in Brooklyn, NY in 2013. 16’18’’
composition for small gong and violin improvisation, 2013
This recording was made during a live performance at The Spotty Dog in Hudson, NY. In this work, a Max/MSP patch is programmed to interact with a micro-controller that triggers solenoids, striking the gong in different ways depending on an incoming signal from the sound of the violin. 4'05"
19 situations for 6 improvisers: a system for hearing (adaptation), 2011 (2003)
This video contains excerpts from 1 of 3 live performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in the spring of 2011. In this work a mixer matrix cycles through “hearing situations” while musicians follow instructions for improvising. Since this adaptation was made for 4 improvisers rather than 6, an example of a “hearing situation” could be 1 hears 2, 2 hears 3, 3 hears 4, 4 hears 1, but all the permutations are possible. This version allowed audience members to engage the work by listening while freely traversing the space and by listening in on the “hearing situations” particular to each musician at any given time through headphones. In these particular excerpts the camera was farthest from the cello and bass, so as a consequence their sounds will not be as perceptible. Performers here include Tatsu Aoki, bass; Marina Peterson, cello; Katie Young, bassoon; and Jonathan Chen, violin. Video by Joel Cronkite. 6'27"
This recording is of the performance that took place on April 2, 2011 at the MCA. While as a stereo mix, it cannot convey the installation aspects represented by the video, it serves as documentation of the musical ideas as they evolved throughout the changing hearing situations. 38’29’’
Amplified, 2010 (instructions)
Amplified was a part of Interactions in conjunction with
the exhibition Without You I Am Nothing
from January 4, 2011 to May 1, 2011
at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Slow Release is created by producing feedback through a cornet while slowly releasing its’ valves. During the performance no electronic manipulation takes place other than the physical releasing of the valves on the instrument. The results are continually shifting and unstable timbres and pitches for the duration of the work (in this case 9'21"). Recorded at EMPAC in Troy, NY, May 2010.
feedback 1 (cornet) 6'06" is an electronic work involving a cornet that employs a similar set up to Slow Release: a small microphone is positioned in place of the mouthpiece and a small speaker is set next to the bell. In this case, the feedback is altered not only by pressing or releasing the valves on the cornet, but also by physically moving the instrument and microphone and by filtering the frequencies via EQ and volume control. Recorded at EMPAC in Troy, NY, May 2010.
bow on paper 3'44" is an older composition for violin with paper inserted between the strings. This recording was made recently in Albany, NY during a live performance at the Upstate Artists Guild.
de-clime is for solo viola. Performed live in studio at WNUR 89.3, Chicago’s Sound Experiment on December 19, 2009, by Jonathan Chen.
A shorter version recorded live during a performance at EMPAC, Troy NY on February 9, 2012, by Jonathan Chen.
My friend Aleksander Kolkowski has a very elegant work for solo Stroh violin that produces audible beating. He once explained to me that he accomplished that phenomena by using a practice mute. For some reason, it didn’t seem to work on my violin or my Stroh violin. In 2009 I was experimenting with a viola and set my mute on top of the bridge. I found that I could get an intense sound that was rough and grainy, producing audible beating as well as difference tones. The result was this work for solo viola.
Patterns of Affect
Patterns of Affect is inspired by early Minimalist works. Many of the early Minimalist works involved gradual processes of change, however, in this work nothing happens. In composing Patterns of Affect I was attempting to sustain a particular mood in two sections, but the changes in timbre and tempo may create a more ambivalent feeling. The first section performed on the banjo and eventually accompanying electronics, consists of the same pitch material as the second section performed on cello, electronics, hurdy-gurdy, & violin.
Recorded in Chicago, 2007. Jonathan Chen, banjo, electronics, violin; Jamie Kempkers, cello; Joe Mills, hurdy-gurdy.
To Be Continued (shortened version)
In To Be Continued, after playing a brief intro, I repeat the same chords on the guitar for as long as I can make them meaningful (to myself) while being accompanied by a music box. This subjectively established time frame changes with each performance. The music box, whose melody is constantly changing, employs player piano-like paper that spills onto the floor endlessly, continuing after the guitar part ends for an indeterminate amount of time. In this particular recording, both the guitar and music box parts have been shortened.
Recorded in Chicago, 2007. Jonathan Chen, guitar; Music Box
Eraser for Self, 2007
Empty Orchestra (+ Full Orchestra), 2007
I began exploring the idea for this installation/composition in 2000. At that time I was getting some advice from Nic Collins on various feedback projects. I was also looking for a job and one of the places I applied happened to have a bunch of old instrument cases in one of their storage areas. After finishing a related work Four Cases: open, closed for string quartet and feedback in 2005, I wrote a text score for Empty Orchestra (+ Full Orchestra).
three switch hitters 9'25"
Recording taken from video of live performance in 2006. Sonic Circuits International Festival of Electronic Music & Art, Brooklyn NY (Issue Project Room). Jonathan Chen, electronics (SuperCollider) and projected video.
three switch hitters 8'30"
Shorter studio version of sound only recorded 2007 in Karlsruhe, Germany
Four Cases: open, closed, 2005
photo of pre-concert set up
photo of pre-concert set up (electronics)
performed live in 2005 by Jonathan Chen, electronics; Flux Quartet, strings
Recorded in Chicago, 2003. Steve Hess, drums*; Toru Hironaka, saxophone; Ed Reardon, accordion; Jonathan Chen, electronics, ebow & stroh violin
*aside from a few nudges here and there, Steve essentially improvised his part, then I selected a portion to loop.
19 Situations for Six Improvisers: a System for Hearing, 2003
The score consists solely of changes in a hearing matrix between six musicians. The musicians form duos and occupy three separate spaces, while in a fourth space, Chen alters who hears whom through headphones as an engineer mixes all six through speakers. An example of one of these hearing situations: 1 hears 4, 2 hears 5, 3 hears 1, 4 hears 6, 5 hears 3, and 6 hears 2, with each number representing one of the musicians. During the forty minute performance, audience members move freely between all four spaces. Because the work is meant to be experienced live, as an exploration of 4 separate spaces, this stereo recording will only give a sense of the sounds employed during a performance from 2003: mp3
image from terry plumming cdr release
Recorded in Chicago, 2002 (1st version 2001). Feedback through a child’s drumset using three electronically independent systems that interact with one another acoustically. This recording is available as CD quality audio through Striking Mechanism.
short cut for koto & electronics 12'09"
Recorded in Chicago, 2001. Lucy Davis, bowed koto; Jonathan Chen, feedback
This video excerpt is of the platform as installed at Union Arts in Athens, OH (2009). The space was dimly lit with a single light while the platform moved slowly across the floor pulled by string attached to a low rpm motor. 14'35"
Hidden Sounds of Silence, 2007
Materials: low rpm motor, music box element, nails, power cable, tape, wire, wood.
Additional info: This work acknowledges and mildly refers to the Marclay photo “The Sound of Silence” and the Duchamp sculpture “With Hidden Noise”.
12'48" sound clip
The occasional chime is from the installation. Because this work was installed in a public space, there are also many other ambient sounds on this recording.
32'40" sound clip
Recorded in the evening when less people were around.
Recorded 2007 in the Lichthof, Hochschule fur Gestaltung
Materials: 20 Note Paper Strip Musical Movements, cd & minidisk players for automation, clappers, glue, motors, nails, paper, pine, plastic, plywood, power supplies, rubber, & wire
Bicycle Wheel Muse Sick and on its Final Delay, 2006
Materials: balsa wood, bolts, conductor’s podium, epoxy, iPod Shuffle, metal rod, motor, plastic, plastic gears, power supply, rubber tubing, Schwinn Sun Tour rear 10-speed bicycle wheel, speakers, threaded rod, & wire
Materials: black and white dice with paint removed
Video documentation of all three works as they were exhibited in Zilkha Gallery in 2006. descriptions [these optional descriptions are not meant to decode the works]
a low quality movie made before the space was officially open: clip
Stereo recording in Zilkha Gallery, 2006. This short sample was made using 2 Neuman microphones placed on the right side of the north gallery, Zilkha. Due to the nature of this recording, other unintentional sounds are present such as the ventilation system or a car driving past outside.
Stereo recording from the center of the north gallery in Zilkha.
Untitled (interviews on the question “What do you think about the statement All opinions are equally valid?”), 2001
How to Quote Chomsky with no Appeal to Meaning: a Piece for Southern Accent 5'48"
Stereo mixdown, 1999. The actual installation is for multitrack playback through 8 speakers. One of the intentions behind this piece is to reveal the assumptions people may make based on a person’s accent, but there are many layers to this work. The first version also involved two collaboratively created visual elements according to my original concept: five film loops of the actor Dana Green crying, laughing, expressing anger, snobbishness, and fear, created by myself and Dov Scher; sculpture created by Dov Scher. This first version was installed at Northwestern University’s Dittmar Gallery in 1999. The work has been subsequently installed as multi-channel sound only. description
Patterns of Affect
Silent video intended to loop. Recorded and edited in Cortona, Italy, 2007.