Flashback: Stylus BLK Arkestra electro-acoustic turntable noise piece from 2014 Sonic Circuits Fest

That time my wife Raquel and I joined the Stylus turntable ensemble for a performance at the 2014 Sonic Circuits Festival in Silver Spring, MD. For this incarnation, Stylus was expanded by strings and other electronics from members of Stylus leader/composer Jim Adams’ other group BLK w/Bear. The piece entitled “To Satisfy Their Cruel Hunger” involves rather high concept inspiration and compositional techniques which I will leave to Jim to explain in his program notes, as follows:

STYLUS BLK ARKESTRA – featuring STYLUS turntable ensemble with additional performers from Washington’s avant-garde, modern classical and noise communities as BLK ARKESTRA and ONE CHORD PONIES – staged a major work for modern Classical ensemble, electronics and vintage turntables at the 2014 Sonic Circuits Festival, 05 October 2014.

TO SATISFY THEIR CRUEL HUNGER re-conceptualizes + interprets the Jamestown Settlement’s ‘Starving Time’ (1609-1610) and the now confirmed reports of resident’s cannibalism.

The score is structured from Morse code signals along with visual interpretations of artifacts from Jamestown Settlement archaeological digs, particularly the skeletal remains of its cruel hunger’s victims. The six movements of TO SATISFY THEIR CRUEL HUNGER incorporate vintage Califone turntables, prepared vinyl recordings, cello, guitars, bass, analog electronics, MIDI piano and Morse Code. Prepared vinyl is inscribed with J M S T W N and 1 6 0 9 1 0 in Roman numerals.

“First they ate their horses, then dogs, cats, rats, mice and snakes. Some, to satisfy their cruel hunger, ate the leather of their shoes. As the weeks turned to months, nothing was spared to maintain life. How many of the growing numbers of dead were cannibalized is unknown. But it is almost certain the girl was not the only victim. There is scientific evidence that the settlers at Jamestown had turned to cannibalism during the starving time.” BBC News, 01 May 2013 www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-22362831

PERFORMERS: Anthony Pirog (turntable / guitar); Daniel Barbiero (double bass); Chris Videll (electronics); Doug Poplin (cello); Jeff Barsky (guitar); Guillermo Pizarro (digital contributor); PD Sexton (digital contributor); Gary Rouzer: (turntable); Jeff Bagato (turntable); Chester Hawkins (turntable); Keith Sinzsinger (turntable); Raquel Leone-Bagato (turntable); and JS Adams, artistic director (loops / electronics / Morse Code / mix + manipulations ).

Stylus live track released on SoundCloud

stylus-track-joy and sorrow

Washington, DC’s turntable orchestra Stylus played a memorial concert honoring circuit bender, multi-instrumentalist and founding member Keith Sinzinger on February 1, 2019, at RhizomeDC. Group director Jim Adams composed another score based on Morse code, called “And All Thy Joy and Sorrow Shall Never Pass Away,” which was performed by four turntablists using Califone turntables and copies of the District of Noise loop LP marked for Keith’s solo tracks. Turntablists for this incarnation of Stylus were Jim Adams, Chris Videll, RA Martini, and myself. Steve Sanford made a live digital recording of the piece, which Jim posted to his BLK w/Bear SoundCloud account. You can listen to it here.

Stylus + Astatine live recording from Sonic Circuits 2017 concert released on Soundcloud


Stylus director Jim Adams posted the recording from the latest Stylus concert at Sonic Circuits 2017 to Soundcloud. This was a collaboration with French artist Astatine, involving an ensemble playing vinyl 7″ supplied by Astatine, supplemented by guitarists and video projections. Stylus exclusively uses Califone turntables sourced from elementary schools that updated their A/V equipment. As one of the turntablists, I find the description “pratfalls for multiple turntables” rather appropriate! More on the personnel and recording details below. You can check out the track on Soundcloud here.

Live @ 2017 Sonic Circuits Festival
Rhizome DC . Washington DC USA . Sunday 17 September 2017

periodontic tablatures + pratfalls for multiple turntables, vinyl recordings, guitars + digital malfeasance


STYLUS turntable ensemble
JS Adams, artistic director + score . Califone . processing . visuals
Jeff Bagato, Califone
Chester Hawkins, Califone
Janel Leppin, Califone
RA Martini, Califone
Gary Rouzer, Califone
Keith Sinzinger, Califone
Chris Videll, Califone
Bianca Williford, Califone

Stéphane Récrosio / Astatine, vinyl + original source recordings

Jeff Barsky, guitar
Josh McDonald, guitar
Guillermo Pizarro, digital contributor

Mei Mei Chang, live infrared visuals

Steve Sanders, recording
Joseph Dress, video

Turntable ensemble STYLUS at Sonic Circuits 2017 this Sunday, 9/17


It’s time again for the annual Sonic Circuits, DC’s festival for experimental, improvised, and outside musics, held this year at Rhizome from Sept 15-17. That’s three nights of local, national, and international freak jams. Turntable ensemble Stylus will be performing a new work by band leader Jim Adams on Sunday, Sept 17. As one of the turntablists, I’ll be appearing with the group. The ensemble will be expanded with a guitar section and feature visual projections. If you’re into “difficult” music, don’t miss this!

This official word about the group (from the festival website) will describe it better than I could: “STYLUS is a Washington DC-based turntable ensemble that performs with multiple vintage classroom turntables as their instruments, using locked-groove + prepared vinyl to create a sound that is minimalist, pulse-like + hypnotic yet also dynamic + punctuated. STYLUS performers to date include mainstays of the Washington, D.C. avant-garde, free improvisation, modern composition, noise, + electronic music scene….STYLUS performers for the 2017 SCDC Festival are JS Adams, Jeff Bagato, Chester Hawkins, Janel Leppin, Ryan Martini, Gary Rouzer, Keith Sinzinger, Stéphane Récrosio, vinyl, Jeff Barsky, guitar, John Howard, guitar, Guillermo Pizarro, digital, Mei Mei Chang, visuals.”

“STYLUS will perform “(AT to ER) Apt to Err_Who am the Only One,” a new composition in collaboration with French lo-fi guitarist, Stéphane Récrosio (astatine / acetate z e r o), utilizing commissioned, limited-edition lathe acetates. The performance will include live infrared-video work from Mei Mei Chang and be dedicated to former STYLUS performer, Andrew McCarry (1984 – 2016) . STYLUS warmly embraces the modern compositional elements of turntablism + the contemporary sound-art of Christian Marclay + Philip Jeck. Other influences include such historic constructs as the Futurist manifesto L’arte dei Rumori, Dadaism, Automatism + Russian Constructivism along with Louis Braille, Samuel F.B. Morse, Milan Knížák’s Broken Music, the graphic scores of Cornelius Cardew + Fluxus performance, plus the prepared instrumentation + happenstance of John Cage.”