Why Atlas Sets?

Posted in Structure, Themes with tags , , on May 28, 2014 by glenncbach

I have been reflecting on the outlines and parameters of Atlas Sets as a project, a body of work, and an exercise in autobiography. The original impetus of the project–collecting a series of recorded sessions by a list of collaborators in a box set with a catalog in time for my 50th birthday in 2015, along with a celebratory publication party in Joshua Tree–has been supplanted by a more modest agenda. I see now that the real heart of Atlas Sets has never really been the recordings, the catalog, or even the impending mid-century celebration, but rather the conversations themselves, both in the moment and later in the office, transcribing the recordings into a coherent and faithful documentation of our exchange of ideas. By focusing on the conversation, I have been able to identify, articulate, and reflect on the questions important to me as a composer. What does it mean to organize sounds into structured compositions? What is my own relationship to improvisation and recording? Who, what, and where is my community?

I don’t necessarily have the answers; in fact, I’m more interested in refining the questions. The more I investigate my life in sound, broadly and deeply, the less certainty I have about finalizing my responses.

This process of questioning has been complicated and enriched by the addition of a new project and body of work, Atlas Place, in which I turn my attention to conversations with creative people about the places in which they live and work. This trajectory has been critical to my own process and self-identity as an artist for as long as I’ve been making work. The infrastructure of Atlas Place promises to allow for a wide-ranging, and long-lasting, series of conversations about how we relate to our geographical location, and how the places important to us have shaped our work and who we are.

What about Atlas Sets, then? If I’m no longer invested in finalizing a catalog and box set, can the project adjust to allow for a more open-ended structure? I’m still interested in meeting musician and composer friends for a meal and discussing the outlines of a possible collaboration, so could I not allow Atlas Sets to open up and breathe a little, let each collaboration run its own course rather than set a deadline? Perhaps a newsletter format, or an occasional release on MPRNTBL?

These questions received a new charge after reading Frances Morgan’s review of David Grubbs’ Records Ruin The Landscape: Cage, The Sixties And Sound Recording in the June 2014 issue of The Wire. Morgan traces Grubbs’ handling of the inherent contradiction in recordings of experimental and improvised music: how does a recording of an experimental composition or an improvised session coincide with the common artistic stance of open form and indeterminate results? I have been considering these issues in my own work and in conversations with collaborators such as Phil Mantione. Again, I can’t say I have the answers, but I believe I’m understanding the questions a little better. As Morgan writes in his review, there are now “more perspectives with which one can view the landscape.”

So, here’s to a fresh look at Atlas Sets, its connections to future conversations under the Atlas Place umbrella, and its role in the overall Atlas infrastructure.

Atlas Sets at RAM

Posted in Duos, Sessions with tags , , , on January 4, 2014 by glenncbach

Not bad for a Thursday night. A successful performance and recording session for Soft Sound Loud Loud Sound Soft, the Atlas Sets session with Philip Mantione. A good crowd, some perhaps in town for the annual Festival of Lights in downtown Riverside.


Bach setup + recording to Zoom H4n

We captured a four-channel recording of the atrium space, as well as separate direct feeds from our own boards. We’ll be reviewing the recordings over the next few months. Stay tuned.




All eyes on Phil.


View from the balcony.


Near the end of the set.

Bach + Mantione at Riverside Art Museum

Posted in Duos, Sessions with tags , , , , , on December 21, 2013 by glenncbach

Soft Sound Loud Loud Sound Soft
A site specific performance by sound artists Philip Mantione and Glenn Bach featuring live computer music and custom-built instruments to take place in the Atrium of the Riverside Art Museum.

Bach’s music features typically loud sounds (ie. distorted guitar) that have been manipulated and drastically reduced in volume to contemplative levels, encouraging the listener to experience the subtleties and delicacies in timbre and texture which he creates.  In response, Mantione will use manipulated samples of typically soft sounds (ie. pins dropping) and raise their levels to expose the sonic detail normally beyond the scope of human hearing. He will also perform on a custom-built electronic Aeolian harp, an instrument traditionally designed to be activated by the wind.

Listeners/viewers will be able to freely enter and exit the space and get up close and personal with the performers. The artists have agreed to collaborate as part of the Atlas Sets. Conceived by Bach, the Atlas Sets are “a collaborative conversation about musical map-making, contemplative practice, creative community, and artistic intention.”

Riverside Art Museum

January 2, 2014
7:00 – 8:30pm

Bach + Mantione: SSLLSS

Posted in Duos, Structure, Themes with tags , , on November 8, 2013 by glenncbach

Mantione: I’ve been playing with ideas for our RAM performance.  Writing a new patch that will double as a sample playback device and live input manipulator.  I think I’m going to use an electronic Aeolian harp I built for an installation some time ago. It has 12 strings and is made from Home Depot materials.  Completely untunable, but that’s okay.  Today I made a bowing structure from a cool tree branch I found.  Strung it up with a low E string, and will use that as one way to activate the harp.  So, I’ll divide my performance between live activation and manipulation of the harp and triggered samples.  Plan to record a ton of sounds (about 100) with contact mics to compile 4 banks of 25 which can be triggered with my little Korg KB.  Will also program some generative ideas in MAX.

I know we roughly discussed a 2 hour performance/installation.  Now I’m thinking that may be a bit long.  On the other hand, I’ve found that pushing the time frame just beyond the limit of comfort can yield unexpected and fortuitous events. How does 90 minutes sound to you?

It’s a square space and very reverberant with a high glass dome.  There are actually four balconies, one on each wall facing each other.  I’m thinking we could place speakers up there in stereo pairs facing each other on opposite sides and facing down.  This may require significant cabling regarding length.  I will bring my 8″ Mackies…do you have something comparable for the second pair? We could set-up on the ground floor in the center and run cable such that we would hear the other’s sound in the front and back and our own sound left and right.

This sounds perfect. I’m excited about the harp and sample alternation; seems like a fertile palette.

Following the Loud/Soft approach, I would love to take those initial recordings, overdrive them into feedback, and then parse them back out into the space as part of our performative conversation. A transmutation of quiet into loud and back into quiet.

I’m fine with long performances, and ninety minutes seems like enough time to investigate and explore the sounds as they are broadcast back into the space. That would also give us time to reflect on the space itself and the overall soundscape of that evening’s festivities. Did you hear back from Kathryn about an artist talk?

I will bring my M-Audio BX5 monitors, but I’ll have to invest in some longer cables. Yet another reason to visit the space soon and map out our intervention.

Glenn Bach and Steve Barsotti

Posted in Duos with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2013 by glenncbach

The next collaboration in the Atlas Sets series will be with composer, field recordist, and educator Steve Barsotti. Since Steve lives in Seattle, the first conversation will take place over a Skype connection, Tuesday, September 10, 2013.


Steve Barsotti in his element.

Glenn Bach and Jorge Martin

Posted in Duos with tags , , , , , on August 8, 2013 by glenncbach

Jorge Martin as part of SCSE at {open}.

The next installment of Atlas Sets will be with Jorge Martin, a mainstay of the Southern California noise/sound scene. Our conversation and recording session is scheduled for Sunday, August 18th in Mar Vista. UPDATE: my conversation with Jorge has been postponed because of technical and scheduling issues. Stay tuned…

Archive of Ear Meal set

Posted in Duos, Sessions with tags , , on July 8, 2013 by glenncbach
Bach + Nakagawa on Ear Meal

Glenn Bach and Alan Nakagawa performing live on Ear Meal.

Here is the archived set of the Ear Meal performance of Atlas Sets by Glenn Bach and Alan Nakagawa. With a combination of live electronics and field recordings, Bach and Nakagawa set up the foundation for future collaborations in this twenty-five minute exploration of purposed and accidental soundscapes.