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Rise Set Twilight

On Thursday, January 12, the local duo rise set twilight will perform live on Rare Frequency. rise set twilight is Linda Aubry (harp, electronics) and Michael Bullock (bass, feedback systems, digital video), who create immersive drones that can be as light and delicate as the proverbial flower or as gritty and coarse as sandpaper. Since the late 1990s, Linda and Mike have been active in Boston’s experimental music scene. In addition to rise set twilight, Linda performs solo under the moniker The Sun is an Orange Cookie and with Bullock and Brendan Murray as The Please. Mike works with a number of local ensembles, including the BSC, and has a longtime duo with cellist Vic Rawlings. Last year, the two also organized the wonderful Plus One experimental music series, which was held first in their living room and then at Art Interactive in Central Square.

We did the following short interview by email.

When did you begin playing music? What are your musical backgrounds & training?

LA: I started taking piano lessons when I was nine, but remember playing an egg slicer when I was much younger. I have an MFA in composition and conducting from Bennington College and I graduated from Berklee College of Music with a BA in composition. I had the opportunity at Berklee to do some old-school synthesizer explorations (ARP 2600) and did a bit of reel-to-reel recording and creative splicing (yes, of the actual tape). I have a lifetime love for the sound of transformers and recently discovered a beautifully “tuned” one on a walk in my neighborhood (high up near a telephone pole).

MB: I started in second grade, with piano lessons. I took up trumpet in grade school and bass in high school to join a rock band that never materialized. In undergraduate school at Princeton I studied composition and computer music. At NEC I got a Master’s Degree and that’s what led me back to Boston (I’m from Massachusetts). I met some of the people I still play with today, like Bhob Rainey, Seth Cluett, Tucker Dulin, Steve Drury, Masashi Harada… and through these people I met many of the others I play with and am close friends with, like Greg, Howie, GDG, Vic, Liz, Brendan, the Twisted Folks, you name it.

I met Linda when she came to a bad show of mine, and the next week I went to a bad show of hers. I guess we shared each others’ pain.

How did you both become interested in playing abstract/experimental music and how did that interest evolve into what you do now?

LA: I know that I was always interested in sound — both natural and man-made. I liked the hum of a refrigerator as much as the sound of rain on the roof. During my “formal” music education I played a lot of other people’s music and a bit of my own, but felt that my approach to my instrument was missing something. Several years after graduation (and after basically not doing anything with music), I started teaching myself the harp, and also began to study ragas. I believe that the study of ragas helped me to think about improvising and incorporating the sounds that I always loved into creating music, and learning a new instrument freed me up a bit.

MB: At Princeton I was doing electronic composition and dealing with open forms that incorporated improvisation. I first got interested in so-called “free” improvisation there, and when I got to Boston there was an already formed/forming scene that I could slip into. My first gig of “this kind” of music was with Bhob and Masashi at the old Zeitgiest.

Are there any musicians who especially inspire you?

LA: When I studied orchestral conducting, I loved listening to Toscanini’s early recordings. There was a clarity to the original score that was revealed by his work, and his attention to detail was impeccable. I love when performers give all that they can, at every performance. It shows respect for oneself and for one’s listeners and I believe that that effort often results in exceptional breakthroughs.

MB: Right now, I’m getting back into the idea of composing, from a “tape music” perspective (on computer rather than tape), so of course I’m digging French dudes: Bernard Parmegiani, Henri Chopin, Lionel Marchetti. Also, I’m a huge fan of how united states of belt handle sounds and make something out of field recordings that’s so listenable you forget it’s music. Also, Ralf Wehowsky put out this CD with Contrabassist Johannes Frisch that sounds like they improvised and then Wehowsky took the tracks and did his really canny cut-ups with them, but not enough to remove the feeling of ensemble action. It’s called Tränende Würger and it really rides this fine line between improvising and composing the way some P16.D4 records would.

The name — rise set twilight — is quite beautiful: does it refer to anything specific?

MB: That was Linda’s idea. She can tell you more about it. :) Glad you like it!

LA: This is a link with astronomical definitions. I was thinking of my favorite times of the day. I love moments of transition, and decided to look up a few websites that gave information about how times of the day are defined. When I think of these transitional moments, I feel that they are often experienced while solitary and content and a little introspective.

For those who’ve never heard rise set twilight or seen you perform, could you describe what it is you do?

MB: Sometimes live, I play video instead of sound. The last time we did that it was actually Linda’s solo set on Plus One, as The Sun is an Orange Cookie. Otherwise, it’s a little hard to pin down what we do, but it’s definitely a lot different from other projects I’ve done in the last 10 years. rise set twilight often doesn’t sound improvised; we get a lot, I think, from ambient electronics, old and new synthesizer drones, and a surprising amount of consonance.

In addition to your work in music, you both work in the visual arts: could you talk about your visual work in porcelain, clothing design, video synthesis, etc?

LA: Along with my mother, I have a business named Ambrosia Porcelain. We produce handmade and hand painted porcelain. It’s very tactile and incorporates lots of colors. Each piece takes a long time to make, but we don’t want them to be just put on a shelf as display — they’re meant to be used every day.

MB: For me, video is relatively new, and has been on hold this fall but will be coming back soon. I think that my video synth stuff probably comes as close to the “sound” (if that makes sense) of rise set twilight as anything else I do. It kind of comes from two sources: my interest in audio feedback (standing waves, slippery figures, curvatures rather than choppiness), and the fact that I’m surrounded by color at home, thanks to Linda, who has a very keen eye for color and likes to have a lot of it around. I’m happy using video synth and video feedback and don’t currently have a lot of interest in using video clips or stills, except here and there.

What projects are both up to at the moment? By any chance, will you be reviving the Plus One Music series this year?

MB: We’re definitely planning on starting Plus One up again in the Spring. Specifics are still up in the air — we don’t have a venue nailed down or artists lined up. It’s just “in the works.”

Otherwise, for me, I’m working on a solo project that will be centered around acoustic bass but will probably end up involving a good amount of studio work. I just finally got out a solo 3” CDR on Kissy, “This Will Cheer You Up.” I’ve also got a few ensemble discs in various stages of completion: a 4tet with GDG, James Coleman, and Steve Roden, being shopped; and duo disc with Vic coming soon on Fargone records. I’d love to do a rise set twilight CD, or maybe a DVD with some video. Chloë Recordings has been on the lam, with my apologies to my artists who have been sort of left in the cold, especially Jason Lescalleet and Jason Kahn whose wonderful CD came at the end of my rope and has been sort of dangling. But this year I’m hoping to get Chloë back in gear; I’ll probably be putting out one of my own projects.

LA: I’m working on a solo project and plan on recording more this winter. With luck, we’ll be able to have a venue for our Plus One series. I believe that we’ve outgrown having it in our apartment, though (as in the beginning of the series last spring)!


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