M.E.M.E. Gatherings

M.E.M.E. Gatherings...

We periodically meet to rehearse, hone our skills, share ideas, and (of course) to enjoy the wonders of massive amounts of electronic instruments. Below are some of M.E.M.E.’s past activities.

Serge-fest March 16, 1997 (a.k.a. The genesis of M.E.M.E. the Midwest Electronic Music Ensemble)

M.E.M.E. on this date consisted of five members: Michael Firman, Darwin Grosse, John Papiewski, André Stordeur, and Grant Richter. We convened for the first time in Milwaukee Wisconsin on 3/16/97. The meeting was arranged by André for the purpose of having a "face to face" meeting (we had all interacted in some way or another previously on the Internet) of people he believed shared some unique interests. As it turns out, we share many common interests with respect to electronic music; compositions (particularly compositions that were not strictly based on 17th, 18th and 19th century European classical music), composers (particularly those who came into prominence during the 1960's, people such as Morton Subotnick and John Appleton), composing techniques (such as those based on stochastic processes, randomness, and textural structure), and musical instruments (instruments designed by people like Donald Buchla and Serge Tcherepnin).

If you are interested in Serge systems and their history you might look at the Keyboard magazine from September 1994 (I used to have a link to this article but it seems to have gone away). If you are interested in what Donald Buchla is up to these days you might try looking at Buchla and Associates WEB page.

Grant, André, and John
André and Darwin Grosse engaged in deep conversation
André Stordeur looking quite professorial
John Papiewski
Grant Richter

Serge-fest May 10, 1997 (M.E.M.E.II or M.E.M.E. revisited)

This meeting of M.E.M.E. consisted of six members: Michael Firman, Darwin Grosse, Ken Stoll, Stewart S. Walker, André Stordeur, and Grant Richter. We again convened in Milwaukee Wisconsin (on 5/10/97). By prior arrangement, we agreed that this meeting would last for two days, and be in a workshop format (orchestrated by André). Almost everyone brought some of their gear, hence things quickly transcended the philosophical into the concrete. This was indeed an interesting crew of people whose age group ranged from their early twenties through their early fifties (with representatives from all four decades). André coached us through several of his event clusters, which employed a conducting technique developed by the composer Pierre Boulez in the 1960's. With enough time (and patience on André’s part) the sound began to jell (as we got more comfortable with the technique and each other). Several tactical problems were isolated (e.g. it was discovered that the equipment arrangement that we had adopted did not lend itself to watching a conductor while simultaneously reconfiguring patches) and solutions for the next meeting were discussed.

André also came with an extremely interesting and very complex patch to demonstrate. The patch was a completely self-contained (i.e. totally realized within André's Serge panels), representation of a North-Indian classical ensemble. The sequences were designed to give the piece an "organic" time feel (André is fond of clocking sequencers with the output of continuously varying envelope generators, instead of gates, effecting subtle time modulations).

Ken and Stewart graciously informed us about newer developments in the popular electronic music scene (dance music of various types) and Stewart provided me with a list of some CD recommendations (thanks Stewart!)

André manipulating knobs while Grant looks on.
Darwin at the Grunge controls while Stewart and Ken cringe in horror
Grant getting off on my rig

M.E.M.E. March 21, 1998

This meeting of M.E.M.E. consisted of five members: Michael Firman, Darwin Grosse, André Stordeur, John Papiewski, and Grant Richter. This time we convened in Naperville Illinois (on 3/21/98 for an Equinox celebration). This gathering was devoted mostly to group improvisation and we accomplished three extensive electronic conversations. We also documented this meeting by leaving a tape running throughout most of the interactions. Darwin graciously manned the mixing board and tape deck. Grant brought along some of his Wiard module prototypes including a completed Waveform City wave-table synthesis module (finished beautifully in blue with the trademark Celtic design adorning the front panel).

Our group photo (left to right: Darwin, Mike, Grant, John, and André)
John and his electronic buddy
Darwin's mighty serge central control (the ale and smokes are integral)
André’s neural network
John, André, Darwin, and just a touch of Grant electronically bonding
Grant shows off his Wiard and wacky module collection

M.E.M.E. May 5, 1998

This meeting of M.E.M.E. consisted of three members: Michael Firman, André Stordeur, and Grant Richter. We again convened in Naperville Illinois (on 5/9/98). During this meeting we concentrated on a piece composed by Darwin Grosse who submitted the score several meetings ago. The piece is titled A Trip To Kidyu and consists of a narrative to be realized on synthesizer. Descriptions of various actions and a timeline for these actions are provided in the piece. We constrained the piece to a duration of ten minutes and performed it using a darkroom clock to indicate when the actions should take place. We also used a shakuhachi to realize one of the actions (an interpretation of a Japanese garden). This piece (and the musical portion of the meeting in general) was documented on both cassette and two tracks of an open-reel four track machine (this was done to facilitate the missing members adding their tracks later). We ended the music making section of the meeting by performing a rhythmic jam, clocking all three synthesizer setups with a Roland 606 (previously programmed by Darwin). Complementing the Serge equipment, Grant brought along some of his Wiard modules and a VCS3. We ended the festivities by experimenting with an EMS pitch follower to see if we could get the VCS3 to track the shakuhachi and a soprano saxophone. And a final note: although John did not attend this meeting he has been busy putting together Egres - The Unofficial Serge Page.

Grant posing with his British friend
Grant's rig
Grant and André setting the stage
The Wiard modules with the VCS3 standing by

M.E.M.E. June 20, 1998

This meeting of M.E.M.E. consisted of four members: Michael Firman, André Stordeur, Grant Richter, and Darwin Grosse. We convened in Milwaukee Wisconsin (on 6/20/98) for a Solstice M.E.M.E. Gathering. One of the highlights included the viewing of a video tape document of the original M.E.M.E. (consisting of Grant Richter, Dean Ireland, and Richard Franecki) giving a public performance (done for a Milwaukee public access TV station) sometime in 1990. As usual we spent time talking about compositions, compositional techniques, improvisational electronic music, equipment, recording, etc. During this gathering we committed three improvisational realizations to tape.

A finely reconditioned Buchla Music Easel.
Grant, weaseling the easel.

M.E.M.E. July 18 & August 1, 1998

M.E.M.E. convened twice recently in an abbreviated fashion, sort of mini-MEME's. The first of these occurred on the 18th of July 1998 in Naperville, and consisted of Michael Firman, André Stordeur, and John Papiewski. At this meeting three experiments were committed to tape, a warm-up improvisation based upon patches that exhibited chaotic responses (this was inspired by a recent article in CMJ), a piece that was based on the concept of silence consisting of each player being assigned a limited palette of sounds (John had a S/H sound and a Phaser sound, André had percussive sounds, and Mike was assigned Ring Modulated and FM sounds) and instructed to "open up" the soundscape by allowing intervals of silence within the piece, and finally an experiment with tonal centers.

Here is a photo of John and André at the July 18th meeting.

The second meeting took place in Milwaukee on the 1st of August 1998, and consisted of Michael Firman, André Stordeur, and Grant Richter. Again three experiments were committed to tape. The first was an extension of the "open soundscape" piece that was done at the last meeting. The same sort of instructions were in effect but this time two of the items in the sound palette were rhythmic figures. The second piece was also an extension of an experiment done at the last session, that being the "tone center" concept. This time we worked around a simple scale fragment (after everyone tuned together) with the working concept being "beauty". The last piece that we worked with was a duet between Grant and André based on Indian themes with various impressions of Indian instruments being realized on synthesizer and samplers.

M.E.M.E.  March 13, 1999

Here is Jack, bathed in the satisfaction of having just unpacked.
Here is the stuff that I dragged along (note the Mini).
Here is John, relaxing during a break.

M.E.M.E. April 24, 1999

M.E.M.E. in action
M.E.M.E. is (left to right) Darwin, Grant, Mike, André, Jack, and John

M.E.M.E. October 2, 1999

M.E.M.E. met again in Batavia with a full compliment of members (André, Jack, John, Grant, Darwin, and myself). Darwin is producing the sound for a haunted house up in Milwaukee and suggested that M.E.M.E. add some atmosphere to the mix. We worked (under Darwin's direction) on overlaying some rhythm tracks (previously laid down by Darwin) and on some thematic textures (to add moody atmospheres to various rooms in the haunted house). All in all it was a good and productive get together.

The group working under Darwin's direction.
A rare shot of me (I'm usually taking the pictures).

M.E.M.E. March 24, 2001

Members of M.E.M.E. got together in a private home in Chicago for a rehearsal on Saturday March 24th 2001.

This rehearsal featured the following regular M.E.M.E. members: John Papiewski, Grant Richter, Darwin Grosse, Michael Firman, and Nick Wilson. We also had a special guest: Rex Probe who, since his recent move to Wisconsin, is now a member of M.E.M.E. It should also be mentioned that, although he has been playing with us for some time now (indeed has performed at two of our live gigs), this is the first time pictures of Nick Wilson, our extraordinary electric violinist, have appeared on this site. Welcome Nick and Rex!

Here I am wobbling the Wiard
A happy man with his short wave radio.
Nick on highly processed electric violin.
Nick Wilson setting up his rig.
Rex and Grant having Wiard fun while Nick looks on.
The two synth designers/manufactures together for a jam.
Rex unpacking his antenna?!
Rex being instructed on the ways of the Wiard.
Wiard and Serge (STS).
Darwin performing a Guitar meditation.
And the fun begins. Darwin committed the unspeakable act of bringing a guitar!
Rex, John, and Grant discussing bats and the measurement of physical constants.