toy_5 on The New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival


Along with a bunch of my friends, Sam Beebe, Niloufar Nourbakhsh, Joseph Bohigian, Joseph Bohigian, Rob Cosgrove and Taylor Long, we put together a few works to put on the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival. We had originally proposed a full length concert set, but after the festival was canceled due to COVID-19, they moved to an online format and we all were cast out into far-flung regions of the world. For the online format, though, we still had the opportunity to compose and record some new works for a Networked Music format. We also recorded a work of Sam’s:

Sam Beebe’s Pretty Saro Orbital

Sam had this to say about his piece:

Pretty Saro is a tune I first heard from a Jean Ritchie recording with Doc Watson. I was immediately struck by the simplicity and power of both the performance and the tune and lyrics. Later on I heard Peggy Seeger do it on one of her albums, and it sort of lodged the song in my

mind ever since – I’ve always wanted to make some interpretation of it. So, with Pretty Saro Orbital, have tapped Brian Eno’s procedure of rotating tape loops from his album “Music for Airports” as a method to cope with the lack of precise synchronization of parts due to the limitations of remote performance via video conferencing and unstable home internet connections. The material, sourced from the traditional song, is presented with an open scoring, and is played to a shared (albeit erratic) metronome, which remains silent to the audience. I am pleased by the way this project has allowed me to explore and remodel these two sources and make them my own.

The festival organizer had this note:

Welcome to NYCEMF 2020.Just as we were organizing our concerts, which were supposed to take place between June 14 and 21, the United States was hit by the world-wide pandemic of the coronavirus. The entire country went into lockdown, and New York City was the epicenter of the outbreak. People were forbidden to leave their homes except to get medicine or food (and restaurants were closed, so you could only get take-out). Over 40 million people in the USA lost their jobs, and the economy went into a meltdown.

All this has had a major impact on music productions and organizations. The largest musical organizations in New York, like the Metropolitan Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra, cancelled their seasons and will not open until 2021. All local concert activity ceased, and the only performances that began to take place were virtual productions over the internet. A few musical productions have taken place with very small audiences in large spaces in order to allow for social distancing, but most events were simply cancelled.

Thus, we were forced to cancel the in-person concerts for NYCEMF 2020, but we were able to organize this virtual presentation. All composers who had works accepted were invited to submit something, and we will also allow them to have the same pieces played live next year if they wish. As you can see, we have an extraordinary group of pieces presented in this way.

We will miss some of the unique features that we have always had in previous festivals, particularly the opportunity to hear works in surround sound and with some of the special ambisonic qualities that some works use, as well as the opportunity to have sound installations and live performances. But we will return to these as soon as we are able to resume our normal activities.

The festival is organized into concerts just like they would have been if we had presented them in person. I encourage you to listen to everything on the festival, and you can do so as long as we are able to leave the festival on line. Enjoy!

Hubert Howe,