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Maledetto v2

April 26, 2018

Hi Varispeed lovers!  Dave here.

We’ve got a performance coming up in just about a month.  We’re once again teaming with thingNY [of course, Gelsey, Paul, & I are in thingNY…] to do our second take of Kenneth Gaburo’s LINGUA II: Maledetto, a piece for seven virtuoso speakers.  Maybe you were lucky enough to catch it in 2016 at Soft Series when we did version 1.  If not, it’s a piece that’s nominally about screws, and has a throughline of talking straightforwardly about their history and use, but all the while Gaburo plays with the basic building blocks of the word screw and all kind of associations (especially sexual ones) to cloud this informative presentation.  It’s part of his series of late 60s pieces that articulated his practice of Compositional Linguistics – using phonetic building blocks as raw material for all manner of avant-garde compositions, often with a theatrical component.  We’ll be performing it sitting around a table in an intimate setting.

We have a notion that we’d love to get to some day to do all the pieces in Gaburo’s LINGUA series together.  These are rarely performed, very difficult to execute, and in some cases not well documented as scores, recordings, or both.  No date on when that might happen, but for now, we strongly recommend you check out our version of Maledetto, which attempts to play with gender roles in a way that diverges with Gaburo (but makes it palatable to us to pick up 50 years after it was written), and shows off our robust skills as vocalists in all kinds of contexts.  This go round the team is the five of us plus Erin & Andrew from thingNY (replacing Esther Neff & Jeff Young in our previous version).

Last night, some of us got together to talk through the piece, and Aliza snapped a few photos.


glamour + what’s next

April 13, 2018

Sure, we’ve been called the best looking band in New Music before.  We don’t want to boast.  You can judge for yourself with these photos from Crash.

Also if you’re in New York City on May 30th*, you’re certainly not gonna want to miss our arrangement of Kenneth Gaburo’s Maledetto on a split bill with thingNY** at Roulette!!! If you missed it back on Aliza’s birthday in 2016, this is your chance to see seven virtuoso speakers navigate Gaburo’s compositional linguistics.  Also on the bill are new pieces from Gelsey Bell and friend of the ‘Speed Rick Burkhardt. Info & tickets here.

And you’ll hear more about this soon, but we’re working on an album version of our arrangement of Cage’s Empty Words from 2012. More soon!

*and if you’re not in NYC, then you should come!

**sure, 60% of us are also in thingNY, but it’s still a split bill, dang it!

Ashley Weekend in Middletown

March 6, 2018

This past weekend in Middletown, CT was an amazing celebration of the life & work of Robert Ashley.  Not only did we perform Crash (with Amirtha Kidambi) and “The Bank” from Perfect Lives, Tom Buckner gave a concert of three pieces of Bob’s and one by Alvin Lucier inspired by Improvement.  Not to mention the lengthy conversations on Saturday that was catnip of the newly coined “Ash-heads” (Aliza’s term), some of whom who’d traveled many miles to talk to and mingle with Varispeed and some other close collaborators of Bob’s.

We don’t have any audio or video, but here’s some photos for context.


Dramatis personae of weekend included (L to R) Paula Matthusen, Gelsey, Tom Buckner, Aliza, Alvin Lucier, Mimi Johnson, Tom Hamilton, Amirtha Kidambi, Paul, Dave, Brian, Alex Waterman (holding a young Waterman).

IMG_3993 Allow us to point out that Mr Paul F Pinto was endeavoring this entire weekend about 48 hours after returning from about three months in Southeast Asia.  If there were awards for endeavoring big performance feats while operating with intense jet lag, Paul would have one locked up.

We had very little time to get “The Bank” together, and Paul hadn’t had a chance to play drums in months, but we’re pros and we made it happen.  Especially Paul!



Brian did the lead for “The Bank” for the first time since we did a one-off at WFMU back in 2014.  Brian’s approach is more based on the breaths in the original version.  So think about THAT.


Aliza & Dave went to Wesleyan.  Aliza had the idea to do “The Bank” for undergrads, who might come under the spell of Perfect Lives like Aliza & Dave did years ago.  Aliza also brilliantly & shamelessly plugged our two shows to any undergrad who would listen.  She makes a hard sell.


Finally, we’ll leave you with the shot Aliza so proudly assembled of the other four of us in the hotel pool.  Not pictured: hot tub nearby.

More Varispeed action is coming your way this spring!  Stay tuned!

Bank bonus

February 7, 2018

Dear lovers of Varispeed and other people who come across this page:

Next month is gonna be great.  Up at Wesleyan University the first weekend of March, there’s gonna be a whole bunch of concerts and events relating to the life and work of Robert Ashley.  Tom Buckner performs a recital of Bob’s work, many of his closest collaborators and friends give talks, and along with Amirtha, we’re performing Crash for the first time in three years.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE.  We’re also gonna put together a single episode of Perfect Lives to cap things off.  On Sunday, March 4th at 1pm sharp, we’ll bring The Bank to 200 High St, aka Movement House, fka Eclectic.  This building is known more for rock shows than financial transactions, but heck, it looks grand and bank-like:


So you can find us out there talking about the bank having no money in it and singing some you coo coos on hopefully a nice crisp New England afternoon.  If you’re keeping score at home, Brian’s gonna do the lead for the first time since we were on WFMU.

And all these events are free if that’s not enough incentive to get you to spend a weekend in the Connecticut River Valley, friends.

Coming in 2018

December 31, 2017

Dear Varispeed readers: we’ve got a lot coming your way in 2018!  First up is in early March in Middletown, CT.  Mimi Johnson and Alvin Lucier have put together a weekend-long celebration of Robert Ashley’s life and work at Wesleyan University, including a performance from us of Crash.  Also on tap that weekend is a concert from Tom Buckner and panels featuring Mimi, Alvin, and other friends and collaborators of Bob’s over the years.  We’re trying to put a cherry on top of this sundae, performance-wise, we’ll keep you posted if it comes to pass.  More soon!

in an elevator

November 13, 2017

We felt it was important to share with you good people this photo Brian took yesterday of the five of us in an elevator.

vspeed elevator

That’s all for now.

State of the ‘Speed, Oct ’17

October 2, 2017

Hi friends.  It’s been a while since we’ve told you what we’re up to.

The biggest & most relevant thing, we’re gonna have to leave you guessing on.  But suffice it to say we’re coming back together, the five of us and some dear friends, to work on something you’re gonna love.  That oughta come to fruition in 2018.  More as that unfolds.  We’ve actually got a couple 2018 irons in the fire.  Don’t touch that dial etc etc.

So while you’re holding your breath, here’s a few things:

As part of PPL, Brian’s doing a lot this month at Salisbury University in Maryland.  This project is a continuation of PPL’s multi-year Embarrassed of the Whole.  More info is here.

Gelsey & Paul, having finished their time on Broadway last month, are both back with new productions this fall.  Gelsey’s in Dave Malloy’s Ghost Quartet, which starts this week at NYTW (though it’s sold out!).  Paul’s got the grand realization of many years of working on his piece Thomas Paine in Violence coming next month at HERE Arts.  More info for that one is here.

Aliza continues to generate high-quality ceramics under the moniker Henry Street Studio.  You can check out what she’s been doing here.

Finally Dave’s releasing a new solo album entitled Qualms Rectified on his label Gold Bolus Recordings.  You can hear half the tracks here right now, the full thing comes out 10/13.  There’s a release show at Secret Project Robot on 10/23 that’ll also feature Paul on drums and voice, and a set from friend of the ‘Speed Amirtha Kidambi.  Info here.