Electric Chamber II: The Hurd Ensemble & Squid Inc.

The first installment of the “Electric Chamber” series in January was a great success, so we’re doing it again!

Here are the official deets:


Friday, September 28th @ Viracocha, SF.

$12-20 suggested donation.

What explains the enduring appeal of chamber music?

No doubt the beauty, subtlety, and complexity of the music are a part of it—not to mention the passion and virtuosity of its players. But these qualities can be brought to bear on music of any kind, and more and more, classically trained musicians are venturing beyond the traditional confines of the chamber into new and exciting territories. The San Francisco Bay Area, in particular, is a fertile breeding ground for such genre-bending, cross-pollinating creativity.

The ELECTRIC CHAMBER series showcases some of this incredible creative talent.

In this, our second installment of the Electric Chamber series, we present two exciting, innovative ensembles.

Performing original music by San Francisco-based composer George Hurd, The Hurd Ensemble unifies the worlds of electronic and classical music. All the music is written for string quartet (violin, viola, cello, upright bass), piano and electronics, meticulously bound together with digitally-arranged sounds collected from Hurd’s travels. Absolutely no stock electronic sounds are used – every sound produced is of his own creation, recorded, edited and manipulated himself. The electronics are layered to create textures that perfectly complement the acoustic instruments, giving rise to a sound that is extremely organic despite its partially digital origins. Hurd’s music is both wildly, intricately rhythmic and aglow with shimmering harmonies and melodies. Accessible and daring, its percussive yet lyrical qualities make it at home in both concert halls and nightclubs.

George Hurd: composition & electronics
Solenn Seguillon: violin
Jacob Hansen-Joseph: viola
Anton Estaniel: cello & steel drums
Ari Gorman: bass
Elyse Weakley: piano

Listen to The Hurd Ensemble’s mini-EP Strange Lands on Bandcamp

Made up of some of the Bay Area’s fiercest string players, Squid Inc. will open your ears as the world of popular music dances with classical tradition. Fun, fiery, and fully engaging, Squid Inc. plays original tunes and unusual arrangements with a style and flare all of its own. Where Bossa Nova meets Coldplay and Sorcerer’s Apprentice melds with Muse, you don’t want to miss Squid Inc., the future of the string quartet.

Hrabba Atladottir: violin
Jory Fankuchen: violin
Darcy Rindt: viola & arrangements
Beth Vandervennet: cello

ELECTRIC CHAMBER is brought to you by Live ‘n’ Local SF, whose goal is to promote and support innovative music played live by local musicians, regardless of genre, and Classical Revolution, a social movement of global reach and local origin, now in its sixth year of bringing chamber music to the masses.

This concert is also part of Classical Revolution’s first ever music festival, taking place in 23 different venues across the Bay Area throughout the month of September.

More info at: www.classicalrevolution.org/festival

“Mad Genius” with Wiener Kids, The John Brothers Piano Company, and Revolution Duo

Mad Genius” – legitimate category or over-used trope? You decide.

Live ‘n’ Local SF proudly presents Wiener Kids, The John Brothers Piano Company, and the Revolution Duo in an evening of insanely good musical derangements.

Brain child of drummer/composer Jordan Glenn, Wiener Kids began as a duo with guitarist Steini Gunnarsson. After Steini moved back to Iceland Jordan picked the project up again a year later, this time with the help of reed masters Aram Shelton and Cory Wright. The music is inspired by small dogs, old bikes, Muppets, cheap Halloween decorations, babies with glasses and other wiener kids. It’s fast and slow, loud and soft. It draws as much from Jan Svankmajer and Hans Bellmer as Peewee Herman and Jim Hensen. It’s music made by ex/current weaklings for everyone!

More Wiener Kids on Fenderhardt

An art collective formed by John Steven Morgan, John Thatcher Boomer, and Max Moriyama, the John Brothers’ primary aesthetic mission is to bring different art forms directly to the public outside of established venues in settings like mass transit boarding areas. The John Brothers regularly take a small spinet piano to San Francisco, Berkeley and Rockridge BART stations and play continuously for up to seven hours. All music, though containing several different styles ranging from jazz to blues to stride and classical, is composed by John Morgan and Thatcher Boomer. Max Moriyama provides sole artistic direction—putting a “face” to the John Brothers Piano Company by combining century old illustration with modern techniques to create a nostalgic sensibility.

Listen to John Brothers on Bandcamp

Comprised of two wildly talented string players—violist Charith Premawardhana and violinist Matthew Szemela—the Revolution Duo are making their debut performance tonight at Viracocha. Charith Premawardhana is founder and director of Classical Revolution, the global phenomenon of local origin that has been bringing chamber music to the masses for over five years. He has performed and recorded with a long list of artists, such as Beats Antique, The Mars Volta, Meklit Hadero, and the Jazz Mafia. Matt Szemela recently moved from NYC to SF and already has become one of the most in-demand musicians on the local music scene, playing with groups as musically diverse as the Berkeley Symphony, Family Folk Explosion, Musical Art Quintet, Todd Sickafoose, as well as in his own innovative chamber hip-hop duo, Vytal Theory.

LIVE ‘N’ LOCAL SF is dedicated to supporting the thriving local music scene by promoting great music, regardless of genre. L ‘n’ L is especially interested in music that is inventive, distinctive, virtuosic, and exciting. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.


Saturday March 3rd


998 Valencia Street, SF

Doors at 8pm / Show at 8:30pm
$8-20 sliding scale

Electric Chamber

“Reinventing the wheel” may not be as useless an undertaking as it first sounds. The wheel has been around an awfully long time, so perhaps a new take on it is exactly what it needs to stay fresh and exciting. Let’s jazz it up a bit! Find new uses, new interpretations that make it relevant to contemporary life in the post-industrial era.

Okay, maybe the wheel is a bad example. It is still, after all, one of the most widely used inventions ever. Its future is not, let us say, under imminent threat. Most likely, the wheel will continue to enjoy its ubiquitous popularity without the need for any special “reinterpretation.”

Can we say the same for chamber music?

From the private chambers of the aristocracy to the concert halls of the bourgeoisie, for a long time this particular style of music has been associated with the rich and cultured, with those occupying the “higher” strata of society. We don’t often think of the young and hip, of subversiveness, of revolution when we think of chamber music.

But perhaps that is exactly the kind of reinvention chamber music needs.

San Francisco’s own Classical Revolution certainly thinks so. More of a socio-cultural phenomenon than a musical group with static membership, Classical Revolution has been transforming how chamber music is being enjoyed all over the globe.

It all started at my favorite Mission haunt, the Revolution Cafe, where violist Charith Premawardha and some friends from the SF Conservatory of Music decided to revolutionize how and where chamber music was being heard. Their aim was to bring classical music out of the stuffy concert halls and into bars and cafes where younger (and less well off) people would be exposed to it. Their slogan? “Chamber music for the people!”

A few years later, Classical Revolution has grown from a weekly event in a tiny bar to a movement of epic proportions with chapters all over the country and in several large cities throughout the world, such as Amsterdam and Berlin. In addition to the goal of crushing the bourgeois state by bringing chamber music to the people, Classical Revolution also fosters music that is experimental and innovative, classical music that pushes traditional boundaries.

In that spirit, this past Monday at the Rev, Classical Revolution introduced composer Sebastian Plano and his cello quartet playing the entirity of Plano’s debut CD, The Arrhythmical Part of Hearts. Live. Or so I thought.

One thing that had intrigued me about the description of the music I read beforehand was that it combined live strings with electronic music.

Classical Revolution’s own Ensemble in Residence, Musical Art Quintet, which plays original compositions by bassist Sascha Jacobsen as well as some sweet interpretations of Astor Piazzolla, have a couple of “electo-tangos” in their repertoire. An electronically produced pre-recorded track is played in the background and the quintet play over it, creating a fresh and exciting sound that makes Gotan Project seem thoroughly dated. The live strings always take center stage and the electronic tracks, on the few occasions they are used, are never heavy-handed.

Unfortunately, this was not the case for Sebastian Plano’s quartet.

For a start, the prerecorded tracks were too much the main focus, often carrying the melody, which does not work well in a live performance. The four cellos seemed like an afterthought in the arrangements, the background accompaniment to the electronic music, which often went on and on for what seemed like ages before the four cellists even picked up their bows.

Secondly, the tracks themselves were often cheesy ambient or progressive trance with cloying vocals over Yanni-like piano and thumping beats. Fans of Enya might like it.

Thirdly, both the pre-recorded music and the cello accompaniment quickly started to sound repetitive. It seemed like there was some formula used for the construction of the music, so by the third or fourth iteration I had lost interest.

Having said that, the musicians, when they played, played well and there were some very pretty moments. If I had only heard one or two tracks, I might have really liked it. But sitting through the entire album was a bit painful, especially when Mr. Plano felt the need to stand up and speak before each and every track. I understand that a young composer wants to promote his music, but there are times when it’s just good to shut up and play.

For a live musical performance, the audience’s attention should be focused on the live music. Otherwise, why bother? A few times I thought it could have worked better if it had have been a dance performance with the cellos accompanying in the background. Plano did mention that one track was indeed written for a dance collaboration, but in the absence of actual dancers, we were left to imagine the central focus.

Lessons to be learned from this? Over-reliance on pre-recorded tracks for a “live” performance is bad idea. I am always impressed by multi-instrumentalist composers who can create a rich sound all by themselves in a studio, but when playing out for an audience, they need to get other musicians to play those parts, or figure out how adapt the music in some way.

Plano and his cello quartet certainly have potential, but they have a long way to go before they are at the standard of an ensemble like Musical Art Quintet, whose seamless integration of electric and chamber consistently delights and charms.

Another revolution of the wheel? Sure, why not.