Ben L. Robertson Archive


Seattle Occultural Music Festival (May 16, 17, 23, 24)


Friday, May 16th @ 8pm, All ages
Gallery 1412
1412 18th Ave

Robin Holcomb
Phillip Arnautoff
Michal Szostalo

Saturday, May 17th @ 8pm, All ages
Dearborn on Woodland [Film night]
4131 Woodland Park Ave N

Voodoo Israel[Portland]
Eric Ostrowski
Tyler Potts
Paintings for Animals

Friday, May 23rd @ 8pm, All ages
Underground Event Center
2407 1st Ave
Agnes Szelag [Oakland]
Cult of Zir [Portland]
Matt Shoemaker
Ben L. Robertson
Tempered Steel
Forrest Friends
Thunder Grey Pilgrim

Saturday, May 24 @ 10:30pm, 21+ w/ID
Rendezvous Jewelbox Theatre
2232 2nd Ave
A Minority of One[Portland]
Red Squirrels
Mood Organ

A two-weekend, community-based festival of esoteric, mystical & psychoacoustic musics, spanning the region’s breadth of generations & genres. Established to integrate Seattle’s diverse experimental arts scene, introduce new local artists & import important outside influence. Generous promotion provided by Aphonia Recordings & Hollow Earth Radio. All shows are all ages & start at 8pm, except the 24th which is 21+ w/ID & starts at 10:30pm. There is a suggested price of $5-15, all donations at the door. The vast majority of proceeds go toward curbing travel costs for performers not from the immediate Seattle area.

The SOMF is featuring JAMES NEILSEN’s multilayered, transcendental paint, pen & collage creations. Dense, salon-style conglomerations of his work, as well as display books, will be assembled & featured for the month of May at Dearborn on Woodland. We hope to introduce his work to a wide & appropriate audience by displaying it in this frequented stronghold of DIY art. Additionally, 100’s of scanned works informed by extreme paranoia, isolation, drugs, violence, exertion, sleeping, wandering, alchemaic & qabbalistic diagrams can be view at

SOMF will present musical performances of/by Robin Holcomb, Phillip Arnautoff, Michal Szostalo, Eric Ostrowski, Derek M. Johnson, Tyler Potts, Paintings for Animals, Agnes Szelag, Matt Shoemaker, Ben L. Robertson, Thunder Grey Pilgrim, KRGA, A Minority of One, Red Squirrels, Mood Organ & many others.

Friday, May 16th @ 8pm, All ages
Gallery 1412
1412 18th Ave


Pianist, composer, singer and songwriter Robin Holcomb has performed extensively in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia as a solo artist and the leader of various ensembles. Recent performances include appearances at Queen Elizabeth Hall (London), Carnegie Hall, The Verona Jazz Festival, The San Francisco Jazz Festival, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Festival of Perth, DuMaurier Jazz Festivals and Arts at St. Ann’s.

Her work has been called ‘remarkable’ (CMJ), ‘stunning’ (Option), ‘entrancing’ (Billboard) and ‘sensitive, descriptive, adventuresome and full of soul’ (Washington Post.) The New York Times had this to say about her difficult-to-define musical style: ‘Robin Holcomb…has created a new American regionalism, spun from many threads – country, rock, minimalism, Civil War songs, Baptist hymns, Appalachian folk tunes, even the polytonal music of Charles Ives. The music that results is as elegantly simple as a Shaker Quilt, and no less beautiful.’


In the 1970s Mr. Arnautoff began work on an expansion of the harmonic resources of the Partch tuning system and built his Harmonic Canon, a large zither-like instrument of 66 strings , played with plectra and requiring a standing player. Years of on-again, off-again research and a number of abandoned projects in composition finally culminated in the composition of SOLILOQUY, begun in the winter of 1998-99 and completed in 2000, when it was recorded and released by Periplum recordings. The work has since undergone numerous revisions.

The tuning of the Canon for SOLILOQUY is based on the expansion of a purported scale from ancient Greece to an array of 21 tones. The work itself is continuous, though divided into two large sections, the first a single unit comprising five contrasting episodes, the second an essay in perpetual motion. The subtitle
“A Ritual of Communion with Vibrating Strings” refers to the characteristic resonance of the Harmonic Canon, a resonance that is unceasing to the very end and set into motion by the work’s harmonic and melodic configurations.


MICHAL SZOSTALO has been steadily working on new music: Chamber music, music for film & TV, multimedia events, 3D installations, songwriting, electonis sounds, jazz and improvisation. His compositional works have received a slew of comissions from both Europe & the United State, including the ‘Hermes, Dog & Star’ at the Polish Royal Palace, ‘Train’ for Barefoot Studios in Tacoma & scoring for the film ‘Burning Man’. Szostalo plays piano, accordion, guitar, bass and a variety of exotic instruments and is aslo a member of Croatian/Bosnian folks ensemble Ruze Dalmatinke.

‘Reruns of the Final Battle’ is Szostalo’s String Quartet no. 1 and was originally commissioned in 2003, performed and recorded at an opening of sculpture work by Viktor Szostalo. The piece’s structure references Biblical prehistory, initiation of cilization & apocalyptic trajectory. The electronic tracks range from shifting guitar pulses to walls of layer trumpets to dark clouds of white noise. This largely aleatoric work’s creation was informed by study of mictronalities ranging from Partch to gamelan to the experimental academic synthesis. This rendition will be performed by regional ensemble of players know for their innovation & energy, Eric Ostrowski, Derek M. Johnson, Gabe Will & Ian Ackerman.

Saturday, May 17th @ 8pm, All ages
Dearborn on Woodland [Film night]
4131 Woodland Park Ave N

VOODOO ISRAEL [San Fransisco]

VOODOO ISRAEL’s spiritual drone noise is hot and heavy with the humidity of the crossed wires of internal feedback & the christening winds of pumps organs & overtone singing. His work calls us to listen as Mother Earth is speaking in tounges through the ageless, ratling, and exagerated bone structure of every obsorbed entity.


Eric Ostrowski is a freely-improvising musician and experimental filmmaker based in Seattle, WA. He played guitar and violin as one half of the legendary improv-noise duo of Noggin from 1993-2006. He has been concurrently developing his hand-made film style.


TYLER POTTS believes in spontaneity and in our capacity to learn from things we can’t yet explain. His latest musical endeavors include: improvising with a dancer, playing the auto harp differently, exploring what happens in the length of a minute, singing things that come to mind without thinking too much about it, and trusting first impulses.


Heavy drones, overtone melodies and the sound of the land – Paintings for Animals performs with field recordings, bowed metals, mixer feedback, throat singing, vocal blips, clicks and the buzz of electronics. Started 2001, in Seattle by Pearson Wallace-Hoyt, the project is maintained to provide a platform for the proliferation of spiritually charged noise and a revival of ritualized sound. With members dispersing to Bali, Kolozberg, New York and San Francisco, Paintings continues to craft a truly Cascadian music of chants, esoterica and the sounds of urban & natural environments.

+works from Patrick McMurchie, Jake Sweeney-Samuelson & others

Friday, May 23rd @ 8pm, All ages
Underground Event Center
2407 1st Ave


Agnes Szelag is a composer, performer, and video/audio installation artist. Her work explores the cognitive and aesthetic relationship of sound and visual media in chosen environments. In performance and composition she creates interactive schemes that ride the line between composition and improvisation.

Her work has been featured in the Electronic Music Midwest Festival, the Illuminated Corridor Festival, 60 x 60, Voices on the Edge, at the Stone in NY, and has been broadcast nationally on KQED for the show Spark. She has also executive produced numerous video pods that have aired nationally on Current TV. This fall she will be playing in the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival as myrmyr.

CULT OF ZIR [Portland]

‘Done with layered vocals, the voice warped, resonated, gorged upon itself, mated with itself and destroyed itself. There are other artists that work with this type of manipulation and it is easy to overindulge into what this type of performance offers. I think he managed to keep it stark enough to allow the idea to shine through instead of being buried under the layers of gimmicky goop.’ -morimur


MATT SHOEMAKER focuses upon the treatment of sonic phenomena. Sourced from both natural and electronic means, Shoemaker manipulates sound in an affected and often grotesque manner, so as to convey compositions that uniquely imagine a space encrypted to the point of vanishing definition. The narrative tradition haunts Shoemaker’s work, but only the sort found in patterns and systems free from willful intention… much like an apple compelled by necessity to rot to its core.

His essential technique is one of obsessive artifice. It is the clarity of nuance and attention to detail that contrasts and balances any intended obscurities. It is from humility, a strategy for authenticity, and a personal view of an ideal aesthetics that Shoemaker proclaims: ‘Obviousness is my art’s antithesis.’

Shoemaker is a self-taught artist, employing microphones, digital and analog recorders, computers, acoustic instruments, and assorted signal processors. His work has been published in countries as diverse as Portugal, Germany, England, USA and Malaysia. He has also received commissions for radio works across the globe and presented his work at universities, dance halls, rock clubs, and art galleries.


THUNDER GREY PILGRIM is a landscape…a landscape and a person walking in that landscape. There are daunting cliffs there, and plains glad in their way of brown monotony. But especially there are sinkholes, places of sudden terror, of small circumference and malevolent depths.


KRGA aims to combine the sounds of any and all instruments around into thick, swarming clouds of tones using self-built sampling software. He
uses emphasis on drones and moving textures to create warm and dense atmospheres. Most of these pieces are created using only one or two
instruments as sound sources, which are processed and resampled real-time in a computer environment. KRGA live performances surround the audience with live generated synthesis and sampling. Deconstructed sounds swirl around the room, as patiently created beds of tones build into a complex organic storm.


BEN L. ROBERTSON uses a battery of algorithms & processes developed in Max/MSP to extract dense textures from a variety of found & performed sources.

His compositional process demonstrates an almost pathological obsession with the acoustic relationships between timbre & extended forms of tonality. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that he regularly utilizes a historical cannon of microtonal scales, including Harry Partch’s 43 tone scale, various other forms of just intonation, and the stretched octaves of the Balinese gamelan, as well as his own timbre-specific tuning systems.


TEMPERED STEEL features Ffej, Frank Junk, and Dennis Rea playing a variety of amplified, electronically processed thumb pianos. The trio sounds like no other thumb piano ensemble you’ve ever heard, conjuring phantom harpsichords, as-yet-uninvented stringed instruments, musique concrete…


Saturday, May 24 @ 10:30pm, 21+ w/ID
Rendezvous Jewelbox Theatre
2232 2nd Ave

Feed by water and an unseen warming sun
arisen from the ancient seed
the rain is warm and soaks the crowd
roots buckle then pulverize
a new life awakens as the old grey body returns to dust.


Few squirrels have earned such a reputation for playfulness and roguery as the Red squirrel. This squirrel is a well-known backyard inhabitant that often has a saucy regard for its human neighbors. A Red squirrel will firmly scold all intruders with shrill chatters, clucks and sputters, falsettos, tail flicking and feet stamping. Even when it is undisturbed, this chatterbox often chirps as it goes about its daily rountine.


MOOD ORGAN’s breathing cycles are informed by vibration, interference patterns, recording & playback devices, altered states, violence, electricity, sex, mirrors & feedback. Timm Mason also plays bass & electronics with the death improv ensemble Kuru Cult, and will be performing at the Sculpture Park staging of work by Glenn Branca.


Series 4 Podcast: The Precambrian

A little late this month, The Precambrian performs at the Gallery 1412 on April 4th 2008.

Series 4 Podcast: The Precambrian


2008 Performance Series: pt III + Compilation CD Release Party

We are pleased to announce the release of Aphonia Recordings’ first CD compilation! Copies will be available for sale at our next showcase (Friday, March 7th). The compilation will feature choice tracks from: Marriage + Cancer, Desolation Wilderness, Giant Expanding Pictures, KRGA, Daedelum, Andrew Senna, Unicorns in the Snow, Planar Defecs, Myello, Darwinsbitch, & Ben L. Robertson. Come out, support our artists, and buy the comp!

Desolation Wilderness is Nicolaas Zwart. This project has changed gradually in focus from the simpler, synthesizer heavy, beat driven songs of its first netlabel releases on AudioTong and Test Tube to a more processed distillation of ideas concerning song structure and electronic noise, as show by later work released on Benbecula, K Records, and Aphonia Recordings. Currently, Desolation Wilderness draws influence from grainy film soundtracks, ’50’s and ’60’s radio pop, and INA-GRM musique concrete. In performance, Desolation Wilderness has evolved from a solo laptop setup to its latest incarnation as a live ensemble.

Myello Electronics is the project of Olympia based composer Daniel Farrell. Many divergent influences have inspired myello to create music, which often hints at a wish toward dance, while being motivated by an interest in textures and awkward composition that somewhat undermines that aspiration. Farrell understands the compositional choices he makes to be informed and influenced by chance events, improvisation, societal pressures (the clutter of modernity), consumer electronics, credit cards, disposability, mercury, and plastic bags.

Founded by Adam Reza & Chris Hanis, ph0n0n creates soundtracks with elements of microtonality, chance processes and live improvisation. Aphonia Recordings recently welcomed Ph0n0n to the label and we are greatly anticipating their debut release.


Myello & Problems Commissioned for Upcoming Installation Series

OKOK Gallery Presents:
Environmental Aesthetics

Installation and site-specific sound compositions
from the 2007 Satsop Residency

Receptions to be held at the OKOK Gallery (5107 Ballard Ave. NW seattle, wa) Jan. 9th, 7pm – 9pm and Jan. 12th, 7-9pm

Seattle, WA” OKOK Gallery proudly welcomes arts collective Environmental Aesthetics as it presents three site-specific sound compositions from its inaugural Satsop Residency Program.

In 2006 Environmental Aesthetics founders Gabe Bacon and Paul Schrag were granted access to Satsop Development Park, which operates on the site of a would-be nuclear power facility in Elma, Wa. In the late 1970s, Satsop was a component of the largest nuclear power plant construction project in U.S. history. The project comprised plans for five nuclear power reactors to be built in Hanford, and Elma WA, located 25 miles west of the state capitol. The project was cancelled after the budget swelled into the billions and nuclear energy fell out of favor with the general public. At the time of the cancellation, construction of the Satsop site was near completion.

Today, massive remnants of the project remain, including Cooling Tower No. 5, which was selected as the site of the Environmental Aesthetics residency program. The concrete tower rests beside the Chehalis River, rising nearly 500 feet in the air, its 15-foot-thick concrete wall encircling four acres of grass covered soil. To date, the structure has remained gated and largely unused. The Satsop Residency aims to reinterpret this epic monument as a sublime environment with the potential to function as an all encompassing artistic medium, emphasizing the interplay between site-specific sonic art, seemingly obsolete industrial architecture and the natural environment.

The three artists awarded the first annual Satsop Residency include: Seattle artist Yann Novak, Olympia artist Myello, and Olympia quartet Problems. In September 2007, the artists were invited interpret the tower sonically. The artists used on-site recordings to produce sound compositions representative of their individual responses to the tower’s form and acoustic qualities. These compositions and an accompanying sculptural installation will be presented at Ballard’s OKOK Gallery.

About Environmental Aesthetics:

Environmental Aesthetics was established in 2005 by Gabriel Bacon and Paul Schrag. The organization aims to foster the reinterpretation and re-contextualization of particular human and natural environments by initiating shifts in accepted historical and conventional classifications.

About The Artists:

Yann Novak is a Seattle based sound artist and founder of Dragon’s Eye Recordings. Novak uses field recordings and digital manipulation to produce compositions. These works offer Novak’s interpretation of the emotional effect of specific physical environments and emphasize the expressive nature of time and place.

Problems is an Olympia based group composed of Ian Ackerman, Joe Kuta, Warren Lee and Gabe Will. Through sound, the group actively collaborates and engages with the specific interiors in which their compositions take form. Focusing on sustained tones and the phantom melodies that arise within them, they expose microstructures and rich polyforms found within sustained pitch.

Myello is Olympia based composer Daniel Farrell. Farrell identifies his works as non-narrative associative sound poems, which are strongly informed by Surrealist philosophies and compositional strategies. Using significant and familiar sounds, and digital manipulation, Farrell’s compositions aspire to invoke the ecstatic nature of the human spirit against the backdrop of what he describes as the technological totality.

click here to preview tracks from and/or purchase Myello’s latest Aphonia Recordings release, ‘Composites & Variations On Forms’.

Also, stay tuned for an upcoming collaboration by Gabe Will (problems) & Aphonia Recordings co-founder/microtonalist, Ben L. Robertson.


2008 Performance Series: Part I (January 4th)

Every 1st Friday of the month, Aphonia Recordings will be holding a unique performance at Gallery 1412 (18th + Union. Seattle, Wa). In theory, each show will showcase a distinct theme that is common to each performer.

The first show in the series (Friday, January 4th. 8pm) will feature performances by KRGA and Ben L. Robertson. After the music, we will hold a lecture/workshop explaining various aspects of our work; specifically our mutual use of max/msp in the design of interactive synthesis environments.

We are extremely excited about this show, as well as the series as a whole. It should be alot of fun.

Look forward to seeing you there!



Aphonia Showcase: Gallery 1412 (26 October – Seattle, WA)

Aphonia Recordings’ debut showcase in Seattle will feature a set of compositions
for voice & electronics by seasoned Seattle-based improviser &
multi-instrumentalist, Amy Denio. Also hailing from Seattle, Kristian Garrard (of
‘Joules’) will be performing an electroacoustic set as KRGA.

From the south-sound, Aphonia Recordings welcomes Derek M. Johnson and Myello.
Derek M. Johnson’s work for cello & electronics has been heard at numerous
experimental/improv festivals, including his active involvement with the Olympia
Experimental Music Festival. Derek’s past collaborations have included work with
Unwound, Old Time Relijun, Le Ton Mite, and many others. Likewise, Myello’s set
will demonstrate no shortage of LFO’s, VCF’s, and other acronymous controlled
voltage devices.

Rounding out the evening will be a performance by ‘the Precambrian’, a
collaborative project featuring label founders Andrew Senna & Ben L. Robertson.
Their performance promises to pair Andrew Senna’s work in narrative sound design with Ben L. Robertson’s obsession with microtonality & interactive
processing algorithms. Contact microphone mayhem & max/msp antics are sure to abound!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


Mini-launch Show V2.0 (16 August – Olympia, WA)


Aphonia Podcast Part Two – A Chat with Andrew Senna

So here is the 2nd installment of our first podcast.


Aphonia Podcast Part One – A Chat with Ben L. Robertson

I hope this works. Enjoy us fluffing our feathers in this half informative conversation with Aphonia artists Ben L. Robertson and Andrew Senna. Enjoy their ramblings on psychoacoustics, acoustics, tuning systems, microtonality and other lofty sound/music related nerd stuff.