“It all starts with acoustic sounds,” said Rick
Kowal, co-creator of Ann Arbor-based electronicists Full. The
energetic sextet, which recently left town in search of a record
deal, represented the louder — if not more mainstream —
portion of Ann Arbor’s innovative electronic music scene. The
other faction, which incorporates a more artsy and experimental
approach, is decidedly smaller but equally dedicated to
incorporating the digital age into its music.

Perhaps a definition is in order. “Electronic music”
in this article does not refer to the techno genre or to the craft
of the DJ. Instead, the term refers to the creation of sounds using
electronics — the use of familiar noises or instruments to
fashion new and unfamiliar ones. The real-time aspect is what
separates performers like Full from any old band using
run-of-the-mill studio trickery. “When electronic (music)
peeps hear (our music), they think it sounds cool,” Kowal
said. “But when they see us live, and we do it from acoustic
instruments and not (digital ones).”

Full left Ann Arbor last year for greener pastures — well,
Seattle — it left Ann Arbor’s task of forging new sonic
territory to the little guys. Enter the Canterbury House, a small
Episcopalian church with a friendly and intimate atmosphere that
made the church a great venue for local experimental music.

The concert series, which began in the ’60s, was designed
as a folk/protest gig, hosting such names as Joni Mitchell and Neil
Young. It was the Rev. Matthew Lawrence and Music Prof. Stephen
Rush who revived the series about five years ago. “The
’90s version of the Series was still focused on expression
and protest,” concert organizer Jason Stein said, “but
rather than folk music, the vehicle of such expression was
improvised music, free jazz and electronic music, as the more
fringe, creative music of the time.”

Composer Greg Laman, a computer consultant at the School of
Music, knows the Canterbury House well. Credited by Stein as one of
the House’s “more notable electronicists,” his
group — consisting of Regina Sadowski on violin, Jeremy
Edwards on drums and percussion and Laman on laptop computer
— features electronic music in a fully improvised
setting.

“Both Regina and Jeremy have experience playing in a wide
range of musical styles — contemporary classical, reggae,
jazz of many different types, rock, etc. — so the range of
possible material is pretty wide,” Laman explained. Using
software that he has created, Laman is able to add effects to the
acoustic instruments, record and play back altered samples of those
instruments and cue (while of course manipulating) any number of
pre-recorded samples — chirping birds, heavy winds, passing
trains and just about anything else.

While the common denominator is acoustic instrumentation, the
music of Laman’s trio and Kowal’s Full prove that the
end result can be something completely different. Visit
rememberfull.com to listen to the music of Full and
canterburyhouse.org to view the Saturday night concert
schedule.

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