Posted Online: Sept. 01, 2010, 5:54 pm

Pendulum swings with duets for sax and laptop

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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

Photo: Submitted
Saxophonist Randall Hall will give a recital Friday at Augustana College's Wallenberg Hall, accompanied by Augie alumnus Jonathon Kirk on laptop.
Randall Hall performs and teaches saxophone all overNorth America, Europe and Asia. On Friday, he'll give a free concert on his home turf -- Augustana College -- and play with one of his favorite partners: a laptop computer.

That Mac laptop is manned by Jonathon Kirk, a 1997 Augie alumnus. Together they perform as Pendulum. They will give a free recital at 8 p.m. Friday in Wallenberg Hall, Denkmann Memorial Building, 3520 7th Ave., Rock Island.

"Iwould call it contemporary improvisation -- it's not jazz," said Mr. Hall, a 41-year-oldassistant professor of music at Augustana, and a leading interpreter of contemporary music for saxophone. "We don't use any preconceived structures, we just go.

He met Mr. Kirk in graduate school at Eastman in Rochester, N.Y. "Both of us have been improvising for a long time," Mr. Hall said. "It works well with the electronics he's doing. In real time, he's taking sound samples from what I play, processing them there in the concert into new electronic sounds based on them. He's improvising on the computer; he's changing it. It's like I'm playing with a real person, responding to that."

"They are different sounds altogether," Mr. Hall said in amazement. "He throws out whatever he wants. ... What he's doing, I would not recognize it as me. It's another instrument. You get the dialogue; it's a duet, we're overlapping each other."

"Ilike to think of it as adding counterpoint to the improvisation," agreed Mr. Kirk, an assistant professor in composition, theory and electronic music atNorth Central College in Naperville, Ill. "I've actually started to use more samples in it, pre-existing sounds, old recordings of his playing."

Mr. Kirk writes the software for the Pendulum performances, which occur about five times a year. They've had the duo since 2006. Theyperformed in July 2009 at the World Saxophone Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, and last performed in the Quad-Cities in March 2009, at the Figge Art Museum, with the Augustana Improvisation Ensemble.

"There's areason we only do it five or six times a year -- it's really something special and unique," Mr. Kirk said. "There aresituations I'm having so much fun playing with his sound, I can go 10 minutes after he finishes playing. It really is up in the air each time. Sometimes a piece can be over an hour -- but the last thing we want to do is have people run for the door.

"It's a reflection of how I process audio, change it so much that it's really unrecognizable, but so beautiful," he said. "One of the most important things I hope I do is come up with new sounds. As boring an instrument as a laptop is, that's the beauty of it. You can actually create sounds so rich and colorful that are impossible acoustically."