Embodying Work

This is one of our favorite performances: “Work”, embodying labor, materiality, frustration, failure, illumination, and other aspects of work familiar to you and me.

Performance context: a warehouse studio in downtown Richmond on September 20, 2009.
More detailed account of the secret show by Jacob.

Grapefruit Experiment, Private Show, Richmond, 9/20/09 from Umi Hsu on Vimeo.

Show Review by RVA Magazine

A review of our show at Strange Matter on August 25, 2010 came out in RVA Magazine. Here are some highlights:

The Grapefruit Experiment’s music seemed improvisational in nature, and evolved organically through different movements as I watched. After a few minutes, the sound built to a unified, powerful crescendo, and sounded for a moment or so like a band endlessly holding the final chord of a song, jam-band style. But whereas it’s annoying when jam bands do such things, The Grapefruit Experiment used it to devastating effect, especially after the relative quiet of the earlier parts of their set. Rather than stopping, they moved past this crescendo and into more noise, though the latter part of their set was a bit more structured than the first few moments I heard.

The clanking runs of dissonant notes she played reminded me of a time when I saw Dillinger Escape Plan and their lead guitarist was having an off night; he kept getting out-of-sync when doing his speedy, elaborate runs of single notes, instead playing a bunch of flat, off-key thuds. For The Grapefruit Experiment, though, this was the desired effect, and it mingled well with the deliberately arrhythmic percussion and oscillating bursts of treated noise. It wasn’t a conventionally musical set by any means, but nonetheless The Grapefruit Experiment gave a fascinating performance.

Read the entire article.

It’s great to see that what we do is “understood.” We thank you.

Upcoming Show w/ Kenneth Yates @ Strange Matter

We’re really psyched about collaborating with our friend Kenneth Yates (Caustic Castle) on August 25, 2010 at Strange Matter, formerly Nanci Raygun and Twister – Richmond’s infamous punk venue on Grace Street. Come on out, RVA!

Charlottesville Bike Ensemble Supports Petrol-Free Gypsy Carnival Tour

GFX coordinated the second installment of the Charlottesville Bike Ensemble performance at Random Row Books on May 13, 2010. This performance supported the Petrol-Free Gypsy Carnival Tour, “a bicycle-powered music and art tour to promote peace, social justice, and a healthy planet. On the tour, musicians carry only the essential instruments from city to city on their bicycles.” Part of our set is recorded as a part of the documentary video of the entire Petrol-Free tour.

After our Matmos-inspired beat-oriented bike noise set, we sang and dance with everyone involved in the tour. It was a beautiful night. We’re happy and honored to have participated in this collective experience.

GFX Answers by Making a Purposeful Racket

C-ville Feedback writer Andrew Cedermark interviewed me and Carey on the cover story about women in rock. We sat down with Andrew individually with the attempt to answer this age-old question within the context of Charlottesvile music: Why aren’t there more women in rock? We bring up structural issues related to culture and gender ideology.

Gendered norms in rock music-culture:

There is also the question of buying gear. Haughty gearheads, piles of tiny, useless stuff, bowling shirts that faintly smell of weed—it’s no secret that music stores can be uncomfortable places to visit. Double the discomfort for many women. Carey Sargent plays drums in the local bands Dzian! and the Pinko Communoids, and is a sociologist who has published on the topic of local music stores. “For others with different experiences,” Sargent wrote in a 2006 paper, “such as playing privately, knowing more about hip-hop than rock, or having classical training on the guitar rather than immersion in the rock music practice, the experience can be a struggle to comprehend the language and interactions of the environment. Finding themselves in this position, these musicians may defer to others to perform, speak and choose in their place.”

Larger societal norms oriented by gender ideology:

“Obviously,” Hsu says, “it’s occurred throughout history, where women are not associated with being in public spaces, where women are associated with passivity and quietness. All of these larger cultural values come into play when were talking about rock music.”

One transformative moment, she says, in that history is when “rock and roll”—a form for excited teens in dance halls—became simply “rock.” That happened when these teens grew up, and wanted something more art-related. “It became rock, which was oppositional to pop music. Pop music was more commercialized, more superficial, and more associated with women.” The sheen of pop and the rigidity of classical music took on feminine associations, and none of them fit the rock bill.

Read the original article.

As GFX, we addressed the issue at stake by recording a C-ville Feedback video session, making a statement in the expression of sound, gestures, and embodiment in our unique ways.

Playing Bike (Noise), Spreading Bike Love

Charlottesville bike activist Shell Stern invited me to co-organize and perform at the Kickstand Bike Zine Release Party. To fit the Audio March theme at The Bridge PAI, we decided to add a bike noise component to the event. A few weeks prior to the event, I rounded up some local bike lovers to join me in the bike noise performance.

At the event, the first half of our set featured me and Carey (GFX); in the second half, we were joined by Dylan Mulshine (aka Rhythm Bandit) and Ken Margolius (local bike mechanic guru!). Ken brought his “most musical bike.” Dylan played percussive sounds while processing them on metallic bike components.  The evening’s program also showcased zine reading, bike story telling by Secretly Y’all. It closed with a final bike noise jam involving members of the audience.

A debut of the Charlottesville Bike Ensemble. Anyone in? We will probably gather again for a summer performance at Random Row Bookstore. Let me (wendy.f.hsu [at] gmail.com) know if you’re interested.


Charlottesville Bike Ensemble [GFX + Ken Margolius + Dylan Mulshine]

The Everyone Jam

Download all the audio from Archive.org

View the entire Flick photo set from this event

GFX + Caustic Castle @ Charlottesville Experimental Music Showcase, Pt II

Grapefruit Experiment did a two-part improvisational set with our friends (colleagues of HzCollective) at the Charlottesville Experimental Music Showcase at The Bridge PAI on 3/19/10. This performance is the part II of an ongoing series organized by Jacob Wolf of Holy Smokes and co-presented by HzCollective.

This time, we first played with Kenneth Yates (AKA Caustic Castle) developing on a concept emerged from our FFMUP performance at Princeton. Then Erik DeLuca joined us for a quartet. Everyone seemed thrilled by the harsh-noise-electronics and no-wave-inspired thrashy guitar and drums. The color shifts in the background came from the a live video projection by Ultra Aesthetics Committee.

Video by David Eklund

Rock the Eating Club

Early Tuesday morning, GFX and Caustic Castle packed ourselves amongst our gear and drove to Princeton, New Jersey for our second collaboration as a trio. Everyone but the driver had to carry gear on their lap and wind their feet around hi-hat stands and guitars. We had to make it fit, even my 24-in bass drum.  We were trying something new to us that focused on creating gestures in time (rhythm by another name) and fluctuations of texture. We worked some structural ideas out over email amidst our busy weeks, but had never tried it face to face.

We were invited to play at Princeton University as part of FFMUP (Free Form Mash Up) series curated by Charity Chan. The set also included the cricket and fiddle drone-scape of Travis Johns and Liz Meredith as well as the dynamic free guitar/drum improv of Not the Wind, Not the Flag on tour from Toronto.

The series took place in Terrace Eating Club, which is better known for its support of alternative culture than for its food (or so we were told). Princeton organizes undergraduate dining after the second year through subsidizing private eating clubs whose social function replaces or at least references the greek fraternity system found at other universities. Our GPS first sent us to the other end of Washington Street, where we found only private houses and warehouses. We began to imagine the eating club as an underground alternative secret society. After searching for too long with that image, (and sing “Eternal Flame” a capella,) we went toward the campus and stopped at the first fancy English-style house we saw. And we were there.

After the show, Charity invited us all to hang out at a graduate student bar subsidized by the university. Debasement Bar is located in the basement of a cathedral-like grad student residence hall. We had a few drinks, some wasabi peas, and chatted about music and grad student life before driving to New Brunswick to stay with Wendy’s cousins.

We enjoyed our short time the immensely – thanks to Charity and the other bands for creating such a wonderful night.

Download audio recording (wav + mp3) from Archive.org [~18 min]

Playing Snow and Ending Things in Snowpocalypse

When the Snowpocalypse hit central Virginia, our plans for an 8-piece improv ensemble representing the HzCollective fell through at the Center of the Study of the End of Things‘ Symposium Opening. The storm left no drivable conditions for our HzCollective mates – including Kenny Yates, Jennida Chase and Hassan Pitts of Pilotone – to join us for the performance from Richmond. Grapefruit Experiment and our friend Erik DeLuca decided to go ahead with the gig as a trio. To echo the apocalyptic theme of the “the end of things,” we carried minimal gear in our backpacks and trekked in the snow maxing out our creative and physical ends.

Jacob sounded his ever-sustained bells that she bought in China. I played amplified snow using Erik’s hydrophone while playing back samples of snow collected on our walk to the space. Erik played back and processed sounds of snow and vibes that he recorded throughout the day. We played a 28-minute improvised set. Then our set was joined by an impromptu reading (of his elegy to Lydia Gasman) by Steven Margulies.

After a short break, we went into a second set starting with Jacob’s bells, live and captured on Erik’s tape recorder. Erik and I then joined Jacob with electronic sounds. I used a bit reduction pedal to noisify the sound of snow-crushing. Erik played back and manipulated sounds of Jacob’s bells. Then the projected sound started to cut in and out sweeping in as low-frequencies, as Erik gestured the smell of something burning. Thus we ENDED our set. Not only that, we put an END to the speaker, a decrepit JBL dust-collector donated by UVa’s VCCM [Virginia Center for Computer Music].

Organizer Wes Milholen said that they will honor the end of the speaker by shining a spotlight on it. Maybe they will even suspend it mid air.

The End.

Playing bikes, plants, dirt, water, and combs with Erik DeLuca

Grapefruit Experiment did a two-part improvisational set with our friend Erik DeLuca at the Charlottesville Experimental Music Showcase at The Bridge PAI on 12/16/09. The first part features Umi and Jacob on amplified bikes; the second part features Jacob on an amplified cactus, Umi on mic’ed pine cones and combs, and Erik on an amplified small leafy, easy-to-care-for plant with some dirt and water.

Video by David Eklund.