Butterfly Garden @ Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA – 2017

Something wonderfully beautiful, simple, and mesmerizing is currently happening at Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory.  The 120 year old facility’s Stove Room has been transformed into their annual Butterfly Forest.  This year (and maybe in years past ?), a incredible ambient soundscape entitled Kaleidoscope was created by CMU students that plays throughout the entire room and greatly enhances the experience.

From the Experimental Sound Synthesis website:

The students in this course designed their sonic compositions to support and uplift the experience of visitors walking amongst the butterflies. They also wrote code that makes their sound pieces into “generative” compositions – the sounds that one hears are created through algorithms that produce continuously changing sound experiences.

I was there on the 4th of July with family and friends and if it wasn’t for the heat (Phipps IS a giant greenhouse!), I honestly could have stayed in this room all day.  I’ve been to Phipps many times and this is one of the best (if not THE best) things I’ve ever seen there. The exhibit runs though September and I will definitely be back for at least one or two more visits. It’s a truly serene and meditative experience.  Here are a few of the compositions from Soundcloud.

Stranger Convention – 11.9.13 – The Space Upstairs, Pittsburgh, PA

Pulsar Li – keys
Jeff Koenitzer – alto sax
Alex Kikuchi – tenor sax
Chris Skelly – bass
David Landes – drums

Last night, I finally had a chance to go check out Stranger Convention. The local jazz quintet was performing at an event at The Space Upstairs as part of their Second Saturdays series.  This is a monthly event at the Point Breeze performance space and features The Pillow Project, which describes themselves as “(post)Jazz motion-experimentalists”.

I really didn’t know what to expect from a show like this that was billed as sort of an improvisational multimedia event.  Live music was accompanied by dancers, spontaneous visual art, and videography.  The room itself was a large open space with hardwood floors, high exposed ceilings and tall windows on 2 sides of the room.  Seating options included several couches, old wooden benches and bar stools scattered about the space and there where plenty of people who found a spot right on the floor.

Everything in this space was pretty well thought out.  The lighting, the visuals, the bar made out of old televisions and other found objects, and even the random assortment of books located around the room gave this show an art gallery/New York loft party kind of vibe.  Going in, based on the description, I thought this could be really weird or very cool.  I came away thinking that this was a really cool, unique, and intriguing event and a great way to spend 10 bucks on a Saturday night.

This is a video I shot of one of the Pillow Project dancers who spontaneously danced in front of a large projection screen in the back of the room.  There had been a video camera set up for the entire show that was basically just pointing at a random part of the room and projecting the image onto the screen.  When she got in front of the screen, a videographer took control of the camera creating a loop effect that was really pretty awesome.  Most people in the room may have been unaware that this was even happening but I was lucky to be sitting right there at the right time.