Concert Review

Saul Stokes and Charles Cohen
Saturday, December 12th, 1998 at St. Mary's Church, Penn Campus

Charles Cohen and Mike Hopkins opened the evening. Their sound was a fascinating mix of old and new. The bleeps and blorps of the old Buchla analog synthesizers were enhanced by modern reverbs and other processing. The middle of their set was driven by the uniquely gentle percussive sounds of the old Buchla that has distinguished Charles' compositions in the past. Another feature of the Buchla is it's ability to accept external modulation. At the 'Stupid Robot' show in January Charles used an AM radio as a source. This evening though, he appeared to use samples from a MAC laptop. Next the synths were made to both thunder and screech. Lastly the duo brought us down with earthly, gentle washes and cricket like sounds combined with a deep voice sample heavily reverbed.

Saul Stokes performance was best described as intense, evolving drones. The bulk of his equipment is hand made, so I had no idea how it really worked. Observing the performance did give me some clues, however. Central to the rig was some kind of random voltage generator that both controlled 'note' generation and accepted external control. Some of that control was provided by another box that had purple lights going in a continual chase sequence. These visual oddities only added to the performance. There were no visible labels on the home made modules, making Saul's creative process all the more mysterious. Saul's drones had a metallic sheen to them, but in no way were harsh. Hand triggered drum sounds were added here and there, too.

Later the three musicians joined in an improvised jam. Old and new sounds were blended in a fascinating mix. Charles and Mike layered more processed Buchla sounds over Saul's drones. I couldn't tell what else Saul was doing, but he must have had extra sounds going because the layering got quite thick in the middle. Saul ended the jam with a deep space randomly repeating waveform. I felt like I was listening to a quasar from far away.

Saul is a recent relocate from the west coast and we look forward to his next perfomance. Maybe the next Stupid Robot?

Review by Andrew Wing
December 17th, 1998

Nice review by Andy of the Cohen/Stokes Gathering in Philly. I found Cohen's performance, though still "beauborg"ish, more accessible than his Stupid Robot performance. Maybe I was too exhausted from climbing four flights of stairs to appreciate him that first time. I had to chuckle when, after their set last Saturday night, host Chuck Van Zyl thanked Cohen and Mike Hopkins for reeling the audience back in with their tranquil conclusion. All those blips and blurbs were somewhat disconcerting. Chuck also invited the audience up to the stage at evening's end. Welcoming us to check out the equipment, he described the accumulation of wires and light bulbs as being somewhat outdated. "As a matter of fact", quipped Van Zyl. "Some people feel this stuff all belongs in a museum." Hats off again to Chuck Jeff Towne, and whomever else might be involved, for organizing the Gatherings. True treasures.

Comments by "Bill" of Bridgeton, NJ
December 19, 1998

Visit The Saul Stokes webpage at:

Visit The Charles Cohen webpage at:

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