improvising a musical life

Musicians profiled in Noisy People

George Cremaschi

George Cremasch was born in New York City, and studied jazz at Jazzmobile in Harlem, composition at Greenwich House Music School in Greenwich Village, and improvisation at countless Downtown dives. Recent years have seen many performances and collaborations in the US and Europe with such renowned musicians as Evan Parker, Marshall Allen, Andrea Parkins, Gert-Jan Prins, Mats Gustafsson, Paul Lovens, Nels Cline and Saadet Türköz among others. As a composer, he has written nearly 100 pieces for chamber groups, small ensembles, solo contrabass, electronics, cinema, spoken word, dance and theater. He divides his time between Oakland and Tábor, Czech Republic, where he is an artist in residence, curator and administrator at Cesta, an international arts and cultural residency center.

Tom Djll

Born Indiana, 1957. Studied music at Berklee School of Music, the Colorado College, the Creative Music Studio, and Mills College with Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Karl Berger, Lester Bowie, Leo Smith, George Lewis, Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Curran, and many others. Tom has spent over twenty years (ab)using the trumpet as an analog flesh synthesizer. He has made a lifelong study of the art of improvised music, and has been performing since age seventeen. He has performed with Natsuki Tamura, Andrew Voigt, Biggi Vinkeloe, Chris Brown, Gianni Gebbia, Steve Adams, Fred Frith, and many many others. Tom Djll also writes about music for The Wire, Signal To Noise and other publications.

Greg Goodman

Greg Goodman is one of America's most distinguished improvising pianists. He is just as distinguished when he is in Europe. He was also very distinguished when he was in the Soviet Union in 1989, but it is still not clear whether or not Russia is part of Europe, or if it should be. This ordinarily would not affect Greg Goodman, or his distinguished career; at least, not in his opinion. For the purposes of this biography, Greg Goodman has worked with many of the world's leading improvisers, including John Cage, Nicolas Slonimsky, and his Mother; he has also worked with many who did not lead. When not working, he is the proprietor of Woody Woodman's Finger Palace, the San Francisco Bay Area's longest running (since 1978) presenter of avant-garde music and theater. He also runs (from) the famous Beak Doctor Records. Currently, he is writing this sentence.

Phillip Greenlief

Since 1982, saxophonist/composer Phillip Greenlief has performed internationally in a variety of settings. Greenlief’s recordings and performances have received critical acclaim in many national jazz publications (Down Beat, Jazz Times, 5/4, Cadence, Modern Saxophone, All About Jazz, The Los Angeles Times, etc.), as well as residing on many Critics Top 10 lists. His duo recordings of improvised music with bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Scott Amendola received 5 stars in the 1999 Music Hound Jazz Essential Album Guide. Phillip is the founder of Evander Music, an independent record label that presents original composition, improvised music and new jazz.

Cheryl Leonard

Glass shards and pinecones, glaciers, boxspring mattresses, a flock of accordions, circular saw blades, viola, the erhu, hyenas and whales and elk, Cheryl E. Leonard’s works explore subtle textures and intricacies in sounds not generally considered musical. These investigations often include the creation of instruments, primarily from found materials. She has been awarded residencies at the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, Engine 27, Villa Montalvo, and The Lab (with RK Corral), and has been honored in New Langton Art's Bay Area Awards Show. Recordings of her music are available from Ubuibi, Great Hoary Marmot Music, Pax Recordings, Apraxia Records, 23 Five Inc, Old Gold Records and The Lab.

In addition to her musical endeavours Leonard is a mountaineer, studies aikido and Chinese landscape painting, and collects pinecones with handles. web site

Dan Plonsey

Dan Plonsey is known as a composer, saxophonist, concert presenter and teacher of mathematics at Berkeley High School. He has written music for the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Toychestra & Fred Frith, Santa Cruz New Music Works and the Berkeley Symphony, but most of his music has been for his own ensembles, as documented on a dozen CDs. He has performed and recorded with Anthony Braxton, Eugene Chadbourne and Tom Waits, but more frequently with local greats John Schott, John Shiurba, Robert Horton and many others. Plonsey is currently at work on an opera, in collaboration with Harvey Pekar (of American Splendor fame.)

Gino Robair

Gino Robair is a percussionist, music journalist, and published composer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Gino frequently tours North America and Europe as a soloist and often improvises in ad-hoc groups. He has performed and/or recorded with Anthony Braxton, Tom Waits, John Butcher, LaDonna Smith, Otomo Yoshihide, Eugene Chadbourne, John Zorn, Nina Hagen, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Myra Melford, ROVA Saxophone Quartet, The Club Foot Orchestra, and he is a founding member of the Splatter Trio.

Damon Smith

Born Damon Jesse Smith on oct. 17th, 1972 in Spokane, WA. Did "freestyle bmx" bicycle riding (a much more dangerous forshadow to "freestyle" music!) from age 13 to 23. Started music in 1991, under the influence of Mike Watt (Firehose & The Minutemen) on fender bass. Lead several punk/art rock combos until 1994. Upon receiving Peter Kowald's landmark lp "Duos;Europa," Damon sold the fender bass and concentrated solely on double bass and free music. Damon's music is rooted in the tradition of "free jazz", and has worked with many of the leading voices in that idiom, including Cecil Taylor, Peter Brötzmann, Frank Gratkowski and Joëlle Léandre.

Musicians profiled in DVD bonus films

Kenneth Atchley

KENNETH ATCHLEY is a sound, video, and installation artist who fashions and performs works ranging from pure-tone and noise hymns to distortion-studded, richly harmonic, electro-acoustic devotionals. Since 1997, his work has included the use of fountains as sound-sources, objects, environmental and metaphorical elements. His work continues to be informed by and abstract that work and study.

Atchley's music and installations have been featured in venues ranging from U.S. hardcore-noise dungeons and New York dance lofts, to art galleries and performance cellar circuits of Europe.

Atchley's CD of solo, electro-acoustic-noise works Fountains was released by Auscultare Research. His duet with John Bischoff has been released on Bischoff's 23Five CD "Aperture". A profile of his work was included in the June, 2005 issue of The Wire (#256).

Laetitia Sonami

Laetitia Sonami was born in France and settled in the United States in 1975 to pursue her interest in the emerging field of electronic music. Since 1991 she has developed and adapted new gestural controllers to musical performance and composed works with these materials. Her unique instrument, the lady's glove , is made out of black lycra and is embedded with sensors which track the slightest motion of each finger, the hand and the arm. The performance thus becomes a small dance where the movements shape the music. he has been performing in numerous festivals across the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan, among which the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, the Bourges Music Festival in France, the Sonambiente Festival in Berlin, and the Interlink festival in Japan.

She lives in Oakland, California and is currently guest lecturer at the San Francisco Art Institute, and Milton Avery Summer program at Bard college.