'Sonic Arts' Event Will Fill Entire Building with Sound

Bob Ostertag

The entire Ann E. Pitzer Center at UC Davis will be filled with sound for a “Sonic Arts” event March 3. It will include an installation based on the memories and emotions that sounds evoke, a concert by pioneering musician Bob Ostertag, and demonstration of a vintage synthesizer. 

The 7 p.m. event at the Ann E. Pitzer Center is free and open to the public. 

The night of sound starts with UC Davis student Marc Del Fava demonstrating the Buchla 200, a modular synthesizer created by Don Buchla in 1970. Ostertag, a professor of cinema and digital media at UC Davis, first encountered a “Buchla” as a college student in the 1970s and later became friends with Buchla, who died late last year

Ostertag will present “w00t,” a collage of computer game sounds and “Wish You Were Here” performed on a virtual modular synthesizer, played with a standard gamepad. “Wish …” includes music from his 2015–2016, 13-month world tour that involved creating “what might be called virtual topographies of the synthesizer through which I can explore and wander with the buttons and joysticks,” he said.

Early in his career he was part of the 1980s downtown New York music scene, collaborating with Fred Firth, John Zorn and others. He has published 21 CDs, two films and three books, and appeared at music, film and multimedia festivals around the globe. “Wish You Were Here,” like all his music, is available for free download

(Ostertag has also been politically active around the world. He will give a talk “The Milo Wars: Campus Activism and Freedom of Speech in the Age of Outrage" on campus March 9.)

After the performances in the center’s recital hall, the sound moves into the rest of the Pitzer Center for UC Davis music doctoral student composer Phil Acimovic’s “Speaking of Sound” installation in five rooms and common areas. 

The work documents memories of sounds Acimovic gathered through about 30 interviews. Those listening will hear stories about sounds and the memories they evoke—from the sounds of chirping crickets in the late summer to rain on roofs, along with more specific sounds. Sometimes sounds will be connected to the stories and vice versa, and sometimes each stands alone. Each of the “stories” in each room lasts about eight minutes and the work can be experienced in its entirety in about 40 minutes.

“This project grew out of both an interest in documenting stories and a desire to create a referential sensory experience,” Acimovic said.

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science