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MUSIC

Original Compositions
and Collaborations

THE PRECIPICE

Created by KARL

from Text and Music by Grey Grant and Karl Ronneburg

Workshop Premiere Production

Directed, Choreographed, Designed, Costumed, and Lit by Corey Smith

April 29-30, 2023 Riverside Arts Center, Ypsilanti, MI

A Fifth Wall Performing Arts Production

Commissioned by Contemporaneous

 

CAST in order of appearance:

Grey's Voice Double: Allison Prost

Karl's Voice Double: David Magumba

Grey: Grey Grant

Karl: Karl Ronneburg

 

BAND

Daniel Johnson, Music Director

Clarinet: Eric Schweizer

Violin: Taylor Tookes

Cello: Julia Knowles

Electric Guitar: Jeremy Esquer

Electric Bass: Ben Willis

Piano: Melissa Coppola

Percussion: Chris Sies

Sound Design: Peter Littlejohn

for our friends:

find a place to watch and look out, a cliff by the beach, an edge in the sunlight

chase that open empty, the feeling of turning a corner, the boundary of now and whenever

this is two parallel lives, this is in and out (and in and out) of love,

 

this is leaving and jumping and getting lost and maybe moving on

this is our precipice:

 

"roar, lion of the heart, and tear me open" - Jalal al-Din Rumi

Weaving together text and music from journal entries, poems, and voice memos by Karl Ronneburg and Grey Rose Grant, THE PRECIPICE is a 100-minute abstract chamber-rock opera that tells the story of two parallel journeys of becoming and self-mythologizing, from both a trans/queer perspective and a cis/straight one. The "precipice" itself represents irreversible change–growing up, leaving home, and moving on from past places, relationships, and visions of self. The show asks: is making ourselves a tragic act, a leap from the precipice, a great wrenching? How do the metaphors and myths by which we construct our identity hold us back? How do you leave behind a relationship, place, or vision of self without losing the part of it that made you who you are? And finally, do we do this alone? Is the formation of self an individual act or a collective one?

ARRHYTHMIA

Eric Puente, Synthesizers, Vocals, and Field Recordings Jason Treuting, Drums, Vocals, and Field Recordings

Karl Ronneburg, Vibraphone, Vocals, and Field Recordings

Performed at the (all-virtual) So Percussion Summer Institute 2021

Arrhythmia is a heart condition I have personal experience with in which the heart beats with an irregular or abnormal rhythm. Arrhythmias come in many forms and can be benign or dangerous. My musical explorations recently have focused on microrhythms, which are kind of like musical arrhythmias, and how they can be intentionally shaped (see the "Microrhythms" section below.) The goal of this project was to use sound recordings gathered by the musicians to generate arrhythmic patterns in which the tempo and rhythm fluctuate in ways difficult to notate using traditional Western notation--but possible to understand through technology and emulate with practice! Objects and sound recordings have been chosen based on their inherent arrhythmic qualities as well as their sentimental value.

I. I read the news today (arrhythmic patterns following speech rhythms in an expanding structure)

II. Rock Song (arrhythmic patterns following rocks rolled along the ground, arranged into a rock-song structure)

III. DANGER MUSIC (arrhythmic patterns chaotically arranged, based on bursting and cutting sounds)

Coda: Souvenirs  (just some pleasant textural memories, no rhythms necessary)

Microrhythms

Essay on Microrhythmic Composition:
Score for
BDA-GOON-KA:
Score for 
Microgrooves 1-5:

Click for SuperCollider screenshots and the annotated rhythmic structure of iso+micro :

I’m investigating the possibilities of composing with microrhythmic inflections, studying how subtle changes of tempo and note placement can open up new realms of rhythmic creation and perception. This can come in the form of rhythmic frameworks, like inventing a new kind of Viennese Waltz or a new system of swing, or can be used as a more flexible compositional tool, adding varying amounts of rhythmic warping and nuance throughout a particular piece.

I built a sequencer interface in SuperCollider to help me design and explore these rhythmic ideas, which I then turned into MIDI, audio, and transcriptions to create the following tracks and short pieces. Included above is my electronic collaboration with Elliot Cole iso+micro, my open-instrumentation piece BDA-GOON-KA (performed here with the improv punk band Sickmorley's), and a collection of demo recordings I made of microrhythmic drum loops, called Microgrooves.

Patience

Performed by Karl Ronneburg, Vibraphone

Video and Audio recorded and edited by Spiff Wiegand

Brooklyn, February 2020

Approaching the 1 year anniversary of New York City's shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic, patience has been on my mind. Waiting for vaccines, waiting to perform again in public, waiting for life to return to normal. For much of this music, the vibraphone's pedal is held down, and I wait for dissonances to fade instead of resolve--accentuated by the dimes I've placed across the instrument. The drone, played here by placing a can full of spare change onto my keyboard, is a persistent presence--it can be ignored, but it will never go away. Like life during the pandemic, while waiting for it to end, you may even get used to it.

TALK / Pop Song

These two Meredith Monk-inspired songs were a collaboration with José María 

Check out the whole LQQK album here!

José María: Vocals

Karl Ronneburg, Drums, Keyboards

Mixed and Mastered by Cesar Gonzalez

Released July 2020

be that empty

Commissioned and Performed by the Vanguard Reed Quintet, 2020

"be that empty" is a musical rendering of Rumi's "The Song of the Reed", as translated by Coleman Barks:

 

Listen to the story told by the reed,                                    spirit up from body: no concealing

   of being separated.                                                                 that mixing. But it's not given us

"Since I was cut from the reed bed,                                    to see the soul." The reed flute

   I have made this crying sound.                                             is fire, not wind. Be that empty.

Anyone apart from someone he loves                              

   understands what I say.                                                      Hear the love fire tangled

Anyone pulled from a source                                                   in the notes, as bewilderment

   longs to go back.                                                                   melts into wine. The reed is a friend

At any gathering I am there,                                                    to all who want the fabric torn

   mingling in the laughing and grieving,                             and drawn away. The reed is hurt

a friend to each, but few                                                          and salve combining. Intimacy

   will hear the secrets hidden                                               and longing for intimacy, one

within the notes. No ears for that.                                         song. A disastrous surrender

   Body flowing out of spirit,                                                  and a fine love, together.

Bahnhoffnung

Bahnhoffnung: a combination of the German words

for train station (Bahnhof) and hope (Hoffnung)

Bahnhoffnung tells the story of my grandfather Jürgen Ronneburg's escape

via train from East Germany through the original government documents and

personal poems I received after he passed away in the Fall of 2018.

English Translation:

1)

Jürgen Ronneburg was born to Paul and Herta Ronneburg on June 21, 1939 in Bitterfeld.

 

2)

May 28th, 1953

Subject: Your son

 

Because of the new structure of high schools, a new standard is being applied for school performance as well as for social activity, and thus the admission of your son is withdrawn. You now must decide on a vocational training.

 

Habel Bauermeister, Head of Department

It certainly won’t happen again,

that I miss another train,

and let it drive away without me.

Premiere Performance at the German Consulate General, New York, February 28, 2019.

Jens Ibsen: Tenor

Lasse Bjerknæs-Jacobsen: Trumpet

Jesse Goldberg: Piano

Narrated excerpts from Jürgen Ronneburg’s documents

Sung lyrics by Jürgen Ronneburg

Edited and Translated by Karl Ronneburg

Grace Jackson, Vocals

Violin, Cello, Flute, Bass Clarinet performed by

the Red Shoe Company

Ann Arbor, October 2018

Dreams /
Sleeping in the Forest

A lush, dark setting of two of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, created through my 2018 residency

with the Red Shoe company.

blue-green

World Premiere Performance

University of Michigan Symphony Band

Michael Haithcock, conductor

September 28, 2017

Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, MI

Recorded by Dave Schall and Cory Robinson

There's a wildness at the core of my Pacific Northwest home— a darkness

too, and a melancholy—a gray-blue-dark-green, the overwhelming

aloneness the rain makes one feel, but there's also a glory to it, a singing

out, the open varied spaces: it's riding a ferry past mountains in the morning,

or driving through the woods at night, it's a tiny beach town called Copalis, which inspired a band and an album by the same name, which in turn inspired this music, it's hurricane cliffs and never feeling abandoned by the wind, but instead wanting to abandon yourself within it, dreams from a bus on a bridge in the fog—I close my eyes and see trees and the dark spaces between them, I see fog sighing off the mountain— "the Log Lady", from David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks (fimed about 20 minutes from my house), said it well: "I grew up in the woods. I understand many things because of the woods. Trees standing together, growing alongside one another, providing so much. I chew pitch gum. On the outside, let's say of the ponderosa pine, sometimes pitch oozes out. Runny pitch is no good to chew. Hard, brittle pitch is no good. But in between there exists a firm, slightly crusted pitch with such a flavor. This is the pitch I chew."

dance and

meditation and

dance and

Performed by Karl Ronneburg and Jesse Goldberg

Dec. 19, 2017

Mannes College of Music, New York, NY

Recorded by Yifan Guo

When I moved to New York I had to meditate almost every day just to stay sane in this crazy town----this is some music about the dance that is living here and meditating inside it and then dancing and meditating and dancing and

Hack the Bells: "Reclaim"

By Karl Ronneburg and Spencer Haney

Electronics: Becca Fisher and Alex Miller

Carillon: Rachael Park

Amanda Ross: Trumpet

Spencer Schaefer, Daniel Skib, Tommy Militello: French Horn

Riley Bahin: Euphonium 

Cars: Spencer Haney and Em Yang

 

Made possible by Professors Tiffany Ng, John Granzow, and the University of Michigan's "Hack the Bells" Grant

September 29, 2017

Today, the University of Michigan's Baird Carillon strains to be heard

amidst rampant noise pollution. The acoustic environment is drowned in

road noise from cars and buses, the drone of regulating machines on the

roofs of buildings, the crunch of construction vehicles and the monotonous

pacing of hundreds of people en route. Lost in a sea of noise, the carillon has

no voice. Without a voice, the carillon stands only as a monolith, unable to subvert its physical presence as yet another erection of institutional power. We claim this loss of character to be unacceptable, and propose a reclamation of the sonic environment that has been lost. In "Reclaim", we subvert the rise of a capitalistic soundscape by augmenting the pollution that it creates past a threshold of ignorance. We bring attention to our environment, and by extension the greater power that has led us into this state of ignorance. That which remains unspoken will be screamed, and will resonant in institutional cavities that block progress. Our performance takes place in and surrounding the neighboring Ingalls Mall, compositionally arranging augmented environmental sounds in order to bring attention to the sonic environment of a space that is forgotten. Compositional elements include a caravan of automobiles, a brass ensemble, recordings of the Ann Arbor soundscape played through PA inside Burton Tower, the carillon, and live carillon processing using Max/MSP.

Three Scenes from Sleeping Bear: I. before dawn, the beach
Three Scenes from Sleeping Bear: I. before dawn, the beach

Three Scenes from Sleeping Bear: I. before dawn, the beach

03:36
Play Video
Three Scenes from Sleeping Bear: II. a hike through the dunes

Three Scenes from Sleeping Bear: II. a hike through the dunes

03:04
Play Video
Three Scenes from Sleeping Bear: III. chorale, the sunrise

Three Scenes from Sleeping Bear: III. chorale, the sunrise

04:41
Play Video

Three Scenes 

from Sleeping Bear

Andrew Grossman: Percussion

Phoebe Wu: Piano

Karl Ronneburg: Timpani

University of Michigan, November 2014

The final version of this music was inspired by a weekend camping trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in October 2014. The particular flavor of those few days, combined with the rugged sparseness of the landscape and the inescapable feeling of fall, solidified itself for me in these notes.