Top Ten Records in Oak Cliff will host a special event tonight featuring electronic music pioneer Gil Trythall and Dallas avant-pop composer Lily Taylor.
The late-'60s and early-'70s saw the release of a series of albums composed on a Moog synthesizer. Inspired by Wendy Carlos’ synth masterpiece Switched-On Bach in 1968, more composers began to experiment with the Moog's electronic circuitry, issuing titles such as Switched-On Bacharach, Switched-On Santa, Switched-On Gershwin, Moog Power and Music to Moog.
Trythall was experimenting with a Moog synthesizer as a young music professor at Peabody College — now a part of Nashville's Vanderbilt University — when Rick Powell from Athena Records contacted him about doing his take on a country album.
The result was the 1972 album Switched On Nashville (Country Moog), for which Trythall used a monophonic Moog Synthesizer IIIc to interpret the work of top country music artists such as Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell.
Like the other “Switch-On” releases, Switched On Nashville laid the foundation for the emergence of synthesizers in popular music in the late-'70s, when groups like Kraftwerk and the Human League began producing synthesizer-driven music.
A year after the album's release, Trythall wrote a book on electronic music. The Principles and Practice of Electronic Music may seem dated now, but it has historical value as a record of the evolution of electronic music.
Advertised on the cover as “a fundamental approach to understanding the new sound sources covering both the technical and the creative aspects of sound synthesis," The Principles and Practice of Electronic Music was among the first prolonged studies on digital synthesis, editing techniques and creating effects using tape written from a musician’s perspective.
Trythall went on to write and record pieces on the synthesizer throughout the '70s, '80s and early-'90s during his tenure as a professor at Peabody and then West Virginia University, where he spent six years as dean of the creative arts center (from '75-'81).
Trythall retired from teaching full time in 1997 but went on to serve as visiting professor of music at Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo in Vitória, Brasil, and most recently as adjunct professor of music at Brookhaven College in Dallas. Occasionally, Trythall still composes original music and performs local concerts.
Tonight's event at Top Ten Records is a rare opportunity to see the composer live. This will be Trythall’s first performance since August, when he and Taylor played their composition “Trum-POPera” for What’s Happening!! ... On Berry St., a music, art and visual media event at the Aardvark in Fort Worth.
“Gil and my performance is a Dallas debut before we perform the piece in Louisiana in February for the Southeastern Composers League Forum 2018 at Northwestern State University of Louisiana,” Taylor tells the Observer.
The piece, called “Singals From a Small Planet,” will consist of computer and voice, with Taylor reciting a nonsense, made-up language.
“We have been working on this for several months, and Wednesday will be a preview," Trythall says.
The inspiration for the music, Trythall says, came from “listening to Luciano Berios’ recording of ‘Visage,’” a musical drama built on symbols and vocal gestures that imitate language.
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“When I went to write the nonsense syllables for Lily, what came to mind was a kind of Lewis Carroll poem. It seemed right, and Lily went right along, working on improvisations on the words," Trythall says.
As Taylor vocalizes these nonsense words over a rich harmonic string pad, Trythall will accompany her by playing clips from his laptop and processing Taylor’s voice through Ableton Live software.
Also performing during the event are Oak Cliff poet Opalina Salas and West Philadelphia band On The Water, which will close the evening with its brand of psych-folk using symphonic instruments, overdriven amps, noise and four-part harmonies.
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Top Ten Records, 338 W. Jefferson Blvd., $10 suggested donation, BYOB, see Facebook.