By collectively leaving the traditional and cultural roles of their acoustic instruments behind, shakuhachi player Philip Gelb, koto player Shoko Hikage and pianist/electronic musician Chris Brown, join live electronics pioneer Tim Perkis in finding common ground in the extended and experimental technique associated with improvised music. The ability of manipulated electronics to create otherwise unavailable musical sounds meshes with the acoustic musicians' desire to reinvent the possibilities of timbre and instrumental interaction in a collectively improvising ensemble. The result is a beautiful and elastic music that creatively juxtaposes old and new, acoustic and electric, and tradition and innovation.
The members of the Natto Quartet have performed together in various configurations for years, finally solidifying as a quartet in 2002 to perform both composed works and freely improvised music. Gelb has studied the shakuhachi, an ancient Japanese bamboo flute, since 1988, and is one of the only performers in the United States to use the instrument in the new improvised music context. Hikage grew up studying the koto, traditionally a 13-string chamber music instrument taught to women in Japan, and uses her extensive classical training on her instrument in both traditional and new music applications. A founding member of the influential interactive computer network ensemble The Hub, Perkis performs regularly on the improvised music scene where he utilizes customized software and hardware to create his unique and sensitive electronic approach. Brown, who frequently collaborated with Trio Natto before it officially became a quartet, is the Co-Director of Contemporary Music at Mills College in Oakland, an epicenter of live electronics performance. He is a composer, electronic musician, and pianist whose mobile preparations and inside-the-piano technique help redefine the instrument’s role.