The Call and Response series is an experiment in arts and lectures, combining performance and presentation in the form of Call and Response: a specialist in any field gives a presentation—of any kind—in their area of expertise, followed by an informal Q&A and a musical response by some of the Bay Area’s finest creative musicians.

Upcoming events TBA soon! Meanwhile, check out full video presentations of our previous events, with biographical information and condensed essays, below:

May 9, 2015: Arnaud Martin + Chris Brown

Arnaud Martin by Kristina Dutton 3Evolutionary biologist Arnaud Martin presents on butterfly wing patterning and the correlation between natural selection and the creative process, followed by a musical response by composer, pianist, and electronic musician Chris Brown.

Here for video and more.


April 19, 2015: Camille Seaman + Addleds

ES1150005xtreme photographer Camille Seaman gives a presentation on living intentionally and in harmony with the natural world, followed by a musical response by Addleds (Kyle Bruckman on oboe/English horn, Tony Dryer on double bass, Jacob Felix Heule on percussion, and Kanoko Nishi on koto).

Here for video and more.


March 20th, 2015: Dr. Indre Viksontas + Sound Quartet 

Dr. Indres Viskontas by Gianna BadialiNeuroscientist and opera singer Dr. Indre Viskontas gives a presentation on the correlation between music, the workings of the mind, and connection between humans, followed by a response by Sound Quartet: Mark Clifford on vibraphone, Aram Shelton on saxophone, Safa Shokraion upright bass, and Britt Ciampa on drums).

Here for video and more.


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More Past Events, with Condensed Essays:

Cheryl E. Leonard presented Antarctica: Music from the Ice at The Emerald Tablet on November 18, 2014, followed by a musical response from Sheila Bosco, Jesse Burson, and Kristina Dutton. Below is an essay, adapted from the presentation for the first issue of vitriol, followed by video of the performance:

Night of the E Seals
by Cheryl E. Leonard

In 2008 I was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program to develop a series of musical compositions inspired by environments and ecosystems on the Antarctic Peninsula. This grant enabled me to spend five weeks at Palmer Research Station in January and February 2009, collecting materials for my project Antarctica: Music From the Ice. Most of my Antarctic works are intricately scored compositions that combine field recordings of birds, animals, water, ice, and weather with sounds produced on natural-object instruments including Antarctic rocks, shells, and penguin bones. However, the very first piece I wrote after returning home to California was a more abstract musical recipe, Antarctic Late Night Snack.

Antarctic Late Night Snack

napping E-Seals by Cheryl E Leonard

The Cove on Old Palmer Island

listen to the e seals!

     « in the cove

     « sparring

     « napping

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Cheryl E. Leonard by Cal Tabuena-Frolli

Cheryl E. Leonard is a composer, performer, and instrument builder whose works investigate sounds, structures, and objects from the natural world. Her projects reveal and highlight unique voices and timbres, often featuring amplified natural-object instruments and field recordings from remote locales. Leonard has received grants from the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program, American Music Center, American Composers Forum, and ASCAP. Her artist residencies include Djerassi, the Arctic Circle, Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus, and Villa Montalvo.


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Brenda Hutchinson presented What Can You Do? at The Emerald Tablet on June 28, 2014, followed by a response from the Johnson/Dutton/Rankin-Parker/Pearce Quartet. Below is a description of the project and an open call and invitation, should you like to participate, adapted for the first issue of vitriol:

What Can You Do? is a celebration and reclamation of the public space. Through direct interaction among strangers What Can You Do? instigates a series of encounters ranging from direct engagement through electronically mediated experience. Our comfort in public often relies on our ability to keep to ourselves and surround ourselves with invisible bubbles as we navigate through an often fractured and hostile public space.

HockeyCheck1 webMany people don’t like to be approached by strangers on the street. Perhaps there is some residual fear from when we were children and warned not to talk to strangers for our own protection. Some of the discomfort may result from not wanting to be disturbed as we go about our business: thinking our thoughts, engaging in conversation with the people we are with (either in person or on the phone), listening to music, etc.

Whatever the reason, many of us experience some discomfort and aversion when someone we don’t know stops us in public and attempts to engage our attention for his or her own purposes. We instinctively assess what we think is happening and respond accordingly, based on our expectations of public behavior and prior experience.

Most of the common interactions and expectations of behavior among strangers in public are ones based on commerce, asking for assistance, and proselytizing. These are the first order, larger categories we tend to use to sort people. From there we decide if we are interested in closer inspection and interaction. Is the person selling something? Asking for money for themselves or donations for some cause? Need directions or the time? Gathering signatures? Trying to save our immortal souls?

HockeyCheck2 webSome of these requests are more acceptable than others depending on many personal factors like time, expendable income, feelings about charity, religion and politics, etc. We tend to make our assessment rather quickly, considering how much information we process based on our assumptions and observations, and it serves us well much of the time as we navigate the public space.

However, the categories that we use to sort people are also the ones that may end up defining and even limiting what we understand or think we understand about our observations. We may actually miss seeing things that fall outside of those categories because once sorted, we stop noticing. We stop wondering. We stop listening.

Through my work as an artist who loves sound and has worked with it for many years, I have experienced first hand the transformative power of paying attention to sound. What started as a passion for listening to and recording sounds and stories ultimately created its own challenges about how art, sound and listening in particular, could transform social interaction among strangers in public.

As the term “Social Practice” has gained greater currency with visual artists when referring to this type of publicly engaged work, it often primarily addresses the concerns of visual art i.e. object, seeing, artist and public. The dichotomy of artist and observer or even invited participant is preserved. This medium can reinforce the separateness of object and observer, automatically generating the notion of one who originates or creates.

HockeyCheck3A webWhat Can You Do? is an opportunity for interacting with the public and non-artists through personal, reciprocal engagement. Listening, sounding and performance are the basis for and the essence of the work itself. What Can You Do? offers a window to the different conceptual, aesthetic, and relational possibilities that arise from these time-based activities, and these differences highlight the quality of experience and insight.

Experiential practice with the general public through this kind of direct mutual engagement with sound and listening emphasizes parity among participants. Everyone is significantly responsible for the creation and performance of the work. This parity of relationship coupled with the insights gained from the experience are potentially empowering to all participants.

The inclusion of non-artists in the creation and production of the work is indispensable. It expands the scope and quality of this type of engagement and critical discussion. It is especially so with respect to ideas of growth and social change through the promotion of intimacy, personal connection and awareness of our relationship to each other and to the environment.

Try it out. Oddly enough, What Can You Do? is NOT about what YOU can do. It is the question to ask other people. Your role is to either learn to do what they share with you or to witness and document it. That’s it. Initial trepidation and fear aside, it is surprisingly fun and exciting.

For a portable Open Call and Invitation, see the embedded doc just beneath this video:

What Can You Do? by Brenda Hutchinson via Quiet Lightning

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Brenda Hutchinson is a composer and sound artist whose work is based on the cultivation and encouragement of openness in her own life and in those she works with. Through her work with large-scale experiments in socially based improvisations and interactions, Hutchinson encourages participants to experiment with sound, share stories, and connect with each other.


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Ransom Stephens presented The Reality Interface at The Emerald Tablet on March 22, 2014, followed by a response from the Dutton/Rankin-Parker/Pearce Trio. 

Everything you experience and everything you are and ever will be is ultimately derived from sensory input. Even the genetic code that formed when your father’s sperm penetrated your mother’s egg resulted from the responses of and decisions made by your ancestors—every one of them, from algae to ape—based on their sensory inputs. And now, you create everything—the scent of an orchid, the touch of a lover, the taste of a beer, the sound of music, and the view of the stars—from electrical signals generated by your own sensory acquisition equipment.

The Reality Interface is a rollercoaster ride through the science of how the brain processes data from the senses, how it affects our perceptions of reality, how reality differs for different people, and how it might appear from the senses of a sperm whale. Along the way, we reach as high as consciousness, as low as prejudice, and emerge with an understanding of the interaction between our minds and realities both “real” and virtual, and how our opinions result from that interaction. The speech, which you can watch below, helps viewers/participants understand:

  • How feedback mechanisms among the senses, body, and regions of the brain work in concert to create reality
  • How our minds recreate reality from stories, music, art, observation of others, and how that recreated reality affects us
  • The different realities of animals, especially the sperm whale—Earth’s greatest predator, which has perhaps the most advanced sensory system
  • The effect of created realities, including virtual reality, on our perspectives, opinions, and politics

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Ransom Stephens by Cal Tabuena-Frolli

Ransom Stephens is a science writer, physicist, and novelist. He set his first novel, The God Patent, in the science-religion culture war, and in his second novel, The Sensory Deception—for which The Reality Interface was created, as an appendix—he uses the relationship between the senses and the mind to put you in the reality of endangered animals. Watch for his irreverent but accurate take on neuroscience,The Left Brain Speaks but the Right Brain Laughs, coming from Viva Editions in Autumn 2015. Ransom put The Reality Interface together as an appendix to The Sensory Deception.

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Curated by Evan Karp and Kristina Dutton, Call and Response seeks to engage varying disciplines in both the arts and sciences, to open new channels through interdisciplinary collaboration, and create dialogue around the cross-pollination of art and science among the participants as well as their respective audiences.