Robert Matheson
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Robert Matheson

Saint George, Utah, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1978

Saint George, Utah, United States
Established on Jan, 1978
Solo Classical Experimental

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"Art+Music+Technology Podcast #62: Robert Matheson"

I'm a sucker for acoustic (double) bass. I'll admit it. Something about the low tones, deep resonance and the physicality required to play it keeps me entranced. It also helps that I can't play the sucker (a lack of frets sends me running!), so it remains mystical to me.

But mix the double bass with looping, audio processing and tons of sensing - and you've got my undivided attention. Robert Matheson (www.robertmatheson.net) does just that. He shared his latest recording, Day's End, with me, and I was completely down for a chat. But the more I found out about his playing rig and techniques, the more I needed to know. It was a fascinating chat, and opened my eyes about the kinds of sensing that works with an instrument as massive as the bass.

Enjoy, and if you get a chance check out Day's End on Bandcamp! - Art+Music+Technology


"Faculty Members Create Music With IPads, Wii Remotes"

The use of technology is not unusual when paired with music, but when iPads and Nintendo Wii remotes enter the mix, things change.

Dixie State University’s music department held the first faculty New Music Concert at the Eccles Concert Hall Friday night. The program included six pieces. Some were composed as far back as the mid-‘70s, while others were the recent works of Robert Matheson, an adjunct professor of music. His work included the more unique use of the Wii remote and iPad with the app called Touch OSC.

“It was great to hear what different people can do with technology,” said Laura Alley, a junior music major from Bountiful. “I love that they’re trying to get this out in the community more.”

Matheson's “Prelude for iPad Ensemble” opened the show. Random audience members recorded their voices on a microphone as they arrived.

Matheson put the sounds into a computer, and they were then transferred to iPads held by faculty members Glenn Webb, music department chair; Timothy Francis, an assistant professor of music; and Gary Caldwell, an associate professor of music, as they walked around the music hall.

Using the iPads, they took the sounds, added effects, and changed the speed and pitch at random. Which ever way the face of the iPad tilted determined where in the room the sound came from.

Matheson created something different and technologically-focused, but by having performers control the sound, he maintained the live music aspect.

“Really, what I liked about it was the spontaneity,” Caldwell said. “You could just push these buttons and make sounds — it was fun … and it’s not a melodic tune in the traditional sense, but I always try to tell students that music is a combination of sound and silence, and we had that.”

Students who attended the concert shared mutual feelings with Caldwell.

“I really enjoyed it,” said Jeff Chapman, a freshman music major from Ivins. “It’s kind of different from what most people think of as music.”

Webb performed a solo percussion piece titled “Dividing Time,” composed by Steven Ricks of Brigham Young University, who was present for the concert.

“I first did it in 2002, then put it away,” Webb said. “We started talking about this concert, and Dr. Ricks happened to email me out of the blue and said, ‘Remember this piece? Would you like to do it again?’ That was around Thanksgiving. November, December, January, I was hitting it just about every day for an hour at least.”

The complicated piece kept the crowd captivated and many feet tapping throughout its duration.

“The percussion was so cool,” Alley said. “I don’t know how people can move their hands that quickly.”

Caldwell not only rehearsed a piece on trumpet put together by Matheson, but also handled the Wii remote that was strapped to the instrument with rubber bands.

“The risky thing about this is hoping all the technology works,” Caldwell said on stage. “We’ve rehearsed it about 10 times, and I don’t think we’ve gotten it right once.”

He jokingly told the audience it probably wouldn’t know the difference anyway.

The same principles of direction and movement were applied to the Wii remote as in the prelude.

“You’re not hearing the acoustic sound of the trumpet; you’re hearing the mic sound that goes through the computer and into the surround sound,” Matheson said. “There’s live looping, (and) there’s live panning and mixing. It’s a fun piece.”

During Caldwell’s trumpet performance, he tilted the instrument forward and moved it around with a swinging motion, creating a literal surround sound that moved from one part of the room to another and enveloped the audience in a deep, reverberating loop from the push of a button.

Technology is a mystery sometimes, but in an effort to evolve music to another level, it worked in Matheson’s favor. - Dixie Sun News


"The curious music of Dixie State’s Robert Matheson and his MIDI bass"

Fueled by his love for music and a chain of inspiring people dotted throughout his life, Robert Matheson is a local virtuoso, an inspiring musician, and a revolutionary personality in the world of music. He has been teaching at Dixie State College of Utah for three semesters.

Matheson’s instrument of choice is the MIDI bass, which he has mastered to produce music and sounds that are, to play on the title of one of his works, “Curiouser and Curiouser” – a work inspired by the classic, Alice in Wonderland.

Matheson grew up in California, and had his first taste of rock when his brother took it upon himself to be one of the first influences in his music career. That got him started in the world of rock music with groups like Led Zeppelin and The Doors.

“I really started getting interested in playing music during my freshman year in high school when my brother started playing guitar,” Matheson said.“ And he had a friend who played drums, and another friend who played guitar; and I wanted to hang out with my older brother so I started out with the bass.”

As he transitioned into high school, Matheson studied more jazz music, and bass artists like Charles Mingus and Ray Brown; and as a senior, he transitioned to the upright bass. At that time, many schools across the nation were losing their music programs, but despite this additional challenge, opportunity seemed to fall into the right place at the right time, and Matheson found the passion to continue playing.

“I realized this is something I could do for a long time, and the instrument I could do it on was the bass,” Matheson said. “I’d practice for up to eight hours a day, and be in the practice rooms until I got kicked out by the janitors.”

He then attended University of California, Santa Cruz for three years, and learned from Barry Green, further adding to his technique and drive. After a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Matheson came back to playing the bass and pursuing a music degree. Matheson then attended California State University, Long Beach, learning from Dave Young, and earning his degree in bass performance.

Matheson and his wife then moved to Tucson where he studied the University of Arizona, as a vehicle to further expanding his talent and style. In the world of music, instructors have a very profound effect on the styles students develop, so the decision involved studying the instructors of many different universities to carefully select one who would not only be someone with substantial material to teach, but also one who had a style Matheson liked.

Matheson spent five years studying bass performance at the University of Arizona, and earned his doctorate in musical arts, specifically in bass performance, with a minor in electroacoustic music.

From there, Matheson helped develop the electronic music program at the University of Arizona, working with both electrical engineering students and set-design theatre students to create original instruments for performances.

Matheson recently completed his third semester teaching at Dixie State College, and continues his study and performance with electronic acoustic instruments.

His weapon of choice is what’s called a MIDI Bass. It is a custom built instrument that combines the sound and mechanics of a string bass, with the latitude of a MIDI controller to process the sound. Furthermore, many of the sound samples are recorded by Matheson himself. Examples of his work include In Just inspired by E. E. Cummings and Curiouser And Curiouser inspired by Alice In Wonderland, included above. Matheson’s work has been described as taking on a texture and a feeling of nostalgia, as compared to traditional classical music which follows a more rigid structure. The sound is a unique experience to listeners, and a substantial deviation from what most people are used to hearing. This unique sound is what drives a lot of electronic music; finding and creating new sounds.

“It doesn’t have to sound like a violin, or a string bass, or a traditional instrument to be a sound you can enjoy,” Matheson said. “That’s something that has attracted me and kept me interested in electronic music.”

The delivery of the music is unique as well. Traditionally, MIDI music is delivered in a set medium, and classical music follows set notes; but on his MIDI bass, Matheson is able to play custom tailored music that can adjust to the audience, the venue, and even to moods.

“It is definitely growing,” Matheson said. “There are a lot more universities that have electronic music programs now. There are a lot of really great performers who are constantly breaking down these barriers between rock music and world music, and these types of music are mixing together now.”

Matheson has found the perfect balance between his passion for music, his family, and teaching students who will one day aspire in music as well
Matheson has found the perfect balance between his passion for music, his family, and teaching students who will one day aspire in music as well. - Saint George News


"Musical Chemistry"

Musical styles and genres coalesce when Tucson musicians Michael Lich and Robert Matheson perform together as the Ironwood Duo.

The two have been playing together for five years and have become known for packing a plethora of musical styles into single compositions.

"When I was a kid, I was listening to and playing classic rock 'n' roll music," said Matheson, who plays double bass for the duo. "It wasn't until I became a teenager and heard Charles Mingus for the first time that I really started to delve into jazz and other more classic types of music."

Lich also was initiated into the world of music via rock, but his tastes grew ever more diverse when he was introduced to the music of classical guitarist Christopher Parkening, and classical jazz and banjo great Béla Fleck. He realized that styles as different as, say, jazz and bluegrass didn't necessarily need to be mutually exclusive.

The duo's performances incorporate everything from Bach's harpsichord preludes, to tracks from Jimi Hendrix's inimitable "Purple Haze," to original compositions that infuse jazz, bluegrass and world music.

When asked how the group is able to keep the music fluid, and not cluttered and chaotic, Lich responded, "We've been playing together for a long time, and we both know how to play off of each other."

Lich plays classical guitar and banjo, and he also composes and arranges music. He said he does not limit his musical palette and has delved into styles as diverse as classical, jazz, bluegrass and East Indian.

A writer from the Sierra Vista Herald once referred to Lich as a "musician's musician." When asked what he thought this meant, Lich said, "I do a lot musically, with the original compositions, playing eclectic styles and whatnot."

Music has taken Lich all over the world, from Brazil to South Korea, and Lich has received favorable press in these various countries. When not playing his own compositions or touring with the Ironwood Duo, Lich teaches guitar at the Academy of Music and Dance and at Pima Community College.

Matheson is a double bassist and composer, and his music utilizes sounds from classical, jazz, folk and rock to create a powerful and thick sound that resonates with the listener.

Matheson honed his playing in numerous performing groups prior to hooking up with Lich and forming the Ironwood Duo. His former groups include Toccata, the Blue Pacific Swing Band, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra. He has also collaborated with visual artists, dancers and other musicians on improvisation projects that seek to bridge the musical and the visual.

When not performing, he is a teaching artist with the Opening Minds Through the Arts program, and occasionally teaches at Pima Community College.

The two said they knew they had musical chemistry when introduced by a mutual friend in 2005.

"Here was this guy who, like me, was into all these different types of music," said Lich. "Our playing styles just sort of coalesced together."

Added Matheson, "The Ironwood Duo is just a different way of being creative. It gives me a chance to play with someone who has a similar vision as me, which allows me to arrange music that we love and really want to play."

The Ironwood Duo promises an exciting set list for the June 27 show.

"The audience can expect some great music," said Lich. "We'll be playing some traditional Spanish music, such as flamenco. We'll be doing some repertoire stuff from the baroque era that we've transcribed for the banjo. We'll be playing bluegrass, and we'll even be doing some ... Les Claypool-esque stuff. It should be a fantastic show." - Tucson Weekly


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy