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Caution: Musicians at play

Plaeground creates live, not prerecorded ambient sound

Plaeground creates live, not prerecorded ambient sound

October 08, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

FREDERICK, Md. -- Plaeground is what you get when creative types with lo-fi tendencies push boundaries via a Monome art-music interface, open-source software and a turntablist's ideals.

In fact, musician and visual artist Will Saxton, 31, of Frederick, Md., likes to think of Plaeground as an open-ended musical concept -- not a band.

The electronic-music trio performs Saturday at the Weinberg Center for the Arts, as part of the 72 Fest.

Though its current roster -- Saxton, Carl Gamertsfelder and Jen Nieberline -- come from rock-band backgrounds, they've spent the past decade experimenting with electronic music. Among their music-making devices are a Monome, a 64-button music and art-making device, and a Tenori-on, a 16-by-16 grid of LED switches that can make art and create music.

Lately, they've been releasing their latest album, "Sounds from the 12 House," song-by-song at Plaeground

.com because, as Saxton put it, "CDs and physical media are pretty pointless these days."

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All pointless, except, he later clarified, for vinyl.

"(It's) the only physical media that's going to last, really," he said. "Vinyl's the roots of where electronic music (and) a lot of the genres came from -- DJs mixing different things at different speeds. I would even say the record player was the first electronic instrument."

Saxton chatted with The Herald-Mail about what it's like to see sounds and where he sees Plaeground headed in the next 10 years.

Excerpts from an interview
with Plaeground's Will Saxton



What separates Plaeground from other groups dabbling in electronic music?
We all used to play in rock 'n' roll bands where (members) are performing ... A lot of electronic bands are performing loops of music or DJ-ing music they've already recorded.

But what we're trying to do is take that aspect of musical performance using alternative interfaces with an instrument so that we can perform the complicated ideas behind some of the detailed editing behind electronic music without just playing back something we made in the studio.

What sorts of sounds grab your attention?
I love any sort of sound. I collect sound, maybe like somebody would collect baseball cards. Nature sounds, birds, water --

that kind of thing. Any kind of metallic bang, like when you kick a light post. The metal railing in the parking deck makes a huge echo. I can manipulate it, change it, re-synthesize it, take it apart and put it back together in many different ways.

I understand you do paintings. Tell me about that.
I started painting because I needed to do something that wasn't music, but still kept my mind going. I had a friend that went to (Maryland Institute College of Art) and she kind of got me into that. The more I painted, the more I realized parallels between music and art.

Different color combinations strike the same kind of thing as a chord would. They're both groupings of different frequencies. One just happens to be light, the other, vibrations or sound. I kind of go back and forth from painting when I need a break from one or the other. Every time I come back to the other one I find that I've learned. From painting, I've learned something from music or vice versa.

As far as Plaeground itself, where do you see this going?
That's tough, because it's hard to make a plan for the future because the future just comes at you sometimes. Me and Jen have been playing together for 10 years and here we are now still playing stuff up and on. We really hope we get some European tours.

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