Pay no attention to that composer behind the curtain!

Composer Bob Lukomski (photo by Ashley Enright)

Composer Bob Lukomski (photo by Ashley Enright)

Electro-acoustic composer Bob Lukomski has been agitating the local music scene for a number of years now and in a number of ways. His boutique, home-based Earwaker concert series presented electronic chamber music to small audiences. His own compositions make sense both in the experimental, academic tradition of Morton Subotnick and Milton Babbitt and at the more ecstatic BPMs of IDM (intelligent dance music) and the club scene. Lukomski and friends’ radical, tech-enabled pop-song interpretations at Market Market’s Tributon series are becoming the stuff of legend.

So Lukomski works at a few different nodes along the high art/pop art continuum. On Tuesday, October 8, he will don his serious composer robes for “Acousmasis: An Electronic Offering,” an evening of new compositions by Lukomski as well as electronic works by SUNY-New Paltz faculty and students. But we won’t actually see his robes until the end.

Acousmasis refers to sound with no visible point of origination. In an acousmatic performance, performers, speakers, electronics and other sound sources are hidden from the audience. The concept and the term come to us via the philosopher Pythagoras, who taught from behind a curtain so that his students would attend to what was being said, not who was saying it.


Acousmasis encourages an audience toward the experience of pure sound, away from the accoutrements and the personalities of performance. It can be seen as the avant-garde reprimanding itself for its own typically provocative theatricality. Because of its unconventional compositional and performance methods, serious experimental music has always been naturally allied with performance art. Both the fun of it and the outrage have a lot to do with how the performers address their instruments and what they use as instruments. An acousmatic performance insists on the primacy of sound, even as one might be tempted to peer behind the curtain to see Lukomski and his team perform his composition SEND, a piece for multiple iPhones in shuffle mode.

The concert will be presented at the Dorsky Museum’s Chandler Gallery, as if to highlight the idea that serious electronic music has as much in common with the material arts as with conventionally developed music. After the program begins with faculty member Nkeiru Okoye’s Orbiting Venus, Lukomski will perform the fifth and latest installment of Delicate Arch, a lean, arrhythmic electronic composition inspired by what Lukomski describes as the “becalming desolation” that he experienced upon a visit to the Arches National Park in Utah.

In a final twist of irony, Lukomski will come out from behind the curtain to perform The Curtains of Pythagoras, a piece that he originally presented acousmatically in 2010 – a piece that, indeed, seems to be about acousmasis. This time, the audience gets to observe Lukomski as he performs on the Persephone, a unique ribbon-controller analog synthesizer.

Acousmasis: An Electronic Offering, Tuesday, October 8, 7-8 p.m., $8/$6/$3, Chandler Gallery, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY-New Paltz; (845) 257-2700.