Dance Musician | Audio Engineer | Sound Designer

Resonance FOUND

There is a Resonance between movement and sound.  As a dance musician/percussionist and sound designer, my movement makes sound which, in turn, moves people - and their movement inspires me -- a resonant circle of expression.  What if that circle was open to everyone?

Resonance FOUND is an evening-length, interactive movement/sonic/visual experience;  a performance of dance, integrated music/sound design and a movement installation, catalyzed by audience participation and enabled by digital technologies--video tracking, live sound and video processing.  It is a concert, it is an exhibit, it is a playgound; composed, improvised, new, reused--FOUND.


What happens when things do not end up the way we intend?  Often, what is FOUND is much more interesting.

Participants enter a dynamic, stimulating space; a kind of physical/sonic playground with an aural and visual personality which changes in response to people moving through it. People play and explore this environment full of physical, aural and visual stimuli in whatever way they wish.  Expectations may at times be confirmed, at times frustrated, but as people find Resonance with themselves and others, with sound and space, inspiration and inspired action become one and the same.

Robert Brown, photographer:


To The Land

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In Spring 2013, I composed and performed music for choreographer Kathleen Kelley's dance To The Land.  Here is a short edit of the audio from an actual performance (~23 minutes edited to around 3 minutes):


From the program:

In To the Land, Kathleen Kelley creates an atmosphere of space-age cinematic minimalism haunted by nostalgic romanticism. To the Land foregrounds the immersive relationships that entangle the seven performers in a strange and uncharted imagined landscape and includes a musical score performed live through remote interactive video technology.

In the process of developing music for this piece, I was particularly interested in a few main ideas:

  • Borrowing methods by which choreography is developed/taught, to develop/teach music
  • Embracing inefficient processes
  • Simplicity and repeated minimal motives
  • Structured improvisation

The music was performed live, in the pit beneath the stage, with a multichannel digital audio network connecting the sound we were making to the sound system in the theatre.    The music featured the singing drum instrument I've been developing over the past year, an array of percussion instruments and computer and iPad based synthesizers.  Also performing in the ensemble with me were Andy Miller, percussion, and John Toenjes, synthesizers.

The words of Erick Hawkins were an inspiration in both the development and performance of the music for this piece:

"A new dance which would not be boring nor ugly needs a new music that is not a sentimental, swooning unrhythmic mush of romanticism nor an avant-garde arbitrary destruction of rhythmic continuity.  We must pass beyond gimmick, tantrum, gadget, or shock to a new theatrical alertness of instant-by-instant rhythmic consciousness in music and movement."



Dance at Illinois 2 Day Challenge

[vimeo 59863012 nolink]

September 4th-7th, 2012, University of Illinois MFA and BFA candidates were challenged to choreograph and stage 15-minute works and present them in an evening concert at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, after only two days of rehearsal.

The classes quickly mined their experimentation for ideas and deleted or committed to them as they emerged. in 2 rehearsals create 3 Performance Projects. The challenge had a spirit of adventure and tested their skill, ingenuity, and artistry. During the two days of rehearsals, students collected short video clips, which were used in the projections during the performance, folding the process directly in to the performance. The evening was rounded out by an improvisation score led by Tamin Totzke.

All of the technical and musical elements of the performance combined design and improvisation. Projections: John Boesche Lighting: Grant Bowen Sound: Jeff Zahos Music: Jeff Zahos, Jason Finkelman, Ken Beck Video editing: Jeff Zahos

Studio Dance I - Dance at Illinois

In March 2012, I designed sound for the University of Illinois Department of Dance's Studio Dance I, a concert of thesis pieces by Master of Fine Arts students in dance (view the program here).

Mid-Side Loudspeaker Array

This concert, which took place in the fully configurable black box theatre, was a challenging system design problem, as the stage had two "fronts", perpendicular to each other at 90 degrees, each with a seating bank facing it.  In this configuration, it is very difficult to get proper stereo imaging and consistent coverage for each seating bank, for music that is mixed in stereo.  The solution was a system built around a Mid-Side playback system, based on the mid-side microphone technique, but on the output tranducer end of the signal chain, rather than the input end.  Using a simple sum and difference matrix set up the center loudspeaker propagates the sum of audio information common to both left and right in the stereo source (the phantom center channel or MID = R + L), and the flanking speakers both carry the difference between the left and right information from the stereo source (SIDE = R - L).  The stereo image is sacrificed, but people each seating bank hear all of the original audio information in the mix, albeit originating from a different spatial orientation.   See the arrangement below:

The Mid-Side main array was supplemented by a L-R stereo set of EAW JF-100 loudspeakers on the deck behind the muslin-covered rear walls, firing through the walls.  Behind the upstage corner of the stage were 2 stacked 4X18 Bag End subwoofers with an EAW JF-80 loudspeaker sitting on top.  In each of the four corners of the theatre were a single JBL 4430, the stock system in that theatre.  As it always is with live theatre, you had to be there to hear all the ways this flexible system was used, but I thought it was very effective and allowed the sounds to very well support the effect of each dance moment.

View from rear, highlighting loudspeakers firing through the screens.  A slight presence bump was added to make up for high frequency absorption by the muslin. View from the house right seating bank.

Below, you can see me performing the sound design for Nibia Pastrano-Santiago's piece sweat during a rehearsal.  The piece was performed seven times, and each performance was different and progressively more complex than the last, in a sort of choreographic explosion of the process of developing the piece.  Because each performance was different, I performed a live sound design which progressed along with each version of the piece.

Jeff Zahos peforming live sound design, Studio Dance I 2012, Nibia Pastrana-Santiago's "Sweat"Here is my view from my performance position, with the Ableton Live session for Nibia's piece and the mid-side loudspeaker array visible:

View from my performance position, with Ableton Live session and Mid-Side loudspeaker array visible, Studio Dance I 2012, Nibia Pastrana-Santiago's "Sweat"

Note the L-R pair, subs and center loudspeaker in the model, obscured by and firing through the muslin screens.

Betsy Brandt's the smallest circuit.  The rear screens were projected upon and lighted creatively.

Studio Dance I 2012 - University of Illinois Dance - Photo by Natalie Fiol

Nibia Pastrana Santiago's sweat
Studio Dance I 2012 - University of Illinois Dance - Photo by Natalie FiolRebecca Walter in her dance Ruminations (Aria-ish).  Rear lighting of the screens revealed the visually interesting supportive skeleton.Please visit Natalie Fiol photographer/graphic designer:

Rhythm Manding featuring Bolokada Conde

Bolokada Conde and Rhythm Manding

Recently, I recorded Afro-pop/Traditional Mande rhythm fusion group Rhythm Manding featuring djembe master Bolokada Conde.  Bolokada is a joyful, exciting, engaging and very musical performer -- A fantastic ambassador for the music of Guinea, West Africa, his home.  The recordings were done over 3 days in May of 2011, in studio sessions at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and at a live performance at the Summercamp Music Festival in Chillicothe, IL.  The project was mixed by me and mastered by Eric Bisgyer and in November 2012, the band's self-titled debut CD was released.

Check it out at CD Baby!

CIMG5335 CIMG5343





Bolokada Conde and Rhythm Manding


Atlantic Harp Duo - A Journey with Chopin & Sand

In Fall 2010, I worked with Elizabeth Jaxon and Marta Power Luce of the Atlantic Harp Duo, recording, editing, mixing and mastering their CD A Journey with Chopin & Sand.  The disc features 3 great transcriptions of Chopin piano pieces and other related music for harp.  We had a great time with all phases of the project.  The music was great - Liz and Marta play so well together, the hall sounded good, especially for the fall season (it sounds best in the summer, in my opinion).

You can purchase the disc here:

Microphones used: 2X Neumann U 87, 3X Schoeps CMC6, 2X Neumann KM 183 (flown, not visible)

Recording the Atlantic Harp Duo in Foellenger Great Hall, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Sept. 2010

Colwell Playhouse Studio - Editing with Liz Jaxon from the Atlantic Harp Duo