Garcia (2021) for mubone

My nanny Jackie and I in the Hong Kong MTR, 1993.

Kalun Leung (Performance, Composition)

Bettina Szabo (Choreography)

Travis West (Instrument Design)

Program Note:

Garcia is the middle name of my childhood nanny who helped take care of me from birth to age 4. The single digit years of a human life are so formative and foundational, but it is often this decade that is most easily forgotten.

When Jackie found me on Facebook in 2020 during a time of intense identity reckoning that was brought on by COVID-19 among other challenges, I saw it as a fascinating opportunity to uncover my past through her memories. What was I like? Was I a brat? 

This piece is inspired by this process of uncovering memories through others and through self-discovery. Having immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong at age 4 with only one memory from this time, reconnecting with my nanny was a way for me to reconstruct how I navigated immigration and assimilation as a child, and to ascertain why I am the way I am.

Sounds are recorded, triggered and manipulated via this memory “sound palette” that is represented by the space around the performer, and the trombone is used as a memory logger and jogger, stylized by the performer’s movements.

Video: Jeremi Roy and Chloé Lampron-Gingras
Performance captured live in concert at La Chapelle Historique du Bon Pasteur in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal on November 17, 2021.

Mubone at the Conference on Movement and Computing (MOCO) 2019 and the NYC Electroacoustic Improv Summit (EIS) 2019

Live at NYC EIS, performed by mubonist Kalun Leung

Within the first year of development, the mubone made its artistic and scholarly debuts at the NYC Electroacoustic Improvisation Summit and the Conference on Movement and Computing respectively. While I stayed put in the US northeast and performed a 10 minute improvisation at NYU City Tech in Brooklyn, Travis West travelled to Tempe, Arizona where MOCO was held and he performed an improvisation and demo for conference attendees.

Both were really well received and the other performances and conferences were inspiring to say the least, like the Tárogató and electronics piece performed by NYU Professor Esther Lamneck. Talk about mixing old (the instrument dates back to the 15th century) with the new.

Some mapping choices outlined in this cute illustration included in our paper for MOCO 2019.

View and download our paper below!

Mubone: An Augmented Trombone and Movement-Based Granular Synthesizer

We acknowledge the Canada Arts Council for their generous support in the research and creation of the mubone.


“For the last few months, I’ve been developing a hardware prototype for Kalun Leung’s Artist Residency at Harvestworks. The objective of this project was to design a new performance system in which the sonic possibilities of a trombone are manipulated or augmented through physical and electronic means. The final prototype consisted of a standalone piece of hardware that worked as an electronic performance device or preparation, similar to a mute, which can be used in conjunction with a trombone as part of the instrument.

There is the sound manipulation component of the circuit which is based on feedback generation while manipulating it within the bell of the trombone. There is a dynamic microphone element, which feeds the main sound manipulation circuit, which is basically a delay and feedback line, with a very short delay time, to create a kind of ‘spectral feedback’ for lack of a better term. Then, there is a small power amplifier which amplifies the sound manipulation component, and then is output to an 8-ohm speaker. The speaker and speaker enclosure are designed so that the opening of the speaker, and speaker itself, can be manipulated with the hand to alter the sound being generated.”

Text by Frank Spigner
Designed and realized by Frank Spigner
Co-developed by Kalun Leung and Frank Spigner
Inspired by Felix del Tredici
Filmed by Peter Brensinger
Made possible with the generous support of Harvestworks

Picnic Electronic

What happens when you get to the venue and they have no power? It happened to Raquel, Jack and I for our debut electroacoustic set at Spectrum, a not so fun fact that we discovered upon arriving, standbying as our gracious host attempted to manual hoist the huge gate that stood between us and the unlit space. Once we decided we could carry on with fully charged laptops and enough Bluetooth speakers to go around, our host stepped up once again and went straight to the liquor and hardware store to get sorry wine and flood lanterns.

The show turned into a spatialized chamber soirée thanks to the wireless speakers we distributed around the space; with a noticeable audio latency we attempted to incorporate into our improvisation. I was already into the idea of a picnic setup for electronics, one that would require no mains power or large amplifiers, and this opportunity sealed the deal.

I was invited back to Spectrum by another curator, this time at the storied Bell Labs boardroom at Westbeth in Greenwich Village, and I made it a thing (happening?). Here it is in full glory, this time with the providence of power which I happily chose not to utilize.

Mubone Augmented Trombone

Here’s the first prototype of mubone, an augmented trombone outfitted with electronic sensors and controls. It takes advantage of the trombone’s directionality/physicality and incorporates movement/space as expressive inputs.

This video documents the application of the mubone in a 3D granular synthesis environment adapted from Nathan Weitzner’s real-time 3D granular synth patch and Chris Carlson’s Borderlands Granular. It also showcases on-instrument amplification inspired by Felix del Tredici’s creative use of karaoke microphones and Nicolas Collin’s plunger controller for !Trumpet. Travis West designed the augmentations (Slide ARM and tuning slide-mounted orientation sensor) and the software that goes with it. I rigged the speaker/plunger mute with wii-mote in the opening shot.

The orientation sensors enable the trombone to act as a virtual XYZ cursor, in other words, as a gestural controller that operates in 3D space. The trombonist’s sound is captured using a piezoelectric pick-up on the mouthpiece and the recorded sound is simultaneously granulated and distributed in the virtual 3D space around the performer. The method with which the grains are distributed can be based on pre-defined user parameters such as time index, RMS averages, spectral content, etc. But generally, a vis-a-vis distribution mode will be used, meaning that the virtual location of the recorded clip will correspond vis-a-vis the instrument’s physical orientation at the time of that clip’s recording. For example, if the trombone is pointing 90 degrees to the right of the player and parallel to the ground, any sound recorded in that specified space will be planted there, ready for recall if the trombone returns to that exact position. In essence, it is a looper that uses virtual 3D space to recall clips but powered by a suite of granular synthesis techniques such as grain duration or spread. The environment is interfaced with the player wirelessly, allowing for maximum movement potential and facilitating the cognitive liberty needed for improvisation and spontaneous decision making.

A Yoke Labs Production

Kalun Leung
Travis West

Video: Peter Brensinger
Audio: Rebekah Wineman
Colour: Chantalle Clarkin

Die Posaune

I presented this piece with Felix del Tredici and Siw Laurent at my graduating recital at The New School in May 2018. Felix and I met Siw a week before my recital at the Creative Music Studio workshops in Greenwich Village. Her role in our collaboration presented itself in the most natural and serendipitous way – she brought to the workshop a sense of Shamanic dominance that emanated from her soul, voice, and Nordic frame drum. For months, Felix and I have been dreaming up a piece that involved the trombone as an object/installation, sympathetic resonance and feedback, and BDSM theatrics. Siw witnessed our informal workshopping of the piece in the basement of the Greenwich Music School that weekend and it became immediately clear that the piece needed her involvement.

The improvisation lasted around 10 minutes, a soundscape of slide-controlled karaoke mic feedback and Siw’s powerful vocalizations and drumming. Felix and I became slave to the instrument; we embodied ourselves as anchors tied via pulley to the trombone slide, control of the slide limited to the rope that tied it to our mouths. As we floated farther from the mothership, the slide would extend upwards, changing the pitch of the feedback duet while Siw’s energy blanketed our eventual demise.

Dance & Music Improv at Triskelion Arts

Performed as the opening act for the Never Before, Never Again Festival 2018 in Brooklyn. We were given 15 minutes to present an interdisciplinary dance piece. We performed an entirely improvised set with 5 dancers and 5 musicians and made attempts at overlapping these traditional roles.


Luckily I never had to break up with or over Siri, which seems to be not far from the truth for some relationships who are tethered to technology or relationships that live in networked spaces. I had an amazing opportunity to work with fellow New School students from Drama and Jazz in Jane Ira Bloom’s Improvisatory Artists Lab. My co-star Jacqueline Reed helped dramatize the sketch as we improvised our way out of a brutal Siri-mediated breakup with the aid of my trombone birthday cake. 

Twister Improv Game

I wanted to harness the idea of a Games Night which would bring audiences and performers together in a fun and cheeky way. This is the first of a series of improv games that borrow from party games, recorded at The New School with Reggie Workman’s Futuristic Ensemble Class.

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