Live Projects: Solo


Performing on "The Window"

Bob Ostertag performs most often as a soloist. These concerts may involve improvisation, compositions, or both. They also frequently involve unusual instruments he has constructed.


Improvising has always been at the core of Ostertag's work, and he does more improvised concerts than anything else. Currently, the instrument he uses for improvising involves software of his own creation, being played with an assortment of drawing tablets, game controllers, power tools, etc. Difficult to describe.

Ostertag also performs often with other improvisers, check the Ad Hoc Projects page for details.


Many of Ostertag's best-known works are performed solo. .

Sooner or Later is developed from a recording of a young boy burying his father in El Salvador, where Ostertag worked for much of the 1980s. Burns Like Fire was developed from a recording Ostertag made in San Francisco of a gay riot in which the California State Office Building was set on fire. We're All Stuck Here uses the voice of Rodney King speaking during race riots that rocked Los Angeles in Ostertag's home state of California.

From these sounds of grief and anger, Ostertag spins a musical web of nearly unbearable intensity. The source recordings are exploded into fragments, which are then reconstructed into musical structures, creating shapes radically different from the original. It is as if the frames of a film were reordered so that the characters do altogether different actions. Or one might imagine the source sounds as physical objects viewed from different angles. The listener not only "views" the sound from different positions, but through windows of different sizes, with panes curved into lenses of various types.

Performed using "Lightning" infrared wands developed by Don Buchla, the sounds is manipulated through gesturing with small wands, something like a symphony conductor (actually, very little or not at all like a symphony conductor). Using these wands, he literally picks the sounds apart in the air and then reassembles them into a music unlike any other.

"Sampling technology is used in a significant way for the first time. The music encircles reality, decomposes it into music and recomposes it until reality is no longer able to escape. [This is] great music, a music that has something to do with life again." -- Die Zeit (Germany)

"With entrance into Ostertag's world comes a severe attitude adjustment. You have to curb your brain, dump your 'common sense' judgments, and peel away the calluses that have built up over the vulnerable core of your senses. Listening becomes cultural time travel at warp speed. Time, however, jumps off its linear tracks. You have to accept both the simultaneity of your feelings and your hapless inability to control them." -- San Francisco Bay Guardian

"Truly powerful political art is rare, but this is some." -- Cadence

Ostertag's music brings together audience and musicians alike in an almost corporal bond -- music of enormous emotional impact. -- Il Gazzettino (Italy)

To jump to the Promotional Materials page for solo concerts, click here.