By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
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In the world of classical and, later, experimental electronic music, the Tcherepnin family is a 20th-century cornerstone; something in their bloodstream is funky and strong enough to have been passed down through four generations now. Great-grandfather Nikolai studied under Rimsky-Korsakov and went on to compose operas and ballets. Grandfather Alexander was a prodigious concert pianist and composer. Father Ivan chased the piano, too, and engaged in composing but discovered the potential of early electronic music and shifted his emphasis in the 1960s to the fledgling field. He went on to direct the electronic-music studios at Harvard. Ivan's brother, Uncle Serge, invented the Serge modular synthesizer, an early analog synthesizer designed to improve on the two best-known early modular synthesizers, the Moog and the Buchla. The Serge looks like a mess of spaghetti; you manipulate the hums and squeals by moving the different noodles around.
This finally brings us to generation No. 4, Stefan Tcherepnin: In addition to having already had his classical music performed by MIT's Aurelius Ensemble, he's in the Cuts, a band in which it seems his duty is to get all jiggy on modular synthesizers.
The Buchla name should be familiar to anyone remotely knowledgeable about early modular synthesizers. The instrument, invented by one Donald Buchla in the '60s, is manipulated by the twisting of knobs and juggling of plugs and wires. Like the Serge and the Moog, it hums and squeals. Ezra Buchla, son of Donald, is also a member of the Cuts. He fucks with modular synthesizers, too.
The other two members of the Cuts don't have famous fathers -- or maybe they do, but we don't know about that. Combined, the result is all hum and feedback screaming, with some spaz -- we think it's guitarist Rob Reich -- screaming garbage that recalls the Happy Flowers and early Butthole Surfers. At times the gestalt is totally annoying and downright aggressive; at others, the combined hum of all those early synthetics is soothing and beautiful. Take note: The Cuts perform a late show, starting at midnight.