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An Ear to the Environment: Eco Friendly Music Products | Consumer Media Network

An Ear to the Environment: Eco Friendly Music Products | Consumer Media Network | Difficult to label | Scoop.it
Every year, the world throws out 20 to 50 million tons of electronics, including music players, speakers, and other audio equipment, recycling only 18% at the most. Digital downloads and streaming audio may be pushing physical CDs out of the marketplace, but is streaming digital truly “no footprint” if music players and computers are, on average, replaced every two years, the discarded components exported to environmentally hazardous “e-waste” dump sites in Ghana, Nigeria, India, and China?

 

There are eco-friendly ways to build music products, including CD packaging, music player speakers, and even area-ready electric guitar cabinets. Companies both big and small are acknowledging what Chris Campbell, operations manager for Innova Recordings, describes as a “sea change” among consumers who love music and are concerned about a product’s environmental footprint. Here are just a few eco-friendly companies and products creatively addressing this concern.

 

Artists outside of the mainstream are also taking care to package their music in a similarly green way. “So many of our artists are mindful about things like being “eco-friendly” because it’s just part of who they are,” says Campbell. “It’s not a calculated PR move.” Such eco-friendly CD packaging can be expensive and labor intensive, such as the thin, 7″ x 7″ cardboard, ornately designed, letter pressed sleeve that houses string quartet Ethel’s newest CD Heavy. But Innova, being a non-profit, artist-friendly label, don’t factor in such costs when it comes to realizing an artist’s vision. “We’re lucky to have a really good vendor who’s aware of our needs and is very accommodating,” says Campbell. “It comes down to case by case basis for packaging costs.”

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Tiny Reviews: John Yao, Shamie Royston, Raf Ferrari 4tet, & Jazz Lunch

Tiny Reviews:  John Yao, Shamie Royston, Raf Ferrari 4tet, & Jazz Lunch | Difficult to label | Scoop.it
Wow. Trombonist John Yao’s debut album, and it is damn strong. Featuring Jon Irabagon on soprano, Yao weaves a deliciously textured album that seems of greater fullness than five instruments could create on their own. Songs like “Shorter Days” are just so joyful. Yao also leads the Yaozeki Big Band, which must inform his approach to the quintet based on the depth of In the Now.

 

Your album personnel: John Yao (trombone), Jon Irabagon (Alto & Soprano Saxes), Randy Ingram (Piano), Leon Boykins (Bass) and Will Clark (Drums).

 

One of those albums where there’s a lot going on, plenty of complexities, yet remains inherently listenable. An engaging album that you can just sit back and enjoy. An album for old and new school jazz fans alike, and a terribly promising sign that this is Yao’s debut album. I’m already looking forward to hearing what comes next.

Jazz from the Queens scene in NYC.

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Music For Maniacs: Music For An Avant-Garde Cruise Ship

Music For Maniacs: Music For An Avant-Garde Cruise Ship | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Here's a collection of new (or new-ish) pieces of sonic loveliness excerpted from albums now out for you to spend money on, most of it fairly low-key abstract ambient/hypno/drone instrumentals by composers of...what? "Avant garde"? That implies that they are at the forefront and everyone will follow them. Maybe that will happen. Or maybe they're off in their own little universe, too singular and odd to ever influence anyone. "New Music"? Well, that one's just plain silly. Is it still 'new' in a year, or ten, or fifty? Then what do you call it? "Alternative classical"? I like this one, since most of these folks came out of the musical academy. But when you're composing for a cymbal, or electronics, or microtonal guitars, or junk percussion (as all the folks featured today do) it hardly sounds very 'classical.' We'll probably never settle this one, so let's just listen to some beautiful music, shall we?

Music For An Avant-Garde Cruise Ship

(Due to circumstances beyond my control, I can't use mediafire now. After clicking the above link, scroll down for a choice of downloading options. You may have to wait a few secs. We apologize for the inconvenience.)

 

1-2. Eleanor Hovda: "Centerflow/Trail II," and "Coastal Traces Tidepools 2." This 4-disk set (sold for the price of a 2-disker) is a revelation. The late Ms. Hovda wrote music that puzzled me at first - it's sometimes glacially paced, with long silences. The music doesn't seem "composed' as much as something that just naturally drifts along. I kept expecting ambient, drone, minimalism or chamber music - it is all and none of those. The first piece is for bowed cymbals, the second finds Hovda playing "piano innards." Not included here because it's 30 minutes long is an improvised piece played inside an enormous empty underground town water tank. My most listened-to album of the year so far, even at 4 disks.
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3. Philip Blackburn: "Ghostly Psalms: Scratch I Ching" - Blackburn is the man behind Innova Records, from whence many of these tracks come. Like Hovda, he's an American Midwesterner (yah, hey dere!), which he salutes on "Duluth Harbor Serenade," scored for actual Minnesota harbor boats, and landlubbers, recorded in the field. Or rather, on the shore of the harbor. That's a pretty neat trick, but the centerpiece of the album is "Ghostly Psalms," inspired by old ruined monasteries, and scored for all manner of unusual soundmakers, including, on this track, something called the 'human rhythmicon."
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4. Oscar Bettison: "Junk" - Wake up! Amidst all these haunted atmospherics, here's a rocker. I just saw this guy at Disney Hall, for the premier of a new piece of his that uses junk "found" percussion instruments, performed by the LA Philharmonic New Music group. Hasn't been recorded yet, but here's one from a few years ago by this Brit (now in the US) that also skillfully combines things like coffee cups, metal bars and wrenches with traditional instruments. Kinda long, so you may wanna skip to last third or so if you're pressed for time - it builds up to a fairly explosive finale.
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5. Andy Akiho: "Karakurenai (Crimson)" - This debut by a Japanese-American writing for Caribbean steel drum touches on jazz, classical, and avant-garde - everything but calypso. Effortlessly enjoyable. I guess it's just not possible to make "difficult music" on happy, sunny steel drums. If any experimental music could get play on cruise ships, this would be it. Album: "No One to Know One"

6. Christopher Campbell: "Sleepless Nights" - Like Eleanor Hovda's music, this album unpredictably wanders around with no particular direction. Unlike Hovda, Campbell's debut doesn't feature long drones and silences, but a kaleidescope of colorful sounds, including, on one of the 'Interludes,' a minute-and-a-half field recording of birds. This is the most 'song-y' track, a thoroughly eccentric mix of fake old-timey gospel, accordion waltzes, and abstract sounds. Album: "Sound the All-Clear"
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7. Neil Haverstick: "The Spider" - Sometimes I think the old 7 tone "do re mi" Western scale is exhausted and music really needs to get into microtonal scales. However, when I listen to contemporary microtonal music, I realize that the composers are not doing much to make it very accessible, hence keeping it in the tiny experimental music ghetto. (Sure, I like it, but I would, wouldn't I?) But some of guitarist Haverstick's stuff is so cool I don't see how anyone could find it too objectionable - I mean, this piece is inspired by old sci-fi movies, and who can't get behind that?

8. Id Loom: "Sublation" - Mysterious ambient project apparently years in the making and only now coming to light. This track starts off with dense, rolling clouds of sound that part to reveal almost Gregorian-like singers. Strange and wonderul. From the free download album "To: Atlantis."

9. David Lang / Sentieri Selvaggi: "Sweet Air (excerpt)"- Lang's from acclaimed New York radicals Bang On A Can; Sentieri Selvaggi are the Italian group performing this lovely bit of minimalism for flute, clarinet, piano, violin and cello. Sweet, indeed. Album: "Child."

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@CriticalJazz: Jeremy Long In Suspension Innova 2012

@CriticalJazz: Jeremy Long In Suspension Innova 2012 | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Having long maintained that knowing something about a record label can be or at least increase the probability of buying a solid release, Innova Records is money! After an incredibly impressive debut release from Johhny Yao, Jeremy Long and In Suspension simply reconfirms the incredible artistic roster which Innova boasts with a soon to be released stellar recording from Jeremy Long. A 4tet that while not in artistic suspension they do walk the incredibly difficult tightrope of genre with flair and originality. Jeremy Long is part of a new sound emerging from the more traditional side of the jazz street that blends a more post bop form and function with a slightly more contemporary presentation without tripping that commercial tripwire that could spell sonic disaster for the lesser artist.

 

Long's musical pedigree is most impressive. Having walked the jazz/classical sonic tightrope, Jeremy Long has also worked with such luminaries as Ray Charles and Chaka Khan. In addition to the variety of performance work, Long is an Assistant Professor of Saxophone at Miami University. In Suspension would seem to be an amazing hybrid of his work with a soulful organ trio that combines six originals and two standards into seemingly original Long classics. The title track "In Suspension" is indeed old school made new cool as syncopated pop of a new school bass line welcomes in Long and organ phenom Steven Snyder and their talents seem to build to a magnificent cohesion of sound. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue is the perfect recipe for this tune if not the entire release. Long's classical background allows the master technician to shine through but there is soulful sense of lyrical purpose that come from somewhere deep inside. As throughout this release, the subtle finesse of one of the finest drummers working the scene today in Jason Tiemann is reminiscent of Max Roach after you fast forward roughly 40 years. "Blue for Schnitzel" is a groove you can use. Snyder sets that pace but the quartet fuses their individual voices into one musical swing that while harmonically adventurous never goes off the sonic deep end. "Soul Food" is a deceptively subtle funky smoker where Long changes harmonics on the fly and with effortless precision the at time odd meter adds texture and depth and is like chocolate sauce on ice cream and everyone loves ice cream - even lactose intolerant kids love ice cream!

 

Going in "expecting" the more traditional organ based ensemble was quickly put to rest for a 4tet that is as tight as they come. A true working band feel not afraid to change dynamics and take the sonic road less traveled for a true musical adventure that is the real deal.

 

5 Stars!

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File Under? » David Crowell: Eucalyptus (CD Review)

File Under? » David Crowell: Eucalyptus (CD Review) | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

It’s a long way from Brooklyn to Big Sur, isn’t it? Well, New York based composer (and Philip Glass Ensemble member) David Crowell’s work Eucalyptus suggests that the distance can be bridged with a single overtone series. This spectral imbued piece for saxophones allows for frequency pile-ups to suggest an aromatic evergreen grove just off of a Northern California beach: still within earshot of the crashing surf. And if you don’t like having this Big Sur inspired programme get in the way of your sonic immersion, it is a lovely and warm aural bath all by itself.

 

Crowell likes using consorts of instruments, homogeneous groupings (apart from occasional electronic manipulation). Thus, the saxophones of Eucalyptus and its jazzy post-minimal counterpart Point Reyes give way to the mallet instruments of Kaleidoscope. Here, the composer enlists the assistance of percussionist Brian Archinal, who populates the piece with a striking textural makeup of overlapping ringing ostinati.

 

Archinal is also on hand for “Throw Down your Heart,” a work inspired by a documentary in which Bela Fleck described the African roots of the banjo. It features the amadinda, a twelve foot long marimba played by up to six people. Indeed, the piece’s busily corruscating mallet-played melodies remind one of an entire shop of banjos and mbiras (thumb pianos) being played all at once. Here, as elsewhere, Crowell’s use of layering encompasses the cannily composed with just the right taste of aleatory to allow for a bit of improvisational sounding organicism to zestily season a distinctive sound world.

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textura: Erdem Helvacioglu: Eleven Short Stories

textura: Erdem Helvacioglu: Eleven Short Stories | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Erdem Helvacioglu first became known to us as a guitarist when his New Albion release, Altered Realities, was reviewed in 2007. But these days, the Istanbul-based artist is perhaps better described as contemporary composer, given the myriad ways by which he's branched out into other electronic music-related areas in the years since. That's obviously reinforced by Eleven Short Stories, which eschews guitar playing altogether and instead finds Helvacioglu concentrating exclusively on playing a prepared grand piano, whose strings, in the long-standing tradition associated with John Cage and Henry Cowell, were altered using pencils, erasers, paper, kitchen utensils, drumsticks, guitar plectrums and slides, e-bows, metal plates, ear plugs, and paperclips, among other things. Amplifying the approach, Helvacioglu pays homage to a number of his favourite film directors (Kim Ki-Duk, David Lynch, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Theodoros Angelopoulos, Jane Campion, Anthony Minghella, Ang Lee, Atom Egoyan, Darren Aronofsky, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and Steven Soderberg), not to the extent that specific film scenes are cited but more that the directors are used as inspirational springboards so that a given vignette conjures the mood and style associated with the director.

 

The prepared treatments naturally allow for a wide range of atmospheric textures and effects to enter into Eleven Short Stories, which thereby deepens the connection to cinematic evocation all the more. There's an undeniable programmatic dimension to the recording, too, in that the character of a given piece is often reflected in its title. In “The Billowing Curtain,” shimmering rustle of prepared strings conjures the title image, while violent scrapes in “Blood Drops by the Pool” add to the mood of foreboding and impending doom. “Six Clocks in the Dim Room” is brooding and mysterious, with loud plucks suggesting an illegal gambling parlour in Morocco, with all of the intrigue associated with it. Both “Jittery Chase” and “Trapped in the Labyrinth” ooze portent in augmenting ominous motifs with percussive splashes and dramatic swirls.

 

One could get the wrong idea from the prepared piano detail, as, the eleven pieces aren't solely made up of the instrument's inner sounds, as piano playing in its conventional form is heard, too (most prominently during “Will I Ever See You Again”). More precisely, the settings offer a meeting-point between familiar piano playing and unconventional prepared sounds. But regardless of the project concept in play, Helvacioglu remains a composer above all else, and as such his melodic voice can't help but come through. That's never more true than when an affecting degree of melancholy seeps into “Have Not Been Here in Forty Years,” and memorable too is “Shattered Snow Globe,” which evokes an image of snow gently falling on a fresh winter's day (though Welles isn't among the directors' names cited, the title seems a clear reference to Citizen Kane).

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At Joe’s Pub, a New Kind of String Quartet

At Joe’s Pub, a New Kind of String Quartet | Difficult to label | Scoop.it
At Joe’s Pub, the night was all about breaking strings and breaking boundaries. Under the moniker Ethel, cellist Dorothy Lawson, violist Ralph Farris, and violinists Jennifer Choi and Cornelius Dufallo turned the “genteel string quartet” into a fierce aural army, unafraid to snap a few bow strings if so compelled. The latest to sprout from their edgy hands is Heavy, an album that grasps the ears and never quite lets go.

Without a word, all four musicians took the stage, immediately immersing the senses in a pungent velocity. Choi’s quick bow slides swooped into Farris and Dufallo’s intense streams, all three nearing their peak as Lawson urgently tapped at her cello. At a single note’s notice, Ethel stopped in its tracks, met first by stunned silence – and uproarious applause a few seconds later. Once the room wound down, Lawson explained the feisty piece, “Arrival”: “It’s an announcement of what we are.”

 

Ethel expanded upon that announcement on “No Nickel Blues” and “La Citadelle”. Founding band-member Mary Rowell graced the stage as a special guest on the former tune, scraping her bow across the violin to seep out long, stark notes. The surrounding band (also featuring Kenji Bunch as guest violist) flooded the desolate ambience in plucks, taps, and maraca-like notes. Dufallo especially rejuvenated the air with an upbeat, folksy solo that might have elicited some dancing, had it extended longer. Rowell launched into some down-home fiddling of her own, offering a smooth melodic contrast to Bunch and Farris’ percussive plucks.

 

“La Citadelle” was the evening’s most outspoken work, and one look at the album track list yields no surprise: the composer is dubstep pioneer Raz Masinai. His eclectic brilliance flourished as Choi sped out one bundle of notes after the other, Farris interlacing with needle-thin accents. The scene soon evolved into a synth-rock-jazz hybrid à la Daniel Bernard Roumain.

 

Ethel did soften its stronghold for a few introspective moments, poignantly in David Lang’s “Wed” and Mark Stewart’s “To Whom It May Concern: Thank You”. Both pieces were curt and compelling, elegiac yet hopeful, and searing but soothing before skidding to a halt. And it was in these ephemeral and bittersweet interludes that Ethel shone most, delving in, delving out, and striking the deepest of heartstrings along the way.
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Improvised Piano Concerto by Lee Pui Ming with the Bay-Atlantic Symphony

Pianist/Composer Lee Pui Ming and the Bay-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (Jed Gaylin, Music Director) perform "she comes to shore" for improvised piano and orchestra.

 

Available from: http://www.innova.mu/albums/lee-pui-ming/she-comes-shore

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The Classical Review VASALLO Monuments Emerge

The Classical Review  VASALLO Monuments Emerge | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

The music of Asian-American composer Nick Vasallo is characterized by a fastidiously shaped palette in which form and function is determined by a series of cross-fertilizations and collisions that coalesce and crunch together influences drawn from Western classical traditions, contemporary ‘heavy metal’ music, and idioms with more antique and elegant accents drawn from the modes and mores of the Far East.

 

The hybrid pieces that result from such musical miscegenation articulate a brutalist asceticism that is very much Vasallo’s own, one rooted in the here and now, wholly engaging with modernity while cognizant of the past and the ‘other’. Caught between past and present, East and West, it is music of urgent, often raw-edged immediacy eager to communicate, to connect, and to comment.

Monuments Emerge, the imposingly titled fourth recording (his first for Innova) from the Bay Area-born composer offers a concentrated précis of music composed between 2007 and 2012 and presents Vasallo as a composer for whom compromise is clearly not an option. This is music to be taken at face value, the obvious contrariness between elements that fuse fragility and force with poetic persistence bordering occasionally on the pugilistic.

 

For immediate evidence of such, sample Antares Rising (2010), where the USCS Wind Ensemble is partnered by the traditional Japanese drumming group Watsonville Taiko to offer a portrait of a star inexorably moving towards supernova extinction. Of the two excerpts from The Vertigo Series (2009), ‘The Aftermath’, in which thumping taiko drums are joined by glittering contributions from Javanese Gamelan instruments, dystopian trumpets, and vocal shouts and screams, is no less violent.

 

Or try the miniature, chiaraoscuro-contrasted triptych Transcient Reflections (2007), where a rippling piano line conjuring up the fabled and fateful flapping of a butterfly’s wings central to James Gleick’s chaos theory is interrupted (annihilated might be a better word) by a sudden descent into the “infinite darkness” of silence before the senses are re-engaged by the apparent return of a butterfly in flight, caught this time in the multi-hued reflections of a stained glass window.

 

If there is a center of gravity to this program, it smacks much of the apocalyptic. Explosions in the Sky (2009) pits a solo piano in a contest of concerto-like dimensions against a combination of violin, viola, horn and percussion. More extreme is the two-part Elements of Metal (2011) – played here with coruscating directness by the Contemporary Music Ensemble Korea and Del Sol String Quartet – which draws from Vasallo’s performing background in a San Francisco ‘death metal’ band. Where ‘Collapsing Obsidian Sun’ shreds string lines as a piano darts and dances like stellar dust just as the Earth will be vaporized when our own sun metamorphoses into a deadly supernova, ‘Omnes Perituri’ (‘All shall perish’) takes proceedings to a lethal conclusion.

Similarly, The Fifth World (2009) looks to the end of one world and the beginning of another as prophesized (for later this year as it happens) by the calendar of the ancient, now lost Mayan civilization. While less obviously agitated, the four-part work for solo piano (the performer uncredited in the liner notes) chisels impatiently, insistently away at a 10-note melody that is constantly re-iterated, re-fashioned, and re-shaped as it attempts to describe a perfect evocation
of sky blue.

 

Pulverizing album closer Oblivion (2012) leaves the listener in little doubt about Vasallo’s evangelical belief in “Heavy Metal as a viable
and meaningful art form” (the title alludes to the name of band the
32-year-old composer has played in since a teenager and who perform here alongside the Ariose Singers.) Mashing mixed-voice choir with distorted electric guitar, it screws together two polyrhythmic cycles glued into place by an ancient Byzantine mode. Loud and uncomfortable though it may be, it is also curiously compelling – something that could be said of Vasallo’s music as a whole.

Performances throughout are strenuously committed, but some may find Vasallo’s own somewhat indulgent production – which doesn’t always have the clarity the music requires, in part because he too often seems to turn the volume up to 11 – owes more to the needs of aficionados of Heavy Metal rather than classical (even contemporary classical) music.

 

Even so, Vasallo is clearly a composer on a mission and one possessed of a distinctive (albeit not always easily digestible) voice. But if monuments are to emerge from what he produces, perhaps they don’t all need to be conceived as intimidating monoliths?

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SCHROEDER - Passage Through a Dream, A Necessary Autumn, Oceans of Green, On Occasion, Sky Blue Dreams Innova 781 [OL] : Classical Music Reviews - April 2012 MusicWeb-International

SCHROEDER - Passage Through a Dream, A Necessary Autumn, Oceans of Green, On Occasion, Sky Blue Dreams Innova 781 [OL] : Classical Music Reviews - April 2012 MusicWeb-International | Difficult to label | Scoop.it
I like to listen to this disc before I go to sleep. Not to get drowsy – the opposite, I never fall asleep listening to it. In this state of balancing between reality and dream, with eyes closed, this music brings forth colorful visions and stirs strange memories. Curious how such minimalistic (in every sense) means can have such an almost hallucinogenic effect. This music is structured, but does not have a standard “form” in a classical sense, and its progress is not apparent. This is the music of being in a state, not of becoming. It is far from a cheap “ambient” production like the abundant “music for relaxation”. I feel profound musicality here, which can affect the listener’s mood, and operates at a deeper level than that of melody or even harmony. Schroeder’s music does not feel mathematical. The sounds hang in the clouds, turn slowly, drift as in a trance. The style is very uniform over the disc, and the main difference between the pieces is in the color. The entire disc is like a slow passage through a rainbow.

 

The liner note - unfortunately, very minimalistic too - says: “Among the important influences on his life and work are Taoism and other mystical traditions, daily meditations, nature, stillness, and the love and patience of friends”. This is quite illuminating and explains well the character of the music. In all the works on this disc, the composer employs the technique of digital delay, when a sound is recorded and then played back, thus merging with the original sound, but with delay. This effect creates shimmering textures full of mysterious reflections.

 

The opening track is idyllic and static. It is strange how something without a hint of a melody could bring to mind a song, but I do feel a soul of a song here. The color is mauve and brown, with yellow dots. The mood is relaxed and contented – but this relaxation is focused and intense, like in yoga. A Necessary Autumn is the only work on the disc which is not based on separate notes, but on motifs. The colors are deep: blue, purple and gray, with silvery splashes. The autumn is sad but necessary, and so the mood is “blue”: it’s the acceptance of sadness. Towards the end it becomes more positive and lit by a hint of a smile, like in the meditative Gymnopedies of Satie. This is really beautiful music.

You can guess the color of Oceans of Green. These oceans are warm, sunlit and full of life. The music is widely spread and slowly bubbles on a low flame. Long notes rise to the surface, one after another, in absolute tranquility. The euphonium was well chosen to create the warm foundation. In the bittersweet On Occasion, serenity and melancholy mix into something bigger. The music seems to caress the chakras. The voice of the accordion brings fragility, vibrancy and sincerity.

 

The last track, Sky Blue Dreams, is 25 years older than the rest. It employs the largest number of instruments and, most importantly, adds words. These are placed one by one, in a slow equal pace: love, give, hope, time, dream, blue sky, sea, love… There is no text in the booklet and I can’t make out each word, but it seems to me that they form sentences only occasionally, like What’s life? in the beginning - or maybe I just imagined it. All revolves around the word love. The high notes of Allegri’s Miserere come to mind: there is the same enthralling siren-like effect here.

 

The voice of Erin Bridgeman has sharp edges and a certain strain, which does not let the listener relax completely. This constant tension over the course of eleven minutes is wearisome. The voice is strong, and has a metallic shine; each note is like an even, long plank floating over the harp-like arpeggios of other instruments. This performance is intense and impressive, yet I can’t help but think that a more “angelic” voice would bring in magic and make this work unforgettable. But then, wouldn’t it become more “standard”? Anyway, I believe the composer chose this voice and singing manner on purpose, so I won’t dispute his decision.

 

The music is accessible, memorable, and definitely worth writing and listening to. It is euphonic and entrancing. I wouldn’t mind passing through this dream over and over again.

 

Oleg Ledeniov

 

Read more: http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2012/Apr12/Schroeder_Dream_innova781.htm#ixzz1ssaV4UzH

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Ethel String Quartet | Heavy

Thanks to the pioneering work of musicians like the Kronos Quartet and composers like John Zorn if the barriers between the music of academic origin and those of popular roots were finally pulled down with effects that are seen both in concert programs and in the composition of the audience. Among the many groups born after this opening you report this quartet of musicians, students of the prestigious Juilliard School, named Ethel String Quartet, and described as the first string quartet post-American classic.


Founded in 1998 by the violinist Todd Reynolds (replaced in 2005 by Cornelius Dufallo) and Mary Powell (who left the band after recording the last album, replaced by Jennifer Choi), violist Ralph Farris and cellist Dorothy Lawson, the group already has to his credit numerous collaborations with musicians and composers from different backgrounds (including two rock icons such as Joe Jackson and Todd Rundgren, and jazz musicians such as Don Byron, and Muhal Richard Abrams). Only three albums released under his own name, including Heavy , which follows after six previous years, the Light . In music, the quartet merge many of the contemporary avant-garde currents, particularly concentrated in New York, where the group resides and works in conjunction with many of the musicians with whom he collaborates. Just to the Big Apple's new work is dedicated, organized as a tribute to the city and its music through a series of sonic snapshots that illustrate the relationship that links each writer in New York.

 

Jazz has an important part in this work, thanks to the compositions by Don Byron (who elaborates his conception of black music with a tribute to Marvin Gaye), John Halle (which was inspired by certain themes monkiani) and John King (who faces directly to the roots with a blues). But the swing is also present in the compositions of Raz Mesinai and Kenji Bunch, who in his "String Circle" refers to country and bluegrass mix Bartok with Mark O'Connor.

 

There is also room for a more relaxed atmosphere as the dreamy "Wed" by David Lang, and conclusive "Rounds" of Brazilian Marcelo Zarvos, closer to some minimalist music, which shows the great adaptability of the musicians of the quartet style different between them, which are always played to perfection.

 

Overall, we are faced with another beautiful reality of contemporary music, with works like these that seems ever more alive and stimulated, can still plenty of nice surprises in store.

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TPR Classical: Very Ethel and very good!

TPR Classical: Very Ethel and very good! | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

I receive a lot of music each week. Yesterday was no different, and I was quite happy to get the latest from the string quartet Ethel, called Heavy. It will be released next Tuesday, April 24th in all the major outlets. I think you should check it out - whether you love or hate chamber music, and even if modern, living music isn't your thing.


When I opened the envelope, I thought, did they make a 45rpm record?! The packaging is large, about the size of the older lp, but no, it is unique, with a full length cd enclosed from Innova Recordings. Listening, I wondered, do composers write pieces that sound like Ethel, or does Ethel find music that sounds like their style? Don Byron's Second String Quartet is classic Ethel - mesmerizing, lyrical and hip. Motor-rhythms and crunchy sounds delight in this fun "Four Thoughts on Marvin Gaye."

 

John Halle and John King provide modern sounds with electronics, drones and amazing ensemble from Ethel. Two of the Bang on a Can founders, Julia Wolf and David Lang are well represented with "Early That Summer" and "Wed" - surely to be taken up as other quartets hear these delightful readings.


Kenji Bunch joins Ethel as violist for "String Circle" - and it stands as a real charmer on the disc, again, asking "Does it sound this way because of Ethel, or was it chosen and sounds Ethel-y?" "Round"ing out Heavy is Marcelo Zarvos' "Rounds" - someone to look for in new music, it has a light sound and touch that could go far!


Whether you are an "Ethelhead" or just want something to make you smile, Heavy should be on your iPad or other listening device - it is on mine, and won't be leaving anytime soon!


- John Clare, host in the afternoons & of Classical Spotlight

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Guy Klucevsek | The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour

Jazz - All About Jazz | [from the Italian]

 

Guy Klucevsek, American Slavic roots, is among the most versatile accordionists in activity, able to move from folk music to contemporary, to cooperate with the Kronos Quartet and Anthony Braxton, Dave Douglas Quintet and an accordion, with Laurie Anderson and John Zorn, recording with prestigious labels like Tzadik and Winter & Winter. Making full use of a versatility on this album that draws from the title and realized in thirteen variegatissime tracks, co-developed product of a real tribe of musicians.


Klucevsek will include all original compositions included "Lädereld," of the late Lars Holmer, who was his companion for fifteen years in the Accordion Tribe and, in one of his albums, he had devoted the same Klucevsek. Which to counter Holmer dedicated to the beautiful "Larsong," performed in solitude and lyrically one of the most touching moments of the entire CD.

 

Many other pieces include a dedication: a fellow of the ethnic instrument "Breathless and Bewildered," for Bulgarian Ivan Milev, and "Ratatatatouille," the Basque Kepa Junkera, the Swingle Singers and the short humorous "Gimme a Minute," innervated by the voice of Martin Denny, the "father dell'Exotica," the curious "o'o," obsessively rhythmic and tremendously engaging, Erik Satie, the three "Hymnopedie" - in the songs, dances in part, from which the title - the second of which, beautiful, charm you feel with the trumpet of Dave Douglas.

This variety takes shape thanks to no less wide variety of tools, which change from track to track and whose contrast is an integral part of the diversity of the personalities of the CD. Among the many stand out the horns of Geffrey Barnes, Marcus Rojas, tuba, accordion second Alex Meixner.

 

And if the beauty of the disc is more in the variety that in the individual tracks, also remains that tracks like the aforementioned "Larsong" and "Hymnopedie No. 2," but also of the final "The C & M Waltz" (a real waltz mixes traditional Balkan and American country) and "Je Moje Pijana Baba" (Traditional Slovenian polkas, seasoned dll'ironico original text of Klucevsek) alone are worth the purchase price of this CD tasty, popular and refined at the same time.

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Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review: Dylan Mattingly, Stream of Stars

Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review: Dylan Mattingly, Stream of Stars | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Listening to the music of Dylan Mattingly is a bracing experience. Stream of Stars (Innova 822), a new album devoted to his compositions, makes it clear that he is not following an orthodox minimalist mode of presentation. Imagine a typical chamber orchestral piece as conceived in the height of first-phase minimalism, say by Steve Reich or Philip Glass. There is a recurring pulse and a series of motifs repeating around it, gradually changing, altering, metamorphosing from the original set of repetitions. Some come in, extend, others drop out, and things proceed in a linear left-to-right manner for the most part.

 

Dylan Mattingly takes such motifs and breaks them into contrasting sections that appear and recur, combine and recombine, without a common tempo/pulse as a unifying factor. That's what you hear on the three extended works offered on this recording.

 

They are played with spirit and precision by the ensemble Contemporaneous.

The music has moments that drive forward with a sense of dynamic urgency. Other times, there is the flit of gentler motives in a state more or less of eventful repose.

 

Combine, say, an Irish jig, a set of passagework motifs from classical music, some lines out of contemporary tonal vernacular music, and a bit of the interlocking classical minimalist extended repetitions and variations. Fracture all of these elements into chunks along a sort of cubistic axis, with various contrasting tempo implications. Piece them together in interesting ways and you get something of what Dylan Mattingly's works sound like.

The album is well worth hearing. I am not sure at this point whether this tributary broken away from the main stream of orthodoxy is destined to become a river in its own right or remain a pleasantly diverse byway that does not carry that much traffic but gives a rest and an interesting excursion. Is it a model for wide imitation? Or something not as essential to the forward motion of the stream of stylistic development, but valid and stimulating in its own right? Time will tell. It sometimes has a symphonic-developmental feel that some minimalism does not, I will say that. Ultimately what matters is that this new music is original and worthwhile.

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Unclassifiable Music Is Always the Most Interesting: Alexander Berne

What if someone said to you, “listening to this album is like watching clouds.” You’d figure that they were bored, or high, right? Still, that’s a fair approximation of what Alexander Berne’srecent all-instrumental, double-cd magnum opus, Flickers of Mime/Death of Memes, evokes – and it’s absolutely fascinating. It’s like flying at low altitude at very low speed on an overcast day as dusk approaches. Shifting banks of sound come at you slowly, in waves: low drones, white noise, washes with endlessly changing, minute shifts in timbre or pitch, and tantalizing snatches of melody. It would be overly reductionistic to say that it’s a struggle between rhythm and stillness, between change and stasis, but that’s a big part of it. More apparent is the tug-of-war between balmy contentment and unease – and guess which one wins most of the time! Rock fans will call this ambient music; a musicologist would probably call it horizontal music; you could also file it under indie classical or avant-garde and nobody would complain. But more than anything else, this is an album of nocturnes.

 

Berne plays all the instruments: his background is jazz sax improvisation, and he has pyrotechnic chops, although the result is just the opposite here. Although the sounds are heavily processed via a pitch pedal and what seems to be an endless series of loops, many of the instruments are clearly recognizable: sax, piano, various percussion instruments (most of them on the low, boomy end of the register). Sometimes Berne is a one-man wind ensemble, occasionally reaching for regal, epic heights. Other times it’s impossible to figure out what the instrumentation is: organ? Ebow guitar? Bagpipes? A string section? A lonesome train whistle? Fluttering, bubbling, rippling, echoing or sirening, texture after texture enters the mix and then fades out or simply disappears. Occasionally, there are glacial conversational exchanges between them, or an unexpected, dramatic percussion cadenza (among them a wry Also Sprach Zarathustra quote that opens the second disc). Unexpectedly upbeat flashes of melody, including a tensely meandering handful of piano passages appear and then fade away into the nebulous, opaque backdrop. The most cohesive moments here are a couple of trip-hop interludes that, when you upload the album, work best at the end: by themselves, they’re not bad, but as they’re sequenced on the album, the segues they create are on the jarring side. But maybe that’s intentional. While each cd is divided up into discrete parts, it’s best enjoyed taken as a whole.

 

Those who require a catchy melody and a snappy beat will probably find this interminable (although there’s actually more melody here than you usually find in, say, Brian Eno). But at high volume, it’s absolutely intoxicating; at low volume, it’s a great album to send you off to dreamland on a whispery, surreal note. It came out on Innova last fall. That it’s taken this long to figure out what it’s about, between now and when it first came over the transom here, testifies to its hypnotic, mysterious power.

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@CriticalJazz: John Yao Quintet In The Now Innova 2012

@CriticalJazz: John Yao Quintet In The Now Innova 2012 | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

A smooth jazz guitarist once told me an artist should only be as creative as they feel the need to be. While the much maligned jazz sub genre is still taking some hits the message would seem to be clear in that the depth of passion or in some cases lack thereof is up to the artist to translate as they see fit. In short, play in the moment. More passion and less academia.

 

The debut release from the John Yao Quintet is more than the start of an artistic odyssey for Yao. In The Now is a magnificent musical display of the passion of not just creating music in the moment but is a look at the development and application of the creative process of a incredible young talent and his horn. A sonic smorgasbord of hard charging post bop smokers to lyrically captivating ballads has In The Now as one of the true sleepers of 2012!

 

An incredibly rich sonic color palette is kicked off with "Divisions." Yao announces his presence with authority along with saxophonist Jon Irabagon with rhythmic intensity and lyrical direction that makes a most compelling and at times free form use of time and space without bordering on the self indulgent. The subtle nuances are of a first call rhythm section in Randy Ingram on keyboards along with Leon Boykins on bass and Will Clark on drums give an organic authenticity to the deceptively subtle grooves that are shaped throughout "Funky Sunday." Yao makes an impressive presence as a legitimate jazz triple threat here as instrumentalist, composer and arranger with all original material. The ballad "Shorter Days" has a mysterious and at times wistful theme yet Yao's command of this tune simply reinforces the impressive talents of a more than technically proficient and artistically gifted musician. Randy Ingram contributes a solo doubling as a sonic if not at times harmonic exploratory which reinforces the depth and character of Yao's talent as an incredibly skilled composer and arranger. This formidable quintet can shift harmonics on the fly and despite some odd meter never allow themselves to get caught up in the more self indulgent traps similar ensembles might find themselves. Closing with a deceptively funky post bop influenced "Snafu" there is a harmonically driven cohesion, a lyrical sense of purpose with Yao giving a trombone masterclass.

 

A solid and well thought out debut from a rising star, John Yao is a name to remember. Sonic texture, brilliant colors and moving beyond conventional form and function with purpose and direction has In The Now as a gem for 2012 and a release one should not overlook!

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Benjamin Broening, Duo Runedako – Recombinant Nocturnes | The World Music Report

Benjamin Broening, Duo Runedako – Recombinant Nocturnes | The World Music Report | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

The night is perhaps the most favorite time for artists to be about stringing words or music together like necklaces of glittering gems—beautiful, expectant… ominous. Not long ago the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote that glorious elegy for his father, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” and for about three hundred years before that musicians—French, Italians and of course that famous Prussian, Frederic Chopin—have been writing studies and pieces evocative of the night and calling them “nocturnes”. And now another Frenchman, the fine young composer, Benjamin Broening has produced a breathtaking suite for pianos, entitled Recombinant Nocturnes, an exquisite, ever-evolving cycle of pieces that is at once dark gray and light as a feather, viscous and dotted with the Great Bear, Orion and a myriad of constellations; even starless and Bible-black, whether nothing flickers but the suggestion of unearthly spirits roaming as if on a modern Passover, reminiscent of that great day of deliverance.

 

The composition is flawless, attacking pitch and tone, and the timbre of the night with the awe-inspiring pianism of the Duo Runedako—pianists Ruth Neville and Daniel Koppelman—who are seamlessly bound to the Nocturnes as if by a common umbilicus. They play the pieces with great sensitivity, sublime musicianship and incredible interpretative ingenuity. The works entitled “Nocturne Fragments: Mercurial,” “Nocturne Fragments Remote” and very specially “…Fragments: flexible, mysterious, resonant” and “…Fragments: aggressive, bright, eventually giving way” are pieces that so capture the nature of the night body and spirit that there is an eerie sense that the time of day envelopes the room in which the music is played whilst the listener grapples and battles in a medieval manner, the spirits that roam the night. The composer does not make any attempt here to romanticize the subject, but rather unclothes her to reveal her truly mercurial character in all her naked glory.

 

Benjamin Broening’s composition truly captures the power of sound with a certain sense of timelessness. The sense of nuanced tonality and penchant for unearthing the hidden timbres of such a divine invention as night, in a nocturne—or a series of pieces—in a suite imitating that time of night when nothing stirs but the wind and the spirit-speak with whooshes and weeping; blithe laughter and gaiety and unexpurgated joy is his genius. On the other hand is the virtuosity, the ingenious expression and dynamic of the pianists who, playing together or separately, have carved an indelible interpretation of a piece eminently worthy of the CD that it is on. This is also one of the most sensitively recorded productions for which kudos must go to Innova Recordings and Philip Blackburn, for showing courage, dedication and sensitivity for the soul of the artist.

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Local classical musicians gladly pay to record: Philly.com/D Patrick Stearns

Long one of Philadelphia's proudest exports, classical music keeps flowing out beyond the city limits - more than ever, in fact, despite reports that this particular corner of the recording industry is dying or dead...

 

For artists, the dividends go well beyond the usual take-home-and-enjoy element of recordings. As formidable as Mimi Stillman's new two-CD set Odyssey, of 11 new flute works by Gerald Levinson and Mason Bates, may seem, the disc - which cost her about $20,000 - landed her a May 18 radio concert on the prestigious Soundcheck show on WNYC-FM.

 

"When you're responsible for the creation of new work," she says, "you want to launch the pieces so they can enter the canon and have others play them."

...

The growing St. Paul-based Innova label is becoming new-music central, with a growing Philadelphia presence that includes Stillman and two choruses, the Crossing and Mendelssohn Club, because their repertoire is contemporary. After the Innova staff approves a project, the arrangement is BYO master tape.

...

Artists invariably say the recording process is an invaluable discipline, requiring them to be in top shape. Even when budgets are tight, Stillman springs for the best sound engineers she can find. In fact, quality is so crucial that composer Andrea Clearfield has walked away from recording opportunities when she felt the performers weren't up to the challenge.

 

Thus, the quality of recent discs is consistently high. The Mendelssohn Club has never sounded better than on its new Metamorphosis disc with works by Philadelphia composers Clearfield, Jennifer Higdon, and James Primosch.

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Alive and Composing: Nick Vasallo

Philip Blackburn interviews Nick Vasallo about his album Monuments Emerge on innova http://www.innova.mu/albums/nick-vasallo/monuments-emerge

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WTJU Classical Comments: Helvacioglu: Eleven Short Stories - Prepared Piano Goes to the Movies

WTJU Classical Comments: Helvacioglu: Eleven Short Stories - Prepared Piano Goes to the Movies | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Turkish composer Erdem Helvacioglu embarks on a fascinating project with this recording. He writes in the liner notes, “Eleven Short Stories is inspired by the works of film directors Kim Ki-Duk, David Lynch, Krzystof Kielowski, Theodoros Angelopoulos, Jan Campion, Anthony Minthella, Ang Lee, Atom Egoyan, Darren Aronofsky, Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu and Steven Soderbergh.”

 

Using a prepared piano, Helvacioglu conjures up sonic impressions of various types of movies – as they might be interpreted by these directors. That’s not to say that Helvacioglu’s arranging soundtrack themes. Rather, he creates soundscapes that convey the emotions he’s after.

 

And there’s not a one-to-one correspondence between a certain director and an individual track. Part of the listener’s task is to listen to make sense of the sounds not only in terms of the stories they’re telling, but also what director’s style (or styles) it might be told in.

 

Helvacioglu’s tonal palette is wide-open, and imaginative. Some of the sound are distinctively pianistic, while others seem otherworldly. Throughout it all, though, there’s a clear underlying structure that gives each story its own internal logic.

 

Eleven Short Stories is an engaging release for anyone interested in the sound of the new – and the more you’re familiar with the directors that inspired these works, the deeper your appreciation of Helvacioglu’s accomplishment.
Posted by Ralph Graves at 9:08 AM

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WQXR - New York's Classical Music Radio Station

Q2 Music Album of the Week
The More-than-Bearable Heaviness of Ethel
Q2 Music Album of the Week for April 23, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012
By Olivia Giovetti

 

Ethel last went into the studio for its 2006 Light, and while the fearless foursome has since been heard on discs like Oshtali, a collection of new works by Chickasaw student composers, it took them six years to return with their next solo album, the complementary Heavy.

 

To be sure, the wait was worth it: The ensemble, which at the time of recording still included its recently-retired violinist Mary Rowell, sounds at its best in this harmonious marriage between a New-York–based quartet and a bevy of New-York–based composers. And whereas Light opened with lithium-laced strings reaching further heavenward, there is a more basal instinct with Heavy’s first track, Don Byron’s sexily curvaceous String Quartet No. 2, “Four Thoughts on Marvin Gaye.” The work goes far beyond the singer’s hallmark “Let’s Get it On” and delves into the many facets of his personal life: a growling Don Juan onstage ultimately killed by his father offstage. What other word is applicable but heavy?

 

Fascinating rhythms dominate the whole of the disc, which moves into John Halle’s Sphere[‘]s before aurally etching Julia Wolfe’s Early That Summer, music that is the sonic equivalent of Henry James meets Virginia Woolfe. There’s a down-and-dirty crunchiness to John King’s No Nickel Blues and a kinetic edginess to Raz Mesinai’s La Citadelle, offset by a balmy coolness of David Lang’s string quartet arrangement of Wed and Kenji Bunch’s String Cycle 1.

 

By the time Ethel closes up with an engrossingly intricate Rounds by Brazilian-born Marcelo Zarvos, they’ve given us a compact history of their 14 years as an ensemble, embracing whatever cultures and genres catch their fancy and unifying them through a handful of strings stretched over four cavities of wood. And no matter how far they travel to catch those sounds, it’s nice to see that they can also go home again.

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Spring Classical Review Roundup: Erdem Helvacioglu: Eleven Short Stories (Innova)

Spring Classical Review Roundup: Erdem Helvacioglu: Eleven Short Stories (Innova) | Difficult to label | Scoop.it
Turkish composer Erdem Helvacioglu (b. 1975) started out in a prog-rock band (Too Much), switched to electronic music (though he is currently in another rock band, Rashit), and now has made this album of music for prepared piano (at times he also plays inside the instrument, directly on the strings). While Eleven Short Stories inevitably brings to mind the piano music of Henry Cowell and John Cage, Helvacioglu's electronic-music outlook has influenced its sound and process; whether because of that or actual influence, "Shattered Snow Globe" resembles Brian Eno's Music for Airports in its textures and deployment of kaleidoscopic patterns. Helvacioglu's pieces here are very concerned with sound, of course, and the sparely deployed sounds have plenty of room to be appreciated. This space and his careful recording combine to create a sort of sonic halo around his music’s events. Those events come in a wide variety of manifestations, from meditatively tuneful pieces such as "Will I Ever See You Again" (which does get grittier near the end) to "Trapped in the Labyrinth," a series of percussive noises. That's not for everyone, of course, but this is an intriguing album that obliterates genre boundaries and often creates music of quiet beauty.
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Alive and Composing: John Yao

http://www.innova.mu/albums/john-yao-quintet/now...
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Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review: Ethel, "Heavy:" Avant Metal and Other Iconoclastic Post- Works for String Quartet

Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review: Ethel, "Heavy:" Avant Metal and Other Iconoclastic Post- Works for String Quartet | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Ethel, "Heavy:" Avant Metal and Other Iconoclastic Post- Works for String Quartet

 

We are in a period of experimentation and flux for modern concert music, no less so than in the '60s if you look for it. The Kronos and Turtle Island String Quartets have experimented for some time with the incorporation of rock, jazz and world musics (with their handmaiden minimalism) into the quartet repertoire. The quartet Ethel is another one of the groups that has dedicated themselves with success and acclaim to the new explorations and they give us their latest traversal of unusual works in this vein on their release Heavy (Innova 820).

 

This is their third album since their formation 14 years ago. It's a wildly unpredictable ride through the newest new compositions by Don Byron, John Halle, Julia Wolfe, John King, Raz Mesinai, David Lang, Kenji Bunch and Marcelo Zarvos.

 

Heavy is well-named. The music sometimes has the weight of amp-overloading metal, with insistence and torque. Other times there are lighter, more ethereal sounds to be heard. Blues-rock-ethnic tonality spiced with dissonance and tonal/textural contrast, repetition and change, themes taken from Thelonious Monk and Marvin Gaye, and a general post-classical attitude are what you hear and feel.

 

It's bracing, it's healthy, and the quartet plays with edgy brio and subtlety combined. It is what New York is, the center of creation (if you'll have it) where anything goes if it is done well. And this is a fine example of the now that New York remains. And it is done well. Very well indeed.

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ATTN:Magazine » Review: Jeremy Haladyna – Mayan Time Mayan Tales

ATTN:Magazine » Review: Jeremy Haladyna – Mayan Time Mayan Tales | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Magic is materialising within the drip and splash of water on cold stone, illuminating the leaky cave walls in brief and sporadic bursts. One imagines the sound as a mysterious light that flashes throughout the pitch black, dancing with a vibrancy that gifts life and activity to a predominantly dormant and hollow space. The first three movements of Mayan Time Mayan Tales – entitled “Princess Of The 9 Cave” – represents time in the form of Haladyna’s 37-note “2012 scale”, which plunges into 3114BC at its lowest note and hits the present day at its highest. Alien electronics embark both up and down this scale, surging forward and backward through time, twisting Mayan history into mere seconds of glistening electronic tone; the souls of the dead resound into life and then vanish, secluded within a cave that seemingly operates independently from time’s linear unfolding.


Mayan Time Mayan Tales most engrossing at points such as this: when Mayan myth and spirit materialises as sonic forms of equally mysterious character. “The Crystal Skull Of Lubaantum” is another such example. Every sound is literally crafted out of glass – brittle percussive taps of glass rods on glass, cold whistles of water glass harmonica – operating on a scale that even in itself feels crystalline. Sound floats wondrously bent shapes, striking upon harmonics and overtones that feel as pure and clean as the source material from which they derive. It’s as visually evocative as the “Princess…” pieces, only instead of a damp cave arising in the imagination, it’s a crystal cavern of spotless transparency and beautifully carved edges, somewhat unsettling in its dazzling symmetry.

 

And while just as much conceptual forethought goes into each one of these pieces, those that utilise mostly classical instrumentation (piano most recurrently) feel somewhat less immersive. Dissonance and erratic dynamic feel like the product of musical composition as opposed to the channelled practices and narratives of Mayan mystique, while Haladyna’s extensive descriptions of concept and musical motive evoke mere understanding and acknowledgement of their poetic meaning rather than an instinctive, enveloping belief in them. He is an excellent conjuror of concept, and Mayan Time Mayan Tales is a very potent work when Haladyna permits this to inform every aspect of his work.

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