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Reviews » Chain D.L.K.

Reviews » Chain D.L.K. | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Many of you may not be familiar with American minimalist composer, visual artist, photographer and film maker Harley Gaber (1943-2011), and until receiving this, his final release (as far as I know), neither was I, although his name has surfaced here and there on the Chain D.L.K. website from time to time. Gaber studied music with Horace Reisberg, Darius Milhaud, Lejaren Hiller, Aldo Clementi, Franco Evangelisti, Giacinto Scelsi, Giulio Rotoli, William Sydeman, and Kenneth Gaburo. Gaber's handful of releases goes back as far as 1972, but his body of work seems to be larger than that. He quit composing in 1978 to devote himself to tennis, but did manage to return to music for 3 final albums beginning in 2009. Harley Gaber committed suicide on June 16, 2011 in Gallup, New Mexico after putting his affairs in order and paying for his website domain name 10 years into the future. (Odd, in my opinion, for someone not planning to be around very long.) The reasons for his suicide are complicated, but could be attributed to a deteriorating physical and mental condition. This work, 'In Memoriam 2010' was commissioned by Dan J. Epstein of for his mother Nancy Epstein (1920-2010), the widow of Chicago real estate financier Julius Epstein who passed away in 1968. Nancy and Julius started the Stephen David Epstein Foundation, which provided financing to hundreds of underprivileged children in the fine arts, hence the connection with music and this commissioned work.

 

The raison d'etre for this work is not as important though as the work itself, or as Gaber's swan song to the world. The track titles of this nearly 64 minute piece in six parts have an apocalyptic overtone, while the sound of the album is rather a dichotomy; a blend of the tranquil yet distressing, perhaps a metaphoric death, and surrender to the void. Not having any basis of comparison to Gaber's other works, I can only evaluate 'In Memoriam 2010' on its own. Frankly, when I first listened to the CD (with no knowledge whatsoever of its background or intent) I found it'¦difficult, and somewhat distressing, especially in the beginning. The track that opens the work- 'cataclysm and threnody' is akin to being jettisoned into space via Star Trek transporter, destination unknown. Actually, it's more like being stuck in the transporter with no hope of ever rematerializing. The sustained higher frequency ringing tones make for uneasy listing to say the least, and that this track goes on for 16 minutes is indeed and exercise in fortitude. There is a mix of other modulated noise, cosmic winds perhaps, giving the impression of motion through some kind of tunnel or wormhole. Imagine an interstellar subway, the express train. It's a rough ride on a smooth vehicle, an unlike anything I've ever heard before. The piece glides into 'threnody and prayer' with only subtle variations and a lessening of the peripheral noise elements. Fortunately, the piece turns down the dynamics but the high frequency drone is still the major element.

 

The tone and timber shifts dramatically in 'ground of the great sympathy:aftermath' with low frequency drone and the higher whistling drones set in the background. There is eeriness to this track as other subtle sonic elements come into play that are very dark ambient-ish- alien angelic voices, echoed noise, etc. For me, there is where things started getting really interesting. Categorizing it as 'cosmic dark ambient' would not be off the mark. The piece transits seamlessly into 'in-formation,' where there seems to be an uneasy yet peaceful atmosphere. The tonalities Gaber employs here are tenuous and ethereal, and you'd barely know they're there without turning up the volume, but I wouldn't recommend it. While 'coalescing' may seem like a hardly noticeable transition again, there are sonic differences in this section that could be indicative of discovering life'¦out there'¦just not the kind of life you're familiar with. There is this sound I can only describe as 'cosmic crickets' that accompanies much of the track which feels like space travel. Perhaps it's inner space though; it's all a matter of perspective. Finally 'with completion' seems to give birth to new lifeforms taking shape and swirling in the void, growing and expanding.

I suppose the album could be considered a metaphor for death transiting into new life, and in that regard it succeeds. Yet, as with concepts of life and death it is oblique and unfathomable, at least on this mortal coil. There is a chance that Harley Garber may have been unknowingly channeling the God-force in this work, and perhaps an equal chance that the artist knew exactly what he was doing, opting out after finishing this because in this space and time and life, there was nothing more that could be said or done that could have gone beyond what he envisioned. In any case, this is a deep and profound listening experience that may be best digested in time after multiple listenings.
id#6997 Review by: Steve Mecca

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Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review: Jeremy Haladyna, Mayan Time, Mayan Tales

Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review: Jeremy Haladyna, Mayan Time, Mayan Tales | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Things Mayan have been on people's minds since the story came out that the end of the world was predicted for this year according to their calender. Of course one might say they overshot the mark since Mayan Civilization in its classic Empire phase ended some time ago. However there are people who are susceptible to thoughts of the end, and so it gets talked about. I do not know enough about it to speak further, nor is it my place here to do so.

 

Nonetheless no doubt there is much to know about what the Mayans believed, what their cosmic world was like. Composer Jeremy Haladyna has immersed himself in this and continues to create music based on what he has learned, which he calls The Mayan Cycle. The second installation of said cycle is to be had on the new CD Mayan Time, Mayan Tales (Innova 818) and I've been listening to it with interest.

 

The press sheet tells me that the music contained here is fomulated according to "Mayan notions of time reborn as scales. And atop the scales, tales...." The time alotted to me to address music before seeking renumerative compensation precludes my immersing self and reader in the intricacies of all of this. I will leave that for the listener with time to do so.

 

There are seven sections to this part of the cycle. Each has a distinct ambiance, subject and instrumentation. I've listened all along without recourse to the programmatic information that the composer provides. There is much to be heard of note, meaning attached or no.

 

The first three movements have to do with the "Princess of the 9 Cave," and feature electronics and four-hand marimba. Movement four is for solo piano. Movement five, "The Crystal Skull of Lubaantun" is an electronic soundscape. The sixth, "Jaguar Queen" is scored for amplified soprano, singing in Yucatec Mayan from a traditional text, accompanied by piano and two percussionists. It sounds a little George Crumb-like. The soprano eventually strikes up a refrain similar to "Santa Lucia" and the marimba players pick up on that towards the end. The seventh movement has some dramatic music for organ and oboe, a sonorously striking combination.

 

The final movement, "Xtaj," is for amplified piano with effects, including apparently the overlaying of metallic objects over the strings of part of the piano for a richer percussive bite. There again I hear a Crumb influence in the use of space and reverberant semi-prepared piano. There is something more to it, however, that is Haladyna-esque. The phrasing can be denser, the rhythmic aspect more compact and actively turbulent.

Aside from the programmatic elements, this is a suite of widely diverging musical combinations and sounds. It is post-something (post-modern?) (or is it post-pre-modern?). At any rate Haladyna's musical personality comes into play as an eclectic but adventurous soul who, while getting at the heart of his Mayan explorations, gives us a wide-ranging, pleasingly sonorous set of musical vignettes charged with Haladyna's own brand of Mayan-ness.

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ETHEL’s CD release Heavy at Joe’s Pub April 24th.

ETHEL’s CD release Heavy at Joe’s Pub April 24th. | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Exactly a year ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing violinist/composer Cornelius Duffalo of ETHEL. The string quartet is a forerunner of the current movement interested in transforming how we experience classical music in the 21st century, questioning boundaries between tradition and technology, performer and audience.

 

Made up of traditionally trained, classical musicians, ETHEL has taken a post-classical personal approach to broadening the spectrum of their music making which the New Yorker calls “vital and brilliant.”

 

Their music represents a Pan-American exploration- reaching from Jazz and Native American influences, to New York’s contemporary responses to 9/11. Performing at alternative venues has also become part of ETHEL’s performance style, playing for younger audiences, who rather frequent pubs, than concert halls.

 

Their latest album Heavy (in answer to the previous Light) for the Innova-recordings label, recorded on April 24th at Joe’s Pub, feels like a celebration of the group’s longstanding and personal collaboration with composers of the contemporary New York music scene.

 

Dorothy Lawson, ETHEL’s cellist and founding member, describes the development of the group and shares her observation on the different aspects of this album. “We clearly have grown as a group; it is interesting for me to observe how different this album is compared to our first ones. The very first recording called Ethel we did after six years of performing together and we were still forming ourselves.

 

It was a document of the composers who helped us to get started as a group, like John King or Evan Zipporin. Four years later, Light was much more relaxed and lighthearted, more imbued with pop colors and rock. But this one now, Heavy, represents the post-classical world fully. It’s related to classical in its architectural way of designing music, in its generation through processes rather than stanzas. The classical mindset is about taking you on a journey or inquiry of some sort, taking the time for the problems and the solutions that the composer finds. The influences or composers we are pulling from do not convey traditional styles, or mainstream classical layers. We could call it a blend, which of course still does not really describe anything specific and we often did struggle with words to describe our personal style. But we clearly went through a transition – now people say this sounds like ETHEL. We are opening our platform to other cultures and it’s a process of true cultural exchange and a way to live with music in a special way.”

 

Some of the material on Heavy was performed by ETHEL beforehand, long before they were committed to the recording’s eighteen months long process. The recording includes works by Julia Wolfe, John Halle, John King, David Lang, Kenji Bunch, Marcelo Zarvos and Don Byron. The group’s longstanding member, violinist Mary Rowell, is featured on the release, but left ETHEL last year. She will make a guest appearance with ETHEL for John King’s No Nickel Blues featured on Heavy, at the release to be held at Joe’s pub.

 

But it is now violinist Jennifer Choi’s part, who has since become the newest ETHEL member, to perform all other works featured on the CD. “Being with ETHEL this past year, has been an eye opening experience for me,” says Choi, who describes herself as a big improviser and is immensely attracted to ETHEL’s multicultural approach to music, thereby supplying her with much added, creative stimulus. “It is new music to many people; the new album pays homage to New York City, but it’s not really limited to the New York experience. It is quite refreshing and people all over the United States can relate. And there is always a meaning behind our programs. As the newbie I was attracted to its American mix. For so many years we brought all the European composers over. Now there is a big wave of fresh, contemporary American music that should be interesting internationally, now.”

Supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and The Greenwall foundation, Heavy, according to ETHEL co-founder, violist Ralph Farris, serves as “homage to New York City, its people and its music.”

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Pocket reviews for April

Pocket reviews for April | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Erdem Helvacıoğlu – Eleven Short Stories

 

The prolific multi-instrumentalist composer/improviser turns to the prepared piano to evoke the work of 11 film directors (Lynch, Aronofsky, Lee, Kieslowski, etc.). There’s plenty of Helvacıoğlu‘s warm textures, deconstructed hints of ambient techno, and so on – but the underlying wood and copper of the piano gives it all an earthier, more grounded, and strangely more mystical sound. Some of his best work yet.

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www.hisvoice.cz - časopis o jiné hudbě - Erdem Helvacioglu: Eleven Short Stories

www.hisvoice.cz - časopis o jiné hudbě - Erdem Helvacioglu: Eleven Short Stories | Difficult to label | Scoop.it
HIS Voice je dvouměsíčník pro současnou hudbu bez žánrové segregace.

 

Ale abych nekončil takto negativně: Helvacioglu je plodný hudebník a usilovný hledač dalších zvukových zákoutí. I kdyby zůstal na této rovině a vytvořil další desítku podobných záležitostí, určitě by se proslavil. A nebyl by první, kdo by se dlouho a usilovně věnoval určitému, byť nepříliš progresivnímu pojetí, a koho by taková výdrž ověnčila oceněním. Přesto bych se vrátil k oné turecké inspiraci, o které jsem se zmínil. Tedy být jím.

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Prufrock's Dilemma: Into the Dazzling Air (Stream of Stars)

Prufrock's Dilemma: Into the Dazzling Air (Stream of Stars) | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Mattingly’s music is the air Contemporaneous breathes. Every note, every phrase, every shift in mood and meaning is fully felt and communicated. The performances on this fine CD bring Mattingly’s visionary magic to vivid life, and the pinnacle of that achievement is in Atlas...

 

When I listen to Mattingly’s music, I'm in the company of Harry Partch and Big Bill Broonzy, of Joni Mitchell, Lou Harrison, Bob Dylan, and John Adams—of Miles Davis and Woody Guthrie—of the great composers and musicians who make up America’s musical vernacular But Mattingly doesn’t rest on those traditions, for he, too, is an explorer. He stands on their shoulders and peers out to create a music as vital as it is new.

 

As for Atlas, though we can’t yet know what history will make of it, I hold fast to what I wrote before. Dylan Mattingly, young as he is, has, with Atlas, earned his place in the pantheon of contemporary American composers.

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Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog: Marc Rossi Group, Mantra Revealed

Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog: Marc Rossi Group, Mantra Revealed | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Marc Rossi has a take on Indian-influenced fusion that is thoroughgoingly sophisticated, eminently musical and well put-together. His Marc Rossi Group recording Mantra Revealed (Innova 816) gives us much to experience, admire, and enjoy. It's a core group of Marc on keys, Lance Van Lenten on tenor and soprano, Bill Urmson on electric bass, and Mauricio Zottarelli on drums and percussion. They are joined in important cameo roles by vocalist Geetha Ramanathan Bennett, and the guitars of Prasanna and Bruce Arnold.

 

This is the sort of fusion that derives its principal thrust from the compositional-arranging prowess of Mr. Rossi. The finely enthusiastic performances in general and the appropriate idiomatic solos from tenor, piano, vocals and guitars give the music depth and drive.

 

"Jazz Impression of a Kriti" starts off the program with great strength, taking an Indian Kriti (Carnatic compositional element) and transforming it into a well turned fused onslaught in ten with some remarkable guitar work by Prasanna, who plays a nuanced solo that is both informed by traditional Indian phrasing and blazes beyond it into a realm where it mixes with rock and jazz in a post-McLaughlin fashion. The two following pieces pit the limber vocals of Ms. Bennett with some sterling fused-ensemble writing.

 

The album continues on with an interesting cornucopia of ornate fusion compositions that bring in at times various well-conceived indo-fused elements, as well as Afro-jazz and a hint of Brazilian jazz. The second half of the album generally excels in the architectural intricacy of the melody lines, rhythmically heightened solo work and heavily burnished ensemble work. Bruce Arnold and Bill Urmson stand out for their work on "New Beginnings." "Sahara" has a Tyner-Sanders feel to it, grooves nicely and highlights some rather scorching Van Lenten soprano.

 

"Voice of 1000 Colors" has a very attractive Afro-Reichian beginning then segues to fused bossa. "Vertical Fantasy on 'You Know You Know'" gives Rossi a chance to comment upon, embellish and give his improvisational impressions of the classic McLaughlin line.

 

"Feast or Famine" ends the program on a nicely turned modulatory fusion mode.

 

In the end there are spots of sheer brilliance in the Indo-fused introductory pieces and then some very well wrought mainstream fusion in the following pieces. Rossi is a composer-arranger of great promise and definite talent. The performers give their all (which is a goodly sum) and you go away feeling happy. What more can you ask? Indo-fusologists will love the first half of this program; general fusicologists will appreciate it all I suspect. I reveled in the first half; enjoyed the second.

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Two CDs Feature Wesleyan Alumni Musicians

Two CDs Feature Wesleyan Alumni Musicians | Difficult to label | Scoop.it
Some Day Catch Some Day Down and Sunset Park Polyphony, two CDs released recently and produced by Wesleyan alumni, showcase the cross-pollination of world music and jazz at Wesleyan across decades, and specific collaborations of Wesleyan graduates and faculty for more than 30 years. The albums also reflect Abraham Adzenyah’s long contribution to the Wesleyan community as a teacher of West African music, and his deep influence on generations of Wesleyan students who now make up a large number of alumni.

 

Talking Drums CD


Some Day Catch Some Day Down by Talking Drums (innova Recordings) was originally released in 1987 as an LP and was reissued along with mp3 bonus tracks in 2011. Most of the members of Talking Drums were Wesleyan faculty, alumni, or graduate students. Formed by Abraham Adzenyah and co-led by the late Wesleyan African dance teacher Freeman Kwadzo Donkor, Talking Drums traveled throughout New England and across the United States, performing original works that brought together African pop, traditional West African drumming/dance, and jazz. The CD captures the infectious dance grooves, traditional drumming, and jazz—veering into the avant-garde—that defined the group’s distinct sound, based on compositions by its members.


Among the musicians appearing on the album and/or the mp3 bonus tracks are: Abraham Adzenyah MA ’79, Maxwell Amoh MA ’84, David Bindman ’85, MA ’87, Wes Brown ’74, Peter Chipello ’81, Freeman Kwadzo Donkor, royal hartigan MA ’83, PhD ’86, Rob Lancefield ’82, MA ’93, PhD ’05, and Ben Manley ’83. Lancefield, who is manager of museum information services at Davison Art Center, produced the original LP and the current reissue.

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PHILIP BLACKBURN – Ghostly Psalms

PHILIP BLACKBURN – Ghostly Psalms | Difficult to label | Scoop.it
In Philip Blackburn’s audible cosmos, the blurred recollection of foregone mental imagery and/or experiences represents a crucial factor; the compositional bulk of Ghostly Psalms is in fact typified by an oneiric temperament which belies the painstaking assemblage of constituents that characterizes them. This is especially manifest in the nine movements of the main opus, indeed derived from a complex dream that Blackburn had in 1982 which took almost three decades to set in adequate musical form. Hundreds of layered sources – instruments, voices and location recordings – generate sonic landscapes in which each listener can find points of entrance, associating individual evidences and memories to constantly morphing scenarios.

 

The result is comparable to a protracted hallucination, distinguishable traces emerging from the indefinite awareness of a somewhat mystical inscrutability. Orchestral elements such as Ellen Fullman’s long strings, organs, choirs, Asian reeds, diverse types of self-made apparata and voices – intelligible or not – become transitory guide lights of sorts across various stages of intellectual disarray, also enhanced by the composer’s liner notes replete with citations and references but absolutely ineffective in giving an idea of how the whole sounds. Translating dreams into words is an ever-impossible task but the music gets nearer, letting us perceive vivid glimpses of how another being attempts, to use Blackburn’s own narration, to parse the universe. Maybe Jean-Claude Eloy could be a helpful, if vague parallelism in terms of general sonority. A note of curiosity: while I was listening to this piece on the train, some of the harsher harmonic clusters escaping from my headphones caused a couple of idiots (male and female) to tap my shoulder and ask me to lessen the volume, something that not even Peter Brötzmann and Borbetomagus had managed to achieve until now. The unfortunates were promptly told to go where the sun never shines, should someone have any doubt.

 

Whereas the conclusive “Gospel Jihad”, based on two contrasting groups of singers (one performing more or less traditionally, the other literally spitting venom while dissecting “bellicose” incitements transcribed from old hymns) appears as “dramatic art” rather than “rendition of a score” – and, in truth, Blackburn’s best description is that of a man who “likes the acoustic coupling of sound and space” in the inner leaflet – the initial “Duluth Harbor Serenade” is perhaps the most immediately impressive work on offer here, inexplicably forgotten in the lone “authoritative” review read about this CD to date. Constructed as a titanic gathering of human and environmental activities explicated in circa eight minutes recorded on Labor Day’s Weekend of 2011, it’s an engrossing procession of noisy machines, tooting ship horns, lifting bridges and truck brakes mixed with Tibetan and French horns, gongs, “semi-submerged chimes” and too many additional phenomena to be listed in a writeup. The perfect snapshot of a place that, according to the instigator, “resounds with messages and signals, communication codes, and noises with meaning” which “reflect from the hills or are carried over open water depending on the wind direction”. - Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

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Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review: The Eleanor Hovda Collection

Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review: The Eleanor Hovda Collection | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

If like me, you have somehow managed largely to miss the music of Eleanor Hovda (1940-2009) you are in for a nice surprise. Innova has amassed a four-CD collection of her music, The Eleanor Hovda Collection (Innova 808), and it is a revelation.

 

Ms. Hovda has a sense of musical space that at times is a bit East Asian. Like some Chinese, Japanese and Korean traditional classical music, the sound and its wrapping in musically reverberant silence can be integral to the effect. Her attention to the dramatics of sound production also has some Asian qualities. For her, the impact of the music need not reside in the dual contrast quiet/loud, though that can be part of her dynamic. Intensity of sound color versus a more "grey" quiescence, musically italicized articulation version a more everyday "Roman" ordinariness of sound, a more vertical than a horizontal orientation to the sound events, in the sense that there are a series of inter-related occurrences more than a linear narrative, these are a few of the things that set her apart.

 

Whether it's a matter of a single conventional instrument, an ensemble, an electroacoustic or electronically generated sound source, or a combination of any of these elements, her singular attention to sound sculpturing and the nature of that attention mark her as very much in her own musical world. It's as if you take some of the sheer sensual sound extensions of Crumb's and Cage's piano works and make that a basis, a starting point to go somewhere very much your own. She seems to do that. She also does not in her music draw brackets around "electroacoustic" and "conventional" sound production. She approaches both from a kind of uniformly personal stylistic perspective. All become Hovda.

 

The four CDs of the set include so much music of interest that I don't think I can easily highlight the high points without over-encumbering this review with too many details. Suffice to say that there is some startlingly singular music generated throughout. It is one vast soundscape in some ways, each piece a part of a larger whole which encompasses all. And that whole reveals a composer we need to hear with concentration.

 

I believe that The Eleanor Hovda Collection is destined to join the ranks of the most important releases of this decade in the "New Music"/"Avant Classical" categories. It contains some remarkable music. It should go a long way in establishing Ms. Hovda as one of the more important sound artists/composers of our era.

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ANNE LEBARON: 1, 2, 4, 3 – Ensemble/ Anne LeBaron, harp etc. – Innova (2 CDs) - Audiophile Audition

ANNE LEBARON: 1, 2, 4, 3 – Ensemble/ Anne LeBaron, harp etc. – Innova (2 CDs) - Audiophile Audition | Difficult to label | Scoop.it
(Anne LeBaron — harp, flute, electric harp, percussion, ukelele; Wolfgang Fuchs — contrabass clarinet; Ronit Kirchman — violin, mouth whistle; Torsten Mu˝ller – bass; Leroy Jenkins — violin, amplified violin; Chris Heenan — alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Paul Rutherford — trombone; Georg Grawe — piano; John Lindberg bass; Kristin Haraldsdottir — viola; Nathan Smith — clarinet/bass clarinet; Kiku Day — shakuhachi; Kanoko Nishi — koto; Earl Howard — electronics)

 

Anne LeBaron is a composer and performer whose place in the current new music firmament (by whatever classification) is sonically radical. She has received heaps of prizes, awards and grants. On her two disc set 1, 2, 4, 3 imagination and improvisation are the keys to what she has gathered on 18 tracks, some live and some studio. There are solos, duets, quartets and trios which are unlike anything you have heard before, unless you follow the most contemporary of serious modern composers.

 

Then there is the impressive collection of both exotic and familiar instruments. The Japanese shakuhachi is an end-blown bamboo flute. The koto, similar to a zither, has 13 strings stretched over a rectangular sounding board with moveable bridges to adjust the pitches. It is the national instrument of Japan. There are times when you would find it difficult to identify particular instruments due to their ‘prepared’ nature or the method being used to play them.

Think of ‘prepared’ instruments, as in John Cage’s ‘prepared’ piano, particularly in terms of LeBaron’s prominent ‘prepared’ harp. In her jewel box notes, LeBaron explains her deconstruction of the harp as finding ways to prepare it, bowing on different types of strings (steel wound wires, gut and nylon) and slithering around on them.

 

Listen for microtonal effects which sound like East Indian music and Indonesian gamelan music or Oriental-influenced Western music by Karlheinz Stockhausen or Lou Harrison.

 

What she says unites these pieces is “…the aesthetic of spontaneous improvisation.” The participants agreed to create music with no pre-conditions other than the instrumental configurations for each number. She adds, “All the pieces are therefore co-composed by all participants, taking shape in real time.”

 

So far, her explanations made sense, but my understanding stopped when I read the following: “Anne LeBaron, composer and performer, writes music embracing an exotic array of subjects that encompass vast reaches of space and time, ranging from the mysterious singing dune of Kazakhstan, to investigations into the physical and cultural forms of extinction, to legendary figures such as Pope Joan, Eurydice, Marie Laveau and the American Housewife.” Indeed.

 

So what does all of this sound like? Well, it is not Beethoven or Duke Ellington. In fact, there is a distinct possibility that LeBaron’s improvisations are so abstract, so spontaneous and so solipsistic that they are not music in any traditional sense.

She is not alone in this post-modern, post-minimalist musical world, however. Not a few contemporary composers are explorers, searching for some elusive Northwest passage to a musical Nirvana. These are chance creations: Coherence is not an attribute of these works. There are no melodies or tunes. So it seems LeBaron is sailing in the same direction as others.

 

The sound is very good, considering the fact the tracks were recorded over time (eight years) in various locales. If this kind of sonic activity appeals to you, go for it and give these CDs a whirl.

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The Wire: Adventures In Sound And Music: Blackburn's Ghostly Psalms

The Wire: Adventures In Sound And Music: Blackburn's Ghostly Psalms | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Blackburn’s background as a Cambridge chorister, his associations with Henry Brant and Pauline Oliveros, and his work with the Harry Partch archive, might feel like a cultural divide too far. But his choral piece, Gospel Jihad, described as an “a cappella work for two rival choirs” and performed by the choir of Clare College, Cambridge, suggests that’s our problem, not his. The piece evokes an Ivesian spirit as one choir plays it cool against the fervent, unhinged fire and brimstone message of hymnal texts. That Blackburn contrives an ‘anti’ end, where it’s all left hanging, tells its own story. Ghostly Psalms itself was begun in 1982 and only completed in 2010 as Blackburn finally pulled all its disparate sources together. Scored for large choir, organ, and ‘unusual instruments’ – including wind-powered fishing-line harps and Ellen Fullman’s 80 foot long string instrument ¬– is perhaps self-consciously trippy, but Blackburn reins in his apocalyptic collisions of material with intimate vocal refrains and meticulously organized instrumental interludes. – Philip Clark, The Wire

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Gramophone (April 2012) Ryan Scott performs Maki Ishii

Gramophone (April 2012) Ryan Scott performs Maki Ishii | Difficult to label | Scoop.it
Publication: Gramophone, Issue: April 2012...

 

Ishii Saidoki (Demon), Op 86. Concertante, Op 79. Percussion Concerto, ‘South – Fire – Summer’, Op 95 Ryan Scott perc Esprit Orchestra / Alex Pauk Innova F INNOVA 809 (52’ • DDD) Recorded live

 

Scott’s percussion versus Esprit’s orchestra in live Ishii

 

The late Japanese composer Maki Ishii devoted much of his creative life to works featuring percussion that fuse Western and Eastern traditions. On his new recording, Ryan Scott is soloist in three pieces demonstrating Ishii’s heightened skill at conjuring a spectrum of sonic worlds. These mesmerising scores find metallic and wooden percussion instruments alternating, blending and often entering into battle with the orchestra. The music veers from the most delicate washes of sound to cataclysmic eruptions. The demon that gives Saidoki its title is depicted through extremes of activity, bold juxtapositions and textures constantly in flux. As the soloist (portraying the demon) revels in fierce and delicate passagework on a panoply of instruments, the orchestra holds its own in Ishii’s broad palette of colours.

 

In the Concertante, the solo marimba collaborates or collides with instruments played by six percussionists. The rhythms are complex, the atmospheres ethereal or shattering and the range of hues wide. Ishii provides intriguing contrasts through glistening, hollow and hard sonorities. The composer’s universe is at its most expansive in the percussion concerto subtitled South – Fire – Summer, which melds Japanese and Western elements. The marimba again is prominent, along with numerous other percussion instruments, which the soloist plays in tandem with and against the orchestral forces.

 

At the centre of these live performances, Ryan Scott is a chameleon-like virtuoso who triumphs over the varied colouristic demands and technical challenges. Scott is joined by superb colleagues in the Concertante and elsewhere by the Esprit Orchestra, led by Alex Pauk, who make exceptionally lucid and powerful contributions. -Donald Rosenberg

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Alive and Composing: Guy Klucevsek

Philip Blackburn interviews composer/accordionist Guy Klucevsek on the occasion of the release of his album The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour http://www.i...

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MC MAGUIRE - Nothing Left to Destroy

MC MAGUIRE - Nothing Left to Destroy | Difficult to label | Scoop.it
This is, presumably, the future of 'classical' music as the postmodernist illuminati see it: a multi-layered wall of computer-generated sound literally and symbolically drowning out the Old Ways, as represented by Benjamin Bowman's violin and Douglas Stewart's flute. Innova describe this disc as "electro-acoustic, ethno-death-metal, versus environmental, classical-fusion-electronica in a UFC cage [not John-] match": it is not for those who have not wholeheartedly embraced the cultural homogenisation of the "iPod generation".

 

The first track, all 35 relentless minutes of it, is The Discofication of the Mongols, which, so it says, "concerns the loss of all indigenous culture to the monolith of western pop music" - how ironic that MC Maguire's creation comes across as a glorification of that undeniable truth. Benjamin Bowman surely could not have been listening to the computer content during recording, otherwise the mind-altering qualities of the überpop soundtrack would have induced violin rage. For a brief moment, after 17 minutes, the Death by Disco treatment inflicted on the listener seems to have ended, only to lurch back into gaudy life again - that was only the halfway mark!

 

Any mercy accruing from the fact that the second track is shorter by ten minutes is negated by the repetitious splicing - 'mashing' is the word of the moment, though 'garrotting' would also do - of three Gershwin tunes that Maguire's parents apparently played over and over when he was a child. S'Wonderful (That the Man I Love Watches over Me) was written in his mother's memory, but it is hard to believe that she or Gershwin would have particularly appreciated what he has done to them here: more chopping-changing sampling, manic electronic beats, a post-structuralist's spot-the-reference heaven, and a flute struggling to be heard.

From a technical point of view, the scale of the soundworlds is undeniably impressive - up to 300 tracks, according to Innova, and a decibel level to match at times. Sound quality is excellent. The booklet gives no information at all about MC Maguire - Innova's website describes him (or maybe her) as a "Toronto based electro-acoustic manipulator who has worked in every medium and genre as a composer/producer/engineer" - but there is plenty of pretentious stuff - and nonsense - about the two tracks.

 

Musically this is, despite the interesting soloist lines heroically performed by Bowman and Stewart, less interesting than listening from a bedroom window to an ice cream van going round the neighbourhood. Those who are fascinated by this kind of 21st century mumbo-jumbo will find all manner of references - 'intertextualities' - and semiotic rummage. MC Maguire will likely attract the same kind of cult following, just as unwarranted, as Frank Zappa. This is a CD only for the 'down' and trendy, then: before purchase, proof of smartphone ownership and popular Facebook account must be provided as a bare minimum.

 

Byzantion

Read more: http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2012/Apr12/Maguire_Destroy_Innova813.htm#ixzz1rq7mNsAL
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Dedication - Prism Quartet | AllMusic

Dedication - Prism Quartet | AllMusic | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

With one exception, Matthew Levy's set of Three Miniatures (which marks a kind of interlude), all of the short pieces on this album were commissioned by the PRISM saxophone quartet in commemoration of its 20th anniversary in 2004. As such, the album marks a little survey in miniature of the state of concert music at that time, at least setting aside the spheres of electronic music and of tonal neo-Romantic crowd-pleasers. You could buy it with that in mind rather than out of sheer admiration for this crack ensemble, who have done for saxophones what the Kronos Quartet did for strings. Yet the range of music only goes to show how versatile the group is, and in the end the album is a virtuoso display. Consider the controlled violence in a work like Gregory Wanamaker's speed metal organum blues (which sounds just about like you might expect from the title), the peppy cross rhythms of Jennifer Higdon's Bop, the humor of Frank J. Oteri's four-movement Fair and Balanced?, and the lyricism of Adam B. Silverman's Just a Minute, Chopin, for starters: all of these little works receive committed, precise performances, and there really are few dull moments on the entire 26-item program. Fans of funk-jazz saxophonist Greg Osby may be interested purely because of the alternate versions of his Prism #1 (Refraction), on which he joins the PRISM quartet. Highly recommended.

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Alive and Composing: Marc Rossi and Mantra Revealed

Philip Blackburn interviews Berklee professor, pianist, composer Marc Rossi on the occasion of his innova CD release, Mantra Revealed. http://www.innova.mu/a...
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Music professor raises voice in debut solo album | The Pendulum

Music professor raises voice in debut solo album | The Pendulum | Difficult to label | Scoop.it
It’s not every day that you get to perform on tour in Italy — twice. Nor is it every day that you record a debut solo album on a major record label.

 

Polly Butler Cornelius, senior lecturer of music and voice at Elon University, has done both of these things, with the release of her classical CD, “Wild Songs,” coming April 24.

 

“I’ve always been musical,” Cornelius said. “I just can’t do anything else.”

 

Cornelius, a soprano, said she was overjoyed to collaborate with composers on the official label for the American Composers Forum, Innova Recordings.

 

“About five years ago, I started finding my niche with premiering songs by living American composers,” Cornelius said. “I wanted to celebrate their work, and I found that I had a calling to do that.”

 

The album is also a plea for the environment, Cornelius said. The set of three “Wild Songs” is commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation to raise awareness about the environment. The other songs on the CD are based on Emily Dickinson’s poetry and a I Corinthians verse from the Bible.

 

“There are lots of themes related to nature and love,” she said. “And the songs aren’t weird — they’re very beautiful.”

 

Cornelius collaborated with several Elon faculty members on the album, including Victoria Fischer Faw, a professor of music who provided piano accompaniment for most of the songs. Although this was their first recording project, the pair has a rich history after touring in Italy together twice.

“Traveling as a performer is challenging but wonderfully rewarding,” Faw said. “Polly and I have always had a deeply intuitive response to each other when we’re performing. That doesn’t always happen, but we have it.”

 

Though Cornelius thought performing American songs in Italy might be risky, she said the audiences loved them and she was glad to perform successfully on an international scale. One of Cornelius’ favorite experiences was performing for middle school students in a 14th century concert hall in Foligno.

 

“It was the most appreciative audience I’ve ever performed for,” Cornelius said. “They went crazy and wanted to get our autographs. I really felt like a respected international performer.”

 

But music isn’t Cornelius’ only passion. She also loves teaching and watching her students grow as artists, including junior Natalie Dupuis, one of Cornelius’ voice students.

 

“She is a wonderful teacher who places a lot of emphasis on getting to know us personally,” Dupuis said. “She works so hard and she has a beautiful voice, so it’s thrilling to be able to celebrate this great accomplishment with her.”

 

And even if a student isn’t majoring in music, Cornelius said she wants to be sure her students have a lifelong love and appreciation for such a significant art form.

 

“I think music is a universal language,” Cornelius said. “And as a universal language, everyone enjoys some sort of music. Imagine going to the movies and not having a film score playing. Music is all around us and it feeds the soul.”

 

Cornelius will be signing copies of “Wild Songs” at a release party for the album, which is available for presale now. The party will take place at 4 p.m. April 22 at the Elon School of Law in Greensboro.
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Monsieur Délire: 2012-04-02: Erdem Helvacioglu

Monsieur Délire: 2012-04-02: Erdem Helvacioglu | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Of course I had to receive this new opus from Turkish composer Erdem Helvacioglu right after I broadcasted a one-hour musical profile on him on Délire actuel. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to broadcast an addendum, especially since this new CD is so enjoyable and different. Eleven Short Stories feature 11 short pieces for prepared piano. No electronics, no electroacoustics, only a concert piano, five microphones, and various preparations. The music is often slow-paced and meditative, with the sustain pedal depressed through out, in order to let every resonance unfold. The sound capture is perfect, the mood is quiet, and the beauty is palpable. Simple, meticulously-designed music.

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Vital Weekly 824 | Eleven Short Stories

Vital Weekly 824 | Eleven Short Stories | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Frans de Waard presents the experimental releases of the week:

 

For his eleven pieces for prepared piano, Erdem Helvaciouglu pays homage to some of his favorite film directors (Lynch, Kieslowski, Angelopoulos, Campion, Ki-Duk, Soderberg), but the titles do not refer to any of them especially, but rather scenes from movies. Me no film buff, I could say to which movies these scene belong. Turkish composer Helvacioglu has composed electronic music, which we reviewed in Vital Weekly 675, but here its the prepared piano, which he prepared with pencils, erasers, paper, plastic and metal spoons, knives, forks, drumsticks, guitar plectrums and slides, e-bows, metal plates, clapsticks, ear plugs, paperclips, a toy train and a 60s fashion magazine (in case you are ever near piano, you know what to try out, but be sure to use the strings inside). The music is throughout what I would lump in with the modern classical world, and John Cage never seems far away, but overall Helvacioglu has a melodic touch also, a melodic melancholiac touch that is. Indeed the sort of music you would imagine to go along art house movies - long open camera shots of an empty park, with one bench in the middle, with a person sitting on it. From the far right somebody walks slowly to the bench and 'Trapped In The Labyrinth' is the soundtrack. I can all too easily imagine that happening. Normally I am not the biggest lover of modern classical music, but for this lovely solo prepared piano I very gladly make an exception.

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WQXR - Q2 Music Album of the Week

WQXR - Q2 Music Album of the Week | Difficult to label | Scoop.it
The power of the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music aside, it's composers like Jennifer Higdon, Andrea Clearfield and James Primosch that help to make Philadelphia the sixth borough of New York.

 

Assembling these three composers together is another gem from the City of Brotherly Love, the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia under Alan Harler, on their newest release, Metamorphosis (which also features the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia). Despite the rather antiquated name, the MCP under Harler has expanded the repertoire of new works by American composers over the last 24 years, assembling three new commissions here that rise valiantly just in time for the choral influx of the spring holidays.

 

In Jennifer Higdon’s album-opening On the Death of the Righteous, you hear echoes of Verdian splendor with Britten-like modesty, unsurprising on both counts as Higdon wrote the work to accompany the former’s Requiem and set it to the text of John Donne, a favorite source material for the latter. However, Higdon’s own brand of unsettling sonorities, playful percusiveness and indulgently buoyant musical lines dominate the tone here.

 

On the Death of the Righteous presents an affirmative jumping-off point for Andrea Clearfield’s behemoth The Golem Psalms, a work shrouded in the mysticism of the Czech-Jewish source-legend but with smoky currents of mid-century jazz. The legend of the Golem, a living being created from inanimate clay, was a source material for several operas over the last century, however in a choral setting such as Clearfield’s—featuring the unsinkable Sanford Sylvan in the eponymous solo role—shows the real drama and tragedy of the individual against a crowd and what happens when both factions turn on one another (no small amount of credit is also due to Ellen Frankel, whose text teems with lyrical verse and emphatic empathy).

 

Wrapping up the package of destruction and deliverance is Primosch’s raging Fire-Memory/River-Memory, an outright indictment of war and its casualties. It bridges together the themes of Clearfield’s Golem and Higdon’s Righteous in an onslaught of vocal bravado tempered with cooler metaphysics that illuminate words by the late Denise Levertov. And in a season that, spiritually speaking, is all about redemption and resurrection, what more do you need.

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NewMusicBox » SXSW 2012 Postmortem

NewMusicBox » SXSW 2012 Postmortem | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

The Innova Records showcase the following night was held in the same “is this really a conference room?” venue as the FFA/NC show the previous evening. Kicking off the showcase was Prester John sounding every bit like the Presidents of the United States of America, if they were locked in a room for several years with a metronome, a monster work ethic, and a penchant for scales. I can only imagine that the phrase “quirky pop” is used from time to time in describing these guys, but it doesn’t do them justice. From fun tunes like “Fireman’s Drive Inn,” to the Zappa “Black Page“-esque (at least the intro) of “The Library Thief (with The Half Speed Cakewalk),” Prester John managed to maintain a sense of humor while displaying impressive chops. Sxip Shirey came on stage guns blazing, bearing train whistles, harmonica, prepared guitar, and an effects set up that sounded at times like trains in the distance (his description) and at others like the solo from “Owner of a Lonely Heart“ (my take, which I think is very cool btw…check 2:35). The Golden Hornet Project dusted off their Prokofiev (Sergei this time) arrangements (among the first pieces the group worked on when they formed) and dropped them, early Mr. Bungle-style, on the crowd. Their hyperkinetic mini big-band stylings, complete with pounding piano and killer horns, would have fit seamlessly into nearly any venue in town.

 

During the set change, Hall and Oates’ “Rich Girl” was playing over the P.A. and man, there was a lot of whistling and humming going on in that room. Just sayin’….

 

Todd Reynolds’s set was, for me, the highlight of an evening full of great performers and composers. His performance of Michael Lowenstern’s Crossroads was absolutely thrilling and had the audience positively grooving. Val-Inc’s Afro-electronica set included field recordings mixed with beats and a theremin-like control interface which made for a compelling show both visually and aurally. Finally Grant Cutler along with Innova’s own Chris Campbell laid a bit of an ambient mix on the audience, a fitting come-down to a very stimulating evening.

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Alive and Composing: Erdem Helvacioglu

Philip Blackburn interviews Turkish composer Erdem Helvacioglu on Alive and Composing, the Wonderful World of Innova, on the occasion of his 2012 release, Eleven Short Stories:

http://www.innova.mu/albums/erdem-helvacioglu/eleven-short-stories

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Arcane Candy » MC Maguire – Nothing Left to Destroy

Arcane Candy » MC Maguire – Nothing Left to Destroy | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

First there was MC Escher, then came MC Donalds (better known as Mickey D’s), followed by MC Hammer. Now, MC Maguire takes his rightful place upon the world (sound) stage. Like his previous album, Trash of Civilizations, Nothing Left to Destroy sprinkles a gleeful pee all over the world of genteel music-making as it pits a solo instrumentalist against a barrage of sound samples. Brandishing an ancient Chinese melody played on violin and four disco beats as its primary source material, “The Discofication of the Mongols” chronicles the progress of Western popular music as it steamrolls over traditional music around the globe. Rest assured, you can’t dance to this sonic onslaught–unless you’re in the midst of a grand mal seizure. “S’Wonderful” replaces the violin with a flute and really packs a stuttered punch! Combining the process of the medieval quodibet (the inclusion of popular melodies into a larger piece) and the current musical trend of mash-ups, this chaotic quilt digs up, transmogrifies and layers such sounds as MGM musicals, gangster movies, big bands and a seemingly endless amount more. Maguire’s music may sound cacophonous, but it is actually carefully composed. Fans of the INA-GRM label will love this stuff, and it would be fun to sneak this CD into the punk bin, what with its punk rock-looking album cover. If there really is nothing left to destroy, I wonder what MC Maguire’s next album will sound like?

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REVIEW: Marc Rossi Group’s “Mantra Revealed” | This Is Book's Music

REVIEW: Marc Rossi Group’s “Mantra Revealed” | This Is Book's Music | Difficult to label | Scoop.it

Personally, I think it’s great when jazz and Indian classical music combine to create a wicked fusion, and when it truly works, I tend to be blown away by its perceived strength and majesty. This is the case with Mantra Revealed (Innova) by The Marc Rossi Group. The album truly takes you to places you’ve either dreamed about or have visited before and want to go there again. Rossi’s piano work is nothing short of brilliant, and while both styles of music are rooted differently, it is that common ground that not only becomes a challenge but also a joy to listen to.

 

One theory I had read is that while jazz can be improvisational, and some styles of Indian classical music are open to any form of inspiration, both are distinctly different. Jazz musicians have been interested in the music of India for ages, and some Indian musicians have enjoyed being able to not only to listen and learn from jazz, but also to get involved whenever possible. Prasanna is a guitarist with a lot of work in his discography (including film scores), and here he takes to his instrument and approaches it by playing melodies that one might expect to hear from a sitar or sarod, understanding the specific time signature and going for broke while taking the song to very cool places. They all become journeymen, and you are a part of that journey.

 

The other songs are also great explorations of sound, my favorites on this include “New Beginings”, “Sahara”, and “Feast Or Famine”, and when Rossi opens up and starts getting deep into the emotion of the song, the listener truly feels it. His group assist him throughout, and it’s impossible to not say “I want to join along”. Mindblowing fusion without being “jazz fusion” as you may know or expect. I love this.

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