Friday, December 31, 2010

letting go of 2010

Thank you for visiting crow in 2010.

crow will return following a hiatus.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

don't worry please

The most terrifying thing in the world is to accept yourself exactly as you are.
~ C.G. Jung

don't worry please how many times do i have to say it
there's no way not to be who you are and where
~ Ikkyu, crow with no mouth, Stephen Berg, trans.

Now that I know what I want, I don't have to hold on to it quite so much.
~ Lucien Freud

Friday, December 24, 2010

in the superlative degree

I have been trying to ignore the insistent thoughts about a few oversights that attend every such favorites list, but alas. When thoughts like these own that dripping faucet quality, growing more insistent with every renewed effort to ignore them, surrender. Get up, turn on the light, attend to them.

I am remiss in not mentioning a few other releases that didn't get reviewed by year's end, but merited and received many spins. I won't amplify much, time won't permit it right now. My small amend here is that you might consider checking out several more that were omitted by dint of my time constraints, not through any shortcomings of their own.

Joe Foster/Kevin Parks

Acts Have Consequences
[no label]

This pair combine and balance a couple of elements that resist many improviser's efforts in similar waters- lucid, almost unerringly apposite sound placement, and the taking of huge risks- stealth and a fuck all attitude that results in their sounding like no one else. It is almost irrelevant to report the duo source their sounds from guitar, trumpet and electronics; that will matter little in your enjoyment of their fluid, intuitive music. Along with their 2009 net label release, Prince Rupert Drops, and Ipsi Sibi Somnia Fingnut from 2007, a major blow to much of the gutless conformity in experimental music, braiding, with intelligence and equanimity, abrasion and the still-point with equal authority.

Kostis Kilymis
Syndromes/Temporary Perspectives
[Organized Music From Thessaloniki]

Whether Kilymis intended it or not [he did, I'll wager], Syndromes is beautifully constructed mind-fuckery-I can easily claim my ears have been nourished [and damaged] by many strange sounds in many strange stereo fields over the many years. Syndromes offers numerous episodes in which I struggle to distinguish between the sounds issuing from Kilymis' mixing board, my immediate environment, and apparent, borderline distressing auditory hallucinations. In short, endlessly inventive stuff, sounding [whatever the reality is, I am far from fathoming how many of the sounds I write about are made] like Kilymis is employing fairly simple means for his episodic compositions. A cracked delight for ears unafraid of dislocation and a willingness to resign from the debate about what exactly is music. With Rossetto's Mineral Orange and the Lescalleet/Lambkin duo, Air Supply, one of the strongest concrete releases of 2010.


Dante Boon, piano
[Edition Wandelweiser]

I will limit my remarks for now to confessing to a near obsession with replaying Manion's Music For Solo Piano. Great programming overall, despite my fixation on Manion's magical time manipulation through touch and insistence.

Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet
Air Supply
[Erstwhile Records]

Numerous comments about this duo's second outing on Erstwhile have stated Air Supply is much darker, more sinister than their 2008 gem The Breadwinner. I'm not feeling that a bit. Both works own equal measure creaking, clanking unease, and near Estonian-minimalist gorgeousness. They are among the few working collaborations that have generated for me, in only two releases to date, heightened anticipation for their next move. I regard Lambkin as a sort of electro-acoustic Brion Gysin, and Lescalleet [spend a little time, as I did recently, wending your way through Forlorn Green, Mattresslessness, The Pilgrim and Love Me Two Times, all essential]-well, Lescalleet is flat-out brilliant, among my few favorite current musicians.

Consummatun est!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

we had everything before us, we had nothing before us

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
~ Charles Dickens

Dodging the "best of" rubric, let's say this-you tell me you can afford to purchase 21 releases from 2010; I send you this way. [There are 22 releases listed, as the Ural Umbro self-titled CD was remixed to great results and released as Latent Defects on cassette].

Composed works vie with improvisation on this round up, though that distinction means less and less to me personally, and I think to creative music's vitality. There are two jazz-based works that I hope receive more attention. The areas of music explored by the Wandelweiser collective are well represented, as are a few slices of the noisier points on the continuum.
Obviously I selected most of these for review this past 10 months. A few notable exceptions are included, and will, with any luck at all, be reviewed down the road. Discuss, enjoy, and give new music close and repeated listens in the new year.

Michael Pisaro
july mountain
[engraved glass]
2 seconds/b minor/wave
black, white, red, green, blue (voyelles)
[winds measure]

These three releases represent only part of Pisaro's 2010 output, having launched his own imprint [gravity wave, on which you can hear three versions of july mountain, including the original, first heard on this engraved glass edition] several months ago. I have written many words about Pisaro's sensibilities as a composer and musician-in fact, this inaugural year for crow feels intimately tied to Pisaro's work. Pisaro's frequent collaborators, percussionist Greg Stuart and guitarist Barry Chabala, have found a framework in which to advance some of their ideas about sound, silence and everything in-between. No one has yielded more musical pleasure at chez crow in 2010 than Michael Pisaro.

Ferran Fages/Alfredo Costa Monterio
Noranta Graus A L'esquerra
Ferran Fages
Lullaby For Lali
[Etude Records]

Fages received close attention from crow this year as well; an extended interview for Etude Records and several reviews. The attention is well deserved, the word count driven by the considerable range of Fages' musical projects-the ear-scrubbing of the perfectly-shaped noise heard on Cremaster's releases [a 2010 regret for me is not getting my review of Cremaster co-conspirator Alfredo Costa Monterio's amazing solo release on Etude, Aura, published by year's end]; and the tender duende of Fages' guitar work on Lullaby.

Claude Tchamitchian
another childhood

Michael Bullock/Andrew Lafkas
ceremonies to breathe upon
[winds measure]

Grouped together as two examples of three strong bassists who plumb the instrument for all it is worth. Tchamitchian's work was the real revelation, as I'd heard Bullock and Lafkas previously in a variety of contexts. The French bassist put my jaw on the floor, without a whiff of the worst tendencies of the virtuosic solo work.

Thomas Ankersmit
Live In Utrecht
[Ash International]

Pressed for a top pick of the year, I could argue for this one. Great real-time wrangling of the unwieldy and unstable sounds generated by a heavily-treated alto saxophone, shaped with masterful attention and raw power. Really exciting music, ridiculously representing Ankersmit's first proper release.

Jean-Luc Guionnet/Will Guthrie/Clayton Thomas
The Ames Room

As I laid out in my piece about The Ames Room, I am a free jazz apostate, long since burnt out on that area of music's mannerisms and spent cliches. I needed something like this trio's argument-settling passion and force to pull me back to the possibilities of energy music. Amazing playing all around, there are moments in which Guionnet's freak-range spirals raise the small hairs. The Ames Room is exultant, a celebration, not a capitulation.

Lucio Capece/Sergio Merce
[Organized Music From Thessaloniki]

Roto Vildblomma

This is the only listing in which I will indulge in a little country-of-origin pairing, the two impressive imprints releasing these discs being based in Greece; the first is a stellar drone duo work from Aregentinians Capece and Merce, the second a detailed and generously unfolding drone work from three Greek musicians too seldom discussed in the usual places. Beautiful stuff I would love to hear in situ.

Jason Kahn/Jon Mueller
[Flingco Sound System]

Two more musicians who have received the spotlight here. Deeply intelligent, nuanced and free-thinking individuals, their collaborations are well worth seeking out. It is always necessary for me to retune my ears listening to their work; they place, whether always by intention or happy accident, much of the beauty of their sound work deep within the white and pink squalls they kick up. Two percussionists restlessly engaged in the possibilities of noise.

Mike Shiflet
[Editions Shiflet]

I have gone to some length to unpack the very immediate, autobiographical dimensions I hear in this one. Shiflet has always, to my ears, been heading towards the epiphanies of Llanos; he needed a year in Japan to see, and sound out, the public spaces near his Columbus, Ohio home. A beautiful offering, maybe the best evidence you can offer a friend who is unpersuaded noise can own the rigor and elegance of, say, classical music.

Tomas Korber/Ralf Wehowsky
Walkurnen am Dornenbaum

Korber's several years of relative silence on the new releases front was making me nervous; it seemed he might have beat the retreat from the momentum he was riding from 2005-2008. He came back with a fist full of frags, a scorching collaboration with Wehowsky that is amazingly rich, detailed and complementary. PLAY IT LOUD!

Ural Umbro
Ural Umbro
[Utech Records]

Ural Umbro
Latent Defects
[Utech Records]

And this will be the listing in which I cheat a bit, in order to combine two companion works, and to say a few words about my fall/winter with the music of percussionist Steven Hess.

Latent Defects is a remix of Ural Umbro's self-titled album. Hess' companion in U.U. is Reto Mader, a Swiss musical polymath who has released a swell duo with Wehowsky. Polymath is advised here-Mader handles the bass guitar, horns, organ, strings, piano, kalimba, synthesizer, percussion, drums, tapes, and electronics in Ural Umbro The net effect of the pair's fondness for film scores [I hear the Goblins in their wackier moments], doom, and whatever placeholder for dark ambient is au courant, is a frequently anthemic, Sun O)))-meets-giallo-as-scored-by-Antonio Badalamenti-for-a-Mario Bava-remake kick in the head. Gorgeous stuff, even when it wears its atmospheres on its sleeve.

Along with Ural Umbro, the other 2010 Hess-related release was On's Something That Has Form and Something That Does Not [Type], Hess' long-standing duo with Sylvain Chauveau, produced by Fennesz.

I must cheat my own parameters here [ nothing released in 2010] to give a shout out for the amazing trio Haptic, with Hess, Adam Sonderberg and Joseph Clayton Mills. Haptic's run of a half dozen or so releases comprises, for me, much of Hess' finest work. The trio consistently achieve the richly textured gestalt many reach for, dislocating your ears and your expectations as to who is making what sound and with what sound-generator, to say nothing of the ballast they manage between ultra-minimalism and distressing, tension-filled episodes of noise. Haptic maintain the occasional AMM-like practice of testing this gestalt with a fourth guest musician, redirecting their sound and pressing them out of a collective comfort zone.

That Hess moves so fluidly between these [and other] projects, always subsuming his percussion to serve the music at hand, is remarkable. He can be an ecstatic pummeler of multiple crescendi, a covert contributor of nuanced cymbal sizzle and shimmer, and another presence sounding entirely electronic. Hess seems to me akin to Jack DeJohnette in his fluidity, ability to play in and out of time, and range of projects. I highly recommend you check Haptic, On and Ural Umbro for a taste of Hess' work.

Vanessa Rossetto
Mineral Orange
[Kye Records]

I offered a lengthy appraisal of Rossetto's run of releases on her own imprint [Music Appreciation] earlier this year. Along comes a slice of vinyl, late in 2010, on Graham Lambkin's Kye imprint. Like label mates Moniek Darge and Lambkin himself, Rossetto weaves together chamber-ish concrete, the unnerving and intimate sounds of our domesticity, cycling traffic, violin drone, bird caw and inchoate conversation through her oddly narrative-driven, but no less abstract, collages. I find her work endearing [if occasionally distressing] in that she reminds me a bit of Harry Partch-crafting her cabinet of wonders with the inventiveness of someone without access to a lot of resources, plundering hearth and home for her amplified zippers, aminal verbiage, and creaking string drones. The overall effect is fantastic, and fantastical. I am really enjoying Rossetto's developments and cheered to see that in 2010 she garnered a little press support and recognition.

Roberto Fabbriciani/Robin Hayward
nella basilica
[Another Timbre]

Extraordinary moments on this one, the auspicious debut on record of maestro Fabbriciani improvising [here with fellow Nono interpreter Robin Hayward]. The duo play the room [the magnificent basilica can be viewed on-line] with the alacrity and attunement of the best improvisers. Awash with an improbable sensuality and spirituality, AT head Simon Reynell arranged a perfect meeting and setting for two musicians who render irrelevant distinctions between the composed and the instantly imagined.

Terry Jennings/John Cage
Lost Daylight
[Another Timbre]

I have focused almost exclusively, in my listens through this jewel, to the 5 pieces by Terry Jennings. Composed from 1958-1965, long familiar to Lost Daylight's pianist John Tilbury and few others, these miniatures are astonishing. Bereft of anything extra, akin to Peter Garland's minimalist, process-based piano literature of roughly the same era, with a tributary in Satie and a lineage that snakes through current artists like Harold Budd, Simon Reynell has done us a great service making certain these sessions saw the light. I can't express adequately my regard for Tilbury's approach to the piano, without risking hyperbole-heard here, in his readings of Skempton and Feldman, or in his shattering work with AMM and Keith Rowe, he is in the company of my favorite few living musicians. This 30 minutes of Jennings' work reveals a complete and fully alive musical world, far ahead of his time, as Thomas Moore has it, existing in eternal time.

Eva-Maria Houben

Works For Piano

I am genuinely saying little about Houben's work, as it is my best intention to write about her in the new year. Suffice it to say she is a tone scientist, hyper-attuned to the sound of a sound's decay, and works here in the area of pedal science as if she were breaking down Feldman's sustains even further, truly tolling out the value of each tone. Amazing work, augmenting the cliched take on the silences of the Wandelweiser catalog with the just after of the blackbird whistling.

Eric La Casa
[Herbal International]

A fantastic compilation of location recordings from La Casa, spanning work he did around the world from 1998-2008. Sourced from water and wind, beautifully sequenced and presented, I will refrain from more, as I intend on writing about La Casa in 2011 as well. Will Guthrie told me once La Casa places his microphones like a pianist uses their finger pads, and I don't doubt it a whit. A great follow up to a La Casa-related favorite of mine, Metro Pre Saint Gervais, the subway sounds of La Casa, Eric Cordier and Dan Warburton.

Annette Krebs/Taku Unami

With two extant reviews of motubachii already [one for crow, the EP version for Paris Transatlantic], I risk more than overkill bringing this musical reynard up again. I'll say only this- motubachii has an unmistakable necessity about it, EAI's desidaratum at the end of its first decade. Perhaps my pick of the year, by that gauge.

...the just after of the blackbird whistling is a reference to Wallace Stevens' 13 Ways of Looking At a Blackbird.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

just to be there

Crow is going on hiatus.
Crow will return.
I have received a few elegiac notes [of support] from readers interpreting this post as a farewell to my writing about new music. Sorry for the confusion. When I will return to reviewing is unknown. I do intend on returning, however. The tone was intended as a summing up of 2010, with gratitude-12/21/10 addendum

I started here in late February 2010, intending to write as time allowed about some of the music I love, and whatever else captured my flickering attention. I have posted 35 pieces, averaging 932 words each. I feel good about that number, as I think the areas of music crow is concerned with generally get short shrift, whether the metric is of quantity or quality.
I have reviewed music from 16 countries, which is really just scratching the surface.
I have written nearly 33,000 words about music; needless to say, I am engaged in many other areas of life, so that seems like just the right amount.

I want to thank every musician and label owner who sent me music for consideration this year. I am unconflicted in my decision to publish only reviews about releases I liked.
I work at a pace much slower than my fellows, posting about one review weekly. I didn't know that when I launched crow, having never maintained a discipline of writing about music that is extremely difficult to say anything about. Try it, it's very difficult.
If I received music from you and you have not seen it published yet, I hope you'll wait awhile. I wrote about the releases I selected in the order received, that seems only fair. My queue is still full.

I want to thank every reader who visits crow. I see 30 plus countries in the stats at any given time. That is important to me, as the music I am most into involves global collaborations.

If you are yet interested in sending me something to hear, with the possibility of a review, please do so. I am sure I have made it clear the writing here has never been intended as quick marketing. I am privileged to be in touch with so many creative musicians who truly care fuck-all for the game, valuing first and foremost the real work.

That would be waving and that would be crying,
Crying and shouting and meaning farewell,
Farewell in the eyes and farewell at the centre,
Just to stand still without moving a hand.

In a world without heaven to follow, the stops
Would be endings, more poignant than partings, profounder,
And that would be saying farewell, repeating farewell,
Just to be there and just to behold.

To be one's singular self, to despise
The being that yielded so little, acquired
So little, too little to care, to turn
to the ever-jubilant weather, to sip

One's cup and never to say a word,
Or to sleep or just to lie there still,
Just to be there, just to be beheld,
That would be bidding farewell, be bidding farewell.

One likes to practice the thing. They practice,
Enough, for heaven. Ever-jubilant,
What is there here but weather, what spirit
Have I except it comes from the sun?

~Wallace Stevens, Waving Adieu, Adieu, Adieu

Monday, December 20, 2010

is never
what I think
that gives

Saturday, December 18, 2010

sound off the page

You see, I hear sound off the page.
~David Tudor

I did not see that we were going to a goal, but that we were living in process, and that that process is external. My intention to suggest that all things, sounds, stories (and, by extension, beings) are related, and that this complexity is more evident when it is not over-simplified by an idea of relationship in one person’s mind.
~ John Cage

I have been listening a lot lately to Taku Sugimoto and Michael Pisaro's recently released duo on Erstwhile,
2 seconds/b minor/wave. I want to post a few remarks separate from a review I am writing that may not appear for a good while. My thoughts are primarily loose threads around the edges of how the three compositions were made-the duo's working process, as I understand it-and a few tangents on that curve.

My thoughts are provoked nearly as much by a few brief e-mail exchanges with the two musicians, as by my close listens to the album.

Werner Meyer-Eppler was the Alan Freed of electro-acoustic music, coining the term aleatoric to describe some of the experiments occurring at Darmstadt in the mid-50s. Importantly, he articulated the parameters of aleatory music as something like
the concept is determined, the details are left to chance. Fixed control fused with the musician's fluidity; this is as apposite a description of Pisaro and Sugimoto's collaboration as any, I think.

2 seconds/b minor/wave are three 20 minute pieces that conform to the following ground rules [ as clarified for me via an e-mail from Pisaro, well before the album was released]:
  • We would work independently and then combine the results
  • We agreed we would write three sections of 20 minutes each
  • 2 seconds of pulse [as a basic unit or point of departure]
  • The key of b minor [harmony- which Taku took- and melody, which I took]
  • Wave- whatever that concept might mean
  • We said we'd try putting the pieces in separate channels [which is the way b minor and wave worked out]. But Taku made a stereo track for 2 seconds so I mixed him L/R and me center.
The e-mail exchanges about their collaboration started in February 2010; the ground rules were arrived at in June. Sugimoto sent Pisaro his contributions in August. Pisaro completed his in October, resisting the temptation to listen to his partner's files prior to completing his own.

I wrote Pisaro that I regarded this collaboration as inevitable, augured in remarks he made in his essay
Wandelweiser, published in September 2009 on the ErstWords site. I stated the same to Sugimoto, referencing his essay from 2006, Two Worlds, also appearing on ErstWords.

In his essay, Pisaro wrote
I'd like to say just a little about the relationship that has developed in recent years between Wandelweiser and some musicians from Japan. Some of these, in retrospect, had something like the aura of inevitability...Sometimes the concerns, if not the music, seem so similar as if to be identical; as if a group of ideas was circulating of which no one was directly conscious- as if they had no real point of origin and were able to place themselves anywhere they could fine a "host".

To my remark about inevitability, Pisaro replied,
It only seemed inevitable to me that Taku and I would collaborate after Jon [Abbey, the Erstwhile label honcho] suggested it. I wouldn't have thought of collaborating with another composer on an erstwhile project.

Sugimoto's response to my suggestion of my prescience about the pair teaming up is worth quoting here at length:
I had a toothache a week before I left Japan, so I had to go to a dentist. I chose an old fashioned clinic because I thought that few people visited this clinic, therefore I had not to wait for long time. My choice was inevitable though I could go to other clinic. I mean all the choices are regarded to be inevitable unless the result is unhappy.

Somehow, for me, it seemed entirely appropriate that Sugimoto would respond to a question about the pair's respective musical universes meeting, carried forward by the demi-urges of historical momentum and the aesthetic karma Pisaro hints at, with a dental analogy.

Just the other day I went to the dentist. Over the radio they said it was the hottest day of the year. However, I was wearing a jacket, because going to a doctor has always struck me as a somewhat formal occasion. In the midst of his work, Dr. Heyman stopped and said, “Why don’t you take your jacket off?” I said, “I have a hole in my shirt and that’s why I have my jacket on.” He said, “Well, I have a hole in my sock, and, if you like, I’ll take my shoes off."

~ John Cage, text from Indeterminancy

There is, at the conclusion of Pisaro's essay, this:
.I wonder if some of the most fragile seeds planted in the mid-century, by Cage and the experimental tradition...and by the quiet experimental tendencies in Japan [Toshi Ichiyanagi...] have, after spending many years underground started to spring to life, invisibly, everywhere.

I wonder this as well, listening through
2 seconds/ b minor/wave for the umpteenth time. That fluidity within a fixed form I referred to, the details left to chance, as Meyer-Eppler said, are self-evident in this duo's merged sound files. I expected a strange encounter of the melody with the harmony, Sugimoto wrote me, for Michael could never know my chord progression. You will, of course, need to hear b minor to grasp how right the aleatoric process sounds for Sugimoto and Pisaro. [Amusingly, I recently came across Boulez' 1957 essay, Alea, in which he distinguishes, in an insufferably prickish manner, between the right and wrong forms of chance operations, Cage's work being, naturally, an egregious example of the latter].

Alea; "dice";
alea iacta est
[the dice are rolled]
~ attributed to Julius Caesar

This was really a bit like casting the dice. It always seemed to me that it was possible for it not to work at all. But what started out sounding risky became an opportunity to discover a fundamental rapport.

This was Pisaro's response to my stating that the aleatory element of this project seems like a third presence in the collaboration. I submitted the same observation to Sugimoto, who replied
I think it is difficult to do what we aimed for... the third piece is what it is: two different pieces exist simultaneously—that is most difficult thing... I am satisfied with the result.

The other question I had for the two concerned how consciously they held the others' prior work in mind, while composing their respective parts. Pisaro's response is a fine, pith summing up of what many of Sugimoto's playing partners and listeners have discovered over the past decade-
I thought a lot about Taku's work. Based on that, it was clear to me that I wouldn't be able to predict or anticipate what he was going to do.

Sugimoto's reply was surprising, in a different way. I asked if his sound choices were guided at all by thinking of Pisaro's prior work. He replied

No. I composed each of my part as an independent piece. In fact the second piece—“b minor”—was composed not specially for the duo with Pisaro. I have played this piece alone, and also with Moe Kamura adding the melody which I composed.

Akin to David Tudor's 1959 collaboration with Cage,
Indeterminancy, Pisaro and Sugimoto's three pieces are framed by their pre-arranged duration- Cage's texts, overlapped with Tudor's music, separately recorded and unheard piano and electronics, were concise 60 second episodes; Pisaro and Sugimoto's are, as mentioned, 20 minutes. It is left to each listener's ears to gauge the resulting fit. As I said at the outset, I will reserve my remarks about the sounds for my review. It is this living in process, as Cage had it, the relatedness of things, that is stunning about Pisaro and Sugimoto's music.

In a 2004 interview, Jason Kahn, who by then had known and worked with Sugimoto for at least six years, said about the guitarist, I have the feeling - and I can only speculate here as we don't often talk about music when we see each other - that he's going after a certain sound, really trying to get to the essential sound he wants to hear.

As each of these musicians has continued going after their essential sounds, whatever either will say about inevitability, the aleatory or the chance operations and vicissitudes that produce such partnerships, mention should be made of Jon Abbey's role in facilitating this project. Sugimoto has traveled a distance from the approach and sound of his last studio release on Erstwhile, 2001's The World Turned Upside Down. Abbey's greatest gift in producing new music seems to be his imagining and brokering of pairings that, as Pisaro said of this collaboration, would otherwise not happen. In the decade that each musician has been active since Sugimoto's last Erstwhile release, Pisaro and Sugimoto's parallel play has brought them to this year's avatar of indeterminancy, 2 seconds/b minor/wave. Like Toshi Ichiyanagi, Cage and Tudor, stitching together their simultaneous creations has produced a work that extends their antecedents' deflation of the composer's ego and control drives into a new era. Pisaro and Sugimoto have created sounds off the page, rolling the dice, leaving the details to your ears.

We listen to almost all [music] in the same way, Sugimoto wrote in his liner notes to Musical Composition Series 2 [Kid Ailack, 2010]; one of the aims of experimental music, he continues, is to break this convention. It must be done again and again to dislocate the rigid way which we adopt when listening to music.

Pisaro, simpatico with Sugimoto in more respects than making music, says,
...nonetheless, the stillness, the silence and the serene beauty; the sense of taking your time and trusting your audience to take time with you...suggest a deeper kinship.

With this sort of respect for the listener, they roll the dice. Listen.

Cage quotes from Indeterminancy: New Aspect of Form in Instrumental and Electronic Music

Pisaro quotes from Wandelweiser, an essay on ErstWords

Sugimoto quotes from Two Worlds and his liner notes for Musical Composition Series 2, Kid Ailack

Jason Kahn interview from July 2004 in Paris Transatlantic

Werner Meyer-Eppler was the Alan Freed of electro-acoustic music is a reference to the urban myth that DJ Alan Freed coined the genre term, also in the mid-50s, rock & roll.

Photos. in descending order: Sugimoto, Pisaro, Meyer-Eppler, Cage, Tudor, Ichinayagi

My sincere thanks to Michael Pisaro and Taku Sugimoto for our e-mail exchanges.

Friday, December 17, 2010

RIP Don Van Vliet

beneath the symbol

we'll all assemble

oh how we'll fly

oh how we'll tremble

cut the cake

we'll all get well

turn up the speakers

hop flop squawk

it's a keeper

ice cream for show

ice cream for crow

now that's it

now you can go

Thursday, December 9, 2010

only that breath

My breath is long-that's the measure, one physical-mental inspiration of thought contained in the elastic of a breath.
~ Allen Ginsberg

first, last, outer, inner, only that breath
breathing human being.
~ Rumi

Lucio Capece has contributed his reed instruments, shruti box and carefully developed concepts to quite a few releases in the past few years. Listening through a clutch of these, I decided to leave aside the overtly conceptual, performative utterances from 2007- his collaboration with Mattin, No More Music-At the Service of Capital [well worth hearing], and his contribution to the Wedding Ceremony release- to focus on three duos from the past two years. While these three projects pair Capece with disparate temperaments and instrumentation, I began to hear an aspect of continuity and cohesion across the pairings that points to Capece's understated role as a framer of the pieces- his breathy reeds and shruti box limning, shading and subtly nudging the direction the duos take, not unlike the way in which Keith Rowe's recondite but sturdy sounds-at-the-edges-of-the-canvas operate.

Drilling down deeper into the gradually emerging, unflickering presence and influence Capece attains with the gentlest of sounds, even when his foil is the amplified plangency of metal springs, motors and frying pans, as in his stunning collaboration with Lee Patterson, Empty Matter, I hear what the unitive element is for me.

It is his breath- when measured, applied and integrated as Capece does in these meetings, there is nothing less intrusive or obvious, nor more tensile and powerful, than the mindfully measured breath. Capece's breath lengths, as well as the textures of tongue and lips, find their analogy in the privileging of the breath as the basic metric of the poetry of Ginsberg and his contemporaries, as Rowe's analogous, likewise initially imperceptible role as a canvas for his collaborators has its metaphor in abstract painting.

No start, no e
nding, no development, Capece has said of his musical aspirations, at least not in that [nor in any] order. Indeed, some of Capece's work, particularly the duos with Radu Malfatti and long-time collaborator Sergio Merce, can easily be imagined as unspooling endlessly in the aether, riding the breath, without beginning or end.

Capece's reed sound is also conveyed by the shruti box, to heightened effect in his duo with Merce, Casa. Their lengthy drone, issuing from the shruti box and Merce's empty portastudio, followed by a too brief duo for sax and bass clarinet, sounds like a celebration of the pair's decade long friendship. Capece and Merce, on the latter piece, employ overtones, tongue flutters and multiphonics so subtly, you might forget that these techniques are frequently put to use in the lexicon of free jazz. In his stabilizing role here, as Merce produces occasional groans, shrieks and spluttering pitches within the multivalient droneage, you can hear my point about Capece's breath work. Mindful that the usage of breath here is metaphoric, the shruti box being a different sort of reed instrument, listen for how Capece provides the spine for his partner's whorls and spirals of sound.

This adamantine quality of Capece's breath-work is tested and teased even more rigorously in his fantastic duo with Lee Patterson on Empty Matter. Patterson's pallette includes an amplified spring-board redolent of Will Guthrie's junk instrumentation, and a frying pan of chattering chestnuts [the sonic cousin to his marvelous-and I'm not being ironic- recording of fried eggs on his 2009 Cathnor release, Egg Fry #2]. In other words, Patterson tosses ingredients into the mix other than the steady-state pitches endemic [and frequently anemic] in drone works. This makes for a more visceral, at times raucous affair; again, Capece holds his mat with superbly focused long tones and nuanced variations in pitch. Equanimity is not an absence of imagination nor flexibility, and I hope I am not conveying the idea that Capece is somehow rigid or unresponsive in adhering to the anchoring breath. On the contrary, he can move between his partners' clamor and absurdist sound sources with a flexibility that serves each project admirably.

Perhaps the most obvious pairing here of the three, is his 2009 duo with trombonist Radu Malfatti, Berlinerstrasse 20. I don't really know what to say about this session, outside of it is a gorgeous release, and if breath as a basis for structure and improvisation interests you, get it. Malfatti maintains that paradoxical effect his work has of melding tension with serenity, at times twining his low tones with Capece's vaporous bass clarinet, other times engaging in the parallel play of the bottom of their respective instruments. It may sound precious to some, but in the framework Malfatti and Capece establish, Malfatti's fingernail clicks and taps on the trombone are as signal and effective as his spare, stellar note-shaping.
What determines the time between the sounds?, Francis Brown asks in his koan-like liner note. Clearly the joined sensibilities of two musicians who have cultivated acute listening, and weigh each sound for its appropriateness in-between the silences.

Capece floats, shimmers and at times seems to disappear among these three duo works. Sometimes a musician in this area of music will challenge themselves with an extreme reduction of means for sound production [Sachiko M's sine language, Nakamura's indeterminate empty mixing board], or reimagine the archetypal instrument [whatever you call that object guitarist Keith Rowe approaches with increasingly bracing results]; Capece has been working with that most elemental, immediate and available sound source, the breath. In some respects, he is making some of the most, as Rumi would have it, human-sounding music around. I cannot recommend him, or any of these three duos, highly enough.

Allen Ginsberg quoted from Notes Written On Finally Recording Howl, 1992

Rumi, from The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks

Lucio Capece

Berlinerstrasse 20 is on Malfatti's imprint, b-boim records

Casa is on the fantastic imprint, organized music from thessaloniki

Empty Matter is a jewel in the catalog of Another Timbre

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

my wings are broken

john winston ono lennon

10.6.40 - 12.8.80

here i sit in my broken chair
my wings are broken

[revolution #9]

Sunday, December 5, 2010

For Loren Connors

Music is essentially built upon primitive memory structures.

~ Morton Feldman

Saturday, December 4, 2010

christian wolfarth ~ acoustic solo percussion volumes 1-4

I am distributing the first four volumes of Chrisitian Wolfarth's Acoustic Solo Percussion 7" vinyl, released on hiddenbell records in 2009 and 2010.
These are a series of four solo percussion works. Note that the records are played at 45 r.p.m.

They are essentially miniature studies in the possibilities of sounds generated acoustically with drums and cymbals. Without that information, you would very likely guess the sound sources derive, at least in part, from electronics, post-editing and other enhanced effects.
Apart from confounding expectations as to how the sounds were made, the pieces are of interest for their concentrated structure, weave and flow, and subversive assemblage.

Please indicate which of the volumes you are ordering. I am not adding shipping charges; my interest is solely in getting this project into a few more hands.

Finally, in the interest of consumer transparency, please note all four records are of relatively short duration, averaging 4-7 minutes per side.