Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Scale of the Day: F 11, 3, Square-root-of-2, Construct #1, Lydian Mode


The F 11, 3, Square-root-of-2, Construct #1, Lydian Mode - Scale. This is another 2-note scale featuring a narrow tuning of the "perfect fifth."
HurdAudio will be going nomadic for the next several days while I relocate to the east coast. Posting will be at the mercy of whatever wireless connection is available on the road.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Scale of the Day: E 7-axis, Construct #1, Lydian Mode - in Square-root-of-2-space

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The E 7-axis, Construct #1, Lydian Mode - in Square-root-of-2-space Scale. As the improvising guitarist noted in the comments to yesterday's scale of the day, these 2-note scales exist at the extreme limits of the definition of "scale." While it may be possible to theorize about scales with fewer than 2-notes, there are none that fit my definition.

Definition of a scale: A sequence of intervals that repeats within a larger interval that serves as a harmonic equivalence point, or intervallic basis. In the overwhelming majority of music found the world over this harmonic equivalence point is the octave (2/1).

Today's "scale of the day" poses a couple of challenges. With only 2-notes, it is "harmonically impoverished," resulting in an incredibly restricted intervallic vocabulary. And with the square-root-of-2 (600 cents) serving as the intervallic basis there is the cognitive challenge of treating the "equal-tempered tritone" as a harmonic equivalence - fighting against extensive human conditioning to regard this interval as a particular 'dissonance.' Further complicating this cognitive reality is the fact that a double square-root-of-2 forms the 1200-cent "octave" that is readily heard as harmonically equivalent. The fact that this scale repeats every 600-cents means that it sonically runs the risk of being perceived as a 4-note scale spanning an octave as opposed to the 2-note scale spanning the square-root-of-2 that is conceptually intended.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Leroy Jenkins: 1932 - 2007

Sad news: the great Leroy Jenkins passed away yesterday. He will be missed and leaves behind a great sonic legacy that will endure.

It was just earlier this month that I came across Leroy Jenkins: Solo at Normals Books and Records. I scooped it up knowing that my ears would obsess about hearing such a treasure to the point of sleep deprivation if I didn't. The chance to hear Jenkins' great sound and creative energy in isolation on a full-length CD is not something to pass up. I also picked up some Revolutionary Ensemble discs on that same excursion. So Jenkins has been in my ears a lot these past few weeks. He was a rare soul.

I had the privilege of hearing Jenkins perform live with Equal Interest - a trio with Myra Melford and Joseph Jarman - in Seattle. I remember being struck by how well his dynamic range meshed with the overall meditative quality of that music.

Also, Highwire, featuring his work with NOJO is well worth hearing. I can't recommend it enough.

Scale of the Day: E 7-axis, Construct #1, Lydian Inversion


The E 7-axis, Construct #1, Lydian Inversion Scale. This is one of those "harmonically impoverished" 2-note scales. Here, that second note is the 8/7 major second - an interval I find facinating as an alternative to the more familiar 9/8 major second.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Octotonic-2 1% narrow


The E Flat Octotonic-2 1% narrow Scale. This is the inverse operation of the wide scales - with compressed octaves as the result. Sonically, the effect is a similar "out of tune" sensation.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Octotonic-2 2% wide


The E Flat Octotonic-2 2% wide Scale. More fun with stretched octaves. This time it's stretched nearly a full 1/8th-tone wide - turning an expected consonance into a jarring dissonance.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Octotonic-2 (1+1) 1% wide

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The E Flat Octotonic-2 (1+1) 1% wide Scale. This is a deliberate detuning of an already ambiguous harmonic terrain in terms of tonal gravity. Personally, I find the deliberate smearing of octaves (stretched 12 cents in this case) to be subversive, sonically devious and appealing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Octotonic-2 mapped to the 3/2


The E Flat Octotonic-2 mapped to the 3/2 Scale. The Octotonic-2 scale squeezed within the confines of the 3/2 just perfect fourth.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Octotonic-2 (1+1) mapped to the Triative

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The E Flat Ocotonic-2 (1+1) mapped to the Triative Scale. 8-notes spread across the 1901.96 cent 3/1 Triative. The wide intervals take some getting used to - but triative-based scales represent an expansive, untapped harmonic territory for the experimentally inclined.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Octotonic-2 - Lydian Mode - mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The E Flat Pythagorean Octotonic-2 - Lydian Mode - mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. If you're anything like me, you lose a lot of sleep thinking about this scale. It's actually a subtle twist on the 8-notes-to-the-tritone scale that shades toward formerly otonal scale members with their cents value cut in half. It's otherworldly, disorienting, and makes few allusions toward tonal language.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Octotonic-2 - Ionian Mode


The E Flat Pythagorean Octotonic-2 - Ionian Mode - Scale. The 16/9 minor seventh is the only utonal member of this scale. And this qualifies this tuning as "Ionian Mode." Overall, this is an oddly "bright" intonation for a scale that is often associated with ambiguity and transition in tonal contexts. Speaking of ambiguity and transition - I find myself blogging from the left coast for the time being. The transition to Baltimore has not yet been completed.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat 7, Square-root-of-2, Construct #1 - Lydian Mode


The E Flat 7, Square-root-of-2, Construct #1 - Lydian Mode - Scale. This is one of those "harmonically impoverished" 2-note scales. Here, the 7/4 "minor seventh" is transposed downward by a tritone - which is how this 31.17 cent flat scale member arrives as a "blue" major third.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Scale of the Day: D Chromatic 1% wide


The D Chromatic 1% wide Scale. The equal tempered chromatic scale set deliberately "out of tune" with stretched octaves 12 cents wider than 2/1.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Scale of the Day: D Chromatic mapped to the Triative


The D Chromatic mapped to the Triative Scale. The triative (an interval equal to the distance between the fundamental and the third harmonic in the overtone series - essentially a perfect 12th plus 1.96 cents) divided into 12 equal parts.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Chromatic mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The intervallic content of the E Flat Chromatic mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. This is essentially an equal tempered tritone divided into 12 equal parts. Which yeilds a consecutive sequence of 50-cent quarter-tones.

Edge Debut in the City of Firsts

Tonight was the Baltimore debut of Jason Kao Hwang/Edge as this hot quartet rocked An die Musik with some vibrant, creative improvised music. This was exactly the kind of aggressive, heady music my ears thirst for.

Jason Kao Hwang/Edge:

Jason Kao Hwang - violin, viola
Taylor Ho Bynum - cornet, flugelhorn
Ken Filiano - bass
Andrew Drury - drums

I was initially drawn to this concert because of Andrew Drury's excellent Innova CD A Momentary Lapse and Taylor Ho Bynum's insightful blog and guest post at Destination:Out. Hearing Jason Kao Hwang's playing and compositions for the first time was a revelation. He has developed a hybrid drawing from jazz, chamber music and Asian musical traditions that is incredible. And this quartet has that comprovisation sound where improvisation and composed material blend together so seamlessly that it's not always clear where one leaves off and the other begins.

This quartet has great range. There was plenty of dynamic contrast and a nice mix of textures ranging from high density to plenty of exposed solos. And the solos were a real highlight. There was never a moment when things would shift toward an "obligatory bass solo" or "now we'll have a drum solo" that one hears in more traditional head/solos/head arrangements. Instead, there were natural, uncontrived moments when one player would emerge completely into the foreground. And Ken Filiano was impressive on bass. He gets such a big, warm sound that spans a wide range of technique and yet never loses a deeply melodic sensibility.

This is one hot quartet. Don't miss them if they come to your town.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Interval of the Day: Major Sevenths mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The major seventh mapped to the square-root-of-2. "Mapping to the square-root-of-2" typically involves cutting the cents size in half. So the 1100 cent major seventh becomes an interval 550 cents wide - or a quarter tone that falls between the equal tempered perfect fourth and tritone.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Black History Month: Solo

Black History Month continues at HurdAudio with a deep listen to Solo, by Leroy Jenkins - recorded live at Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico on October 24, 1992.

Leroy Jenkins - violin and viola

Leroy Jenkins' sound has long been a source of facination for my ears. And here is a recording that allows one to focus on his tone, his melodic creativity and his impressive abilities as a composer and improviser.

And that tone cuts right through with the opening track, "Blues #1," as he cuts a vibrato-free, dynamic solo line with the horse hair. "Um Cha Chi Chum" follows with a pointilistic, at times nasal sounding, exploration of the registral extremes of the instrument that builds toward a fantastic crescendo. "Hipnosis" then picks up from at that same energetic intensity and turns it into a beautiful trance.

With "Big Wood" Jenkins switches over to the darker, lower range of the viola. Over a span of just under 8 minutes this piece is an intense, focused and varied improvisation with generous splashes of pizzicato that contrast the tone of his bow strokes while bringing out the qualities of Jenkins' sound as refracted through the rich palette of the viola.

"Wouldn't You," a Dizzy Gillespie composition, is given a unique interpretation. Jenkins allows the melody to come through even as his own sound surrounds it and applies a new voice toward a great tradition.

"Dive for the Oyster, Dip for the Pearl" is the most interesting composition in this collection. The sequence of phrases - some of them brief - wash over in waves of building intensity as Jenkins often lingers on a single diad (played as a double stop) - sawing at it repeatedly with various inflections on one note or the other. Sometimes these waves recede into a tense pianissimo that sets up for the next phrase. "Keep on Trucking Brother" follows with a release from this tension as the sawing is allowed to groove into a physical release from so much "diving for the oyster."

This collection concludes with Jenkins' take on "Giant Steps" by John Coltrane. Here he spins out a harmonic fabric worthy of this rapid-fire be-bop classic. And in so doing he uncoils the tight spring of focused, prolonged solo energy with a satisfying resolution as the wall of sound eventually returns to the familiar melodic line of this jazz standard to close out this performance.

Interval of the Day: Unisons and Octaves


The unison and octave. Two intervals that are tuned the same way in nearly every known musical tradition. They are also regarded as the two most 'consonant' intervals. They are the only intervals tuned the same way in both equal tempered and just intonation. Some would argue that they are the only two intervals that equal temperament "gets right."

The unison is the musical/harmonic equivalent of x=x. No matter how one measures harmonic distance and 'relatedness,' two pitches tuned at a unison to each other form the most related pair of harmonic frequencies imagineable.

The octave is the next interval of strongest 'relatedness.' Two pitches an octave apart are regarded as so strongly 'related' that they share the same letter name and serve identical harmonic functions (differing only by register).

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Scale of the Day: D Pythagorean Chromatic - Lydian Mode


The D Pythagorean Chromatic - Lydian Mode - Scale. Starting with the D-natural, tuned upward by 3/2 (701.96 cent) perfect fifths. Since the Pythagorean fifths do not circle around we have the biting dissonance of the 262144/177147 (678.49 cent) diminished sixth between the F-double-sharp and the D-natural. This scale is said to be "Lydian Mode" because it is made up exclusively a tonic and all otonal intervals relative to the tonic.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Scale of the Day: F Lydian no 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The F Lydian no 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. The two quarter-tone members of this scale put a shift on what might have otherwise passed for a chromatic scale to a less-attentive ear. As always with square-root-of-2 based scales, the compositional challenge is to treat the "tritone" as harmonically equivalent to the octave. The ear might take some convincing. But the conceptual challenge leads to some interesting sonic results.

This will be the last subtractive scale for a while.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Black History Month: Mindif

Black History Month continues at HurdAudio with ears tuned to Abdullah Ibrahim (a.k.a. Dollar Brand) and Mindif. Recorded in 1988.

Abdullah Ibrahim - voice, flute, piano
Ricky Ford - soprano sax, tenor sax
Craig Handy - flute, tenor sax
Benny Powell - trombone
David Williams - bass
Billy Higgins - drums, gambray

This music was composed for the film Chocolat (1988).

"Earth Bird" opens this listening experience with a meditative, distinctively African influenced prelude consisting of flute, voice and gambray providing an invocation for the sonic journey that follows. "African Market" then launches into the soulful, gospel drenched sound one expects and seeks out from Abdullah Ibrahim. The incredible rhythmic compatibility of Ibrahim with Billy Higgins - easily one of my favorite drummers of all time - is the sound of joy.

"Mindif" - played as a piano trio. An inspired piano trio. This is a moderate tempo composition that ebbs and breathes through some nice harmonic changes. I'd be curious to hear multiple interpretations of this piece. "Serenity (The Daybreak Song)" provides a brief recap of this composition as the final track. This time with flute instead of piano.

"Protee" is a trio for gambray, bass and voice. It marks a return to the quiet texture found in the opening track that partitions the three piano centered pieces that precede it and the three that follow it.

"Theme for Mark" is my personal favorite from this collection. Here it's performed as a duet for piano and bass with a strong focus on Ibrahim's piano and the intricate harmonies he unfolds over the course of this ballad.

Scale of the Day: E Lydian no 5


The intervallic content of the E Lydian no 5 Scale. This scale retains that Lydian "brightness" while the missing 5th leaves the augmented 4th without the natural gravitational force one normally associates with Lydian scales.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Black History Month: Moto Grosso Feio

Black History Month turns bitter cold as the temperatures in Baltimore are considerably lower than HurdAudio has felt in some time. All the more reason to warm the ears to the almost tropical sounds of Moto Grosso Feio by Wayne Shorter - recorded in 1970.

Wayne Shorter - tenor sax/soprano sax
Chick Corea - marimba/drums/percussion
Ron Carter - Cello/bass
John McLaughlin - 12-string guitar
Dave Holland - acoustic guitar/bass
Michelin Prell - drums/percussion

There's an unusual lightness to this playing as nearly every one of these master improvisers is playing an unfamiliar instrument. Chick Corea on percussion? An all acoustic John McLaughlin? Dave Holland on guitar? And yet these Wayne Shorter compositions and melodic lines are unmistakable. It's an unusual hue - but an exquisite sound that reveals more beauty with each successive listening. The sonic texture contains a surprising number of layers that drift along in a near harmolodic haze.

"Montezuma" is a highlight on this one with its driving, melodic ostinato bass line that lurks and winds under a sometimes thick overall sound. There are so many details - so many moving parts. It sweeps along like a babbling stream with a surprisingly strong current.

Another track where all the parts really come together is "Iska." Each improviser is given plenty of freedom to build upon the texture as gesture upon gesture is piled on. And yet the overall sound never becomes too thick. One can pick out the rippling marimba lines, the natural harmonics on the bass and the glissandi on the guitar strings. And through it all Wayne Shorter shows incredible instinct as he adds just enough of his own sound to draw the ears in deeper as the entire group continues to escalate the overall energy level. This is some outstanding group improvisation.

Scale of the Day: F Lydian minor 2, no 5


The F Lydian minor 2, no 5 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. The minor 2 opens up an augmented second between the second and third scale degree. And the missing 5 leaves a minor third between the augmented fourth and major sixth. In an equal tempered environment, the augmented second and minor third are both exactly 300 cents wide - opening up a harmonic ambiguity well worth exploring. Also, the minor second and major seventh both have a strong gravitational pull toward the tonic that reinforces a sense of resolution despite the lack of a perfect fifth to reinforce the root triad.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Black History Month: The Psyche

An enthusiastic hat tip to Destination Out for turning my ears on to this great trio. In observance of Black History Month at HurdAudio my ears turn toward The Psyche from 1975 by The Revolutionary Ensemble: Leroy Jenkins on violin and viola, Sirone on bass, and Jerome Cooper on drums and piano.

"Invasion" - After a long intro of sustained string tones and percussive bells, this epic track eventually settles into a steady groove as Leroy Jenkins improvises over the the steady pulse of Cooper's drumming and Sirone's walking bass. The texture then recedes for an unaccompanied bass solo. A violin cadenza soon follows. This time, Jenkins is unanchored by the rhythm section as he carves out an entirely different melodic line with a nasal, sul ponticello tone. There's an austere, expressive beauty to the sound as Jenkins often fades toward a mere whisper. A duet of piano and bass then juxtaposes on the heels of Jenkins' utterance. Here the expressive freedom of the violin solo takes root and expands with greater density and volume with this different instrumentation. After a long conversation between bass and piano the violin returns as Cooper moves back behind the drum kit. The energy level continues to pick up as the full trio settles in with Jenkins providing linear material over an animated, jagged simmer from the bass and drums.

"Hu-man" - Jerome Cooper gets his turn as this track opens with a drum solo. Jenkins and Sirone then present a melodic line played a couple octaves apart before the rhythm section pulls back to support Jenkins as he expressively explores melodic variations on the stated theme. After a solid dose of great trio playing Cooper returns with another drum solo before the opening theme is restated by the strings to conclude this work.

"Col Legno" - Sirone opens this work with a 3/4 col legno bass line (a bowing technique where the wood of the bow is bounced along the strings). Jenkins and Cooper play some thematic material on violin and piano over the top and then branch out into some improvised material as Sirone keeps the col legno sound percolating along. Even without the drums, this track maintains a strong groove even as the players drift into increasingly "free" territory. A little over half way in Cooper switches to the drums and adds spare accents to a bowed bass solo from Sirone. This solo is amazing. Elongated tones fluctuate in pitch and dynamics and take on the quality of impassioned human utterance. As Sirone settles into a bowed ostinato Cooper accompanies him with a quiet drum roll as Jenkins plays some sustained, high pitches on the violin as the trio coalesces toward coda.

Scale of the Day: A Ionian no 5

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The A Ionian no 5 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. All one needs to retain the essence of Ionian-ness is the root, perfect fourth and major seventh. So the fifth becomes expendable - creating an instability in resolving to this familiar bedrock of tonal language.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

MicroNoise at the Redroom

With a hat tip to Brian Sacawa and his short list, I took the plunge into the Baltimore experimental music scene last night with a trip to the Redroom at Normals Books and Records.

While waiting for the show to begin the proprietor put on Todos Santos: Wayne Horvitz, Butch Morris, Bobby Previte Play the Music of Robin Holcomb (to which I'd add Bill Frisell and Doug Wieselman also play). He seemed to be discovering this great recording for the first time and we soon got into a discussion about the Seattle improvised music scene. I seem to have found my element in this town.
The opening band was a trio of Will Redman on drums/percussion, Marc Miller on guitar/electronics and Andrew Shaw on contrabass bassoon. They played some short, free improvisations that explored some quiet textures with brief episodes of mezzo-forte and the odd forte. The ability to respond to each other while working this particular dynamic range was refreshing to hear. They concluded this set with an interpretation of part of Redman's graphic score: Book (the image posted at this blog is taken from the score- I hope you don't mind, Dr. Redman). The notated "free" improvisation opens up interesting strategies and this particular score seemed to invite a particular focus in the hands of these gifted improvisers. The comparison to Cornelius Cardew's Treatise immediately springs to mind. Sonically, much of the evening was well within the tradition of Cardew and AMM. But while Treatise is an attempt to free performers from the constraints of standard notation practices, Book seems to be a gleeful dissolving of those same practices. In the end, it's the performers' interpretation and faithful focus on the graphic intent that holds the ear. Book could yield a great deal of sonic material for years to come.

The Boston duo of Tim Feeney on percussion/electronics and Vic Rawlings on cello/open-circuit electronics concluded the evening with a set of brittle, amplified micro-sounds. The drum and cello were often used exclusively as resonating bodies for bringing out a universe of scraping and bowing accompanied by electric drones that seemed to barely course through exposed wires and speaker components. This music exists in such a narrow range between silence and ambiance that the sound of passing sirens and trickling of the building's water pipes seemed to weave seamlessly into the overall texture.

And as a further venture into the recommendations of Sacawa's Baltimore, I gave the Paper Moon a try for breakfast this morning. Brian knows his town. Perhaps we'll cross paths at Common Ground sometime.


Check out Brian Sacawa's report on the same show.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Mixolydian no 4 1% wide


The E Flat Mixolydian no 4 1% wide Scale. This one poses an amusing cognitive test as it is deliberately and systematically "out of tune" (those 12 cent sharp octaves never get old for my ears - that extreme consonance knocked just off of that easy 2/1 harmonic ratio). Yet the ears can make out harmonic functions and identities through the "out of tune" haze.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Mixolydian no 4 mapped to the Triative


The E Flat Mixolydian no 4 mapped to the Triative Scale. The wide intervals of this triative-based scale open a little wider with the gap where the equal-tempered-perfect-fourth-mapped-to-the-triative would have been. This scale takes on a unique sound with the complete absence of octaves.