Thursday, June 28, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: One by Trio, Two by Quartet

Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black: Five Other Pieces (+2). 1998. Hat Hut: hatOLOGY 533.

Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone
Andrea Parkins: accordion, sampler
Jim Black: percussion

The five "other" pieces are interpretations of works by other composers from this idiosyncratic trio that has become an important vehicle for Ellery Eskelin's original compositions over the years.

The 5 "others" -
"The Dance of Maya" by John McLaughlin
"April" by Lennie Tristano
"India" by John Coltrane
"Song for Che" by Charlie Haden
"Prelude II" by George Gershwin

The liner notes - written by Eskelin himself - touch briefly upon the "Klangfarbenmelodie" of textures idea that marks Eskelin's creative approach (which explains how he develops such fantastic sonic textures) and how he applied this approach to selecting five pieces for interpretation. Eskelin writes every bit as well as he plays and just reading his words is almost as stimulating as hearing the music contained on this disc. Hearing how he prods and respectfully re-forms these familiar compositions reveals a great deal about how his sensibilities shape his original pieces. And with the "+2" of two Eskelin originals at the end of this set one can hear these same creative impulses and intensity directed at a blank canvas.

Elliott Sharp: Dispersion of Seeds. Performed by the Sirius String Quartet. 2003. zOaR Music: ZPO-03.

Elliott Sharp: composer, computer
Sirius String Quartet:
Meg Okura: violin
Gregor Huebner: violin
Ron Lawrence: viola
David Eggar: cello

Dispersion of Seeds is a 16-minute work for string quartet that is presented as an acoustic work followed by two versions run through various electronic processing techniques. As a 3-movement experience one can hear the "seeds" take root as the string sounds transform into something formally consistent, yet transformed into new timbres of increasing density. One parameter that goes untouched is time. I wonder if the metaphor of "growth" could have been strengthened conceptually with more variable durations between movements. As these are modular works - composed as stand alone works or as as a single 3-movement work - this does not detract from the sonic beauty and rich textures of this piece. The processing never loses sight of the quality of bowed strings as rich layers of resonance are applied in thick slabs of sound. Sharp's string writing continues to be a peculiar obsession for my ears.

Terry Riley/Kronos Quartet: Cadenza On The Night Plain. 1984. Gramavision: RS 79444.

Terry Riley: composer
David Harrington: violin
John Sherba: violin
Hank Dutt: viola
Joan Jeanrenaud: cello

This one is a staple in the HurdAudio Rotation. The title work is the centerpiece of this collection. And it's a fantastic piece of program music spun with rich story-telling instincts. But it's the three early works that precede it that grow on me more and more. I'm swept up by "Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector" every time. The arrangement of "G Song," clearly an adaptation of Riley's piano music, soars in this medium. And "Mythic Birds Waltz" is like a vivid still life with great contrast painted with deft rhythmic strokes.

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