Saturday, August 25, 2007

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

Audio sample of the E Flat Ionian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale.

See also:
E Flat Ionian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale notation.
E Flat Ionian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 interval analysis.

HurdAudio will be hitting the road for some time off. Intonationally motivated scale postings will resume shortly. Be sure to hit a few links on the blog roll.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Scale of the Day: F Ionian diminished 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The intervallic content of the F Ionian diminished 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. Just the slight alteration of the diminished fifth leaves ripples of intervals that fall out of the regular diatonic patterns. That is, if one can detect such patterns after squeezing the intervals of this scale into the half-size confines of the equal tempered "tritone."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Scale of the Day: G Pythagorean Ionian mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The G Pythagorean Ionian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. This is a fine-tuning of the quarter-tone version of the re-mapped Ionian.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Lizards, Love and Khoom

The Lounge Lizards: Queen of All Ears. 1998. Strange & Beautiful Music: SB 0015.

John Lurie: composer, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, vocals
Michael Blake: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Steven Bernstein: trumpet
David Tronzo: slide guitar
Evan Lurie: piano, organ
Jane Scarpantoni: cello
Erik Sanko: bass
Ben Perowsky: percussion
Calvin Weston: drums

With an irresistible layering of parts played by musicians from the New York "downtown" scene, this is one disc for scratching that long-standing itch for the old Knitting Factory sound that has since dissipated. It's the arrangements that stand out on this recording as the coloring, composition, attention to groove and humor shifts one's focus away from the individual contributions and toward the collective sound of the band. The "Queen" tracks mine a particularly alluring texture.

Johnny Cash: Love God Murder. 2000. Sony Music Entertainment Inc.: C3K 63809.

3-disc compilation produced by Johnny Cash.

What can anyone say about Johnny Cash that would do justice to his legendary voice and persona? Sixteen songs about love that never sink toward the sentimental. Sixteen songs about God that never sink toward evangelizing piety. And sixteen songs about the flaws that undo lives that never turns a blind eye to humanity and compassion. When 99% of all songs fail for reasons of bad poetry, bad arranging or bad motivation it's hard to ignore someone who so rarely missed the mark.

Giacinto Scelsi: 5 String Quartets/String Trio/Khoom. 2002. WDR/Salabert: MO 782156.

String Quartet no. 1 (1944) - performed by the Arditti String Quartet
Irvine Arditti: violin
Avid Alberman: violin
Levine Andrade: viola
Rohan de Saram: cello

String Trio (1958)
Irvine Arditti: violin
Levine Andrade: viola
Rohan de Saram: cello

String Quartet no. 2 (1961) - performed by the Arditti String Quartet

Khoom for soprano and 6 players (1962) - conducted by Aldo Brizzi
Michiko Hirayama: soprano
Frank Lloyd: horn
Maurizio Ben Omar: percussion
Arditti String Quartet

String Quartet no. 3 (1963) - performed by the Arditti String Quartet

String Quartet no. 4 (1964) - performed by the Arditti String Quartet

String Quartet no. 5 (1974/1985) - performed by the Arditti String Quartet

I am struck by the continuity of "voice" between Khoom and String Quartet no. 3. It's as if the wordless lament issued from lungs and larynx of soprano Michiko Hirayama transforms into an eerily similar gesture on the violin.

Sequenced in chronological order, one can hear Scelsi's consistency over this span of forty years even as his stylistic approach takes a dramatic turn toward an intense, meditative focus on exquisitely detailed singularity. One can hear the intuitively composed "modern" work of String Quartet No. 1 as the doorway through which an elaborate universe was discovered as the individuality of Scelsi's sound coalesced with astonishing aesthetic individuality. The consistency between 1944 and 1985 stems from the intuition that Scelsi drew upon with increasing trust over the years. The inclusion of String Trio and Khoom adds incredible texture to this listening experience that helps to augment the story of Scelsi's creative development conveyed by his string quartets.

Scale of the Day: F Pythagorean Ionian


The intervallic content of the F Pythagorean Ionian Scale. Tonally, the Pythagorean Ionian functions in much the same way as the equal tempered version of the same scale. With the exception of the difference of the 729/512 augmented fourth (between the fourth and seventh degrees) and the 1024/729 diminished fifth (between the seventh and fourth+octave degrees). The difference between these two intervals is lost when they are collapsed into a single "tritone" and has a substantial impact on the harmonic fabric. The subtle pull of one modulation over another takes on a new clarity when there are "true" augmented fourths and diminished fifths.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Scale of the Day: G Ionian augmented 5


The G Ionian augmented 5 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. The raised fifth introduces the tonal ambiguity of the augmented root triad and opens up an augmented second between the fourth and fifth degrees.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: What Next? Managing the Instances

Don Byron/Bang on a Can All-stars: A Ballad for Many. 2006. Cantaloupe Music: CA21036.

Don Byron: composer, clarinet
Robert Black: bass
David Cossin: drum set, percussion
Lisa Moore: piano
Mark Stewart: electric guitars
Wendy Sutter: cello
Evan Ziporyn: clarinet, bass clarinet

The Don Byron sound passes through the lens of the Bang on a Can All-stars as this collaboration between New York-based composer and New York-based performing ensemble results in these brilliant interpretations of Byron originals. "Eugene" and "Music from The Red-Tailed Angels" were both written to accompany moving picture as Byron's score expertly adapts to the unseen jump-cuts and narrative demands with results that endure well as stand alone compositions. This is an inspired collaboration that highlights the intelligence and sonic beauty of Don Byron's creative ideas.

Elliott Sharp/Orchestra Carbon: Abstract Repressionism: 1990-99. 1992. Victo: CD019.

Elliott Sharp: composer, double guitar-bass
Gregor Kitziz: violin
David Soldier: violin
Wendy Ultan: violin
Ron Lawrence: viola
Michelle Kinney: cello
Margaret Parkins: cello
Mary Wooten: cello
Lindsay Horner: bass
Joseph Trump: drums, electronic percussion

Creating music means constantly confronting the question of what next? and where does this sound go from here? Each composition and improvised performance offers a possible answer to the voracious appetite of those questions. Abstract Repressionism offers a compelling large-scale answer that has strong parallels to big bang theory. The entire work begins with an explosive onslaught of dissonance and fury that immediately confronts the what next? question with an expansive energy emanating from the dissipation of that initial force. With clear melodic themes and consistent core ideas woven throughout this piece providing a strong sense of coherent unity coupled with a willingness to unleash sonic violence from time to time this is a piece that continues to influence my own thinking about how one approaches the question of what next?

Misha Mengelberg: The Root Of The Problem. 1996. Hat Hut Records: hatOLOGY 504.

Misha Mengelberg: piano
in duos and trios with:
Steve Potts: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone
Thomas Heberer: trumpet
Michel Godard: tuba, serpent
Achim Kremer: percussion

Recorded over a 3-day stint at the Loft in Koln, these roots offer a glimpse at the small scale duo and trio approach toward "instant composition." Instant takes on the dual role of instantaneous improvisation and a navigation from/to/between instances in a manner that eschews formal symmetry in favor of a reactive dialogue between players. At times this sound favors sparse, yet colorful strokes along a canvas while at other times shards of surprisingly idiomatic jazz emerge from within these abstract textures. What keeps this music engaging is that each performer is willing to stand back, well clear of becoming the focal point as a "soloist," and allow the composition to develop and form under its own momentary logic. This works particularly well when the dialogue is between piano and brass as the duo between piano and tuba and the trio of piano, trumpet and tuba offer some of the most striking textures found on this disc.

Killick & 3/5ths of Benito Cereno @ the Red Room

Killick (H'arpeggione), Neil Feather (guitaint, nojo), Samuel Burt (guitaint, clarinet, voice)
Dustin Hurt (trumpet), Ian Fraser (electronics), Tim Albro (electronics)
@ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD - August 18, 2007

The first set of improvised micro-tonal music on other-worldly invented string instruments was sheer bliss. It was refreshing to hear a trio plunge head-long into such an unfamiliar harmonic territory with little more than ears and guile to guide them. The added unfamiliarity of these invented instruments completed the aural image of vast, under-explored musical territory unfolding. The sound that these three arrived at so intuitively was deeply encouraging to my micro-tonal heart.

Killick's long-necked, fretted cello-like instrument was especially interesting. At times it seemed like even the smallest movement, a slight pluck or slow strum, would expose unexpected and striking variations on the sound pallet.

The second set of the evening featured three members of the Philadelphia-based quintet Benito Cereno. Dustin Hurt was flanked on either side by card tables overloaded with electronic gear (of varying vintage) as Ian Fraser and Tim Albro covered the stereo field with their sometimes dense, but mostly quiet, electronic sound. I seemed to be sitting in the "sweet spot" of the room with the bell of the trumpet squarely in the center. The focus of the improvisational textures switched away from the harmonic territory of the first set in favor of a noise-oriented approach. Dustin Hurt's extended technique on the trumpet made for a good match with the prevailing white-noise and processed radio signal oriented sonic environment as he focused on breath and some gritty sounds running through the plumbing of his horn. Late in the set he began to introduce more familiar trumpet-like tones into the mix and they were a welcome and fleeting addition to the tense soundscape.

Dierker Dispenses Therapy

John Dierker (bass clarinet, alto saxophone), Michael Formanek (bass), Devin Gray (drums) @ Koffee Therapy, Baltimore, MD - August 18, 2007

Free jazz at a coffee house? And the coffee is excellent too? It seems too good to be true. I hope that Koffee Therapy continues down this path as this experience appeals to multiple senses.

Devin Gray began this set with some rolling, kinetic work on the cymbals as Dierker calmly listened and found a tasteful moment to enter on the bass clarinet. And as the full trio sound began to emerge with a tasteful bed of free improvisation textures the remarkable musicianship and ear-focused responsive playing became more apparent.

There was a brief moment when Dierker's circular breathing on the bass clarinet began to take on a strong timbral resemblance to the didgeridoo. But that moment was fleeting and I began to crave hearing that kind of sound territory more fully explored in this trio setting. There were several deeply satisfying passages where the sound of Formanek's arco bass seemed to melt with the sound of the bass clarinet.

I was particularly impressed with Devin Gray as he coaxed a world of sound from his small drum kit. The trio also featured one of his original compositions - a groove heavy meter bender with some wide open sections for individual solos to shine.

No Sherpas On This Everest

Qing Li (violin) & Hou-Fei Yang (piano) @ An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD - Saturday, August 18, 2007

Performing Ludwig van Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major op.61

Beethoven's Violin Concerto is a fiendishly virtuosic work - initially deemed "unplayable" in Beethoven's day - and Qing Li seems to be familiar with every facet of this work. With the entire piece memorized she was clearly playing from inside the music as she deftly navigated several tricky passages with an expressive edge that was a pleasure to hear. While Hou-Fei Yang proved to be an able accompanist for this performance, I became increasingly curious about witnessing Qing Li perform this feat with a full orchestra. The second movement was particularly well executed.

The Beethoven signature technique of sequencing a melodic fragment while modulating the harmonic movement underneath it seemed more pronounced than in many of his other works. I don't recall hearing his other pieces use this procedure so frequently as it became an interesting focal point through much of this music.

The marketing of Beethoven's music is an interesting curiosity. This piece was hailed as "the Mount Everest of Violin Concertos." And while An Die Musik was packed to capacity (perhaps this tag line does sell the experience), I have some reservations about this particular pitch. The act of conquering the tallest mountain on Earth isn't as exclusive as it once was as global warming continues to raise the snow line. Anyone who can afford a climbing permit and some Sherpas can make their way to the summit these days. Learning to play this concerto seems much more challenging. And unless a piece of music is by Alan Hovhanas or is otherwise literally about mountains (like Richard Strauss's Eine Alpensinfonie tone poem) there needs to be a moratorium on comparing classical music to mountains. The fact that this is a virtuosic work by the great master performed well is all it takes to get my attention.

Scale of the Day: C Mixolydian 1% wide


The C Mixolydian 1% wide Scale. The standard equal tempered variant of the C Mixolydian deliberately de-tuned just slightly to blur the familiar. In some ways this simulates the way many pianos drift out of tune.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Three More Angles on Improvisation

Nels Cline: New Monastery: A view into the music of Andrew Hill. 2006. Cryptogramophone: CG130.

Nels Cline: guitar, effects
Bobby Bradford: cornet
Ben Goldberg: clarinets
Andrea Parkins: accordion, effects
Devin Hoff: contrabass
Scott Amendola: drumset, percussion
Alex Cline: percussion

One striking thing about the sound of these Andrew Hill compositions (plus a couple of Nels Cline originals in the mold of Andrew Hill's compositional sensibility) is the absence of piano. Hill's music takes so many interesting twists and turns in its arrangements and it isn't difficult to separate his ideas from the instrument he played. But with accordion as the only keyboard instrument in the mix - and Ben Goldberg's bass clarinet work having remarkable similarity to one-time Hill collaborator Eric Dolphy - this ensemble takes the music of Andrew Hill into a slightly different timbral direction and celebrates it with vigor. The effects employed by Nels Cline and Andrea Parkins never overwhelm the overall sound, but actually blend in a manner consistent with the aesthetic freedom and arranging pathos that makes this "view into" such a compelling listen.

The Bad Plus: Suspicious Activity? 2005. Columbia: CK 94740.

Reid Anderson: bass
Ethan Iverson: piano
David King: drums

Suspicious? With an emphasis on activity this piano trio has no fear of drilling into a deep rhythmic vein while allowing for surprising twists within these arrangements that leave a groove that's anything but mindless. While "Anthem for the Earnest" still has the most immediate appeal of anything I've heard over the past few years I'm starting to find interesting details that deliver considerable pleasure in "Prehensile Dream" and "Lost of Love."

Michael Zerang: Cedarhead. 2006. Al Maslakh: 06.

Michael Zerang: drums
performing duets with:
Sharif Sehnaoui: electric guitar
Mazen Kerbaj: trumpet
Raed Yassin: tapes & electronics
Christine Sehnaoui: alto saxophone
Charbel Haber: electric guitar
Jassem Hindi: electronics
Bechir Saade: nay (flute)

That the creativity of the Beirut improvised music scene should have to toil within an environment of destabilizing violence and the crushing interference and indifference of competing world powers is just one of the massive cultural tragedies that continues to unfold in this part of the world. That such a vital subculture can thrive - as evidenced by the astonishing beauty found on the Al Maslakh label - is a profound testament of the perseverance and raw survival instincts of art. Chicago-based drummer Michael Zerang writes movingly about editing these master recordings from his second trip to Beirut to play with these intense and talented players as the "July War" of 2006 was unfolding. With a personal connection he had developed to a community now again under fire the documentation of Cedarhead takes on an urgency and stark sonic beauty that reverberates throughout these seven improvisations. The religious and political differences that spark such unrest seems petty compared to the artistic expression that it imperils. With generous use of extended techniques each performance finds the timbral range of drums, electric guitar, trumpet, electronics, saxophone and flute pulled closer together for an astonishing intimacy of sound between these players. The brief improvisation between Zerang and guitarist Charbel Haber mines a particularly fascinating zone of interaction and sound.

Scale of the Day: C Mixolydian mapped to the Triative


The C Mixolydian mapped to the Triative Scale. Here's another example of distorting the standard "dominant" function of the Mixolydian scale through re-mapping into unfamiliar territory. This time the intervals are stretched to fit within the 1901.96-cent triative, resulting in an expansive harmonic terrain with no melodic intervals smaller than 158.50-cents.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Scale of the Day: A Mixolydian mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The intervallic content of the A Mixolydian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. The "dominant" quality of this scale is lost with the halving of all the intervals into a quarter-tone context. Which, albeit syntactically and/or through pun only, is one way to subvert the "dominant" paradigm. Quarter-tones have a way of leveling the dominants, subdominants and otherwise throwing harmony into a context free of such unfortunate hierarchical traditions and practices.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Scale of the Day: C Mixolydian augmented 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The C Mixolydian augmented 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. This one seems to follow the familiar "chromatic" contour with the exception of the two quarter-tones where the major third would have been. Of course, if one treats each 600-cent "tritone" as a harmonic equivalence then the contextual result should sound unlike a the familiar chromatic scale.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Jazz is a Four Letter Word

Anthony Braxton: Piano Quartet, Yoshi's 1994 - disc 2. 1996. Music & Arts: CD 849.

Anthony Braxton: piano(!)
Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet
Joe Fonda: bass
Arthur Fuller: percussion

The use of standards serve as a jumping off point for some creative improvisation that often pushes well beyond all established practice for approaching the revered "standards" book. At times there are glimpses of what this quartet might have been if left completely unhinged from the grounding force of these familiar tunes. Joe Fonda and Marty Ehrlich are flat out outstanding. Sometimes that gets lost under the thunderous pounding that Braxton applies to the piano. This set from the group's week-long stint at Yoshi's in Oakland, California can be a thick tonic and my ears aren't always up to the task of sorting it out. There's good moments buried in this disc. But I expect more from Braxton's genius and the combination of jazz standards and his dynamically course pianism place some high barriers to hearing this one out at times. On this outing I'm not defeated, but left with some nagging disappointment.

Anthony Braxton 12+1tet: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 - disc 1. Firehouse 12 Records: FH12-04-03-001.

Recorded live: March 16, 2006 at Iridium Jazz Club, New York City.

The Anthony Braxton 12+1tet
Anthony Braxton: composer, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone, clarinet and Eb contalto clarinet
Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn, trumpbone, piccolo trumpet, bass trumpet, shell
Andrew Raffo Dewar: soprano saxophone, c-melody saxophone, clarinet
James Fei: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Mary Halvorson: electric guitar
Stephen H. Lehman: alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone
Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo, voice
Jessica Pavone: viola, violin
Reut Regev: trombone, flugelbone
Jay Rozen: tuba, euphonium
Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon, suona
Aaron Siegel: percussion, vibraphone
Carl Testa: acoustic bass, bass clarinet

Disc 1 = Composition 350 - dedicated to the artist Emilio Cruz
This work of Ghost Trance Music is like a massive cubist painting as the multi-timbral possibilities of this large ensemble are unfolded from multiple perspectives over the course of an hour in thick gobs of pulse and sound. This is the media, and the aesthetic approach toward multiple parameters, that brings out the overwhelming genius and beauty of Anthony Braxton's deeply intricate compositional universe. There is a strong sonic similarity to Butch Morris's brilliant Conduction technique as large, group improvised swatches of sound sweep through this ensemble with some unseen direction (the linear notes speak of hand gestures used by Braxton and other members of this ensemble - another allusion to Conduction). This is a music that begs multiple hearings and complete submersion into this other-worldly force.

Eric Dolphy with Booker Little: Far Cry. 1960. Re-released in 1989. New Jazz Records: OJCCD-400-2.

Eric Dolphy: alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute
Booker Little: trumpet
Jaki Byard: piano

Ron Carter: bass
Roy Haynes: drums

The recent discussion of Ron Carter at Do The Math had me longing to hear this one again. One of the great documents of what jazz was, is and could be. It kicks off with the full reedy sound of Dolphy on bass clarinet and Booker Little doubling in melodic unison on trumpet before splitting out into some jagged solos of intervallic leaps and bounds. The unaccompanied alto saxophone solo for "Tenderly" is even more stunning than I'd remembered. And I don't know why Jaki Byard isn't more of an obsession for me. I must seek out more of his recordings. The pairing of the lost far too young artists that get the top billing remains a big attraction to this sound. On repeated spins this disc reveals the depth of Dolphy's artistry with his original compositions "Far Cry," "Miss Ann" and "Serene." And there's Ron Carter, early in his long (happily long) recording career. I cannot fathom what jazz would sound like without his presence on recordings like this - just one of his reportedly 2,000 records.

Scale of the Day: F Sharp Mixolydian

Audio of the F Sharp Mixolydian Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

See also:
F Sharp Mixolydian Scale notated.
F Sharp Mixolydian Scale interval analysis.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Be Bread, Beirut and Three Places in New England

Myra Melford/Be Bread: The Image of Your Body. 2006. Cryptogramophone: CG131.

Myra Melford: composer, piano, harmonium
Brandon Ross: electric guitar, banjo, voice
Cuong Vu: trumpet, electronics
Stomu Takeishi: electric bass, acoustic bass, electronics
Elliott Humberto Kavee: drums

Any Myra Melford led ensemble that includes Stomu Takeishi on bass is welcome within these ears. There hasn't been enough recorded documentation of Melford's ensemble projects over the years, but what is there plots an evolving set of compositions (and an expansive approach toward individual and group improvisation) that have taken root and grown in some remarkably organic ways. This particular take on "Equal Grace" with Cuong Vu's fluid trumpet work is outstanding. The increasing influence of Melford's studies in India manifests in pleasantly surprising ways that tap into a deep well of spiritual expression.

Mazen Kerbaj: Brt Vrt Zrt Krt. 2005. Al Maslakh Recordings: 01.

Mazen Kerbaj: trumpet

Beirut free improviser Mazen Kerbaj plays trumpet, draws comics and blogs. And every one of these endeavors is unique, startling and profoundly shaped by the sad reality of living through the ongoing violence and unrest in Lebanon. (Check out this link to a "duet" between Kerbaj - trumpet and the Israeli Air Force - bombs). Brt Vrt Zrt Krt is all live solo trumpet without cuts, overdubs or electronics. And at times it's hard to believe that this raw pallet of sound is somehow emanating from that instrument. With close listening one can indeed make out the familiar plumbing of the trumpet as the resonating chamber for this incredible sound design. With titles like "Vrrrt," "Ffffss" and "Tagadagadaga" that allude to the oral contortions involved in shaping these sounds Kerbaj demonstrates an intense focus on the minute details of these sculpted sonic excursions.

Charles Ives: The Symphonies / Orchestral Sets 1 & 2. 1973, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1995. Decca Music Group: 289 466 745-2.

Symphony No. 1 - performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta
Symphony No. 4 - performed by the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Christoph Von Dohnanyi
Orchestral Set No. 1 - performed by the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Christoph Von Dohnanyi
Symphony No. 2 - performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta
Symphony No. 3 - performed by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, conducted by Neville Marriner
Three Places in New England (Orchestral Set No. 1) - performed by the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Christoph Von Dohnanyi

I believe this is the first time I've listened to all of the Charles Ives Symphonies and Orchestral Sets in one sitting. This is music that gets more astonishing with each exposure. It used to be the orchestration and the juxtaposition that pulled at my attention and established Ives' greatness within my mind. But there are so many more layers at work than just those details. The quoting of hymn tunes and the off-kilter mixing of tempos and simultaneous parts is no gimmick. These are vivid images in sound of an entire world of Ives' experience that is lost to the passage of time. Even the Symphony No. 1, a "student composition" started while Ives was completing his undergraduate studies at Yale in 1898, quotes more hymn tunes than I had remembered as it careens through several European influences in a manner that only hints at what Ives would later do for Americana. Symphony No. 4 is a grand scale work with its reaching toward "the diverse answers in which existence replies [to] the searching [spiritual] questions of What? and Why?".

Scale of the Day: A Mixolydian augmented 4


The intervallic content of the A Mixolydian augmented 4 Scale. The alteration of the augmented fourth creates a different kind of balance in the scalar field by adding an additional augmented fourth/diminished fifth to a scale where the "tritone" is normally limited to the third/seventh degrees.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Scale of the Day: C Pythagorean Mixolydian


The C Pythagorean Mixolydian Scale. The Mixolydian sound derives much of its color and sonic thumb print from the utonal 4/3 perfect fourth and 16/9 minor seventh. With the exception of the tonic, all other scale members are otonal relative to the tonic.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: A Whole Lot of Guitar, Horsehair and Bits

Elliott Sharp: Cryptid Fragments. 1993. Extreme: XCD 020.

Elliott Sharp: composer, computer processing, Buchla Thunder, sampler
Margaret Parkins: cello
Sara Parkins: violin
Michelle Kinney: cello
Soldier String Quartet:
Laura Seaton: violin
David Soldier: violin
Ron Lawrence: viola
Mary Wooten: cello

Cryptid Fragments - computer processed cello and violin samples
Shapeshifters - for string quartet
Twistmap - for string quartet
Umbra - for cello and Buchla Thunder

Brittle and deliberately dissonant. Sharp has a knack for scrambling horse hair and digital bits into an aggressive brew. This disc is a significant point of aesthetic reference for my own creative efforts. Cryptid Fragments draws upon a finite set of gestures that are processed in different ways. The consistency of each gesture's return adds a layer of unity to the four movement work. And many of these gestures are so sonically engaging that one looks forward to hearing their altered renderings return into the mix as each adds a sense of unity to the disorientation of extended acoustic and digital technique.

Terry Riley: The Book of Abbeyozzud. 1999. New Albion Records: NA 106 CD.

Terry Riley: composer
David Tannenbaum: guitar
Gyan Riley: guitar
William Winant: percussion
Tracy Silverman: violin

Cantos Desiertos for guitar and violin
Zamorra for two guitars
Dias de los Muertos for guitar and percussion
Barabasi for solo guitar
Ascencion for solo guitar

Spanish inspired acoustic guitar as refracted through the mind of Terry Riley and exquisitely performed and recorded on this disc. The melodic line from Cantos Desiertos was running through my mind all morning and it seemed only natural to reinforce memory with another visit to the Book of Abbeyozzud. The quiet spaces between guitar and percussion in Dias de los Muertos struck me this time around. I'm also enchanted by the irresistible timbre and melodic interplay between acoustic guitar and marimba.

Chris Mosley Trio: The Miraculous Aspect of Time. 2006. Red Button Records: RBR-101.

Chris Mosley: guitar, fretless guitar, 36-tone guitar
Damian Erskine: electric bass
Drew Shoals: drums

Chris Mosley is the introspective voice at Jazz Thinks and it's his thoughtful prose - and insightful ideas on alternate tuning in particular - that drove my ears to this gem of a CD. The improvisations are engaging and well thought through. And that is true of the rhythm section as well as the elastic bass sound of Erskine compliments the dynamic contours of Shoals' drumming. Each member of this trio crests into the foreground from time to time while affording plenty of space for one another. But Mosley is undeniably the leader, composer and main focal point of this particular session. The sound of his 36-tone guitar on "Interlude I" and "Interlude II" is fascinating and really could be the focus of a longer recording. I wish there was more fretless and 36-tone guitar material on this offering. But it's hard to complain given the quality of the material that is here along with the promise more fresh thinking to come from this emerging guitarist.

HurdAudio Rotation: Encumbrance Essence

Marty Ehrlich: The Long View. 2002. Enja Records: ENJ-9452 2.

Marty Ehrlich: composer, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, bass clarinet
Sam Furnace: alto saxophone, flute
Ned Rothenberg: alto saxophone, bass clarinet
Robert DeBellis: tenor saxophone, clarinet, soprano saxophone
JD Parran: tenor saxophone, contrabass clarinet
Andy Laster: baritone saxophone, clarinet
Eddie Allen: trumpet
James Zollar: trumpet
John Clark: french horn
Clark Gayton: trombone
Marcus Rojas: tuba
Mark Dresser: bass
Michael Sarin: drums
Mark Helias: conductor, bass
Mark Feldman: violin
Ralph Farris: viola
Erik Friedlander: cello
Eddie Bobe: bongos, cowbell
Bobby Previte: drums, bass drum, tambourine
Wayne Horvitz: piano
Ray Anderson: trombone
Pheeroan AkLaff: drums

Each name on that long personnel list raises expectations for this ambitious project several notches. Consistent as always, Marty Ehrlich finds a way to exceed even impossible expectations with the composition and performances found in The Long View. Conceived as a collaboration with painter Oliver Jackson, the allusions to great abstract painting are rendered in sound as Ehrlich deftly uses the wide timbral range of these performers to explore many shades and colors with phrases that feel like well placed brush strokes along a breath-taking canvas. The understated piano lines performed by Wayne Horvitz at the start and finish of the fourth movement never cease to suspend whatever thought or action I'm engaged in once I hear them. And you'd be hard pressed to find a more rockin' tuba solo than what Marcus Rojas delivers at the onset of the sixth movement. As a high achievement in jazz composition equal to the great works of Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn or Gil Evans, The Long View works from a perspective steeped in jazz history with optimistic vision for the future of the genre. This is a work much celebrated at HurdAudio.

Dave Douglas Quintet: Live at the Bimhuis. October 24, 2002. Greenleaf Music: GRE-P-011/012.

Dave Douglas: trumpet
Rick Margitza: tenor saxophone
Uri Caine: fender rhodes
James Genus: bass
Clarence Penn: drums

The Dave Douglas Quintet has been one of the eclectic band leader and record label mogul's more fruitful endeavors. While one would be hard pressed to cite a collaboration or band Dave Douglas has recorded over the past couple of decades that didn't live up to a high standard, this quintet has become a particular fascination at HurdAudio. And this live double-CD captures the Rick Margitza incarnation (the saxophone slot has had some turnover over the years) at a pre- Meaning and Mystery and Strange Liberation point of their existence. This live performance in particular allows for interesting creative stretches that would be improbable as a studio recording. The seamless transition between the cover of Bjork's "Unison" into Beck's "Ramshackle" allows for long stretches of improvised bass as the Beck piece is completely transformed. (I am unfamiliar with the Bjork version of "Unison" and wonder if my continued ignorance of her music will begin to look unflattering as so many people I admire increasingly site her as a significant point of reference). "The Frisell Dream" stretches slightly longer than the frustratingly short version found on Strange Liberation. And there are excellent 20+ minute soakings of "Penelope" and "Deluge" that bookend this collection and offer rich substance. And the unbelievable sound that Uri Caine conjures from the fender rhodes is a big part of the sonic addiction to this music.

Briggan Krauss: Descending to End. 1999. Knitting Factory Records: KFW-251.

Briggan Krauss: composer, reeds, electronics

Dark, stark and refreshingly noisy. I'm still a little stunned that free improvisation saxophonist Briggan Krauss has made a full-length electronic recording. But I'm not surprised that it reveals so many rich details with focused listening. With a malleable rhythmic sensibility and a crafted sonic soundscape built upon processed, echo heavy saxophone, drums (with plenty of reversed percussion sounds) and turntables Krauss coaxes a rich world from the recesses and crevasses of his musical intuition. He has a rare ability to get loud without abusing that end of the dynamic spectrum. This allows for coarse anger to flow through this music without short-circuiting introspection. "Encumbrance Essence" is a particularly good example of this. Composed with the sensibility of an improvising instrumentalist, this effort avoids the pitfalls of musique concrete and emerges as a musically satisfying work by remaining true to such compelling sensibilities.

Scale of the Day: G Sharp Dorian mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The G Sharp Dorian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. The symmetry of the Dorian scale takes on an interesting property with all the quarter-tones grouped in the middle of this scale.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Quartet and Duo Improvisation at the Red Room

Katt Hernandez (violin) / Evan Lipson (bass) / Dan Blacksburg (trombone) / Michael Evans (percussion, alto saxophone) +
John Berndt (soprano saxophone, alto saxophone) / Rose Hammer (alto saxophone)
@ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD - August 11, 2007

John Berndt and Rose Hammer began the evening with three improvisations for saxophone duo. The first and last featuring Berndt on soprano saxophone while the second was a "same-sax" pairing with both playing alto.

The "sameness" of these two instruments does not begin to describe the range these two players work along the parameter of timbre. At times the existence of tone was sublimated into a stripped down sound of air through columns. The responsiveness between them made for a compelling set as they balanced well between contrasting and complimenting one another.

The quartet that followed played an outstanding set of free improvisation. This was my second chance to hear bassist Evan Lipson at the Red Room and I continue to be impressed with his sonic instinct and creative collaboration. Dan Blacksburg worked some fantastic trombone into this sound - often sans mouthpiece - as he continually found ways to match and instigate the constant shifting of timbre and material at work in this music. Katt Hernandez has a remarkable approach toward violin improvisation that seemed to drive a lot of the textural shifts at work in this performance. And New Yorker Michael Evans was the biggest surprise of the evening with his explosively restrained approach toward a haphazard drum kit and box of noise-making toys. These four players were locked in to one another and painted with strokes of varying length and intensity as they filled the Red Room with a great sonic presence. The ability to navigate multiple coherent changes in sound without an individual player dominating a focal point - or adding too much to the overall sound - made it clear how deeply these players were listening to one another. This isn't the first evidence of a thriving Philadelphia-based improvisation scene to grace the Red Room and I'm incredibly curious to hear more of what is going on in that town.

Shuffling with Skerik at the Paetec Jazz Festival

Skerik's Syncopated Taint Trio & Shuffle Demons @ Power Plant Live Plaza, Baltimore, MD - August 10, 2007.

By happy coincidence a pairing of jazz performers from my Seattle and Toronto concert attending past were scheduled back-to-back at the Power Plant Live Plaza. With several restaurant patios and outdoor bars well positioned near the stage along with several televisions tuned into the local game (Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox versus Erik Bedard of the Orioles just blocks away) this turned out to be a pleasant summer night in Baltimore.

It took a little while to overcome my disappointment that only 3/7ths of Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet made this gig. I was looking forward to a good dose of Hans Teuber's alto saxophone playing. However, Skerik on tenor saxophone with Joe Doria on hammond organ and John Wicks on drums turns out to be a capable, and compelling, trio. Skerik mined a deep groove - as he often does - and occasionally took some unexpectedly lyrical melodic detours.

The Shuffle Demons have reunited to support a Greatest Hits release and they've dusted off several of the classics I remember well from life as an undergrad in Toronto. It was amusing to see a crowd unfamiliar with the Shuffle Demon experience respond to their unique blend of funkiness and humor. They make their entrances and exits through the crowd playing their horns and clapping - and that goes over surprisingly well. Even their outfits have been revived as they wore their loud suits and put on an entertaining show. It was fun to revisit their shtick. But it was their interpretation of the great Mingus classic "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting" that offered a glimpse of artistic growth I hadn't heard before from the Demons. That's a soulful blues piece that requires the performers (and improvisations) to be "all in" or run the risk of sounding like a pale imitation of the original. And this band was ALL IN. Great solos and a gutsy move to an a capella of the main melodic theme at one point. They managed to bring something new to this piece while still displaying reverence and love for Charles Mingus.

Scale of the Day: E Dorian


The intervallic content of the E Dorian Scale - as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Scale of the Day: G Sharp Dorian diminished 4


The G Sharp Dorian diminished 4 Scale as one would find it on any conventional, equal tempered instrument. The diminished 4th collapses the symmetry, leaving it and the perfect fifth as the only scale members without counter-balancing inversions. The equal tempered diminished fourth - being 400-cents just like the equal tempered major third - also introduces a nice major/minor ambiguity.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: My Very Empty Ears

James Blood Ulmer: Birthright. 2005. Hyena Records: TMF 9335.

James Blood Ulmer: vocals, guitar, flute

The blues often conjures up adjectives like "authentic" and "true." But the fact with James Blood Ulmer is that he just gets under my skin. Right from the first chord from his guitar and his gravelly voice I'm swept up into his wise, life-hardened perspective. The relentless forward motion combined with the harmonic framework gives this music a sharp edge while Ulmer's voice sprinkles bitter salt into freshly opened wounds. By the time he breaks into his evil cackles of "Devil's Got To Burn" I realize I've been on a journey through some intensely emotional territory that never flinches in the face of truth and authenticity.

David Lang: Child. 2003. Cantaloupe Music: CA21013.

Child for chamber ensemble. Performed by Sentieri Selvaggi (Milan). Conducted by Carlo Boccadoro.
i. my very empty mouth
ii. sweet air
iii. short fall
iv. stick figure
v. little eye

One can hear all the can banging influences at work in this music. There's a healthy dose of a Louis Andriessen sensibility at work - even the second movement is dedicated to him. The surface texture of this music ripples with a surprising post-minimalist sheen that embraces dissonance without necessarily becoming dominated by dissonance. Even with generous repeated passages this music doesn't come off as "minimalist," "post-minimalist," or whatever -ist the academic establishments will reject today and embrace tomorrow. Much of this music is a self-contained paradox. It's aggressively tranquil, intricately simple and bitter sweet. It's also a sonic wonder well worth hearing.

Thomas Chapin Trio: Third Force. 1990, 1991. Re-released as disc 1 of Thomas Chapin: Alive box set. Knitting Factory Records: 35828 02482.

Thomas Chapin: saxophones, flute
Mario Pavone: bass
Steve Johns: drums

It always startles me how vibrant the music on this CD is. The musicianship and the energy behind this wonderful din practically leaps out from the speakers with equal parts fun, fury and devastating intelligence. Thomas Chapin recorded some amazing music in his short time, but it was the trio that was a vehicle for some enduring and incredible creative work. And this is some of the earliest recorded evidence of a music that would play such an important role in defining the Knitting Factory sound back when that venue - and record label - was far more relevant than it is today. It's a sound that still infects much of my own sensibility and taste.

Scale of the Day: E Aeolian


The E Aeolian Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. Here's a scale one probably does hear every day, in contrast to the last few scales of the day.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Scale of the Day: D Sharp Phrygian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 1% wide


The D Sharp Phrygian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 1% wide Scale. With the operations of re-mapping and stretching we now have the 606-cent "stretched tritone" as the interval of harmonic equivalence. Which makes for a harmonic territory one doesn't hear every day.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Scale of the Day: D Sharp Phrygian 2% narrow


The D Sharp Phrygian 2% narrow Scale. In this particular harmonic context, the interval of harmonic equivalence is now an "octave" that is compressed nearly 1/8th-tone toward a major seventh and is cognitively dissonant. This kind of deliberate, de-tuning strategy is intended to sound "out of tune." Though I prefer to think of it as a gentle push against one's assumed perceptions.

Monday, August 06, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: I Heart Heart Mountain

Marc Ribot: Shoe String Symphonettes. 1997. Tzadik: TZ 7504.

Film scores by Marc Ribot:
Death by Unnatural Causes (1991) - directed by Karen Bellone and Lisa Rinzler
Marc Ribot: guitar, sampler
Greg Cohen: bass
Jill Jaffe: violin, viola

Landlord Blues (1987) - directed by Jacob Burkhardt
Marc Ribot: trumpet, banjo, guitar
Brad Jones: bass
Bill Ware: vibes
Curtis Fowlkes: trombone
Jim Nolet: violin
Roy Nathanson: saxophone
EJ Rodriguez: drums, percussion
Gregory Ribot: flute

Aelita Queen of Mars (1928) - directed by Yakov Protazanov
Marc Ribot: guitar
Paul Clarvis: drums, percussion
Dave Meric: keyboards
Phil Boyden: violin
Helen Thomas: cello
Mike Kearsey: trombone

Pieces From An Incomplete Project (1995 - 1996) - directed by Joe Brewster
Dave Douglas: trumpet
Vicki Bodner: oboe
Charlie Giordano: piano, keyboards
Mauro Refosco: percussion
Jill Jaffe: violin, viola
Maxine Neuman: cello
Tony Garnier: bass

Summer Salt (1993) - directed by Charlie Levi
Marc Ribot: guitar, e-flat horn
John Zorn: saxophone
Andy Haas: saxophone
Cyro Baptista: drums

With the unseen drama, jump cuts, narrative wrinkles and closing credits, these short episodic compositions cut a wide gamut. At times atmospheric before turning into a salsa, surf music or late night bar band. And with Ribot's chops and sensibilities (not to mention guitar playing) behind these works it all comes off as convincing. It's hard to imagine any motion picture worthy of such a soundtrack.

Paul Plimley Trio: Safe-crackers. 1999. Victo: CD066.

Paul Plimley: piano
Lisle Ellis: bass
Scott Amendola: drums

A sound full of rich substance that manages to feel unencumbered by the weight of so much jazz history and technique at work behind it. The improvisational ideas soar and get caught in all kinds of eddies and currents as Plimley takes the lead in an effort that is equal parts free improvisation and whimsy. Titles like "We Got Noh Rhythm" and "After Boulez, a Doorbell with Perfect Pitch" bring a smile every time. The roots of this music run deep. Many disparate elements of jazz tradition are thoroughly absorbed and rendered audible. There are many surprising turns in the melodic and harmonic content. This one is an understated masterpiece.

Myra Melford/Tanya Kalmanovitch: Heart Mountain. 2007. Perspicacity: PR03.

Myra Melford: piano, harmonium
Tanya Kalmanovitch: viola, violin

The creative compatibility of Melford and Kalmanovitch is exquisitely audible in this collection of brief collaborations of wordless poetry. Melford's spare extended technique inside the piano, adding pizzicato piano strings to Kalmanovitch's plucked viola lines, or sculpting tones from scrapes and preparations blends warmly as the sound of these two performers melt together throughout this listening experience. The combination of harmonium with viola makes for a shimmering track. Even as Melford works the ivories, as she does for most of this recording, it's the conversant interplay between these players that casts a spell. This is one to savor.

Scale of the Day: D Sharp Phrygian diminished 4 1% narrow


The D Sharp Phrygian diminished 4 1% narrow Scale. The compressed octave space mitigates the gap between the diminished fourth and perfect fifth to some extent.