Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pedals, Friction and Ritualized Improvisation

Janel Leppin/Anthony Pirog
Death in the Maze @ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD
December 22, 2007

Janel Leppin: cello, effects pedals
Anthony Pirog: guitar, effects pedals

Death in the Maze:
John Berndt: clarinet, percussion, inventions
Samuel Burt: clarinet, laptop, voice
Rose Hammer: alto saxophone, clarinet
Paul Neidhardt: percussion, frictions

With a juxtaposition of two different sides of improvisation these two sets of human inventiveness were a reminder and a celebration of the plurality of creative energy at work in the Mid-Atlantic. Each offered up some promising territories and avenues to explore.

Leppin and Pirog presented a structured, composed body of music for guitar and cello with generous helpings of effects pedals added into the sound. The often melodic, folk-inflected sound left plenty of room for filling in the details with spontaneity and forays into textures of noise. The duo from northern Virginia offered up a new twist on an Americana sound with an ear for variations in texture and density.

Death in the Maze followed up this light, buoyant sound with a darkness centered around ritual. With the lights turned out and only the illumination of candles many of the percussive frictions and invented instruments took on an other worldly mystery without the visibility to confirm each sound source. In this music the performers fused into a focused sound that often left sonic spaces unfilled.

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


The intervallic content of the B Dorian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. The Dorian symmetry of inclusive inversions at "one half" its usual equal tempered scale.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Ghostly Noise

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 several moments of episodic brilliance, this is film music without the requisite blandness of more mass market fare. The shuffling of tracks from multiple projects allows for a meta-narrative arc complete with sequential tracks for closing credits. The sonic language encompasses reference points rooted in story while still careening into abstract bliss and noise. This disc is a journey and a familiar favorite in the rotation.

Paul Plimley Trio: Safe-Crackers. 1999. Victo: cd066.

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

With Ellis and Amendola as collaborators Paul Plimley fashions an exquisitely buoyant intensity on one of my all time favorite piano trio recordings. The episodes of whimsical play are offset by a rich substance of deeply informed, historically grounded improvisation.

Cold Reading Trio: Life of Ghost. 2007. Form Function Records: f(F)0701.

John O'Brien: drums, percussion
Evan Mazunik: accordion, melodica, electronic piano
Chris Pincock: laptop computer

The live processing of sources both internal and external to this trio adds an element of unpredictability to this sound and often reminds these ears of AMM without the epic durations. The odd twists and turns of this music is greatly enhanced by the fragments of live drumming and accordion that weave through these textures. For a music brimming with quiet strangeness this one is enjoyable.

Unholy Night

Unsilent Night Baltimore - December 21, 2007

Bringing unquantized bliss to the streets of the Mount Vernon neighborhood and good cheer to Penn Station.

First of all, major kudos are due to Brian Sacawa for organizing this year's Unsilent Night event. With a small mob of friends and strangers carrying boom boxes through the city streets this experience struck the right balance of communal cohesion and subversive intent. In a season dominated by the piped saccharine of pre-fab carols and high-consumer experience Phil Kline's softly ambient composition provides an odd counter attack. One that renews the senses dulled by isolated consumption.

The decidedly retro artifact of the boom box takes on an almost antiquated feel of caroling and hand bells. The crab pizza and wings waiting at the end of the parade route at Joe Squared is the new figgy pudding. The phenomena of the Unsilent Night unfolding in 26 cities worldwide this year suggests that new traditions can supplant old with invigorating results.

Scale of the Day: E Dorian diminished 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The E Dorian diminished 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. Diminish the fourth - lose a quarter tone.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Scale of the Day: B Dorian diminished 4


The intervallic content of the B Dorian diminished 4 Scale. Notice the wave of augmented and diminished intervals introduced by the diminished fourth alteration. Yet in equal temperament these happen to be the same size as many enharmonic major/minor intervals. This discrepancy between spelling and sound is a strong indication of what harmonies are not available in standard equal temperament.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Understated Sublimation

Terry Riley: The Harp of New Albion. 1986. New Albion/Celestial Harmonies: CEL 018/019.

Terry Riley: composer, piano (in just intonation)
5-limit scale, C# as root: 1/1, 16/15, 9/8, 6/5, 5/4, 4/3, 64/45, 3/2, 8/5, 5/3, 16/9, 15/8, 2/1

This one is riddled with qualities highly valued in the HurdAudio pantheon. An epic piano composition filled with improvisation and Terry Riley's melodic sensibilities. And it happens to feature a 5-limit tuning system as Riley uses repeated patterns to build up rich standing waves of exquisite consonance and dissonance. The opening chords of "The New Albion Chorale" is imbued with anticipation of the journey that follows. And it's a journey of cascading harmony and compelling instrumental story telling. The rich, ringing tones of the Bosendorfer make this a journey worth revisiting.

Thomas Helton: Experiments In Minimalism. 2006. FreeBass Productions: CD-R available from the composer.

Thomas Helton: doublebass
Karl Fulbright: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Seth Paynter: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Martin Langford: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Josh Levy: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass saxophone
Carol Morgan: trumpet
Brad Clymer: trumpet
Brian Allen: trombone
Thomas Hulton: trombone

As if any further evidence were needed that the old ways of distributing music are over here is a self-produced disc offering a glimpse into the creative music scene in Houston. And it's a quiet, well-crafted wonder. Rich textures of bass and winds build up slowly and unhurriedly into a warm fabric of sound woven together from dark strands. The musicianship of this ensemble is solid and tuned toward the larger sonic image with only passing glances at the individuals involved. This is some impressive ensemble writing.

Susie Ibarra: Flower After Flower. 2000. Tzadik: TZ 7057.

Susie Ibarra: drums, kulintang, percussion
Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, burshes
Chris Speed: clarinet
Assif Tsahar: bass clarinet
Charles Burnham: violin
Cooper-Moore: flute, piano
Pauline Oliveros: accordion
John Lindberg: bass

Hearing this understated beauty on the heals of Helton's quiet wonder makes for an interesting wash of focused, sublime intensity. Here the compositional mind comes with an ear for percussion and generous space for these incredible improvising musicians. Cooper-Moore's solo piano piece on "Fractal 3" in particular draws the ears toward the talents and sensibilities of this player as he realizes Ibarra's composition. The soft ringing of metallic bowls in "The Ancients" and the sustained pulsing groove within "Human Beginnings" are other notable highlights from this experience.

Scale of the Day: E Pythagorean Dorian


The E Pythagorean Dorian Scale. Not the symmetrical balance between intervals. The 1 and 2 are self-inverting. The 9/8 and 16/9 are counterbalanced otonal/utonal members. The 32/27 and 16/9 are counterbalanced utonal/otonal members. And the 4/3 and 3/2 round out the inversions with a utonal/otonal relationship.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Scale of the Day: F Sharp Aeolian


The intervallic content of the F Sharp Aeolian Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Ludwig van Prevost

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets, Vol. VI. Recorded in 1994. Delos International: DE 3036.

The Orford String Quartet
Andrew Dawes: violin
Kenneth Perkins: violin
Terence Helmer: viola
Denis Brott: cello

String Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3
String Quartet in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 131

I'm particularly tuned into the balance and contrast leading into the Presto movement of the Op. 18 - and I'm not normally drawn into the early works on these discs. The Op. 131 is a sprawling, 7-movement work with organically uneven proportions. This one will be well worth giving another listen as it's clear that the string quartet has become the medium that it now is thanks to this unbelievable canon of works.

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [box set] disc 5. 2004. Revenant Records: RVN 213.

Albert Ayler Quintet - November 3, 1966 @ Belin Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany
Albert Ayler Quintet - November 8, 1966 @ De Doelen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Don Ayler: trumpe
Michel Samson: violin
Bill Folwell: bass
Beaver Harris: drums

This may have been one of the greatest, and most primal of free jazz quartets of the 1960s and this disc is precious evidence of a creative spark that burned bright. The technical rough edges of these field recordings adds a certain allure and regret to an experience only barely adequately documented.

AMM: Laminal: A three CD set marking thirty years in the making of AMMMusic. 1996. Matchless Recordings: MRCD31.

The Aarhus Sequences - December 16, 1969, Denmark
Cornelius Cardew, Christopher Hobbs, Lou Gare, Keith Rowe, Eddie Prevost

The Great Hall - February 20, 1982, London
John Tilbury, Keith Rowe, Eddie Prevost

Contextual - May 3, 1994, New York
John Tilbury, Keith Rowe, Eddie Prevost

While the AMM free improvised sound has changed in subtle ways over the decades, there is still an austere core that intensely focuses on developing a world of sound within quiet spaces. As my ears initially gravitated to the 1960s AMM - hungry for audible scraps of the great Cornelius Cardew working his craft - these ears are drawn into the more contemporary incarnations as well. This is a sound that helped pioneer an almost idiomatic-free improvisation that one almost takes for granted. The guitar and drums of Keith Rowe and Eddie Prevost are the common thread running through these discs with a sound that evolves without losing sight of its sonic roots. It makes for an enormously satisfying listen to skip through three epic performances separated by decades.

Shelton from the Storm

Aram Shelton & Ensemble Concertante @ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD
December 15, 2007

Aram Shelton: alto saxophone, laptop, electronics

Kate Porter: cello
Dan Conrad: veena bambina
Catherine Pancake: percussion

With a "severe weather warning" in effect overnight for a storm that never quite materialized it was a hearty crew that forged ahead with an evening of creative music within the chilly confines of the Red Room. While the air conveyed the sonic disturbance it also carried a crisp bite in sharp contrast to the warmth of interactive sound.

Aram Shelton uses his alto saxophone as an acoustic input for his live processing rig. And it's a processing he affects with an array of pedals mapped that allow him to keep the sample playback fresh and unpredictable. The equal parts of percussive keypads and instrument tone in the sound makes for a large and engaging sound.

The trio of Porter, Conrad and Pancake is a responsive unit that fills the air with a moderately loud sound. Porter frequently explored the upper range of her instrument while Conrad filled in the bass with the rubbery shifting tones of the veena bambina. Catherine Pancake would take turns at establishing and extracting a pulse from the sound without laboring upon it, allowing for patterns to dissolve and reappear in the mix. The full quartet of Shelton plus trio at the end of the last set was a natural, interactive force with subtle contributions from the electronics rig.

Scale of the Day: B Aeolian diminished 4


The B Aeolian diminished 4 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: From Mumbo to Ionisation

Jim Staley: Mumbo Jumbo. 1993. Einstein Records: 004.

Jim Staley: trombone
with various trio configurations of -
Wayne Horvitz: piano, DX-7, RX-11 drum machine
Elliott Sharp: double-neck guitar/bass, soprano saxophone
Shelley Hirsch: voice
Samm Bennett: drums, percussion, electronic percussion
Bill Frisell: guitar
Ikue Mori: drums, drum machine
Fred Frith: electric and acoustic guitars, vocals
John Zorn: alto saxophone

A sonic glimpse of a golden age of downtown free improvisation. Recorded in 1986, this is a sampling of several exciting improvisers at an early stage of their sound. "Swale" opens with the Elliott Sharp guitar sound that initially drew my ears this scene and at nearly 8 minutes it is the track on this collection of predominantly short, episodic bursts that features some improvisational stretching between Staley, Sharp and Horvitz. The shortness of these pieces is both the greatest strength and failing of this release. At turns exquisite bursts - and the short form is the best showcase of Shelley Hirsch's voice - there are times when one craves a more epic burst from the talents assembled for these trios.

Roscoe Mitchell Sextet: Sound. 1966. Re-released in 1996. Delmark Records: DE-408.

Roscoe Mitchell: alto saxophone, clarinet, recorder, etc.
Lester Bowie: trumpet, flugelhorn, harmonica
Lester Lashley: trombone, cello
Maurice McIntyre: tenor saxophone
Malachi Favors: bass
Alvin Fielder: drums

In an unusual re-ordering of tracks this edition begins with an alternate take of "Ornette." This so-called outtake is as good as anything else from this collection and a good appetizer for the main course of "Sound 1" and "Sound 2." The re-ordering is actually a chronological presentation of the order these pieces were recorded over two sessions in 1966. The vitality of the music yet to come from the AACM scene is in evidence here and the Lester Bowie material is outstanding. This is a significant document from one of the giants of improvised music.

Edgard Varese: The Complete Works. 1994. Decca Record Company: 289 460 208-2.

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
ASKO Ensemble
Riccardo Chailly: conductor

It's always a good idea to touch base with the rich sonic universe of Edgard Varese. This one is a sound that plays a prominent role in the HurdAudio sensibility. While I'm generally not a big fan of musique concrete works, Poeme electronique is an exceptional work that continues to sound fresh and more vital than more contemporary works within the medium.

Scale of the Day: B Phrygian


The B Phrygian Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Friday, December 14, 2007

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


The D Sharp Locrian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 1% wide Scale. This concludes a long stretch of locrian scales for this current cycle. This particular scale is half-diminished, half-sized then stretched slightly.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Bad Plus 2-Z Surreal

The Bad Plus: Prog. 2007. Do the Math Records/Heads Up International: HUCD 3125.

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

More band than traditional piano trio, Bad Plus isn't afraid to rock out while still bringing a steady dose of heady arrangements and compositions. Prog puts new perspective on Tears for Fears, Burt Bacharach, David Bowie and Rush while the original compositions place a sustained energy that satisfy a balance of head and heart.

Matthew Shipp Duo with Roscoe Mitchell: 2-Z. 1996. Thirsty Ear: thi 21312.2.

Matthew Shipp: piano
Roscoe Mitchell: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone

The texture and intensity between these two improvisation masters continues to grow on me. Roscoe Mitchell is simply outstanding in this session as he spins something fierce as a collaborative force. This is early Matthew Shipp and what he's learned from the likes of Mitchell manifests itself on later recordings. Here he is just keeping up and painting a great canvas while Mitchell soars.

Erik Friedlander: Maldoror. 2003. Brassland: HWY-005.

Erik Friedlander: cello

"I am filthy" delivers on its namesake with quiet, hard, brutal strokes of the bow across the string. When "Flights of Starlings" follows it's as if the weight and dirt have lifted to accommodate the sky. Friedlander's surrealist solo effort is a stable in the rotation and it gets better with each listening.

Scale of the Day: D Sharp Locrian 3% wide


The D Sharp Locrian 3% wide Scale. Half diminished with 1236-cent wide octaves.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Fugitive, Black and Satanized

Reuben Radding: Fugitive Pieces. 2006. Pine Ear Music: PEM 002.

Reuben Radding: bass
Matt Bauder: tenor saxophone, clarinet
Andrew Drury: percussion
Nate Wooley: trumpet

The extremes of durations found on this disc holds deep appeal for me with "The Drowned City" completing it's sonic form in just under a minute immediately before the sprawling "The Gradual Instant" at more than 32 minutes. These timbrally intense, quiet pieces seem to suspend time regardless of how much has elapsed. This is a quartet focused on sound and how to slowly unravel its frayed edges through extended technique and deep listening. I imagine the Radding scores making use of graphic notation to coax this level of focus from these great improvisers.

Jim Black: Alasnoaxis. 2000. Winter & Winter: 910061-2.

Jim Black: drums
Hilmar Jensson: electric guitar
Chris Speed: tenor saxophone, clarinet
Skuli Sverrisson: electric bass

There's a wonderful ranginess to the music on this disc as the ideas and sounds organically sweep through elements of melodic lyricism, noise-filled bursts and coalescing grooves. While the stylistic variety is enormous, the shifts are rarely abrupt. The end result is a sound that is a welcome repeat presence in the rotation.

Satanized: Sickness and Hellth: The Secular Chansons of.... 2007. Badmaster Records: BM010.

Andrew Gasper: voice, turntable
Alex Nagle: guitar
Evan Lipson: bass
Pete Angevine: drums

This is one angry, aggressive sound out of Philadelphia and a side of Alex Nagle and Evan Lipson I wasn't aware of. Rage is a completely necessary sonic expression and this manifestation is difficult to take in and difficult to turn away from at the same time.

Matmos Bring their Charm to Charm City

Ear Pieces/Matmos @ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD
December 8, 2007

Ear Pieces =
Stewart Mostofsky: electronics
Michael Muniak: electronics

Matmos =
MC Schmidt: electronics, video
Drew Daniel: electronics, video

The concert to welcome the latest Baltimore transplants from California was more of an event than I'd anticipated. With the Red Room packed well beyond capacity I found myself trying to worm my way into my second sold-out show in as many nights. Other than a brief live experience at UCLA as a tribute to Terry Riley, Matmos has not been on my radar and the enthusiastic following spilling out of Normals' Books and Records caught me completely by surprise.

Ear Pieces welcomed the former Bay Area duo with a burst of noise and raw, ad hoc physical energy. It was enough to draw an astute observation from Matmos: "Baltimore may be the one place where we come off as 'normal.'"

And by "normal" it is Matmos' willingness to maintain formal structure and weave in some well crafted grooves that keeps things rooted throughout the extreme video manipulations and content and unusual concrete sonic sources. The theatrics of using roses as drum sticks upon empty instrument cases combined with a charming rapport with the audience pulls the live Matmos experience to a different level.

Scale of the Day: D Sharp Pythagorean Locrian 1% wide


The D Sharp Pythagorean Locrian 1% wide Scale. The uneven (unequal) interval sizes of the Pythagorean tuning adds an extra granularity to the 1% widening process. I'm intrigued by the minor sixth and how the 792.18-cent 128/81 expands to an 800.10-cent interval, just 1/10th of a cent larger than the equal tempered minor sixth.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Soaking in the Corporeality

Harry Partch's Delusion of the Fury: A Ritual of Dream and Delusion @ Japan Society, New York, NY
December 7, 2007

John Jesurun: director, video and set designer
Dean Drummond: musical director
Dawn Akemi Saito: choreographer
Jeff Nash: lighting designer
Ruth Pongstaphone: costume designer

Harry Partch was such an iconic, Messianic figure of the twentieth century that one could almost feel his spirit at the Japan Society auditorium and wonder: what would Harry Partch do (WWHPD)? Given his larger-than-life status as a loner, an outspoken critic of his contemporaries, voice of Bitter Music and all around sourpuss one might suspect a hyper-critical condemnation of a production so far removed from his control. With the multiple challenges of mounting the first ever production of Delusion of the Fury since 1969 -- Partch's final and most ambitious opus -- one can only marvel at just how much the full multi-media corporeal experience enhances and profoundly defines this work. The world class performance, lighting, costumes and dance on this evening would have brightened even the darkest of Harry's moods.

If you've ever read a single paragraph in the press about Harry Partch then you're familiar with the standard boilerplate about "the microtonal composer and instrument builder who divided the octave into 43 parts." Most descriptions of Partch's music ends with this number and the logistical ramifications of performing music on a large body of unique - often one-of-a-kind instruments - has complicated efforts to understand the full corporeal experience that Partch has brought into this world through viciously uncompromising creative struggle. In the journey from The 17 Lyrics of Li Po to Delusion of the Fury Partch developed numerous solutions to the problems of vocals and theater with music. By structuring a harmonic language to accommodate spoken language and intoning voice he developed a sound that allows singing parts to resonate with exceptional clarity and without resorting to the vibrato and muddled, rhythmically unnatural singing that makes nineteenth century opera such a difficult listen.

And in building visually beautiful and dynamic instruments Partch also liberated the ensemble from the orchestra pit. By integrating the musicians and instruments into the stage performance the corporeal loop between music as a physical and dramatic act is closed to thrilling effect. With conducting responsibilities distributed to performers within the ensemble there is the additional uncluttering and social dynamic of removing the central figurehead of the "dictatorial" conductor in favor of crisp musicianship and a well rehearsed sense of time. Even before the performance began the mere presence of the original Partch instruments- illuminated brilliantly by the outstanding lighting of Jeff Nash - made for awesome staging.

With the onset of "The Exordium" - the overture of Delusion of the Fury - the compositional details of this ritualistic piece unfold as a relentless assertion of this music's place as an innovative, creative high accomplishment. There was an eerie familiarity as several passages matched the recording of the 1969 performance (now re-released on Innova) down to each timbral and temporal detail. The elements that recording cannot capture were astonishing. Particularly the deep resonance of the bass marimba that seemed to pull the entire room into its vibrating cavity. Witnessing the plaintive, train-like bellows of the "blow boy" as the performer physically rides this instrument with the pressure of body weight or the sounds of the "cry chord" - an instrument that requires two performers to coax its sounds - adds a new layer of understanding of the thick conceptual layers at work in this music. Each player is called into multi-instrumental duties as various hand percussion instruments and vocalizations emanated from all points of the stage.

The use of video projected onto the ceiling above the audience combined with the incredible choreography and costumes put this experience over the top. This is simply one of the best live experiences I've ever encountered. The sense of visually dynamic transitions matched the sonic elements of this composition with extreme precision and led to multiple chill-inducing sequences. At one point the dancers were thrown into the shadows by a sudden lighting change that left their moving forms as sharp silhouettes against the backdrop of brightly illuminated instruments. The theatrical charisma of Paige Collette - the soprano solo of the moving chorus - was completely irresistible. This was a rare combination of talent and artistic direction serving toward the corporeal experience that Partch had striven for over a lifetime.

If there was a point of divergence from the original Delusion of the Fury vision that a curmudgeonly Harry Partch might object to it was the decision to dress the instrumentalists in black, as opposed to playing topless to "enhance the sounds with the reflections off of bare flesh." But then Partch was also wrong in believing that his music would fail to outlive its creator. This is an amazing work and 38 years is too long to wait for the next interpretation of this ritual of dream and delusion. The next interpretation of this unique and important American work will have a high standard to measure up to in this John Jesurun directed vision.

Scale of the Day: D Sharp Locrian mapped to the Cube-root-of-2


The D Sharp Locrian mapped to the Cube-root-of-2 Scale. The equal-tempered "half diminished" scale packed into the confines of an equal-tempered major third.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Scale of the Day: D Sharp Locrian diminished 4 mapped to the 3/2


The D Sharp Locrian diminished 4 mapped to the 3/2 Scale. The so-called "super-diminished" scale resized to fit within a just perfect fifth.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Scale of the Day: D Sharp Pythagorean Locrian mapped to the Triative


The D Sharp Pythagorean Locrian mapped to the Triative Scale. This is where the half-diminished stretched to fill the just perfect twelfth gets interesting with the Pythagorean proportions. The utonal quality of this scale is lost in the re-mapping. But the coloring of this harmonic terrain is unique nonetheless.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Doctor Badguy

Albert Ayler: New Grass. 1968. Re-released in 2005. Impulse!: A-9175.

Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone, recitation, vocals, whistling
Bill Folwell: electric bass
Burt Collins: trumpet
Joe Newman: trumpet
Garnett Brown: trombone
Seldon Powell: flute, tenor saxophone
Buddy Lucas: baritone saxophone
Bert DeCoteaux: arrangements, conductor
Call Cobbs: electric harpsichord, piano, organ
Bernard Purdie: drums
Rose Marie McCoy: vocal
Mary Maria Parks: vocals

1968 was the same year Albert Ayler recorded Love Cry - possibly one of the most perfect free jazz recordings of all time. New Grass is cut from an entirely different cloth. And to call it flawed would be generous. With Ayler literally begging listeners to give this music a chance right in the first track it still remains a struggle to understand why he invested so much creative energy into this endeavor that he clearly believed in. Perhaps the understanding of how Ayler's abilities to channel a fierce primal improvisational style toward a more progressive and free sound places too much of a filter on this music - making it sound imprisoned and regressive by comparison. I try to imagine what I would think of this sound if I didn't know it was Ayler and doubt it would have come to my attention at all.

William Parker Double Quartet: Alphaville Suite: Music Inspired by the Jean Luc Godard Film. 2007. Rogue Art: ROG-0010.

William Parker: bass
Rob Brown: alto saxophone
Lewis Barnes: trumpet
Hamid Drake: drums
Mazz Swift: violin
Jessica Pavone: viola
Julia Kent: cello
Shiau-Shu Yu: cello
special guest - Leena Conquest: vocals

Conceptually, and in execution, this disc is a complete artistic success. I'll have to see the Godard film that inspired this suite, but anything that inspires a track called "Doctor Badguy" can't be anything less than outstanding. If only more film soundtracks followed this kind of smart, inspired writing and improvisation. If only more film soundtracks had Hamid Drake's drumming peppered throughout the sound along with the conceptual sense of individuality and poetry William Parker brings to this music. It's hard to imagine a visual equal to this accomplishment.

Kenny Dorham: Quiet Kenny. 1959. Re-released in 1992. Prestige/New Jazz Records: OJCCD-250-2.

Kenny Dorham: trumpet
Tommy Flanagan: piano
Paul Chambers: bass
Arthur Taylor: drums

This 1959 session isn't as adventurous as the Trompetta Toccata disc that holds such immediate appeal for these ears. But there is that trumpet tone and improvisational quality in sharp focus that only deepens the fascination with Dorham's sound.
Quiet Kenny is an apt description of the way Dorham's appeal sneaks up on the senses. He's a classic example of substance triumphing over flash.

Scale of the Day: D Sharp Locrian major 2 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The D Sharp Locrian major 2 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. This one is a simple re-mapping of an altered equal-tempered Locrian.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Signing Off on the Twentieth Century

Alex Ross @ An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
December 4, 2007

Discussing and signing The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century.

The magical Rest is Noise book tour finally made its way to Charm City as Alex Ross drew a sizable crowd of Peabody staff, mid-Atlantic based composers, bloggers and classical music enthusiasts. The fact that the New Yorker music critic and celebrated new music blogger has drawn so many accolades and enthusiastic response for this labor of love is an inspiration that I shall read with great anticipation.

My initial impression is that this book succeeds at telling a compelling narrative of the history of twentieth century "classical" music by making difficult choices on which key figures to focus upon. Ross indicated that he consciously made the decision to write one chapter about Jean Sibelius and one chapter about Benjamin Britten as two figures who have been overlooked in the standard narrative of twentieth century music that favors "innovation" and "progress" at the expense of composers who did not abandon tonality or compose music that was overtly radical. He also indicated that he could easily have written chapters on similar "outsider" composers such as Vaughn Williams or Carl Nielson and countless others and ended up with a more encyclopedic work as a result. And given the depth and range of music in the last century it is tempting to become lost in such vast depths when telling the story. I hope other writers with similar passion and different perspectives will provide equally compelling tales as the twentieth century continues to be re-assessed.

Sibelius and Britten are two composers I have not studied beyond casual hearing. I am partially guilty of the dismissive attitude that has placed them at the periphery of twentieth century music history. Ross is entirely correct to suggest applying a new listening to this music along with a re-evaluation of the attitudes that marginalize such figures.

As the discussion turned to the music of John Adams I began to realize why I find the enthusiastic reception of Adams' music seems so puzzling. The synthesis of the 19th century Romantic aesthetic into his overall sound is not one I had picked up on and is probably the element that I find most difficult to digest. As my own ears slowly unfold to embrace the music of Richard Strauss and other Romantically inclined figures I may eventually come around to appreciate Adams' music more fully.

Scale of the Day: D Sharp Pythagorean Locrian diminished 4


The D Sharp Pythagorean Locrian diminished 4 Scale. In theory, the severely utonal 8192/6561 diminished fourth should shade this scale toward an even darker harmony than the standard Pythagoroean Locrian scale could provide (an already dark scale even if the 4/3 perfect fourth is the "brightest" of the utonal members). In practice, however, at 384.36-cents the 8192/6561 is likely to be interpreted by the contemporary ear - unaware of the 3-limit context - as the otonal 5/4 at 386.31-cents given the mere 1.95-cent difference between them.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Scale of the Day: B Whole-tone 1% narrow


The B Whole-tone 1% narrow Scale. The standard, equal tempered whole-tone scale systematically detuned by compressing each interval a small amount.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Romance with the Razumovsky

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets, Volume IV. Recorded in 1994. Delos: DE 3034.

String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 59 No. 2 ("Razumovsky")
String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95 ("Serioso")

Orford String Quartet
Andrew Dawes: violin
Kenneth Perkins: violin
Terence Helmer: viola
Denis Brott: cello

Note to self: get a score for these "Razumovsky" quartets and analyze the Molto adagio movement from Op. 59 No. 2. These Russian Quartets have every Beethoven quality that draws the ears and mind in and then some, and that movement in particular is worth some analysis. The later "Serioso" quartet is also an intense curiosity. It's hard to beat the Beethoven quartets for sheer density of substance.

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost (box set) [disc 3]. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.

Albert Ayler Quintet at La Cave, Cleveland, Ohio - April 16 - 17, 1966
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Don Ayler: trumpet
Michel Samson: violin
Mutawef Shaheed/Clyde Shy: bass
Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums

These La Cave recordings are a strong draw to this box set of rare Ayler recordings. And I've had plenty to say about Michel Samson's violin sound in previous listenings to this disc. This time around I'm hearing Ronald Shannon Jackson's drum work in a positive light. In may ways, he's the engine driving so much of this music. This sounds like it was a great show in Cleveland. I wish I could have seen it.

Don Byron: Romance with the Unseen. 1999. Blue Note Records: 7243 4 99545 2 6.

Don Byron: clarinet
Bill Frisell: guitar
Drew Gress: bass
Jack DeJohnette: drums

I remembered this one getting lukewarm reviews when it came out in 1999 and it passed me by. But it seemed improbable that this quartet could be anything less than amazing so it was an easy grab from the used bin. Not everything from Don Byron has been pure gold, but he's rarely off and a chance to hear him focus on clarinet with Frisell, Gress and DeJohnette backing him up is spot on. In many ways this disc feels like a precursor to the excellent Ivey Divey - another excellent Byron session featuring DeJohnette on drums - with the focus on interpreting a mix of originals and standards (and a John Lennon tune in the case of Romance with the Unseen). It's possible that jazz fans of 1999 were expecting less subtlety or hadn't yet negotiated the multiple curve balls Byron has been known to bring with each endeavor. This isn't music that screams for attention, but it rewards attention with confidence and fine interplay between four of the finest musicians to record for the Blue Note Label.