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.

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