Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Scale of the Day: F Ionian no 5 1% wide


The F Ionian no 5 1% wide Scale. Take an F "major" scale, drop the fifth degree, and detune everything outward for 1212-cent octaves. The E diminished triad substitutes nicely for the dominant C7 chord that is no longer possible without the "C" while the 1% extra width adds an edgy, out-of-tune quality not unlike the sound of neglected pianos found in churches and community centers.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Scale of the Day: F Ionian no 5 mapped to the Triative


The F Ionian no 5 mapped to the Triative Scale. The "major third" gap created by omitting the fifth opens up to a nice 633.99-cent chasm (the interval found between 729.48-cents and 1426.47-cents) in triative space.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Charlie Must Be Understandably Proud of Petra

Charlie Hunter: Charlie Hunter. 2000. Blue Note Records: 7243 5 25450 2 5.

Charlie Hunter: 8-string guitar
Peter Apfelbaum: tenor saxophone
Josh Roseman: trombone
Leon Parker: drums, percussion
Stephen Chopek: percussion
Robert Perkins: percussion

Charlie Hunter has all the characteristics one looks for in a Blue Note release with the heavy helping of chops combined with a distinctive sound. But there's also a lot of raw fun lurking in this groove-heavy disc. The Latin treatment of Monk's "Epistrophy" being one of the highlights along with the driving infectiousness of "Two for Bleu." Hunter proves - yet again - that one can fall squarely within the jazz tradition without sounding dated or derivative.

Andrew Hill: Point of Departure. 1964. Re-released in 1999. Blue Note Records: 7243 4 99007 2 1.

Andrew Hill: compositions, piano
Kenny Dorham: trumpet
Eric Dolphy: alto saxophone, flute, bass clarinet
Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone
Richard Davis: bass
Tony Williams: drums

A disc dripping with musicality that continues to reveal fresh surprises with each spinning. Dorham, Dolphy and Henderson all turn in outstanding solos that deliver exactly what one expects from such a stacked roster. But it's the Andrew Hill compositions that make this session so enduring as he shapes many different textures and sounds out of the sonic verve these players bring to the table.

Petra Haden/Bill Frisell: Petra Haden and Bill Frisell. 2003. Songlines/Tonefield: TND 312.

Petra Haden: vocals, violin
Bill Frisell: electric guitar, acoustic guitar

I can't believe this has been sitting on my shelf for over six months waiting for this listening. A combination of trepidation of a vocal heavy recording and a wealth of new music to listen to kept this one in the back of the cue. Faith in Bill Frisell's taste and musicality pulled it forward today and I was reminded that while vocals and poetry often fail, they can also capture truth and expression with painful immediacy. And in the case of Petra Haden, with her exquisite sense of intonation and grasp of song, this is a collaboration that wins these doubting ears completely over. Even the cover of Coldplay's "Yellow" - a completely over-exposed song that has never held my attention prior to this cover - takes on a human vulnerability and confidence that is startling. "Moon River" breathes with a vitality that conveys a sense of why that song has such longevity. And the wordless interpretation of Frisell's "Throughout" is pure joy.

Trio Trio Duo in the Red

Jeff Arnal/Tom Boram/Dan Dechellis/John Dierker/Aaron Dugan/Gary Hassay/Toshi Makihara @ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD
Saturday, October 27, 2007

set one
Dan Dechellis: piano
Gary Hassay: alto saxophone
Toshi Makihara: drums, percussion

set two
Jeff Arnal: drums, percussion
John Dierker: tenor saxophone
Aaron Dugan: guitar

set three
Tom Boram: electronics, amplified helium balloon, tap dancing, guitar
Toshi Makihara: drums, percussion

The elements greeted Dan Dechellis during the first set as the roof of the Red Room sprang a leak just above the intense, improvising pianist and placed him within his own indoor weather system. Undeterred, Dechellis incorporated rhythmic towel swipes along the keyboard as he dried - and simultaneously moved - his instrument in mid-performance. His harmonic language and deft use of widely varied dynamic attacks were a fresh revelation to these ears. Combined in a strongly reactive trio with the playful kinetic energy of drummer Toshi Makahara and the surging tidal waves of alto saxophonist Gary Hassay this set was a welcome blast of creative force.

One can hear John Dierker's ears as he plays. His free improvisational sensibilities continue to impress me with each shifting performance context. This time he sat in with the beautiful chemistry of New Yorkers Jeff Arnal and Aaron Dugan. This trio would playfully drain the tone right out of their instruments over time as Dierker reduced his sound to air exhales through the tenor saxophone against Arnal's soft scrapings along the rims of his drums with metal cans and Dugan's extremely processed (and extended technique heavy) sound. There was a quiet moment with Arnal playing on metal pots and gongs arranged on the floor that was striking. And this set left me with an intense curiosity to hear more of Aaron Dugan's guitar playing.

The final set shifted toward the playful energy and antics of Boran and Makihara. Tom Boran spun out a steady stream of inventive and creative sounds from his unique rig while Toshi Makihara adeptly responded to each curve thrown his way. While much of the sounding energy was enjoyable, the dialogue between performers felt a little one-sided at times. But this was quickly forgotten each time the overall sound would swell into something richly textured.

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


The F Ionian minor 2 no 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. This one makes for an interesting quarter-tone scale with the gaping 250-cent hole between the pitches 250 and 500 cents above the tonic. The 50-cent intervals found just above and below the tonic have an enormous tonal gravity toward the tonic.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Scale of the Day: F Ionian minor 2 no 5


The intervallic content of the F Ionian minor 2 no 5 Scale. The minor second opens up an augmented between the second and third degrees of the scale while the subtracted perfect fifth opens up a major third between the perfect fourth and major sixth.

Friday, October 26, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: The Medium is the Messenger(s)

Elliott Sharp/Tectonics: Field & Stream. 1998. Knitting Factory Records: KFR-227.

Elliott Sharp: doubleneck guitarbass, bits and bytes, drum programming, tenor saxophone
Zeena Parkins: sampler, little green drone guitar
Frank Rothkamm: drums, bass

This one has always struck me as the more reserved and texturally nuanced of the three "Tectonics" releases. The electronica timbre pallet is more pronounced in the overall balance and drum programming technique while still retaining the abrasive turns that keep things from settling into the mundane qualities of much of the electronica genre. The final track, "Lithic" takes a complete departure from the forward motion of the rest of Field & Stream as it settles into a static processed electronic texture. It's a fitting coda for this studio effort from Elliott Sharp.

Ornette Coleman: The Empty Foxhole. 1966 (re-released in 1994). Blue Note Records: CDP 7243 8 28982 2 1.

Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone, trumpet, violin
Charlie Haden: bass
Denardo Coleman: drums

The mournful trumpet, played with the rough technique of Ornette Coleman, carefully and simply tracing out the melodic contours of the title track as a 10-year-old Denardo Coleman plays a simple pulse with Charlie Haden weaving the bass within the texture before this short track blossoms into a harmolodic haze is one of the rewarding moments uncovered as one spends time with this under valued (and often not listened to enough given the focus on the age and lineage of the drummer found in online reviews) Coleman recording. There's a quiet space between each performer as they paint with spare strokes. The timbre of Coleman's violin and trumpet playing takes some getting used to. But he's not turning to those instruments for a conventional sound or technique as Coleman's relative unfamiliarity with his secondary axes sheds a different light on the raw essence of his melodic sensibility.

Art Blakey/The Jazz Messengers: The Jazz Messengers at the Cafe Bohemia volume 1 & 2. 1955. Re-released in 2001. Blue Note Records: 7243 5 32148 2 1 & 7243 5 32149 2 0.

Art Blakey: drums
Kenny Dorham: trumpet
Hank Mobley: tenor saxophone
Horace Silver: piano
Doug Watkins: bass

It's hard to believe that mono can sound so good, but given the caliber of the players on this recording - all of them at the top of their game - there's plenty for the ears to drink in regardless of the number of channels. But for a monophonic recording it has remarkable clarity (thank you Rudy Van Gelder for being on the scene with the microphone at this gig). After an unusually hectic week at HurdAudio, these two discs are exactly what the brain needs to both unwind and simply marvel at the Kenny Dorham arrangements.

Speaking of Dorham, this is the recording that brought this great trumpet player into sharp focus as a player, composer and arranger at HurdAudio. While this is a quintet that could have made anything sound spectacular, it's these particular arrangements that make this listening experience into something transcendent from an evening that still gives off enormous luminescence more than half a century later.

Scale of the Day: F Pythagorean Ionian no 5


The F Pythagorean Ionian no 5 Scale. Removing the fifth does little to upset the balance of otonal (4) versus utonal (1) member pitches as it is that single utonal (the 4/3) that gives the Ionian its harmonic shading.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Spark! at An Die Musik

Myra Melford/Marty Ehrlich Duo @ An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
October 25, 2007

Myra Melford: piano
Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet
with special guest -
Michael Formanek: bass

Out to promote their second CD as a duo; Spark!, Myra Melford and Marty Ehrlich bring considerable creative energy and deep musical chops as their sound sparks and often ignites. And as closely as I've followed Myra Melford's recording career - as well as several live performances - she continues to surprise my ears with unexpected turns and breathtaking synthesis of so many different influences and experiences. In this particular performance she moved seamlessly between the two distinct sides of her personal style that erased the gap I've often felt between her early trio recordings and her Same River Twice ensemble releases.

The first set featured interpretations of original compositions by Melford and Ehrlich along with a great Andrew Hill piece. Their take on Ehrlich's For Leroy - written for the late Leroy Jenkins - was particularly stirring. The second set focused on longer takes of fewer pieces with Michael Formanek sitting in to fill out a trio sound as these musicians settled into a deep, rhythmically tight pocket for some amazing music.

Scale of the Day: A Mixolydian no 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The A Mixolydian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. The intervallic "hole" left behind by the subtracted fourth is a mere 150-cents in Square-root-of-2 space. Another artifact of the subtractive process is that the 6-notes per "tritone" will numerically match the equal tempered chromatic scale - making it particularly important to treat each 600-cent tritone as harmonically equivalent to establish the harmonic fabric of this scale.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Scale of the Day: F Sharp Mixolydian no 4


The intervallic content of the F Sharp Mixolydian no 4 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Scale of the Day: A Mixolydian no 4 diminished 5


The A Mixolydian no 4 diminished 5 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. The equal temperament allows for enormous ambiguity between the major third and diminished fifth - a diminished third that ends up sounding like a major second in this tuning system. This ambiguity is compounded by the augmented second between the diminished fifth and major sixth - an interval that could pass for a minor third.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Dorian no 4


The E Dorian no 4 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. The missing perfect fourth removes the symmetrical counter-balance as the inversion of the perfect fifth.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Abyss and Trio

Sylvie Beaudoin/William Jenken/Peter Minkler Trio @ An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sylvie Beaudoin: piano
William Jenken: clarinet
Peter Minkler: viola

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
: Kegelstatt for piano, viola and clarinet
Olivier Messiaen: Abyss of the Birds for clarinet (from Quatuor Pour la Fin du Temps)
Henri Vieuxtemps: Capriccio for viola
Thomas Benjamin: Tangissimo! for clarinet, viola and piano
Jean Francaix: Trio for clarinet, viola and piano

One can hear the birds just outside Olivier Messiaen's 1940 German POW prison immortalized in Abyss of the Birds, the third movement, composed as a clarinet solo, from his Quartet for the End of Time. Balanced against long crescendos of single notes that emerge from silence and an expansive use of the range of the instrument the longing for the freedom of the birds is clear. William Jenken's performance of this movement conveyed the sense of longing while reinforcing the qualities that make this Messiaen work so enduring and "timeless."

With Mozart, I am well within the Charles Ives camp that finds his music too pretty and delicate for the contemporary pallet. Kegelstatt featured the regular phrasing and cadences one expects to hear from the Classical master along with a smattering of Alberti bass. All of it well arranged, and extraordinarily well balanced in this particular performance. While I still haven't developed a taste for Mozart, live experiences such as this one are an ideal way to hear and re-examine one's opinions of it.

Jean Francaix's Trio is a beautifully detailed work that was performed with great musicality for such a challenging piece. The deliberate "stumbling" rhythm used to break up the regular shuffling highlighted the deft interplay between the performers. It certainly piqued my curiosity to hear more of this French composer's music.

HurdAudio Rotation: Three Sides of American Music

Harry Partch: 17 Lyrics of Li Po. 1995. Tzadik: TZ 7012.

Stephen Kalm: intoning voice
Ted Mook: tenor violin

Kalm and Mook have an eerie ability to practically channel the tone and intonation of Harry Partch as the maverick troubadour sound weaves a poetic spell that is half-sung and half-spoken. The vocal delivery of this music suggests a well-paced alternative to standard singing technique as the tenor violin bends toward just intervals and natural spoken rhythms that allows these unassuming verbal images to emerge. These 17 Lyrics have deeply affected my own conception of vocal writing as the music folds tightly against the austere beauty of these episodic poems.

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [box set] - disc 6. 2003. Revenant Records: RVN213.

Albert Ayler Quintet: June 30 - July 1, 1967 @ Freebody Park, Newport, Rhode Island
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, vocals
Don Ayler: trumpet
Michel Samson: violin
Bill Folwell: bass
Milford Graves: drums

Albert Ayler Quartet: July 21, 1967 @ the funeral of John Coltrane
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone, vocals
Don Ayler: trumpet
Richard Davis: bass
Milford Graves: drums

Pharoah Sanders Band: July 21, 1968 @ the Renaissance Ballroom, New York City
Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone
Chris Capers: trumpet
unknown: alto saxophone
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
unknown: tenor saxophone
Dave Burrell: piano
Sirone: bass
Roger Blank: drums

Albert Ayler - various recordings around New York City in August, 1968
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone, vocals, solo recitation
Cal Cobbs: piano, rockischord
Bill Folwell: electric bass
Bernard Purdie: drums
Mary Parks: vocals, tambourine
Vivian Bostick: vocals

This disc combines the different sides of Albert Ayler that reflects the turmoil of the late-60s. Starting with the Love Cry era live recordings from Newport that feature some of his most intense, dense ensemble playing. The sound from this set is some of the most concentrated Ayler substance these ears have heard as the quintet roars and runs through some exhilarating transitions. From there we move to the solemn, love-filled mourning from the funeral of John Coltrane. The roughness of the recording matches the raw sense of loss. Then there is the twenty minutes with Pharoah Sanders as Ayler communes with "the son" on Sanders' great composition "Upper Egypt."

Then this disc fills out with a series of demo tracks for Ayler's R & B New Grass material. Coming off of the intense, raging energy of the Newport set at the start of this disc these Mary Parks sessions feel as if the great King Kong has been caged up. And that he willfully confined himself. The inflexible rhythm section keeps a steady pulse while Ayler's horn continues to speak with his energitic outpouring while the sense of loss at not having a Milford Graves or Henry Grimes or Sunny Murray responding or balancing this force sets in. When Ayler sings he simply sounds lost, his voice being a far cry from the confident tone of his tenor saxophone. I don't doubt the sincerity of Aylers' New Grass efforts. But it still sounds like something derailed within him creatively when he went down that path.

Philip Glass: From the Philip Glass Recording Archive: Volume II - Orchestral Music. 2007. Orange Mountain Music: 0047.

Days and Nights in Rocinha (1998)
Performed by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Dennis Russell Davies

Persephone (1994)
Performed by the Relache Ensemble

This one is a light dose of the Philip Glass repetition, pulse and clear tonality that marks so much of his work. The arpeggio machine is turned way down on these orchestral arrangements while the sequences and steady rhythmic patterns are retained. These are pleasant pieces that are well performed and recorded and enjoyable despite way they blend into the opacity of so many Glass compositions. This is a good place to put one's ears if you haven't yet overdosed on the Philip Glass experience.

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


The E Flat Aeolian no 4 1% wide Scale. This is a simple application of detuning applied to a subtractive scale.

Cold Red

Cold Reading Trio @ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD
October 20, 2007

Christian Pincock: laptop, live sampling
Evan Mazunik: accordion, voice, piano
John O'Brien: drums

also playing:
Audrey Chen/Stewart Mostofsky Duo
Audrey Chen: cello, voice
Stewart Mostofsky: electronics

Cold Reading Trio opened their set with a free improvisation that featured Pincock's dynamic live sampling and playback technique. With O'Brein and Muzanik contributing short outbursts, this technique promoted a sparseness that was reflected by the similarly short outbursts of processed samples clearly drawn from things temporally recent. This makes for an aesthetically beautiful sound, but I was concerned that the rest of the set would be constrained within this textural monotony. The pieces that followed were anything but monotonous as this trio shifted toward composed works that directed their improvisational energies toward a creative and engaging variety of sounds. The presence of live sampling playback was woven into the overall performance, never overwhelming the live sparks being thrown out by the trio as a whole.

Audrey Chen mined her now familiar sonic language of extended cello technique and voice as she continues to impress me with her reactive abilities when improvising with live electronics. It wasn't all reactive improvisation for Chen, with a forceful presence she was also driving much of the texture as she carved out sonic territories well ahead of Mostofsky's additions.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

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


The E Flat Aeolian no 4 mapped to the Triative Scale. The gap between 475.49-cents and 1109.47-cents - a gap that is expanded further by the expansiveness of triative space - is the interesting focal point of this subtractive process.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Aeolian no 4 diminished 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The E Flat Aeolian no 4 diminished 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. The Aeolian scale after subtraction, alteration and getting compacted down to half its size.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Aeolian no 4


The E Flat Pythagorean Aeolian no 4 Scale. One of the effects of removing the fourth degree of this Aeolian scale - aside from the major third it opens up between adjacent intervals - is the absence of utonal coloring from the 4/3 perfect fourth. The Aeolian mode is strongly associated with a balance of four utonal and two otonal pitches relative to the tonic. The three and two balance of this particular subtraction levels off some of the darker harmonic shading of this scale.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Derek, Gunda and McCoy

Derek Bailey/Cyro Baptista: Derek. 2006. Amulete Records: amt 023.

Derek Bailey: guitar
Cyro Baptista: percussion, voice

This one is a live set from New York's Tonic recorded in 2003. There's an extra element of reactive-ness between these free improvisers that is ever present in the sound. Unfamiliar to one another and unrehearsed, Baptista throws some interesting curves at Derek Bailey as the contrast between the guitar-centric sound against the timbrally varied voice and percussion comes into sharp relief. Bailey's playing provides a sense of gravity that keeps Baptista's whimsical language in check while that same whimsey ("Fred Estaire, I don't care") provides a buoyancy to Bailey's introversion.

Gunda Gottschalk: Wassermonde. 2002. Elephant Records: 002.

Gunda Gottschalk: violin, viola

The contours of the bow sawing across four adjacent strings takes on a raw physicality in the unique improvised language of Gunda Gottschalk. The arching form of this hour-long performance feels composed while the exquisite details take on a spontaneous vibrancy. With a tone that can be heart-stopping in its frailty or richly augmented with Gottschalk's voice surging into the sonic image this is a performance that balances thrilling aesthetic territory with composed intention. The moment-to-moment details are flawlessly molded into an overall form that makes for an intense and satisfying listening experience.

McCoy Tyner: The Real McCoy. 1967 - reissued in 1999. Blue Note Records: 7243 4 97807 2 9.

McCoy Tyner: piano
Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone
Ron Carter: bass
Elvin Jones: drums

This album was a tangible source of escape through hot summers spent sweeping floors in New Jersey while waiting for the next school year to commence. With headphones providing a distraction from dirt and humidity, "Passion Dance" allowed the mind and heart to soar. The Real McCoy still holds that same transcendent soaring quality as one of the great jazz records of all time. Tyner's solo on his ballad "Search for Peace" is an inspiration as a fellow ivory practitioner. This is a quartet of excellence in top form and a document for the ages.

Scale of the Day: A Phrygian no 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The A Phrygian no 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. Note the wide 250-cent interval between the third and fourth degrees (where the missing "fourth" leaves a void). Within the quarter-tone scale context that 250-cent gap is huge and adds an interesting color to this harmony.

Monday, October 15, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: From Lapse to Grace

Andrew Drury: A Momentary Lapse. 2003. Innova: 581.

Andrew Drury: compositions, drums
Eyvind Kang: violin
Briggan Krauss: alto saxophone, clarbone
Chris Speed: tenor saxophone, clarinet
Myra Melford: piano
Mark Dresser: bass

A Momentary Lapse covers a lot of compositional territory that allows the massive improvisational forces of these great players plenty of room to maneuver and paint large, vibrant sonic canvases. From the unmistakable Krauss screams on the alto saxophone of "The Schwartzes" to the clear, Dresser-tones on "Keep the Fool," this is an all-star ensemble focused on some stellar compositions.

Bill Frisell/Dave Holland/Elvin Jones: Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones. 2001. Nonesuch Records: 79624-2.

Bill Frisell: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, loops
Dave Holland: bass
Elvin Jones: drums

This is one of those Bill Frisell records that the ear keeps reaching for out of fascination with how this rhythm section plays these familiar Frisell compositions. The sound is squarely in the Americana realm and Holland and Jones turn in a laid back, supportive performance. There's so much detail lurking around the edges of this sound in how this trio brings out the melodic phrasing and the relaxed sense of time. These make for definitive interpretations of Frisell's "Twenty Years," "Tell Your Ma, Tell Your Pa" and "Convict 13." At least these are the arrangements that come to mind when I reflect upon them. The interpretations of the non-Frisell "Moon River" and "Hard Times" are also particularly engaging and a hint of the depth of music lurking within all three of these players.

Michele Rabbia/Marilyn Crispell/Vincent Courtois: Shifting Grace. 2006. Camjazz: CAMJ 7791-2.

Michele Rabbia: percussion
Marilyn Crispell: piano
Vincent Courtois: cello

Opening with Crispell's incredible piano playing bathed in warm reverb - perhaps a bit more reverb than I care for - this trio of outstanding improvisers "shift" between duos, solos and the full trio over a span of a dozen brief pieces of incredible restraint and detail. The brevity lends to an aching, wispy quality that pulls away before any trace of indulgence can form. Rabbia's bowed cymbals and silence-framed percussion is a perfect layer for this intense and quiet music. Courtois runs a wider gamut of dynamic range as he pulls sustained crescendos on sustained tones into sharp focus.

La Forza Matinee

La Forza del Destino by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after "Don Alvaro, o La Fuerza del sino" by Angel de Saavedra
Sunday, October 14, 2007 by The Baltimore Opera Company @ The Lyric Opera House, Baltimore, MD

Giovanna Casolla: soprano (Leonora)
Antonello Palombi: tenor (Don Alvaro)
Ned Barth: baritone (Don Carlo)
Daniel Lewis Williams: bass (Padre Guardiano)
Alexander Savtchenko: bass (Marquis)
Jessie Raven: mezzo-soprano (Preziosilla)

By the time intermission rolls around, Leonora has already taken up residence in a cave by a monastery to live out her remaining days as a hermit. With the expectation that no living soul will ever see her again she is provided with a bell to ring when the time comes for her last rites. Her fate only gets worse after intermission.

The story for La Forza del Destino is so improbable, contrived and tragic that it practically takes on comical dimensions. With a complete lack of character development it was easy be amused by the unrealistic depths of their suffering.

While the story is a mess, the music is another story. Antonello Palombi is an outstanding tenor and the scenes featuring Jessie Raven as the fortune-teller featured some intriguing arrangements. The wandering Pilgrims on stage singing hymns added a nice spatial element to the sound as well as some delicious homophonic textures that rippled throughout the orchestral material from the pit.

Scale of the Day: D Sharp Phrygian no 4


The intervallic content of the D Sharp Phrygian no 4 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. This one is a straight subtractive scale.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Electro-Euro Improvisation and a Side of Trumpet and Sax

Matthias Mainz/Hannes Hoelzl/Joker Nies/Alberto De Campo/John Berndt
October 14, 2007 @ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD

Matthias Mainz: trumpet, electronics
Hannes Hoelzl: laptop, original software
Joker Nies: analog electronics
Alberto De Campo: laptop, analog input devices
John Berndt: soprano saxophone, inventions

With quiet, shifting textures the various configurations of solo, duo, quartet and quintet of electronics with wind instruments exposed the role of active listening in improvised contexts regardless of medium and instrumentation. The guest European laptop musicians at the Red Room on this occasion have a refined and well developed sense of interaction and listening.

With the physical "performance" of laptop music being what it is, I found my ears pulled strongly toward the trumpet sound and welcomed periods when the processed and live trumpet sound would emerge into the foreground. Even with eyes closed to evaluate the sound as a whole, the rich variety of that acoustic instrument was the most compelling part of the soundscape. The electro-acoustic textures emanating from the laptops and analog gizmos were tasteful and well balanced within the overall sound. But the enormous appeal of Matthias Mainz's trumpet sound paired with my reservations on the current state of laptop/Super Collider improvisation made it difficult to place my focus anywhere else.

The spontaneous duo of Mainz and Berndt, the only all-acoustic portion of the evening, was a welcome relief from a pair who had only met that afternoon. The laptop duo between Hoelzl and De Campo - billed as "laptops unplugged" - using only the internal speakers of the computers was an interesting curiosity.

Scale of the Day: A Phrygian no 4 major 6


The A Phrygian no 4 major 6 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Dissonance Destroys Capitolism (if only), Lyons Growls, Time Changes

Louis Andriessen: De Staat. 1991. Elektra Nonesuch: 9 79251-2.

The Schoenberg Ensemble

Reinbert de Leeuw: conductor
Maarten Karres, Ernest Rombout: oboe
Maarten Dekkers, Justine Gerretsen: oboe/english horn
Willem van der Vliet, Hendrik Jan Lindout, Huug Steketee, Jos Verspagen: trumpet
Iman Soeteman, Christiaan Boers, Peter Hoekmeijer, Theo Hoekstra: horn
Toon van Ulsen, Pete Saunders, Albert Zuyderduyn: trombone
Peter van Klink: bass trombone
Hans Kunneman, Patricio Wang: electric guitar
Rob Zeelenberg: electric bass guitar
Mapje Keereweer, Ernestine Stoop: harp
Henk Guittart, Aimee Versloot, Rena Scholtens, Jouke van der Leest: viola
Claron McFadden, Barbara Bordeon: soprano
Yvonne Benschop, Ananda Goud: mezzosoprano

This one is a heady concoction, feeling like a cross-breed between Steve Reich's Desert Music and Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. The political dimension of this piece is also interesting as a setting of Plato's naive and misguided notions about music's role and potential in an ideal state. If the mixolydian mode was even remotely as dangerous as Plato believed the power to affect change would be far less remote than it is. If "changing to a new kind of music" was indeed "followed by alteration in the most fundamental laws of the state" then we could at least strive toward the utopian anarchy of John Cage's idealism as pragmatic practice. If anything, the current powers that be are deaf, and all the dissonance in the world - cognitive or otherwise - is lost in an ocean of cronyism and incompetence. In the meantime, it's been far too long since I last spun De Staat. I enjoy its brash loudness and pulsing persistence.

Cecil Taylor: The Great Paris Concert. November 30, 1966 (re-issued in 1994). Black Lion: BLCD760201.

Cecil Taylor: piano
Jimmy Lyons: alto saxophone
Alan Silva: bass
Andrew Cyrille: drums

After last weekend's brush with the great Andrew Cyrille the ears were hungry for more. "Great" is the word for this live outing from 1966. The texture is unmistakably Cecil Taylor with his intense and focused improvisation filling out the full range of the piano. It's the filling out of that texture from Lyons, Silva and Cyrille that makes the overall sound shimmer. From the initial, forceful blasts from Lyons' alto at the onset of "Student Studies part 1" to the pianistic blurs across "Niggle Feuigle" this one is a steady jolt of the avant "old" garde.

Mark Dresser/Denman Maroney with Michael Sarin and Alexandra Montano: Time Changes. 2005. Cryptogramophone: CG124.

Mark Dresser: bass
Denman Maroney: hyperpiano
Michael Sarin: drums, percussion
Alexandra Montano: voice

This disc is too good to stay out of the rotation for long. There's an unbelievable balance of creative playing - both inside and outside the jazz tradition - and enormous chemistry between Dresser and Maroney. The extended techniques on bass and "hyperpiano" have considerable emphasis on both the "extended" and the "technique" as the resulting compositions and overall sound make for an outstanding listening experience. The undulating tempos add a wonderful dimension while Alexandra Montano's intonation and sense of balance makes her voice a welcome layer within this music. I enthusiastically recommend putting an ear to this one.

Scale of the Day: F Locrian no 4


The F Locrian no 4 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. The missing fourth degree adds a level of ambiguity to the diminished fifth. With an equal tempered system it is probable that the ear will cognitively resolve it as an augmented fourth. As a composer, the standard issues of resolution that manifest with the odd tonal gravity of the diminished fifth are ever present and the challenge is to not treat the diminished fifth as a substitute for the missing fourth degree.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Scale of the Day: E 5, 3 Construct #1, Lydian Mode - reflected into the First Pool


The E 5, 3 Construct #1, Lydian Mode - reflected into the First Pool - Scale. This is a conceptual scale with just three notes. The "reflection" takes the 5-limit major seventh and adds a proportionately equivalent interval within itself. The 1.768 is to 15/8 what 15/8 is to 2.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Map

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Tan Dun
October 11, 2007 @ The Music Center at Strathmore, North Bethesda, MD

Dmitri Shostakovich: Overture on Russian and Kirghiz Folk Themes, op. 115
Alexander Borodin: Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor
The Map, Concerto for Violoncello, Video and Orchestra
Ilya Finkelshteyn: cello

Some believe that the classical music tradition is somehow in its last throes. Orchestras and orchestral music are frequently declared to be in various stages of decay in the press (and in music blogs) and discussions often circle a tight orbit with a pessimistic view toward change. Encountering The Map, particularly as conducted by its composer Tan Dun, sheds much needed perspective upon the fragility of all traditions from one who has weathered many changes.

The Map is an intensely personal work. It is motivated by a passionate journey to recover and preserve the aboriginal dance and music traditions of China. Traditions that are astonishingly vivid, beautiful and frail. The juxtaposition and incorporation of the sounds, movement and people of China via pre-recorded video into the pan-cultural context of an orchestra within a formal concert hall draws striking parallels to the mortality and enduring humanity inherit in all traditions. The video, cello and orchestra work as equal parts in The Map. There is no sense of one accompanying the other. The performance unfolds as a dialogue between these three parts that periodically overlaps at times. Tan Dun skillfully mixes and balances this piece by allowing the video screen to go blank or the orchestra to go silent at different times as the focal point shifts fluidly in accordance to the materials being presented. The incorporation of the orchestral percussion with the dancers and stone drummers on screen was particularly exhilarating. And the call and response between the singer on screen with the cellist on stage was brilliant - in part because of the vocal-like inflections of the cello part. Extended techniques for the orchestral players were clearly focused on complimenting and adding to the overall sonic image and the orchestration was extraordinarily economical with sparse - but never thin - textures.

The common thread of works that make use of folk materials native to their respective composers was also evident in the Dmitri Shostakovich and Alexander Borodin pieces in the first half of this program. Shostakovich's Overture on Russian and Kirghiz Folk Themes is a well-orchestrated piece that lives up to its "overture" status as unusually light fare for its composer. The Polovtsian Dances of Alexander Borodin had a sticky, overly sweet quality that seemed to clean all the earthiness off of its folk materials.

As a conductor, Tan Dun made precise, deliberate motions toward a responsive Baltimore Symphony Orchestra that seemed to draw a world of sound with a minimum of extraneous gestures. One could sense the connection Tan Dun felt with each of the pieces on this program. And one could sense the melancholy of the fading traditions so lovingly presented in The Map along side the optimism that this one creative expression might help preserve the awe and human warmth found within Tan Dun's personal and cultural geography.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Whole-tone no 2 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The E Flat Whole-tone no 2 Scale mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. The first pentatonic "scale of the day" in square-root-of-2 space. And it inherits the whole-tone anomaly of being a scale with the 600-cent "tritone" as the interval of harmonic equivalence without requiring a complete re-tuning of most instruments.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: The Delusion Sets In

Harry Partch: Delusion of the Fury: A Ritual of Dream and Delusion. Conducted by Danlee Mitchell. 1999 (re-issued from the 1971 Columbia Masterworks recording). Innova: 406.

Delusion is a sonic universe so complete, so inviting that putting on this disc is an invitation to live within the alternate reality of Harry Partch's imagining. The call of a bacchanalian, ritualistic sensibility continues to stand in sharp contrast to the world that Partch turned his back on when he invented these instruments, this intonation system and this incredible music. As his final and most ambitious work, Delusion of the Fury remains a significant point of reference in the HurdAudio Rotation.

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets - Volume V. Recorded by The Orford String Quartet. 1994. Delos International: DE 3035.

String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59 No. 3 ("Razumovsky")
String Quartet in E-Flat Major, Op. 74 ("Harfen")

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

With this listening I've finally dipped my ears into all three of the "Razumovsky" quartets - an impressive set of polished "middle period" pieces from the old master. The Opus 74 also falls into that transition period between Classical and Romantic sensibilities. (At least that's how it sounds to me). The transition exposes a transparency between the two styles that is fascinating to hear. The Classical language seems to swell with additional syntax and ever expanding inventiveness (to continue the habit of torturing the 'music as syntactical language' metaphor). The final V-I progression of the Op. 74 feels tacked on somehow. Like a soft let down - or nod toward cadential convention in the immediate wake of so much vigorous activity.

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [box set] - disc 4. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.

Albert Ayler Sextet: April 17, 1966 @ La Cave, Cleveland, OH
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Don Ayler: trumpet
Frank Wright: tenor saxophone
Michel Samson: violin
Mutawef Shaheed: bass
Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums

Albert Ayler Quintet: November 3, 1966 @ Berlin Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Don Ayler: trumpet
Michel Samson: violin
Bill Folwell:bass
Beaver Harris: drums

There's a satisfying release of aggressive energy in these sessions - with Michel Samson sawing away with a perfect counterbalance to Ayler's tenor playing. I'm struck by just how different this violin sound is compared to what Ornette Coleman does with that instrument in his own free improvisations. This is hardly surprising given the forceful conviction of "Truth Is Marching In" of "Zion Hill" compared to the off-centered harmolodics of a "Lonely Woman" or "Change of the Century." Not to mention the fact that violin is Samson's primary instrument. It's fortunate that these 1966 sets were documented.