Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Whole-tone mapped to the Triative

EFlatWholeToneMappedToThe3-interval-analysis

The intervallic content of the E Flat Whole-tone mapped to the Triative Scale. The identical interval sizes across the horizontal rows is a byproduct of dividing the triative into six equal parts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Scale of the Day: B Whole-tone (2 - 1) mapped to the Triative

BWholeTone(2-1)MappedToTheTriative

The B Whole-tone (2 - 1) mapped to the Triative Scale. This one is a straight re-mapping of an altered scale. The (2 - 1) leaves a 475.49-cent gap between the second and third degrees that breaks up the 316.99-cent re-mapped whole-tones that dominate this harmonic territory.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Whole-tone (2 - 1) mapped to the Square-root-of-2

EFlatWholeTone(2-1)MappedToTheSquareRootOf2-interval-analysis

The intervallic content of the E Flat Whole-tone (2 - 1) mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. Contextually, if one does not treat the 600-cent "tritone" as a harmonic equivalence this ends up sounding like a regular chromatic scale with a pair of quarter tones thrown in.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In Praise of Segmentation

I'll resist a complete dissection David Brooks' opinion piece decrying the loss of "mega-groups" with mass cultural following and the decay of "all-purpose rock." But I will comment on a handful of his statements. I don't follow Brooks columns and can't comment on how knowledgeable he is in other areas - but I can say he knows very little about music. Perhaps he was attempting something light hearted for the holiday weekend.

This statement was particularly perplexing:
People who have built up cultural capital and pride themselves on their superior discernment are naturally going to cultivate ever more obscure musical tastes. I’m not sure they enjoy music more than the throngs who sat around listening to Led Zeppelin, but they can certainly feel more individualistic and special.
Why does a lack of curiosity pass for virtue with the conservative crowd? Speaking as one who cultivates "obscure" musical tastes, I don't think feeling "individualistic" or "special" has ever been a motivation or even an end result. Led Zeppelin is fine for those who like music. For those who love music their appetite can never be satisfied by just one flavor. It's not about "superior discernment." It's about passion and curiosity.

In an earlier passage:
Technology drives some of the fragmentation. Computers allow musicians to produce a broader range of sounds. Top 40 radio no longer serves as the gateway for the listening public. Music industry executives can use market research to divide consumers into narrower and narrower slices.
This vastly overstates the influence and abilities of the dinosaur class known as "music industry executive." Computers have had a democratizing effect on music creation and consumption. The executive class has shrinking influence over consumer behavior and can niche-market themselves into oblivion for all anyone cares. This is a vast improvement over the narrow gateways of corporate record labels and tightly controlled Top 40 radio. Again, Top 40 is fine for people who like music. For those who love music it's merely a single strain within a vast ecosystem. Fragmentation is a sign of a healthy, creative environment with plenty of species diversity. Limiting one's listening to Top 40 is a little like subsisting on a diet of marshmallows.
...if the Rolling Stones came along now, they wouldn’t be able to get mass airtime because there is no broadcast vehicle for all-purpose rock.
If the need arises for another Rolling Stones then it will happen. Until that time they will not be missed. Moving away from the questionable acoustics of big arena shows can only be a good thing. Past cultural phenomena such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were a product of a less cynical time and less tech-savvy consumer base.
Van Zandt has a way to counter all this, at least where music is concerned. He’s drawn up a high school music curriculum that tells American history through music. It would introduce students to Muddy Waters, the Mississippi Sheiks, Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers. He’s trying to use music to motivate and engage students, but most of all, he is trying to establish a canon, a common tradition that reminds students that they are inheritors of a long conversation.
A music curriculum that exposes young ears to music traditions is a positive step. Though this list is suspiciously narrow in its scope. My sense of American music history includes Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, Duke Ellington, Pauline Oliveros, John Cage, Albert Ayler, Terry Riley, Carl Ruggles, Edgard Varese, Anthony Braxton, John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Art Tatum, Kenny Dorham, Billy Strayhorn, Irving Berlin, Robert Johnson, Ruth Crawford-Seeger, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Bill Frisell, Carl Stalling, Raymond Scott, Carla Bley, Louis Armstrong and many others with equal claim to that "common tradition" over the past century and a half. The true goal of such a music education should be to stimulate and encourage students to seek out and discover the experience of hearing such a rich musical heritage. I'm concerned that the curriculum Brooks alludes to simply hands down a narrow subset without encouraging deeper thought and exploration. I'm suspicious of any canon that doesn't cultivate curiosity - the lack of which is not a virtue.

HurdAudio Rotation: A World of Sonic Contrasts

Michael Moore Trio: Chicoutimi. 1993. Ramboy: 06.

Michael Moore: clarinet
Fred Hersch: piano
Mark Helias: bass

Understated and exquisite. Moore brings a perfect clarinet tone to these short pieces as Hersch and Helias bring a calm, high caliber musicanship to these improvised textures.

Arnold Schoenberg: Moses und Aron. Recorded in 1996. Deutsche Grammophon: 449 174-2.

The Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera
The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Pierre Boulez: conductor

The "who est Moses?" lines in the chorus that open the second act is one of my favorite sounds in all of operatic literature. Arnold Schoenberg took the most gaudy, most spectacle-prone medium of "serious" music and expressed a profoundly personal sense of faith. Like most opera, this one is full of quirks that take some adjusting on the part of the listener. Such as the fact that only two acts of a planned three acts were completed. And there is something undeniably strange about hearing the book of Exodus in German. But musically, this one has always had a strong pull for me for the kind of sonic environment Shoenberg created for this ancient story.

Skeleton Crew: Learn To Talk/The Country of Blinds. 1984, 1986 - re-released in 2005. Fred Records/Anthill Music: ReR/FRO 8/9.

Tom Cora: cello, bass guitar, casio, drums, home-made drums and contraptions, singing
Fred Frith: guitar, 6-string bass, violin, casio, home-mades, piano, drums, singing
Zeena Parkins (on The Country of Blinds): organ, electric harp, accordion, drums, singing

There's really no better way to follow up a heady opera than with the extreme contrast of of this 1980's era punk/jazz/noise pair of classics from Skeleton Crew. "It's Fine" from Learn To Talk is pure brilliance while every manipulated sample, hard groove and screamed utterance on these recordings bends toward sarcastic observation that painfully withstands the test of time. The playful beauty of Tom Cora's cello playing is a sound that is sorely missed since his passing in 1998. This is crazy and relentless music that offers razor sharp edges at every turn and it's best appreciated with one's full attention.

Scaling the Saxophone Summit

Saxophone Summit @ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD
November 24, 2007

Jack Wright: saxophones
Katsura Yamauchi: saxophones
John Berndt: saxophones
Heddy Boubaker: saxophones

Strategically positioned in formation across the performance space of the Red Room the Saxophone Summit presented sonic canvases of varying duration over two sets. With a restless willingness to draw timbres from their respective vibrating columns by a wide variety of means this music took on the detail rich vibrancy of an imaginary pipe organ powered by multiple creative minds actively transforming every angle and quality of it's own plumbing in real time.

John Berndt experimented with empty energy drink cans placed within the alto saxophone or the muting properties of a soprano saxophone pressed against his leg. Heddy Boubaker explored a territory of partially disassembled instrument (at one point seemingly drinking the gurgling contents with the horn tipped high over his head) and various mouthpiece-free sounds. Jack Wright was at turns percussive and almost conversationally sputtering with his refined (and much appreciated) personal style of free improvisation. And Katsura Yamauchi wove in timbrally striking patterns that were startling and a point of fixation for these ears. His contributions often led me to open my eyes to determine where a particular layer of the sound was coming from. Invariably it was some quiet repeated pattern of clicked keypads or softly bent tone from Yamauchi's sopranino or alto saxophone. Late in the second set he built up to some loud multi phonics rich with psycho acoustic anomalies.

Scale of the Day: B Pythagorean Whole-tone - Lydian Mode - mapped to the Square-root-of-2

BPythagoreanWholeToneLydianModeMappedToTheSquareRootOf2

The B Pythagorean Whole-tone - Lydian Mode - mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. Pythagorean intervallic proportions squeezed into 600-cents.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Of Sands and Isles

Kenny Dorham: Trompeta Toccata. 1964. Re-released in 2006. Blue Note Records: 0946 3 62635 2 6.

Kenny Dorham: trumpet
Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone
Tommy Flanagan: piano
Richard Davis: bass
Albert Heath: drums

There's plenty of reason to celebrate Kenny Dorham as a great composer and arranger as well as an extraordinary hard bop trumpet player. And this particular performance of his original composition "Trompeta Toccata" should be all the evidence one needs to recognize his ability on all fronts. Adding Joe Henderson at his prime into the mix makes this an unbelievable record - unbelievable being pretty much the standard at Blue Note in the 1960s. This one is a welcome spin from the rotation.

Marianne Trudel Quintet: Sands of Time. 2007. TRUD 2007-1.

Marianne Trudel: composer, piano
Rob Mosher: soprano saxophone, oboe
Jonathan Stewart: tenor saxophone
Morgan Moore: bass
Robbie Kuster: drums

There's a sparkling lyricism to this music as the compositional and improvisational instincts of Marianne Trudel weave fresh - and often surprising - turns with varying configurations of solo, trio and quintet settings. The piano is often at the center of this music as the energy emanates outward from the ivories.

Herbie Hancock: Empyrean Isles. 1964. Re-released in 1999. Blue Note Records: 7243 4 98796 2 1.

Herbie Hancock: composer, piano
Freddie Hubbard: cornet
Ron Carter: bass
Tony Williams: drums

This disc is a great way to get an ear full of Ron Carter. The bass work on both takes of "Oliloqui Valley" feature some of the best Ron Carter sound I've heard. Empyrean Isles is a must have for any serious jazz collector and possibly one of Herbie Hancock's best recordings of all time. Everything comes together from the compositions, the astonishing talent of this quartet combined with the clarity of Rudy Van Gelder's re-mastering of these classic tracks.

HurdAudio Rotation: 3 Landscapes

Muzikas: The Bartok Album. 1999. Rykodisc: HNCD 1439.

Peter Eri: viola, guitar, percussion, flute
Daniel Hamar: bass, small cimbalom, gardon, percussion
Laszlo Porteleki: violin
Mihaly Sipos: violin
with guests -
Marta Sebestyen: vocals
Alexander Balanescu: violin
Janos Kovacs: tamboura
Zoltan Juhasz: long flute
Marton Eri: cello
Zoltan Porteleki: cimbalom
Zoltan Farkas: gardon, drum, dance
Ildiko Toth: dance

The Hungarian folk tunes that infused the music of Bela Bartok come full circle in this recording as the animated melodies and dance rhythms that appeared in and inspired chamber and orchestral music return to the eastern European countryside where they are played with verve as folk music. One can hear the melodic twists and vibrant qualities that caught Bartok's ear in this recreation of how this music might have sounded as Bartok was documenting and exploring it. Muzikas give this music an energy and vitality that is irresistible that conveys incredible insight into how striking this body of music is and why it triggers a yearning to preserve its spirit and sound.

Chicago Tentet: American Landscapes 2. 2007. Okka Disk: OD12068.

Peter Brötzmann: composer, clarinet, tarogato, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone
Mats Gustafsson: baritone saxophone, slide saxophone
Ken Vandermark: clarinet, baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone
Joe McPhee: trumpet, alto saxophone
Hannes Bauer: trombone
Per-ake Holmlander: tuba
Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello
Kent Kessler: bass
Paal Nilssen-Love: drums
Michael Zerang: drums

Peter Brötzmann's aggressive energy and harshly beautiful large ensemble sound finds deep resonance with the anxieties and anger lurking beneath the calm exterior of the human experience. These American Landscapes are long-form bursts of sustained sonic intensity that find introspective pockets within a willingness to exude wild bursts of noise. Brötzmann continues to be a fascination at HurdAudio and these Chicago Tentet pieces - with their accurate reflection of the "American Landscape" rendered in sound - lend this German saxophonist and composer an Alexis de Tocqueville quality for a different medium in a different age.

Matana Roberts: Matana. 2007. Individually painted CD-R available from the composer.

Matana Roberts: saxophone

This one is a live solo set dedicated to the great Steve Lacy. Matana Roberts has a riveting voice on her instrument and a deep sense of personal history. This recording is a tantalizing - and all too brief - glimpse of what she has to say and the artistry she brings to what she plays. After hearing her perform live at this year's High Zero festival and putting an ear to this disc I continue to anticipate the music yet to be heard from this emerging artist and happily drink in the music currently at hand.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Whole-tone - Lydian Mode

EFlatPythagoreanWholeToneLydianMode-interval-analysis

The E Flat Pythagorean Whole-tone - Lydian Mode - Scale. The all otonal tuning of the whole-tone scale finds it's seam in the jump from the augmented sixth to the octave.

Friday, November 23, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Of Signs, War and Seafaring

Sylvie Courvoisier: Signs and Epigrams. 2007. Tzadik: TZ 8033.

Sylvie Courvoisier: piano

This disc is everything I'd hoped to hear after seeing Sylvie Courvoisier perform earlier this year. There's the same deliberateness to this sound as she works deftly between the keyboard and the interior of the instrument. The improvisations and through-composed pieces on this disc are clearly from the same creative impulse. Courvoisier's attention to the details of this sound emerge as compelling explorations of piano timbres with an ear for harmony and gesture.

Billy Bang: Vietnam: The Aftermath. 2001. Justin Time Records: Just 165-2.

Billy Bang: violin
Ted Daniel: trumpet
Frank Lowe: tenor saxophone
Sonny Fortune: flute
John Hicks: piano
Curtis Lundy: bass
Ron Brown: percussion
Michael Carvin: drums
Butch Morris: conductor (on one track)

This is a great recording from Billy Bang. The combination of these players realizing such profoundly personal compositions makes for an incredible balance of introspective expression and group improvisation. Given the difficult subject matter of coming to terms with Bang's service in Vietnam there's a surprising range of warmth (and funky groove) that fits along side the darkness and pain. Bang adds material from the musical traditions and sounds of Vietnamese culture to his jazz palette for a sound with deep roots.

Laurie Anderson: Life On A String. 2001. Nonesuch: 79539-2.

Laurie Anderson: vocals, keyboards, violins, gongs
with various (small) combinations of:
Elena Barere: concert master - Joey Baron: drums, percussion - Martin Brumback: percussion arrangement - Vinicius Cantuaria: percussion - Mino Cinelu: percussion - Timothy Cobb: bass - Greg Cohen: acoustic bass - Jill Dell'Abate: orchestra conductor - Enrico DiCecco: violin - Jonathan Dinklage: violin - Karen Dreyfus: viola - Barry Finclair: violin - Danny Frankel: percussion, hand claps, "box-o-toys" - Eric Friedlander: cello - Bill Frisell: guitar - Jean Ingram: violin - Mitchell Froom: keyboards, claviola, mellotron, wurlitzer - Liheng: baritone banhu - Vincent Lionti: viola - Eyvind Kang: violin - John Kelly: background vocals - Ann Leathers: violin - Jeanne LeBlanc: cello - Dwight Mikkelsen: copyist - Heidi Modr: violin - Jan Mullen: violin - Tom Nelis: vocals - Van Dyke Parks: string arrangements, conductor, keyboards - Ellen Payne: violin - Joel Pitchon: violin - Sue Pray: viola - Lou Reed: guitar - Ben Rubin: bells - Peter Scherer: keyboards, percussion - Jamshied Sharifi: additional keyboards, strings - Ricky Sortomme: violin - Skuli Sverrisson: bass, little organ, percussion programming, high bass, sounds, bowed guitars, keyboards - Chris Speed: saxophone - Cuong Vu: trumpet - Carol Webb: violin - Judith Willmer: viola - Hal Willner: turntables, samples - Mocean Worker: beats, keyboards - Fredrick Zlotkin: cello

The oceanic themes woven throughout this disc provides a story-telling unity to a collection of creative songs accompanied by textures performed by a small army of musicians from the New York "downtown" scene. The result is a Laurie Anderson listening experience I have a particular fondness for. Anderson is well beyond stretching formulaic song-form structures as she crafts beautiful slices of appealing and unpredictable sonic poetry.

Scale of the Day: B Pythagorean Whole-tone - Ionian Mode

BPythagoreanWholeToneIonianMode

The B Pythagorean Whole-tone - Ionian Mode - Scale. The 16/9 minor seventh is the only utonal interval in this scale, the one-utonal member being the reason this is "Ionian Mode." The "whole-tone" between each adjacent interval is the 9/8 major second with the exception of the 65536/59049 diminished-third (180.45-cents) between the 6561/4096 and 16/9. This is essentially where the "seam" is found when trying to make a string of six 203.91-cent whole-tones fit into a 1200-cent octave.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: BBA

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Symphonies [disc 3]. Recorded in 1994. The International Music Company: 205298-305.

Symphony No. 4 in B flat major (op.60)
Barry Wordsworth: conductor
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Symphony No. 5 in C minor (op.67)
Claire Gibault: conductor
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

The chronology of these two works is interesting. With Beethoven taking a break from composing the fifth symphony to knock out the fourth to fulfill a commission. And ever since that fourth symphony has lived in the imposing shadow of the fifth. While it clearly is a throwback to the more classical style of Beethoven's early period it does have some impressive thematic development along with an irresistible churning energy that builds in surprising ways. But given the phenomenal journey that the fifth symphony puts the listener through it's easy to see why it receives so much more attention relative to the more classical fourth. The path into that final overture movement is still a thrill ride even after the familiarity and the challenge of hearing past the opening "duh-duh-duh-duh" that has since become an unfortunate cliche.

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets, volume II. Recorded in 1989. Delos: CD 3032.

String Quartet in G Major op. 18 no. 2
String Quartet in B flat Major op. 130

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

The juxtaposition of early and late works - as is frequently done in this collection - helps show off the sharp contrast between Beethoven's early and late periods. And these ears continue to gravitate toward the sprawling, inventive later works while retaining an appreciation for the classical excellence of the early period. Here the opus 130 consists of six movements of fluctuating duration and proportions. This lends the work an organic quality missing from the more rigidly constructed opus 18. Both works are polished with extraordinary attention to detail and developmental unity. And those are qualities that make this music so durable.

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost box set [disc 1]. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.

Herbert Katz Quintet - June 30, 1962, Helsinki, Finland
Herbert Katz: guitar
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Teuvo Suojarvi: piano
Heikki Annala: bass
Martti Aijanen: drums

Cecil Taylor Quartet - November 16, 1962, Copenhagen, Denmark
Cecil Taylor: piano
Jimmy Lyons: alto saxophone
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Sunny Murray: drums

Albert Ayler Trio - June 14, 1964 - Cellar Cafe, New York City
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Gary Peacock: bass
Sunny Murray: drums

Each time through the first disc of this box set I am again struck by the contrast and the unfolding chronology of Ayler finding his personal voice in Europe. From the forgettable lounge music jazz standards at the onset of this disc to the heat of the sparks that kick up once Ayler connects with drummer Sunny Murray. And in the middle of this experience is the twenty minutes of bliss that is the Cecil Taylor Quartet of 1962. That track is one of the great gems of this collection.

HurdAudio Rotation: Bird Songs, 12 Songs and Haunted Iridium Nights

Olivier Messiaen: Turangalila Symphony. Recorded in 1967, re-released in 2004. RCA Records: 82876-59418-2.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa: conductor
Yvonne Loriod: piano
Jeanne Loriod: ondes Martenot

A sprawling, epic orchestral work from a young Olivier Messiaen. One can sense the joy of composing for a massive battery of instruments after having survived his ordeal as a prisoner of war in WWII. The ondes Martenot is an excellent timbral match for Messiaen's bird song material. The textures and sweeping scope of this endearingly messy (and loud) piece are ambitious, over reaching and make for a fantastic listen. This is a favorite orchestral work in the rotation.

Jenny Scheinman: 12 Songs. 2005. Cryptogramophone: CG125.

Jenny Scheinman: violin
Ron Miles: cornet
Doug Wieselman: clarinets
Bill Frisell: guitar
Rachelle Garniez: accordion, piano, claviola
Tim Luntzel: bass
Dan Rieser: drums

This is a warm sound for a cold night. Opening up this set with "The Frog Threw His Head Back and Laughed" this initially has the feel of a Bill Frisell CD. Hardly a bad quality. But from there it winds through a series of short, quirky pieces that bring out Scheinman's personality and melodic sensibilities. It's hard to imagine a better ensemble to bring these compositions to life. Frisell in particular is his usual, generous self on this session.

Anthony Braxton: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 [disc 4]. 2006: Firehouse 12 Records: FH12-04-03-001.

Recorded live: March 17, 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 4 = Composition 353 - dedicated to the composer Butch Morris

A fitting dedication to a composer that pioneered the art of interactive conduction of group improvisation that marks so much of Braxton's Ghost Trance musics. This performance of Composition 353 has a swinging energy that pops into the sonic foreground from time to time as the pulsing lines make passing allusions toward a rich jazz history. Anthony Braxton adds some amazing solos into the mix in the waning moments of this music. This is a thick, vibrant sound that holds these ears for long spells.

Swarms of Locusts and D-Zs: Apocalyptic Days at the Ottobar

Sleeping People/The Zs/Yip Yip/The Locust
November 21 @ The Ottobar, Baltimore, MD

My brief encounter with the Zs performing the music of Earle Brown in Philadelphia left me curious to hear this intense 4-piece anomaly in their native environment. The black, grimy confines of Baltimore's Ottobar is exactly the high volume ecosystem that gives rise to the no-wave brutal minimalism of the Zs. And they were even more fascinating as they pursued the extremes of noise, quiet and the unlikely synthesis of experimental chamber music and hardcore punk traditions.

The Zs perform in a tight, box configuration facing each other over music stands and reams of notated scores. This constant visual communication allows them to execute rapid fire unison lines with blisteringly rehearsed precision. It also places the saxophonist with his back to the audience and conveys a calculated indifference toward stage orientation. The uncompromising music that pours out - sometimes in heavy bursts punctuated by deliberate silences - is at times passionately unpredictable and repetitive. It is also stark and profoundly appealing music.

The first set of the evening featured the progressively cool music of Sleeping People. From the moment they started peeling off patterns in 5/8 time I was hooked by this tight, odd-meter quartet from San Diego. There was a great fluidity to the way Sleeping People would carve time into asymmetrical units that kept the attention on the sound as they didn't visibly sweat the counting.

I have to give props to Yip Yip for their props. The black and white checkered pattern on their custom cases, backdrop and outfits was visually amusing. The Orlando-based duo of vintage, analog synthesizer players enhance their sound with a customized contraption of cymbals, alto saxophone and drum machine. And every time I expected their sound to wear out its welcome they managed to rock a little harder. The drifting intonation of the old school oscillators and their odd transitions were incredibly endearing.

The final set featured the abrasive assault of The Locust. Like Yip Yip, costumes are a big part of the live Locust experience. I respect that even the guy working the sound board at the back of the room and the photographer floating around the Ottobar for shots from all different angles were each dressed as Locusts. The cut of the masks around the mouth enhanced the effect of insect-like mandibles as the keyboard player and guitarist issued their scream-heavy vocals. The Locust pour on the kind of hardcore sound one expects when waiting in line at the Ottobar as the mosh pit of slam dancers and stage diving finally materialized around the pounding aggressiveness of their music. It was amusing to hear such punk vocals issuing forth from the Moog synthesizer player. And they certainly had the transfixed attention of the local celebrity attending the show. About half way through their set their material began to wear thin for me and I had to flee the constant barrage of high decibel angst.

Scale of the Day: A Octotonic-1 1% wide

AOctotonic-1-1PercentWide

The A Octotonic-1 1% wide Scale. The regular, equal tempered octotonic with stretched intervals and a "stretched octave" interval of harmonic equivalence.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Scale of the Day: A Octotonic-1 mapped to the Triative

AOctotonic-1MappedToTheTriative

The A Octotonic-1 mapped to the Traitive Scale. Alternating whole/half steps stretched out to fit within a just perfect twelfth.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Scale of the Day: C Octotonic-1 mapped to the Square-root-of-2

COcotonic-1MappedToTheSquareRootOf2

The intervallic content of the C Octotonic-1 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. Eight notes within the 600-cent "tritone" through a sequence of alternating half/quarter tones.

Monday, November 19, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Feeling the Taint, Feeling the Esteem, Puzzled About the Computer

Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet: Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet. 2003. Ropeadope Music Entertainment: 0-7567-93183-2-9.

Skerik: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone
Joe Doria: hammond organ
John Wicks: drums
Steve Moore: trombone, wurlitzer electric piano
Hans Teuber: alto saxophone, flute
Dave Carter: trumpet
Craig Flory: baritone saxophone

A big horn section steeped in the dirty dozen brass band sound combined with a rhythm section steeped in funk, this disc packs some serious groove, stunning arrangements and a healthy dose of the old New Orleans vibe. The wurlitzer electric piano of Steve Moore combined with Dave Carter's trumpet evokes the Zawinul and Miles sound of In A Silent Way on "Bus Barn" while the even spread of compositions from all members of this group draws from several quarters of jazz history that favors the ensemble sound over showcasing extended individual solos.

Steve Lacy Quintet: Esteem. 1975. Released in 2004. Atavistic: ALP260CD.

Steve Lacy: soprano saxophone
Steve Potts: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone
Irene Aebi: cello, violin
Kent Carter: bass
Kenneth Tyler: percussion

This one is a slice of the great soprano saxophonist with his quintet in the midst of a long-running stint at La Cour des Miracles in Paris. And there's a quality to these performances that comes from like minded improvisers with a long history - and secure future - of playing together. With Aeibi on the violin this music reminds me of the sonic qualities of Albert Ayler's quintet's stint at La Cave in Cleveland (as found on the excellent Holy Ghost box set). There are even a few gestures from Lacy that sound like signature Ayler riffs. But these compositions are unmistakably Lacy's and there's some great takes on several of them. The appeal of "The Uh Uh Uh" is immediate while the sprawling, long version of "The Duck" offers plenty for the ears to sink into.

Radiohead: OK Computer. 1997. EMI Records: 7243 8 55229 2 5.

I may be the last pair of ears to finally get around to Radiohead - more than a decade after OK Computer was released. It's odd how it's fine to revel in something Ornette Coleman recorded in 1959 while taking in the 1998 nominee for Best Alternative Music Album and Album of the Year this late in the game feels like a form of cultural delinquency. Triple platinum or not, this is my first time hearing this material and my first Radiohead listening experience. The consistent buzz surrounding this band - and this release in particular - in the music blogs makes a strong argument for the durability of this music. And I really don't know what to say about it. It's good. Good enough to warrant further investigation of Radiohead's other releases. But I'm puzzled about the enthusiasm. Perhaps this one needs a few more spins in the rotation to get a handle on it.

Scale of the Day: A Octotonic-1 (2 - 1) mapped to the Square-root-of-2

AOctotonic-1(2-1)MappedToTheSquareRootOf2

The A Octotonic-1 (2 - 1) mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. The (2 - 1) adds an extra quarter tone on the second degree.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Synthesis - Cross-cultural and Otherwise

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Bremen to Bridgwater. 1971, 1975 - re-issued in 2004. Cuneiform Records: Rune 182/183.

June 20, 1971 set at Lila Eule, Bremen, Germany
Harry Beckett: trumpet
Marc Charig: trumpet
Nick Evans: trombone
Mongezi Feza: trumpet
Malcolm Griffiths: trombone
Chris McGregor: piano
Harry Miller: bass
Louis Moholo-Moholo: drums
Mike Osborne: alto saxophone, clarinet
Dudu Pukwana: alto saxophone
Alan Skidmore: tenor saxophone
Gary Windo: tenor saxophone

February 26, 1975 set at the Bridgwater Arts Centre, Bridgwater, England, U.K.
Keith Bailey: drums
Harry Beckett: trumpet
Marc Charig: trumpet
Elton Dean: alto saxophone
Nick Evans: trombone
Mongezi Feza: trumpet
Malcolm Griffiths: trombone
Chris McGregor: piano
Harry Miller: bass
Mike Osborne: also saxophone, clarinet
Dudu Pukwana: alto saxophone
Alan Skidmore: tenor saxophone

November 11, 1975 set at the Bridgwater Arts Centre, Bridgwater, England, U.K.
Harry Beckett: trumpet
Marc Charig: trumpet
Elton Dean: alto saxophone
Nick Evans: trombone
Mongezi Feza: trumpet
Bruce Grant: baritone saxophone
Radu Malfatti: trombone
Chris McGregor: piano
Harry Miller: bass
Louis Moholo-Moholo: drums
Mike Osborne: alto saxophone, clarinet
Evan Parker: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Dudu Pukwana: alto saxophone

The documentation of these 1971 and 1975 concerts is a joy to behold. The melodic twists and contours set against this rhythm section and big band sound - not to mention the spirited creative improvisations - is a testament to the musical sparks that fly with cross-cultural synthesis. That such an ensemble with this beautiful energy and sound could be banned from South Africa (the native home of many of these musicians then living in exile) for the "crime" of mixing races is unfathomable. The fact that apartheid was indefensible and stupid has never lacked for supporting argument. Music such as this illustrates the sheer deafness of such an idiotic policy.

Forbes Graham: Another Return. 2007. Self produced CD-R available from the composer.

Forbes Graham: trumpet, laptop computer

This one shrinks the ears and places them within an imagined microscopic soundscape tinged by the resonance of the trumpet's brass plumbing. "You're Here With Us Now" builds toward a threshold of pure distortion and drops into complete silence at the moment that threshold is punctured. The dotted silences add more tension than a mere overdriven signal could ever produce.

Jason Kao Hwang: Edge. 2006. Asian Improv Records: AIR0067.

Jason Kao Hwang: composer, violin
Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn
Andrew Drury: drums
Ken Filiano: bass

The way this quartet plays together shades these compositions into something striking. Hwang composes music that mixes free jazz and Asian traditions and the outstanding performers in this group animate it into a sound of understated beauty aided by deep musicianship. The pitch inflections of Hwang's violin lines weave gently along side Taylor Ho Bynum's expressive brass tone. A deeper chemistry between performers is rarely achieved.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Octotonic-1

video
Audio of the E Flat Octotonic-1 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

See also:
E Flat Octotonic-1 Scale notated.
E Flat Octotonic-1 Scale interval analysis.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Dramatic Turn of Nothing You've Heard Before

The Autumn Concert of After Now: Nothing You've Heard Before
November 17, 2007, The Carriage House, Baltimore, MD

Concord by Sally Sarles
Monika Vasey: harp
Lee Hinkle: voice, percussion
Leonid Iogansen: violin

Tosherish by C.R. Kasprzyk
Prerecorded electronics

Cog by Samuel Burt
Unwound by Samuel Burt
Michael Formanek: contrabass
Ann Teresa Kang: piano
Rose Hammer: baritone saxophone

L!st3N by C.R. Kasprzyk
Lee Hinkle: voice
Kristin Bacchiocchi-Stewart: flute
Zachary Herchen: baritone saxophone
Rachel Gawell: cello
Adam Hopkins: contrabass
Catherine Pancake: metals, dry ice
C.R. Kasprzyk: laptop

The second concert from After Now moved into the funky confines of the Carriage House - giving this off kilter group of composers and performers access to a grand piano and a stage - as the music took a turn toward composed dramatic, theatrical gestures.

Samuel Burt's Unwound confronts the composer's anxieties regarding repetition by embracing fixed sequential states. This was particularly clear in the piano part: play keyboard, retrieve a balloon from the interior of the instrument (the piano had been prepared by filling it with inflated balloons), rub balloon, play keyboard, pop balloon and repeat. The percussive element of the pop was often accompanied by the repeated element of catching the sheet music recently displaced by the sudden release of air. Cog maintained its focus on repetition by locking the ensemble into a pulse and was a significantly less dramatic and musically more satisfying work.

Tosherish takes the recent Howard Stern bashing of The Zs as its source material and subjects it to a Steve Reich Come Out or It's Gonna Rain style of loop phasing. This piece was incredibly problematic for several reasons. The phasing quickly took on all the sonic characteristics and rhythmic qualities of Come Out and resembled it in every detail except for source loop and some added electronic manipulations interspersed within the phasing process. This literal Reich homage didn't add anything new other than a sophomoric sense of humor. The looped material references John Cage negatively. Which makes the Reich treatment puzzling given the wide aesthetic distance between Cage and Reich. Then there was the "too clever" quality of the selection of source material itself. When Howard Stern mocks avant garde music, John Cage or The Zs he does it with the same self-satisfied ignorance and proud philistinism that openly celebrates lesbian pornography. It's a shtick that thrives on attention and I question the choice of feeding it by composing a work that essentially draws even more attention to it. I give Kasprzyk credit for attempting to confront public reactions toward modern music head on. The mutual agreement between mass audiences and avant garde composers to ignore one another is rarely punctured.

Sally Sarles' Concord takes the Charles Ives Concord Sonata as its point of reference and takes the transcendentalist underpinnings behind that work in a different direction in a manner that treads lightly away from the Ives mold. The Concord Sonata is practically a sacred text at HurdAudio and I went into this piece with some trepidation. But these short movements are a completely different work and a pleasant one at that.

The final work of the evening, L!st3N, was jam packed with dramatic elements and surprising turns. Structured on a transcription of a recording of a walk through Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood this piece attempted to capture the odd juxtapositions and transitions of an urban sojourn. The conglomeration of unusual techniques; a mouth filled with Pop Rocks candy, dry ice and heated metals as an instrument, electronics, bowing the cello and bass with a pencil, etc. never completely gelled for these ears. The sonic joys of an urban walk were buried under too many elements and aural clutter. There's a good idea lurking within L!st3N waiting to be coaxed out with a little more focus.

Overall, the move to the Carriage House is a positive development for the fledgling After Now series and it is refreshing to hear chamber music that is fearlessly extreme.

HurdAudio Rotation: Two Horn Players Named Peter

Peter Brötzmann/Michael Zerang: Live in Beirut. 2005. Al Maslakh Recordings: 03.

Peter Brötzmann: tenor saxophone, tarogato, B-flat clarinet
Michael Zerang: drum set, darbuka, percussion

As ever the master of sustained intensity, Peter Brötzmann is completely in his element when paired up against the percussive battery of Michael Zerang's fantastic drumming. Zerang's percussion work snaps into sharp focus in "Yalla Kholoud" as he fills out his sound with the darbuka - later transitioning to his full drum kit - before Brötzmann makes a return entrance into the soundscape. There is something intrinsically satisfying about the brute force of playing loud - at least as this duo practices it - that speaks toward a Dyonisian release. Yet this performance also lurches toward more Apollonian moments of lyrical warmth and introspective focus as well.

Peter Apfelbaum & The Hieroglyphics Ensemble: Jodoji Brightness. 1992. Antilles/Polygram Records: 314-512 320-2.

Peter Apfelbaum: tenor saxophone, piano, organ, synthesizer, drums, percussion
Bill Ortiz: trumpet, flugelhorn
Jeff Cressman: trombone, pyramid bell, percussion
James Harvey: trombone
Paul Hanson: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, bassoon
Tony Jones: tenor saxophone
Peck Allmond: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, trumpet
Norbert Stachel: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass saxophone, clarinet, flute, piccolo
Will Bernard: guitar
Stan Franks: guitar
Jai Uttal: guitar, harmonium, dotar, percussion
Bo Freeman: bass
Joshua Jones V: drums, timbales, bass drum, congas, bata, vocals
Deszon X. Claiborne: drums, percussion
"Buddha" Robert Huffman: congas, bell tree, gongs, bata, vocals
Rachel Durling: violin
Steven Bernstein: trumpet
Sekou Heath: bata, percussion, vocals

Great big band compositions and arrangements that have aged well (it is now almost 16 years since the recording date) and continues to sound better on its fourth documented spin through the rotation. Even after countless spins and absorbing this music to its core there are countless fresh details in these smart, creative arrangements that keep the ears reaching for this listening experience.

Peter Brötzmann Octet: The Complete Machine Gun Sessions. 1968. Re-mastered and re-issued in 2007 with additional materials. Atavistic: ALP262CD.

Peter Brötzmann: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone
Even Johansson: drums
Peter Kowald: bass
William Breuker: tenor saxophone
Fred Van Hove: piano
Evan Parker: tenor saxophone
Vuschi Niebergall: bass
Han Bennink: drums
Gerd Dudek: tenor saxophone (one track only)

This 1968 European free jazz classic of legendary stature is remastered and restored to its intoxicating and brutal, rough edged beauty. This is a completely necessary expression of pure release and relentless barrage. Peter Brötzmann has built a sound and an improvising career from exploring the extremes found on this disc and the abrasiveness of it has a strong hold on my attention. This is the clear antidote to the inevitable "smooth jazz" overdose the holiday retail experience inflicts upon the alert mind this time of year. Turn this one up and savor it over a few shots of whiskey when the sticky sweetness of eggnog tidings and mindless fa-la-la-la-las becomes overbearing.

Scale of the Day: C Octotonic-1 (2 - 1)

COcotonic-1(2-1)-interval-analysis

The intervallic content of the C Octotonic-1 (2 - 1) Scale. The (2 - 1) lowered second degree adds a ripple to the alternating sequence of major/minor thirds. That ripple is felt as a 400-cent major third between the D-flat and F-natural (as well as the 200-cent interval between the B-natural and the D-flat) within a scale otherwise dominated by 300-cent minor thirds between every other scale degree.

Friday, November 16, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: The Euro-centric Edition

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Symphonies [disc 1]. Recorded in 1994. The International Music Company: 205297-305.

Performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Symphony No. 1 in C Major (op.21)

Barry Wordsworth: conductor

Symphony No. 2 in D Major (op.36)
James Lockhart: conductor

Insanely familiar and incredibly refreshing all at once. The flashbacks to undergraduate music history courses have subsided to the point where I can put fresh ears on the most "glue-like" of the war horses. Beethoven at his most politely classical at four movements each. And the third movement is the shortest, and lightest in contrast to the other three movements in each of these symphonies. To my ears, these movements stand on their own and sound less integrated with these works as a whole compared to his later symphonies. And that third movement from the first symphony may be the original "short ride in a fast machine."

Donkey Monkey: Ouature. 2007. Umlaut Records: UMCD 0005.

Yuko Oshima: drums, voice, sampler
Eve Risser: piano, voice, turntables

There's a playful energy to this music that will have you bouncing off the walls and uttering "Donkey Monkey, Donkey Monkey" over and over again with gleeful abandon. And that's just in the first twenty seconds of this rockin' experimental boogie jam fun-fest. Eve Risser flashes some impressive piano chops that veers through an omnivorous pool of contrasting styles as Yuko Oshima propels things along with her energetic drumming. There's also a wonderful take on Carla Bley's "Wrong Key Donkey" in this set. These ears could go for a lot more of this.

Chicago Tentet: American Landscapes 1. 2007. Okkadisk: OD12067.

Peter Brötzmann: composition, clarinet, tarogato, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, cover art
Mats Gustafsson: baritone saxophone, slide saxophone
Ken Vadnermark: clarinet, baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone
Joe McPhee: trumpet, alto saxophone
Hannes Bauer: trombone
Per-ake Holmlander: tuba
Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello
Kent Kessler: bass
Paal Nilssen-Love: drums
Michael Zerang: drums

Time is the canvas, and the music on this disc - like the watercolor painting that shares the 'American Landscapes' name on the cover - is painted by the ferocious and captivating sensibilities of German saxophonist/painter Peter Brötzmann. His willingness to shade toward towering dissonance and deep layers of noisy excess gives rise to textures of captivating beauty and raw emotional energy that speaks directly toward the aggressive and often angry side of the human condition. The single movement work of American Landscapes 1 draws its own watercolor sheen from this large ensemble of sympathetic improvisers to produce a sound that veers wildly between extremes of densities in the service of a large scale sonic image. An image that reflects the complexities, anxieties and beauty of contemporary life within the "American Landscape."

Scale of the Day: A Pythagorean Octotonic-1 - Lydian Mode

APythagoreanOctotonic-1LydianMode

The A Pythagorean Octotonic-1 - Lydian Mode - Scale. It's a Pythagorean tuning because the largest prime factor for these frequency ratios is 3. It's an Octotonic-1 scale because it's an 8-note scale of alternating whole/half steps. And it's in "Lydian Mode" because the largest prime factor (3) is always found in the numerator - making each note either the tonic or an otonal interval relative to the tonic. This otonality leads to the odd spellings such as the C double-sharp augmented third - as the D-natural perfect fourth would be the utonal 4/3 - or the B-Sharp augmented second - instead of the also utonal C-natural minor third (32/27). Which highlights the fact that the Pythagorean augmented third does not equal the Pythagorean perfect fourth - something that is lost in equal temperament.