Thursday, January 31, 2008

Scale of the Day: F Pythagorean Ionian 1% wide


The F Pythagorean Ionian 1% wide Scale. 3-limit just intervals stretched outward to fill the 1212-cent "octave."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Running with the Mob

Mobtown Modern's "State of the Union" @ Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, MD
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Frederic Rzewski: Coming Together
Vinko Globokar: ?Corporel
Steve Reich: Come Out
Erik Spangler: Iraq Mix
Louis Andriessen: Workers Union

With video footage remixed from that "other" State of the Union delivered just the night before as a backdrop and an ensemble in combat boots the fine young subversives of Mobtown Modern launched their first performance with a focus on politically themed pieces. Any organization that kicks off with Rzewski's classic "Coming Together" has my full attention.

The sequencing of pieces was brilliant. With an edge toward radical posture balanced against progressive optimism this was a perfect context to absorb the timeless urgency of "Coming Together" or "Come Out" compared to Spangler's contemporary statement on Iraq. It was the transition from one piece into another that was especially powerful. As the final words from the Attica prison inmate in "Coming Together" was hanging in the air the room fell dark for Tim Feeney's performance of ?Corprel. Illuminated by a single flashlight, the sense of madness and isolation took on an abruptly human and disturbing form as Feeney performed percussive and vocal feats upon his own body. The video ambiance of an administration that has brought "waterboarding" into common vernacular set against the unsettling violence of Globokar's performance-art composition made for an unflinching statement.

Louis Andriessen's Workers Union is one of the most revered works in the HurdAudio pantheon. The way that piece demands an aggressive unity and rhythmic cohesion from a large ensemble makes for a beautifully loud expression of solidarity that feels substantial. In the hands of the Mobtown Modern that noise was expanded as the reasons why that masterpiece from 1975 endures filled the air.

Music in Black and White: Sonic Cinema Served Up by Relache

The Relache Ensemble accompanying the silent films of Maya Deren, Wallace McCutcheon, Edwin S. Porter and James Cruze @ The Gershman Y, Philadelphia, PA
Sunday, January 27, 2008

Music by Teiji Ito, Chuck Holdeman, Kyle Gann, and excerpts from the Relache library.

Films: The Very Eye of Night (1958), At Land (1944), Meshes of the Afternoon (1944), Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906) and Beggar On Horseback (1925).

The sparse and intense music of Teiji Ito was a revelation to me. As the music originally scored for The Very Eye of Night and Meshes of the Afternoon was lovingly restored and re-scored for the Relache instrumentation the austere beauty was a natural fit for both the dancing figures against a night sky in Night and the surrealist story telling found in Meshes. After the intermission, there was a reprise of The Very Eye of Night, with Kyle Gann's music performed instead of the Ito heard earlier. The difference of image and music juxtaposition was stark and startling. Where the spaciousness of Ito's music brought out the sense of the infinite of the star-filled sky Gann's pulsing rhythms found a natural visual ally in the ballet on screen.

Any chance to view At Land with its cast of John Cage, Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid is a welcome glimpse into a wonderful era of avant garde creativity. Anything with John Cage and chess boards triggers a sympathetic pull for my attention. The music composed for this film (originally conceived of as a silent film) by Chuck Holdeman offered a respectful layer to the experience that held up well in performance.

The final two films, Dream of a Rarebit Fiend and Beggar On Horseback were a departure from the focused vision of director Maya Deren and the music took a sharp turn toward the more slap-stick humor one associates with silent film scores. The footage of these rare films was fascinating and I'm curious what a more deliberately experimental or expectation contrasting score could have brought out.

Scale of the Day: F Ionian mapped to the Cube-root-of-2


The F Ionian mapped to the Cube-root-of-2 Scale. All the proportions of the standard "major" scale squeezed into an equal tempered equal third.

Monday, January 28, 2008

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

Happy Apple @ International House, Philadelphia, PA
Saturday, January 26, 2008.

Erik Fratzke: fender bass
Dave King: drums
Michael Lewis: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, keyboards, effects

Happy Apple is a happy collusion of its trio parts as the group sound that emerges is forged through a willingness to take the jazz trio into a wide range of territories. There is no "front man" in this group and the almost Coleman-esque harmolodic elasticity between players (not to mention some wide interval leaps) makes this something to sink the ears into.

Dave King demonstrated a willingness to peal off layers of groove with a wide dynamic range - sometimes using little more than bare hands on the drum kit. Michael Lewis stayed mostly with the tenor saxophone through this long set, at time expanding his expressive range with well timed vocalizations. And Erik Fratzke works a fascinating sound out of the fender bass, often strumming chords or deftly weaving something tight into the rhythmic bed.

Add Happy Apple to the engaging noise coming out of the Twin Cities music scene. Spearheaded by Dave King's "other" trio The Bad Plus, along with the Fantastic Melvins and George Cartwright, Happy Apple must be the forbidden fruit of the Minneapolis jazz Eden.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Scale of the Day: F Ionian diminished 5 mapped to the 3/2


The F Ionian diminished 5 mapped to the 3/2 Scale. Aesthetically, I appreciate the irony of the "diminished fifth" within a scale that fits within the confines of the just perfect fifth.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Scale of the Day: F Pythagorean Ionian mapped to the Triative


The Pythagorean Ionian mapped to the Triative Scale. Here, the Pythagorean intervals are determined by multiplying the standard Pythagorean frequency ratio against 1901.96 (the size, in cents, of the triative) as opposed to the 1200-cent octave. That is how the 4/3 (Pythagorean just perfect fourth) becomes the 1.578 (789.38-cents) in triative-space.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

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


The intervallic content of the E Flat Pythagorean Ionian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. The standard Pythagorean "major" scale with all the intervals cut in half.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Dreaming the Long View

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

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

One of Ehrlich's better efforts - and he hasn't had any weak creative outings that I've heard. With a long form mix of through-composed and improvised music for ensembles ranging from duo to 14-piece bands this is an ambitions and deliriously satisfying work of chamber jazz. With so many key players from the New York "downtown" scene this one is a must-have and must-hear from the personnel list to the multi-hued timbres that blow through the speakers. The rockin' tuba of Marcus Rojas to kick off the sixth movement is reason enough to put this one into regular rotation.

Dave Douglas Quintet: Live at the Bimhuis. 2002. Greenleaf: Paperback Series vol. 1.

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

It's odd how when the Bad Plus play covers of pop tunes they find themselves falsely accused of being "ironic" while the Dave Douglas Quintet can put a spin on Bjork, Beck and Rufus Wainwright without similar charges. Right or wrong, the Bad Plus have developed a reputation for "cheeky covers" despite the strength of their original charts. While the Dave Douglas Quintet does take some sidelong swipes at pop culture - and transforms it onto something else entirely - it's the Dave Douglas originals that deliver the sonic goods with this ensemble. One of the advantages of running his own label (long live Greenleaf Music!) is the ability to lavish plenty of attention on this quintet's live sound. Having seen this group live a couple of times in two different cities I know first hand how incredible the live experience is with this quintet.

Ursel Schlicht/Reuben Radding: Einstein's Dreams. 2005. Konnex Records: KCD 5165.

Ursel Schlicht: piano
Reuben Radding: bass

There are many reasons why improvisers record so many duo projects - not the least of which being the sonic gem of Einstein's Dreams that unfolds within the focused interaction between two individual performers. With the creative minds in alignment, the piano and bass fold together as two large instruments with strings. The textures of extended techniques building outward in the aptly named "Unexpected Vision" is counterbalanced by the melodic fragments that fly in "Modulation of Light." Schlicht and Radding seem to push each other on as they answer textural shifts with new challenges of their own. One compelling reason for duo projects such as this is the stunning and rare kinship struck between like minds exploring such expansive territories and the clarity of such independent sonic identities finding immediate recognition within such spontaneous creation.

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


The F Ionian augmented 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. Note how the augmented second between the fourth and fifth degrees compresses to an interval 150-cents wide (not surprising, given the fact that 150-cents is one half of a 300-cent augmented second). That three-quartertone expanse makes for a wide leap in the context of this quarter-tone scale.

Monday, January 21, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Rare Beauties

Ornette Coleman: Beauty is a Rare Thing [disc 2]. 1993. Atlantic/Rhino Records: R2 71410.

Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone
Don Cherry: cornet, pocket trumpet
Charlie Haden: bass
Billy Higgins: drums
Ed Blackwell: drums

On Friday, October 9, 1959 the legendary quartet of Coleman, Cherry, Haden and Higgins recorded "Ramblin'" at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, California. This Ornette composition has since become a staple of Charlie Haden's recording and live performance repertoire. I've heard multiple arrangements with Haden's various projects and hearing this disc reveals the qualities Haden discovered in that incredible recording session. Haden's own bass solo on that track already reveals a deep connection with this piece.

The music from these sessions were originally released on Change of the Century, The Art of the Improvisers, Twins and This is Our Music. And much of this material was not released until this box set revealed untold treasures from the time when these free improvisers coalesced around a sound that would forever alter the fabric of jazz. How is it that these major labels could sit on so much great music? The mind reels at the years pieces like "I Heard It Over The Radio" or "The Tribes of New York" went unheard. The hungry mind and ears find the substance of this music unfaded by the passage of time.

Thomas Chapin Trio: Third Force. 1991. Re-released as disc 1 of Alive (box set). 1999. Knitting Factory Records: 35828 02482 2.

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

"Ahab's Leg" kicks off this set, and if there's any piece coursing through my own veins this one is a strong candidate. The angular, melodic lines are as natural and familiar as any other composition that's rattled around these ears over the years. Third Force is a great trio album, one that gets better with age. Chapin's creative force bubbles up with so much variation in this debut outing for his trio. At turns funky, beautiful, ugly, fun, introverted and briskly expressive there is also the bitter taste of an artist cut down far too soon by leukemia. On recordings there is much to savor and celebrate. Chapin would have turned 50 this year...

Fantastic Merlins: Look Around. 2007. Innova: 670.

Nathan Hanson: tenor saxophone, electronics
Jacqueline Ferrier-Ultan: cello, electronics
Brian Roessler: bass
Federico Ughi: drums

A thick texture of low strings punctuated by percussion with a saxophone woven into the sonic cloud. Fantastic Merlins paint a moving picture of sound composed of long shots that need no resolution. As beautiful and taut as these compositions are, the Fantastic Merlins are at their best in the live tracks on Look Around. The unseen crowd of St. Paul's Clown Lounge adding an immediacy and tension to the soundscape. There's a jazz vibrancy coming out of Minnesota in this new century that rivals the honky tonks of Kansas City and St. Louis of the swing era. Look Around is an invitation to explore this mid-western phenomenon that rewards the ears with a richly rewarding sound.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Ionian augmented 5


The intervallic content of the E Flat Ionian augmented 5 Scale. The augmented fifth adds an almost Lydian-esque brightness tempered by the augmented second between the fourth and fifth degrees of the scale.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Roots, Preomintion and Gravitas

Misha Mengelberg: The Root of the Problem. 1997. Hat Hut Records: hatOLOGY 504.

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

Misha Mengelberg mines an unusual space within the nearly limitless confines of free improvisation. There is a calm, unhurried exhilaration that the sequence of moments and gestures could go in any direction - with a technique to back up the stylistic demands of any journey. With unfailing taste for improvising partners these snapshots convey a mature yet wild sound that is rarely so deftly navigated as it is in The Root of the Problem. These ears are taking notice of Mengelberg and curious to hear more from the Dutch jazz scene.

Ellery Eskelin: Premonition. 1993. Prime Source: cd 2010.

Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone

There's a part of me that wants to hear a "For Tenor" follow up to Anthony Braxton's groundbreaking For Alto recording from 1969. Eskelin's Premonition, a solo tenor saxophone outing is a high accomplishment of its own that carves out a singularly different territory from the monophonic language of Braxton. The balance of three solos from Eskelin's structured improvisations of "Song Cycle" against three standards sheds light on the common thread that runs through Eskelin's sound as both composer and interpreter. The "Song Cycle" makes it clear that Eskelin's distinctive sound is his own, and in full sonic view even when unaccompanied by the extreme talents with which he normally surrounds himself. The light, pre-programmed percussion on the brief "Besame Mucho" clouds the solo experience to some extent, but makes for a pleasant coda. "For Tenor" it isn't, but it is a strong case for outstanding creative and lyrical voice of Ellery Eskelin.

Wayne Horvitz/Gravitas Quartet: Way Out East. 2006. Songlines: SGL SA1558-2.

Wayne Horvitz: piano, electronics
Peggy Lee: cello
Ron Miles: trumpet
Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon

The "chamber jazz" that Wayne Horvitz has been mining in recent years takes on the hues of improvising piano, cello, trumpet and bassoon on Way Out East. This disc shares several melodic and formal qualities with Horvitz's Otis Spann release from 2001 with the Seattle Chamber Players. But the group improvisation - and the prominence of Shoenbeck's bassoon sound - takes this music into slightly different territory. The short durations of these pieces and the strong harmonic and melodic focus keep things within a "composed" sensibility even as the improvisation adds considerable detail and texture. The few pieces that are free improvisations - either as a duo with Schoenbeck in "Our Brief Duet" or as a group on "Between Here and Heaven" and "Reveille" - manage to fold completely into the familiar treads of Horvitz's distinct sound. This makes for a sonically attractive, shimmering listening experience.

Double Dutch Jazz

Misha Mengelberg Quartet
Friday, January 18, 2008 @ International House, Philadelphia, PA

Misha Mengelberg: piano
Dave Douglas: trumpet
Brad Jones: bass
Han Bennink: drums

The sense of theatrical absurdity that permeates the physical force of Han Bennink at the drum kit (often as he dissembles it) or the fluxus tinged clusters beneath the fists and palms of Misha Mengelberg at the piano coexists with deep jazz roots that seemingly extend to the very source of dixieland swing, tin pan alley and the blues with assertive swipes at bop, modal jazz and fusion along the way. That these Europeans have come to be masters of this musical genre and living treasures of improvised music speaks to the lessons learned from the expatriate years of Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry and Albert Ayler.

Misha Mengelberg made his recording debut in 1964 as a sideman for Eric Dolphy's final album. Three years later he founded the Instant Composer's Pool Orchestra, a large ensemble that continues to tour and expose ears to the outstanding avant jazz scene of Amsterdam. The fact that his current quartet includes Dave Douglas - one of the most consistently engaging American trumpet players, improvisers and label mavens of this age - and still gets top billing speaks to the enduring qualities of his music that my own ears are only starting to comprehend.

As a live concert, the Misha Mengelberg Quartet put on a world class performance in Philadelphia. Four musicians with intense creativity and a responsiveness that makes each one of them an ideal collaborative partner. Brad Jones effortlessly picked up phrases and gestures tossed off by Dave Douglas and wove them into the sonic fabric on bass. And the wealth of ideas and sense of play developed between Mengelberg and Bennink was a pure joy to behold.

The evening's long set began with a solo, unaccompanied Bennink putting more energy into a drum solo than most percussionists a fraction of his age. His relentless search for sonic (or visual) resources from anything and everything at hand nearly stole the focal point all evening long. As Mengelberg casually walked on stage and shifted the dynamic toward a duo the chemistry of the understated and overstated sense of the absurd took hold. As the house and stage lights malfunctioned through much of the first half of the set - often plunging everything into complete darkness before casting both performers and audience under the same harsh glow of the house lights - this quartet pressed on, treating the unplanned light show as a natural part of their uncontainable creativity. Bennink and Mengelberg's response toward reemerging into the light often took the form of flightless birds attempting to fly as they soundlessly waved their hands - a gesture of unrehearsed synchronicity.

Scale of the Day: F Pythagorean Ionian diminished 5


The Pythagorean Ionian diminished 5 Scale. The diminished 5 alteration creates an interesting balance in otonal/utonal intervals. The straight just-intonation (in the case of a Pythagorean system, the 3-limit just system) typically has only one utonal member. In Ionian scales that is normally the 4/3 perfect fourth. The diminished fifth adds the utonal 1024/729, doubling the utonal count and shading the harmonic color toward the Mixolydian mode (where having 2 utonal pitches is the norm).

Friday, January 18, 2008

Scale of the Day: B Flat Square-root-of-2-axis, Construct #1, Lydian Mode


The B Flat Square-root-of-2-axis, Construct #1, Lydian Mode - Scale. This is one of the less traditional, 2-note scale constructions that appear in the "Scale of the Day" from time to time. Within octave space, the square-root-of-2-axis circles around with only two possible states relative to the tonic: the square-root-of-2 "tritone" and a unison/octave harmonic equivalent state. The square-root-of-2 axis takes on interesting properties in several non-octave spaces or in combination with multi-dimensional harmonic spaces - as will be seen in future scales of the day. For now, this is the square-root-of-2 axis in its simplest manifestation.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Dancing to Poets, Writers and Malaise

Elliott Sharp/Tectonics: Errata. 1999. Knitting Factory Records: KFR-255.

Elliott Sharp: electronics, guitars, reeds

Drawing upon the sonic fibers and studio techniques of electronica musics, Elliott Sharp develops a tightly wound sonic material that finds its groove and constantly puts it under strain as every layer and element is subjected to relentless creative energy. This music leaves the mindless throbbing of the dance floor behind without betraying the visceral pleasures of a steady pulse. This is a music that keeps the mind dancing, and ultimately that has more lasting appeal than anything more squarely within the traditional - more dance oriented - electronica genre.

Ornette Coleman: Dedication to Poets and Writers. 1962. Also released as Town Hall, 1962. Music Magic: 30010-CD.

Ornette Coleman: saxophones
David Izenzohn: bass
Charles Moffet: percussion
Selwart Clark: violin
Nathan Goldstein: violin
Julian Barber: viola
Kermit Moore: cello

This live recording from an Ornette Coleman era that began at the conclusion of his Atlantic Records contract - following a series of quartet recordings that truly were the shape of jazz to come - is an old favorite to these ears. With a twin dose of Coleman's trio sound that would later be well documented, and his string writing that has such an amazing sound it continues to confound and frustrate me how little there is of it on record. The title track - a string quartet - should have ushered in a whole cycle of chamber music to rival that of any other twentieth century composer for that medium. The final track, "The Ark" is a delicious combination of both trio and string quartet with a sound that hints at the masterpiece Skies of America that would be recorded on a later date.

Marc Ducret: Un Certain Malaise. 1998. Screwgun Records: 70005.

Marc Ducret: electric guitar

Marc Ducret's guitar playing has become a recent fascination with these ears with his endless inventiveness with Tim Berne. The chance to hear his improvisations in isolation - and in this case recorded live in 1997 - reveals the impressive depth of Ducret's sustained creativity. This is an incredibly beautiful solo guitar outing that leaves the ears hungry to hear more of Ducret's sonic approach - both solo and within ensembles of varying sizes. The often quiet and deliberate quality of this music is a pleasant surprise given his ability to turn on the noise with Berne's Science Friction group.

Scale of the Day: A Mixolydian 2% wide


The A Mixolydian 2% wide Scale.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Scale of the Day: A Mixolydian augmented 4 1% wide


The A Mixolydian augmented 4 1% wide Scale. Stretched octaves, stretched "dominant" sevenths, everything stretched with an extra cent per 100-cents on the equal tempered Mixolydian scale.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Smashing Pianos, Finding an Exit and Unstable Additives

Annie Gosfield: Burnt Ivory and Loose Wires. 1998. Tzadik: TZ 7040.

Nickolaievski Soldat (1994)
Annie Gosfield: sampling keyboard
Roger Kleier: electric guitar
Jim Pugliese, Christine Bard: percussion

Freud (1996)
Annie Gosfield: sampling keyboard
Roger Kleier: electric guitar

The Manufacture of Tangled Ivory (1995)
Annie Gosfield: sampling keyboard
Roger Kleier: electric guitar
Jim Pugliese, Christine Bard: percussion

Four Roses (1997)
Annie Gosfield: sampling keyboard
Ted Mook: cello

Blue Serge(1996)
Annie Gosfield: sampling keyboard

Brawl (1998)
Rova Saxophone Quartet:
Bruce Ackley: soprano saxophone
Steve Adams: alto saxophone
Larry Ochs: tenor saxophone
Jon Raskin: baritone saxophone

There's more than a passing shock of recognition in this music as Annie Gosfield's de-tuned piano samples (and score da tura in Ted Mook's cello part) combined with her propulsive rhythmic drive mines a territory similar to my own personal projects. Much of the music on this collection is inspired by images - rendered in aural detail - of ruined pianos and an industrial might of destructive force. Blue Serge, with its source material of analog synthesizer sound, and Brawl, with its saxophone quartet instrumentation, depart from this image to some extent. But there is a unified thread of creative dissembling that makes for a deeply engaging listening.

Mark Feldman: What Exit. 2006. ECM: 1928 B0007361-02.

Mark Feldman: violin
John Taylor: piano
Anders Jormin: bass
Tom Rainey: drums

This disc certainly reinforces the HurdAudio "Tom Rainey rule." Rainey Rule: an project that has Tom Rainey on drums will produce music that is either excellent or better than excellent. There are moments when the same chemistry between Mark Feldman and Tom Rainey from when they were collaborators in New and Used can be heard through the haze of ECM production values. The epic, sweeping arc of "Arcade" is a chamber jazz masterpiece in the range of color drawn out from this quartet. Now in its second spin through the HurdAudio rotation this sound is even more luminous, more infectious to these ears.

Jonathan Zorn: for Rob Powers: Suite no. 2 - additive feedback. 2003. Set-Projects: Set - 03.

Johnathan Zorn: electronics

Additive synthesis is the focal point of this long-form composition. From the liner notes: "Suite no. 2 is an additive feedback loop that grows module by module, track by track, causing the sound to become increasingly unstable." The gradual unfolding of this work adheres to that descriptive process. The first twenty minutes of this music feature the relative stability of a barely audible sine tone. The dynamic extremes of this music is extraordinary and admirable. The ingenious packaging - featuring colored threads as the "patch cables" in the cover art (designed by Rachel Thompson) - reflects the stark creative impulse of every aspect of this production.

Scale of the Day: A Mixolydian mapped to the 3/2


The A Mixolydian mapped to the 3/2 Scale.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Two Trumpets and a Minnimalist Masterpiece

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

Mazen Kerbaj: trumpet

Much like his cartoons, Mazen Kerbaj's approach to solo trumpet improvisation twists, distorts and subverts one's expectations even as it unflinchingly arrives at profound truths. The amplified buzzing and plumbing of the instrument pulls the ears deep inside the instrument and reveals a startling sonic landscape. And much like his cartoons, improvisations and productions from his indie label I am left with a deep admiration for the expressiveness and gritty portrayal of life within the Lebanese artistic scene of Beirut. Full length solo trumpet outings are few and far between and this one as unique and engaging as they come.

Steve Reich: Music for 18 Musicians. Performed by the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble. 2007. Innova: 678.

GVSU New Music Ensemble
Bill Ryan: director
Gwendolyn Faasen, Stacey Van Vossen, Mary Crossman: voices
Amanda Duncan: voice, marimba
Alexander Hamel: xylophone, marimba, maracas
Samuel Gould: xylophone
Nicholas Usadel, Tim Church: marimbas
Joshua Puranen: marimba, maracas
Gregrey Secor: vibraphone
Daniel Redner: piano, maracas
Craig Avery: piano, marimba
Shaun MacDonald, Kelly Rizzo, Kurt Ellenberger, Lee Copenhaver: pianos
Mark Martin: violin
Pablo Mahave-Veglia: cello
Charlan Mueller, Alexander Kolias: clarinets, bass clarinets

Music for 18 Musicians is long overdue for vibrant reinterpretations such as this one. Once plunged into the lush, beautifully recorded offering found on this disc I was reminded why this work was such an addiction for my ears in my late teens. The pulsing, formal arrangement and eleven chord cycle are immediately discernable. But the sheer awe and beauty of this sound is a shock despite the familiarity and transparency of this composition. I sincerely hope there are plans in the works to record other landmark pieces of the last century with the same verve and attention to clarity found here.

Miles Davis: The Complete On The Corner Sessions [disc 1]. 1972, 1973, 1974, 2007. Sony BMG Entertainment: 88697 06239 2-DI.

Miles Davis: trumpet
Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone
Chick Corea: synthesizer
Herbie Hancock: electric piano
Harold Ivory Williams: organ, synthesizer
John McLaughlin: guitar
Colin Walcott: electric sitar
Michael Henderson: electric bass
Jack DeJohnette: drums
Don Alias: congas, percussion, kalimba, African percussion
Badal Roy: tablas
Billy Hart: wood block, cowbell, percussion, drums
Carlos Garnett: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Bennie Maupin: bass clarinet, flute
Dave Creamer: guitar
Lonnie Liston Smith (speculated): electric piano
Al Foster: drums

There's no shortage of observation on how Miles caught the jazz press flat-footed with On the Corner. The erudite ears craving a reprise of the Kind of Blue masterpiece had long become entrenched in the anti-body physicality that the chewy, funky noise Davis unleashed and confronted. With the perspective of years it seems peculiar to regard these long, grinding and fiercely non-commercial tracks as "selling out." The artistic renewal, and infectious churn of this music is a notable departure from the Birth of the Cool. Sinking one's ears into this bounty of material reveals just as much substance as any other era of the Miles Davis catalogue.

Scale of the Day: F Sharp Mixolydian mapped to the Triative


The intervallic content of the F Sharp Mixolydian mapped to the Triative Scale.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Scale of the Day: A Mixolydian augmented 4 mapped to the Triative


The A Mixolydian augmented 4 mapped to the Triative Scale. Take your basic, equal tempered Mixolydian scale and raise the fourth degree, then stretch everything out to fill a 3/1 Triative.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

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


The intervallic content of the F Sharp Mixolydian augmented 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. The augmented alteration adds a quality of Lydian "lightness" to the harmonic sound of this scale.

Monday, January 07, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Be Time, Be Bread, Be Bugs

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

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

The Miraculous Aspect of Time documents three creative sides of Chris Mosley, each represented by the guitar employed for a given track. The short "Interlude I" and "Interlude II" pieces are solo guitar works featuring the 36-tone guitar and the sophisticated harmonic ear of Chris Mosley. I could drink in a full-length CD of music like this and the brevity of these pieces leaves me speculating what sounds might come if Mosley stretched out within this harmonic framework. The straight guitar trio compositions make up the bulk of this collection and the level of polish, compositional chops and the outstanding rhythm section of Erskine and Shoals make this one well worth repeated spins. Bridging the musical territory between the 36-tone solo pieces and the straight trio music are the two tracks for trio featuring the fretless guitar. Here we find a glimpse of Mosley's harmonic sensibilities combined with the formal development and group interplay that make this Portland, Oregon guitarist one to watch.

Myra Melford/Be Bread: The Image of Your Body. 2006. Cryptogramophone: CG 131.

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

The Be Bread performances of the familiar Melford compositions of "Equal Grace" and "Yellow Are Crowds of Flowers, ii" provides a glimpse into the possibilities of the ever expanding Myra Melford oeuvre. The elastic electric bass sound of Stomu Takeishi reprises the natural chemistry with Melford's piano and harmonium playing found on previous collaborations while the addition of Elliot Humberto Kavee's light touch on the drums fills out an outstanding rhythm section. Brandon Ross and Cuong Vu take turns filling out the quartet sound from track to track as each leaves a strong impression with their respective individualized sound. The soaring textures of Vu's trumpet playing in particular carve out an interesting space that weaves effortlessly through the ensemble sound.

Katt Hernandez/Evan Lipson: Hisswig. 2007. Limited run mini-disc.

Katt Hernandez: violin, voice
Evan Lipson: bass

A twenty minute dose of two compelling improvisers I've had the pleasure of seeing multiple times over the past year. The interplay between the high and low registers of violin and bass is is complimented by the similarity of approach toward free improvisation shared by these performers. The rough edges of this sound are suggestive of a microscopic universe inhabited by the insects found on the cover. The third track in particular features a patient, deliberate unfolding of ideas that underscores the expansive, rich sonic textures.

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


The A Pythagorean Mixolydian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sculpting the Noise

Bill Nace/Chiara Giovando/Keir Neuringer/ Audrey Chen @ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD
January 5, 2008

Set One
Bill Nace: guitar - solo, then duo with
Chiara Giovando: electronics, voice

Set Two
Keir Neuringer: electronics, alto saxophone - solo, then duo with
Audrey Chen: cello, voice, electronics

With an extensive language of extended technique for molding a healthy electric signal (bordering on loud) Bill Nace brings a brute physicality to guitar playing that sculpts a sound that draws upon the physics of strings, amplification and relentlessly creative methods for attacking the instrument. His actions on the instrument in his lap alter his media substantially. Giving rise to the notion of sound creation as sculpture, with hammer and chisel ever present to chip away at the rough edges of the sonic slab. The ever changing soundscape was strange and engaging. The addition of Chiara Giovando to form a duo improvisation added yet more slabs of material.

Keir Neuringer has an ear for molding electronics in real time. Though I felt his performance begin to meander past missed opportunities before turning toward his solo alto saxophone playing - which is fascinating. In a brief solo performance he deftly applied a percussive approach to rapid-fire timbral changes built upon short gestalts. The addition of the always engaging Audrey Chen made for a compelling coda of sculpted sound masses.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Mixolydian augmented 4

Audio sample of the E Flat Mixolydian augmented 4 Scale.

E Flat Mixolydian augmented 4 Scale notation.
E Flat Mixolydian augmented 4 Scale interval analysis.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Bootstrapping, Freaking and Running a Fever

Elliott Sharp/Bootstrappers: GI=GO. 1992. Atonal Records: ACD 3014.

Elliott Sharp: guitar, bass clarinet, processing
Jan Kotik: drums, percussion
Thom Kotik: prepared bass

This one is an old friend to these ears from way back. With Elliott Sharp's guitar sound front and center before a rock trio GI=GO plumbs a sonic territory close to my own sensibilities that is enhanced by the steady rhythm section of Kotik and Kotik. The computerese geeky titles of "Optimize My Hard Disk, Baby," "8-bit Living" and "Command Z" haven't aged as well as the sounds behind the names. Which highlights the pitfalls of attaching titles to instrumental works. But this quality is so consistent across this disc that the heart and mind simply accept it and enjoy the ride.

Dave Douglas: Freak In. 2003. RCA/Bluebird: 09026-64008-2.

Dave Douglas: trumpet, keyboards, voice
Jamie Saft: keyboards, loops, programming
Marc Ribot: electric guitar
Karsh Kale: tabla, drums
Joey Baron: drums
Romero Lubambo: acoustic guitar
Brad Jones: ampeg baby bass, acoustic bass
Ikue Mori: electronic percussion
Seamus Blake: saxophone
Chris Speed: saxophone, clarinet
Craig Taborn: fender rhodes
Michael Sarin: drums

Freak In is like a party hosted by Dave Douglas where he's invited all his cool downtown improvising friends to seriously rock the house. The sonic contributions of Craig Taborn and Jamie Saft leave a big impression on this sound. Douglas' final release on a major label is a precursor to the Keystone projects that would follow and after living with this music for a few years it has become a highly regarded disc in the HurdAudio library. My current addiction to seeking out new CDs is fueled by the experience of putting something like Freak In on for the first time.

Matthias Kaul: Fever - Five Songs from a Percussionist. 2002. Nurnichtnur: LC 05245.

Matthias Kaul: percussion, voice

Listen, this is for You (2000)
Amadeu Antonio Kiowa (2000)
Bachmann (1991)
Fever (1999)
Listen, this is for You (II) (2001)

The unusual packaging of Fever is a reflection of the other-worldly sounds contained within. Packaged within its own canvas pocket made from one of a thousand panels cut from an acrylic paint and Chinese ink work called Silence, the limited run of Fever is contained within a unique block that reinforces its own uniqueness. Unbuttoning the pocket to release the music immerses the ears in the focused sonic universe of Matthias Kaul's creations. Whether self-limited to the sounds of a glass harp or employing a vast battery of unusual percussion instruments Kaul displays a sharp ear for sonic design that allows each of these compositions to unfold as fully formed works of austere beauty.