Sunday, October 26, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Whole Number Ratios, Additive Patterns and Math Rock

Michael Harrison: Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation. 2007. Cantaloupe Music: CA 21043.

Michael Harrison: piano in just intonation

The fingerprints and breath of Lamont Young's Well Tuned Piano feels close at hand at the start of this piece. The just intervals and "tone clouds" of standing waves are at once a familiar texture and compositional device associated with Young. But the formal construction is entirely Harrison's. And it is the undeniable sonic beauty of this particular piano (I believe it is an adapted Schimmel that I once heard Harrison play live) that is recorded with incredible clarity on this release. The cascading crescendos add a dynamic touch to this music as it builds toward an astonishing conclusion. With deliberately articulated phrasing this becomes a work that allows the "pure intonation" to become enmeshed within every harmonic crevice of the music without obscuring the impressive compositional details.

Philip Glass: Volume II: Orchestral Music. 2007. Orange Mountain Music: 0047.

Days and Nights in Rocinha (1998)
performed by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Dennis Russell Davies: conductor

Persephone (1994)
performed by the Relache Ensemble
Joseph Franklin: director

Philip Glass has built up his career out of a sound so identifiable - and undeniably "pleasant" - that it manages to attract and repulse at the same time. The tonal progressions modulating around pedal points along a steady pulse makes for a music full of hooks that effortless draw the ears in. The early works of Glass revolved around a repetitiveness with an edge. While later works have softened up many of the static textures in favor of lush blankets of sound. These orchestral works from the 1990's come from a period just after the mushy middle with their soft contours. The material is - as always with Glass - familiar to a fault. Yet completely enjoyable. Days and Nights in Rocinha in particular is excruciatingly attractive. One is tempted to admire and reject this music at the same time. In the end, one can't help but listen.

Sleeping People: Growing. 2005. Temporary Residence: TRR 123.

Kasey Boekholt: guitar
Joileah Maddock: guitar
Kenseth Thibideau: bass
Brandon Relf: drums
Amber Coffman: guitar

Progressive rock is alive and well in the clean, irregular beats of Sleeping People combined with a sonic vocabulary informed by the San Diego punk scene. There's something satisfying about grooving to a beat that juts off with odd stops and turns and heady structures. This is music that appeals to the physical, rhythmic propulsion while teasing the brain with unusual structures. There's some intricate guitar work all over this recording combined with tight drumming. Party music for people ready to dance to prime numbers. Enthusiastically recommended.

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