Saturday, December 20, 2008

Scale of the Day: E Flat Mixolydian augmented 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 1% wide


The E Flat Mixolydian Augmented 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 1% wide Scale. The altered mixolydian re-sized to fit within an interval 606-cents wide.

Doing Hard Time with the Mob

Mobtown Modern: Hard as F#@!
Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, MD
December 15, 2008
(featuring video by Guy Werner)

Mnemosyne (1986) - Brian Ferneyhough
Katayoon Hodjati: bass flute

Dances of Earth and Fire (1987) - Peter Klatzow
Wojciech Herzyk: marimba

Still (2007) - Jason Eckart
Brian Sacawa: baritone saxophone

Gra (1993) - Elliott Carter
Jennifer Everhart: clarinet

Scrivo in Vento (1991) - Elliott Carter
Sarah Eckman McIver: flute

Esprit Rude/Esprit Duox (1985) - Elliott Carter
Jennifer Everhart: clarinet
Sarah Eckman McIver: flute

All Set (1957) - Milton Babbitt
Brian Sacawa: alto saxophone
Christopher Blossom: tenor saxophone
Philip Johnson: trumpet
Todd Sturniolo: trombone
Wojciech Herzyk: vibraphone
Devin Hurd: piano
Joel Ciaccio: double bass
Todd Harrison: drum set

Music with its roots in serialism, "new complexity," set theory or academic pan-tonalism has a reputation for being dry, acerbic stuff.  A movement that has inspired dense and visually beautiful scores that can admittedly tax the cognitive abilities of the listener.  So when Katayoon Hodjati dove into the deep end of Brian Ferneyhough's lush textures of bass flutes there was the unexpected awe of talent, ability and musical extremes forming a compelling answer to why listen to this body of music.  This is compelling material.

Over the span of solo performances that followed came the reinforcement of how this music thrives in presentation.  Guy Werner's video accompaniment - realized in real time in response to the dynamic contours of each performance - added surprising depth to a music more often presented in drier settings.  The juxtaposition and association of video image set against the brutal focus these pieces demand from the performers made for an inviting mix of media that was attractive on multiple levels.

The tension of Jason Eckart's Still, a study of multiphonic technique for the baritone saxophone, made particular demands of Brian Sacawa's abilities to control sustained tones right on the brink of slipping into a chaos beyond control.  A tension that was a beautiful mix of tranquility and complexity.

Milton Babbitt's swinging nod to set theory All Set closed out the evening.  A piece I experienced from behind the piano and over a sequence of rehearsals leading up to the performance.  The final performance achieved a loose, relaxed quality as one finds their way through this high-tempo, atonal work of pre-bop.  The big band timbres of the instruments and the feel of the rhythm section brings an off kilter energy to the angular licks and serial lines that make up the harmonic and melodic material.  While Babbitt and his associates have formed an aesthetic with a reputation for being "serious" and "daunting" it is works like this, and performances such as those featured by the Mobtown Modern, that reveal "fun" and "compelling" to a body of music that spans as full a spectrum as any movement.  And there are many reasons to listen to it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Scale of the Day: E Flat Mixolydian 3% narrow


The E Flat Mixolydian 3% narrow Scale. Take a regular, equal-tempered Mixolydian scale and squeeze it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Mixolydian 1% narrow


The E Flat Pythagorean Mixolydian 1% narrow Scale. Compressing the Pythagorean intervals to fit in the 1188-cent "octave."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Scale of the Day: E Flat Mixolydian 4% wide


The E Flat Mixolydian 4% wide Scale. Your standard, equal tempered mixolydian scale stretched to fill an octave nearly a full quarter-tone wider than standard.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Scale of the Day: E Flat Mixolydian augmented 4 3% wide


The E Flat Mixolydian augmented 4 3% wide Scale. Featuring the 1236-cent "octave." A harmonic equivalence with the bite of being over a sixth-tone larger than the 2/1 frequency ratio of its decidedly more consonant, non-stretched cousin.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Going Micro

Alexander Bruck with Jacob Wick/Andrew Greenwald Duo @ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD
Saturday, December 13, 2008

Alexander Bruck: viola - solo and in a trio with
Jacob Wick: trumpet
Andrew Greenwald: percussion

The solo viola works featured by Alexander Bruck venture into a suspended state where the smallest gesture brings enormous gravity. This was particularly the case with Hiram Navarrete's wonderful Untitled piece recently composed for Bruck. Within a generous expanse of time, the angle of the bow as either hair or wood make slight contact with the string runs along an expansive sense of timbre within a sonic set confined to minute details. Son de la Roma by Carlos Iturralde exposes a similar, stark soundscape with a mix of plucked and bowed timbres at the core. Zona 2, for viola and electronics, by Ivan Naranjo brings amplified materials into the mix while still retaining a focus on sound emerging from the smallest details. Bruck offered focused, intense performances that pulled the ears into profoundly quiet spaces that nearly merged with the sound of passing cars outside the building or the slight hum of the refrigerator in the back of the Red Room.

Jacob Wick and Andrew Greenwald opened the evening with a short set of improvised material similarly focused upon a texture of slights. Wick explored the passage of air through a trumpet, at times obstructed by a turned valve or mute. At other times the rush of breath was released through the dissembled pieces of the instrument. Greenwald added the sound of friction-based percussion to the soundscape. Much of this music existed at a volume level that often signals the perceived "ending" in free improvisation. This pair managed to sustain these textures with confidence while navigating several organic textural shifts.

The evening concluded with an improvised trio of focused, microscopic sound. A collaboration that came naturally with these talented improvisers so well matched together. The sounds of music from passing cars outside offered a sharp contrast that melted in with the sounds of the plumbing in the building and the bowing of a wood block set upon a drum head.

HurdAudio Rotation: The Severe Stylistic Contrast Edition

Steve Lacy Qiuintet: Esteem. 2004 (from the 1975 tapes). Atavistic: ALP260CD.

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

These are old source tapes, not for the casual Steve Lacy fan. But they are filled with interesting details about the state of this quintet and their approach toward improvising withing Lacy's compositions during this period. The rhythm section of Carter and Tyler with Aebi often adding in to the texture with cello is a particular area that catches these ears. The compositions themselves are also something to drink in. Steve Lacy fashioned an incredible sound and one can hear its growth through these recordings.

Kyle Gann: Private Dances. 2007. New Albion: NA 137.

Compositions by Kyle Gann

Private Dances

Sarah Cahill: piano

Da Capo Chamber Players -
Patricia Spencer: flute
Meighan Stoops: clarinet
David Bowlin: violin
Andre Emelianoff: cello
Blair McMillen: piano

Time Does Not Exist
Sarah Cahill: piano

The Day Revisited
Patricia Spencer: flute
Meighan Stoops: clarinet
Blair McMillen: keyboard sampler
Kyle Gann: keyboard sampler
Bernard Gann: fretless bass

On Reading Emerson
Sarah Cahill: piano

This one completely defies expectations. In a good way. And expectations were pretty high when reaching for this disc. Private Dances is filled with beautiful moments and ideas that "dance" with a translucence of melodic and harmonic ideas creatively and formally developed with the discipline of a writer's sense of pace and editing. The Day Revisited is a particular treasure within this collection of gems as a just intonation ensemble work that unfolds with one delicious bend after another. The solo piano music has a Satie-esque sensibility beautifully realized by Sarah Cahill. Enthusiastically recommended.

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

Far too many folks I respect and read in various online communities profess a profound regard for Radiohead for me to continue to ignore this group. And I confess to being more than a little behind in warming up to the band named after the Talking Heads song that inspires the same kind of regard for me that so many express for Radiohead. That said, this is my second spin of OK Computer and I'm "getting it" a little more than the first spin. In many ways, this collection of songs hits the same mark as Remain in Light or Fear of Music in the way that I remember those "classics" of my own youth. That is, it feels and sounds good and invites further listening - the effect that vaulted its position of adulation more than ten years ago when it was released. And the years haven't taken too much of a toll on this sound either.

All is Uncalm

Unsilent Night, Baltimore
December 12, 2008
Penn Station, up and down Charles Street

Every once in a while a good idea gets legs, or several dozen, and develops into an annual rite of passage at the end of the calendar. First performed in New York in 1992, Unsilent Night has grown into a global community of grass roots organizers who draw people out of their warm homes and into the chilly night bearing boom boxes for a mobile installation of Phil Kline's 4-track composition. The sharp contrast of a mob armed with noise devices against the softly ambient, loosely synchronized sound that enfolds and travels with the silent carolers offers a welcome antidote to the saccharine-laced consumerism that saturates the solstice.

The friendly conversation, puzzled responses from other denizens of the street and generous vibrations of music and community fold into the prevailing ambiance of Unsilent Night. The sharp chill dissipating with the forward movement of the walking harmonic drone. The sounds of Unsilent draw upon processed bells and voices for a softly rippling and droning texture that thrives upon the decidedly lo fidelity sources of cassettes and cheap speakers.

With a stroll into and through Baltimore's Penn Station the change in temperature and acoustics was pronounced. As was the sense of tension in participating in a peaceful, yet organized, manner in a place of public transportation in this era of "heightened security." "You're just passing through, right?" came the directive disguised as a question from the transit officer on the scene. In an age when most retire to their homes and participate with one another through isolated home entertainment experiences it is telling that genuine community activity is routinely regarded as overtly subversive. The generosity of having one of four tracks offered up in cassette or CD-R format for free - without conscious branding or visible sponsorship - is almost unsettling in its refreshing gesture of good will. The kind often alluded but rarely offered without strings. And yet it is a good idea. A good piece. One that has developed legs as a bona fide tradition that grows on the strength of intrinsic quality over marketing savy.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Mixolydian 2% wide


The E Flat Pythagorean Mixolydian 2% wide Scale. It's interesting how the process of adding 2% of the cents-value of the Pythagorean intervals falls within a couple hundredths of a cent (when rounding off to two decimal places).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Scale of the Day: E Flat Mixolydian mapped to the Cube-root-of-2-squared


The E Flat Mixolydian mapped to the Cube-root-of-2-squared Scale. Resizing the equal tempered mixolydian to fit within an equal tempered minor sixth.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Scale of the Day: E Flat Mixolydian augmented 4 mapped to the Cube-root-of-2


The E Flat Mixolydian augmented 4 mapped to the Cube-root-of-2 Scale. The altered Mixolydian squeezed to fit within an equal tempered major third.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Mixolydian mapped to the 3/2


The E Flat Pythagorean Mixolydian mapped to the 3/2 Scale. The Pythagorean tuning shrunk down to fit the decidedly Pythagorean frequency ratio of 3/2 (the just perfect fifth).

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Scale of the Day: E Flat Mixolydian diminished 5 mapped to the Triative


The E Flat Mixolydian diminished 5 mapped to the Triative Scale. Altered and stretched out to fill the just perfect twelfth.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Mixolydian diminished 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The E Flat Pythagorean Mixolydian diminished 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. This scale features the half-sized version of the Pythagorean Comma (531441/524288, or 23.46-cents. In Square-root-of-2 space it becomes 11.73-cents) between the major third and diminished fourth. This creates the oddity of a fourth degree that is physically lower than the third degree in an ascending scale.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Edge, Separate and Funk

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

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

After a few spins this disc is beginning to make a deep impression. Jason Kao Hwang is an excellent improvising violinist and composer. The four compositions found on this disc showcase that fact along with Hwang's considerable creativity at spinning original materials. Then there's this quartet. These guys are tight. Hearing interwoven lines between Bynum's horn and Hwang's fiddle is positively inspired. With textures that wash between group and individual playing, lyrical melodic lines and loose grooves with an ear for the territory between multiple musical traditions. All with the aggressive edge that marks the New York caliber of jazz playing. And all these qualities sneak up on the ears as each subsequent impression grows larger than the last.

London Improvisers Orchestra/Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra: Separately & Together: Feedom of the City 2007. 2008. Emanem: 4219.

London Improvisers Orchestra:
Harry Beckett, Roland Ramanan, Ian Smith: trumpets
Robert Jarvis: trombone
Catherine Pluygers: oboe
Terry Day: bamboo pipes
John Rangecroft: clarinet
Chefa Alonso, Lol Coxhill, Adrian Northover: soprano saxophones
Caroline Kraabel: alto saxophone
Evan Parker: tenor saxophone
Alison Blunt, Susanna Ferrar, Sylvia Hallett, Philipp Wachsmann: violins
Ivor Kallin: violin, viola
Hannah Marshall, Marcio Mattos, Barbara Meyer: cellos
Dominic Lash, David Leahy: double basses
John Bisset, Dave Tucker: electric guitars
Veryan Weston: piano
Jackie Walduck: vibraphone
Javier Carmona: percussion

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra
Aileen Campbell: voice
Matthew Cairns, Robert Henderson: trumpets
George Murray: trombone
Emma Roche, Matthew Studdert-Kennedy: flutes
John Burgess: bass clarinet
Raymond MacDonald: alto saxophone
Graeme Wilson: baritone saxophone
Peter Nicholson: cello
Una MacGlone, Armin Strum: double basses
George Burt: guitar
Neil Davidson: electric guitar
Chris Hladowski: bouzouki
Rick Bamford, Stuart Brown: percussion

A big, double-ensemble and double-CD packed with a feast of conduction and large scale free improvisation. It is good and it leaves even my ravenous appetite for this kind of thing sated. Even with both ensembles performing simultaneously, there's an awareness of texture that allows for range between individual soloists and the numerous excellent improvisers occupying this one stage. Beautiful documentation of what had to have been a thrilling live performance.

Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet: Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet. 2003. Ropeadope Music: 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

Take the history of jazz. Place in blender. Set to funk. And just try not to tap your foot or otherwise move to the creamy, thick and satisfying grooves that pour out from the Syncopated Taint Septet. Even as Skerik's signature squeals and honks pile on it's the compositions and arrangements credited to the members of this ensemble that makes up this sound. Hans Teuber's "Too Many Toys" in particular has a strong appeal. Music steeped in history that never feels burdened by it.

Scale of the Day: E Flat 5, 3 Mixolydian


The E Flat 5, 3 Mixolydian Scale. The conventional 5-limit just intonation configuration of this scale features the 4/3 perfect fourth and 16/9 minor seventh as the two utonal intervals.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Scale of the Day: A Flat Pythagorean Construct #1, Lydian Mode - in Square-root-of-2-space


The A Flat Pythagorean Construct No. 1, Lydian Mode - in Square-root-of-2-space Scale. The 3 (Pythagorean systems are 3-limit just) is divided by the square-root-of-2 until one arrives at an interval between the root and the square-root-of-2 "tritone."

Friday, December 05, 2008

Scale of the Day: E Pythagorean Construct No. 1 - Lydian Mode


The intervallic content of the E Phythagorean Construct No. 1 - Lydian Mode - Scale. As there are only two notes (and a harmonically equivalent octave), this scale has a small set of intervals.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Scale of the Day: A Flat Pythaorean Construct no. 1 Lydian Inversion


The A Flat Pythagorean Construct no. 1 - Lydian Inversion - Scale. The inversion of the otonal 3/2 perfect fifth becoming the utonal 4/3 perfect fourth in this particular case.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Scale of the Day: G Dorian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 1% wide


The G Dorian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 1% wide Scale. Dorian symmetry in a harmonic landscape where the 606-cent "tritone" serves as the interval of harmonic equivalence.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Scale of the Day: G Dorian 2% narrow


The G Dorian 2% narrow Scale. The characteristic Dorian intervallic symmetry found within a 24-cent flat octave.