Sunday, February 01, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Folk Musics

Muzsikas: The Bartok Album. 1999. Hannibal/Rykodisc: HNCD 1439.

Peter Eri: viola, guitar, percussion, flute
Daniel Hamar: bass, small cimbalom, gardon, percussion
Laszlo Porteleki: violin
Mihaly Sipos: violin
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

A tour for the ears of the sounds from the Hungarian countryside that inspired the great Bela Bartok. As a younger student immersed in music - and often immersed in the string quartets of Bartok - it was his sense of modernism that drew me to his music and his use of folk materials that puzzled me. Even as I sensed how this fascination with the music of his native Hungary added substantial depth to his compositions. Now the story of the steady growth of Hungarian folk melodies as an attractor and influence helped draw Bartok outside the confinement of middle class sensibility and into physical journeys to study and preserve the traditions of his home country holds a peculiar resonance in this current age of hopeful, patriotic optimism and uncertain change unfolding down in Washington, DC. As the Muzsikas present these melodies set in traditional arrangements that retains the beauty and raw, lilting turns that understandably drew Bartok out into the countryside. A sonic road map of the sound lovingly preserved. One can't help wondering what other traditions - both past and present - would benefit from a similar dedication.

Chicago Tentet: American Landscapes 2. 2007. Okkadisk: OD12068.

Peter Brötzmann: clarinet, tarogato, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone
Mats Gustafsson: bariton 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

A sonic landscape drawn from intuitive improvisation that shares the characteristic brushstrokes of Peter Brötzmann's forceful playing and painting found on the cover art of this release. A landscape pieced together from a range of rugged, densely dissonant terrain and sparse expanses. The explosive quality of these performers often adding more tension in the quiet sections as the next blast of energetic matter threatens to erupt at any moment. A long form expression that builds nicely on the traditions of Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz and Peter Brötzmann's legendary Machine Gun aesthetics.

Jenny Scheinman: Shalagaster. 2004. Tzadik: TZ 7709.

Jenny Scheinman: violin
Myra Melford: piano, harmonium
Russ Johnson: trumpet
Trevor Dunn: bass
Kenny Wollesen: drums

Here, the "rotation" makes an unusual full circle move toward folk materials of North America folded into compositions for the improvising heavy weights of this fantastic ensemble. The arrangements are neither "traditional" or adapted for a chamber music setting, but a compelling argument for an evolving sense of tradition. Scheinman's compositions deftly weave around and through genre reference points - attaching a folk-like luminescence and melodicism to a music that claims roots in jazz, gospel, Americana and many other sonic gestures found at rest stops along the journey.

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