Monday, March 30, 2009

Scale of the Day: E Phrygian augmented 4


The E Phrygian augmented 4 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Quiet Fugitives

Kenny Dorham: Quiet Kenny. 1959 (re-released in 1992). Prestige/New Jazz Records: OJCCD-250-2.

Kenny Dorham: trumpet
Tommy Flanagan: piano
Paul Chambers: bass
Arthur Taylor: drums

These ears love a paradox. With Kenny Dorham one finds the odd balance of a be-bop master - a style of music marked by extreme command within the midst of complex harmonic structures and an almost machismo swagger at mastering one of the most demanding styles of music - with a trumpet player of such unassuming stature. His tone, his arrangements and his astonishing ability to spin such well-formed solos sounds natural to the point of effortlessness. Understatement within high achievement. Quiet Kenny shows off his solo chops within a set of standards and straight ahead charts backed by a quartet of hard-bop heavy weights.

Reuben Radding: Fugitive Pieces. 2006. Pine Ear Music: PEM 002.

Reuben Radding: bass
Matt Bauder: tenor saxophone, clarinet
Andrew Drury: percussion
Nate Wooley: trumpet

Desolate yet collaborative soundscapes. The exhale of breath, or friction of scraping brings the instruments into focus as large bodies projecting sound from the microscopic level. Physics in the service of sonic art. Upon repeated listenings - and repeated live experiences with many of these performers - the personalities and individual sounding sources become clearer even as they melt together into a singular image. The focus on detail in these improvised forms owing more to landscape than portraits. A space worth exploring.

Jim Black: Alasnoaxis. 2000. Winter & Winter: 910061-2.

Jim Black: drums
Hilmar Jensson: electric guitar
Chris Speed: tenor saxophone, clarinet
Skuli Sverrisson: electric bass

I forget just how pleasant this recording is. A good quartet with a healthy mix of oddness, inventiveness and musicianship. The pieces take peculiar turns through a range of tempos - often speeding up or slowing down as needed - while touching on a multi-stylistic sensibility. Hilmar Jensson grounds this sound with his steady electric bass while Chris Speed takes several understated flights of fancy across the texture. Music that grooves convincingly without lulling the mind into complacency.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Scale of the Day: F Locrian diminished 4


The intervallic content of the F Locrian diminished 4 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Scale of the Day: C Pythagorean Locrian


The C Pythagorean Locrian Scale. A unison, octave, and an all utonal set of 3-limit frequency ratios.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Scale of the Day: C Whole-tone mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The C Whole-tone mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Scale of the Day: E Whole-tone


The intervallic content of the E Whole-tone Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Scale of the Day: C Whole-tone (2 - 1)


The C Whole-tone (2 - 1) Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Scale of the Day: C Sharp Octotonic-1


The C Sharp Octotonic-1 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Telepathic Duo

Marilyn Crispell/Gerry Hemingway @ An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
Saturday, March 14, 2009

Marilyn Crispell: piano
Gerry Hemingway: drums, percussion

In his superbly written Forces in Motion (pulished in 1989), Graham Locke tagged along with the legendary Anthony Braxton Quartet on a 1985 tour through the UK in an effort to communicate the creative substance of their music.  Marilyn Crispell and Gerry Hemingway were one half of that quartet.  After more than a quarter century of making music together this pair continues to smolder as creative forces still in motion.  Forces that have continued to grow and expand their collaborative sonic vocabulary over the decades.

Gerry Hemingway brings a wonderful focus toward his percussive textures.  His technique of bowing the vibraphone while rhythmically striking it with a soft mallet is a sound with enormous potential for composed music.  This same attention to timbral range and rhythmic detail was applied to the drum kit as the membranes of drum heads became a surface for amplifying or altering the sounds of metallic bowls, wood blocks and a small wind up music box.  Brushes coaxed soft tones from cymbals, snare and metallic bars of the vibraphone.  Soft tremolos from tiny, hand held bells provided a slight sheet of sound.  And Hemingway explored playful ways of altering the mechanics of the high hat - at one point inserting a metal cup mute between the top and bottom halves.  For all his extended technique, it was often the persistent or absent pulse that was the most striking quality of his playing.  Improvisation built upon a mix of abstract gestures or steady grooves depending on the interplay of the moment.

Marilyn Crispell is a talent held in high esteem at HurdAudio.  Her range and creative inventiveness continues to hold these ears in rapt attention.  Her work within the innards of her instrument provided a sympathetic and collaborative response to Hemingway's sound.  Often to the extent of using drum sticks to play the strings and frame of the piano.  The final piece of their second set featuring a tautly restrained sound of extended pianissimo where Crispell barely touched the keyboard of the instrument.  The mix of free improvisation with composed works offered no audible seams to distinguish between them.  Only the evidence of premeditated forms and gestures within a larger texture rich with detail.

The chemistry and interplay between these individual talents is impressive.  The immediacy of their collaborative spontaneity often felt more telepathic than reactive.  Extended periods of driving pulse flowed immediately into a tight, rhythmic pocket while sparse textures often featured gestures with a similar lock step between partners.  Almost as if one performer was finishing the sentence begun by the other.  The conversation between them turning continually between scintillating ideas and drawing upon a refined vocabulary forged from the forces that continue to bring these players together.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Octotonic-2 (1 + 1) 1% narrow


The E Flat Octotonic-2 (1 + 1) 1% narrow Scale. Essentially a remapping of the equal tempered altered octotonic into an 1188-cent interval (the octave minus 12-cents).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Improvising with Thick Slabs of Paint and Grit

Wolf Eyes & Anthony Braxton: Black Vomit. 2006. Victo: cd 099.

Nathan Young: electronics, metal, harmonica, voice
John Olson: electronics, metal, saxophones, gong
Mike Connely: electronics, metal, guitar, voice
Anthony Braxton: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone

Let's face it. No music collection is even remotely complete without something called Black Vomit. And the obvious thing to do is make a big deal about the collaboration between the forces of noise driven, industrial sound of Wolf Eyes and the Avant free jazz powerhouse of Anthony Braxton. But as the waves of sound pealing off this disc demonstrate, these two entities of creatively driven musicians are not that far apart to begin with and they are more than capable of putting together a sound built upon intensity and brains. Visceral, appealing and demanding. This collaboration builds up their texture slowly, feeling out the volcanic terrain at hand before piecing together dense slabs of material.

William Parker Double Quartet: Alphaville Suite: Music Inspired by the Jean Luc Godard Film. 2007. Rogue Art: ROG 0010.

William Parker: bass
Rob Brown: alto saxophone
Lewis Barnes: trumpet
Hamid Drake: drums
Mazz Swift: violin
Jessica Pavone: viola
Julia Kent: cello
Shiau-Shu Yu: cello
Leena Conquest: vocalist

A decisive documentation of living, vibrant jazz carving an irresistible expressive space along Godard's cinematic contours. Conceptually excellent. Outstanding performances. Superb production standards. This one simply deserves many more ears. Lewis Barnes is a standout presence on trumpet in this set while the rhythm section of Hamid Drake and William Parker is perhaps one of the best ever assembled. The cello-heavy string quartet arranging takes this material well beyond the "horn with strings" sound in favor of working a twist upon film-inspired textures.

Arrington de Dionyso/Gust Burns: Ataque Holotropical. 2006. CD-R produced by Arrington de Dionyso.

Arrington de Dionyso: bass clarinet
Gust Burns: piano

Arrington de Dionyso is a driven improviser. Once the mouthpiece hits breath he's determined to make something happen. With Gust Burns as his partner in crime, this document reveals an aggressive set of creative, fire breathing free improvisation that blisters its way through time. Each player prodding the other toward aggressive swaths of musical territory. The sonic equivalent of a dripping canvas once two artists come at it with buckets of paint.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Octotonic-2 (1 + 1) 2% wide


The E Flat Octotonic-2 (1 + 1) 2% wide Scale. Eight tones within a stretched octave (1224-cents wide).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

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


The E Flat Octotonic-2 mapped to the Cube-root-of-2 Scale. Only the most dedicated microtonalist finds eight pitches within the span of an equal tempered major third.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Monday, March 09, 2009

International Ornette Coleman Day 2009

March 9, 2009
International Ornette Coleman Day

Ornette Coleman turns 79 today. Since bursting onto the scene with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins in the late-50's he has stretched and challenged ears with the harmolodic beauty of his musical idealism. Music that continues to be made. Music that continues to reward both the listening ear and the practicing player.

Here at HurdAudio, March 9th is set aside as a day to contemplate and value a body of music that has done so much to advance the art of improvisation and individualism in music. A music that opens the ears to an intervallic logic that has shaped my own sense of linear harmony. Happy Ornette Coleman Day.

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


The E Flat Pythagorean Octotonic-2 - Ionian Mode - mapped to the Square-root-of-2 - Scale.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Octotonic-2 - Mixolydian Mode


The E Flat Pythagorean Octotonic-2 - Mixolydian Mode - Scale. The 32/27 minor third and 16/9 minor seventh are the two utonal members that make this particular tuning "Mixolydian."

Saturday, March 07, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Improvised Hits and Misses

Curlew: Gussie. 2003. Roaratorio: Roar 05.

Recorded live at Gus Lucky's Gallery, Minneapolis, MN, July 10, 2001

George Cartwright: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Davey Williams: electric guitar
Chris Parker: piano
Fred Chalenor: electric bass
Bruce Golden: percussion and such

A limited edition vinyl-only release of Curlew launching into unfettered free improvisation. Part of the aural appeal of Curlew is the tight arrangements featuring aggressive smears and suggestions of what the musicians (who have morphed so much over the years, only George Cartwright is the constant) are capable of once the restraints are lifted. Unsurprisingly, under the full freedom allowed in these recording there remains the musical discipline and spatial generosity characteristic of Curlew's arrangements. Equally unsurprising is the allure of the sound of interaction between these players. While perhaps not the definitive documentation of the Curlew experience, it is a substantive one.

Don Byron: Romance With The Unseen. 1999. Blue Note Records: 7243 4 99545 2 6.

Don Byron: clarinet
Bill Frisell: guitar
Drew Gress: bass
Jack DeJohnette: drums

Ah, Don Byron. Such an effortlessly gifted sound on clarinet. Throw in a quartet that includes Bill Frisell on guitar - another figure with a sound these ears have grown hopelessly addicted to - and you come away with an understated masterpiece. The stylistic and creative sensibilities of these players is so comfortable that the revolutionary details of their playing barely makes a ripple on this recording. But focusing the ears reveals a recording worth coming back to time and again. Great melodic lines. Some find shredding from Frisell. A great take on Herbie Hancock's "One Finger Snap." And a clarinet sound that earns its place at the center of this sound with each spin.

Albert Ayler: New Grass. 1968 (re-released in 2005). Impulse: A-9175.

Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone, recitation, vocals, whistling
Bill Folwell: electric bass
Burt Collins: trumpet
Joe Newman: trumpet
Garnett Brown: trombone
Seldon Powell: flute, tenor saxophone
Buddy Lucas: baritone saxophone
Bert DeCoteaux: arrangements, conductor
Call Cobbs: electric harpsichord, piano, organ
Bernard Purdie: drums
Rose Marie McCoy: vocal
Mary Maria Parks: vocals

A cautionary tale of what happens when a great artist bends their vision in an attempt to arrive where they imagine their audience (or audience yet to be realized) wants them to arrive. Albert Ayler's insistence that this is an expression of where he was at the time he recorded it - a time different from where he had been before - his openly stated hope that "you enjoy this record" speaks toward the intent where the music should be. New Grass is a fascinating document and an artistic disappointment. The need to "rock" providing heavy chains and shackles against Ayler's soaring spirit. His vocals providing far less voice than his tenor saxophone playing.

Indestructible Frailty

Modern Masters @ An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
Friday, March 6, 2009

Carrie Rose: flute, movement, voice
Christie Finn: soprano voice
Sylvia Smith: percussion, piano, voice

In Hours Like These by Stuart Saunders Smith
Books of Flutes by Stuart Saunders Smith
Family Portraits: Delbert by Stuart Saunders Smith
Rose: by Stuart Saunders Smith
The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs by John Cage
Nowth Upon Nacht by John Cage
A Flower by John Cage
The Year Begins To Be Ripe by John Cage
High Flyer by Robert Erickson
Mureau by John Cage

Through exposed words - often teetering between meaning and sound - and the unassuming expression of humanity in the music of Smith, Cage and Erickson unfolded through a sequence of quiet pieces that hovered within an imagined stillness. A stillness that the city of Baltimore appeared determined to bend toward its own character through an unusually intense barrage of urban noise filtering into the isolated space of An Die Musik. Persistent pounding, guttural engines bereft of mufflers, wailing sirens and passing helicopters attempted to intrude into these unassuming soundscapes. And each was in turn absorbed into the stillness and Cage-like acceptance of all sounds regardless of intent. Expression of honest frailty at ease within a world of forces and powers.

In Hours Like These began the evening with a soft setting of Vladimir Mayakovsky's suicide note. A poem of painful solitude set to voice and orchestral bells that expresses loss and peace through subtle intensity. From this opening the evening took turns toward and away from voice and instrument as a carriers of concrete meaning.

The four John Cage songs were performed as a single set for voice and piano as percussion instrument. Sylvia Smith lightly tapping the closed instrument - or violently slamming it shut at the onset of Nowth Upon Nacht - as Cage's witty settings of James Joyce and Henry David Thoreau drew sounds and ideas from the voice with light recourse to extended technique. Chirstie Finn's intonation was remarkable through these pieces.

Carrie Rose presented passionate interpretations of solo flute compositions. Book of Flutes featured carefully selected excerpts from a larger set of writings by Stuart Smith Smith while Robert Erickson's High Flyer deftly worked in spoken and whipsered consonants and vowel sounds as a ripple of voice-like sounds within the flute textures.

Scale of the Day: D Chromatic 1% narrow


The D Chromatic 1% narrow Scale. This one could be thought of as 1188-cents divided into 12 equal parts.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Scale of the Day: D Chromatic 2% wide


The D Chromatic 2% wide Scale. Just a slight, deliberately "out-of-tune" tweak on the standard intonation.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Berio-ed by the Mob

Mobtown Modern: Sequenzathon (almost) the complete Seqenzas (1958 - 2002) @ The Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, MD
Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Luciano Berio's Sequenzas

Sequenza I (1958)
Sequenza II (1963)

Sequenza III (1965)

Sequenza V (1965)

Sequenza VI (1967)

Sequenza VIIa (1969)

Sequenza VIII (1976)

Sequenza IXb (1981)
Brian Sacawa: alto saxophone

Sequenza X (1984)
Dolf Kamper: trumpet in C

Sequenza XI (1987 - 88)

Sequenza XIII (1995)
Lidia Kaminska: accordion

Sequenza XIV (2002)
Nathan Bontrager: cello

Down in the main gallery space of the Contemporary Museum the chairs were set, the blank wall cleared for the video machinations of Guy Werner as music stands held copious amounts of white pages for a multi-course feast of Berio's solo works.  Performer after performer bringing their most intense stare upon pages as the eyes consumed virtuosic scores from start to finish with music that often strained the limits of instrument and virtuosity.  What emerged from the saturation of rich and dissonant works was an odd mix of unwavering intensity against a maturing compositional force.  The characteristic voice of this fascinating Italian composer became clearer as each work charted his chronological progress as an artist.  The overlap of ideas steadily becoming more apparent against the contrasting textures found in the long string of pieces.  The endurance run through the dense thickness of difficult works offering many rewards.  The appeal drawing Mobtown Modern to take an extended presentation of this music becoming clear with each soloist.

The consistency of performances was striking.  Each meeting the challenges presented on the score while bringing out the impressive musicality Berio invested in these compositions.  The stark, ferociously plucked harp strings and pedal work of Sequenza II offered an early glimpse into the physicality, and near aerobic feats later realized in Sequenza XIII for accordion.  The dramatic gestures and theater of Sequenza III for soprano voice setting up nicely for Dan Blacksburg's colorful clown attire in Sequenza V for trombone.

Following up her outstanding performance of Giacinto Scelsi's Mantos III from last January Wendy Richman presented a spellbinding interpretation of Sequenza VI with an aggressive performance of a piece that nearly saws the neck off of the viola with thrilling sonic results.  Brian Sacawa made the demands of Sequenza IXb into a passionate - at times plaintive - voice for a sound that carves moments of sustained human frailty within a jagged, forceful sonic language.  And there were still more moments of impressively virtuosic feats that reinforced that sense of passion and grit in all the late Sequenzas.

The final Sequenza XIV for cello made a sharp turn toward realizing snippets of softly realized grooves as Nathan Bontrager's fingers struck the body of the cello to vibrate the fingered strings.  Moments of softness sliced by a piece that stripped several strands from the bow over the course of this performance of Berio's final installment of a lifelong body of solo works.  The phrases clearly echoing ideas explored earlier in the evening on guitar, trumpet or violin.  Berio's sensibilities having crystallized into something recognizable by the end of this experience.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Chromatic 1% wide


The intervallic content of the E Flat Chromatic 1% wide Scale.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Monday, March 02, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Classical Turns and a Trip to La Cave

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Symphonies [disc 5]. Recorded in 1994. The International Music Company: 205299-305.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Symphony No. 7 in A major (op. 92)
Barry Wordsworth: conductor
Symphony No. 8 in D minor (op. 93)
James Lockhart: conductor

When the ears develop a sense of historical context it becomes difficult not to hear these two symphonic works as the calm before the ninth symphony. The challenge - as it is with any fetishized and profoundly familiar body of musics - is to hear the sounds of these works in the present tense. Stripping away the precarious point between Classical-with-a-capital-c and Romantic-with-a-capital-R and hearing the formal development and sensibilities is a continually rewarding exercise with each of the symphonies. A sense of brooding optimism runs through these pieces as each takes their customary developmental turns upon core themes and reminds the composerly mind just how exhilarating it is to bridge surprising turns from a set body of materials.

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets, Vol. IV. Recorded in 1986. Delos: DE 3034.

The Orford String Quartet
Andrew Dawes: violin

Kenneth Perkins: violin
Terence Helmer: viola
Denis Brott: cello

String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 59 No. 2 ("Razumovsky")
String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95 ("Serioso")

The "Razumovsky" quartets continue to intrigue these ears with that transitional quality between the early and late Beethoven sound. While the late "Serioso" contains all the formal and compositional qualities of the symphonies without the instrumental scale and difficulty of separating it
from memory (these quartets are less familiar compared to the often played symphonies). This is a big dose of the big "B." There's plenty of reason to come back to these pieces time and again.

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost (box set) [disc 3]. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.

Albert Ayler Quintet @ La Cave, Cleveland, OH. April 16-17, 1966
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Don Ayler: trumpet
Michel Samson: violin
Mutawef Shaheed (aka Clyde Shy): bass
Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums

It's hard to overstate the fascination with the layer of sound found in Michel Samson's violin work on these live sets. It's also hard to overstate the strain to hear it at times with the cave-like acoustics of La Cave on these rough recordings. On one hand, a much treasured document of one of Ayler's great quintets. This is coupled with the disappointment that the attention to engineering this sound didn't get its due in this all to brief moment of time.

The treatment of melodic themes as grounding material is of particular interest in these sets. Especially how the cyclical quality wears away to expose different members - often as they iterate and dissolve that same theme. Even more so when that dissolving leaves the way clear to hear Samson dragging his bow along the violin. I would be interested to learn more about Samson's influence on sometimes violinist Ornette Coleman and the similar sound he reaches for with that instrument.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Chromatic mapped to the Triative


The intervallic content of the E Flat Chromatic mapped to the Triative Scale.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Cache and Carry

Cache-Flow Quartet/Instant Coffee @ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD
Saturday, February 28, 2009

Instant Coffee
M.C. Schmidt: hi-hat, percussion, synthesizer, sampler, voice, video
Jason Willett: sidrassi organs, amplified rubber band, percussion
Lisle Ellis: bass, electronics

Cache-Flow Quartet
Michael Muniak: feedback, electronics
Paul Neidhardt: feedback, electronics
Twig Harper: feedback, electronics
Drew Daniel: feedback, electronics

The debut performance of Instant Coffee offered up a heady brew. A blend of creative forces that collaboratively build music from different angles. M.C. Schmidt's restless switching between instruments and sonic choices providing a prodding through an ear-driven creation that allowed for humor, substance and contrast. The presence of Jason Willett's amplified rubber band and similarly elastic electronic source materials provided a tension between control and non-control simmering just within the overall texture. Lisle Ellis moved between balancing and complimenting these parts with his widely varied - yet focused - bass playing combined with his own electronic impulses. His responsive strumming would anchor a drone texture before taking a turn toward expansively free pizzicato or bowed lyrical lines against a broadly fluctuating backdrop.

M.C. Schmidt has a striking sensibility for seizing sonic choices from any given moment. The squeaking as he rotates on his seat is effectively folded into the overall sound and repeated with deliberate durational intent. A collection of metal pipes detached from a wind chime tossed and scattered upon the floor and hi hat takes on a prolonged and intentional clumsiness to soak up the sonic racket offered up. The theatre of the performance never becoming unhinged from the collaborative sound of the group. These three different personalities and musical histories finding a common territory of evolving textures. Instant Coffee has a good sound that keeps the ears steeped in its unexpected turns.

The Cache-Flow Quartet is experimental music in its purest sense. The chain of inputs sent between players being deliberately obscured - and manipulated by the audience over the course of the performance - to place the performers in a collaborative feedback loop of managed unpredictability. The sonic equivalent of a laboratory with beakers of strange concoctions boiling over as four mad scientists strain against the Jekyll and Hyde within their own improvisative instincts. The unpredictable signal flow swallowing up input from each and swirling into an attractive din of noise.

Interval of the Day: Major Seventh mapped to the Triative


The Major Seventh mapped to the Triative. This is the equal tempered interval stretched to fill 3-space. 1743.46-cents is to 1901.96-cents (the size of the 3/1 triative) what 1100-cents is to 1200-cents.