Sunday, July 12, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Sounds from Philadelphia, Lebanon and Saturn

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

Katt Hernandez: violin
Evan Lipson: bass

A quick hit of the Philadelphia free improvised music scene as two of its most active players lock strings and sonic agility that alternates between aggressive and delicate. The wide, slowly oscillating vibrato of Hernandez's violin drifting within Lipson's orbit before launching toward slight melodic turns toward new vibrato centers. Lipson's fortissimo pizzicato drawing from the foundations of jazz traditions and uncompromising in-the-moment responsiveness.

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

Mazen Kerbaj: trumpet

There's two sides to this solo trumpet music. There's the "how the hell is he making that sound" side. And once one puzzles out the extremes of coaxing out such extended acoustic source the mind turns toward "how the hell do you record that sound." The virtuosity here is in the maniacal realization of a concrete soundscape without recourse to electronic manipulation. It's profoundly beautiful and fiercely like anything else. It draws the ears well into the inner plumbing of the instrument through the humanity of breath and mind. The geopolitical backdrop of this musician, record producer and cartoonist from Lebanon's somewhat isolated free improvised music scene adds a fascinating dimension that plays pathos against the fiercely independent qualities of this music.

The Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen: Points On A Space Age. DVD. Directed by Ephraim Asili. 2009. MVD Visual: MVDV4774.

When does Marshall Allen get his just due? A question forcefully posed by one of the surviving Arkestra members in this video as the final Marshall Allen chapter of the music and wisdom of Sun Ra is being written. "What will happen to the kids that really want to know this music? This guy is in his 80s! Where will they go to learn when all we are left with is mediocrity?" The practitioners of this music serve a dual role as disciples sent out by an absent Ra to prepare human beings for a future that almost defies comprehension within a society dominated by consumer-driven sensibilities. When reduced to spectacle and packaged entertainment along with an inability to discuss music in terms other than units sold (and downloaded) it becomes harder to impart the vision of a band leader who took such creative control over his own narrative. The man from Saturn preparing our souls for journeys that transcend.

Points On A Space Age documents a frustratingly brief slice of the Marshall Allen chapter. It's hard to imagine how a video of any duration could capture the nearly indescribable experience of a live Arkestra show. With just over half an hour this video doesn't attempt to bring that, though there are glimpses of performance footage - including a powerful segment of dance set to "Love in Outer Space" - that is rarely allowed to develop and unfold at its own pace as performances are spliced and manhandled by the editing process. There is also a small sampling of interviews with individual performers that brings out a taste of the mixture of belief and passion in the practice of this music. Segmented by Ra's poetry as read by director Ephraim Asil, there is no shortage of love in this video. But it is short considering the magnitude of the subject. A small document that scatters along multiple trajectories of sound, archival footage and interviews that hints at something much larger.

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