Sunday, July 19, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Traditions Missed, Invented and Celebrated

Elliott Sharp: In The Land of The Yahoos. 1987. SST Records: CD 128.

Elliott Sharp: mirage, voice, bass pantar guitar, saxophone, drum computer
Christoph Anders: voice, mirage
Sussan Deihim: voice
Elizabeth Fischer: voice
David Fulton: electronic drums
Paul Garrin: pat, rewinds
Shelly Hirsch: voice
Shigeto Kamada: drums
Christian Marclay: turntables
Jane Tomkiewicz: bendir, clay drum

I have enormous affection for this 1987 slice of downtown flavored "pop." There's something appealing about a music that works with the materials of commercially viable genres that effectively assaults the ears and mind at every step along the way. Both unsurprisingly and sadly, it represents a direction that popular musics have bypassed. The fiercely anti-authoritarian impulse behind this music builds from the relentless drum programming (much of which was well ahead of its drum 'n bass time) and occasional poetry. The disturbing "found poetry" of Pat Robertson's statement that "in a free society, the police, the military are god's special envoy" echoing multiple layers of absurdity and dubious theological totalitarian impulse through repetition of that idiotic phrase. The snarling voice of alienation in the title track has always held an immediate appeal for these ears. But over repeated listening it's the ragged, raw voice of Elizabeth Fischer on "Sink or Swim" that grows on me. A song that thrives upon its lack of chorus as it builds outward with a formal construction that fits the words with an ugly beauty.

Terry Riley: Bosendorfer Imperial piano tuned to a 5-limit just intonation scale

Another longstanding favorite from the '80s. Tune a beautiful sounding Bosendorfer and turn Terry Riley loose on it for two hours. The microphone is a bit close to the hammers on the piano for my taste, but the richness and mesmerizing tapestry of harmony that pours out of it is incredible. Ten movements featuring tonal centers (on a 5-limit chromatic scale tuned around C-sharp) - the structural and artistic similarities to The Well Tuned Clavier are there. In the hands of Terry Riley, these movements take on his characteristic story telling charisma as he uses abstract language to unfold a journey filled with fantastic deeds and mythological beasts.

Matt Wilson: Arts and Crafts. 2001. Palmetto Records: PM 2069.

Matt Wilson: drums
Larry Goldings: piano
Dennis Irwin: bass
Terell Stafford: trumpet

"I feel jazz music is comparable to attending an Arts and Crafts fair. There one can experience the celebration of folks expressing themselves with material that inspires them. Is the common person's toothpick sculpture a less important piece of art than works hanging in museums?" - Matt Wilson. It's easy to understand how playing jazz with this degree of passion and relaxed interplay has led the likes of Charlie Haden or Myra Melford to incorporate Matt Wilson into their own groups. Solid, grounded music that sits squarely and joyously in the tradition. Their take on Ornette Coleman's "Old Gospel" in particular will make a believer out of anyone.

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