Sunday, November 06, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Mappings and Tunings

Elliott Sharp: K!L!A!V! 1990. Newport Classic: NPD 85504.

Anthony Coleman: toy piano, yamaha organ
Wayne Horvitz: yamaha dx-7, dx-100
Zeena Parkins: korg organ, yamaha dx-100
Joseph Paul Taylor: akai s9000 sampler, yamaha dx-7
Gwen Toth: reed organ
David Weinstein: mirage
sampler, cz101

Elliott Sharp: atari 1040st computer, roland s330 sampler, piano
Twenty Below for various instruments
K!L!A!V! for computer and sampler
Mapping for solo piano

A slice of Elliott Sharp's "ir/rational" compositions segmented by his composed works for keyboards. There is not a lot of Sharp keyboard music, so this collection may be "complete" in that sense. The structural underpinnings of "ir/rational" music emerges with a startling clarity here. Twenty Below is a fun piece that shows its age timbrally. K!L!A!V! is startling in its attractive, sparkling textures of detuned piano samples worked through a sequencer. Sharp's later works along this vein tend to focus more on digital manipulations that obscure the source timbre while this older piece retains a sense of harmonic order and treats its raw materials as more of an instrument (as opposed to an exercise in sound design). It's a better piece than I'd remembered it being. One of the rewards of going back to these older recordings. Mapping features Elliott Sharp applying his guitar techniques and sensibilities to the acoustic piano. Hammering furiously at the low end of the instrument's register to force out a cascading wall of harmonics. It's a piece that practically begs non-guitarists to take it on and make it their own.

Rhythmicon I by Carter Scholz
John Schneider: 17 justly tuned guitars

Scenes from Nek Chand by Lou Harrison
Tandy's Tago by Lou Harrison
Cinna by Lou Harrison
Palace Music by Lou Harrison
Plaint & Variations on 'Song of Palestine' by Lou Harrison
Serenado por Gitaro by Lou Harrison
John Schneider: national steel guitar

Letter from Hobo Pablo by Harry Partch
John Schneider: voice, adapted guitar I
Rebekah Raff: kithara

December 1942 by Harry Partch
John Schneider: voice, adapted guitar I

Three Intrusions by Harry Partch
John Schneider: voice, adapted guitar II
Gene Sterlins: diamond marimba

Harp of New Albion by Terry Riley
John Schneider: guitar in just intonation

Lament by John Schneider
John Schneider: guitar in just intonation

My ears bring more than a passing familiarity with many of these works. Steeped in the sounds of just intonation, this disc touches upon many of the significant proponents and practitioners of a tuning system that is both ancient and refreshingly new. I find the guitar arrangement of the two movements of Harp of New Albion (a piece originally composed and performed by Terry Riley on a piano tuned to just intonation) to be a complete knockout in this collection. The vocal intonations of the Partch pieces (especially Letter from Hobo Pablo) are spooky in their fidelity to Partch's voice on his own recordings of these works. The fact that Harry Partch was an underrated guitarists lends a particular interest to an interpretation to such a dedicated instrumentalist with a grounded understanding of both the theory and the music. The Lou Harrison pieces are exquisite (as his music often is). This is a great collection for getting the sound of pure intervals into one's ear and a much needed documentation of this incredible body of music.

Kevin Crabb: composer, drums
Kelly Jefferson: saxophone

Each member of this quartet plays inside this music. And I mean deep inside. There isn't one element of this set that isn't realized as a cohesive group. Each one of these musicians is clearly cut from a monk-like devotion to jazz music that yields tight performances like this. The fact that these are all Kevin Crabb originals - as opposed to jazz standards - gives this set its luster. The prominence of the cymbals in the mix is the only hint that the drummer is the leader of this ensemble. Tight playing, tight compositions and nearly flawless execution along all musical fronts. If anything, the studio-centric approach to this recording leads to abbreviated solos that could stand to stretch out much longer (as one would imagine happening in a live setting). This one is admittedly more "inside" and "safe" than these ears normally tread, but I have to admire the musicianship on display on this recording.

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