Satoh, voice and electronics; Jane Thorngren, soprano, and the Pro Arte Chorale conducted by George Manahan
Available here: Groove
Julian Priester, trombone; Jay Clayton, voice; Jerry Granelli, percussion; Gary Peacock, bass
Free jazz in a midlife crisis.
Available here: Groove
La Koro Sutro
La Koro Sutro; Varied Trio; suite for violin and American gamelan
UC Berkely Chorus: Philip Brett, music director; American gamelan: William Winant, director; John Bergamo, conductor; Abel-Steinberg-Winant trio
Twice selected as one of the best recordings of 1988 by The New York Times
Available here: Groove HDtracks
Shaker Loops/Light Over Water
Shaker Loops for seven solo strings; Light Over Water for brass instruments and synthesizers
Shaker Loops is Adams' first real masterpiece, and one of his most enduring scores ... This recording captures the work's brilliant melding of Minimalist motivic development and Neo-Romantic power.
"Shaker Loops" was composed in the fall of 1978 and first performed on December 8 of that year by members of the San Francisco Conservatory's New Music Ensemble and has since become my most frequently performed composition. It is scored for 3 violins, 1 viola, 2 celli and 1 bass.
Although being in its own way an example of 'continuous music', "Shaker Loops" differs from most other works of its kind because it sees so much change within a relatively short amount of time. Also it avoids the formal and temporal purity of much 'minimal' music by not adhering to a single unbending tempo throughout. This less severe approach allows a freer movement from one level of energy to another, making a more dramatic experience of the form.
The 'loops' are melodic material assigned to the seven instruments, each of a different length and which, when heard together, result in a constantly shifting play among the parts. Thus, while one instrument may have a melody with a period of 7 beats, another will be playing one with 11 while yet another will repeat its figure every 13 beats, and so on. (This is most easily perceived if one counts the beats between the various plucked notes in 'Hymning Slews').
The four sections, although they meld together evenly, are really quite distinct, each being characterized by a particular style of string playing. The outside movements are devoted to 'shaking', the fast, tightly rhythmicized motion of the bow across the strings. The 'slews' of Part II are slow, languid glissandi heard floating within an almost motionless pool of stationary sound (played 'senza vibrato'). Part III is essentially melodic, with the celli playing long, lyrical lines (which are nevertheless loops themselves) against a background of muted violins, an activity which gradually takes speed and mass until it culminates in the wild push-pull section that is the emotional high point of the piece. The floating harmonics, a kind of disembodied ghost of the push-pull figures in Part III, signal the start of Part IV, a final dance of the bows across the strings which concludes with the four upper voices lightly rocking away on the natural overtones of their strings while the celli and bass provide a quiet pedal point beneath.
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
In The Great Abbey of Clement VI
solo trombone, didjeridu
All three works on this disc are slow-paced and meditative in style. Nonetheless, they include some daringly imaginative -- and unexpected -- sonic effects ... fascinating.
While on tour with the Merce Cunningham Dance Co., Dempster, a renowned trombonist and pioneer of resonant improvisation, happened into the same abbey, and many of the same ghosts, that Umberto Eco evoked in The Name Of The Rose.
The very first note is the loudest, and should be overpowering. This single first note, after I stop playing, continues for 14 seconds into silence just before the next note. You will eventually learn to tell when I quit playing and leave only the echo, but at first you may be deceived. "Standing Waves - 1976" is straight-forward enough until you begin to hear multiphonics. Later on I merge into intense multiphonics with altered mouth shapes to emphasize various partials of the harmonic spectrum. Toward the end it almost sounds like crickets. The end comes when the bell tolls in the Abbey.
Available here: iTunes, HDtracks
Margaret Leng tan, piano; Lise Messier, soprano; Frank Almond, violin; Michael Pugliese, percussion
Selected as one of the best recordings of 1988 by The New York Times
It is indeed ironic that "Litania", which appears early in Satoh's oeuvre, emerges as one of his most strikingly original and radical works. "Litania" is the first in a series of compositions for piano, all of which explore the reverberative qualities of the instrument thorough a single facet of pianism, namely tremolo technique. The ensuing drones are subjected to a subtle time lag through a digital delay process. This creates a sonic interference resulting in an extremely rich harmonic texture, which is further intensified by the overlaying of second or third piano. (All but one of these works call for more than one piano.) Satoh admits that he was not at all conscious of composing "works for the piano" per se. The instrument, with its extensive sonic capabilities, merely became the vehicle through which he could generate the necessary sonorities integral to his artisic statement.
In "Litania", the colossal massed formations that arise out of Satoh's homophonic, single-minded approach to the keyboard create bands of sound which invite comparison to the Polish avant-garde composer Krzysztof Penderecki's "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima" for fifty-two stringed instruments (1960). The penchant for sonic violence in keeping with the emotional climate of "Litania" is not without parallel associations with Penderecki's statement. The mood of "Litania" is, moreover, pervaded by that undercurrent of angst often associated with Butoh, the avant-garde, dance-theater aesthetic sometimes referred to as "dance of the dark soul" that emerged, infused with German Expressionist influences, from post-war Japan in the 1960s. It is purely coincidental, yet fittingly appropriate, that this first American recording of Somei Satoh's "Litania" should take place on August 6th, 1985, the fortieth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.
--Margaret Leng Tan
Available here: iTunes, HDtracks
Fog Tropes/Gradual Requiem/Gambuh I
with John Adams, conductor and Foster Reed, mandolin
brass sextet, fog horns & other ambient sounds
synthesizer, mandolin, gamguh, piano, electronics, tape delay
This is an extraordinarily mellow piece ... a seemingly vast three-dimensional expanse ... sober and reflective.
The genesis of "Fog Tropes" is as follows: In 1979, performance artist, Grace Ferguson, asked me to prepare a "soundscore" for her piece, "Don't Sue the Weatherman." I went around the San Francisco Bay and recorded a number of different fog horns. A kind of tape collage resulted, using not only fog horns but other sea sounds, falsetto keenings and gambuh (a Balinese flute). Much electronic processing and tape manipulation were visited upon the raw sounds.
I extracted part of the score, calling it simply "Fog", and began playing it as a tape piece before "Gradual Requiem". The idea of adding brass music as an overlay - or a trope, if you will - came when John Adams invited me to perform at the San Francisco Symphony's "New and Unusual" concert series. He suggested that "Fog" might benefit from some "live" horns.
So, I composed the new version in January, 1982, employing some of the harmonic ideas of "Gradual Requiem" (e.g., ascending minor triads) and it was premiered at the Japan Center Theater on February 18th with members of the San Francisco New Music Ensemble, John Adams conducting. It has since enjoyed performances by other brass groups and seems to have become one of my most popular pieces.
A lot of people are reminded of San Francisco when they hear this piece, but not I. To me it is just about fog, and being lost in the fog. The brass players should sound as if they were off in a raft floating in the middle of a mist-enshrouded bay.
Available here: iTunes , eMusic, HDtracks
New Albion Records, Inc.