Food for the Bearded
Gyan Riley, guitar, with
Tracy Silverman, viola
David Doll, percussion
and very special guest Terry Riley, piano and voice
It is not only an extraordinary capacity to interpret a wide variety of idioms with ease and integrity, depth of expression, inventive and adventurous improvising, interesting, intricate and deeply felt compositions; but also more subtle personal and spiritual qualities that make Gyan a unique and exceptional artist.
New Albion is pleased to announce the solo debut of guitarist and composer Gyan Riley. This set of compositions describes a path that started in what surely must have been a most unique household. Now, at the age of 25, his complete command of the canon for nylon string guitar is wedded with a Northern California sensibility for improvisation and drift.
Gyan Riley, born in California in 1977, is the son of renowned avant garde composer and North Indian Raga vocalist Terry Riley. He completed his undergraduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music under the direction of David Tanenbaum and later received a Masters Degree at the Conservatory under Dusan Bogdanovic, mentor for both performance and composition. In March 1999 he received First Prize in the Portland Guitar Festival Competition and in February 2001 was awarded First Prize in the San Francisco Conservatory Guitar Concerto Competition. He performed in the Bremen Musikfest '98 in Bremen, Germany and the New American Music Festival '98 in Sacramento, California, both as a soloist and in duo with David Tanenbaum. Gyan performed piano-guitar duos with his father at the Muenchner Klaviersommer '99 festival in Munich and made his first New York appearance at Merkin Hall in January of 2000, performing solo and ensemble works with Terry Riley and the All-Stars. Later that month, Gyan appeared as guitarist for the Tracy Silverman Trio at Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall in Istanbul, Turkey. In July of 2000, Gyan performed solo and in a duo with Dusan Bogdanovic at the Festival Sitar-Guitar in Rome. In January of 2001, Gyan played in the American premiere of John Adams' "El Nino" with David Tanenbaum, soprano Dawn Upshaw, and the San Francisco Symphony. Gyan performed in the Other Minds Festival in March 2001 and in June 2001 Gyan appeared with the All-Stars at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London as part of the Meltdown Festival. The band also toured Italy and the US in Spring 2002. Gyan recently gave concerts of original solo works at the GFA 2001 Festival in La Jolla, California, and at the Planet Tree Festival in London. Gyan is currently the artistic director for the San Francisco Classical Guitar Society. He was commissioned by the Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center to write a solo guitar work for Jorge Caballero's February 2000 performance at Merkin Concert Hall in New York. Gyan is also featured on the New Albion recording "The Book of Abbeyozzud", Terry Riley's series of 28 guitar pieces, each with a title beginning with a different letter of the Spanish alphabet. "Piedad" is one of three solo works in the set, written as a gift for Gyan in his 18th birthday. Gyan (the word means 'knowledge' in Hindi) is the only person to have been named by Pandit Pran Nath: when Terry and Ann announced they were expecting, Pran Nath proclaimed "Gyan Shankar is coming."
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
Katsuya Yokoyama, shakuhachi
Trilok Gurtu, tabla and percussion
Mark Dresser, bass
Gerry Hemingway, percussion
Two extended works by Richard Teitelbaum for shakuhachi and synthesizer with percussion and bass accompaniment. Teitelbaum was one of the founders of the revolutionary MEV group in Rome, which explored live electroacoustic and collective improvisation in the 60's and 70's. Subsequent to that era he began work with the renowned shaukuhachi master, teacher and composer, Yokoyama and began on a course of intercultural music. These works express his unique language and nuances of sound color which have given him a cult recognition among avant garde composers and audiences. Blends (1977) a kind of circumnavigation, is an exploration of the shakuhachi's timbral world in an extended dialog with Moog synthesizers, a pairing that was quite controversial at the time. Kyotaku/Denshi (1995) is more of a historical tour that follows a trajectory of Japanese history through the shakuhachi, from its roots of the travelling monks through various episodes of religious, artistic and secular events.
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
Complete Harpsichord Works
Linda Burman-Hall, keyboards
On tuning & creativity: Throughout history we have thought up many visual, numeric, and verbal ways to represent the beautiful vibrations that make up music...their direct speeds, the ratios between them and even ways to show how to tamper (temper) them. The earliest written tuning instructions come to us from the time of Hammurabi and are written by cuneiform in the language called old Babylonian. An example of this in the British Museum (U. 7/80) uses the term "unclear" to refer to the tri-tone, and recommends making it "clear" by sequentially raising tones by a half step. The reverse side of the tablet tells how to lower the "unclear" ones until all seven steps are returned to the original.
Pythagoras is said to have brought the "monochord", or single string, from Mesopotamia and/or Egypt. This method is as useful today as it was several thousand years ago. Today using the metric system for marking off the proportions on a meter-length string, and then sounding them will produce the actual musical relationship intended. These can be transferred to any tunable instrument. Our luscious heritage from Claudius Ptolemy, Didymus, Avicenna, Al Farabi, Werckmeister, Kirnberger, Stanhope and a multitude of others are all available by this sure and simple method. Popular in more recent times is the graphic circular method, showing 12 "fifths" either "just"... correctly tuned to a three to two... or altered a little by widening or narrowing. Lines crossing the circle are almost always just major thirds, and in this reminding us that Europe had a "thing" for the major third and in its keyboards altered other intervals to attain it at large so to speak. Meantone temperament was a result of this.
Although for several centuries keyboards were made that presented more than twelve tones, the hypnosis of twelve has continued, and continues to spread wherever "Western" culture settles in. Even here there are apostates. The important composer Harry Partch built an entire orchestra for his works written in a forty-three tone scale. Younger people still do this and, in addition, tend to show tunings by means of "lattices."
In this fine recording of my keyboard works, Linda and I have become a part of such apostasy from the dull grey of industrial twelve tone equal temperament and worked together to take back to ourselves as artists the natural right to tune pieces in ways that are fitting, appropriate, or enhance musical beauty.
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
We Sing For The Future!
Frederic Rzewski, piano
Twenty years on, Cardew's music still provokes controversy. Even amongst his many admirers, his later 'political' music in particular creates unease and perhaps misgivings. The relation of the music to its 'programme' and to the lofty aims it purports to serve is problematic enough, so let us remind ourselves what Cardew himself wrote about this music in the seventies:
"I have discontinued composing music in an avant-garde idiom for a number of reasons: the exclusiveness of the avant-garde, its fragmentation, its indifference to the real situation in the world today, its individualistic outlook and not least its class character (the other characteristics are virtually products of this). We Sing For The Future is a composition based on a song. The song is for youth, who face bleak prospects in a world dominated by imperialism, and whose aspirations can only be realized through the victory of revolution and socialism. In the framework of a solo piano piece lasting about 12 minutes, something of this great struggle is conveyed. The music is not programmatic, but relies on the fact that music has meaning and can be understood quite straightforwardly as part of the fabric of what is going on in the world.
"I wrote the Thälmann Variations in 1974 to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Ernst Thälmann, Secretary of the German Communist Party from 1927. In 1933 he was imprisoned by the Nazis and in 1944 he was executed in Buchenwald concentration camp. The theme of the variations is the Thälmann Song (1934) which is still popular today in the German Workers' movement. The variations are grouped into three large sections."
Clearly, by announcing his political agenda Cardew's intention was to raise the stakes. In all his work, ethical, ‘extra-musical’ considerations were put to the fore; these were the standards by which his music was to be judged and were at the root of the fundamental changes in his music-making in the seventies. More mundanely, his musical options were a consequence of what he perceived as political necessity, i.e., the imperatives of the Party Line.
Rzewski's interpretations of these two works are wholly admirable, the performances compelling, and the two improvisations towards the conclusion of We Sing For The Future -- an unexpected bonus -- are quite magnificent. He stretches the boundaries of style and musical language drawn up by Cardew without rupturing them, and, at the end of the improvisations, Cardew's music is ushered back, seamlessly and convincingly. In the second improvisation we are reminded of the great Bach/Liszt transcriptions; there can be no higher praise. Cardew would certainly have approved the inclusion of the improvisations and would have relished the verve and boldness of Rzewski's playing.
—from the notes by John Tilbury
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
Music for Piano(s) 1951-1995
David Arden, piano
Un disque qui s'impose. Rating: 10
This recording traverses the last forty-five years of Earle Brown's creative work, chronologically encompassing this twelve-tone "Three Pieces" and "Perspectives", his revolutionary "Folio" pieces, "25 Pages" (music's first truly open-form work), the multi-timbral "Four Systems" and "Corroboree", and the world premiere of his "Summer Suite '95", written especially for David Arden.
These were recording sessions we would never forget. We were capturing revolutionary works, repertoire staples, never-performed works, never-recorded works and newly-written works, all brought to life at the hands of a brilliant performer. Time and again, we would be rendered breathless by the magic of what was coming over the speakers, and our sober audio booth would glow with an energy more powerful than all of us together. Before our ears, a legend was becoming sound.
The music was at the same time vigorous and lyrical, audacious and beautiful, evocative and provocative. And if this appears to be a play of opposites, it is not surprising, since the man who created the music is no different. At 70, Earle Brown remains the broad-based, vital personage he has always been, a cultured Yankee spirit with a penchant for experimentation and an occasional bit of mischief, an incurable romantic with a child-like enthusiasm for almost everything.
Here is a composer capable of both the strictest formality and the broadest liberty, a composer equally at home in serialism, aleatory forms, and triadic harmony. His creative output ranges from piano miniatures to multimedia works to big, sonorous orchestral pieces. This diversity may come as a revelation to many -- at least to those who believe that graphic works such as "December 1952" characterize Earle Brown's oeuvre. Perhaps this is to be expected, since it takes much less effort to pigeon-hole someone -- especially if they've done something revolutionary -- than it does to examine them in their entirety. The present recording hopes, in its own way, to help change this perception.
--John Yaffé, Producer
Available here: iTunes
Stephen Vitiello, light readings and sound processing with Pauline Oliveros, accordion, David Tronzo, guitar
...a master of the [sound art] medium
--New York Times
Light becomes sight becomes sound becomes music. New York-based installationist and sound artist Stephen Vitiello steps out as a composer in his own right, after years of collaborations with artists, musicians and choreographers including Nam June Paik, Scanner, Pauline Oliveros, Tony Oursler and Constance De Jong, Joan Jeanrenaud, Frances-Marie Uitti and many others.
During his "WorldViews" residency at the World Trade Center in 1999 (the first media artist to be invited by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and ThunderGulch), Vitiello was inspired by nightviews of the cityscape -- billboards, harbor lights, police cars -- to translate/amplify the visual into a sonic experience. Collaborating with noted sound technician Bob Bielecki, Vitiello developed the photocell controller, which translates the vibration (color, speed) of lights into tones.
Having thus captured the genie, Vitiello's sounds were further processed both in computer and in live musical collaboration with avant/improv friends David Tronzo and Pauline Oliveros (among others), musical geniuses in their own right. The result is a flowing, gorgeous set of sound/song pieces constantly alternating between noise and tone, between lyricism and disturbance.
"Bright and Dusty Things" at times recalls the drones of soundfield pioneers (La Monte Young, Michael Snow, Tony Conrad), the handmade imperfect loose wired contraptions of Fluxus artists (Kosugi), and the microcosmos glitchwerk explorations of younger European and Japanese artists.
This recording, of sounds found from gazing from the upper windows of the World Trade Center, was released on September 9, 2001.
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
Sarah Cahill, piano
An important recording of Ruth Crawford's (1901–53) transcendental "Nine Preludes" and "Piano Study in Mixed Accents," and the premiere recording of "Dissonant Counterpoint" and "Gebrauchs-musik" by Johanna Beyer (1888–1944), a revolutionary but tragically neglected figure in American modernism. With their piano compositions, these two women made phenominal contributions to American experimental music.
Available here: iTunes
Stefano Scodanibbio, bass in duests with members of the Arditti Quartet
Whomever with a sensible ear was listening to the most recent music written between the last century and the one before must have felt at times startled in a marvelous and unsettled way. In the first of the three poems, “Troi poémes de Mallarmé,” Ravel had the string section playing prodigious arpeggios of harmonic sounds. Stravinskij, to a lesser extent, did the same thing a couple of years before in “L’oiseau de feu.” In “La mer,” Dubussy obtained from the violins a very high hiss by the use of harmonics. And Mahler, even before, forced the double basses to climb up to notes so high that it felt like the light of dawn was squirting from that strain in the beginning of his first symphony.
One hundred years had passed from those first signs and since then many composers explored systematically the impalpable translucent world of harmonic sounds produced by string instruments. In the French language harmonic sounds are called “Partials” and this seems to me an appropriate definition to introduce non-experts to this little known dimension of the acoustic phenomenon.
Normally we speak about one sound, but the event we define as “one” is a complex phenomenon that is comprised of different parts. The harmonic sounds added together produce what we normally refer to as sound. It is not difficult to imagine that this sound (that from now on we will call sound) is stronger in presence and consistency than each single part. So in conclusion we have the real sound and the harmonics: more consistent the first, lighter and more vanishing the others. I made this preamble using on purpose raw terminology because we are talking of simple construction materials but let’s not forget that each artist can perceive the virtual poetics of the material he/she uses. That said, let’s approach the “Six Duos” by Stefano Scodanibbio, who knows wonderfully how to make a good profit from the contrast, the sum and the alteration of real sounds and harmonics.
The difference of weight between real sounds and harmonics holds a quality of poetic implications. The real sounds are more consistent and have a closer presence. The harmonics instead are gentle, distant and, with their thinness, vibrant, almost as if only in one’s memory. To oppose, to superimpose or to juxtapose these two types of sounds means to give life to vicissitudes of presence and absence so to construct true and real novels.
The “Six Duos” by Scodanibbio, in which memories, meditations and fantasies are mixed together, belongs more to an intimate diary than a novel genre. Protagonists of these six episodes are four strings instruments: violin, viola, cello and double bass, in all possible combinations. We must consider also that each instrument has a personality derived from the poetic sum of its technical requirements. These personalities come in contact from time to time, reacting psychically just like two people who after meeting each other decide to travel together. The encounters of the instruments are also constructing the classic “Couple’s Game.” And from Goethe on we know well that the “Couple’s Game” is what lets emerge the so called “Elective Affinities” of two partners. The game of the parts in an instrumental duet is something infinitely profound and wonderfully ambiguous. You can get an idea of this listening to the Sonata for violin and cello, by Ravel, where the two instruments are mutually exchanging parts using in turn each other’s register. The principal of the exchange of registers can also be found in “Six Duos” by Scodanibbio. We need to add that the stretching of the register, thanks to the use of harmonics, ends with the attribution of a double personality to the single instrument. “Six Duos” resembles from time to time pages of a diar, conjuring up suggestions of remote music and distant countries, real or imagined. In the second section of “Escondido,” dedicated to violin and cello, a growing rhythmic animation, induced by the crackling of accents, brings to us the souvenir of popular melodies. Melodies are made even crispier by the chromaticism, producing a drone resembling that of Bartók. Listening to “Humboldt” for viola and double bass we are invited to contemplate other horizons. On an undulating foundation made of regular intervals growing in complexity, episodes are layering themselves always in an arrhythmic, supple and dancing fashion. Picking through these staves we can find remarks about distant places but the imagination is what prevails in the creation of the “Six Duos,” fed by fantastic meditations and frequent literary influences. The “Jardins d’Hamilcar” reveals in its title an obvious reference to “Salammbô,” by Flaubert. But what really impresses the imagination of the listener is the arcane effect, almost like the sound of an organ, created by playing double stops with real sounds and harmonics. It is an effect that permeates the entire screen of the composition on top of which the imaginary and whimsical visions of the violin will glide throughout.
The working relationship between Stefano Scodanibbio and the Arditti Quartet has existed since the mid 80’s. I remember very well looking at his first Quartet ‘Visas,’ which included some very unusual harmonics for the string instruments. These harmonics are very difficult to play and originate from Stefanos’s great command and knowledge of double bass. I suppose in the beginning of our relationship, I needed convincing that these techniques were actually possible on the violin. Through our rehearsals and performances of this quartet, it became apparent that these harmonics were possible to play, and with extended hand positions could actually become quite fluent on the violin. Stefano’s music is original both in his understanding and exploration of string techniques and the sound. Other pieces followed, and a few years later, I was presented with a further challenge in “My new address’ for solo violin. Stefano’s approach to this solo work was to make a present day virtuoso challenge, always with his harmonic sound world. In the 90’s followed a set of duos for each instrument of what he calls the ‘real’ string quartet: violin, viola, cello and double bass. This gave us (three of us) the possibility of actually playing as well as working with this composer on his music. This practice of working with the composer on the his music has been existing from the very first concerts of the Arditti quartet, but now we were able to take this idea one step further. Stefano is a composer of today who has a very individual language within which he works, but one can also feel a real sense of development from one piece to another. None of these pieces are really similar in any way. I was very happy when we had the possibility to make these recordings to document his work.
Irvine Arditti, violin
Dov Scheindlin, viola
Rohan de Saram, cello
Stefano Scodanibbio, contrabass
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
Libby Van Cleve, English horn & oboe d'amore. Ingram Marshall, electronics
Dark Waters, for English horn and tape, was written in 1996 for the oboist Libby Van Cleve. The English horn is amplified and processed through several digital delay devices and mixed live with the tape part. The tape part was created using raw material garnered from sampling fragments of an old 78 rpm recording from the twenties of "The Swan of Tuonela" by Sibelius. The 'low fi' sound and even the surface noise of the old acetate record, clearly heard at the very beginning of the piece, are essential to the dark qualities I tried to produce in this music.
After the satisfying experience of working with Libby Van Cleve on Dark Waters, we both decided another collaborative venture was in store for us. Although I am fond of the oboe itself, my preference for the lower range and darker timbres of its tenor and alto cousins led me to turn to the Oboe d'Amore, an instrument frequently found in Baroque music but rare in the modern repertoire. One of the most famous uses of the Oboe d'Amore in the Bach canon is found in the B Minor Mass, in the Basso aria 'Et in Spiritum Sanctum -- part of the Credo. There two Oboes d'Amore interweave lines with the singer which suggest not so much a rarefied holy spirit but a dancing one; the music has grace, flow and sprightliness. I have taken some snatches of melody from these parts and recreated my own take on the Holy Ghost. As the oboist plays the Bach fragments, digital delay processors echo them back and create spiraling rich textures which build up to create "ghosts" of the original material.
Rave was created for the choreographer Paula Josa-Jones who commissioned it for her solo dance work Raving in Wind. The imagery in the work was primarliy avaian which led me to explore the use of bird calls -- especially those of ravens and loons. The latter create haunting, plaintive cries, heard over northern lakes at night, as well as a kind of pealing laughter! The ravens have a most diverse vocabulary and are capable of an unusually complex array of sounds; I created a kind of gamelan with the few I sampled. In the middle section of the piece, the bird sounds give way to samples of southeast Asian instruments which share with the bird calls an elemental, primal sound; they too seem to emerge from the natural world. In the final section, all the sounds come together.
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
Song + Distance
solo and ensemble music for glass bellbowls, mbiras, voice, toy pianos, electronics and devolved musical instruments, featuring vocalist Eda Maxym
The "Song" in Song + Distance refers not to the various popular song structures we hear everyday but, rather, to the concept of expression. The song in "singing one's heart out." The "Distance" refers to the concept of experience. The moment we experience something we are immediately at a distance from it. We retain our experience of the event but not the event itself. The song helps us choose the quality of this distance and the depth of the experience. Song and distance, expression and experience, emotion and memory, melody and the sounds around us.
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
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