Ensemble PAN. Texts by Guillaume de Machaut, Jean Joubert, Arthur Rimbaud, Hildgard von Bingen, Leon Felipe, Jorge Luis Borges, Mirza Ghalib, Niu His Chi, Kalidasa, Guillaume Apollinaire, Leopardi and Rumi.
vocal music by Robert Kyr, performed by Ensemble PAN with the Back Bay Chorale: texts by Guillaume de Machaut, Jean Joubert, Artur Rimbaud, Hildegard von Bingen, Leo Felipe, Jorge Luis Borges, Mirza Ghalib, Niu Hsi Chi, Kalidasa, Rumi a.o.
A fascinating album consisting of new music steeped in the technique and aesthetics of music 600 years old.
--The Atlantic Monthly
"Unseen Rain" was commissioned by the Chase Foundation in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Longy School of Music (Cambridge, Massachusetts). Even before choosing the texts, I decided to compose a work for many more singers than instrumentalists, which would include as many members of the Longy community as possible. I wanted the vocalists to dominate the attention of the listeners and to be the dramatic focus of the work.
The Chase Foundation also specified that the texts were to be "in celebration of music" and must not be too somber or grim in general tone. Early in my search, it became clear that the twentieth century would probably not yield poetic texts of this nature. I wanted to find epigrammatic, haiku-like texts which were filled with simple words and direct images. Fortunately, I found some beautiful translations of Rumi's quatrains (short poems of four lines each) and after reading at least 500 of them, I set about the task of creating a celebratory musical drama from the general collection. The work fell into three parts: in the first, "The Prophet's Quatrains," the countertenor is a prophet beseeching the community (the chorus) to remain awake throughout the night in order to fully experience the joys of music; in the second, "The Lovers' Quatrains," the soprano and tenor are lovers rejoicing in the similarities between love and music; and in the third, "A Communal Affirmation," the prophet and the lovers join the chorus to proclaim the spiritual power of music ("Listen to the unstruck sounds, and what sifts through that music..."). The title of the work is an image taken from one of Rumi's quatrains - it relates to the end of the piece, when what has been hidden (unseen/unheard) finally becomes apparent. The Persian word for "Unseen Rain" also refers to "grace".
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
The Book of Abbeyozzud
Works for Guitar, plus accompaniment
David Tanenbaum, guitar; with Gyan Riley, guitar; Tracy Silverman, violin; William Winant, percussion
Guitar? We think of Riley as a keyboard man just as we think of Glass and many another minimalists. Reading the composer's notes, though, the impression is that these pieces are more in fealty to the traditions of Spanish music than the guitar per se. Either way, the music sounds much as you would anticipate: American chamber with Jelly Roll Morton's beloved 'Spanish tinge', the Eastern modes which Riley sets his stars by, and that unique pragmatism which [Glenn] Gould suggested was manifest as music which 'requires instructions rather than instruction'.
--The Wire, October 1999
The Book of Abbeyozzud (say "ah-BYE-ah-ZOOD", a word invented by Riley, without meaning) is a planned series of 26 pieces for guitar, multiple guitars and guitar in ensemble. So far, thirteen pieces are completed. Riley writes "All of the pieces have Spanish titles and take a different letter of the alphabet to begin their names. They are also indebted to great Spanish music traditions and to those traditions upon which Spanish music owes its heritage."
David Tanenbaum had been asking Terry Riley for a guitar piece for some time, and found success finally after Terry's young son, Gyan, began studying classical guitar and brought its world into the Riley home. David Tanenbaum commissioned the first piece, "Ascención," through Albert Augustine Ltd., and through the editing and performance process of that piece the idea for the book was born.
Some of Riley's most melodious compositions yet and his first written for the guitar ... make for one of Riley's most approachable albums; in particular, the mellifluous 'Cantos Desiertos' should be a public radio staple.
--Billboard, November 20, 1999
Available here: iTunes
The Bride Unfastens Her Braids, The Groom Faints: Ladino Love Songs
Etty Ben-Zaken, voice; Ensemble Yatan: Letita Berlin, Christopher Hanford, Amy Brodo, Tim Fusion, Peter Mound, Eitan Steinberg
Judeo-Spanish folk songs from Medieval Spain
My first encounter with some of the songs in this recording was in my grandmother Esther's kitchen. Back in my childhood town in Israel, I used to help her prepare her famous leek balls. At fifteen minutes to eight my grandmother, who came to Israel from Turkey, would turn on the radio. It was the daily broadcast for new immigrants, the segment for Ladino speakers. Centuries-old Ladino songs then entered the small kitchen, sung by an amazing mixture of pop singers, cantors and old women. My grandmother joined them all, not bothered by the differences of interpretation. The old folk songs were like good red pomegranates: some eat them, some use their juice for cooking, others say blessings on them at the High Holiday table, and everybody praises their beauty.
The origins of the Judeo-Spanish folk songs lie in Medieval Spain, where Jews have lived for more than a millennium. For hundreds of years they had flourished as an influential community, creating masterpieces in the liturgical and secular literature, becoming famous as scientists, philosophers and kings' counsels.
In 1492 the Catholic king ordered the expulsion of all his Jewish subjects who would not convert to Christianity. With this order, about 200,000 Spanish Jews started their journey east to the Turkish Ottoman Empire, south to North Africa, west to Portugal and later to the newly discovered world. Amazingly wherever they went they carried not only their Jewish tradition but also their Spanish culture.
For the next five hundred years they kept identifying themselves as "Sephardic Jews" ("Sepharad" is the Hebrew word for "Spain") and regardless of the languages spoken in their new countries of exile, they kept speaking Spanish. Gradually, other languages influenced their medieval Spanish, until it became the unique tongue we now call "Ladino."
This recording includes songs from the Sephardic communities in Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Israel and Morocco. Creating a contemporary dialogue with this folk tradition, composer Eitan Steinberg set the songs for voice, baroque recorders, guitar, cello/viola da gamba and ethnic percussion.
Available here: iTunes
Incitation to Desire
Performed on piano by Yvar Mikhashoff (1945-1993)
Tangos from John Cage, Aaron Copland, Lucas Foss, Conlon Nancarrow, and Dane Rudhyar, among others.
Tangos, tangos, tangos, abstract intellectual tangos, heart on the sleeve romances, passionate pillow talk tangos, solitude cafe cold coffee tangos, performed on piano by the late Yvar Mikhashoff
The movements of the dance are less presentable to a polite audience than those of the habanera, and as now performed in the cafes chantants of Madrid and other cities of Spain, the Tango has become nothing but an Incitation to Desire.
--"Tango", Grove's Dictionary of Music, 1944
Yvar was an internationally known virtuoso pianist, bon vivant and ballroom dancer who died of AIDS a few years ago. One of his obsessive passions in life was to commission tangos from living composers of all ilk. This collection is drawn from sessions we recorded near the end of his life, when his sight was failing but his playing was still brilliant. These short pieces are mostly played from memory and include some terrifically funny titles: "Fromage Dangereux", which is self explanatory, and the final "Thorn Torn Lips" which observes the condition of the gypsy dancer who was kissed before the rose in her mouth was removed.
Mikhashoff's tango collection tells us much about this seductive dance, but just as much about the personalities confronting it.
--The New York Times
Available here: iTunes HDtracks
Like a Passing River
Music by Roy Whelden and Carl Friedrich Abel; spoken word written and read by novelist Rudy Rucker, with the poem Like a Passing River (Han-Shan, 8th Century), translated by Gary Snyder. Sung by Karen Clark, alto, with American Baroque
I have lived at Cold Mountain these 30 long years. Yesterday I called on family and friends: More than half had gone to the Yellow Springs. Slowly consumed, like fire down a candle; forever flowing, like a passing river. Now, morning, I face my lone shadow; suddenly my eyes are bleared with tears.
--Han-Shan, 8th century; translation, Gary Snyder
This album is a continuous thread of mutually supporting music and text. The music was created to accompany selections from Rudy Rucker's novel, "All the Visions" (Ocean View Books, 1991).
All the musical numbers, except "Adagio" by Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787), are written by Roy Whelden and performed by American Baroque (Stephen Schultz, Baroque flute and director; Elizabeth Blumenstock, Baroque violin; Whelden, viola da gamba; Sarah Freiberg, Baroque cello; Cheryl Ann Fulton, triple harp; with Karen Clark, alto.) All spoken items are written and read by Rudy Rucker. The words to "Like A Passing River" are a translation by Gary Snyder of a poem by Han-Shan, a Chinese mystic and poet of the Eighth Century A.D. The words to the "Rucker Songs" are adapted from "All the Visions."
Available here: iTunes
New music for contrabass flute, a personal vision of a solo polyphonic music.
Matthias Ziegler is a world class musician and virtuoso flute player. On this CD he presents a personal vision of a solo polyphonic music that is complete in sound, form, melody, harmony, driving rhythm and rich with human feeling. Evocative, and playful, he takes us into a fantastic and joyful world of sound that is both unfamiliar in texture but familiar in its lyric construction. His wit, intelligence, and appetite for sound has created an array of music that references many musical traditions yet is still his own. It is one thing to discover a new sound, it is another thing to know its greater musical potential. Transformation from the unfamiliar to the familiar is one of Ziegler's many gifts.
A music that is so broad and performed with such virtuosic ease belies the fact that so much research, and consequent musical and technical solutions have been found. On the instrumental level Ziegler has been involved in the flute zeitgeist of the past twenty-five years pioneered by Robert Dick, Pierre-Yves Artaud and others who have been fascinated with unlocking and codifying the sonic secrets of a micro sound world of the flute rich in nuance and musical potential. This work has been a collaboration between performer/composer and the worlds best and open minded flute makers (Kaspar Baechi, Eva Kingma, The Brannen Brothers, Kotato & Fukushima) to develop new instruments. In Ziegler's case, he has also worked with electronic sound designers, who have aimed to meet his needs of amplifying and making custom made microphones, some even imbedded within the instruments to project his rich sound world and imagination. He more than anyone else has found solutions to fully expand and project his language to make it perceivable to the public.
To overly emphasize this aspect would miss the point. All this is to the service of a broad musical vision, of rhythm, melody, harmony, sound fantasy, and human feeling.
Available here: iTunes
New Music, Piano Compositions
Live concert performance by Chris Brown, Sorrel Hayes, Joseph Kubera, Sarah Cahill.
Works for Piano
Recordings from the Henry Cowell Piano Festival that occurred over three days in February, 1997, where performers and composers from around the country were invited to play their favorite Cowell pieces, both well-known and unpublished.
Henry Cowell invented and developed most of the extended techniques we have heard on and in the piano over the last seventy years. During his lifetime (1897-1965), he composed a vast amount of symphonic, chamber and vocal music, taught what were probably the first classes in world music, founded the remarkable New Music Quarterly, and wrote the pioneering theoretical book New Music Resources. But his most radical and influential contribution remains his large body of piano music, which he started writing as a teenager. As a young boy he earned enough money from menial jobs to buy a piano. He began to experiment by striking the keys with his fists and forearms; he named these chords "tone clusters" and wrote many compositions using them before the age of 15.
We collected the works that portray Cowell the conceptual modernist, and Cowell as the haunted Irish poet-king. Featuring new music pianists Sarah Cahill, Joseph Kubera, Chris Brown and Sorrel Hays, the recording is live, full of ambient audience and performer sounds -- from the early chord cluster works to polyrhythmic counterpoint to work in the interior of the piano.
1. Dynamic Motion (1914) 3:58
2. What's This? (1914) :59
3. Amiable Conversation (1917) 1:42
4. Advertisement (1914) 3:49
5. Antimony (1914) 3:08
6. Timetable (n.d.) 3:25
7. The Banshee (c.1925) 3:25
8. Exultation (1919) 2:39
9. Tides of Manaunaun (c.1912) 3:11
10. Aeolian Harp (1923) 3:23
11. Hero Sun (n.d.) 4:00
12. Fabric (c.1917) 1:39
13. Lilt of the Reel (1925) 2:42
Nine Ings (1922)
14. Floating 1:24
15. Frisking 1:47
16. Fleeting 2:14
17. Scooting 1:38
18. Wafting 1:43
19. Seething :46
20. Whisking 1:38
21. Sneaking 2:03
22. Swaying 2:42
23. Slow Jig (1925) 2:25
24. The Fairy Answer (1929) 3:47
Set of Two Movements (n.d.)
25. I - Deep Color 7:41
26. II - High Color 5:46
Available here: iTunes
25th Anniversary Concert. A gathering of 30 players from all corners of the Bay Area New Music scene.
I think this recording is a document of the best In C performance ever... A labor of love for many musicians connected with the piece.
Featuring: Bruce Ackley, Steve Adams, Don R. Baker, Chris Brown, George Brooks, Steve Coughlin, Blake Derby, Bill Douglass, Mihr'un'Nisa Douglass, Hank Dutt, David Harrington, Don Howe, Joan Jeanrenaud, Alden Jenks, Warner Jepson, Henry Kaiser, Jaron Lanier, Bill Maginnis, George Marsh, Shabda Owens, Jon Raskin, Gyan Riley, Terry Riley, Gino Robair, John Sackett, Ramon Sender, John Sherba, Toyoji Tomita, Danny Tunick, William Winant and Evan Ziporyn.
There aren't very many really revolutionary pieces of music in this century or any other: pieces that seem like cultural mutations that spring spontaneously into being without visible or audible precedent. Le Sacre du Printemps is an authentic example. So, I believe, is In C.
The joys of this recording are manifold; the ensemble bulges with 31 members including Riley, Jaron Lanier, Henry Kaiser and members of the Kronos Quartet—saucy and sensuous, rich with reed instruments and percussion.
Available here: Groove HDtracks
Change of Direction
Performed on long stringed instruments by Ellen Fullman, Elise Gould and Nigel Jacobs.
Works for the Long String Instrument
An incredible quietude flows out of this music.... Listening, one becomes conscious of the inner workings of being ...
--Juan Christopye Ammann, Kunsthalle-Basel
Created by composer Ellen Fullman, the Long String Instrument has about 100 strings, suspended at waist height for 90 feet and attached to a soundboard, much in the same way a harp is constructed. It is played by three people who bow the strings with rosin-coated fingertips, while walking. A C-clamp on each wire is used for tuning, changing the string length much like a capo on a guitar. The instrument is tuned in just intonation, a natural tuning system. The Long String Instrument's range is centered on the octave of middle C and extends above and below this by an octave. The strings of the bass octave extend the instrument's full 90 feet. The middle and high octaves are suspended from double-sided resonators, splitting this distance into sixty and thirty feet, respectively. When a string is rubbed along the length, it vibrates in the longitudinal mode, and requires lengths of these extremes to bring the pitch down to a musical range.
Paradoxically, her music is both intense and serene. The attractively eerie, acoustically unstable droning suggests urgency, while the slow formal development of the piece invites an intuitive suspended-intellect sort of hearing.
--Los Angeles Times
"Change of Direction" grew out of a collaboration between Ellen Fullman and Pauline Oliveros' Deep Listening Band (including Stuart Dempster). Fullman began working with the Long String Instrument in 1981, and it has evolved in the past two decades into an astounding expression of artistic individuality. This is an example of new music in the tradition of Cowell, Cage, Harrison and Partch et al at its most singular and honest perspective.
In less time than it takes to blink an eye, the sound would move from a monotone car horn to the fullness of a gothic church organ. The next minute the sound of a shorted-out electric wire evolved into a Middle Eastern raga.
Available here: iTunes
Akikazu Nakamura, shakuhachi; Shin Miyashita, koto
My living room just isn't good enough for this music. I need a bare wood floor, no furniture and a view of a mountain.
SANYOU and KOUGETSU [from Sun Moon] are a pair, like the sun and the moon. In KOUGETSU I tried to express the clearness of the moon at night; in SANYOU, the purity of the early morning air.
The Chinese character getsu means moon. In Chinese, similarly, the verb 'to chip' is pronounced ketsu. They are connected by the fact that the phases of the moon represent a 'chipping' away of its face. In Japanese, however, the word for moon is tsuki, which has the same sound as the word for obsession. We can thus understand how the ancient Japanese felt about the moon. Even today we can feel the mysterious beauty of the full moon in the clear sky.
Available here: iTunes
New Albion Records, Inc.