Frequency Series Festival in Chicago February 14-19

Iannis Xenakis

Source: Frequency Series Festival.

Tuesday, February 14
Museum of Contemporary Art / Free with museum admission
(Tuesdays are free for Illinois residents.)
Brand-new works written for the ensemble by Bethany Younge and Natacha Diels. Plus music for “instrument-clothing of recycled material,” “kitchen instruments,” video and movement by Carolyn Chen and Jessie Marino.

Wednesday, February 15
Bond Chapel, University of Chicago / 8 PM / Free
A Frequency Series favorite, pianist R. Andrew Lee performs music by Leah Kardos, Ann Southam, James Sellars, and Adrian Knight.

Thursday, February 16
Constellation / 8:30 PM / $15, included in Festival Pass
MFCP explore the connections between Morton Feldman and Samuel Beckett through performances of Beckett’s texts and Feldman’s music.

Friday, February 17
Constellation / 8:30 PM / $15, included in Festival Pass
This double bill features two remarkable solo performers. Guitarist and founder of the 90s duo (and, later, trio) Harry Pussy, Bill Orcutt’s sound is a jagged reinvention of blues guitar. In 2014 Rolling Stone Magazine referred to his playing as “John Fahey-meets-Vernon-Reid acoustic blues-shred.” Violinist Austin Wulliman returns to Chicago to play virtuosic tunes by Iannis Xenakis, and Lee Hyla. His program will feature guest appearances, as well, by vocalist Kayleigh Butcher and bassoonist Katherine Young.

Saturday, February 18
Constellation / 8:30 PM / $15, included in Festival Pass
For this exciting evening, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble presents music by Luis Amaya, Kate Soper, Daniel Dehaan, Fjòla Evans, Travis Weller, Gilda Lyons, Richardo Zohn-Muldoon. The second half of the evening features two works for short wave radio and voices by Olivia Block performed by Quince and Carol Genetti.

Sunday, February 19
Fullerton Hall, Art Institute of Chicago / 3 PM / $10, $5 museum members/students
Hailed by Downbeat as “one of the most sensitive and electric interpreters of new music,” violinist Miranda Cuckson performs a program that includes works by Brian Ferneyhough, Pierre Boulez, Steve Lehman, and Huang Roa.

ENSEMBLE DAL NIENTE: Hard Music, Hard Liquor
Constellation / 7:30 PM / $15, included in Festival Pass
Back by popular demand, the festival once again wraps up with Dal Niente’s “Hard Music, Hard Liquor,” a no-holds-barred program of solo pieces by Joan LaBarbara, Mark Andre, Iannis Xenakis, and Ray Evanoff – plus a world premiere “multi-sensorial” ensemble work by Murat Çolak.

AMN Reviews: Anthony Braxton – 10+1tet (Knoxville) 2016; Trio (Knoxville) 2016 (2016; Tri-Centric Foundation)

In late March, Anthony Braxton came to Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival. There, he performed twice with friends, colleagues, and former students. I was at both of these shows and enjoyed them immensely, this being the first time that I had had a chance to see Braxton live despite being a fan for nearly 25 years. Both of these hour-long performances were recently released on Braxton’s Tri-Centric Foundation label.

20160401_16041210+1tet (Knoxville) 2016

This performance took place at a theater that held about 500 people. Prior to the show, the line was around the block for general admission seating. I managed to obtain a center location near the front of the venue and sat back for a labyrinthine set.

The performers were Braxton on alto, soprano, sopranino saxophones; Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, flugelhorn, trumpbone; Nate Wooley on trumpet; Vincent Chancey on French horn; James Fei on alto, sopranino saxophones, clarinet; Ingrid Laubrock on tenor, soprano saxophones; Mary Halvorson on acoustic guitar; Brandon Seabrook on electric guitar; Tomeka Reid on cello; Carl Testa on bass; Tim Feeney on percussion. With an outfit of this size, Braxton was able to give his musical system a full workout.

My first impression upon hearing this recording is that it could have benefitted from a proper mix. Admittedly, the quality is still good in that it is clear and almost certainly from the soundboard.  But, in person, the sound was much more full and dense, whereas the recording leaves some of the instruments under-amplified. Listening at a high volume can rectify most of this issue, however.

With this large group, Braxton was able to present compositions and structured improv for all players, but he also subdivided them into various units of two, three, and four, and sent each of these off simultaneously in their own directions. The result, which is present in many of Braxton’s recent offerings, was somewhere between orchestra music and free-jazz, with the subgroups coming in and out of synch with one another.

Braxton controlled all of this through an extensive system of hand signals and sheet music. Each subgroup also communicated amongst itself with similar hand signals, allowing for some degree of autonomy within the structure. This added a unique visual element to the performance.

Live, listeners were presented with a dense, undulating wall of Braxtonian chamber music, constantly shifting, with too many lines and ideas to follow in real time. Nonetheless, it was an exhilarating experience. The recording loses some of this presence and urgency, but is still a remarkable example of Braxton’s output. The man is a genre to himself.

20160402_192254Trio (Knoxville) 2016

The next day, Braxton was joined by Bynum and Kyoko Kitamura for a trio set. Again, the line consisted of several hundred people, stretching over three blocks. Inside the standing-only venue, I was able to get within a few feet of the performers.

The trio format was in stark contrast to the previous day’s ensemble. Here, Braxton, Bynum, and Kitamura engaged in an intimate dialog. Each of them employed extended techniques, with Kitamura singing, talking, and scatting, while other others responded in turn. Braxton played his signature rapid lines and punctuated staccato, while Bynum provided longer-held tones in the background.

Again, the hand signals were present, controlling the chaos. But the music is necessarily more sparse, with periods of pre-established themes and motifs around which the trio quietly improvises. Between these are sudden explosions and blow-outs.

I’m finding that I like this recording more than I remember enjoying the show. Standing for an hour in a crowd is not as appealing as it used to be. But when listened to in a more relaxed and familiar environment, the subtleties of the trio’s interaction becomes more apparent.

This pair of recording present two sides of the Braxton coin – large and small ensemble. Ultimately, both are highly recommended because each of their disparate uses of space and freedom help set the context for the other.

AMN Picks of the Week: John Zorn / Carrier, Lambert & Lapin / Satoko Fujii / Courvoisier & Halvorson / Nate Wooley

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

John Zorn – Sacred Visions (2016)
John Zorn – Commedia dell’Arte (2016)
Carrier / Lambert / Lapin – Freedom is Space for the Spirit (2017)
Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo – Peace (2017)
Sylvie Courvoisier / Mary Halvorson – Crop Circles (2017)
Nate Wooley – Polychoral (2017)

5049 Records Podcast Episode 100 – David Grubbs 

David Grubbs performing as part of EMP Pop Con...

Source: 5049 Records.

For our 100th episode we get into it with guitarist, writer, college professor, David Grubbs. David is a veteran of bands Gastr del Sol, the Red Krayola and Bastro. He has worked with Pauline Oliveros, Tony Conrad, Nate Wooley and many more. In addition to his musical output, he is a published author and is a tenured professor at Brooklyn College. For this talk, David takes me back to his early days in Louisville, his time in Chicago in the 90s, his work as an educator and the process of writing his new book.



January 20, 2017
Forever House, The Stone
Meaghan Burke James Ilgenfritz James Moore Peter Wise

January 20, 2017
Inaugural Sound Clash For the 2 Americas—An Ontological Subharmonic Convergence, The Stone
Raoul Björkenheim Dominic James Bill Laswell Mike Sopko Hideo Yamaki

January 19, 2017
Steve Swell Trio, Clemente Soto Velez
Joe McPhee Paal Nilssen-Love Steve Swell

January 19, 2017
Double Duo, Clemente Soto Velez
Jay Clayton Ken Filiano

January 19, 2017
Afro Horn, Clemente Soto Velez
Francisco Mora Catlett Román Díaz Sam Newsome Bob Stewart

January 18, 2017
Open Improv, Clemente Soto Velez
Sylvain Debaisieux Nicola Hein Sean Madigan Ras Moshe Reggie Sylvester Sam Yulsman

January 18, 2017
Chris Pitsiokos Quintet, Clemente Soto Velez
Jaimie Branch Henry Fraser Jason Nazary Chris Pitsiokos Sam Yulsman

January 18, 2017
The Mess, Clemente Soto Velez
Chris Corsano Brandon Lopez Sam Yulsman