AMN Reviews: Catching Up With If, Bwana

Throughout 2018, If, Bwana—the experimental electroacoustic music project of Al Margolis—has been quietly releasing a series of works based on the often-subtle electronic manipulation of acoustic instruments. Margolis has long specialized in creating textural works of assemblage from sound samples or full recordings of instruments played by others—for example, bassoon, flute, cello and saxophone. On these recent recordings, though, things take an interesting turn in that Margolis plays the instruments himself. His approach is unorthodox—he describes it as “extended or remedial technique” or “figuring out the right way to play the [instrument] wrong.” Right or wrong, his instrumental performances form an effective foundation for the pieces he builds over them. (Full disclosure here: I’ve had the pleasure of contributing recorded double bass performances as source material for previous If, Bwana projects.)

On December’s Panique, Margolis multitracks recordings of himself on alto saxophone. The piece is structured as a slow crescendo, starting out with air notes and gradually building bits of pitched phrases into an echoing polyphony. Also from December is QA, two pieces—one double-tracked and one triple-tracked–for ARP synthesizer played quietly. The basic material here consists of long, high-pitched tones that sound like glockenspiel keys played with a bow, separated by silences. Margolis works this material into pieces that seem to turn audio space into an uncluttered, three-dimensional environment. OK…Now Go Away, from November, is what Margolis ironically describes as If, Bwana’s “hit single”: a three-minute track for electronically-manipulated bassoon. Margolis has always had a real affinity for the instrument—as played by others—so it seems natural that he should take it up himself, as he does here. What he does with it is create a sparse, chirping piece that, in a more just world, would indeed be at the top of the charts with a bullet. In July, Margolis released Japanese by Spring, three tracks based on recordings of studio improvisations for flute, ARP synthesizer, and detuned accordion. On these tracks the layering process—along with, presumably, the tuning of the accordion–results in beats and other microtonal effects.

Finally, March’s WTF 10: Trumpet, Amplified, which contains three tracks based on a studio improvisation for trumpet fed through two amplifiers, is interesting for the way that it presents the sequence of steps Margolis used to get from the basic material to (a) final result. In effect, it’s a thumbnail illustration of his working process. The first track is the amplified trumpet improvisation by itself—the starting point for what happens next. What that is, is Margolis creating a second piece by taking the track and layering it while changing pitches and durations, and then editing that piece to create a third piece that replicates the duration of the original improvisation. In its own way, it’s a kind of cyclical suite that sums up one dimension of If, Bwana’s multivalent and ongoing body of work.

Daniel Barbiero


All About Jazz Reviews

Source: All About Jazz.

Kresten Osgood Quintet
Kresten Osgood Quintet Plays Jazz (ILK Music)

Zack Clarke
Mesophase (Clean Feed Records)

Marion Brown / Dave Burrell
Live at the Black Musicians’ Conference, 1981 (NoBusiness Records)

Marc Ducret – Joëlle Léandre
Chez Hélène (Ayler Records)

Liudas Mockūnas
Hydro 2 (NoBusiness Records)

This Week in New York


DCINY presents the US premiere of Sir Karl Jenkins’s newest work, Symphonic Adiemus, a re-orchestration of his composition Adiemus. Jenkins’s new vocal score contains 12 numbers from the Adiemus series set in new scorings for an extended orchestra of over 100 musicians, including more than 20 layers of classical and world percussion and a choir of over 275 vocalists.
Monday, January 21 at 7:00 PM
Carnegie Hall, 881 7th Avenue, New York, NY

The composer and educator Samuel Adler will give a live interview with Neil Levin, director of the Milken Archive of Jewish Music, followed by a performance of Adler’s works by pianist Michael Brown, violinist Michelle Ross, and soprano Elizabeth Farnum.
Wednesday, January 23 at 7:00 PM
Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY

Jaap van Zweden conducts Julia Wolfe’s Fire in my mouth which explores a seminal event in New York City, the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 that killed more than 100 young immigrants.
Thursday, January 24 at 7:30 PM & Friday, January 25 to Saturday, January 26 at 8:00 PM
Tickets $33-$105
Lincoln Center, David Geffen Hall, New York, NY

The 11-person Tri-Centric Vocal Ensemble perform works from Anthony Braxton’s Syntactical Ghost Trance Music system—demonstrating the unique sonic tapestry of the compositions and the possibilities of the vocal choir—in celebration of the release of GTM (Syntax) 2017, an album documenting all twelve compositions of his system recorded under the guidance of Anthony Braxton himself.
Friday, January 25 at 8:00 PM
Tickets $18 online, $25 doors
Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Wavefield Ensemble, the new musical collective dedicated to collaboratively inspiring the next generation of artists, presents a concert of music written on top of other music, sonic layers covered up and revealed again in surprising new forms. Featuring a trio of US premieres next to Iannis Xenakis’s rarely performed Palimpsest, this stimulating concert brings past and present into illuminating juxtaposition, exposing hidden resonances and layered meanings.
Sunday, January 27 at 7:00 PM
National Sawdust, 80 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY

AMN Picks of the Week: Galaxxu Pair / Jessica Pavone / Jason Kao Hwang / Various Artists / McPhee & Butcher

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.

Galaxxu Pair – electro​-​gochujang (2018)
Jessica Pavone – In the Action (2019)
Jason Kao Hwang – Burning Bridge (2018)
Various Artists – A Poisonous Black & White Expanded (2019)
Joe McPhee / John Butcher – At the Hill of James Magee (2019)

Freq Reviews

Source: Freq.

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and Ole Morten Vågan – Happy Endlings

Holger Czukay – Moving Pictures

Åke Hodell – Verbal Brainwash And Other Works

Ron Caines / Martin Archer Axis – Les Oiseaux de Matisse

Anguish – Anguish

Eliane Radigue ‎- Geelriandre / Arthesis

Hanna Paulsberg Concept and Magnus Broo – Daughter Of The Sun

Holger Czukay – Rome Remains Rome / Radio Wave Surfer / Movies / Holger Czukay, Jah Wobble and Jaki Liebezeit – Full Circle / Technical Space Composer’s Crew – Canaxis 5

Interview with Lauren Redhead

Source: We need no swords.

Lauren Redhead’s ‘hearmleoþ—gieddunga’ sets passages of Anglo-Saxon poetry into murky, frost-ridden soundscapes. Mixing ancient sources with contemporary composition isn’t the most obvious combination, but for those of us who dig works from thousands of years ago just as much as we devour the latest out-there sounds, it’s like a dream come true.