AMN Reviews: “The Happiness Handbook” – The Instruments of Happiness, Tim Brady [Starkland ST-232]

ST-232 Instruments of Happiness_The Happiness Handbook_Cover_HiRes

In the 20th century the electric guitar was invented and then proceeded to globally dominate popular music for decades. But the electric guitar is still somewhat of an outsider in the world of contemporary composition. Many conservatories and university music schools still do not allow students to select the electric guitar as their principal instrument of study. But despite this situation we now have several generations of highly trained electric guitarists possessing both the skills and the interest in playing something other than popular music.

In the last forty years or so a new chamber format has appeared all over the planet – the electric guitar quartet. The electric guitar quartet offers contemporary composers a chamber ensemble with an enormous sonic palette, an instrument familiar to all kinds of listeners, a globally increasing number of skilled instrumentalists and no defined “style” or accepted common practice. All of this has led to an increase in new works for the electric guitar. The Sheer Pluck Database of Contemporary Guitar Music  currently contains more than six thousand entries of works specifically for or that include the electric guitar.

Still much of the interest from composers in writing for the electric guitar has largely stemmed from the efforts of a small group of proponents. A leader among these proponents is composer/guitarist Tim Brady. Brady has spent more than thirty years composing and commissioning new works, organizing concerts and performing new works for the electric guitar.  Whether it be for the opera, the orchestra or the electric guitar quartet, Tim Brady is a composer whose compositional eclecticism synthesizes the sounds of classical, folk, rock, jazz, noise, improvisation, and electronics into his own personal sound world.

“The Happiness Handbook” is the second album on Starkland from the electric guitar quartet configuration of Tim Brady’s ensemble known as “The Instruments of Happiness”. The album features premiere recordings of compositions from Scott Godin, Jordan Nobles, Maxime McKinley, Gordon Fitzell, Emily Hall and Tim Brady. Each of the composers explore many of the unique sonic abilities of the electric guitar and often reference popular electric guitar styles and techniques. Style wise the compositions generally fall into the new tonality and post minimalist aesthetics; making the album ideal for a wide range of audiences.

“The Instruments of Happiness” quartet members Marc-Oliver Lamontagne, Jonathan Barriault, Simon Duchesne and Tim Brady have playing skills that are deep and wide.  The quartet is extremely well versed in everything from classical chamber music to popular music to extended techniques and experimental music including electronic effects and pedals. As an ensemble they are tight, lyrical and energetic.  They play with a wide range of dynamics and control and are able to move effortlessly from an ensemble of highly independent voices to performing as one large instrument.

“The Happiness Handbook” opens with Scott Godin’s “Martlandia” which explores swelling chords and intricately articulated themes with shades of progressive rock. Tim Brady’s “Equal But Opposite Reaction” combines standard and extended techniques with electronics into a wonderful contrapuntal kaleidoscope that covers a lot of ground.

Jordon Nobles “Deep Field” would make a great sci fi soundtrack with its swells of sounds that roll by as it moves slowly through deep space. It’s as if a flamenco and blues gesture were combined and intertwined; then slowed down a few hundred times while slowly twisting and turning to reveal itself.  A wonderful piece!  Maxime McKinley’s “Reflects de Francesca Woodman” begins with harmonics bouncing and refracting off of one another that eventually builds up into jagged variations on a bluesy theme only to finds its way back into a refractive meditative state. Gordon Fitzell’s “Bomb Crater Garden” is an aggressive mix of clear harmonics and scattered noisy sounds. It beautifully utilizes extended techniques and electronics to slowly build up and then melt away into a kind of noisy slide guitar bird song.  The album ends with Emily Hall’s “The Happiness Handbook”. A suite of five short movements that covers a lot of ground as it celebrates the sheer joy of playing the electric guitar.

“The Happiness Handbook” is a wonderful album. Many AMN readers will enjoy this album, especially guitarists. I think the album should have appeal not just with the minimalist/post minimalist, new music and experimental guitar crowds. “The Happiness Handbook” may be an ideal gateway recording to introduce progressive rock and fusion listeners to contemporary electric chamber music.  So, give it a listen!

Highly Recommended!

Chris De Chiara

Avant Scena Reviews

Source: Avant Scena.

Wendy Eisenberg/Shane Parish – “Nervous Systems” (Verses Records, 2019)

Trapper Keaper – “Meets Tim Berne & Aurora Nealand” (ears&eyes Records, 2019)

Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society – “Mandatory Reality” (eremite records, 2019)

Gauci​/​Ewen​/​Lane​/​Shea – “Live at the Bushwick Series” (gaucimusic, 2019)

Boneshaker – “Fake Music” (Soul What Records, 2019)

Frode Gjerstad, Dag Magnus Narvesen ‎– “Live At Tou” (FMR, 2019)

Dan Phillips Quartet – “Light at Depth” (Lizard Breath, 2019)

Ben Stapp & Joe Morris feat. Stephen Haynes – “Mind Creature Sound Dasein” (Fundacja Sluchaj, 2019)

Vital Weekly Reviews 1180

Source: Vital Weekly.

A SPIRALE & CHRIS COGBURN – AUTOCANNIBALISM (CD by Insub Records) *
TRONDHEIM EMP – POKE IT WITH A STICK / JOINING THE BOTS (2CD by Cronica)
DENZLER GRIP JOHANSSON – ZYKLUS 1 (2CD by Umlaut Records)
HANS KOCH & JACQUES DEMIERRE – INCUNABULUM (CD by Herbal) *
BURKHARD BEINS & MAZEN KERBAJ & MICHAEL VORFELD – SAWT OUT (CD by Herbal) *
YAN JUN & JASON KAHN – NONE OF US (CD by Herbal) *
BEINHAUS – ZAEHNE (CD by Audiophob/Krater Recordings) *
MANDELBROT – ZEITSPRUNG (CD by Audiophob) *
HYPERAKUSIS (CD compilation by Audiophob)
PATERAS/BAXTER/BROWN – BERN/MELBOURNE/MILAN (2CD by Immediata) *
ANTHONY PATERAS – COLLECTED WORKS VOL. II (2005-2008) (5CD by Immediata) *
CELER – XIEXIE (2CD by Two Acorns) *
DAN MELCHIOR & SIGTRYGGUR BERG SIGMARSSON – COD WAR KIDS (CD by Some) *
VIDNA OBMANA – SOUNDTRACK FOR THE AQUARIUM (CD by Zoharum) *
DREN – TIME & FORM (CD by Zoharum) *
BRIAN HARNETTY – SHAWNEE, OHIO (CD by Karlrecords) *
EBAUCHE – FORMIC SYNTAX (LP/CD by Supple 9) *
HANNES LINGENS – PIECES FOR PERCUSSION (LP by Umlaut Records)
DANIELE PECORELLI/MARK SCHAUB – & (split LP by Anomala Soundscapes)
CIRO BERENGUER – EL MAR DE JUNIO (CDR by Eilean Rec.) *
ANDREW TASSELMYER – SURFACE TEXTURES (CDR by Eilean Rec.) *
JON UNGER – MEMORY INDICATOR (3″CDR by Taalem) *
FLAVIEN GILLIE – RITUELS DOMESTIQUES (3″CDR by Taalem) *
A.F. JONES – FOR ESCHRICHTIIDAE (OMNIANA) (3″CDR by Taalem) *
CONTINUOUS DUTY ZONE – DEATH OF THE MACHINE (CDR by T81 Records) *
CONTINUOUS DUTY ZONE – MONITORING (CDR by T81 Records) *
EGBERT VAN DER VLIET – CEL (cassette by Rotzooi Tapes)
KLINIKUM -DIA OF GREEN MOUNTAINS (cassette by AlienPlace 2019) *
EDWARD SOL – TEEN SHARP (cassette by Village Tapes)
ALTAR OF FLIES & EDWARD SOL (split cassette by Sentiment)

The Lasting Legacy of the Art Ensemble of Chicago 

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

In May of 1969, a Chicago-based quartet of radically experimental musicians made two decisions that resonate to this day. Faced with the grim reality of joblessness in Chicago, they accepted an invitation to move to Paris. Then, while preparing for the move, the group—then known as the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble (comprised of saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman, trumpeter Lester Bowie, bassist Malachi Favors)—decided to restructure themselves to be an equal partnership. Mitchell’s name was dropped from the marquee; now, they were just the Art Ensemble. The change was solidified when the promoter of their first Paris concert billed them as “The Art Ensemble, of Chicago.”

Vocal Classics Of The Black Avant Garde 

Source: The Wire.

As a classically trained black singer working in experimental music I have long had a desire to perform music by black composers which presented daring and unusual and innovative and progressive uses of the voice. In 2017 I formed the Vocal Classics Of The Black Avant Garde (VCBAG) group in order to realise this desire. The group’s original line-up consisted of saxophonist Jason Yarde, who is also its musical director, trumpeter Byron Wallen, pianist Robert Mitchell, bassist Neil Charles, drummer Mark Sanders and poet Dante Micheaux. At the group’s first performance, at the London Contemporary Music Festival in December 2017, our repertoire was drawn from the 1960s and 70s black American avant garde: Eric Dolphy and Bob James’s “Jim Crow” (aka “A Personal Statement”), Archie Shepp’s “On This Night”, Jeanne Lee’s “The Maximum Capacity Of This Room” and “In These Last Days”, Joseph Jarman’s “Non-cognitive Aspects Of The City”, and Gene McDaniels’s “Compared To What”. For the group’s second concert, at London’s Cafe Oto in January 2019, Alexander Hawkins deputised for Robert Mitchell and the repertoire was extended to include works by pianist Mary Lou Williams and poet Jayne Cortez, as well as sections of Jason Yarde’s 2018 Windrush Suite with texts by Caribbean thinkers Stuart Hall, Louise Bennett and Sam Selvon.

Bent Duo in San Diego, May 11

Source: Fresh Sound Music.

All concerts at White Box Live Arts/Liberty Station
2590 Truxton Road, Studio 205 (corner of Truxton and Roosevelt)
San Diego, CA 92106
Contact: Bonnie Wright bonniebwright@gmail.com 619-987-6214

Saturday, May 11th
7:30 pm

BENT DUO

Bent Duo is an emerging NYC-based duo project investigating the limits of chamber music for piano and percussion and the exciting innovations that happen at the outer fringes of this repertoire. Founded in 2015, the duo has performed at a wide variety of venues and is equally committed to works that exploit the performers’ virtuosic instrumental technique as to those that

are developing new performance techniques entirely. This broad terrain includes notated works for piano and percussion, instruction-based works for non-traditional instruments, and non-disciplinary performance works, as well as collaborative projects with other artists working in sound, technology, and other areas.

Bent Duo members Bill Solomon and David Friend are respected members of the NYC classical and new music scenes and frequently perform in NYC, across the country, and abroad with groups including Ensemble Signal, Grand Band, Talujon Percussion, Bang on a Can All-Stars, and the American Composers Orchestra. Bent Duo allows them an outlet to collaborate with creative artists who are working on the cutting edge of new compositional and performance techniques, to bring to attention existing repertoire for this underserved instrumentation, and to undertake the radical experiments in chamber music and performance that more conventional ensembles are unlikely to tackle.

Most recently, Bent Duo has performed at mainstream and underground venues including the Dimenna Center for Classical Music (NYC), the Center for New Music (San Francisco), and Betalevel (LA); commissioned and premiered major new works from artists including Sarah Hennies, Casey Anderson, and Jace Clayton; been invited to give residencies at the Hartford School of Art/Hartt School of Music and Tulane University; and been a featured performer at ‘Performing Indeterminacy,’ an international conference at the University of Leeds (UK).