AMN Reviews General Releases Reviews

AMN Reviews: Ross Feller – “X/Winds” [Innova 911]

726708691127-front-cover “X/Winds” is the debut disc of composer Ross Feller. The disc contains eight pieces composed by Feller over the last twenty years. Ross Feller is both an accomplished composer and educator. Feller’s compositions have been performed throughout the USA and Europe. As an educator he has taught at the University of Illinois, Oberlin, Georgia State and is currently at Kenyon College in Ohio. Feller is also an accomplished saxophonist and improviser, you can find a recording of him and Roscoe Mitchell improvising together on Feller’s web site. As a composer Feller’s music comes out of the more eclectic aspects of modernism, improvisation, electroacoustics and his interest in contemporary philosophy. Chances are you haven’t heard the music of Ross Feller but you should!

The disc opens with “Triple Threat”, for three soloists and an ensemble of nine. This is a work that deals with opposition and multiplicities, with a form inspired by the fractured lines found in Deleuze and Guattari’s book “A Thousand Plateaus”. The violin, trumpet and clarinet soloists are pitted against the ensemble, with the soloists and various ensemble combinations competing for the listener’s attention. Within the ensemble itself a “classical” percussionist is pitted against a “jazz/rock” trap set player heightening the intensity. It is a highly engaging piece and a wonderful introduction to the music of Ross Feller.

Feller’s use of electroacoustic sound is somewhat unusual in that the sounds are most often used to reinforce or to frame the instruments they accompany instead of being the focal point of a work or an equal member of the ensemble. Instead Feller’s use of electroacoustic sound is a very subtle but very effective enhancement or augmentation of the acoustic instrument or instruments in play. Despite this way of working with electroacoustic sound, all three of the pieces that make use of electroacoustic sounds are very different from one another. “Still Adrift” is for piano and electroacoustic sound. This recording is from a performance by pianist Adam Tendler at Roulette. In this piece the piano part is augmented by a subtle fixed electroacoustic part that focuses on the resonance of the acoustic piano. The effect of the acoustic piano with this electroacoustic sound builds a kind of dreamy virtual space that heightens the natural color of the live acoustic piano as it drifts. In “Sfumato” for violin, bass clarinet and electroacoustic sound, the electroacoustic accompaniment lightly frames the textural and timbral content of the violin and bass clarinet as they explore a variety of textural and timbral contrasts. “Retracing” for violin and electroacoustic sound was originally composed to accompany a dancer but works extremely well as a concert piece and is beautifully performed by Dorothy Martirano. In this work the electroacoustic sounds generally reinforce the harmonic content of the violin but also adds some depth and space to the overall sound field. It is a wonderful piece!

“X/Winds” also contains two very different works for solo instruments. “Bypassing the Ogre” is for solo trumpet and performed by Peter Evans. The piece has a loose, almost improvisatory feel. It makes extensive use of extended techniques and its overall language is reminiscent of sound languages from trumpet innovators such as the AACM’s (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) Lester Bowie and Wadda Leo Smith. On the other hand “Glossolalia” for solo cello is somewhat in the “modernist” vein. Feller comments in the liner notes that he found his inspiration for this piece in the utterances of “ecstatic tongues”. The work is filled with sharp angular gestures, glissandi and various bowing techniques all while navigating rapid changes in dynamics and rhythm. It is given a very dramatic and colorful performance from cellist Franklin Cox.

The album includes two additional ensemble works. “Disjecta” which is the longest piece on this album, is for percussion quintet. “Disjecta” is a striking piece, full of contrasting moods and colors. The five independent parts collaborate and compete, fuse and separate, as they explore pathways of independent rhythmic trajectories that build out from silence. In addition to the wonderful performance from the Oberlin Percussion Group, the recording really captures the spatial placement of the various percussion instruments. The final piece is the title track “X/Winds” which is a work for symphonic wind ensemble with piano and percussion and is performed by the Oberlin Conservatory Wind Ensemble. It is a stunning piece filled with contrasting textures and dynamics that build into frenzy and then dissipate into quiet airy sounds.

Ross Feller’s work freely explores challenging ideas, resulting in original and engaging twenty first century music. Highly recommended!

For more information: Innova/Feller

Chris De Chiara



General Performances

Angelica 27 Festival

0fe94150-b46c-408a-ad90-a8067f455ca8The full schedule for the festival Angelica 27 in Bologna, May 4 – 31 , has been announced.

Details at Angelica 27.

This years festival includes:

  • Jacques Demierre
  • David Moss & Daan Vandewalle
  • ALTERATIONS – Steve Beresford, Peter Cusack, Terry Day, David Toop
  • Ghédalia Tazartès
  • TENORES DI BITTI “MIALINU PIRA”  – Omar Bandinu, Marco Serra, Bachisio Pira, Arcangelo Pittudu
  • ARKE SINTH – Giovanni De Poli, Marco Sambin, Michele Sambin, Alvise Vidolin
  • Natasha Barrett
  • SKRAP – Heiða Karine Jóhannesdóttir Mobeck,Anja Lauvdal
  • Audrey Chen & Phil Minton
  • AMETSA – Beñat Achiary, Erwan Keravec
  • WAYS FOR AN ORCHESTRA – Phil Minton, Veryan Weston, Fabio Sacconi, Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Tonino Battista direzione – playing the music of  Minton, Weston, Jacques Brel, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Eric Dolphy, Arthur Sullivan,Frankie Armstrong and Lindsay Cooper
  • Bob Ostertag & THE ALTERNATIVE FACTS – Julia Reidy, Mazen Kerbaj, Phil Minton
  • Annette Peacock IN PERFORMANCE WITH Roberto Dani & Roger Turner
  • Robin Holcomb & Wayne Horvitz
  • Piccolo Coro Angelico
  • Roscoe Mitchell & Francesco Filidei
  • SOLISTI & ORCHESTRA  – Thomas Buckner, Gianni Trovalusci, Roscoe Mitchell, Nicola Baroni with the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Tonino Battista direzione – musiche di Sylvano Bussotti, Roscoe Mitchell.

Details at

AMN Reviews Releases Reviews

AMN Reviews: Nate Wooley – “The Complete Syllables Music” [Pleasure of the Text Records]

a2155272499_16 “The Complete Syllables Music” is a deluxe four CD box set by composer, improviser, and trumpet player Nate Wooley. It is beautifully packaged and contains detailed liner notes plus the scores for each piece. The box set contains two out of print works – “[8] Syllables” and “[9] Syllables” and the complete version of a new work in this series “For Kenneth Gaburo”.

For the “Syllables Music” Nate Wooley constructed a sound language from experiments with using the shape and articulation of the mouth in making a particular phoneme as a primary physical parameter for his trumpet embouchure. This technique greatly alters the sounds that are produced from the trumpet. He then worked with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) as a replacement for the traditional building blocks of music resulting in a unique sound for each entry in the IPA.

Wooley acknowledges that the work, which led to the development of the Syllables series, was inspired by the work of Kenneth Gaburo. Gaburo was an important American iconoclastic composer whom among his many outstanding compositional achievements developed his own theory of compositional linguistics, which explored the components of language as musical elements. As always with the work of Nate Wooley, inspiration or influence does not mean imitation.

Each of the “Syllables” pieces explores the grouping of phonemes into a syllable, which then becomes a musical gesture. The gesture is then repeated for some number of breaths to give it duration and to build a segment or section within the overall composition. The repeating of the gesture is not a simple repetition, as no two breaths will be of the same length plus each gesture is physically demanding so it’s unlikely that it can be exactly repeated. This uncertainty gives each segment a kind of drama. Then there is the use of amplification and creative microphone techniques. Wooley is known for amplifying the trumpet in a manner similar to the electric guitar including distortion and feedback. This amplification allows the smallest of gestures to be magnified. Things like breath, the touching of the mouthpiece or the valve keys or the tubing all become very audible sounds. One of the most interesting techniques is the use of the sound of the room. Several of the pieces have been recorded in beautifully reverberant rooms. Wooley manipulates the room sound by using microphones placed around the room. The multiple microphones capture the room’s response. With this technique you hear his gestures articulating the room.

The first disc, “[8] Syllables” is in eight sections and runs about fifty minutes. The syllables used do not represent a word or words. Many of the sections begin with a blast or an impulse that “announces” the section, but it also serves as an articulation that aurally defines the space in which this music is being made. Each sections gesture repeats and as the repetitions build, it becomes a kind of drone. When ending a section, the gesture will often just stop and dissolve, as it decays in the room’s reverb, while other sections will stop short and leave you to hear the “silence”. Each section is separated by a long pause.

The second disc “[9] Syllables” is in nine sections running about forty-eight minutes. The syllables used in this composition form a word – Wooley’s hometown of Clatskanie. There is no programmatic significance of using Clatskanie. The word is used as a structural device. “[9] Syllables” makes greater use of the amplification of the trumpet, feedback and creative microphone techniques. Its compositional mannerisms are very different from “[8] Syllables” in that it feels more electronic or manipulated by the microphone mix and the use of feedback. Each gesture is played once with the natural sound of the trumpet, then repeated moderately amplified and then repeated again highly amplified. The gestures are really enhanced and varied by the changing microphone mix resulting in shifts of color and texture within a single gesture. Repeating and overlaying a gesture with a completely different microphone mix and varying its duration and pitch results in a sonic illusion similar to tape based feedback looping.

“For Kenneth Gaburo” is in two parts, each with its own CD. The third disc “For Kenneth Gaburo Part One” runs about seventy-six minutes and continues the exploration of the techniques developed in “[8] Syllables” and “[9] Syllables”. The phonemes in both parts are drawn from a quote from Gaburo’s book “Publishing as an Eco-System”. The quote is used as a structural device and is not programmatic. Despite this piece using many more syllables than in the first two pieces, it feels more stretched and stripped down than its predecessors. The activity seems to alternate between shorter gestures often of higher pitched breathy sounds and longer more mid range sustained sounds that transition into thick rough multi-phonics. The sound seems to be all “acoustic” trumpet; in that I don’t hear the closely miked or amplified trumpet sounds. However, there are some very subtle stereo and room microphone techniques in use. In this piece the drama of producing the sounds has also increased. The physicality of the gestures are deliberately designed to put Wooley in the awkward position of having his embouchure fall apart over time, to the point of losing control, leaving him to accept the sounds as they are.

The fourth disc, “For Kenneth Gaburo Part Two” runs about sixty-six minutes. This part is for trumpet and electro-acoustic tape. Like its predecessors this piece builds from sounds, colors, and repetitions that span durations, that sum up into longer spans of time as its builds into its form. Wooley uses his phonetic system as a kind of template to build out this electro-acoustic work. The phonemes are used in a more of an intuitive way than in a literal or conceptual manner and many of the mannerisms of the earlier pieces find their way into this piece. The electronic part tends to use three types of sounds – colored noise, percussive sounds, and sustained sounds that blend well with the trumpet. The trumpet plays in a very traditional way and is used an element of the sound that is in play. So the trumpet is not really separate from the tape. The performance beautifully blends the two parts so that they fuse, integrate and separate as the composition unfolds. It is a remarkable piece with a somewhat solemn but determined feel throughout.

The compositions in “The Complete Syllables Music” has some of the traits found in other works by Nate Wooley; extended techniques – circular breathing, mutli-phonics, flutter tonguing, amplification, droning, etc. and despite all of that I believe these pieces push Wooley into new territory. The compositions are unusual sounding process pieces that slowly unfold over time. The pieces build from sounds, colors, and repetitions that span breath durations, that sum up into longer spans of time as it builds into its form. This means that the pieces are of significant length and like much experimental music, requires some listening effort. For example, you wouldn’t listen to Coltrane in his hard bop period with the same mode of listening as you would when listening to Feldman’s “Second String Quartet”.  Plus you wouldn’t expect to really get yours ears around these examples in just one listen. The way in which pitch, duration, color, and change is presented and realized in each of these examples is radically different. “The Complete Syllables Music” requires a different kind or mode of listening. Once your ears get over the novelty of how the sounds are being produced, the listening focus needs to shift its attention to the sound that is in play and its micro detail. In my opinion, “The Complete Syllables Music” is worth this effort!

“The Complete Syllables Music” is highly recommended.

For more information:

Chris De Chiara

AMN Reviews General Releases Reviews

AMN Reviews: Todd Dockstader – From the Archives [ Starkland ST226 ]

Dockstader_Booklet_ Printer Spreads.inddThe world was reintroduced to outsider electronic music composer Todd Dockstader in the 1990’s when Starkland reissued most of his work from the early 1960’s on two CD’s. The Starkland discs were met with widespread critical acclaim. Stunned by this newfound interest and acclaim for his work Dockstader returned to composing. In 2002 Recommended Records reissued additional work from the 1960’s on CD. Dockstader then teamed up with David Lee Meyers (AKA Arcane Device and Pulsewidth) releasing two CD’s on Recommended Records in 2004 and 2005. During 2005 -2006 Sub Rosa released a three CD set from Dockstader entitled “Aerial”. Many believed that this was to be his final work. Todd Dockstader passed away peacefully on February 27, 2015 surrounded by his friends and family while listening to his own music.

“From the Archives” is a posthumous release of new work by electronic music composer Todd Dockstader. When Dockstader passed away in 2015 he left behind a computer full of new work totaling more than one hundred fifty hours. Daughter Tina Dockstader Kinard enlisted enthusiast Justin Brierly to go through the material and select fifty pieces to send to Thomas Steenland at Starkland. Steenland selected fifteen pieces for this outstanding new release.

The compositions on “From the Archive” were composed during 2005 – 2008. They demonstrate Dockstaders growing comfort with the computer and his original imaginative style firmly finding its way into the digital sphere. The pieces cover a wide range of sonic texture and are generally less ethereal and atmospheric then “Aerial” which was Dockstader’s last release during his lifetime. What set Dockstader’s compositions apart from many of his contemporaries is that his work is focused on highly imaginative constructions of organized sound as opposed to the use of sampled sound collage or synthetic extensions of the traditional composition world of “do re me” that continues to dominate electronic music. Dockstader’s compositions had a kind of cinematic drama in their construction and this continues to be the case with the pieces on this new volume – “From the Archive”. In this new work we are treated to a subterranean prelude of ringing filters in “Basement Passage”. The sounds of a choir of ghosts singing and wailing in whispered tones on “Whispered Smooth”. Contrasting cinematic edits between real and imagined sounds in “Todt 1”. “Anat Loop” is a subtle construction of glitch and loops. Then there is the noisy, rhythmic, almost industrial sonic assault of “Big Jig” and so much more.

Todd Dockstader’s “From the Archives” is one of the best releases of 2016. It provides us with an hour of new music from one of the masters of sound art. “From the Archives” will make long time Dockstader listeners extremely happy and will hopefully bring his incredible work to many new listeners. Thanks to the efforts of Tina Dockstader Kinard, Justin Brierley and Thomas Steenland we have the chance to hear this new work and to enjoy it for many years to come.

Highly recommended!

For more information –

Chris De Chiara

AMN Reviews General Releases Reviews

AMN Reviews: Nate Wooley – Argonautica [ Firehouse 12 Records FH12-04-01-023 ]


Trumpeter, composer, and improviser Nate Wooley has performed regularly as a sideman with many of the leading musicians on the New York new music scene including icons such as Anthony Braxton and John Zorn. He has also collaborated with many of the brightest of his generation such as Chris Corsano, C. Spencer Yeh, Peter Evans, and Mary Halvorson. Embracing noise and drone aesthetics, Wooley’s unique approach to the trumpet is a combination of standard techniques, vocalization, extreme extended techniques and amplification. But Nate Wooley is not just another iconoclast; he is a curator, a writer, an editor and an explorer of all things sonic and musical. Check out his online quarterly journal Sound American  or his Database of Recorded American Music .

Argonautica is an ambitious work that takes its name from the ancient Greek epic poem which depicts the adventure of Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece. The piece is in three parts with an introduction and scored for three pairs of instruments – trumpets, pianos and drums. This allows for various duos and trios to work together or separately as they explore the material. Wooley conceived the piece as a tribute to his mentor Ron Miles whom performs on this recording. Argonuatica opens with a “solo” from the trumpets. Here Wooley and Miles demonstrate their individual approaches to the instrument with Miles’s lyrical cornet to Wooley’s rougher more extended trumpet voice. This seeming opposition remains with all of the pairs of instruments – the acoustic piano of Cory Smythe paired with the Fender-Rhodes and electronics of Jozef Dumoulin and the free jazz drumming of Devin Gray with the more spirited precision of Rudy Royston. The pairs move from contrast to opposition to complement as the material is explored. There are written or scored elements that are precisely performed, followed by more open sections used by the performers to develop the material as they navigate to the next scored element giving this forty three minute piece a very organic feel. There is a continuous build up from sparse to dense, from slower to faster as various duos and trios emerge until the piece ends in a shattering climax.

Wooley cites the oblique influence of things like ambient tape music, dodecaphony, jazz-rock and the minimalist rock of Terry Riley.  With Argonautica he raises the question “… is this what jazz-rock can be in the twenty-first century?” However, do not take this to mean that Argonautica is “fusion” or sounds like any of these influences. To quote Wooley: “It’s easy sometimes to confuse being inspired by something with adhering to its principles.”

Argonautica is a solid piece of contemporary creative music performed by exceptional musicians. It is beautifully recorded and mixed. In addition to the MP3 and CD versions there is also a high-resolution audio mix available (would love to hear that). If you are not already a Nate Wooley fan then this recording is very likely to make you one.

Highly Recommended!

For more information:

Chris De Chiara

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Jorge Antunes – “Música Electrónica” [MENT007]


The vinyl reissue craze continues and many experimental, electronic and free jazz recordings are being reissued on LP. If you are a fan of the LP and of contemporary electronic music, musique concréte and contemporary classical music then “Música Electrônica” will be of interest to you.

Jorge Antunes (b. 1942, Rio de Janeiro) is a pioneer in the development of electronic music in Brazil. In 1961 Antunes attended the first concert of electronic music in Brazil, which included “Scambi” by Henri Pousseur and “Essai” by Gottfried Michael Koenig. This music so inspired the nineteen year old radio technician that he built his own gear and set up a little electronic music studio in his parents living room. Two of the five compositions on this LP were recorded in this home studio between 1962 – 1970.

Antunes studied violin, composition and conducting as well as physics at the University of Rio de Janeiro. By 1965 he had established himself as a leader in the Brazilian avant garde and began his research into the correspondence between sound and color. In 1970 Antunes left Brazil to continue this research at the Institute of Sonology at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. While at Sonology he began to specialize in Computer Music under the guidance of Gottfried Michael Koenig. In 1972 -73 he attended the musique concréte course and worked at the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) in Paris. Jorge Antunes is currently the director of the Electroacoustic Music Studio at the University of Brazil.

The pieces on “Música Electrônica” are striking in that Antunes makes extensive use of what were undiscovered and new techniques such as various waveform oscillators, noise, feedback, loops, tape manipulation, treated vocals, glitches, turn-table manipulation and so much more. He did almost all of this in his parent’s living room between 1962-1970, often on equipment he built himself.

“Valsa Sideral” is the first electronic work produced in Brazil. It was composed in 1962 at the composer’s home studio. As the title suggests it is a kind of waltz. It is a remarkable piece that uses a minimalist sounding tape loop of three rhythmic pitches as an ostinato while improvised sine and saw tooth melodies glissando over it with echoes and reverberations. It reminds me a little bit of the early pieces by the Barons for “Forbidden Planet”.

“Contrapunctus Contra Contrapunctus” was realized at the composer’s home studio in 1965. By this time Antunes’s technique had really grown, particularly in the ability to assemble lots of very small tape edits into smooth sections of sound. The work makes use loops of pitched material and treated voices. As the title suggests the loops are used in counterpoint against each other as treated sine and sawtooth melodies float over them, joined by occasional blasts of filtered noise.

“Cinta Cinta” was composed in 1969 during a visit to the Electronic Music Laboratory of the Institute Torcuato Di Tella, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This is Antunes’s first piece realized in a professional studio. The material in this piece is primarily filtered noise and additive synthesis sounds that bump up against each other in washes and chaotic rhythms till they disintegrate into silence.

“Auto-Retrato Sobre Paisaje Porteño” is an incredibly innovative piece composed during 1969/70 in Buenos Aires. In this piece Antunes “samples” a found object – a record of a tango by Francisco Canaro. A scratch in the record skips to create a loop that transforms the tango sample into a kind of samba. This sample is then used as material for additional processing and manipulation in series of loops overlaid with additional electronic sounds into what sounds like what might be the very first pure electronic dance piece, but just as it settles into the groove, abstraction intervenes and the piece transforms into more and more abstract sounds. The abstract sounds then give way to treated, sliced and cutup overlapping vocal and speech sounds. This is followed by a short return to the tango sample samba, only to be interrupted by speech with low percussive sounds and low evolving filtered sawtooth sounds. This continues to develop till the piece ends with a long evolving crescendo that is a mix of all of the different sound types used in the piece.

“Historia de un Pueblo por Nacer ou Carta Abierta a Vassili Vassilikos y a todos los Pesimistas “ was composed in 1970 in Buenos Aires. The piece was inspired by the novel and film “Z” by Vassili Vasilikos. It is in three sections with a coda. Each of the sections begins in silence and slowly builds a noisy texture to a loud intensity and then is crushed by a single pitched sound. The coda uses a fragment from the “International” in a canonic texture, which closes the piece.

Jorge Antunes is an electronic music pioneer and this LP reissues his earliest electronic music. The compositions on “Música Electrônica” despite their age are imaginative and innovative making “Música Electrônica”essential listening for electronic music fans. For more information visit:

Chris De Chiara

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Pauline Oliveros, Roscoe Mitchell, John Tilbury, Wadada Leo Smith – Nessuno – [i angelica di angelica – IDA035]


“Nessuno” is not the work of any one individual or musical point of view. Each of the musicians on this recording has a unique conception of sound, silence, composition and improvisation. John Tilbury is best known for his peerless interpretations of the piano music of Morton Feldman, John Cage and Cornelius Cardew. Wadada Leo Smith is a trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser that has developed his own systemic music language and was an early member of Chicago’s legendary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Roscoe Mitchell saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser is a founding member of the world renowned Art Ensemble of Chicago and the AACM. His innovation as a solo woodwind performer and his reassertion of the composer into what has traditionally been an improvisational form has placed him at the forefront of contemporary music. Pauline Oliveros composer, improviser and accordionist is a central figure in the development of experimental and post-war electronic music. She is the founder of “Deep Listening” which explores the difference between the involuntary nature of hearing and the voluntary but selective nature of listening.

“Nessuno” is a beautifully recorded performance by four of the most important and distinctive voices in improvised music. In 2011 Pauline Oliveros, Roscoe Mitchell, John Tilbury and Wadada Leo Smith gave three days of concerts at the AngelicA Festival in Bologna Italy. They performed solos, duos and then for the first time ever they performed as a quartet. Given that each of these musicians has been active in the international music community for about half a century it is amazing that they had never performed or recorded together as a quartet. Hats off to AngelicA for bringing them together and for releasing this recording, which contains the entire quartet performance in three parts.

Each of the pieces begins with a deliberate gesture by one or two of the musicians and then develops as it moves through many different textures and sound masses; from calm to intense, from the dense to open, from similar to contrasting registers, from dialogue to silence; always moving between point and counterpoint with one another. Part One is reflective and delicate. It begins with a pulsing single note piano gesture over a wooden flute melody that gets punctuated by vibraphone like sounds from the V accordion. It starts to develop into a Feldman like texture, but is suddenly transformed when the muted trumpet enters with a more chromatic melody. The sounds often seem to fuse and merge and then disappear as new sounds arrive. It is a stunning thirty-minute performance. Part Two is a bit more pointillistic; it begins with the sound of a bell that is met with high-pitched sounds from the saxophone and piano then followed by a trumpet dialogue that launches into a four-way dialogue. The piece continues to develop over the next thirty-nine minutes in which the dialogue transforms into texture or to silence, only to begin anew again till silence finally wins. Part Three is a very interesting almost synopsis of the entire performance squeezed into a five-minute encore.

“Nessuno” is highly recommended. It is just one of many excellent releases from i dischi di angelica which has released thirty-four titles since 1991; all recorded from the highly diverse contemporary music festival AngelicA in Bologna Italy. If you are not familiar with the label or the festival than you may want to pay them a visit.                  

Chris De Chiara