Ambient Music in China

Source: Radii China.

It’s chaos out there — not just in the physical sense as the world cumbersomely adjusts to a pandemic and its many repercussions — but also mentally, where echo chambers are filled with panic, fear, and noise. The world is louder than ever, which means that there hasn’t been a more opportune time to switch off and slip into the comforting world of ambient music in China.

While China’s avant-garde scene has always occupied a compact yet active space within the community, from the abrasive noise of Torturing Nurse to the more esoteric conceptional innovation of musician Yan Jun, its ambient scene has only seen spurts of vitality since the turn of the century.

Some notable outliers have been electronic duo FM3 (made up of Zhang Jian and Christiaan Virant) whose Buddha Machines were “calm in a box.” Their wild popularity internationally in the late ’00s belied the meditative and intimate headspaces within the music. Then there’s veteran musician Dou Wei (former vocalist of formative Chinese rock band Black Panther, ex-husband to pop icon Faye Wong and father to Leah Dou) who after two decades transitioned from rock star to prolific experimental artist and hasn’t looked back since.

This Week’s Live Streamed Concerts 


Composer/performer Terry Riley joins Music on Main with his son, guitarist Gyan Riley at their A Month of Tuesdays concert (filmed live Tuesday, February 18, 2020).
Tuesday, April 7 at 12:00 PM Pacific Time

Opera Povera presents FULL PINK MOON: Opera Povera in Quarantine, an international durational live stream performance of composer Pauline Oliveros’s open-form The Lunar Opera; Deep Listening For_Tunes.
Tuesday, April 7 at 9:00 PM Eastern Time

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and Music on the Rebound present The World Wide Tuning Meditation. Ione and Claire Chase lead a global performance of the late Pauline Oliveros’s The Tuning Meditation, a sonic gathering with a legacy of bringing communities together through meditative singing. Anyone from anywhere in the world is invited to join in via Zoom to sing together from their personal phone or computer. No music experience is necessary.
Saturday, April 11 at 5:00 PM Eastern Time
RSVP Required for Zoom link

Violinist Jennifer Koh’s Alone Together is an online commissioning project that brings composers together in support of the many freelancers among them. Twenty-one composers have each agreed to donate a new, 30-second micro-work for solo violin while also recommending a fellow composer to write their own 30-second solo violin work on paid commission from the artist-driven nonprofit ARCO Collaborative. Koh will premiere a selection of these donated and commissioned works each Saturday at 7:00 p.m Eastern Time .
Saturday, April 11 at 7:00 PM Eastern Time

Karl Larson plays Anthony Vine’s Music for an apartment on Coles St., streaming on the Bearthoven and Johnstone Fund Facebook Pages.
Saturday, April 11 at 8:00 PM Eastern Time

Opera Philadelphia provides an audio stream of Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek’s Breaking the Waves.

AMN Reviews: Tatsuya Nakatani & Shane Parish – Interactivity (2020; Cuneiform Records)

This, the second release from the duo of percussionist Nakatani and guitarist Parish, is an unusual amalgam of styles. The former is well within the loose boundaries of what might be considered avant-garde, with his use of bowed gong, drums, cymbals, and singing bowls. The latter is one of the most consistently innovative finger-picking acoustic guitarists in a generation. Recorded from a 2018 performance, Interactivity juxtaposes the nonstop and freely-improvised scraping, rubbing, and banging of Nakatani with the somewhat more structured approach of Parish for a wild ride over three long tracks.

In particular, Nakatani sounds as if he is playing a junkyard, with crashes and battering that are both subtle and jarring. Parish plays his acoustic in between bluegrass and folk styles with heavy doses of his unique unclassifiable elements. While not afraid to head outside and approach chaos or use extended techniques, he also strums and picks in accordance with discernable themes. These rarely last long, but provide a grounding for excursions by both Nakatani and himself. All of this unpredictability develops into a thick tension that is virtually impossible to ignore as the album progresses.

In short, if you are attuned to free improv, guitar, and percussion, Interactivity is a must-have. There just isn’t much precedent for this recording as Nakatani and Parish stretch their respective instruments to the breaking point and beyond.

Extended Techniques Live Stream Calendar for April 2020 

Source: extended techniques.

April 1 – 7
Live From Our Living Rooms Music Festival and Fundraiser
Chick Corea
Joe Lovano & Judi Silvano
Becca Stevens
Linda Oh & Fabian Almazan
Bill Frisell
Christian McBride
Owen Broder
Antonio Sanchez & Thana Alexa

TUESDAY, April 7
Episode 6: Shara Nova, Adam Tendler & So Percussion
check the website for more upcoming episodes and links to past episodes

TUESDAY, April 7
6pm EST — Maria Chavez
Kitchen Broadcast

MONDAY, April 13
5pm EST via ZOOM Happy Hour Hang with Peter Evans
$15/FREE for members of Jazz Gallery
limited to 10 people

FRIDAY, April 17
7:30 PM Pedja Muzijevic, piano
C.P.E. Bach: Sonata in C Minor, Wq. 65/31
Antheil: Selections from La femme 100 tête
Philip Glass: Mad Rush
Satie: Embryons desséchés
Cage: In a Landscape
C.P.E. Bach: Sonata in G Major, Wq. 55/6

SATURDAY, April 25
2 PM Giacomo Baldelli
Solo Guitar with Tin Foil (1981) by Brian Eno-David Byrne*
Until it Blazes (2001) by Eve Beglaria
Two (2018) by Ryan Pratt
Dream (1948) by John Cage*
Slow Earth (2018) by Nick Norton
MISE-EN_PLACE livesream

4pm EST via ZOOM Happy Hour Hang with Shai Maestro
$15/FREE for Jazz Gallery members
limited to 10 people

Thoughts of Pauline Oliveros in the Time of Lockdown

Source: The New York Times.

As I have been learning to live with the changing sounds of New York City, I’ve been thinking of the work of the experimental American composer Pauline Oliveros, who dedicated her long career to exploring “the difference between hearing and listening.” As she put it in a TED Talk in 2015, the year before she died, “To hear is the physical means that enables perception. To listen is to give attention to what is perceived both acoustically and psychologically.”