John Zorn Overview

We have published a new page with a John Zorn overview. There is no new material – this page merely gathers our Zorn-related writings of the last several years in one place.

Needless to say, with Zorn appearing on over 400 recordings and performances of his music taking place regularly worldwide, this is a very abbreviated list. Nonetheless, we plan to let it grow as our exploration of his material continues.


Live Music Page Updated

Our Live Music page just got a much-needed update. We’ve added a few new venues and series, while pruning several that have shut down. Check it out for suggestions on where to find live avant-garde music in your area.

And if you know of venues or people putting on creative / weird music that are not listed, send us an email and we’ll include them. Thanks!

Reviews and Interviews Now Easier to Find

We’ve added two new pages to the menu above.  The Recent AMN Reviews page lists our 100 most recent reviews in reverse chronological order.  The AMN Interviews page lists all of our interviews.  I’d like to find a way to make our 800+ reviews more browseable, but so far no luck.  You can also use the search box to determine whether we have reviewed something.

Update: Just figured out how to list all reviews…now you can browse all of them.

15 Years of Avant Music News

Our 15-year anniversary came and went this last Sunday.

When I started Avant Music News, the major concerns included finding enough news to publish and keeping the software running. These days the software more or less runs itself, and the news finds us. So there’s that.

But the challenges (and these are very much first-world problems) are to filter through the embarrassment of riches that comes our way every day. And from these, find a handful of articles and items to write about. Since 2011, we have published close to 1000 reviews of albums and live performances. Not to mention over 27,000 articles in general.

Needless to say, on April 29, 2003, I did not expect the site to blossom in the humble way that it has.

Thanks go out to all of you – readers, contributors, and most importantly the musicians carving out their visions on recording mediums old and new. I have endless appreciation for all of you who work tirelessly for modest material rewards, all in the name of art.

I don’t know how long Avant Music News will continue, but 15 years is already beyond my most grandiose expectations. In the mean time, I hope this little site has turned a few ears and opened a few minds. Certainly, my ears have been turned and my mind has been opened more times than I can count.


How to Get Reviewed on Avant Music News

Happy Fall from Chicago.

Lately, we have been receiving an uncounted number of albums being submitted for review. (They are uncounted because I haven’t bothered to count them but we’re talking 10-15 per day.) Clearly, we cannot review every one, and we often don’t have time to respond. Sorry but that’s just the facts.

So, if you have or are thinking of submitting a recording for review, please hop on over to our updated page, How to Get Reviewed for the scoop on our present situation, and a few pointers on how you can increase your chances of having one of us write about your music.


AMN Reviews: Mari Kimura – “Voyage Apollonian” [Innova 958]

kimura-coverComposer/performer Mari Kimura is a violinist that has earned international acclaim in both standard and contemporary repertoire. She is one of contemporary musics finest interactive computer music specialists and has premiered many new interactive works from composers such as Jean Claude Risset and Robert Rowe. Her latest effort “Voyage Apollonian” is a compilation of her recent work featuring six original compositions and arrangements of pieces by Brazilian composers Egberto Gismonti, Joao Bosco and Hermeto Pascoal.

Kimura’s current work makes use of her many years of research and collaboration with leading institutions such as IRCAM, into the use of new technology for interactive computer music and technological extension or augmentation of the violin. Working with IRCAM and Liubo Borissov, Kimura has developed a glove that uses various motion sensors to transmit the motion of the bow into the computer via WiFi. The motion sensing technology is able to detect gestures such as pizzicato and various types of bowing. This motion or gestural control is then used to interact with custom software. Kimura uses this ability to communicate to the computer her expressive intentions in real time. This allows her to control the real time signal processing of her violin as well as the ability to use gestures as cues or triggers that interact with the computers software.

The title track “Voyage Apollonian” has kind of an impressionistic or spectral feel to it as it alternates between various pizzicato and bowed phrases in a kind of call and response. This alternation develops as a kind of interplay between phrases and their articulations. By using the gestural control of the glove/bow, Kimura is able to choose in real time which software signal processing techniques – doubling, reverb, echo, harmonization, etc. she wishes to apply to the phrase she is playing as she is playing it. But this gestural interaction is not just limited to signal processing. On her arrangement of Hermeto Pascoal’s  “Bebe” Kimura uses the sensor technology to cue the virtual pianist as it plays a vamp for her to solo on. This allows her to dynamically control the length of the accompaniment for her improvised solo.

In addition to her inventive use of technology, Kimura’s compositions also bring her own unique twists to familiar forms. For example in “Bruer Vivant” Kimura paints a passacaglia with bits of “Romanticism” mixed with dazzling contemporary electronics. “Canon Elastique” is a two voice canon where the glove/bow gestural control is used to modify material she has played after it has been delayed by software forming a second canonic voice. However the result is not a simple echo or a minimalist texture. The technology allows Kimura to change her musical past in real time by the way in which she articulates the first voice.

Mari Kimura’s sonic explorations are not just limited to using technology with the violin but extends to discovering and perfecting new acoustic techniques. She has developed an innovative extended bowing technique that is able to produce subharmonic pitches that sound up to an octave below the violins lowest string without re-tuning the instrument. While she uses this technique throughout the works on this disc it is prominently featured on the only unaccompanied acoustic piece on this CD “JanMaricana”.

“Voyage Apollonian” covers a great deal of territory; from Brazilian sambas and jazz to unaccompanied violin with subharmonics to new musical interfaces with interactive computer technology. Despite the use of cutting edge technology and new innovative acoustic techniques the music on this disc does not sound very “technical”. The use of technology is at the service of the performer and has been carefully designed to be flexible and expressive. In Kimura’s hands the results are a highly expressive music that is warm and organic, rich in color and nuance. Highly recommended.

Chris DeChiara

14 Years of Avant Music News

Once again, I have to step back and consider how much this site has grown since I launched it on this day in 2003. We have published over 675 album and concert reviews and 45 interviews, not to mention nearly 25,000 total articles. I estimate that we’ve recommended 2,000 or so albums in our AMN Picks of the Week series.

Of course, what keeps us coming back is our audience, which has continued to increase each year. Thanks to all of you for your attention in a world that is overrun with media, and thanks for your appreciation of avant / creative / weird music.