AMN Reviews: Quatuor Bozzini – Alvin Lucier: Navigations[2021; CQB 2128_NUM]

There have been many technical and technological innovations in music since 1945 but one of the most important aesthetic innovations has been in new ideas that focus on listening. Innovators like Pierre Schaeffer proposed the idea of reduced listening – an attitude in which sound is listened to for its own sake as a sound object, removed from its source. John Cage invited listeners to hear any sound as music. Pauline Oliveros encouraged listeners to actively experience all sounds through a practice she described as “deep listening”. These ideas all contributed to contemporary music’s focus on the experience of sound itself.

Alvin Lucier’s compositions and installations make use of sounds that are often the results of acoustic phenomena. His work focuses our attention and perception on the physical presence of sound interacting within a particular space. Performing Lucier’s compositions requires performers to learn to recognize, activate, play and interact with acoustic phenomena. The Quatuor Bozzini were clearly up for the challenge when they recorded “Alvin Lucier: Navigations”. The album opens with “Disappearances”, a piece that is a single note. That description may sound like it is minimalist to the extreme but to my ears it is a piece rich with development. You hear changes in weight and timbre as each string joins together in unison. The controlled motions of the string’s bows cause phasing and filtering of the sound. The tiny subtle changes in pitch causes beating which reveals pulsating difference tones. Each of these phenomena disappear into one another creating a feeling of movement and making the listener aware of the tiniest changes in pitch and timbre.

The album contains two realizations of “Group Tapper”, a piece that explores room acoustics by having the instrumentalists treat their instruments as percussion. The performers tap on their instruments in various places and reflect the sound coming from their instruments around the room. The recording engineer does a great job of making the room present on this album so that you can really hear how the group’s performance interacts with the room. Placed in between the two realizations of “Group Tapper” is for me the most striking piece on this recording, “Unamuno”.  The piece was inspired by early twentieth century Spanish writer  Miguel de Unamuno and it was originally written for voices. “Unamuno” is based around four pitches that are continuously arranged into different patterns. It has a probing and questioning kind of vibe to it. The Bozzini’s perform the piece with both strings and their voices. The result is absolutely stunning. 

The album finishes with “Navigations for Strings”. At a high level “Navigations for Strings” and “Unamuno” share some of the same types of ingredients. Both pieces are based on four pitches and both make use of slowly changing combinations and difference tones. However, despite these high level similarities the two pieces sound very different.  “Navigations for Strings” is a somewhat dark piece in which continuous changes in microtonality, dynamics and tempo create a sound mass that feels like it is becoming a stasis, but it’s continuous changes never allow it to rest. It is a very haunting piece.

With “Alvin Lucier: Naviagtions” the Quatuor Bozzini have gone well beyond the surface of Lucier’s scores and have totally embraced his challenge to performers to be sonic explorers. “Alvin Lucier: Naviagtions” is a wonderful album with captivating performances of one of the most original and innovative experimental composers of our time.

Highly Recommended!

Chris De Chiara

AMN Reviews: “Gran Sasso”, Matteo Liberatore (2020; BandCamp)

a2037926004_2“Gran Sasso” is Matteo Liberatore’s second solo guitar album.  It is the follow up to his excellent 2018 debut “Solos”.   Unlike “Solos” which focused on extended techniques on the acoustic guitar, “Gran Sasso” is a single extended piece for solo electric guitar using somewhat more conventional techniques. Having said that “Gran Sasso” is less of a departure from “Solos” as it is more of a glimpse into Liberatore’s musical imagination.

“Gran Sasso” is without any overdubs and other than some reverb and extensive use of the volume pedal, it is void of electronic effects. It is a very imaginative piece that has an open atmospheric quality in which Liberatore explores shape, texture, space and color. His dropped guitar tuning gives him a big open sound. Liberatore’s tone is bright and clear and has just a little bit of chime. “Gran Sasso” unfolds in unusual ways; the piece seems to continually shift from moment to moment.  But all the while Liberatore’s playing sounds both intentional and reflective giving this piece its own character.

“Gran Sasso” is a wonderful modern electric guitar record and is something I have found myself replaying over and over again. It was recorded and mixed by Matteo at his home studio and was mastered by Elliot Sharp. “Gran Sasso” appears to be a digital only release so head on over to Bandcamp and check it out.

Highly recommended!

Chris De Chiara

 

AMN Celebrates Braxton 75: Part XXIII

0011822341_21Welcome to AMN Celebrates Braxton 75, a multipart series focused on the work of American composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton. Braxton, who in 2020 will be celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday, is one of the most important and influential creative minds of the past fifty years. Each week this series will feature three to four links of live performances, interviews and articles found on the web that should be of interest to both the curious and the longtime explorers of Braxton’s music.

Today is Anthony Braxton’s 75th birthday and this is the final post in this series.

We begin with a wonderful performance of Composition 304 from Winsor Music.

We continue with an entire performance of Anthony Braxton with Mary Halvorson and Taylor Ho Bynum  as the Diamond Curtain Wall Trio from 2015 in Copenhagen.

This trailer from 2012 on Roulette TV intersperses interview with performance to provide a nice overview of Braxton’s career and his ideas.  Braxton’s forever hopeful outlook is a very timely positive message to us all.

Finally, since it is Anthony Braxton’s birthday why not wish him a happy birthday with a visit to the New Braxton House at Bandcamp and check out all of the recordings that are available and maybe pick up a few.

Hope you enjoyed the series and happy birthday Anthony Braxton.

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Chris De Chiara

AMN Celebrates Braxton 75: Part XXII

p013r6cnWelcome to AMN Celebrates Braxton 75, a multipart series focused on the work of American composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton. Braxton, who in 2020 will be celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday, is one of the most important and influential creative minds of the past fifty years. Each week this series will feature three to four links of live performances, interviews and articles found on the web that should be of interest to both the curious and the longtime explorers of Braxton’s music.

We begin this week with a set from the Anthony Braxton Diamond Curtain Wall Quartet in Budapest from 2015. The group features Braxton’s computer music patch with Braxton on reeds, Ingrid Laubrock – tenor and soprano saxophones, Taylor Ho Bynum – brass and Mary Halvarson on guitar.  I really like this video not just for the great performance but also for how it was filmed. I sure wish I could turn on my TV set and see this on one of the channels.

As we are getting near the end of this series I realized I hadn’t posted any of Braxton’s writing so here is a short essay titled  “ALLEGORY AND FORM”

We end this week with a stunning audio only set from Anthony Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams from Chicago in 1977.

Join us again next week for the final post of AMN Celebrates Braxton 75.

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Chris De Chiara

AMN Celebrates Braxton 75: Part XXI

p013r6cnWelcome to AMN Celebrates Braxton 75, a multipart series focused on the work of American composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton. Braxton, who in 2020 will be celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday, is one of the most important and influential creative minds of the past fifty years. Each week this series will feature three to four links of live performances, interviews, and articles found on the web that should be of interest to both the curious and the longtime explorers of Braxton’s music.

We begin this week with a short clip from 2007 at the Blue Note in Milan, with Anthony Braxton, William Parker, and Hamid Drake. The quality of the video is low but the music is great.

We continue with Anthony Braxton’s  Composition Numbers 136+56+254 performed at a workshop in Tokyo conducted by Kyoko Kitamura and Masayasu Tzboguchi in 2019. The ensemble is Nonoko Yoshida – alto saxophone, Shinpei Ruike – trumpet, Masayasu Tzboguchi – piano, Hiroki Chiba – bass, Manami Kakudo – percussion and Kyoko Kitamura – vocals and conducting.

We conclude this week’s post with an article by Paul Steinbeck, from 2018 that originally appeared in the Journal of Music Theory. Steinbeck is an accomplished musician, scholar, and author. Unlike much academic writing, Steinbeck’s writing is always clear, insightful, and readable. I would highly recommend his recent book on the Art Ensemble of Chicago. In “Improvisation and Collaboration in Anthony Braxton’s Composition 76”   Steinbeck provides an insightful analysis of the work that will be of interest to both listeners and musicians.

Join us again next week for another post as AMN Celebrates Braxton 75.

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Chris De Chiara

AMN Celebrates Braxton 75: Part XX

p013r6cnWelcome to AMN Celebrates Braxton 75, a multipart series focused on the work of American composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton. Braxton, who in 2020 will be celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday, is one of the most important and influential creative minds of the past fifty years. Each week this series will feature three to four links of live performances, interviews, and articles found on the web that should be of interest to both the curious and the longtime explorers of Braxton’s music.

We begin this week with a full concert from 2019 in France of Anthony Braxton with Ingrid Laubrock – saxophone, Miriam Overlach and Jacqueline Kerrod – harp, Carl-Ludwig Hübsch – tuba, and Jean Cook – violin.

A Conversation with Anthony Braxton is a transcript from 1995 during a visit to Istanbul. In this conversation, Braxton dives into a variety of topics often in a very conversational and informal way, more so than in many of his interviews.

Here is a nicely filmed and recorded concert segment from 2019 of Anthony Braxton Solo – Live @ Sons d’hiver.

We end this week’s installment with a talk that Anthony Braxton gave in Amsterdam for the 2015 DOEK FESTIVAL. He is joined for this talk by Kevin Whitehead, Taylor Ho Bynum, and James Fei.

Join us again next week for another post as AMN Celebrates Braxton 75.

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Chris De Chiara

AMN Celebrates Braxton 75: Part XIX

p013r6cnWelcome to AMN Celebrates Braxton 75, a multipart series focused on the work of American composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton. Braxton, who in 2020 will be celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday, is one of the most important and influential creative minds of the past fifty years. Each week this series will feature three to four links of live performances, interviews, and articles found on the web that should be of interest to both the curious and the longtime explorers of Braxton’s music.

This week’s post begins with a  2015 performance of Anthony Braxton’s Composition No. 131 by Ben Leeds Carson – piano, Jason Hoopes – bass, Robert Lopez – drums and Rhonda Taylor – alto saxophone at the 2015 Santa Cruz Festival of New Music.

Anthony Braxton live in Italy at the Pomigliano Jazz festival in 2009 with William Parker – bass and Don Moye – drums.

We end this week’s post with an interview from 2008 from the “under your skin channel”.

Join us again next week for another post as AMN Celebrates Braxton 75.

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Chris De Chiara

AMN Celebrates Braxton 75: Part XVIII

Headshot Anthony Braxton courtesy of the artistWelcome to AMN Celebrates Braxton 75, a multipart series focused on the work of American composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton. Braxton, who in 2020 will be celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday, is one of the most important and influential creative minds of the past fifty years. Each week this series will feature three to four links of live performances, interviews and articles found on the web that should be of interest to both the curious and the longtime explorers of Braxton’s music.

We start this week with a concert from 1976 at San Jose State University.  The concert featured Anthony Braxton – reeds, Roscoe Mitchell – reeds, Richard Teitelbaum – synthesizer and Allen Strange – musical easel. The concert was presented in quadraphonic sound but this recording was made on a handheld stereo cassette recorder. Despite the low-fi sound, this is a wonderful concert. The second part is also available and well worth the listen.

In 2005 as part of “Braxton at 60: A Celebration”, Kevin Whitehead gave a talk at Wesleyan University, in which he explores Braxton’s relationship to “jazz”. “Braxton & Jazz: IN the Tradition” is an adaptation of that talk in print format.

We end this week with a 2019 performance of Anthony Braxton’s Composition No. 63 for two soloists and chamber orchestra.  Performed by the Mills Performing Group during the “Anthony Braxton 75th Birthday Celebration Concert” at Mills College, Oakland, California.

Join us again next week for another post as AMN Celebrates Braxton 75

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Chris De Chiara

AMN Celebrates Braxton 75: Part XVII

Headshot Anthony Braxton courtesy of the artistWelcome to AMN Celebrates Braxton 75, a multipart series focused on the work of American composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton. Braxton, who in 2020 will be celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday, is one of the most important and influential creative minds of the past fifty years. Each week this series will feature three to four links of live performances, interviews and articles found on the web that should be of interest to both the curious and the longtime explorers of Braxton’s music.

We begin this week’s installment with a short excerpt from one of Anthony Braxton’s  current ensembles, The Anthony Braxton Standard Quartet – Live at Schlachthof, Wels, Austria.

Here is a short but very interesting Braxton interview from 1971 on KPFA produced by Other Minds. This audio interview is interspersed with his solo saxophone and at times Braxton sounds a bit defensive, but as always, he is very interesting.

This week’s installment ends with a full set from 2003 at the Kanjiža Jazz Festival in Serbia.  Anthony Braxton is joined by Hungarian pianist György Szabados and Ganelin trio drummer Vladimir Tarasov. It’s a beautiful set!

Join us again next week for another post as AMN Celebrates Braxton 75

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Chris De Chiara

From Xenakis’s UPIC to Graphic Notation Today

upic_cover_september2019In the late 70s, an interdisciplinary team led by the composer Iannis Xenakis developed the compositional tool UPIC out of an effort to transform drawings into synthesized sound.

Together with the Centre Iannis Xenakis, the ZKM is now addressing for the first time the genesis of this unique computational instrument and traces its technical, social, institutional, and educational significance up to the current practice of contemporary composers who work with the idea of UPIC in current computer programs.

The volume with 27 richly illustrated contributions is published by Hatje Cantz. It is available both there and through the ZKM Bookshop as a print publication. In addition, it is published in its entirety as an open access version and available free of charge. On this page, the digital version is available for download as PDF, as well as audio samples and additional archive material not included in the print publication are accessible.