AMN Reviews: Nate Wooley “Columbia Icefield” [Northern SPY NS 112]

Inspired by the largest icefield in the Rocky Mountains trumpeter Nate Wooley set out to explore “ … large structures that have a feeling of being really large and slightly disturbing, but also, natural, … it’s not an attack on our senses. We understand it.”  On “Columbia Icefield” Wooley’s amplified trumpet is joined by drummer Ryan Sawyer, pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn and guitarist Mary Halverson. The three compositions on “Columbia Icefield” while unique in content and form seem to share an overall point of view or perhaps mood. The recording itself also contributes to this overall mood. The album’s mix beautifully exploits the stereo field to project a big and open sound that still seems close and intimate.

The album opens with “Lionel Trilling”, a piece that seems like it would make a great soundtrack for a journey by train to visit the ice field. The piece slowly builds up from very deliberate but somewhat overlapping melodic and rhymical patterns on the guitars. The interplay between Halverson and Alcorn is very tight and balanced. These patterns could be imagined as representing the sounds of the train. They are eventually joined by other patterns played by the drums along with the very effective use of the amplified trumpet as percussion. This builds up over time but not in a sentimental or obvious way.  The train continues to climb till out of nowhere ethereal voices arrive and the mood abruptly changes.  They have arrived and set out to explore the expanse in a floating dialogue. This gives way to a new section of contrapuntal questions and episodic improvisations till it is time to leave and then we get back on the train to return to where the journey began.

“Seven in the Woods” is a piece where its shape slowly forms over time. It begins as an abstraction of what it will become with a slow counterpoint of melodic fragments between the guitars and muted trumpet. When the drums finally enter it tries to subvert the developing shape with march like rhythmic attacks. Eventually the drums give in and all of this abstraction crystallizes into a soulful melodic hymn accompanied by beautiful brush work from the drums. The piece then moves through a series of wonderful moments with solos from each of the musicians. Eventually it begins to fall back apart but is interrupted by the guitars with chiming church bell chords that slowly fade away.

The last piece “With Condolences” starts slowly and quietly but as the sonic conversation grows it becomes more and more animated over time. As it builds up into a chatter, spoken word lyrics emerge and push it back into a more reflective instrumental conversation that slowly winds itself down.

The playing by each of the musicians on “Columbia Icefield” is nothing short of outstanding. I hope that Nate Wooley is able to do a lot more recording with this particular group. As an ensemble they demonstrate real chemistry. Make no mistake “Columbia Icefield” is a great album. So, do your ears a favor and spend some quiet time listening to “Columbia Icefield”.

Highly Recommended!

Chris De Chiara

9th Annual New Music Festival at Cal State Fullerton

From Los Angeles New Music:

The 9th Annual New Music Festival at Cal State Fullerton March 7th-13th, 2010 features works by composer/pianist in residence Frederic Rzewski and American Classics: Cage, Feldman, Carter plus works from American Women Composers: Augusta Read Thomas, Amy Williams, Pamela Madsen and Carolyn Yarnell performed by world renowned pianists specializing in contemporary music: Frederic Rzewski, Ursula Oppens, Gloria Cheng, Kathleen Supove and the Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo.

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Cornelius Dufallo Sings the Fiddle Electric at the Stone

From NYTimes.com:

As a member of the enterprising new-music ensembles Ne(x)tworks and Ethel, the violinist Cornelius Dufallo runs into plenty of composers. He has coaxed new solo works from some and taken up older scores by others. He is also a composer himself: “Dream Streets,” his new CD (for Innova), is devoted to his own imaginative works for violin and electronics.

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Sitting in a room with experimental music professor Alvin Lucier

An interview and profile of Lucier from the Wesleyan Argus:

Professor Alvin Lucier may be the most famous professor here that you’ve never heard of. Through his groundbreaking compositions, Lucier has become a world-renowned composer and is hailed as a genius in the experimental music genre.

However, Lucier’s path to experimental music was not a planned one. Though he grew up in a musical house dreaming of becoming a composer, he was not initially inspired by experimental music.

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Cleveland contemporary-music ensemble No Exit ready to introduce itself

Lutos?awski
Image via Wikipedia

From cleveland.com:

No Exit New Music Ensemble will make its debut with free concerts at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20 at Cleveland State University’s Drinko Recital Hall, 2001 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, and 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21 at the Barking Spider Tavern, 11310 Juniper Rd., Cleveland.

Founded by composer Timothy Beyer, the core group comprises pianist Nicholas Underhill, violinist Cara Tweed, violist Tom Bowling and cellist Nick Diodore.

Their inaugural program will include Witold Lutoslawski‘s “Sacher Variation” for cello, the Adagio from Zoltan Kodaly’s Duo for Violin and Cello, works by Underhill and Beyer and new pieces by Al Kovach and James Praznik.

According to Beyer, “Our mission is to promote and perform contemporary concert music with an eye towards the avant-garde. We will have a strong focus on living composers and are particularly interested in championing the music of talented young composers who have not yet received much exposure.”

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Université de Liège Honor Musicians and Composers

The Université de Liège will be bestowing honorary doctorates on a number of musicians:

During the ceremony marking the beginning of the 2009-2010 academic year to be held on Thursday September 17, the University of liège will honour and confer its insignias of Doctor honoris causa upon the following seven musicians and composers of international renown:

* Dick Annegarn
* Anthony Braxton
* Arvo Pärt
* Henri Pousseur (posthumously)
* Frederic Rzewski
* Archie Shepp
* Robert Wyatt

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Stockhausen’s Aus den Sieben Tagen Available For Free Download

Karlheinz Stockhausen at Old Billingsgate Mark...
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From Insubordinations:

Aus den Sieben Tagen is a collection of pieces to be improvised after the very concise and apparently metaphysical instructions of the Master. But far from delivering us a strange joke or an esoteric manifesto, Stockhausen explores in fifteen pieces the main questions of composition, improvisation, art, its transmission and its origin, the status of the artist, his way of life and thought, the stage, etc.

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