AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: George Lewis – The Recombinant Trilogy [New Focus FCR284]

George Lewis’ Recombinant Trilogy is a triptych of recent compositions for solo acoustic instruments and interactive electronics. As the title implies, the electronic component, a software program written by Damon Holzborn, combines with the sound of the acoustic instrument to double its voice, alter its timbre, pitch, and apparent location in space, and otherwise fragment and recombine it into what Lewis describes as “multiple digitally created sonic personalities.” The Recombinant Trilogy represents the most recent stage in a long history of evolution; Lewis’ experiments with interactive electroacoustic systems reach at least as far back as his work at IRCAM in Paris in 1984, which included a performance featuring Lewis’ computer-generated improvisations in combination with improvisations by Joelle Leandre, Steve Lacy and others.

The current album encompasses three duets, each of which features an outstanding instrumentalist conversant in both contemporary composed and improvised music. Flutist Claire Chase, accompanied by Levy Lorenzo on electronics is first with Emergent (2014), followed by Seth Parker Woods, on electronics as well as cello, on Not Alone (2014-2015), and then bassoonist Dana Jessen, with Eli Stine on electronics, on Seismologic (2017), which Jessen commissioned. Holzborn’s program takes the instruments’ sounds and pans them from side to side and top to bottom; breaks them into fragments and then chunks them into quanta of repetition and layering; warps their timbres and shifts their pitches; and in the process synthesizes a global continuity out of multiple local discontinuities. One of the fascinating points of comparison is the very different timbral signature each instrument carries; while all three pieces are similar in their general processes of sonic interface, dilapidation, and rearrangement, they differ greatly in the details of color, density, and plasticity. In all three meetings of electronics and acoustics, the voices of the instruments come through even while undergoing the metamorphoses they’re subjected to: the flute’s pure, nearly disembodied soprano in Emergent, the dark friction of the cello in Not Alone, the earth-shaking low tones of the bassoon in the aptly titled Seismologic. And all of it is built on the foundation of Lewis’ concept and compositions, the solid ground on which these meetings take place.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Spektral Quartet – Experiments in Living [New Focus Recordings FCR270]

Given the easy accessibility of recorded music of virtually every type and era, at times it seems that musically, all time collapses into the present time. It’s a strangely ahistorical contemporaneity we seem to inhabit—is the internet eternity’s jukebox?–but even if it makes for a certain uneasiness, the random-shuffle possibilities it opens up may provide opportunities for musical illumination.

Realizing some of those possibilities is something Chicago’s Spektral String Quartet sets out to do with its ambitious double album Experiments in Living. The group selected seven string quartets written between 1873 and 2018 and, inventing a randomizing process to be realized with a deck of cards, offer the listener the chance to order and reorder the pieces for playback.

The works the group chose are Brahms’ 1873 String Quartet in C Minor; Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 3 (1927); Ruth Crawford’s String Quartet of 1931; Anthony Cheung’s Real Book of Fake Tunes for string quartet and flute (2015); George Lewis’ 2016 String Quartet 1.5: Experiments in Living; Sam Pluta’s binary/momentary logics: flow state/joy state (2016); and Charmaine Lee’s 2018 Spinals for string quartet, voice and electronics.

The eighty year lacuna between Crawford’s work and Cheung’s represents a conceptual as well as a chronological discontinuity. A developmental continuity binds the earlier three works: the Schoenberg quartet conserves something of the romanticism of the Brahms, while the dissonant counterpoint of the Crawford quartet plays peculiarly American variations on Schoenberg’s serialism. As distinct as these three pieces are, all are fully composed and squarely within the elastic but still recognizable tradition of Western art music. The pieces on the other side of the great divide, by contrast, break out of that tradition as much as they take their bearings from it. They sound different, to begin with—their vocabularies draw as a matter of course on extended performance techniques that at times push their surface textures to extremes of noise and fragmentation.

One other significant break lies with the newer works’ engagement with improvisation as something major to do, emulate, or draw inspiration from. Lee’s relatively short, single-movement work, which was created in collaboration with the ensemble, is completely improvised. Lee, who joins the quartet in their performance, is an improvising vocalist who augments her voice with electronic amplification; the piece is an abstract blend of wordless vocals and largely unpitched sounds. Pluta describes his rapidly moving, twenty-five movement quartet as being about the “joy of opening up the mind to improvisatory exploration;” what’s explored is an electronically inspired collection of quick-cutting, scratchy, oscillating sounds that the quartet convincingly translates onto acoustic string instruments. Cheung’s lyrical, five-movement piece layers a flute line played by Claire Chase in an improvisational spirit over compact, song-length settings. Although improvisation plays a significant role in Lewis’ musical poetics, his exuberant quartet, which like Lee’s, Pluta’s, and Cheung’s was commissioned by the ensemble, is a fully notated work that weaves together various extended techniques into an episodic, but audibly cohesive, tissue of sound.

In its willingness to disrupt ordinary ways of listening to music within a highly diverse tradition, The Spektral Quartet’s Experiments in Living is certainly a challenging recording, and a stimulating one as well.

Daniel Barbiero


UCSC/ISIM Improvisation Festival/Conference 2009

Yet another upcoming fest, this one from UCSC/ISIM Improvisation Festival/Conference 2009:

Thursday, December 3
4:00pm: Pamela Z
5:00pm: Soraya Murray’s Panel on Electronic Media and Improvisation
6:30pm: Art Jones
7:00pm: UCSC/ISIM Opening Ceremony (at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center)
David Cope‘s Algorithmic Improvisation Program
– Syncline/Anticline: Ben Leeds Carson
– Freddy Redd
– ISIM Open Jam Session

Friday, December 4
With Keynote Speaker: George Lewis
3:30: George Lewis and Roscoe Mitchell Duet (with Yamaha Disklavier piano)
5:00: Rob DZ’s Freestyle 101
7:00pm: Featured Headliner Charles Lloyd Concert with Geri Allen (Opening)

Saturday, December 5
1:30pm: David Anthony’s Film Series
3:00pm: Jin Hi Kim‘s Electric Komungo
7:00pm: 21st-Century Musicism: Improvisation for your Imagination
– India Cooke
– Ashwin Batish
– Karlton Hester’s The Divine Particle’s Vision #2

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Creative Music Workshop at the Chicago Jazz Fest

saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell at the Pomigliano ...
Image via Wikipedia

From All About Jazz:

Chicago, IL – September 2nd and 3rd the Chicago Jazz Festival, a partnership between the Chicago Mayor’s Office of Special Events and the Jazz Institute of Chicago, presents the Chicago Creative Music Workshop (CCMW), under the direction of Nicole Mitchell and Renee Baker. Sponsored by the Chicago Jazz Festival and the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, the CCMW will offer a unique opportunity to learn from master improvisers and perform with them in a variety of settings.

Why start a Creative Music workshop in Chicago? Co-Director Nicole Mitchell explains: “Creative music is one of Chicago’s greatest cultural strengths. It’s a local secret that has long been praised internationally. Perhaps the seed was the early work of Sun Ra, and later, the inception of the AACM, with its great trailblazers including Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton, George Lewis and many more. Chicago is the perfect home for this endeavor. Creative music is now more vital than ever here; it incubates at Fred Anderson’s Velvet Lounge, Elastic Arts and the Hungry Brain and reverberates throughout the world. We owe it to Chicago to provide a place and time where international and local Chicago musicians of this distinct, high level music can study, talk about and develop this music, in an accessible educational environment.”

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An Indiosyncratic Introduction to Indian Music

Rudresh Mahanthappa
Image by smlevy24 via Flickr

Rudresh Mahanthappa write a guest post on Destination Out about Indian Music.

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Stalker at RUCMA

From New York’s RUCMA:

Start: 02/04/2009 – 8:00pm
End: 02/04/2009 – 9:30pm
Timezone: Etc/GMT-4

James Keepnews’ Stalker
Wednesday, February 4 @ 8:00 pm
Yippie Café: 9 Bleecker Street, near Bowery
General Admission: $10
Students and Seniors: $7

James Keepnews, guitar
Todd Nicholson bass
Mike Golub drums

A guitar trio for the 21st century, Stalker draws on elements from free jazz, electro-acoustic improvisation, progressive rock and freakout improv, utilizing digital processing and real-time sampling to expand ensemble dynamics and orchestration to more than one breaking point. Original compositions and improvisations are featured along with pieces from the fire music tradition.

James Keepnews is a musician, writer and multimedia artist, often blurring each of these roles in his work. He has performed with dozens of bands and performing artists over the course of two decades, including Daniel Carter, George Lewis, Holland Hopson, Joe Giardullo, Linda Montano, Damian Catera and many others. He collaborated with pioneering interactive improviser — and Macarthur Foundation “genius grant” awardee — George Lewis on a software-based computer video sampler for Lewis’ performance, Following the Northstar Bugaloo.

Bassist and composer Todd Nicholson is a mainstay of the downtown New York hardjazz scene. He has performed with Billy Bang, Roy Campbell, Eddie Gale, Frank Lowe, William Parker, James Spaulding, and Steve Swell, among others. His work with the legendary violinist, Mr. Bang, is especially notable for its longevity: Nicholson has been a core member of Bang’s ensembles for the past seven years. Recent recorded appearances include “Long Hidden: The Olmec Series” by William Parker (AUM Fidelity), “First, Keep Quiet” by the Gauci Trio (CIMP Records), and a live recording by the Billy Bang Quintet entitled “Above and Beyond” (Justin Time).

Michael Golub is a drummer, guitarist, socialist, devoted husband and father of two very musical girls. He has composed music for the classic upstate ny ensemble, Kuru, who were briefly signed to Knitting Factory records, and for his current band, The Red Hook Project.

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AMN Picks General

AMN Picks of the Week

Here is where I post, at a frequency of about once a week, a list of the new music that has caught my attention that week. All of the releases listed below I’ve heard for the first time this week and come recommended.

Joseph Jarman / Don Moye – Earth Passage – Density (1981, free jazz)
Saft – Thirteen (2008, experimental)
George Lewis – Shadowgraph (1979, experimental)
Revolutionary Ensemble – 164 = 11TC, etc. (Recorded Live at Moosham Castle) (1977, free jazz)
Lester Bowie – The 5th Power (1978, free jazz)
George Cartwright – Send Help (2008, modern jazz / blues)
Eve Risser / Rafel Mazur – Elan Vital (2008, improv)
Joan Jeanrenaud – Metamorphosis (2002, modern classical)
The Guayaveras – The Guayaveras (2004, experimental)
Rudresh Mahanthappa / Indo-Pak Coalition – Apti (2009, jazz / world)
Chas Smith – Nakadai (2009, electronic)
Frank Lowe – Black Beings (1973, free jazz)
Bar Kokhba – Lucifer: Book of Angels, Volume 10 (2008, jazz / world)

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Wired Encounter at Muse Creative Workspace

Coming up at Muse Creative Workspace:

Richmond, VA Saturday, December 6 2008 at 7pm at MUSE CREATIVE WORKSPACE—6N 19th Street.

Tzadik recording artist Christopher Adler and “Metasax” inventor Matthew Burtner meet together for the first time for an exclusive Richmond Muse Creative Workspace performance. The Adler/Burtner “Wired Encounter” will feature computer-mediated improvisations and composed sound art works for piano, saxophone and computers. A $10 donation at the door.

Award winning concert music composers, Adler and Burtner are also widely regarded as virtuosic performers. Among numerous collaborations and recording projects, they have appeared in concerts with improvisers such as Fred Frith, George Lewis, Anthony Davis, Mark Dresser, Vinny Golia, Gustavo Aguilar, Luke DuBois, and Brian Osborn.

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FDR Trio
Monday, November 10 @ 7:30 PM
Yippie Café: 9 Bleecker Street, near Bowery
General Admission: $10
Students and Seniors: $7
Jam Session @ 9:00: $5

Daniel Levin (cello)
Francois Grillot (bass)
Robert Dick (flutes)

François Grillot, born in Burgundy France, began studying trumpet, then guitar and electric bass. He recorded with Edition Speciale, on RCA, touring throughout France. Other credits include recordings with Mama Bea Teckelsk (RCA) and Serge Bringolf (Strave on Musea Records). Upon moving to New York he has been playing along side a number of notable musicians including Bill Bickford, Ken Hatfield, Adam Naussbaum, Harold Danko, and Mike Clarke. In 2001 his music took a turn with collaborators Matt Lavelle, Steve Swell, Daniel Carter, Matt Maneri, Roy Campbell, Mark Edwards, Jackson Krall, Lou Grassi, Jason Kwang, Robert Dick, Daniel Levin, William Hooker, Charles Burnham, Louie Belogenis, Bern Nix, Michael Marcus, Ken Filiano and a many others

Daniel Levin was born in 197 in Burlington, Vermont. He has performed or recorded with Billy Bang, Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Mark Dresser, Joe McPhee, William Parker, and Ken Vandermark among many others. John Kelman from All About Jazz Magazine states, ” Levin has a sound that ranges from subtle and understated to aggressive; with admirable technique as a performer and a compositional concept that blends structure with freewheeling exploration, he deserves to have his name added to the short list of cellists who are making a mark in improvisational music.”

As a composer in the classical world, Robert Dick is one of only two Americans ever to be awarded both Composers Fellowships (twice) and a Solo Recitalist Grant by the N.E.A. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and commissions from the Jerome Foundation, Fromm Music Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Trust, the city of Zurich, the Philharmonie in Cologne and many more. Current compositional projects, all commissioned, include works for the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth, the New Century Saxophone Quartet and the flutists Elizabeth McNutt and Jun Kubo.As an improvisor, Dick has performed and recorded with New Winds, Tambastics, Oscura Luminosa, the Soldier String Quartet, the A.D.D. Trio, Paul Giger and Satoshi Takeishi, Jaron Lanier, Randy Raine-Reush and Barry Guy, Mari Kimura, Steve Gorn and many more of Europe and America’s finest improvisors. Over three decades of collaboration, musicians he has worked with include Steve Lacy, George Lewis, Georg Gräwe, Evan Parker, Malcolm Goldstein, Shelley Hirsch, Jöelle Leandre and John Zorn.

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Releases Reviews

DMG Newsletter October 3rd, 2008

Acoustic Masada (1)
Image by Kim Scarborough via Flickr

From DMG:

John Zorn s ARCANA Volume III Book, ERIK FRIEDLANDER S Broken Arm Trio, Mary Halvorson/Jessica Pavone/Devin Hoff/Ches Smith, SUN RA S SECRETS of the SUN, Mostly Other People Do the Killing w/ PETER EVANS , FAB TRIO w/ Fonda, Altschul & Bang, DIZZY REECE QT w/JOHN GILMORE, ANDREW HILL & CHICO HAMILTON Duo,

DAVE HOLLAND SEXTET, FRANCISCO MELA w/ Jason Moran & Mark Turner, John Ettinger & Peter Forbes, Craig Green & David King, OK/OK, VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, Sound-Off Typewriter Comp, Kampec Delores & Yugen

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