AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Bertoni / Salis / Sanna – Hidden Parallels [Plus Timbre PT123]

The hidden parallels of this collaboration between Antonio Bertoni (cello, prepared piano, tuning forks) and the duo of percussionists Paolo Sanna and Giacomo Salis would appear to be drawn between the three compositions the trio chose to interpret and the original, unconventional ways in which their own contributions shaped the actual sounds of each realization.

For the first piece, chosen by Sanna and based on harpist Rhodri Davies’ Penrhiw, Bertoni, Salis and Sanna seem to have taken texture as their point of departure. Bertoni’s strummed and pizzicato cello, together with the various shaken and scraped percussion sounds from Sanna and Salis, present a free reimagining of some of the effects Davies’ extended playing extracts from the harp. The second composition interpreted is Morton Feldman’s Crippled Symmetry, selected by Salis and featuring Bertoni on prepared piano accompanied by tuned mallet percussion, gong, prepared snare drum and processed voice from Sanna and Salis. In contrast to Feldman’s predominantly understated dynamics, the audio space the three create here is filled with suspenseful, robust sounds. The third and final piece, Solo de Endingidi, Bertoni’s choice, was taken from a recording of Ugandan music. Bertoni’s rapidly bowed cello forms the backbone of the piece, which gets equally energetic support from snare and other percussion.

Listeners seeking literal interpretations of the source compositions won’t find them here, but to paraphrase the ancient dictum, sometimes a hidden harmony is best.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Nicolas Tourney & Phil Canals – American Composers [Bandcamp]

Although they’re several decades old at this point, the innovative graphic and other open-form scores of the postwar New York School composers continue to provide inspiration and stimulation for fresh interpretations from contemporary performers. Part of the reason for this could be the very openness and indeterminacy of the works; given so much latitude within their suggestive constraints, a performer is free to bring to bear his or her own musical background in choosing specific musical values for the variables the scores leave open. American Composers, a new recording from French musicians Nicolas Tourney and Phil Canals, which contains thoughtfully creative arrangements of a number of classic works by Christian Wolff, Morton Feldman, John Cage, and James Tenney, shows just how alive these works remain.

Tourney, a guitarist and electronic musician, is credited here with electric guitar and objects; Canals is a multi-instrumentalist represented here on saxophone and stones. The two collaborated on 2019’s Looking North, an album that combined elements of electronic drone and freely melodic saxophone improvisations. On American Composers, they eschew the denser textures and more aggressive timbres of the Looking North in favor of a sound that respects the open musical spaces implicit in the scores they’ve chosen to realize.

The opening track, Wolff’s Looking North, is a verbal score from the collection Prose Pieces. Tourney begins with an elastic but discernible pulse laid out in harmonics and semi-muted tones; Canals contributes evenly-weighted lines on the saxophone. Both explicitly through sound and implicitly through silences Tourney and Canals’ interpretation maintains the rhythmic continuity the score calls for. Brown’s December 1952, arranged for solo guitar, is an unusual realization of the classic graphic composition. Tourney’s way of grouping individual notes and chords gives his version more linear continuity and less pointillistic intermittency than many other versions of this always provocative piece. Also unusual is the duo’s setting of Feldman’s grid-like graphic score Projection 1, originally composed for solo cello. The piece here is realized for both guitar and saxophone. Canals plays most of the score’s events; his largely staccato reading is punctuated on occasion by Tourney’s sparse interventions. Canals gives a solo performance on Cage’s early Sonata for Clarinet, a semi-serial piece Cage wrote in 1933 while studying composition with Richard Buhlig and which was composed before Cage really found his own voice. The other Cage piece Canals and Tourney interpret is 1950’s A Flower for voice and closed piano. Canals plays the part for voice, which is mostly confined to four notes, with a contrasting mixture of vibratoless and vibrato tones; Tourney supplies the piano part by drumming with his hands on an opaque surface.

The album also includes the roaring rush of Tenney’s Having Never Written a Note for Percussion; Brown’s 4 Systems, a graphic score of variably-lengthed rectangles similar to December 1952 which Tourney and Canals realize with a predominance of overlapping long tones; and Wolff’s Stones, another verbal composition from Prose Pieces, which instructs its performers to make a variety of sounds using…stones.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Morton Feldman – Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello [Bridge 9446]

9446_cover-CopyCommissioned by the Xenakis Ensemble and written in 1987, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello was Morton Feldman’s final composition, the composer dying five months almost to the day after its 7 April 1987 premiere. As with Feldman’s other late works this one is long—seventy-five minutes—and unfolds slowly and at low volume, a typically Feldmanesque paradox of outsize length and understated sound.

Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello is a peculiarly contrapuntal work, its piano and string parts being separate and largely independent of each other. There are no real melody lines to speak of; rather, the substance of the piece is contained its virtually free-standing chords and clusters of notes. Most of these are characterized by a narrowly constructed pitch space, with both parts generally limited to a constricted pitch range set out in closely voiced chords, jarringly flavored with minor seconds.

Overall, the work is a field of tensions shifting between piano, here played by Aleck Karis, and the strings (Curtis Macomber, violin; Danielle Farina, viola; Christopher Finckel, cello). This tension is partly the product of the timbral contrasts between the dampened sound of the piano and the brighter sound of the strings, the latter frequently playing keener-edged harmonics. But it also is created by the clash of dissonances of the piano on one side and the strings on the other, each part running parallel to the other with the occasional convergence in a brusque collision. The few passages in which one part echoes or mimics the other are thus oddly unsettling, the equivalent of a rhyme turning up in an epic of fragmentary free verse.

As with much of Feldman’s later work, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello appears to treat time as a vaporous object at a standstill. This comes out in the deliberate, free-seeming tempo; in the strings’ elongated tones; and in the piano chords’ long decay times. In spite of this the music does carry a sense of motion–typical of Feldman’s late works it seems lateral rather than directed forward toward a melodic or harmonic resolution. The engine behind this motion is the work’s tension-field structure, which consists in shifts between the piano and strings as foreground and background elements; timbral differences between the two voices; and the instability of the harmonies. The piano and strings are like objects alternately attracting and repelling each other; when both sound simultaneously the effect is of opposing or interfering waves. As a result time is felt as a flux, an oscillation between moments rather than as a progression.


Roulette in December

From NY’s Roulette:

Mon Dec 7 – 8:30 PM
Hans Tammen creates music that has been described as an alien world of bizarre textures and a journey through the land of unending sonic operations. Using Earle Brown’s open form composition idea as a starting point to create a large multi-movement piece, thoroughly composed and purely improvised at the same time. He gets his thrill out of exploring the world of sounds, and by superimposing or phasing of multiple rhythms. His new work ANAGENESIS draws from a single repertoire of around 100 pre-conceived musical units. The conductor uses the orchestra as an instrument, while each performer shapes the music through virtuosic improvisation and the individual stylization of musical performance. “Everything about Third Eye Orchestra… indicates mastery and control”

Shaking Ray and Shelley
Tue Dec 8 – 8:30 PM
“Ole’ Timey Avant-Garde” ensemble The Shaking Ray Levis team up with eccentric vocalist Shelley Hirsch for an explosive evening of improvisation. The Shaking Ray Levis were conceived by Dennis Palmer and Bob Stagner in 1986, and have since been the first American group be be released on Derek Bailey’s Incus Records. Using synthesizers (analog & digital), MoogerFoogers, samplers, vocals and percussion they achieve an incredibly unique blend of experimental sound with an Ole’ Timey feel.

Jim Staley w/ Ikue Mori & Kyoko Kitamura
Wed Dec 9 – 8:30 PM
Trombonist, composer, and founder of Roulette Jim Staley has been shaking up the downtown scene for over 30 years. Working primarily with improvisation, crossing genres freely between post-modern classical music and avant-garde jazz, Staley has collaborated for many years with other highly experienced improvisers, both dancers and musicians. Tonight, Staley is joined by laptop virtuoso and longtime collaborator Ikue Mori and multilingual, electronics enhanced vocalist Kyoko Kitamura.

INTERPRETATIONS: FLUX Quartet performs David First / Dom Minasi String Quartet
Thu Dec 10 – 8:00 PM
An evening of music by two guitarist/composers, both writing for chamber string ensemble – FLUX, comprised of many of New York’s premiere instrumentalists. “Guitarist and electronic composer David First’s subtle way with drones and other extended tones reveals a musician who successfully controls the barely controllable” (K. Leander Williams, Time Out NY). Tonight, the eclectic composer and punk-era innovator premiers new music for string quartet, performed by the fearlessly dynamic new music ensemble, the FLUX Quartet. Guitarist/composer Dom Minasi offers his own unique take on the concept of a string quartet, fashioning an ensemble that is equal parts chamber music and jazz. Comprised of players with whom Minasi has worked for many years, the music was not simply composed with a specific instrumentation in mind, but each unique player’s personality was embedded into the writing. Minasi’s group will perform music from their recent CD Dissonance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder, featuring Dom Minasi on nylon string guitar, with violinist Jason Hwang, cellist Tomas Ulrich, and bassist Ken Filiano.

Susie Ibarra “Drum Sketches”
Fri Dec 11 – 8:30 PM
Percussionist/Composer Susie Ibarra performs a rare evening of new solos and compositions featured on her solo cd, Drum Sketches on Innova Records. Drum Sketches are mixed with folkloric and contemporary percussive sounds and field recordings which “translate her interpretations of Filipino ambiance” in non traditional ways . “In the past decade, her willingness to step out from behind the kit and embrace non jazz forms- opera, poetry experimental sound, dance-has taken her from that initial buzz from below Houston Street to international reknown as a composer, performer and proponent of folkloric music.” New York Times.

Sat Dec 12 – 8:00 PM
All-Star quintet Joey Baron, Robert Black, Larry Polansky, Robyn Schulkowsky, and Christian Wolff present the music of Christian Wolff both old and new – including a premiere of new long form piece written specifically for this quintet. Christian Wolff studied piano with Grete Sultan and composition, briefly, with John Cage. Though mostly self-taught as a composer, the work of John Cage, Morton Feldman, David Tudor and Earle Brown have been important to him, as well as long associations with Cornelius Cardew and Frederic Rzewski. Tonight marks the filming of the next episode of Roulette TV

Sun Dec 13 – 8:00 PM
Avant-garde jazz drummer Joey Baron has worked with an impressive list of musicians, including everyone from Bill Frisell, Stan Getz, and Tony Bennett to John Zorn, Laurie Anderson, Fred Frith, and Tim Berne. His own groups he has led include the “Down Home Group”, Barondown, and Killer Joey and was a member of “Naked City” (with John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Fred Frith and Wayne Horvitz) and of Zorn’s group Masada (Dave Douglas and Greg Cohen). Tonight Joey Baron presents an evening of solo percussion music for this installment of Roulette TV.

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Vox Arcana Play Chicago

From the Chicago Reader:

Vox Arcana’s compositions look to three distinct sources of inspiration: the New York School composers (Earle Brown, Morton Feldman, John Cage), early minimalists LaMonte Young and Terry Riley, and key AACM figures Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Leroy Jenkins. On the trio’s self-titled debut the pieces create a productive tension between written sections and wide-open improvisation: rigorously structured, highly kinetic parts dissolve into spontaneous eruptions where lines and textures collide in exhilarating bursts. Lonberg-Holm’s bowing alternates between viscous and delicate, and he sometimes adds heavy electronic effects to his output. Daisy, in other settings a ferociously driving drummer, focuses on color and clatter here; on some pieces he even adds marimba. Falzone is the one player who keeps it simple, his buoyant tone dancing amid the chaos or leaping into his instrument’s upper register for a paint-peeling squeal.

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The Squid’s Ear Reviews

From the Squid’s Ear:

Morris / Voigt / Plsek – MVP LSD: The Graphic Scores of Lowell Skinner Davidson
Wadada Leo Smith / Jack Dejohnette – America
Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto with Ensemble Modern – Utp
Mary Halvorson / Reuben Radding / Nate Wooley – Crackleknob
Christof Kurzmann / Burkhard Stangl – neuschnee
Biosphere – Wireless
Sophie Agnel – Capsizing Moments
Annette Krebs & Rhodri Davies – Kravis Rhonn Project
Ikue Mori – Class Insecta
Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra – Poetics
Morton Feldman – For Bunita Marcus
Juno el Grande – Neo Dada

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The DownTown Ensemble to Perform

The DownTown Ensemble puts on a show in New York:

The SoundArt Foundation presents the DownTown Ensemble in
According to Brian
Thursday, June 25, 8pm $15/10

Renee Weiler Auditorium, Greenwich House, 46 Barrow St.

The DownTown Ensemble’s June 25th concert at the Greenwich House Music Schoo; will feature six composers in the great tradition of experimental music pioneered by Charles Ives and Carl Ruggles and more recently typified by John Cage, Earle Brown and Morton Feldman. Two of these composers, Brian Dewan and Yvette Perez will perform World Premieres. Also featured on the program will be specially arranged compositions by Phil Corner, Peter Zummo, and Pauline Oliveros; and pieces by William Hellermann and Mary Jane Leach.

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Hathut Sales at the Jazz Loft

Hathut is having a HUGE sale at the Jazz Loft, basically, at $3.50 per CD, to celebrate their 35 years in business.

In 1975, Werner X. Uehlinger founded HatHutRecords simply in order to document the artistry of a musician he heard through a chance encounter-saxophonist / trumpeter Joe McPhee. Today, over twenty-five years and more than 300 LP and CD releases later, HatHut stands as one of the most adventurous and important independent New Music labels
in the world. It has grown from an out-of-pocket venture to an established enterprise, from small press runs of black vinyl to a line of beautifully (and ecologically responsible) packaged CD-only releases. From the beginning, the label has shown a high regard for graphic design, cover art, and program notes, striving to create not just a musical artifact but a multifaceted work of art with each new release.

Though HatHut began as a label with undeniable jazz roots (although primarily of the avant-garde variety), its catalogue now boasts such recognized Classical / New Music names as Stockhausen, Cage, Scelsi, Haubenstock-Ramati, and Tenney, and the label has been widely acclaimed as one of the key reasons for the rediscovery and renewed popularity of Morton Feldman because of its many highly praised recordings of that composer’s music. But the label especially prides itself on the many musicians it has documented and grown with, who were lesser known or unknown at the time. Though in this regard HatHut has long been devoted to music far from the commercial mainstream-the jazz or classical mainstream-the label has more than survived, it has artistically flourished.

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Yvonne Lee in Seattle


8:00 PM; $5-$15 sliding scale donation at the door (WCF members attend one concert in the Transport series free). Presented by Washington Composers Forum, Nonsequitur, and Jack Straw Productions. WCF’s Transport Series is sponsored by 4Culture.

Pianist Yvonne Lee performs music by modern masters: Anton Webern‘s Variations, Opus 27; Elliott Carter‘s Retrouvailles and 90 ; Morton Feldman‘s Palais de Mari; and Helmut Lachenmann’s Ein Kinderspiel and Serynade. Also, Unsound Grounds by young composer Trevor Gureckis.

Yvonne Lee is a Boston-based pianist and composer. She has recently appeared at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Germany, JD Robb Composers’ Symposium in New Mexico, Banff Centre, Music Academy of the West, Boston’s WGBH studio and Jordan Hall, and the REDCAT space in Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles. As a pianist, Yvonne has been hailed as “particularly forceful” by the San Diego Tribune and “enrapturing” by the Boston Music Intelligencer. Recent collaborations include a recording with violinist János Négyesy of the complete Mozart Violin and Piano Sonatas and performances of Messiaen’s Visions de L’Amen and Stockhausen’s Mantra. Yvonne’s compositions will next be featured in April as part of the SWAN festival in Boston.

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The Dream of the Ants at the Issue Project Room

On Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009, a performance by The Dream of the Ants, a new chamber ensemble led by guitarist Terrence McManus will take place at New York’s Issue Project Room.

They will performing a new multi-sectional, through-composed work entitled, The Machine. The piece is divided into seven overlapping sections, and is highly influenced by the work of Morton Feldman, Gyorgy Ligeti, and Bela Bartok.

The Dream of the Ants
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Issue Project Room
The (OA) Can Factory
232 3rd Street, 3rd Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11215

The Dream of the Ants
Terrence McManus-classical guitar
Ellery Eskelin-saxophone
Gerry Hemingway-drums


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