AMN Reviews: San Francisco Tape Music Center – Music from the Tudorfest [New World Records 80762-2]

81QdpSvthxL._SX425_Over the course of six evenings in spring, 1964, the San Francisco studio of radio station KPFA was the site of an exciting presentation of experimental music and proto-performance art cosponsored by KPFA and the San Francisco Tape Music Center. Initiated by composer/musician Pauline Oliveros and curated by pianist David Tudor, the aptly titled Tudorfest featured new and recent work by John Cage, Oliveros, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Alvin Lucier and George Brecht. A selection of performances from those evenings has been brought together in this historically important three-CD set.

The Tape Music Center was the natural choice for undertaking an event like the Tudorfest. Established in 1961 as a studio and performance venue for Bay Area experimental composers and musicians, the center played a key role in fostering new music and intermedia and acted as a kind of bridge between the West Coast performing arts avant-garde and the nascent counterculture. The two groups shared a communal mentality manifesting itself in the spirit of spontaneous invention and an openness to the moment; the arrow of influence here may well have run in either direction. Thus the Tudorfest combined improvisation—embodied in Oliveros’ work for her accordion and Tudor’s newly adopted bandoneon, with vocal contributions from a sporadically gregarious mynah bird—with open form compositions by Cage and Ichiyanagi as well as conceptually-oriented work by Brecht and Lucier. (Because these latter were quasi-theatrical performance pieces relying on a visual element, they were not represented on the release.)

The Cage pieces included here were composed during a time when Cage was turning from chance-generated compositions to compositions employing indeterminacy as a structuring principle. Sometimes this entailed creating scores on transparencies that could be superimposed in varying combinations (Music Walk, Atlas Eclipticalis and Variations II); sometimes it meant scoring works as a series of pages to be chosen at the performer’s discretion (Concert for Piano and Orchestra); sometimes it involved allowing the performer to choose ways to prepare an instrument (34’46.776” for Two Pianos).

Perhaps the most notorious of these indeterminate works—notorious because of its legendary mishandling by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic just weeks before its realization at the Tudorfest—was Atlas Eclipticalis, performed at the Tudorfest in tandem with an electronic version of Winter Music by a sixteen piece ensemble notable for including Tudor on piano, Stuart Dempster on trombone, Oliveros on tuba, Loren Rush on double bass, Morton Subotnick on clarinet, and future Mother of Invention Ian Underwood on flute and piccolo. The need for the performers to realize the work as a kind of collaboration with the composer is encoded in the orchestration; Atlas Eclipticalis (1961-1962), like the Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1957-1958), calls for each member of the ensemble to function as a soloist with a separate part. The resulting sound is a kaleidoscopic constellation of notes and noises entering and exiting individually, sometimes sounding alone and sometimes overlapping. The less conventionally scored chance work Music Walk (1957) for piano, radios and other sound makers, and Variations II (1961), for any kind of sound maker, share with Atlas an audio profile made up of discontinuous sound events spread out or clustered into an unpredictable overall texture.

Cage’s 1954 time-length composition 34’46.776” for prepared piano opens the set and is in many respects the most compelling work included. The chance-composed work was originally written for Tudor and premiered at Donaueschingen; it was accompanied by 31’57.9864,” another, simpler duration work for prepared piano that Cage wrote for himself to play while Tudor played 34’46.776.” The works’ pitches were specified but the matter of which preparations to use and how to place them during the course of the performance were left up to the performers. As interpreted by Tudor and Dwight Peltzer (the latter playing 31’57.9864”), the work is a tour de force of linear klangfarbenmelodie. Given the ways the pianos were prepared, some pitches are left with their natural colors, some are muted or made to buzz or rattle, some are simply rendered into pitchless sounds. The interaction between Tudor and Peltzer allows lines to develop with a marked clarity as phrasal continuity is maintained throughout constant changes of pitched and unpitched timbres passing back and forth between the two pianists.

The two Ichiyanagi compositions included in the set are two versions of Music for Piano No. 4 (1960), one electric and one acoustic. Ichiyanagi’s score consists of enigmatic verbal instructions which the performer must then translate into concrete actions. Tudor’s interpretation entailed taking objects and rubbing them against the outside of the piano. (The electronic version calls for putting contact microphones on the objects.) What Tudor elicits from the instrument is in some real sense the sound of a piano, albeit one whose strings are left untouched.

In the fifty years since the Tudorfest the idea that musical performances can encompass sounds and gestures outside of traditional conventions is, if not universally accepted, at the very least admissible. This wasn’t the case in 1964, and it’s therefore significant that the critical response to the Tudorfest—to judge from Alfred Frankenstein’s review in the San Francisco Chronicle—was, in contrast to the hostile response Cage’s work found in New York the February before, sympathetic. In fact, the Bay Area seems to have been unusually open to experimentation with and between art forms as well as to contacts between the art music avant-garde and musicians working in other genres. So much so that by the time of the Trips Festival in January 1966 the local center of cultural gravity was shifting from the avant-garde to the psychedelic bands, many of whose members had attended Tape Music Center events and had been inspired by what they saw and heard. This set is a valuable artifact documenting one moment from that time of great ferment.

http://www.newworldrecords.org

New on Deep Listening

From Deep Listening, three new releases.

DVD:
IO AND HER AND THE TROUBLE WITH HIM
A dance-opera in primeval time

Written and directed by Ione
Music and sound design by Pauline Oliveros

A collaborative venture among artists of all types, this “dance-opera” is a multimedia panorama of experimental theatre and technical virtuosity that includes aerial ballet, masks, video projection, a sinister thousand-eyed monster, and a highly imaginative electronic soundscape.

http://www.deeplistening.org/site/catalog/Ione

CD:
STEPHAN MOORE – TO BUILD A FIELD

Stephan Moore has spent the last five years touring with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as a core member of their live band. At the same time, he has been collaborating with a number of younger choreographers to create sound scores for their performance works. To Build A Field collects the best of these pieces, drawn from six of his commissions by four very different choreographers. The CD’s title refers to Moore’s view of his role in these collaborations: designing and executing sonic structures that define the emotional and rhythmic topography of time. Each track negotiates a balance between acoustic sound sources and electronics, live performance and studio composition, and human vs. algorithmic control of sound materials. Time is continually bent into new shapes, challenging the listener, and his collaborators, to think beyond the easy comforts of a regular tempo, and confront rhythm as texture instead of a reliable grid.

http://www.deeplistening.org/site/catalog/Moore

DIGITAL DOWNLOAD:
TRIPLE POINT

The trio Triple Point was founded by Jonas Braasch, Pauline Oliveros, and Doug Van Nort in 2008 and complemented by Stuart Dempster for this recording. The band derives its name from the thermodynamical point in the phase diagram where all three phases of water exist. Figuratively, this is where the trio operates exploring musical spaces and boundary conditions where contrasting ideas and streams can co-exist, while expanding the vocabulary of musical instruments acoustically (Braasch on soprano saxophone) and electronically (Oliveros, digital accordion and Expanded Instrument System, EIS, Doug van Nort on laptop and GREIS).

http://tinyurl.com/triplepointdownload

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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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Upcoming Seattle Shows

From the Wayward Music Series:

THIS WEEK AT THE CHAPEL:

FRI. 5/22, 8 PM – WA Composers Forum presents Michael Nicolella, guitar – music by Nicolella, Octavio Vasquez, Steve Reich, Jacob ter Veldhuis, Leo Brouwer, and Jimi Hendrix

SAT. 5/23, 7 & 8:30 PM – Nonsequitur presents Deep Listening Band with Stuart Dempster, David Gamper, and Pauline Oliveros (reservations strongly suggested – email gscchapel@gmail.com and be sure to specify 7 PM or 8:30 show and how many in your party)

COMING UP:

SAT. 5/30 – Oana Rusu-Tomai (piano) with Julie Cho (cello), Natalie Lerch (soprano), and Victoria Parker (violin) – music of Gabriela Lena Frank and Argentinian composers Piazzolla, Guastavino, Buchardo, and Cassadó

WED. 6/3, 7:30 – Subtext Reading Series presents Jim McCrary and Paul Nelson

FRI. 6/5 – Simon Wickham-Smith and Santiago La Torre, electro-acoustic music

SAT. 6/6, 2 PM – Keith Eisenbrey, works for piano

SAT. 6/6, 8 PM – Pran – Greg Powers & Stuart Dempster play Dhrupad music on trombone and dijeridu

THU. 6/11, 8 PM – Nonsequitur presents Harold Budd, celebrating new book of poems and duos with bassist Keith Lowe

FRI. 6/12 – Gregory Campbell, percussion

SAT. 6/13 – Wally Shoup Quartet – WS, alto sax; Gust Burns, piano; Paul Kikuchi, percussion; Bob Rees, drums & vibes

FRI. 6/19 – Briana Jones, butoh performance

SAT. 6/20 – Affinity, contemporary chamber ensemble

THU. 6/25 – Nonsequitur presents Novi_Sad, electro-acoustic composer from Greece

FRI. 6/26 – Clifford Dunn, flute

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Coming up in Seattle

From Wayward Music:

THIS WEEK AT THE CHAPEL:

Only one concert this week, but it’s a good one…

FRI. 5/15, 8 PM – Nonsequitur presents Chicago composer Olivia Block performing Untitled for piano and electronics, and Stupid Afternoon, a new piece for chamber ensemble with Tiffany Lin, Paul Taub, Jesse Canterbury, Tari Nelson-Zagar, Sarah Bass, Lori Goldston, and Julia Tai.

COMING UP:

FRI. 5/22, 8 PM – WA Composers Forum presents Michael Nicolella, guitar

SAT. 5/23, 7 & 8:30 PM – Nonsequitur presents Deep Listening Band with Stuart Dempster, David Gamper, and Pauline Oliveros (reservations strongly suggested – email gscchapel@gmail.com and specify which show and how many in your party)

SAT. 5/30 – Oana Rusu-Tomai (piano) with Julie Cho (cello), Natalie Lerch (soprano), and Victoria Parker (violin) – music of Gabriela Lena Frank and Argentinian composers Piazzolla, Guastavino, Buchardo, and Cassadó

WED. 6/3, 7:30 – Subtext Reading Series

FRI. 6/5 – Simon Wickham-Smith and Santiago La Torre, electro-acoustic music

SAT. 6/6, 2 PM – Keith Eisenbrey, piano

SAT. 6/6, 8 PM – Pran – Greg Powers & Stuart Dempster play Dhrupad music on trombone and dijeridu

THU. 6/11, 8 PM – Nonsequitur presents Harold Budd, celebrating new book of poems and duos with bassist Keith Lowe

FRI. 6/12 – Gregory Campbell, percussion

SAT. 6/13 – Wally Shoup, alto saxophone

FRI. 6/19 – Briana Jones, butoh performance

SAT. 6/20 – Affinity, contemporary chamber ensemble

THU. 6/25 – Nonsequitur presents Novi_Sad, electro-acoustic composer from Greece

FRI. 6/26 – Clifford Dunn, flute

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Coming Shows at Wayward Music

From Seattle’s Wayward Music:

THIS WEEK AT THE CHAPEL

FRI. 4/17, 8 PM – 60 x 60 – touring “tape music” concert of one-minute electro-acoustic works by 60 different composers

SAT. 4/18, 2 PM – Music of Remembrance presents Steve Reich‘s “Different Trains” + Daniel Asia‘s “Breath in a Ram’s Horn”, FREE ADMISSION!
(this concert is not part of the Wayward series, but should be of interest to our audience)

COMING UP:

THU. 4/23 – Fragments publication event with Jeffrey Taylor (of Climax Golden Twins), Sokai Stilhed, Chet Corpt, The Cursory Design Realms of the Dreaming Mind, Apparent Movement + others TBA

FRI. 4/24 – Matt Ingalls, Bay Area clarinetist – compositions and improvisations, solo and with Jesse Canterbury and other Seattle artists TBA (note: due to visa problems, Seattle Chamber Players were forced to cancel this date)

SAT. 4/25, 8 PM – Nonsequitur presents Fred Frith, guitar improvisations

THU. 4/30 – WA Composers Forum presents electro-acoustic music by Morton Subotnick

FRI. 5/1 – Seattle Composers’ Salon, artists TBA

SAT. 5/2 – Andrew Boscardin, guitar

WED. 5/6 – Subtext Reading Series presents Beverly Dahlen & Ezra Mark

THU. 5/7 – Seattle Occultural Music Festival presents the Phonographers Union, Jason Kopec, Graham Banfield

FRI. 5/8 – Nonsequitur presents Bay Area pianist Sarah Cahill performs selections from eighteen recently commissioned works envisioning peace

SAT. 5/9 – Marcus Oldham, Seattle composer presents a retrospective of solo and chamber works from 1982 – 2008

FRI. 5/15 – Nonsequitur presents Chicago composer Olivia Block, new works for field recordings and acoustic ensemble

FRI. 5/22 – Michael Nicolella, guitar

SAT. 5/23 – Nonsequitur presents Deep Listening Band with Stuart Dempster, David Gamper, and Pauline Oliveros

SAT. 5/30 – Oana Rusu-Tomai, piano

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Fred Frith All-Star Birthday Concert

A bunch of pictures from Frith’s 60th.

This concert, billed as “The Music Of Fred Frith,” was presented as a celebration of Fred Frith’s 60th birthday this year, and took place at Mills College in Oakland CA on the Sunday afternoon of 5 April 2009. Featured were solo and ensemble improvisations, a Frith composition entitled “Water Stories” for chamber quintet, and Frith’s most recent rock quartet, Cosa Brava. It was a fine testament in performance to an artist who has been challenging, expanding and dissolving musical boundaries for forty years.

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Suoni Per Il Popolo 2009

Lisle Ellis performing live
Image via Wikipedia

This year’s Suoni Per Il Popolo takes place in Montreal during June. Some artists scheduled to appear include: Dave Burrell Trio with William Parker & Nasheet Waits, Fred Lonberg-Holm’s Valentine Trio, John Oswald with Germaine Liu and Scott Thomson, Nicole Mitchell’s Truth or Dare with Shirazette Tinnin and Renee Baker, Instant Coffee with Lisle Ellis, Monk’s Casino (Alexander von Schlippenbach, Axel Dörner, Rudi Mahall, Jan Roder, Uli Jennessen), Timeless Pulse (Thomas Buckner, voice; George Marsh, percussion; Pauline Oliveros, accordion; David Wessel, live-electronics; Jennifer Wilsey, percussion), Jean Derome/Nicolas Caloia/Isaiah Ceccarelli, Six Organs of Admittance and many others.

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Catching up with … Mills College’s Fred Frith

Fred Frith’s career as an educator is profiled:

Wreathed in early-morning fog, the Mills College campus in the Oakland hills looks like anything but the birthplace of experimental music.

But inside the Spanish colonial-style buildings on the 135-acre school – the first women’s college west of the Rockies – the Music Conservatory has for 80 years hosted the cream of the avant-garde.

Titanic talents have taught, performed and studied here, including Henry Cowell, John Cage, Lou Harrison and Darius Milhaud, electronic music pioneer Pauline Oliveros, minimalists Terry Riley and Steve Reich, and jazz innovator Roscoe Mitchell.

So it is pitch-perfect that the head of the department today is a musician who made his name in rock ‘n’ roll.

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Mills College Music Series Starts Today

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

If you’re in the Oakland area, stop by Mills:

Mills College will kick off opening night of its music series Saturday by honoring African-American performers and celebrating Black History Month.

The Mills Music Festival will feature pieces by Roscoe Mitchell, a leader in avant-garde jazz and contemporary music. They will be performed by Pauline Oliveros with Tony Martin; Terry Riley; Joseph Kubera and Joan Jeanrenaud.

The event, which runs through April, will be held inside the newly renovated Mills College Concert Hall. The music series will showcase cutting-edge contemporary musical performances that cross genres.

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