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: Ted Moore – Gilgamesh & Enkidu [Ravello RR7926]

rr7926 -gilgamesh-eknkiduGilgamesh and Enkidu is Minnesota composer Ted Moore’s recasting of the ancient Akkadian epic poem as a six-movement work for string quartet and electronics.

For Moore as both composer and musician, the integration of electronics with acoustic instruments puts him on known ground. His compositions frequently involve the use of SuperCollider for real-time sound processing and manipulation, and he regularly performs on laptop with wind player Kyle Hutchens in the improvisational duo Binary Canary.

For Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Moore augmented a traditional string quartet with himself on laptop. The string instruments’ sounds were fed into SuperCollider, which Moore used to create a fifth line cued from and complementing the strings’ lines. The presence of the electronics is subtle and serves to maintain the work’s focus on the writing for the strings. These in turn make equally subtle use of extended techniques, which are used in the service of the expressive content of the quartet rather than as ends in themselves. Still, they can provide significant thematic material, as for example in the first movement, when the cello plays a motif centered on bouncing the wood of the bow on and off the strings, or in the third movement, where the quartet’s expressive counterpoint unravels into siren-like, descending glissandi.

http://www.ravellorecords.com

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: The Quatuor BRAC – Hall des Chars [Blumlein Records CD-A026]

quatuorbrac3Traditionally, the string quartet is an ensemble optimized for contrapuntal music. But whereas the more conventional string quartet trades in a counterpoint of melodic line, the Quatuor BRAC trades in a counterpoint of timbre.

The Quatuor BRAC is a multinational group made up of violinist Tiziana Bertoncini (Vienna); violist Vincent Royer (Cologne); cellist Martine Altenburger (St. Silvain-sous-Toulx); and double bassist Benoit Cancoin (Trévoux). Hall des Chars, recorded 13 May 2014 in Strasbourg, is their second release. Like their first recording, this one consists of a single improvised live performance of substantial length.

The quartet’s vocabulary is that of contemporary art music for strings—chromatic lines, wide leaps of register, microtones, harmonics and drones, informed by a fluent grasp of extended technique in all of its nuances. The collective sound that emerges consists in an always-changing texture that reflects the group’s intuitive sense of balancing and contrasting densities and dynamics. Thick chords contributed to by all four members at once may give way to a silence barely broken by sotto voce harmonics and the swoop of the bow on dampened bass strings; pressured circular bowing on muted strings may overlap with the sound of strings tapped quietly with the tip of the bow. Underlying it all is a finely-accomplished timbral counterpoint wherein traditional note-against-note polyphony is largely supplanted by the placing of sounds selected for their color properties rather than their pitches. Central to the success of this approach is the ability of each player to create a continuity of line in tandem with or in contrast to the others; even during the most highly saturated passages the unique grain of each voice is maintained, no matter how modified it may be by unorthodox modes of sound production.

A fine excursion into twenty-first century counterpoint.

http://www.blumlein.net

How I became a fan of George Crumb

From the Times Online, reviews of recent Crumb performances.

The American composer George Crumb, who has just turned 80, is a pioneering spirit in the native tradition of Ives, Cowell and Cage, a figure with his roots in band music, gospel music and early jazz, but one who grafted himself onto the European avant-garde and gained much international réclame in the 1960s. Some of his works are contemporary classics — Ancient Voices of Children, for voices and ensemble; Black Angels, for electric string quartet — but in recent decades he has been a less potent presence, and performances of his music in this country are rare.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra’s adopting him for one of its Total Immersion days of concerts, talks and films at the Barbican was a welcome chance to consider his achievement afresh.

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Brooklyn’s IBeam in November

From the IBeam:

Ibeam Music
168 7th Street
Brooklyn NY 11215
http://www.ibeambrooklyn.com

November 5th
9:00 pm $10 suggested

Ralph Alessi and This Against That
Ralph Alessi – Trumpet
Tony Malaby – Tenor Sax
Ben Street – Bass
Andy Milne – Piano
Mark Ferber – Drums

November 6th
8:30 pm $10 suggested

Tim Flood & The Magic Powerhouse
Tim Flood – bass guitar & computer
Megalithic drone music for solo improvisor.

Jacob Garchik Trio
Jacob Garchik – trombone
Jacob Sacks – piano
Dan Weiss – drums

Trombonist and composer Jacob Garchik has worked with Slavic Soul Party, Lee Konitz and the Kronos Quartet but here he presents elegant and energetic compositions for his lithe trio. “Odd and excellent, taut with paradox” – Ben Ratliff, the New York Times http://www.jacobgarchik.com

November 7th
8:30 pm $10 suggested
Ignite a Noise Presents: A Residency in November 2009

Never Saw This Coming
Rich Johnson, Kirk Knuffke – trumpets
Brian Drye, Curtis Hasselbring – trombones

Taylor Ho Bynum Trio
Taylor Ho Bynum – cornet
Joe Morris – guitar
Sara Schoenbeck – bassoon
http://www.igniteanoise.com

November 13th
8:30 pm $10 suggested

Iron Dog
Sarah Bernstein – violin/processing
Stuart Popejoy – bass guitar/effects
Andrew Drury – drums/sounds

Iron Dog is electronic soundscapes, shifting distorted textures, freely synthesized, this and other worlds

November 14th
8:30 and 10 pm
$10 suggested
SWIPE Presents Cello Pudding Pops & The Nanny Problem

SWIPE (Sound Writers in Performative Emergence) is an experience that moves in the spirit of a collective There is no one given “sound” to SWIPE – rather artists draw upon their collective memories and influences to produce an eclectic body of We welcome and encourage members of the press and greater arts community to attend this fascinating double bill event.

1st set
SWIPE (Sound Writers in Performative Emergence) presents Cello Pudding Pops
Matt Steckler – reeds
Alex Waterman – cello
Andrew Drury – percussion

2nd set
SWIPE presents The Nanny Problem
Matt Steckler – reeds
Mark Taylor – french horn
Curtis Stewart – violin
Carl Maguire – piano
Joe Exley – tuba
Harris Eisenstadt – percussion

Nov 20th
8:30 pm $10 suggested
Ignite a Noise Presents:

Nate Wooley Duo
Nate Wooley – trumpet
Joe Morris – acoustic guitar

The only thing that can be predicted by these two improvisors is their consistent musical unpredictability. The duo recorded a beautiful CD at Roulette last year, which will come out on Clean Feed in early 2010.

We Can Build You
Rich Johnson – trumpet
Jason Rigby – tenor saxophone
http://www.myspace.com/wcby
http://www.igniteanoise.com

Nov 21st
8:30 pm $10 suggested
Ignite a Noise Presents:

Chris McIntyre Duo
Chris McIntyre – trombone
Pete Drungle – pianist/composer

Matt Lavelle
“Music for Flugelhorn and String Quartet”
Matt Lavelle – flugelhorn
String Quartet: Hilliard Greene, Daniel Levin, Jason Kwang, Francois Grillot
http://www.igniteanoise.com

November 27th
8:30 pm $10 Suggested

Elana Camerin Presents
Elena Camerin – voice
Nicola Fazzini -alto and soprano sax
Ron Hoton – trumpet
Khabu Doug Young – guitar
Bob Bowen – bass
Tony Moreno – drums

Music dedicated to Italian writer Italo Calvino

Nov 28th
8:30 pm $10 suggested
Ignite a Noise Presents:

The “Batteries” Duo
Gareth Flowers – trumpet and electronics
Josh Frank – trumpet and electronics

The “Batteries” Duo is an ambient psychedelic duo. Using laptops and samplers, the ‘Batteries’ duo creates a unique breed of spacious, timeless, non-jazz that is steeped in both traditional and non-traditional minimalism. The sets are mostly improvised, and often rely on a deliberately limited harmonic language to create the atmospheric, languishing sound that they are known for.

ORJE
Rich Johnson – trumpet, laptop
Eivind Opsvik – bass, electronics
+ Special Guest TBA
Drone glitchfolk duo from members of experimental chamber pop group Opsvik & Jennings.

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Vaudeville and Avant-Garde Strings at Le Poisson Rouge

From NYTimes.com:

The two shows at Le Poisson Rouge on Monday evening, though both rooted in classical music, could not have been more different. At the early show Polkastra, a virtuosic polka ensemble led by the violinist Lara St. John, with the composer Ronn Yedidia as its accordionist, played wildly idiosyncratic arrangements and original music from its new recording, “Apolkalypse Now.” A more restrained sort of virtuosity governed the late show, the Jack Quartet’s program of avant-garde string quartets in the Moving Sound Festival’s final concert.

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Coming to the ISSUE Project Room

From the ISSUE Project Room:

09/11 @ 8pm – Kenneth Goldsmith sings Roland Barthes with live String Quartet
A live String Quartet (Mari Kimura, Dana Lyn, violins; Jessica Pavone, viola; Egil Rostad, cello) will perform Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and improvisations in the style of Anton Webern while Kenneth Goldsmith sings text by Roland Barthes. Kenneth Goldsmith’s writing has been called some of the most exhaustive and beautiful collage work yet produced in poetry by Publishers Weekly. […]

09/13 @ 5pm – Honne Wells and Juan Comas Sacred Harp Greg Jamie FREE SHOW
ISSUE Project Room presents in collaboration with the Old American Can Factory Market: FREE Honne Wells and Sacred Harp Honne Wells and Juan Comas Honne Wells hails from America’s Bible Belt South. It is there that he has been mining below the “underground” music scene for the past four years. After settling in Baltimore, Wells, originally billed as the […]

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Tzadik To Release Jessica Pavone’s New CD In October

From Improvised Communications:

On October 27th, Tzadik will release violist/composer Jessica Pavone’s Songs of Synastry and Solitude (TZA-CD-7719) as part of the Oracles series, which celebrates “the diversity and creativity of women in experimental music making.” Inspired by the simple beauty of American folk songs, and singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate (Columbia), this recording features 11 of Ms. Pavone’s original compositions for string quartet (violin, viola, cello and double bass) being performed by members of the Toomai String Quintet. The group will celebrate the release of the record on Tuesday, November 10th with a live performance at Roulette in New York.

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