Friday, January 31, 2003
[65.3] SEE THE MUSIC
In Brighton tonight the London Sinfonietta arrives at the Dome with its sell-out QEH concert featuring Magnus Lindberg's stunning 'Related Rocks' (choreography by the Akram Khan Company), Edgar Varese's 'Deserts' (with a film by Bill Viola, famed for 'The Messenger' installation at Durham Cathedral in 1999), and two sonimations ('Daylights' and 'Grunt Transisitor') by British sound artists and animators Elise Chohan / Sarah Waterman and Richard Burns / Tim Holmes. You can additionally catch this concert at the Nottingham Playhouse (1 February), Manchester's Royal Northern College of Music (4 February), Coventry's Warwick Arts Centre (8 February) and the Cambridge Corn Exchange (10 February.
[65.2] INTERPLANETARY FUSION
Magma played last night at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall. Sadly I couldn't make it, but hopefully a report will be forthcoming from Charles Imperatori. Most of the websites dedicated to this curious outfit seem rather dated, but the South Bank's programme note summarises them well:
"In 1969, a young French jazz drummer named Christian Vander reportedly became so disturbed by Earth's spiritual/ecological decline that he began composing a vast futuristic musical parable concerning this dilemma. When Vander recruited musicians to perform his ongoing masterwork, the legendary group Magma was born.
"Over the course of Magma's career, the high water mark of 1973's 'Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh' and some 50 participating musicians, Vander and company depicted the mythic, sometimes violent struggle between the occupants of Earth and a group of ex-Earthlings inhabiting the fictional planet Kobaia. Vander's daunting music - which featured lyrics sung in an invented Kobaian language - was a thoroughly unique idiom forged from John Coltrane-style jazz, the choral music of Carl Orff and Igor Stravinsky and highly dissonant jazz-rock fusion. Both in it's gigantic conceptual scope and it's utterly singular sound, Magma's music dwarfed that of numerous rock peers and stands as one of the most remarkable oeuvres in modern music." (c) SBC
[65.1] ANOTHER COUNTRY
Album: ‘The Willies’
Artist: Bill Frisell
CD 13 May, 2002
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Nonesuch 7559796522
A superficial inspection of 'The Willies' would suggest that boffin-ish guitar wunderkind Bill Frisell has finally bitten off less than he can chew. But as always with this most enigmatic of musicians, there's more here than immediately meets the ear. Bluegrass standards are transfigured by shimmering harmonics; conventional beats are traversed by languid, tricky soloing; counter-melodies hint at depth and darkness in otherwise pale, homely landscapes.
Frisell has always featured country licks in his vast palette of inflections, tones and effects. Here the homage is direct and respectful. 'The Willies' is a more developed successor to 'Nashville' (1995), and a more orthodox and manifest account of its source materials than 'Good Dog Happy Man' (1999).
Since the overall aim seems to be to allow some major bluegrass themes their own eloquence, whether you like the result will depend to a much greater degree (compared to some other Frisell albums) on how the underlying themes strike you.
Uncluttered by percussion, this trio weaves its chief protagonist's slow winding, angular, decaying, chord-riven sound in and out of the traditional banjo (Danny Barnes), bass (Keith Lowe) and pump organ (Barnes again) mix. The result is art in unexpected places - a music that grows and mutates as you allow it to sink in. Dave Holland and Elvin Jones it isn't, but what it is shows itself worthy of patience and attention.
If you are new to Frisell and want a flavour of his universe, a better starting point would be the ECM :rarum ‘Selected Recordings’ disc (2002), or even 1993’s American sound-book – Ives and Copland included – ‘Have A Little Faith’. This is yet another stage in an extraordinary musical journey.
Thursday, January 30, 2003
"Greatness enters art in the 20th century as a by-product of mass media. Arturo Toscanini was the first conductor to be designated 'great' when RCA imported him to America, with massive fanfare, as its network maestro. The catalogue of his recordings created a canon of 'great composers'. The twin cults of the great conductor and the great composer have conspired ever since to stultify concert life in the US." Norman Lebrecht (London Evening Standard, 29 January 2003)
"Israel can boast a leader, just and brave, a friend to freedom." (Last line of G.F.Handel's 'Joshua', sung at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall on the same night that hard-liner Ariel Sharon was re-elected. See Erica Jeal)
[64.1] KOSMIC GROOVES
I've been wondering just how many other weblogs there are out there dedicated to different aspects of new (non-pop) music: twentieth century and contemporary 'classical', improv, progressive jazz, electronica, conceptual, out/post-rock and so on. Enquiries haven't thrown much up. December.org (mentioned before and always worth a visit) has been around since '94 and is an honoured companion of NFE with a special interest in post/minimalism. There are a few good jazz-logs, like Erg. But not many with a real new music twist... One highly intriguing and rewarding recent find is DJ Martian's page. It is extremely well organised and documented. I'll let the good deej describe the genre-bending nature of its interests him/herself:
"A diverse .. positive weblog for the discerning listener with an interest in creative artistic music across the contemporary sound spectrum, including: Jungle/drum 'n' bass, industrial/ electro-industrial/ ebm, synth pop/ electroclash, dark metal, darkwave/ gothic/ ethereal, shoegazer/dream pop sounds, techno/tech house/deep house/progressive house, psychedelic trance, electro, breakbeat/ nu skool breaks, art-rock/ avant rock/ electro-rock/ epic alt-rock/ experimental rock/ kraut rock/ math rock/ post-hardcore/ post rock/ space-rock, IDM/ experimental electronics/ ambient/ glitch sounds/ folktronica/ downbeat, Leftfield instrumental electronified hip-hop, hardcore/ metalcore/ noisecore, post punk, Kozmigroov, electronic/ avant jazz, dub and many other hybrids and musical mutations."
Well, that's enough categories to be getting on with... And in case you were wondering about Kozmigroove [there's this link]. A fabulous playground of stuff... Happy trawling....
Wednesday, January 29, 2003
[63.2] RATTLE SHAKES BERLIN
In addition to some adventurous initial programming (Turnage, Thomas Ades) and a robust approach to public relations, Simon Rattle's tenure as artistic director and principal conductor of the otherwise staid Berlin Philaharmonic Orchestra has, appropriately enough, taken a philanthropic turn. Recognising the social as well as artistic responsibilities of being at the heart of a fast-changing Europe, Rattle has developed a programme to work with migrant children - from Poland, Nigeria, Iraq and several other countries. The first project is training young dancers to take on Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring'.
"Part of our job as an orchestra is to be part of the city - to get underneath it and not be some expensive ornament," says Rattle, who (reports John Hooper in The Guardian) took charge of Berlin's debt-laden but most valued cultural jewel last year just as the first cuts were being made to the city's budget. In a climate as suspicious of immigrants and refugees as it is towards too much cultural innovation, Rattle is taking a risk. Eyebrows will be raised and he will certainly make enemies. But his courage and commitment - to the classical tradition, to new music, to social change - are really encouraging signs.
Tara Haddad, aged 15, arrived in the German capital five months ago after leaving Baghdad. "For me the most difficult thing is the idea," she said. "Why did Stravinsky want to make this music and why did they want to do this dance with Stravinsky's music? This music is sad and I've always danced to happy music before. Well, Eminem."
But she was clearly very excited by the project. So excited, in fact, that she was having difficulty sleeping.
(c) Guardian Newspapers
[63.1] ODES TO JOY
Album: Choral Works
Composer: Georg Friederich Handel
Conductor: Sir David Willcocks
Performer: Elsie Morison, Jacqueline Delman, et al.
Orchestra: St Anthony Singers, Philomusica of London
Label: Double Decca 4602872
Number of Discs: 2
Two classic re-issues for the price of one. 'L'Allegro il penseroso ed il moderato' brings together Sir David Willcocks, some fluent chamber players and the illustrious tenor Peter Pears - not the most orthodox of Handel interpreters in an era of so-called authentic performance, but here appropriately sonorous.
The greater feast, however, is the 'Ode for St Cecelia', whose spiritual patronage of the sonic arts first really took off in the seventeenth century and has not looked back since. April Cantelo and Choir of King's College Cambridge offer an inspired and inspiring account of a rich, celebratory and gorgeously double-rhythmed delight.
For me this digital transfer (the original LP was Decca 436-259-2, still worth getting if you can) doesn't quite capture the warmth and intensity of a recording that dates back some 40 years. As far as I can detect there has been no re-engineering, and at times the result is a little thin. Never mind: set your graphic equaliser to work, turn up the volume to get the full effect of those trumpet blasts and prepare yourself for a carnival of unashamed Handelian jollity.
Tuesday, January 28, 2003
[62.1] LATERAL THINKING
CD: 18 May, 2001
Label: Music for Nations 79210132
Number of Discs: 1
This is a band that has been touted for some time as a forerunner at the more thoughtful end of the burgeoning progressive metal scene - not, it has to be said, much of a listening orbit for me. But I enjoyed Gordian Knot (see 23 January, below), and when I last caught Steven Wilson's art-rock outfit Porcupine Tree on their US makeover tour (for 'In Absentia'), Tool was a much-referenced comparison among the punters. I can see some affinities, but having spun what seems to be their most outré statement so far, 'Lateralus', I wouldn't put them in the same category.
Sure, they are an undeniably competent bunch of musicians, and there are moments when Louis Pattison’s epithets (‘sprawling, complex, ambitious’) make sense. In some of their quieter interludes, shorn of those testosterone-injected vocals that pass for 'emotion' (or, at least, emoting) among over-excitable young men, Tool produce some pleasing - if not overly remarkable - instrumental patterns. Moody atmospherics swap places with paradiddly rhythmic motifs and a certain brooding intensity. But then those loud, melodically-declined power chords smash their way in. 'Lateralus' comes across as something of a compromise between the conservative, crowd-pulling habits of stadium rock and a set of more creative, left-field instincts.
'Reflections' was, for me, the one to keep on listening to. And I wonder whether 'Faap de Oiad' is a calling card for an even more experimental Tool? That would be a good thing. They clearly have a fair bit of unrealised potential. Whether they have an audience and a record label to allow them to go further remains to be seen.
Monday, January 27, 2003
[61.2] TRANS ATLANTIC HORN QUARTET
The Trans Atlantic Horn Quartet (yup, that’s how they render it) comprises Michael Thompson, Richard Watkins, David Ohanian, and Skip Snead. On their latest recording they offer a live and unedited performance of Tippett’s 'Horn Quartet'; Hindemith’s 'Horn Quartet'; Vinter’s ‘Hunter’s Moon’ (Watkins); Kirchner’s ‘Lament for Orfeo’ (Thompson), and more. It can be ordered in the UK at the Paxman site. (Note that the Michael Tippett website gives the wrong URL.)
The TAHQ is dedicated to a multi-part musical mission. It seeks to expand the existing repertoire through commissions and other means, while promoting the mainstays of the horn quartet literature. In addition, concerts may be tailored to include standard works for three horns, for two horns, or for solo horn.
TAHQ's main teaching effort has been a multi-faceted seminar offered each year. The Summer Seminar 2003 (June 8th - June 14th, 2003) will provide hornists with a variety of experiences, including private lessons, daily masterclasses, daily ensemble coachings, daily orchestral reading sessions, and opportunities for solo and ensemble performance. Most evenings will feature a concert by the Quartet or some its members, guest artists, and Seminar participants. A printable application form can be found on their website.
[61.1] SOUND ADVENTURES
I stayed on home territory in Brighton on Saturday night, where Spring Heel Jack played two fascinating sets at the Corn Exchange. They were recording for a possible future live release. A review will follow shortly. You can still catch them in Leeds on Wednesday, with two concerts following in Gateshead and Kendal. Details at CMN tours. The duo are also put through their paces in The Wire's 'Invisible Jukebox' in the February 2003 issue (out now). Find out what they make of Birtwistle's 'Earth Dances', among other pieces.
Meanwhile, as a taster - since it features two of the same experimentalists – here are critic Charles Imperatori’s informative musings regarding last November’s ‘Adventures in Sound’ from London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. Go to Evophonic. Featured artists included Scorch Trio (with Mark Sanders), Gerald Whitney Cleaver, DJ Spooky, William Parker, Evan Parker, Matthew Shipp, Matthew Bourne and The Electric Dr M. Imperatori concludes:
“ 'Adventures In Sound' provide[d] a heady mixture of high and low feelings where the short term implications of sonic failure are outweighed by the enormous potential of international collaborations. All the organisers have to do is bring this interesting proposal back to London next year.” Here’s hoping. See theCyclinder at livewirelistings.
You can levitate to extensive excerpts from 'Adventures in Sound' for yourself courtesy of the ever-wonderful BBC Radio 3. What an extraordinary sound archive they have. See also John Eyles at AllAboutJazz.
Sunday, January 26, 2003
[60.2] SHEPPARD PRE-SETS
Andy Sheppard, the innovative jazz saxophonist, has recently played with contemporary classical pianist Joanna MacGregor. They later join the Britten Sinfonietta for a short tour from 14 - 30 November. Sheppard's marvellous world-beat 'Nocturnal Tourist' (featuring the soloist on tenor and soprano saxophones, WX11 Wind Synth, electric guitar, midi guitar and keyboards) was released just under a year ago. He is now putting the finished touches to a new CD called 'PS'. It will appear soon on Provocateur Records (launch due 31 March). This time Sheppard is working in collaboration with guitarist John Paricelli. To accompany the new material there is a short residency at Ronnie Scott's in London (7-12 April). Among a series of British gigs, Sheppard plays 'The Circus' in Stratford, East London, on 7 February, with Steve Lodder (keys) and Alec Dankworth (trumpet). More details will be forthcoming at promoters Serious. They have *.ram tracks at their 'Sting of the Month'.
[60.1] YET MORE DIFFICULT LISTENING
From time-to-time NFE posts schedules from the more creative radio stations broadcasting over the net. The latest Difficult Listening playlist (Unamunos Quorum, Smidirin, Robert Calvert, Rasmus B Lunding and Philip Samartzis, Smoper, Lazy, Ken Montgomery, Snawklor, Michele Biasutti and Candlesnuffer) can be found in their post here logged on rec.music.experimental. They include links for each track, helpfully.
Saturday, January 25, 2003
[59.2] PIANOCIRCUS: LANDSCAPES OF THE HEART
There have been rumours floating around recently that the innovative ensemble pianocircus have been contemplating some major changes of direction in the light of persistent financial difficulties … ones not unrelated to continuing policy shifts at the Arts Council. This follows on from the recent departure of founder member Richard Harris, and also Richard Haxel, who has been part of pc since 1999. Whatever the complexities of keeping the show on the road, you are strongly advised to look out for their fascinating new 2003 production, which hopefully betokens a continued flourishing of this highly creative sextet:
“A collaboration between pianocircus and the aerial theatre company Scarabeus, ‘Landscapes of the Heart’ involves five dancers and five pianists, with all ten performers (and five keyboards) suspended in mid-air on ropes and harnesses. Lasting 45 minutes, the work is scored by pianocircus founder member Richard Harris, with the members of pianocircus playing live on top of a specially composed pre-recorded backing track.
”The soundtrack CD and a poster will be available to purchase at every performance. The CD [is now] available to purchase directly from [our] website - email@example.com, priced £10.
” ‘Landscapes of the Heart’ is a personal homage to the seductive pull of the city. Inspired by Marco Polo's visions of imaginary metropolises in Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities', [it] suggests in equal measure the sense of displacement and belonging which urban living endows the traveller / emigrant / refugee.”
The 2003 dates will be announced shortly. I was fortunate enough to catch the 2002 pc tour (before they went to Argentina and Switzerland) with Heiner Goebbels’ ‘Scutigeras’, a vigourous work involving a blend of acoustic and electronic approaches – including a delightfully retro Moog-style.
"These are by no means straight arrangements: the six players alternate between two grand pianos, four sampling keyboards and a spinet, transform the piano sounds in various ways, play a variety of conventional and unconventional percussion, and incorporate a variety of mechanical and natural sounds." (Andrew Clements)
pianocircus continue to focus on a rich repertoire of multiple piano works (many created specifically with them in mind). But, as in their dalliance with the Future Sound of London, they tune in to other aural realms.
[59.1] TAKING THE RAP?
“Fat-headed, self-important windbags who should try thinking before talking: It’s all very well for musicians to claim that it’s no fault of theirs when some attention seeking politician makes a bloody fool of himself spouting rubbish about their videos causing gang warfare in Birmingham. But the likes of So Solid Crew should remember that many middle-aged white men are impressionable, unsophisticated and have no minds of their own – they lack, to coin a phrase, maturity and boundaries. Art is a powerful influence, especially on the feeble minded, and just as the Beatles all but sharpened Charles Manson’s knife, so So Solid Crew must accept responsibility for the indiscriminate assault on logic perpetrated by [UK government minister Kim] Howells and [Home Secretary David] Blunkett.”
Andrew Mueller [© 2002] cuts to the chase in the great ‘Is Hip-Hop Responsible For Urban Violence’ non-debate in Britain (The Guide, 18-24 January 2003).
Friday, January 24, 2003
[58.1] SHADOWS AND SUN
Album: Symphony No 1 / Chant of Darkness / Chant of Light
Composer: George Barati
CD: December 2001
Catalogue: Naxos 85559063
No of discs: 1
Several people I have played this to without any information about the identity of the composer immediately declared 'Shostakovich' on first hearing the stabs of brass and brooding contrapuntal strings of the opening maestoso from George Barati's First Symphony, 'The Alpine', composed in 1963. Similarly the meditative quality of the andantino tranquillo is not a hundred miles away from early Bartok.
This is not to suggest that Barati, who died in 1996 aged 83, was a derivative composer. On the contrary, his voice is strong and distinctive. But it is to say that his aural universe is heavily shaped by the Eastern and Central European tradition, including that of his Hungarian forebears. Schoenberg, jazz, Debussy, Stravinsky, the indigenous music of the Pacific region and the great nineteenth century symphonists also exercise influence. A first-rank conductor who drew on performance and his formative compositional studies with Roger Sessions after he arrived in the US in the 1930s, Barati admired the atonalists and borrowed ideas from them. But he continued to work in a more expressive vein.
The First Symphony, here recorded for the first time, gives rein to Barati's complex songfulness, biting rhythmic force and dark, chromatic tendencies. The melodic and developmental material is strong. A good number of thematic ideas are introduced, extended and brought together in just 25 minutes, though the ending seemed a little brusque and formulaic to me.
Contrasting with this work from the period of his flourishing maturity are the two orchestral pieces from 1993 and 1994-5. 'Chant of Darkness' arises from both personal and social tragedy (the death of his daughter, an earthquake). It begins and ends eerily with a detuning orchestra. 'Chant of Light', a deliberate counterpoint, is based on three part (A-B-A) song form. These were the last works Barati produced before his own untimely death at the hands of a street assailant in California. Sadly this came in a period when his own artistic flourishing was undergoing a renaissance.
Barati is not a well-known figure in the modern classical repertoire. Hopefully Naxos (as part of their superb 'American Classics' series) will give his important voice a larger audience. I heartily recommend this disc, with its clear and rounded performances by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra / Lazlo Kovaks and the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra / Vladimir Valek. Also worth looking up is Barati's 'Indiana Tryptych', recorded in 1996.
Thursday, January 23, 2003
[57.1] A SHOUT AND A WHISPER
Artists: Gordian Knot
CD: January 2003
Catalogue: Sensory SR3016 (Laser's Edge)
No of discs: 1
Inevitably it is the presence of Bill Bruford (dr) and Steve Hackett (gtr) that will attract most immediate attention in the market place for the new Gordian Knot album, 'Emergent'. But however more-than-purely-utilitarian their role in this project is, its fundament and wisdom is clearly Sean Malone. His bass, Chapman Stick, guitar, keys, Ebow, and loops provide the sinuous, evolutionary soundscape upon which the rest of the instrumental texture is laid.
The opening 'Arisis' and the extended (live) 'Grace', featuring some dexterous wizardry on Echoplex, narrate one element of the Knot story. The ferocious metallic rhythms and buzz guitar interludes in 'Muttersprache' and 'A Shaman's Whisper' provide its visceral counterpoint. At times these tracks threaten to veer off into the breakneck metallic riffing of a Liquid Tension Experiment, but there is something darker, more refined and much more harmonically malleable about Gordian Knot. Besides, Bruford's slit drum is there to maintain a sense of proportion when it is needed, and on 'Fischer's Gambit' Jim Matheos cleanses the aural palette with some delicate nylon and steel-string guitar passages.
'Grace' is most definitely the cornerstone: a lengthy, moodily beautiful slice of bass and electronica. After this high point the tenor changes. The achievement of what Woody Allen might call 'total heaviosity' on 'Some Brighter Thing' (which contains a number of points of mitigation, as its title suggests) and a delightfully skittish but not-at-all-frivolous Bruford/Malone duet on 'The Brook, The Ocean' follow on. Herein is a playfully ironic reference to Chris Squire's bass solo on Yes's 'Heart Of The Sunrise' (followed by a mesmerising flood of touch-bass) and various simulacra of the Bruford band circa 'One Of A Kind'.
The closing track, 'Singing Deep Mountain' is the most lyrical on the album. It seems to bring together the harmonic, rhythmic and textural riches that have preceded it, before floating off on the ether of Malone's stick and Ebow. The album is only 49 minutes long, but it is carefully wrought and paces itself well. A definite plus for quality over quantity. Jason Gobel matches Hackett for inventiveness on guitar, Sean Reinert lends V-drums to three tracks, and there are brief additional contributions from Paul Masvidal (guitar on 'A Shaman's Whisper') and Sonia Lynn (scat vocal on 'Singing Deep Mountain').
'Emergent' is pleasingly hard to pigeonhole. Its roots are clearly in instrumental fusion, but with nods to post-rock, electronica and other more global sounds. There is the spirit of jazz afoot – presumably Bruford’s reason for doing the sessions - and mini-homages to Jaco Pastorious aplenty. At times we may even be in the presence of a prog-metal that could dare to speak its name. The painstaking detailing of the solos inside the attractive sleeve art (Jim Batcho deserves a mention for capturing the essence of the project visually) may border on self-parody; but the musical dexterity of this Gordian Knot outing more than justifies the three years it apparently took to emerge. Thanks to Henry Potts for letting me hear it. I shall also seek out the eponymous first album (with John Myung, Reinert, and Trey Gunn of King Crimson fame) and Malone's 'Cortlandt' (featuring Reinert, Gunn and Reeves Gabrels) also on Laser.
Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Cyberspace is an environment where you encounter musicians and musics in unexpected places, arrived at by uncharted routes. One such for me is Chris Becker – who lives and works in New York City composing, arranging, and recording music for a wide variety of solo and collaborative projects. He has written music for dance, mixed-media installations, and collaborative performance and has premiered works in clubs, galleries, museums, and new music and dance festivals across the USA.
His current album, '200 Birds’ is “an aural montage of Brazilian and African rhythms, experimental guitar textures, and haunting synthesizer colours … to accompany artist Jacqueline Bishop's installation work ‘Terra’.” There is a short sound sample at NCM East.
Later this month he releases ‘Saints and Sinners’, inspired by songs, stories and icons of the Deep South. Says Chris of the three-track EP: “It features performances from several great musicians - Lynn Wright, Jon Petrow, and Dana Schecter (from the band Bee and Flower), a great free/noise/avant-garde jazz guitarist named Eyal Maoz, James Hall, the Reverend Vince Anderson, and my friend Robert Hardin - a musician and visual artist.”
Tuesday, January 21, 2003
[55.2] KING MAXIMALIST I
"What is music and what is it for? Art in general seems to be a basic quality of being human. One might as well ask, 'Why breathe?' As to what it's for: off the cuff I can only suggest that it serves to keep the tenuous lines of communication open between different areas of ourselves." - Brian Ferneyhough
Guardian classical music critic Tom Service talks to doyen of British 'maximalists' Brian Ferneyhough ('Belt Up And Hold Tight') on the eve of his sixtieth birthday celebrations (the festival is at various venues in Durham, from 21-23 January. Box office: 0191-374 7032). Even Ferneyhough's works for solo instrument are often mind-bogglingly difficult - yet the impact is not as austere or uninviting as it may sound. One of my discs of 2002 was a recording of his Flute Works, where Kolbeinn Bjarnason plays piccolo, flute and bass flute gloriously on this rich collection of deceptively (and relatively!) simple reflections. Valgerour Andrésdóttir joins in on the 'Four Miniatures', by which time one's head is beginning to spin...
[55.1] MILLENNIUM CAGE
"If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all." - John Cage.
BBC World Service Arts in Action correspondent Michael White talks of the legacy of composer John Cage at AinAsoundclips. Sadly NFE missed the first three-note chord of Cage’s monumental ‘ASLSP’ (‘As Slow As Possible’) at Halberstadt in Germany on 5 January this year. Fortunately you can catch up with them at Organ2/ASLSP. And make a note in your diaries now: the next two notes can be heard on 5 July 2004. The piece is projected to take a thousand years to complete. Cage can be found at New Albion. And there’s a network of JC sites documented by the ever-productive Malcolm Humes.
Josh Ronsen, instigator of the Boulez Project (about which more will follow on NFE) also has a very good Cage Page. This includes 27 [at present] sound files. The John Cage Discussion List is the place you should be if you are overly fascinated by any of this.
No doubt you will also have heard the delightful news that puveyor of vile and offensive musak, millionaire Mike Batt, recently agreed to pay £100,000 to the John Cage Trust for alleged copyright infringement on 4’33”. As if The Wombles wasn’t a bad enough thing to inflict on the world, Batt is the man behind the execrably dire 'classics'-pap crossover, The Planets – his contested ‘composition’ (actually Cage’s), ‘One Minute Of Silence’ appears on their latest album.
Still, the man is not without humour. Having coughed up he has now released the work as a double-A-side single, and he comments wryly: "Mine is a much better silent piece. I have been able to say in one minute what Cage could only say in four minutes and 33 seconds."
So there really is hope of redemption… Talking of which, I must ask Josh if he’d accept a token Mike Batt CD to trash as a part of his mail-art performance piece -- in exchange for a recovered Boulez one, of course. Meanwhile, quite a bit of what you might never need to know about Cage’s most famous work is provided by AzStarNet.
"As far as consistency of thought goes, I prefer inconsistency." - John Cage
Monday, January 20, 2003
[54.4] BARENBOIM - TAKING A STAND
On BBC Radio 4 tomorrow, 09.00 GMT (repeated 21.30 GMT) Fergal Keane talks to Daniel Barenboim.
"[He is] musical director of the Berlin State Opera and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, [and] one the most talented musicians of his generation. But it is .. Barenboim's stand toward the Middle East that has most recently put his name into the headlines.
"Daniel Barenboim, who is Jewish and an Israeli citizen, believes that the crisis in the occupied territories cannot be solved by military means alone. He argues that unless the state of Israel embraces 'peace and opens her borders she risks becoming a ghetto'. Daniel Barenboim has played concerts in the West Bank and has brought young Arab and Israeli musicians together with students from around the world. He also took the controversial step of playing the music of the anti-Semitic Wagner in Jerusalem." (c) BBC
In this not-to-be missed broadcast, Barenboim expounds his own convictions about the relationship between music and society. You can listen on-line. The programme remains available for a week after broadcast on the Radio 4 Listen Again feature.
Barenboim has also written 'Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations In Music And Society', a series of discussions on many subjects, personal, musical and political, with literary and cultural theorist Edward W. Said, which was published in the US in mid-October 2002 by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House (ISBN 0375421068).
It will be made available in the UK by Bloomsbury in March 2003. Pantheon’s fall catalogue describes the new book as “a fascinating, intimate conversation about music and politics between two of the most prominent figures in contemporary culture.”
[54.3] "F**K DANCE, LET'S ART!"
Free-improv, jazz 'n' scratch DJ's Spring Heel Jack (see NFE, 'Right Said Jack', 24 December 2002) are about to begin their tour. The Guardian's John Fordham has a good profile in the paper today, "Just Chill". A couple of choice quotations:
'It may seem bizarre that two dance DJs should be entering the unforgiving world of free-jazz, but from [Matthew] Shipp's point of view, the collaboration is only natural. The less dancefloor-bound of DJs are fascinated by free-music, he says, because "they like to deal with scraps of information, and free-jazz is a volcano of information. The DJs are always trying to mix and match and stitch together things that don't seem on the surface as if they should work together." '
'[T]o [Spring Heel Jack], the pursuit of the unfamiliar is vital. Wales points out that he lives on the Nightingale Estate in Hackney, hardly an arthouse environment, and he has friends and neighbours there who are cheering him on. "Some of the people I know there have had no exposure to classical music, jazz or anything. Play something unusual to them and they're often fascinated." '
Improv collaborator Matthew Shipp's new CD, 'Equilibrium' is due out on 21 January, incidentally.
Spring Heel Jack play the Michael Tippett Centre, Bath (01225 875696), Wednesday, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London SE1 (020-7960 4242), Thursday, then tour until 31 January 2003.
“The excellence of every art is its intensity.” – John Yeats
”It was as if I was thrown out of Eden; there was something about [John Cage's] music; I felt never again would it be possible for me to write glamorous music. What is glamorous music? Monteverdi is glamorous music.”
– Morton Feldman
"We need to restore the spirit of irreverence in music." – Pierre Boulez
[54.1] SANTANA DE CRUISE
Having recently glimpsed the opening moments of the latest UNICEF concert, it is sad to observe how far Carlos Santana has been absorbed into the rock-schlock industry: one rather unadventurous solo on a pappy Latino-pop number was all it amounted to. The man was undoubtedly at his best in the early ‘70s, with a trilogy of albums (‘Welcome’, ‘Borboletta’ and ‘Caravanserai’ between 1973 and 1975) that explored the jazz-fusion ‘world music’ space which soon became overcrowded with talent and, it has to be said, poor imitation. Airto Moreira, Flora Purim and Leon Thomas are some of Santana’s collaborators from this earlier era, and John McLaughlin is strong among the influences (see also ‘Love, Devotion and Surrender’, where Coltrane and Miles loom large – and Billy Cobham and Larry Young lend able support). The regular band members circa ‘Caravanserai’ were, I recall, Neal Schon, Gregg Rolie and Mike Shrieve. There’s nothing like the innovative force of Weather Report here, naturally. But Santana has a language of his own and it’s well worth visiting in its prime, before lazy Americanisms choked his voice somewhat. As the man himself asked on ‘Electric Guitar’ – “do you hear the voices you left behind?”
Sunday, January 19, 2003
[53.2] UNTAMING THE FURY
Summit Records is releasing Duo46's Untaming the Fury, featuring their American commissions, in the UK. This violin and guitar ensemble is based at Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus and tours widely. Their niche is new music. Pieces on the new CD are:
Tony Lanman "Sonata 46"; Daniel Adams "Quandary"; Paul Richards "Asphalt Gypsy"; Kristi McGarity "How the Hell are You Feeling?"; Richard P. Schaefer "Structures"; Pierre Jalbert "Sonatine"; Joshua Penman "Was the sky as liquid"; Neil Flory "Venn Music"; Russell Sarre "Two Pieces"; Stacy Garrop "Untaming the Fury."
For infomation about the artists, their composers, photos and soundclips, visit their website.
[53.1] SYMBIOTIC SONORITIES
Composer: Thomas Lee, Gunther Schuller
Performer: Frederic T. Cohen, Robert Annis, et al.
Label: GM Recording GM2007
Released: 1 September, 2002
CD: 1 disc
'Symbiosis' is a stimulating collection of occasional instrumental pieces by Thomas Oboe Lee and Gunther Schuller. Lee’s ‘Mad Frog’ for oboe, bass clarinet and harp is especially diverting and intriguing. The Kronos Quartet give a strong performance of the same composer’s Third String Quartet, 'Child of Uranus, Father of Zeus'. The Schuller contribution is the atmospheric chamber work for violin, percussion and piano from which the whole collection takes its name. American composed music continues to be a vibrant source of new delights often hidden from European ears. Schuller’s is a relatively well-known name, Lee's less so. He is from China via Brazil and studied under Schuller and George Russell among others. He has been influenced by the Lydian chromatic concept of tonal organisation. If you like variety, colour and challenging a/tonality in your music you will not be disappointed. If you pop into Lee's website (see link above) you can win a CDR of his music, too...
Saturday, January 18, 2003
[52.3] MUSIC OF THE SPHERES
Talking of The Guardian's Friday arts pages (see John L Walters, below), there are a couple of good music pieces in today. James Meek profiles the celebrated Russian Composer Sergei Prokofiev in 'Out of Stalin's Shadow' (it tries to put the controversy in the context of his music, rather than the other way round). The Prokofiev Page is here.
Meanwhile there's a slightly sad and wistful piece by Nigel Williamson (editor of Tribune in a past life) on Ry Cooder and his ongoing relationship with Cuban roots music, made famous by the film and CD of the Buena Vista Social Club. His article 'Adios Amigos' makes it plain that, unfortunately the beligerence and dogmatism of the current US administration - no insult to Americans intended, I'm married to one! - seems to have put a brake on further collaborations in the near future.
Both of these pieces raise the continually knotty question of the relationship and responsibility of art to society and vice versa. I have no doubt that I'll feel inclined to pontificate on this one in some future NFE offering... but you are spared right now.
[52.2] CLOSER TO THE EDGE OF SOUND
Among the best eclectic new music journalism around today is that of John L Walters. His On the Edge column is a refreshing regular feature of the Friday Review at the moment. Search the site for other articles here.
Walters is well know for his catalysing role in the realisation of the innovative Unknown Public (q.v), once-a-box-now-a-book with a CD. His earlier Edge pieces are also archived on the fine UP Links page. He edits Eye Magazine, which is concerned with contemporary design, and he is a practicing musician and composer (see Landscape).
To any curator of the obscure it will not come as a surprise to discover that Walters contributed computer programming, wind synthesizers, soprano sax, flute and vocals to the 1981 electro classic LP/MD/CD ‘From The Tea Rooms Of Mars… To The Hell Holes Of Uranus’ (re-issued with four bonus tracks, April-May 2002, Cherry Red Records, CDMRED 209)
Apart from its glorious title, the album prefigured elements of what subsequently became house and techno – though it is not without its cheesy moments. Norman Bates eat your heart out…
[52.1] NFE UPDATE
I've added some new permanent links to the site - and have resisted the idea of dividing what's there (over 110 links) into categories. Frankly it's not too difficult to trawl down an alphabetical listing, and I've done two word annotations in most cases. I'm currently weighing up whether to create an RSS feed on this site to assist with syndication. Email me (contact, above) if you have any strong views. Further ideas or contributions to NewFrontEars are welcome, of course. And if you can offer or suggest links, that is always welcome. There will be another index digest at the beginning of February. Meanwhile, trawl the archives. I have a reasonable back stock of material, so daily postings continue to be possible. When I'm away I'll put a note up telling you when next to check...
Friday, January 17, 2003
[51.3] BRIDGE RECORDS
A fine collection of contemporary classical music, including many of the nominations for the 2003 Grammy Awards. Composers include Elliott Carter, Stefan Wolpe, Poul Rouders, Brian Ferneyhough, Alan Shulman and many more. See also Great Performances from the Library of Congress on Bridge, vol 1-17. Well worth looking up...
[51.2] SCARLATTI FEVER
Extraordinarily, Alessandro Scarlatti (who died in 1725 and forms a strong bridge between the mature Baroque and later classical traditions, according to musicologist Edward Dent) wrote some sixty-four operas, twenty oratorios, hundreds of chamber cantatas, and a host of madrigals, masses, motets, toccatas, concertos, sonatas and symphonies. Very little of this is heard today, sadly, except in specialist circles. Perhaps one of the more popularly performed pieces is 'Abramo, il tuo sembiante' (a Christmas cantata). When Handel visited Italy between 1706 and 1710, he met Scarlatti and may even have studied with him.
There is a marvellous Scarlatti Project on the web. This is "based largely on the research of Rosalind Halton, Kate Eckersley, and James Sanderson, all of whom are performer/researchers dedicated to turning manuscripts of long forgotten music into experiences of music and poetry interwoven." Most of the music in the catalogue has never before been available in modern editions or recordings, so there are some extraordinary new aural experiences to be had thanks to the SP cyber-scholars.
In sorting out some old boxes recently, I was fortunate enough to come across a fine LP (Editions de L'Oiseau Lyre, OLS 154, 1957) featuring two cantatas - 'Clori e Lisa' and 'Floro e Tirsi'. As far as I am aware it has not yet made it to CD, but we can hope. Thurston Dart plays harpischord and Desmond Dupre viola. The sopranos are Elsie Morison and Jennifer Vyvyan. I was fortunate enough to hear Vyvyan before her untimely death in the early '70s. She performed recitals regularly in London, including more popular concerts at the Anglican church opposite the BBC in Langham Place, London, All Souls. She and Morison tackle the developed lines and exacting ornamentations of Scarlatti's writing with considerable depth and feeling. A beautiful recording of songs written around 1706-7.
[51.1] LATIN AMERICA UNWIRED
Title: ‘Unwired: Latin America’
CD 5 November, 2001
Number of Discs: 1
Label: World Music Network 0001076RGN
Back in the 1980s going to listen to concerts by exiled Chilean band Inti Illimani (‘Sun from the Mountains’) was de rigeur in politically progressive circles. How delightful, then, to hear ‘La Festa Eres Tu’ once more on this imaginative (though, sleeve note wise, poorly documented) collection of Latin American music. Appropriately enough, given Inti’s stirring consciousness-raising, the proceeds of this 17 track 67’29” album, produced by the World Music Network, go to Amnesty International. It features a wide circumference of the region’s cultural depth and musical talent, from well-known performers through to much more obscure ones. There is no Victor Jara, but good snatches of Nestor Marconi and Julie Freundt, for example. Among the multitude of styles represented are samba, tango, vallenato, panpipes and a plethora of song styles. Well worth a listen, especially for those less familiar with Latin music.
Thursday, January 16, 2003
“All art is at once surface and symbol.” – Oscar Wilde
"You know how people talk real loud when they want to sound intelligent? Well, maybe if we play real loud, people will think that we're good!" - Squidward
“The Internet has done for millions of individuals what the player piano did for Conlon Nancarrow: empowered them to express themselves free from corporate and institutional censorship.” – Kyle Gann
[50.1] IMAGINING MELANCHOLIA
Album: 'Out of Season'
Artists: Beth Gibbons and Paul Webb (Rustin’ Man)
CD 28 October, 2002
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Go Beat 0665742
I was busy bashing way at the keys of my laptop. The TV was idly blinking at me in the background. Later with Jools Holland was passing me by on BBC 2. Suddenly the most extraordinarily bewitching, expressively downbeat music penetrated my concentration: acoustic alchemy with bleeps and faders. It was ‘Rustin’ Man’, the last track from the new CD by Portishead singer Beth Gibbons and ex-Talk Talk bassist Paul Webb. The atmosphere on ‘Out of Season’" is one of reflection, melancholy, bittersweet melody and laconic instrumentation – with a hint of chilled electronica.
This foray into hybrid alt-folk and post-rock territory won’t necessarily please the trip hop loungers, but it demonstrates just what accomplished purveyors of the non-obvious Gibbons and Webb have become (in an environment that usually depends upon the contrary). Stand out tracks include ‘Mysteries’ and ‘Spider Money’. Homage is paid to Nick Drake, alongside other influences and references. Gibbons’ voice remains fragile and gently-timbred. It does not have huge expressive range, but she knows just how to use her vocal chords, and in what sonic context they echo best. A fine, thoughtful contemporary songbook.
Wednesday, January 15, 2003
[49.2] THE 'NET AS MUSICAL PLAYGROUND
SPNM (the Society for Promoting New Music in the UK) have an enjoyable experimental feature with some good additional links on their website. They explain:
"Much has been made of the potential of the Internet as a terrific medium for distributing information on a global scale. But what about the Internet as a musical medium? In keeping with SPNM's commitment to all forms of new music, we are attempting to look at ways of using the Internet as a musical tool by creating an online playground for musical experiments. In this playground we will try to provide toys for the visitors to the web site to create and experience music in new ways."
Rob Wright, Michael Szpakowski, Richard Cooke and Marius Watz are the main contributors. Drop in and start playing....
[49.1] CHESTER MUSIC & NOVELLO
Long identified with such leading 20th century composers as Stravinsky, Elgar, de Falla, Lutoslawski, Holst, Howells, Arnold, Berkeley (Sir Lennox) and Bliss, the two publishing houses known as Chester Music and Novello form part of the Music Sales Group of Companies. Their expanding catalogues continue to offer fine international contemporary music, publishing - among others - the work of Bainbridge, Bennett, Gorecki, Guy, Henze, Holt, Maxwell Davies, McCabe, Musgrave, Nyman, Saariaho, Sallinen, Swayne, Tavener and Weir.
Many of these works are available for sale at Musicroom.com. Information on the catalogues of affiliates within the Music Sales Ltd group, including in particular G Schirmer Inc. and Edition Wilhelm Hansen can be obtained by visiting their sites.
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
[48.2] TIPPETT'S SECOND SYMPHONY IN LONDON
The fifth anniversary of the death of Michael Tippett (8 January), one of the great composers of the twentieth century, was largely ignored by the BBC and other British broacast media. But as part of the Barbican Centre's London weekend celebrating the music of Mark-Anthony Turnage - a great Tippett advocate - the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Sian Edwards) will perform his 'Symphony No. 2' at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama on Thursday 16 January 2003. (19.00 in the Music Hall). The concert will also include Turnage's 'Drowned Out' amd 'Fandango'.
Three of the four Tippett symphonies, plus the 'Suite in D', have at long last been re-issued in the original recordings (London Symphony Orchestra / Colin Davis, with Heather Harper - sop). See Decca 473092-2. The 'Suite in D' is performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Georg Solti.
At the moment the BBC have profiles of neither Tippett nor Britten on their website. But they do have a Tippett biography and a good discography.
[48.1] STEFAN HAKENBERG CONCERT ONLINE
From Steve Layton:
At Music Now: Worldwide there is an hour of newer contemporary music and performances of all kinds, in both broadband and dial-up MP3 streams (or you may download many of the pieces to keep, or even e-mail the composers or performers directly). To listen uninterruptedly, just click on the "play all tracks now" button at the start of the station playlist. The show will be up for a couple weeks.
In honour of a concert on 16 January 2003 in New York City, devoted to his own music, this episode features the works of a single composer, Stefan Hakenberg. Many of the pieces on the show are the same ones that will be heard at the concert. Hakenberg was born in Germany, studied there and in the U.S., spends a lot of time in Korea, and currently runs a respected music festival in Juneau, Alaska.
The programme: ‘Sir Donald’ (baroque cello, kayagum, and changgu);‘Shafe Waschen’ (solo piano);‘Stump’ (two cellos);‘Three Zithers and Pair of Scissors’(koto, kayagum, changgu, and guzheng);‘Zerrende Geister’ (clarinet, cello, and piano), and ‘Like Juicy Peaches’, (four cellos plus video).
This news via rec.music.classical.contemporary. See also Layton at NIWO.
Monday, January 13, 2003
[47.4] BURNING SHED
Burning Shed is an online on-demand CDR label set up by Tim Bowness and Peter Chilvers in association with noisebox label boss Pete Morgan.
Run by artists for artists, the intention is to create a strongly focused, artistically coherent and financially feasible medium through which uniquely packaged CDRs of creative non-mainstream music can be sold at a reasonable price as and when they're requested.
Two budget-priced samplers are available. BS artists include eclectic jazzer Theo Travis, Bass Communion and Twenty-First Century Schzoid band.
New titles recently released on the Burning Shed Catalogue: 'Overstrand' from Tim Bowness / Peter Chilvers, an album of radically reworked material from their 'California, Norfolk' album, and 'Jazzloops' from ex-Soft Machine 'fuzz-bass' innovator Hugh Hopper.
[47.3] WACKERMAN: TAKING A FRESH VIEW
Album: ‘The View’
Artist: Chad Wackerman
Number of Discs: 1
Label: CD 03064
Chad Wackerman (first known for his fiery, polyrhythmic convivance with Frank Zappa) continues to be a force to be reckoned with, both on drums and as a fusion-jazz composer. Two years after his stunning 1991 solo debut, 'Forty Reasons' [reviewed last year in NFE], he returned with this album, 'The View'. The original quartet, which included Allan Holdsworth (gtr), Jimmy Johnson (bs), Jim Cox (keys) and Chad himself (perc) is here supplemented by Carl Verheyen on guitar and, distinctively, Walt Fowler on trumpet and flugelhorn. The range and style is similarly diverse, but with fewer free-form interludes and more emphasis on the wider possibilities of instrumental interplay.
Wackerman's band can groove, swing and chill - but above all they are musicians' musicians, seeking to explore melodic, textural and harmonic possibilities; here departing altogether from the script, there coalescing and fusing around a fresh extemporary idea on a through-composed theme.
The latest Chad Wackerman project is the Australian-based 'Scream' (distributed in Europe by EFA/Metalimbo Records), featuring Cox and Fowler alongside Leon Gaer (synthesized bass), Daryl Pratt (an orchestral percussionist) and James Muller (guitars). I have heard only excerpts so far, but it is clear that this band will continue to blaze fresh trails in new jazz. They are recording in 2003.
Chad and Jimmy Johnson are featured on a new Allan Holdsworth Trio album, following the summer tour (2002) in Australia. The CD - released in Japan and available in the US on import - is called called 'All Night Wrong' and is produced in 3 formats; normal CD, Super Audio CD, and 5.1 Super Audio CD through Sony Records. Another new one to look out for is from Banned From Utopia. The title is "So Ya Don't Like Modern Art". This outfit is comprised mostly of Zappa alumni - Bobby Martin, Tommy Mars, Bruce, Walt and Tom Fowler, Kurt McGettrick, Albert Wing, Ed Mann, Mike Miller, Arthur Barrow (no relation) and Chad Wackerman. The CD is released on Favored Nations Records.
[47.2] ALLAN HOLDSWORTH IOU?
Meanwhile, Allan Holdsworth's Flat Tire is out in the US but not Europe. Orange County is his regular home these days, and the extraordinary guitarist has been touring mostly in the Americas and Australasia. He was booked for two appearances at London's Jazz Cafe back in November 2002, but those dates were subsequently pulled. Sadly his website is rarely up-to-date. But when I hear any further news, you'll know about it. Meanwhile this unofficial AH site and Gnarly Geezer are the places to check.
Sunday, January 12, 2003
[46.2] SACRE BLEU
Composer Michael Berkeley – son of Sir Lennox Berkeley, and not to be confused with the prog-ambientist of almost the same name - interviewed jazz composer, bandleader and former Berklee professor Mike Gibbs (see also MG’s discography here) in a repeat of the ‘Private Passions’ conversation on BBC Radio 3 first broadcast last year. (Listen to Gibbs’ superb album Nonsequence, Provocateur Records PVC 1027 /EFA 10270-2). You can hear the programme here.
What especially stood out was the revised version of Charles Ives’ classic ‘The Unanswered Question’ with the Chicago Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas (CBS MK 42381), where the quietness of the trumpet is absolutely compelling; and also hearing Messiaen perform (in 1956) ‘Prière du Christ montant vers son Père’ (from L'Ascension) on the organ of Saint-Trinite, Paris (EMI CZS 767400-2,Disc 1).
Gibbs also recalled Boulez conducting Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ with real calm and feeling during his 70th birthday celebrations in New York. I was privileged to see the equivalent performance at the Barbican Centre in London. As Berkeley and Gibbs observed, there is a marked contrast between Boulez’s restrained, soulful account and the wild swing of Bernstein. The version played on ‘Private Passions’ was the one the composer conducted with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra in 1960 (‘Danse Sacrale’, Sony SM3K 46291, Disc 2).
[46.1] VINYL SOLUTIONS, CD HAUNTS
The New Year naturally comes with all those resolutions about cutting down on CD and vinyl purchases. But if your willpower has already started to weaken, here’s my guide (for those living in, or visiting, England; or shopping their in cyberspace) to some of the best places to scare your bank manager – remember those? On the other hand, most of them do second hand, so who’s complaining…?
First on my personal list is the incomparable Gramex - the old Gramophone Exchange, which stocks some 10,000 CDs and LPs, including 78s. Full details are available at their website, Gramexonline. For those reading this in on Sunday 12 January, there are 800 new CDs coming in tomorrow (Monday). Gramex get a good deal via the industry and reviewers, as well as private collectors. The shop has a curiously antique atmosphere and is a place where the music, as well as the product, is really cherished. They are located close to London’s Waterloo rail station. Verdi fans should start here, for sure.
Also in the capital (with material of wide and variable quality in my experience) is Classical Music Exchange (36 Notting Hill gate, W11), who are known for cash and exchange deals on CDs, LPs, tapes and videos. If you have rarities, or think you have, get assessments from both CME and Gramex. This is one way of adjusting your budget.
Mole Jazz, near London’s King’s Cross, continues to enjoy a wonderful reputation – and rightly so. In addition to a great website, they stock a full range of jazz CDs from early classic reissues to bebop, post-bop, modern jazz and the latest recordings. There is an extensive selection of second hand CDs, jazz books and special offers.
Meanwhile Martin and Sarah Wale run the very fine Seaford Music in Eastbourne, which is one of the very best places in Britain to get hold of imports from other parts of Europe, Australasia and the US. Also distributors of a number of specialist labels. Couldn’t be more helpful.
Then, when in the beautiful city of York, there’s the newly named and greatly enlarged Classical and Jazz (formerly The Blake Head Record Shop). They have stock in excess of 30,000 and an international reputation. You can also email wants lists and for sale lists to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course there are hundreds of great record stores throughout Britain. NFE welcomes recommendations. If in doubt check the classifieds in Gramophone, BBC Music, Avant and The Wire.
Saturday, January 11, 2003
[45.3] THE LAST TWO WEEKS ON NEWFRONTEARS
NFE is updated at least once a day - check in regularly.
45.2 Quota: David Gelenter, Judith Weir, Pierre Boulez
45.1 New Music Bazaar [11 January 2003]
44.3 Joe Zawinul live on Three (and beyond)
44.2 Contemporary music Grammy nominations / The Boulez Project
44.1 Embellished chant: Peter Wilton, ‘Alleluias’ [10 January 2003]
43.3 Future Perfect: Judith Weir in India
43.2 All together now: Uri Caine, King Crimson
43.1 Unravelling the world: the Rough Guides to world music [9 January 2003]
42.2 Contemporary takes on Purcell: Matthews, Weir, Ruders, Sawer,
.........Torke, Payne, Lindberg
42.1 Threat to live music in England and Wales / Sutcliffe [8 January 2003]
41.1 Turnage in conversation and action [7 January 2003]
40.2 Improvising into 2003: Sassu’s ‘Jazz Te Deum’ / Uri Caine
40.1 Kyle Gann and Conlon Nancarrow [6 January 2003]
39.4 Tone clock in jazz and improvised music
39.3 Poulenc’s ‘Dialogues des Carmelites’ at the Met
39.2 Classical London
39.1 Jekyll and Hyde jazz: Chris Botti, Bill Bruford & Tony Levin [5 January 2003]
38.3 Turnage, Park Lane Group and SPNMers Live
38.2 New music links update
38.1 Quota: Zappa, Shklovsky, Bruford, Billings, Wilde [4 January 2003]
37.2 Tippett’s ‘King Priam’: new production
37.1 Prosaic jazz, improv and new music links [3 January 2003]
36.3 Quota for 2003: Michael Tippett, Oscar Wilde, Margaret Attwood
36.2 David Sylvian and Robert Fripp, ‘Damage’
36.1 NewFrontEars Index for December 2002 (then 01/01/03) [2 January 2003]
35.2 Celebrating World Music Day 2003
35.1 Toru Takemitsu: walking on air [1 January 2003]
34.1 Glenn Gould on J.S. Bach: wond(e)rous stories [31 December 2002]
33.1 Michael Tippett Up Close: Appreciation/ ‘Rose Lake’/ On the web [29 December 2002]
32.5 Rainer Burck, experimental composer
32.4 Deirdre Cartwright, ‘Debut’
32.3 DCG touring in 2003
32.2 Art Music Webring
32.1 Quota: George Benjamin, Glenn Gould, Tom Perchard [28 December 2002]
“Music produces the sensation of transcending meaning by inducing a sensation of many meanings.” – David Gelernter
"In today's over-stimulated and inattentive world, storytellers have some important things to communicate to us." – Judith Weir
"When I compose, I have Debussy, Stravinsky and Berg in my background. For an audience to listen to my compositions, it must have the same background as that." – Pierre Boulez
[45.1] NEW MUSIC BAZAAR
International non-pop, all the time. That’s the promise from Kalvos and Damian’s New Music Bazaar, an essential place for contemporary sounds on the web. Hosted by Vermont-based polymusos Dennis Báthory-Kitsz & David Gunn, NMB features cybercast and archives, worldwide composer resources, essays, the bazaar soundmix, weekly and seasonal playlists, an online mentoring project, guests past and present, merchandise … and much more.
Friday, January 10, 2003
[44.3] ZAWINUL LIVE ON THREE (AND BEYOND)
For those reading this in time, BBC Radio 3 is broadcasting a first-rate concert by Austrian jazz keyboards polymath Joe Zawinul, from 11.30pm – 1.00am tonight (GMT). If you can’t catch the programme, other real audio live gigs are available here. ‘Jazz on 3’ programmes are storedonline, but after four weeks they are edited to five minute extracts for legal reasons. The full list of what’s been broadcast since 2001 is here. There are also sessions.
Best known for his work with Weather Report, Joe Zawinul has his own band (featured tonight). The Zawinul Syndicate is now booking concerts in Europe during the months of March, April, June and July. Three have been confirmed for Italy in April. The line-up will be Zawinul, Sabine Kabongo on vocals, Etienne M'Bappe on bass, Amit Chatterjee on guitar, Paco Sery on drums and Manolo Badrena on percussion. All the latest information can be gleaned at the encyclopaedic Zawinul Online site. There are soundclips, scores, interviews and many other goodies at the Italian Zawinulfans site (this is the English version). See also the biography at EJN.
The Jazz on 3 weblinks are also worth investigating.
[44.2] CONTEMPORARY MUSIC GRAMMY NOMINATIONS / BOULEZ PROJECT
Walter Ekelin writes (in rec.music.classical.contemporary):
"This year's Grammy nominations has been announced, and among the more contemporary classical ones, we find:
Osvaldo Golijov's Yiddishbuk, EMI Classics 57356
Arvo Pärt's Orient & Occident, ECM New Series 4720802
Sofia Gubaidulina's Strasti po Ioannu (St. John Passion) Hänssler Classics CD 98405
John Tavener's Lamentations And Praises, Teldec 0927 413422
John Adams' Naive And Sentimental Music, Nonesuch Records 79636
Valentin Silvestrov's Leggiero, Pesante, ECM New Series ECM4618982
Giya Kancheli's Styx, DG 471494
Sofia Gubaidulina's Viola Concerto, DG 471494
Harrison Birtwistle's The Woman And The Hare etc, Black Box BBM1046
Pierre Boulez' Pli Selon Pli, DG 471344
So who's missing? Personally I'd nominate Xenakis Orchestral Works vol 2 on Timpani."
I've added the links above, for reference. You can look up the discs on Amazon yourself this time! I'd go for Boulez or Birtwistle myself, but don't watch this space (though come to think of it, Boulez has already won 17 G's so far). I imagine Tavener might win something this time, though his Apocalypse was the last thing I really appreciated (live at the Proms). The Pärt is enjoyable, too. I haven't heard many of the others.
Thinking of Pli Selon Pli, I don't intend to contribute to the iconoclastic Pierre Boulez Project established by Josh Ronsen, unless they'll allow performers to salvage discs too. But the whole thing is amusing - and I'm tempted to volunteer for a little turntablism before the Great Deconstruction takes place. I hope Boulez responds by writing the Ronsen Variations... The public reactions to Ronsen are here, and you can drop a note to the creator of this glorious conceptualist work, if you so wish: email@example.com. Or just keep the New Music Connoisseur thread going here.
[44.1] EMBELLISHED CHANT
Artist: Peter Wilton
Number of Discs: 1
‘Alleluias’ follows one genre of Gregorian Chant, the Alleluias sung before the Gospel at Mass, through the ages, from the earliest examples dating from Charlemagne's Frankish Kingdom in the eighth century, to the Neo-Gallican Chant of the 18th century. There are twelve tracks, including alleluias sung at each of the three Christmas masses, at midnight, at dawn, and in the morning.
Tracks include examples of the various embellishments to the chant: Tropes (extra text with its own music commenting on the alleluia text), Prosulæ (the addition of extra text to the alleluia melody itself), Sequences and Proses (the addition of long melodies to the end of an alleluia, and the addition of text to the new melody). There are two examples of polyphony (versions of alleluias in two parts, with a counter melody added), one from Anglo-Saxon Winchester, the other a later example from Notre Dame in Paris. There are two examples with rhythmic tropes which resemble "folk" melodies.
Also featuring Nigel Eaton on Hurdy Gurdy, and the singing of Lucie Skeaping, Matthew Vine and Edward Caswell.
‘Alleluias’ is available for £10 + p&p from firstname.lastname@example.org
© Peter Wilton, who runs The Gregorian Association web page.
Thursday, January 09, 2003
[43.3] ‘FUTURE PERFECT’ IN INDIA
Good article by Luke Harding in The Guardian on composer Judith Weir’s recently completed tour of India with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. The highlight was Future Perfect, premiered in Britain two years ago, which features a collaboration between Weir and British-based Indian storyteller Vayu Naidu. It includes “unusual orchestral combinations, notably the harp with the tabla, a pairing Weir half-jokingly describes as the new drum'n'bass.” The group, including four BCMG musicians and tabla player Sarvar Sabri, visited Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and Delhi.
There is a 4'38" extract from 'Future Perfect' on Unknown Public's .comp [sic]. See also the British Council's Connecting series of cultural events focussed on West India.
[43.2] ALL TOGETHER, NOW
Further to earlier items: In ‘Improvising into 2003’ (below) I mentioned Uri Caine’s Beethoven album as forthcoming. In fact his 33 Variations in C on a Waltz by Diabelli, the 'Diabelli Variations', came out on Winter & Winter 9100862WIN in October 2002. I must not have been paying attention. Caine is interviewed in January’s Gramophone magazine, which curiously enough also features a review of King Crimson’s first album, ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ (1970) by twentieth century music and culture critic Richard Whitehouse. His favourable take on the more adventurous elements of early ‘70s progressive rock (“this most inventive movement”) is certainly unexpected. Crim’s later, more outré work, like THRaKaTTaCK is hinted at but not described.
This positive overture to ‘prog’ (which I will be reflecting on more in a future NFE article and links feature) reminds me of the late Derek Jewell’s ‘70s BBC Radio 3 programme, Sounds Interesting, which introduced me to the genre. Jewell was jazz critic for The Sunday Times and adopted that respectful, thoughtful and constructive outlook on life that is now (along with progressive rock, admittedly a rather shop-soiled concept 25 + years on) about as fashionable as measles. But he at least had the overwhelming merit of being more interested in the quality of music than the tide of opinion.
On a rather different note, there are several articles in The Guardian’s archive about the premier performance of the BBC Music Magazine commission, the contemporary variations on Purcell’s ‘Bright Cecilia!’ (see NFE 42.2 ), including an entertaining one – ‘All Together Now’ -by composer Colin Matthews.
[43.1] UNRAVELLING THE WORLD
‘World music’. What a hideous term. Yet it is a useful shorthand to encapsulate the less commercialised vernacular/art musics that have grown up in local communities across the globe over (in some cases) several centuries – and have, until recently, been ignored - even when plundered. The Rough Guide has done a wonderful service in cataloguing some of the major developments in the field over the past nine years through a large two volume A-Z of the music, the musicians and the discs.
Volume One (affectionately dubbed “a work of lunatic scholarship” by Radio 3’s Andy Kershaw) covers Africa, Europe and the Middle East. This is a substantial update on the earlier (1994) edition. It includes over 80 lengthy articles, broken down into readable chunks; photos; directories and discographies. Volume Two, which I have not seen yet, looks at the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.
Inevitably the discographies are – apart from perennial arguments about who should and should not be included - the most controversial element of any such enterprise. We can all think of better exemplars for the artists we know. But in this case most have been chosen wisely to give an overview or flavour, rather than to pander to the whims of some particular school of interpretation. No complaints there. Helpfully, the publishers have an internet version of these on their website, to inform and (no doubt) whet your appettite further.
There are also refreshingly clear and accessible Rough Guides to classical, jazz and rock, of course. And not to be overlooked are the mini-guides concerned with drum’n’bass, house and techno. As the dance and experimental fringes of ‘popular’ music – an ever-stretched an implausible term – expand, the need for more archaeology will become apparent to the minds of the series’ editors, I am sure.
Meanwhile perhaps the best overall magazine on the burgeoning 'world music' scene is the excellent Songlines.
Wednesday, January 08, 2003
[42.2] CONTEMPORARY TAKES ON PURCELL
Variations on themes by Henry Purcell have a long and honourable tradition in the modern concert music world. Even so, it was a bright idea of BBC Music Magazine to work with composer Colin Matthews in curating a collection derived from 'Hail! Bright Cecilia', Purcell's ode to the patron saint of music whose anniversary (22 November) was much celebrated in the 17th century, it seems. The result is a fine CD available through the magazine (BBC MM223, recorded November 2002).
The suite, a setting of texts by Nicholas Brady, received its first performance near St Paul's in London in 1792.The work, performed on this disc by the King's Consort under Robert King, begins with an overture of considerable contrapuntal cunning. The twelve songs that follow involve both soloists and chorus on a scale that was relatively unusual in English music at the time. Handel went on to exploit its potential to the full of course. The performances by well-known singers James Bowman (counter-tenor), Rogers Covey-Crump and Mark Milhoefer (tenors), Susan Gritton (soprano), Colin Campbell (baritone) and Michael George (bass) are fulsome and crisp.
The real excitement, however, is 'Bright Cecelia: Variations on a Theme by Purcell' - eight perspectives lasting eighteen minutes by Colin Matthews, Judith Weir, Poul Ruders, David Sawer, Michael Torke, Anthony Payne and Marcus Lindberg. I hesitate to use the word 'suite', since they were not written in this way or for this purpose, but the overall effect is very suite-like - from Matthews' orchestration of a Purcell 'Tema' right through to Lindberg's aptly titled 'Grand Finale', which resolves a dense piece of writing (incorporating references to Mussorgsky's 'Great Gate of Kiev' and the Purcell theme in the film 'A Clockwork Orange') in G major.
Each composer has a different approach. Matthews takes Purcell's harmonic language across five centuries while leaving it recognisable; Weir is characteristically textural; Ruders is quiet and restrained; Sawer exploits tonal clashes and riffs on dotted rhythms; Torke is vigorously tonal; Payne freewheels with counterpoint; and Lindberg oozes symphonic power.
Many of the cameos are virtually segued, and the order has evidently been chosen carefully. The BBC Philharmonic under Gianandrea Noseda tackles the different styles with thoughtful commitment.
These pieces received their world premier live at the last night of the BBC Proms in 2002. I normally have little time for this jingoistic topping to an otherwise wonderful concert season, but this event (like Birtwistle's 'Panic', which set the cat among the pigeons in 1995) was well worth hearing. Hopefully these 21st century Variations will now be recognised as a suite and make their way into the repertoire.