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    Ingram Marshall – Ikon and Other Early Works

    February 28th, 2010

    Ikon and Other Early Works is a much welcome CD of voice-based electronic works spanning the years 1972-1976 from this composer who got his start with Vladimir Ussachevsky at Columbia in the ’50s and went on to be influenced by New York minimalists in the ’60s. The eight-and-a-half minutes of “Cortez” offer vast, shimmering fabrics composed entirely of many layers of the treated voice of Snee McCaig reciting his chilling poem of the same name: “Whenever the world is supposed to end, it does / within a month and a day of the end the Aztecs were expecting, came Cortez / white flowers blossoming in each cold spring wind, bends their heads.” An eerie, otherwordly effect of transcendent forehead hover is constantly maintained, complimenting the words perfectly.

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    Larry Polansky – Lonesome Road

    February 27th, 2010

    This CD is full to the brim with a continent-sized ball of piano music of maze-like complexity written in 1989 by experimental composer Larry Polansky. Very difficult to play but lovely to hear, the piece is often far more melodic and song-like than Larry’s experimental output—which typically veers toward the austere and conceptual. “Wait a minute (ptuey!)—hadduh spit out muh chewin’ ‘baccer. Heh-heh. Muh great granny Maw Kettle wuz jess mutterin’ tuh me sumthin’ about this here Puhlanskuh feller offerin’ up a set of variations on the harmonization of the folk song ‘Lonesome Road’ by thuh great ‘mericuhn wimmin’ composer Ruth Crawford (1901-1953). Now I might not know so much about that, so y’all will have tuh listen up here to wut muh good buddy and fellow music ‘pree-shee-ater Kyle Gann gots to say.”—Festus McRib “This [is a] great amalgam of Ivesian pianism, gamelan patterns, jazz-tinged harmonies and folk song. Its size and grandeur hark back to a pianistic outsider tradition of sui generis works, the cloud-hidden mountain peaks of the piano repertoire.”—Kyle Gann

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    Evan Ziporyn – Gamelan Galak Tika

    February 26th, 2010

    Gamelan Galak Tika is a nice merger of traditional Balinese-style percussion with two Western instruments: “Amok!” for gamelan, double bass and sampler and “Tire Fire” for gamelan and electric guitars. Gamelan Galak Tika (“Galak” means wild, fierce or passionate, but when combined with “Tika” it merely puns on Battlestar Galactica) is a seven-person ensemble based at MIT who managed to learn this complex music by rote…no peaking at a score, ever. In “Amok!” the “sampler eats up the whole ensemble and spits it out again.” “Listen, for example, to the start of part two, where the sampler tranposes the gamelan’s gong to different pitches. As the beats expand and contract, this single-note time-keeping instrument becomes a melody instrument, a virtual forest of gongs. It is as if a single gong were hung in a hall of digital mirrors. Soon afterward, the sampler introduces nine-note chord clusters, as though all of the keys of a Balinese metallophone were played at once. In these and many other ways, the sampler lets Ziporyn construct ‘an impossible musical landscape.'”–Marc Perlman

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    Richard Maxfield + Harold Budd – The Oak of the Golden Dreams

    February 25th, 2010

    Jiminy Cricket, am I glad another tiny and long overdue morsel from the estate of Richard Maxfield has finally been excavated from the murk of the mists of time and held up to proper glory in the almost-ultimate glowing light of the ever-whitening sun. Previously, I had spent several nights floatin’ a rickety canoe down Niagara Falls at 3:17 a.m. to Richard’s “Night Music” track on that old New Sounds In Electronic Music LP on Columbia. But that was all. No other material that I know of has ever been available, and any further documentation on Richard Maxfield is welcome.

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    Morton Feldman + Stefan Wolpe – For Stefan Wolpe

    February 24th, 2010

    For Stefan Wolpe is a CD full of works for chorus (very lightly peppered with an instrument or two) from a couple of prominent composers from the second half of the 20th Century, Stefan Wolpe (1902-1972) and his student Morton Feldman (1926-1987). Stefan fled Germany during Hitler’s reign, only to become a prominent fixture in the New York School, where he befriended abstract expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline in the 1940s, as well as teaching from 1952-1956 at Black Mountain College when John Cage, David Tudor, Merce Cunningham and Lou Harrison hung out there. Stefan’s works tend toward the tonal and melodic, occasionally fired up with dissonance: “Wolpe enjoyed watching fish in an aquarium to get his inspirations, which helps explain why his notes shimmer, freeze, then dart in a new direction with such spontaneity.”—Kyle Gann

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    John Schott – Shuffle Play: Elegies For the Recording Angel

    February 23rd, 2010

    Hmmm, “Elegies For the Recording Angel” sounds familiar. Is that a quote from The Wire there in the title? Straight outta left field, way back by the bleachers, here we have a collection of year 2000 meditations on the mysterious (and nearly lost) realm of early recording history—featuring the ancient, tinny, scratchy sounds of various Edison wax cylinders from the late 19th and early 20th Century combined with contemporary instrumental music. Straight outta the Bay Area, the Ensemble Diglossia layers their considerable musical talents with these haunting, gritty textures of yore in a most “melding of the minds” kind of way. A wide array of “free-improvisation, musique concrete, post-war composition, AACM-derived strategies and pop-music” comes into play. Quirky improv, rocking marches, chaotic climaxes and plenty of haunting atmospheric ambience all abound. All aboard.

    Label: New World Records Catalog Number: 80548-2 Format: CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: 28 Total Time: 72:51 Country: United States Released: 2000 More: Discogs, Last.FM, Official

    Text ©2003 Arcane Candy

    David Tudor – Rainforest II + John Cage – Mureau

    February 22nd, 2010

    This is a much welcome double-CD set of enveloping electronic sound provided by the undynamic duo of 20th Century experimental music, pianist / composer David Tudor (1926-1996) and composer John Cage (1912-1992). This transcendent live performance is more than an adequate extension of their double-LP from 1959, Indeterminacy, and was recorded live by Radio Bremen in the Bremen Glocke, Germany, on May 5, 1972. It features John Cage reading a rearranged text of Thoreau mixed in with the homebrew music (hence “Mureau”) of David Tudor’s myriad electronic contraptions. With said equipment, David quilts a whole host of sonic afghans and sets them afloat in a most deep-space-staring manner: at times churning, misting, grating and massaging; evoking bird cries, placid scenery and foul weather density—all topped off by John’s peculiar warbled chanting and moaning of re-arranged text. Needless to say, it’s very beguiling and another essential listen from these two legends. What a treat to hear them together again.

    Label: New World Records Catalog Number: 80540-2 Format: 2-CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: Disc 1: 1, Disc 2: 1 Total Time: Disc 1: 43:02, Disc 2: 51:17 Country: United States Released: 2000 More: Discogs, New World Records

    Text ©2003 Arcane Candy

    MC Maguire – Trash of Civilizations

    February 17th, 2010

    MC Maguire is a composer who has been working since the 1970s. His works fuse elements of modern classical and pop culture. Trash of Civilizations presents two long-form pieces for live instruments and recorded sounds. The nearly half-hour opener, “The Spawn of Abe,” features a Klezmer clarinet and an Arabic oboe prominently snaking through layers of rhythmic synth and sampled chaos. A thick soup full of singing and talking heads, cawing birds, machine guns, helicopters and the like are frequently punctured with shards of shattering glass. Although the liner notes don’t list drums as an instrument, I can swear I hear some buried deep in the mix.

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    Susan Fancher – In Two Worlds

    February 4th, 2010

    “Susan Fancher is known for her deep and poetic musical interpretations. Her work to develop the repertoire for the saxophone has produced dozens of commissioned works, as well as published transcriptions of music by composers as diverse as Josquin Desprez and Steve Reich. A much sought-after performer of new music, she has worked with a multitude of composers and has performed in many of the world’s leading concert venues and contemporary music festivals. Susan Fancher is a regularly featured columnist for the nationally distributed Saxophone Journal and an artist for the Vandoren and Selmer companies. She teaches saxophone at Duke University.”

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