new albion records
As Sir Francis Drake, noted explorer and pirate, discovered California for the Elizabethan world, New Albion discovers new musical territories for the modern world. Then as now there are savages, pagans, exotic flora and fauna.
New Albion resembles a small ship on the ocean, a small press or an art gallery; we employ the ancient art of blind navigation. With composers and performers we develop, record and release about a dozen titles a year, always looking for works that are jewel-like objects of curiosity, beauty and wonder.
The kind of music we are seeking is central to our post-classical century: borders have widened; the electronic and digital revolutions have shrunk time and space so that streams of influence comingle the medieval with the modern, the primitive with the cosmopolitan, and the search through it all is for music that leads an aware listener into the living moment.
John Adams Shaker Loops; Light Over Water (NA014)
Shaker Loops for seven solo strings; Light Over Water for brass instruments and synthesizers.
"Shaker Loops is Adams' first real masterpiece, and one of his most enduring scores ... This recording captures the work's brilliant melding of Minimalist motivic development and Neo-Romantic power." —Pulse!
"Shaker Loops" was composed in the fall of 1978 and has since become my most frequently performed composition. Although being in its own way an example of 'continuous music', "Shaker Loops" differs from most other works of its kind because it sees so much change within a relatively short amount of time. Also it avoids the formal and temporal purity of much 'minimal' music by not adhering to a single unbending tempo throughout. This less severe approach allows a freer movement from one level of energy to another, making a more dramatic experience of the form. —John Adams
John Luther Adams The Far Country (NA061)
Cabrillo Festival Orchestra with Apollo Quartet & Strings, JoAnn Falletta conductor; Atlanta Singers, Kevin Culver conductor.
"Contemporary Classical Recording of the Year 1993" —Creative Loafing, Atlanta
"Dream in White on White" (1992) is a musical landscape on the non-chromatic ("white") tones and non-tempered intervals of Pythagorean diatonic tuning. It is a response to the clarity of those sounds, and to the treeless, windswept expanses of western Alaska.
"Night Peace" (1977) is based entirely on a single melodic line, which is heard only once, sung by the solo soprano at the end of the piece.
"The Far Country of Sleep" (1988) was composed in memory of the late Morton Feldman. Although he was an unrepentant urbanite, Feldman's music is, for me, haunted by the idea of the sublime landscape, imaginary or real.
"... Night Peace is what new choral music is all about." —John Schaefer, New Sounds
Louis Andriessen Zilver (NA094)
California EAR Unit.
"No composer can provoke, jolt and threaten the system better than Mr. Andriessen, who has been practicing those skills for his entire career ..." —The New York Times
The basic idea of "Zilver," which was written for the California EAR Unit, was to write a chorale variation like Bach did for the organ: a long melody in slow musical motion, combined with fast playing of the same melody.
The outer sections of the "Disco" (1982) occupy the sound environment of the 'hyper-instrument' created when both instruments—violin and piano—play in unison, while the static inner section explores the ringing overtones of sympathetic strings in the piano.
"Worker's Union" (1975) is a 'symphonic movement for any loud sounding group of instruments.' It is built of short rhythmic cells which are repeated varying numbers of times. However, there are no specific pitches until the very end of the piece. … And only in the case that every player plays with such an intention that his part is an essential one, the work will succeed; just as in the political work.' —Louis Andriessen and the California EAR Unit
ARAWI La Doctrina de los Ciclos/The Doctrine of Cycles (NA029)
The Contemporary Orchestra of Native Instruments, La Paz, Bolivia; for flutes, whistles, strings, percussion, bells.
Arawi (Aymara for song and musical creation) was founded in 1985 and is dedicated to musical options that exist in both traditional styles and classical forms of Bolivian music.
The majority of the musicians who study at the Workshop are adolescents and young adults from low-income sectors in the barrios of La Paz. The traditional folk music of the Andes, also referred to as 'musica ancestral' (ancestral music), with its wide array of musical instruments, forms the backbone of the educational curriculum, to which are added techniques and approaches applied to contemporary music as an aesthetic alternative. In this way Arawi attempts to address the temporal and spatial concept of returning to origins and of creating a language for an emerging culture.
"Exotic and intensely beautiful sonorities that could only come from the roof of the world." —San Francisco Examiner
BATAK Music of North Sumatra (NA046)
Traditional music of three ethnic groups that live on the shores of Lake Toba: the Toba, the Karo and the Mandailing.
"Voices and instruments rise in sacred and secular celebration with an idyllic elegance that belies the music's vigorous, complex locomotion." —Rolling Stone
75 thousand years ago, a volcano erupted deep in the interior of North Sumatra, spreading ash as far as Sri Lanka and leaving behind a crater now known as Lake Toba. This is the original homeland of the Batak, a family of seven Indonesian ethnic groups with a population of perhaps two million.
Music and dance play a crucial role in Batak society. The word for "ceremony" is actually a musical term and refers both to the Batak orchestra of drums, gongs, and oboes and also to the tunes they play. The musicians are essential to a ceremony because they are the intermediaries between humanity and the Creator. The sounds of the drums and gongs convey human prayers to the spirit world.
Luciano Berio The Complete Works for Solo Piano (NA089)
David Arden, piano.
"Arden, who has worked with Berio, plays in elegant virtuosity that seems to know no limitations. No one interested in serious modern music should miss this release." —In Tune
Luciano Berio is among the most widely performed and internationally respected composers today. This collection, developed in collaboration with the composer, presents his oeuvre from student-era work to the mature master. This recording followed pianist Arden's performances at Tanglewood in Ozawa Hall.
"A good one for completists—expertly played by David Arden." —The Wire
Anthony Braxton Composition No. 165 [for 18 instruments] (NA050)
University of Illinois Creative Music Orchestra, conducted by Anthony Braxton.
There are static and mutable cloud formations that drift in and out of the canvas of the music. POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW! "Hey, even I recognized that cloud! (chord!)" said Johnathon. "Don't rush it," cried Ben, "it'll come in its own time. In Composition No. 165, moments float in and out of the sound space—yet there are target recognition states. This is a sequential event continuum that places equal emphasis on sound and space—the moments come ... the moments go." —Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton 19 [Solo] Compositions, 1988 (NA023)
Anthony Braxton, solo alto saxophone.
"16 originals plus 3 standards can be likened in a way to a series of etudes, each one investigating specific areas of form and content." —CODA
A page from the book in the life of one of the true poets in the history of jazz and composition. These solo concert performances range from the lyrical, through the traditional, and into abstact and angular theory, then come back again into simple song.
Ray Brooks Hollow Bell—Zen Shakuhachi (NA108)
The shakuhachi is an instrument that dates far back into time and is usually associated with Japanese ritual and meditation. It is an instrument of extraordinary color and emotional range. In the modern era it has traveled from its monastic and folkloric identity to appear in every context, from symphonic work to free jazz. This record revisits the root material through the playing of the English musician, Ray Brooks, and it is the musical companion to the story told in his book "Blowing Zen" (published by H J Kramer).
Ray Brooks left the West in the seventies, traveled the world. In Japan, he came across the shakuhachi and, with it, the discipline of Zen Buddhism. Ray's playing is not like a Western person attempting to sound Japanese. His playing is honest and transparent, without borders. It is a music that evokes the moment through celtic ritual, memory through zen melody.
Earle Brown Music For Piano(s), 1951-1995 (NA082)
David Arden, piano.
"Un disque qui s'impose. Rating: 10." —Répertoire
This recording traverses the last forty-five years of Earle Brown's creative work, chronologically encompassing his twelve-tone "Three Pieces" and "Perspectives", his revolutionary "Folio" pieces, "25 Pages" (music's first truly open-form work), the multi-timbral "Four Systems" and "Corroboree", and the world premiere of his "Summer Suite '95", written especially for David Arden.
The music was at the same time vigorous and lyrical, audacious and beautiful, evocative and provocative. And if this appears to be a play of opposites, it is not surprising, since the man who created the music is no different. … a cultured Yankee spirit with a penchant for experimentation and an occasional bit of mischief, an incurable romantic with a child-like enthusiasm for almost everything.
Here is a composer capable of both the strictest formality and the broadest liberty, a composer equally at home in serialism, aleatory forms, and triadic harmony. … —John Yaffé, Producer
Harold Budd She Is a Phantom (NA066)
Harold Budd with Zeitgeist.
"One shatters glass in a vacuum, then finds the art part among the shards." —Harold Budd
"With this work, composed for Zeitgeist, plus the release of "By the Dawn's Early Light" in 1991, I returned to composing music for ensembles. For a decade I made mostly solo albums, sometimes collaborating with other artists, but I found that I was too often not interested in making a statement as much as I was interested in just making an album. This seemed pointless to me; I changed." —Harold Budd
John Cage Daughters of the Lonesome Isle (NA070)
Margaret Leng Tan, pianos.
"... the most convincing interpreter of Cage's keyboard music." —The New York Times
The eight works on this album feature the different kinds of "instruments" used by John Cage in his substantial piano oeuvre—the prepared, string, bowed and conventional piano as well as the toy piano. The disc's thirteen year span (1940-1953) encapsulates the evolution of Cage's aesthetic from Bacchanale, his first prepared piano composition, to the chance-derived abstraction of Music for Piano #2. These bookends of the album also frame my relationship with John Cage: Bacchanale was the first piece I played for him in 1981 and we discussed Music for Piano #2 the day before his fatal stroke in 1992. —Margaret Leng Tan
(Bar code: 0 22551 00702 4)
John Cage The Perilous Night; Four Walls (NA037)
Margaret Leng Tan, prepared piano, piano; Joan La Barbara, soprano.
"Tan brings out the sheer emotional and physical intensity of these works with her sensitive approach and faultless execution. Magnificent and necessary." —Metro Times, Detroit
"The Perilous Night" was written for the prepared piano, John Cage's now-classic invention from the late 1930's, where various objects inserted between the strings of a grand piano act as mutes which completely transform the timbral characteristics of the instrument. "The Perilous Night", one of Cage's more complex preparations, calls for a piano to be heavily muted with materials ranging from the standard bolts, nuts and weather stripping to bamboo slivers.
"... the revelation of a masterpiece." —Yorkshire Post, UK
John Cage Singing Through (NA035)
Joan La Barbara, soprano; Leonard Stein, piano; William Winant, percussion.
"Contrasts the sacred with the secular, the serene with the sexual. Joan La Barbara is the perfect vehicle ... for this delicate music. "—CD Review
For this recording, I focused on particular aspects of Cage: the sense of wonder, the feeling for beauty, the love of theatre, the fascination with words and sounds of all sorts and, of course, silence. … Each of the songs has its own emotional and acoustical space, some of which have been dictated in performance notes, some are indicated by the music itself. Unless otherwise stated, the notes instruct the singer: "To be sung without vibrato, as in folk singing."
Finally, "Singing Through" is a love song for my mentor to my mentor, my friend. —Joan La Barbara
Selected as one of 1990's best recordings by The New York Times
Cornelius Cardew We Sing For The Future! (NA116)
Frederic Rzewski, piano.
Cardew's music still provokes controversy. Even amongst his many admirers, his later 'political' music in particular creates unease and perhaps misgivings. The relation of the music to its 'programme' and to the lofty aims it purports to serve is problematic enough, so let us remind ourselves what Cardew himself wrote about this music in the seventies:
"I have discontinued composing music in an avant-garde idiom for a number of reasons: the exclusiveness of the avant-garde, its fragmentation, its indifference to the real situation in the world today, its individualistic outlook and not least its class character (the other characteristics are virtually products of this). We Sing For The Future is a composition based on a song. The song is for youth, who face bleak prospects in a world dominated by imperialism, and whose aspirations can only be realised through the victory of revolution and socialism. …
"I wrote the Thälmann Variations in 1974 to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Ernst Thälmann, Secretary of the German Communist Party from 1927. …"
Rzewski's interpretations of these two works are wholly admirable, the performances compelling, and the two improvisations towards the conclusion of "We Sing For The Future"—an unexpected bonus—are quite magnificent. He stretches the boundaries of style and musical language drawn up by Cardew without rupturing them, and, at the end of the improvisations, Cardew's music is ushered back, seamlessly and convincingly. … —from the notes by John Tilbury
Chen Yi The Music of Chen Yi (NA090)
The Women's Philharmonic, JoAnn Falletta, conductor; Chanticleer; Liu Wei-shan, guzheng; Zhao Yang-qin, yangqin; Chen Jie-bing, erhu; Min Xiao-fen, pipa
"... brilliant vitality with which Chen Yi dresses the strains of Chinese music in Western orchestral garb." [Five stars] —San Francisco Chronicle
Regarding my composition style, I believe that language can be translated into music. Since I speak out naturally in my mother tongue, in my music there is Chinese blood, Chinese philosophy and customs. However, music is a universal language, I hope to get the essence of both Eastern and Western cultures and write more compositions that embody my temperament and spirit of this brave new epoch.—Chen Yi
A native of Guangzhou, China, and a graduate of the Central Conservatory of Beijing, Ms. Chen came to the United States in 1986 and has become one of the most important composers of her generation.
Johannes Ciconia Homage to Johannes Ciconia (NA048)
Ensemble PAN performs madrigals, motets, virelais, ballata and canons: secular music for voices with corno muto, harp, vielle and lute.
"The musicians of Project Ars Nova really know how to perform the music, presenting it in a way that shows they have it in their blood, communicating their sense of excitement in what was and remains some of the most thrilling music written around 1400." —Gramophone
Ciconia's music has a simple rhythmic drive with a great deal of forward propulsion, melodic lines of uncommon elegance, a good deal of motivic imitation and repetition, and a clear harmonic language that often yields a radiant sonority of extraordinary beauty. It is Ciconia's art to which the generation of the early fifteenth century composers owes much of their charm and beauty of style. Indeed, in many of the motets of the young Du Fay, one can literally hear his excitement with the kinds of textures and sonorities that he had found in Ciconia.
"...Shapely readings, spare in texture but played spiritedly." —New York Times
Henry Cowell New Music: Piano Compositions (NA103)
Recordings from the Henry Cowell Piano Festival that occurred over three days in February, 1997, where performers and composers from around the country were invited to play their favorite Cowell pieces. Featuring pianists Sarah Cahill, Joseph Kubera, Chris Brown and Sorrel Hays.
Henry Cowell invented and developed most of the extended techniques we have heard on and in the piano over the last seventy years. During his lifetime (1897-1965), he composed a vast amount of symphonic, chamber and vocal music, taught what were probably the first classes in world music, founded the remarkable New Music Quarterly, and wrote the pioneering theoretical book New Musical Resources. But his most radical and influential contribution remains his large body of piano music, which he started writing as a teenager. As a young boy he earned enough money from menial jobs to buy a piano. He began to experiment by striking the keys with his fists and forearms; he named these chords "tone clusters" and wrote many compositions using them before the age of 15.
Ruth Crawford and Johanna Beyer 9 Preludes - Piano Music (NA114)
Sarah Cahill, piano.
An important new recording of Ruth Crawford's (1901-1953) transcendental "Nine Preludes" and "Piano Study in Mixed Accents," and the premiere recording of "Dissonant Counterpoint" and "Gebrauchs-musik" by Johanna Beyer (1888-1944), a revolutionary but tragically neglected figure in American modernism. With their piano compositions, these two women made phenominal contributions to American experimental music.
Alvin Curran Crystal Psalms (NA067)
An homage to Kristallnacht. A concert performed by 7 European radio stations, scored for 7 choruses, 4 trombones, 4 celli, 4 violas, 4 flutes, 4 clarinets, 2 tubas, 2 saxophones, 6 accordions, 6 percussionists, plus pre-recorded sounds.
"Without remembering and learning there is no survival." —Alvin Curran
On October 20, 1988, a large part of Western Europe heard a unique radio concert—CRYSTAL PSALMS—a concerto for musicians in six nations, simultaneously performed, mixed and broadcast live in stereo to listeners from Palermo to Helsinki.
This special event, composed and coordinated by myself, while part of a worldwide series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the infamous Kristallnacht (Crystal Night), was, through its unusual concept, one which demanded and demonstrated an exceptional quality of international artistic and technological collaboration—the bringing together groups of musicians and technicians (some 300 in all, in six major European cities) who neither saw nor heard one another, yet performed as one unified ensemble to realize this complex score.
A pre-recorded tape containing sounds of many aspects of Jewish life was often employed together with the live sounds. Hence, the archaic sounds of the shofar, the Yemenite Jews praying at the Western ("Wailing") Wall, famous Eastern European cantors taken from old sound archives; children in a Roman Jewish orphanage; my young niece singing her Bat Mitzvah prayers and my father singing in Yiddish at a family gathering. Ship horns, trains, crows and breaking glass, too. To this sonic panorama one hears live choral fragments of the Renaissance Jewish composers Salomone Rossi from Italy and Caceres of the famous Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam, as well as from the renowned 19th Century composers of the Jewish liturgy, Lewandowski and Sulzer. —Alvin Curran
Alvin Curran Electric Rags II (NA027)
Rova Saxophone Quartet and electronics.
"A mighty earful." —The Wire
The music itself, like an experimental voyage, sets out to see what, if anything, lies beyond "improvisation". To this end both determinate and indeterminate notations are employed together with a special interactive system, which can reproduce electronically anything the players play—as they play it, or any time after, and in some cases even before.
The heart of the piece is a computerized electronic system enabling each player to pilot one or more MIDI synthesizers directly from his own instrument. A flexible computer program "conducts" or spontaneously structures the concert, which in spite of formally notated sections or the highly conditioned improvisational tendencies of the players, produces an ever new version of the work with each performance.
The computer further effects a number of rich musical transformations in real and deferred time of whatever is played.... —Alvin Curran
Deep Listening Band The Ready Made Boomerang (NA044)
Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster, Panaiotis and guests; recorded on location in The Cistern Chapel, Ft. Worden Cistern, Olympic Peninsula, WA.
"Timbres and harmonies warp as they well up toward the open air, change shape, resonate in unfamiliar, sometimes disturbing combinations. The pace is peaceful, pulseless, the boundaries of the compositions gaseous and difficult to define." —Seattle Weekly
Stuart Dempster In The Great Abbey of Clement VI (NA013)
Stuart Dempster, solo trombone and didjeridu.
"All three works on this disc are slow-paced and meditative in style. Nonetheless, they include some daringly imaginative—and unexpected—sonic effects ... fascinating." —Audio
While on tour with the Merce Cunningham Dance Co., Dempster, a renowned trombonist and pioneer of resonant improvisation, happened into the same abbey, and many of the same ghosts, that Umberto Eco evoked in The Name Of The Rose.
The very first note is the loudest, and should be overpowering. This single first note, after I stop playing, continues for 14 seconds into silence just before the next note. You will eventually learn to tell when I quit playing and leave only the echo, but at first you may be deceived. "Standing Waves - 1976" is straight-forward enough until you begin to hear multiphonics. Later on I merge into intense multiphonics with altered mouth shapes to emphasize various partials of the harmonic spectrum. Toward the end it almost sounds like crickets. The end comes when the bell tolls in the Abbey.
Stuart Dempster Underground Overlays from the Cistern Chapel (NA076)
Variously for ten trombones, solo conch shell, didgeridu, and conch trio.
Every so often I have arranged one of the trombone master classes to take place in the cistern at Fort Worden, Port Townsend, the infamous two million gallon 186-foot-diameter water tank northwest of Seattle. The most recent time turned into a recording session that served the purpose of making this CD.
The reverberation time of 45 seconds is so great that it is nearly impossible to communicate unless you are grouped together … The looks of amazement on the students, or anyone, as they climb down the ladder and hear their first sounds is worth the whole exercise!
While spinning very slowly I face each of the other trombonists in turn. The trombonists are spread around the circumference of the cistern approximately 80 feet away from each other. When I face them straight on they are to hear what I play and continue playing that item until I face them again with either the same or, more likely, new information. … —Stuart Dempster
Charles Dodge Any Resemblance is Purely Coincidental (NA043)
Computer, synthesized voice, piano and viola, performed by Enrico Caruso, Baird Dodge, Alan Feinberg, Joan La Barbara.
"Like almost all of Dodge's music, the Elegy is restrained but romantic, elegantly controlled, moving." —The New Yorker
If there is one piece identified with Dodge, a "signature" piece if you will, it would have to be "Any Resemblance..." which has those qualities that seem to imbue his work in general—charm, wit, poignancy and technical brilliance. The texture is rich, the piano playing a dramatic and dynamic role, but there is never the sell out to the trickier potentials of an idea like this one. Dodge restrains, and the piece is informed with a sad, ironic wit which points to a profound realization.
Enrico Caruso not only epitomizes the end of the Romantic era in music but he also represents the beginnng of the modern age in which practically all music becomes electronic, as he was one of the first musicians to become a best-selling recording artist. The composer has said that he has always wanted a great performer to play his music, and finally found one who was in no position to refuse. The idea of 'publicness' of the recording becomes a trope for Dodge, allowing him to make a statement about the 'loneliness of the great performer.'
Paul Dresher Cage Machine (NA125)
Performed by David Abel, Joel Davel, Paul Dresher, Julie Steinberg, Yuri Mershevsky, and The Electro Acoustic Band: Craig Fry, Philip Aaberg, Paul Hanson, Amy Knoles, Gene Reffkin, and Paul Dresher
These chamber works from 1994 to 2002 include many of my favorite concert works, and represent a cross-section of approaches I've taken and musical media I've utilized in concert music recently. By the end of 1993, I had spent the better part of 12 years focusing on composing for opera/music theater and for modern dance, involving live music with other performing disciplines. … I felt, at the end of this period, that my own musical vocabulary was in some sense stagnating, and felt a need to devote the next period of work to creating works exclusively for the concert stage.
Paul Dresher Dark Blue Circumstance (NA053)
The Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio; New Performance Group of the Cornish Institute; Thomasa Eckert, Rinde Eckert, John Duykers.
"His sound can be both lush and austere. But there's always a sense of pulse, evolution and destination in his music." —San Francisco Examine
"Dark Blue Circumstance" (1982-87), for electric guitar and live tape processing, is performed on an elaborate tape loop system which is an instrument which allows live multi-track recording, mixing, processing and immediate playback of any sounds produced by the performer(s). … This instrument was my principal performing tool for most of the 1980s and was integral to many compositions, both for me as a soloist as well as for ensemble music and theater performances and purely tape compositions. —Paul Dresher
Ensemble PAN Ars Magis Subtiliter (NA021)
Ensemble PAN performs secular Music of the Chantilly Codex, France, 14th Century, with guests Peter Becker, Karen Clark-Young, Randall Cook, Steven Lundahl, Margaret Raines.
"This recording is simply the best of a very fine but still small number of discs featuring secular music of the late 14th century—a time of great social and political upheaval, and the beginning of an era of unequalled interest in and advancement of the arts. 10/10"—CD Review
All the songs in this record come from the Chantilly Codex and present as clear a picture as can be presented within one recording of the song repertory of the late fourteenth century. The 'ars subtilior', as Ursula Gunther aptly has called it, is not just music of great complexity, some of which can be understood only by the performers themselves or by those who take the time to ponder the sometimes arcane texts and complex notation. It is also music of charm and delicacy that has its own immediate appeal. Like the elaborate work of contemporary goldsmiths, each of these songs charms and dazzles at first sight and also repays careful listening and study of detail.
Ensemble PAN The Island of St. Hylarion (NA038)
Music of Cyprus, 1413-1422: Michael Collver, countertenor, corno muto; John Fleagle, tenor, harp; Shira Kammen, vielle; Laurie Monahan, mezzosoprano; Crawford Young, lute; with guests Peter Becker, Karen Clark-Young, Randall Cook, Steven Lundhal, Margaret Raines.
"This is without a doubt the best recording of the Cypriot-French music to date." —Historical Performance: The Journal of Early Music America
Virtually all of the music in this recording comes from one of the most neglected but fascinating sources of late Medieval music, the richly copied manuscript J.II.9 of the Biblioteca Nazionale in Turin, written between 1413 and 1422 in Cyprus. This manuscript is the sole witness to a brief but extraordinary flowering of western art music in Cyprus at the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century.
The Cyprus Codex begins with a fascicle of plainsong, including several mass cycles as well as offices for St. Hylarion and St. Anne, both of whom are particularly venerated in Cyprus. Then follow a series of polyphonic glorias and credos, several of which are arranged in pairs, a cantus firmus mass lacking the agnus dei (added by a later scribe), 41 isorhythmic motets, 102 ballades, 43 virelais, and 21 rondeaux. The texts of the secular works and eight of the motets are French and reveal familiarity with the poetry of Machaut and his contemporaries. The rest of the music uses latin texts, including a thinly veiled imitation of a motet text by Philippe de Vitry. All the works are anonymous and unique to this codex which stands as one of the few medieval manuscripts that solely represents the musical output of a single court and chapel.
"10/10" —CD Review
Morton Feldman Only (Works for Voice and Instruments) (NA085)
Joan La Barbara, soprano, Ralph Grierson, piano, Erika Duke Kirkpatrick, cello, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Stephen L. Mosko, music director.
"Jamais l'austérité n'a été aussi plaisante." [Rating: 10] —Répertoire
For those who have enjoyed the late works of Feldman that have appeared on recordings like sudden flowers after a rain in the desert, this collection offers a glimpse of earlier pieces, helping to paint a more complete portrait of this man whose thoughts and sounds influenced and continue to affect so many composers and musicians in the last part of the twentieth century. —Joan La Barbara
Morton Feldman Rothko Chapel; Why Patterns? (NA039)
UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus; David Abel, viola; Karen Rosenak, celeste; William Winant, percussion; California EAR Unit.
"This record is a delight. As time goes on, this music seems to have increased relevance to the climate of the 1990s with its ready response to the spiritual minimalism of Pärt or Tavener." —Gramophone
To a large degree, my choice of instruments (in terms of forces used, balance and timbre) was affected by the space of the chapel as well as the paintings. Rothko's imagery goes right to the edge of his canvas, and I wanted the same effect with the music—that it should permeate the whole octagonal-shaped room and not be heard from a certain distance. The result is very much what you have in a recording—the sound is closer, more physically with you than in a concert hall. …
There are a few personal references in Rothko Chapel. The soprano melody, for example, was written on the day of Stravinsky's funeral service in New York. The quasi-Hebraic melody played by the viola at the end was written when I was fifteen. Certain intervals throughout the work have the ring of the synagogue. —Morton Feldman
"Casts a hypnotic spell missing from most of the choral music of our time. Critic's Choice: Best of Last 25 Years." —San Francisco Examiner
Morton Feldman Three Voices [for Joan La Barbara] (NA018)
Joan La Barbara, soprano.
"La Barbara's voice (in triplicate) has the freshness and clarity of a frosty morning, and the three lines congeal into chords of an icy coolness, pure-toned and precisely tuned, a joy to witness.... I could easily understand if this record were to achieve the status of a cult object." —Gramophone
10/10 Rating —CD Review
Miguel Frasconi Song + Distance (NA111)
Solo and ensemble music for glass bellbowls, mbiras, voice, toy pianos, electronics and devolved musical instruments, featuring vocalist Eda Maxym.
The "Song" in Song + Distance refers not to the various popular song structures we hear everyday but, rather, to the concept of expression. The song in "singing one's heart out." The "Distance" refers to the concept of experience. The moment we experience something we are immediately at a distance from it. We retain our experience of the event but not the event itself. The song helps us choose the quality of this distance and the depth of the experience. Song and distance, expression and experience, emotion and memory, melody and the sounds around us.
Ellen Fullman Change of Direction (NA102)
Works for the Long String Instrument.
"An incredible quietude flows out of this music.... Listening, one becomes conscious of the inner workings of being ..." —Juan Christopye Ammann, Kunsthalle-Basel
Created by composer Ellen Fullman, the Long String Instrument has about 100 strings, suspended at waist height for 90 feet and attached to a soundboard, much in the same way a harp is constructed. It is played by three people who bow the strings with rosin-coated fingertips, while walking. A C-clamp on each wire is used for tuning, changing the string length much like a capo on a guitar. The instrument is tuned in just intonation.
"Paradoxically, her music is both intense and serene. The attractively eerie, acoustically unstable droning suggests urgency, while the slow formal development of the piece invites an intuitive suspended-intellect sort of hearing." —Los Angeles Times
"In less time than it takes to blink an eye, the sound would move from a monotone car horn to the fullness of a gothic church organ. The next minute the sound of a shorted-out electric wire evolved into a Middle Eastern raga." —Seattle Post
Orlando Jacinto García Fragmentos del Pasado (NA124)
Robert Black, Cuarteto Latinamericano, Daniel Kientzy, Jaime Marquez, Reina Portuondo, Orquesta Sinfonica Simón Bolívar, Alfredo Rugeles, Conductor.
This collection of new classical Latin American work by the Cuban-born, Miami-based composer is a series of pieces that invoke an abstract expressionist sensibility set against a time free present.
Through some one hundred works composed for a wide range of performance genres, Orlando Jacinto García has established himself as an important voice in the new music world. The distinctive character of his music has been described as "time suspended—haunting sonic explorations" with "a certain tightness and rigor infrequently found in music of this type"—qualities he developed from his studies with Morton Feldman among others.
Peter Garland Walk in Beauty (NA052)
Aki Takahashi, piano; Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, violin, piano, vibraphone & tom-toms.
"Often simple in design, his consonant or modal melodies, frequently inspired by southwestern Native American or Mexican folk music, grow rich in resonances through repetition or subtle variation, suggesting the stark beauty and vast open space of the New Mexican desert." —Fanfare
The conceptual basis of "Walk in Beauty" is found in the all-night peyote ceremonies of the Native American Church and the curing ceremonies of the Navajo. There is also a simple musical correlation: In the fast, nervous repetition of single notes, and their high pitch registration (as in the first section) can be heard the influence of peyote drumming and musical style. And perhaps there is a certian similarity in the emotional function of the music too.
The movements follow a hypothetical sunset-to-sunrise time cycle, and are dedicated to close friends. … —Peter Garland
Janice Giteck HOME (Revisited) (NA054)
New Performance Group; Gamelan Pacifica; Philandros of the Seattle Men's Chorus; Mimi Dye, viola; Thomasa Eckert, soprano
"For a postminimalist, Giteck traverses a wonderful range within each piece, surging from darkness into light, from sorrow into sexuality, from stasis into dance." —Village Voice
"Om Shanti" was composed in 1986 and is dedicated to People Living With AIDS. It is the first of the four works on this album which I call collectively 'my music and healing series'. "Om Shanti" was commissioned for the New Performance Group by the Institute for Transformational Movement in Seattle, shortly after the loss of the Institute director, Peter Guiler, who died of AIDS. …
Om is the primordial human expression for all sounds in the universe according to yogic traditions; Shanti is peace. This is my prayer for people living with the AIDS virus. —Janice Giteck
Carlos Guastavino Las Puertas de la Mañana (NA058)
Ulises Espaillat, tenor; Pablo Zinger, piano.
When I read poetry that touches me,I become very agitated, my whole body contorts, I vibrate totally, and tears appear in my eyes. It's very strong! I then take the manuscript paper and write the notes. The melody comes easily; everything is very quick; I cannot stop...it's as if I were possessed; suddenly, when I become aware that I found what I wanted, I stand, make gestures, walk, go in circles, laugh or cry, and give thanks to God. The music comes by itself. I am not responsible: one part of my brain has music. —Carlos Guastavino, in conversation with Carlos Vilo
Lou Harrison Drums Along the Pacific (NA122)
Performed by David Abel, Dennis Russell Davies, Leta Miller, Geraldine Walther, William Winant, Jennifer Cass, Joel Davel, Scott Evans, Carla Fabrizio, David Johnson, Daniel Kennedy, Todd Manley, Sam Ospovat, David Rosenthal, Gordon Smith, Julie Steinberg, Robert Strizich.
"During the last two years an extraordinary interest in percussion music has developed on the Pacific coast," wrote Henry Cowell in "Drums Along the Pacific" (1940). "In Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, orchestras have been formed to play music for percussion instruments alone... directed chiefly by two young Western composers, John Cage and Lou Harrison, who have concocted innumerable creations... and have induced others... to write for them."
"This recording, though entirely focused on percussion, aptly demonstrates most of the essential characteristics of Harrison's music over a forty-year period: his concern with melody, supported by intricate rhythmic interplay; his attention to instrumental color; and most importantly, his commitment to cross-cultural interaction. Music, for Harrison, provides the opportunity for "transethnic" explorations. He is committed to a single "world music" in which disparate subcultures are brought into harmony." —Leta Miller, University of California, Santa Cruz
Lou Harrison La Koro Sutro (NA015)
UC Berkeley Chorus: Philip Brett, dir; American Gamelan: William Winant, dir, John Bergamo, conductor; Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio.
"Nonpareil, to say the least: It's a choral setting of the Heart Sutra, translated into Esperanto." —San Francisco Chronicle
The Esperanto title of "La Koro Sutro" means 'the Heart Sutra' which is among the most used and profound of Buddhist sutras. 'The Heart Sutra' is the essence of the Perfect Wisdom Scriptures (1st century B.C. onwards) belonging to Mahayana Buddhism. It refers to the heart of divine wisdom ('Hagia Sophia' in Greek). This philosophic text is approximately contemporary to the Byzantine era in the West.
Twice selected as one of the best recordings of 1988 by The New York Times
Lou Harrison Rapunzel: An Opera in Six Acts, plus other works (NA093)
Karen Andrie, violin, cello; Susan Brown, violin; John Duykers, baritone; Josephine Gandolfi, piano; Patrice Maginnis, soprano; Lynne McMurtyr, mezzo-soprano; Leta Miller, flute and piccolo; William Winant, percussion; Ensemble Parallele, Nicole Paiement, conductor.
"[Of the work's] varied array of instrumental sonorities ... There was no austerity ... but a continuity which was lyric and, when desired, pungent, along with a pervasive and convincing sensitiveness." —Herald Tribune
From the Black Mountain College period (1951-1953) date the quartet "Songs in the Forest" as well as the opera "Rapunzel." Rapunzel's six scenes were the product of an intensive effort over a period of less than three months from August to October 1952, although the subsequent orchestration required his efforts well into the following year. Based on a psychological reinterpretation of the old fairy tale by the 19th century English poet William Morris, the work is set for chamber orchestra and three solo singers who declaim in serial language that is at once jagged and lyric. Harrison describes the opera as "in part self-analysis," holding "implicit in it some of the problems, tortures, and false rapture that I was myself experiencing in analysis and psychotherapy." In 1954 the Air from Rapunzel (Act 3) won a Twentieth Century Masterpiece Award for the best composition for voice and chamber orchestra at the International Conference of Contemporary Music in Rome.
Lou Harrison Rhymes with Silver (NA110)
This recording features Joan Jeanrenaud, the cellist for the Kronos Quartet for 20 years, in her first soloist recording, with the Abel, Steinberg, Winant Trio, and Benjamin Simon, violist for the Stanford Quartet. Rhymes with Silver was commissioned by Mark Morris for Yo-Yo Ma, and was premiered in 1997. The Mark Morris Group has toured the dance version of this piece across North America and Europe. This recording, the concert version, was produced by Lou Harrison in July, 2000. The work itself melds baroque with Javanese cadences, twentieth-century dance forms, and strains of the mid 20th century avant garde.
Lou Harrison Serenado (NA123)
Performed by David Tanenbaum, Joel Davel, Scott Evans, Gyan Riley, William Winant.
The guitar works of Lou Harrison span fifty years. The earliest piece on this recording, Serenado por Gitaro (a title in Esperanto), was included in a letter to Frank Wigglesworth dated February 12, 1952. For many years the piece remained unpublished, and guitarists circulated photocopies of the piece in Harrison's beautiful calligraphy. The music reflects Indian and other Asian influences, and represents a rejection of the densely textured modernism prevalent on the east coast at that time. "I don't think increasing complexity is the answer to anything," Lou has said. "I don't think significance is opposed to beauty."
Twenty-five years later the composer set out to write five suites for guitar, each in a different intonation. But the only completed work from that time was another Serenade (1978) in five movements with optional percussion, written in an eight-tone mode with a flatted second and raised fourth.
Almost twenty-five more years went by before Lou was again ready to write for the guitar. It turned out that one of his hesitations about the guitar over the years had been the relative lack of sustain of the classical guitar. After I made several trips to his house with trunkloads of guitars, he immediately recognized in the National Steel guitar the sound he yearned for. … —David Tanenbaum
Lou Harrison Solo Keyboards (NA117)
Linda Burman-Hall, keyboards.
On tuning & creativity: Throughout history we have thought up many visual, numeric, and verbal ways to represent the beautiful vibrations that make up music ... their direct speeds, the ratios between them and even ways to show how to tamper (temper) them. The earliest written tuning instructions come to us from the time of Hammurabi and are written by cuneiform in the language called old Babylonian. …
Although for several centuries keyboards were made that presented more than twelve tones, the hypnosis of twelve has continued, and continues to spread wherever "Western" culture settles in. Even here there are apostates. The important composer Harry Partch built an entire orchestra for his works written in a forty-three tone scale. Younger people still do this and, in addition, tend to show tunings by means of "lattices."
In this fine recording of my keyboard works, Linda and I have become a part of such apostasy from the dull grey of industrial twelve tone equal temperament and worked together to take back to ourselves as artists the natural right to tune pieces in ways that are fitting, appropriate, or enhance musical beauty. —Lou Harrison
Michael Harrison From Ancient Worlds (NA042)
Michael Harrison, harmonic piano.
"Through the miracle of just intonation—the art of tuning to the ratios found in the natural overtone series—Harrison evokes glorious clouds of harmonics, from which emerge peals of divine thunder, angel choirs, celestial bells." —The Nation
"From Ancient Worlds" is an allegory for a journey of the soul. "Song of the Rose," representing the soul, is the central theme of the work, and is presented in the style of a chorale … Various motifs, cadences and harmonic relationships from "Song of the Rose" are echoed in other parts of the work as well, depicting the soul's return in different guises as it travels through the imaginary landscapes of the various sections.
At the end of its journey, "Song of the Rose" returns in the elegiac "Rose of Remembrance", where phrases are juxtaposed with flashbacks of the major themes of the work. This is a metaphor for what is believed to be one of the first experiences of the afterlife: seeing life pass before your eyes in the presence of a Being of Light. … —Michael Harrison
David Hykes True to the Times (How to Be?) (NA057)
David Hykes, voice, windharp, organ, keyboard; Peter Biffin, dobro; Bruno Caillat, zarb, daff; Tony Lewis, tabla.
"True to the Times (How to Be?)" develops further the current phase of Harmonic Chant work, which began with the album "Windhorse Riders". My aim now is to show Harmonic Chant as a unified field joining chant, mode, text and rhythm.
The double focus of this album is on harmonic polyrhythms (just-intonation transposed into the realm of rhythm), and singing harmonic songs. …
For me, today, the purpose of music still seems to be to help us find harmony within ourselves. In that effort we can hear differently the question of how to be face it more globally, and even, at some moments, find an eventual source of reply. The seeking is itself a kind of pilgrimage. My image of the pilgrim, who could at some moments be any one of us, is of someone constantly working ... lost in work. One spark of that energy and the pilgrim can go on for days ... or eventually forever, like the real Ones. Not just up and down, or back and forth, but ever onward. —David Hykes
David Hykes Windhorse Riders (NA024)
David Hykes, voice, tanpura, jews harp, samples; Djamchid Chemirani, zarb; Zameer Ahmed, tabla; Eric Barret, voice.
"An exquisitely haunting disc of meditative music accompanied by subtle percussion." —CD Review: "The Basic-50 Definitive World Music Library"
The Harmonic Chant is a contemplative musical discipline I founded, named and have been developing with fellow researchers since 1973. From the beginning, I have had just one real aim: to seek out a true, symbolic musical language, simple and universal, which could express the quest for contact with a level of being higher than oneself.
This aim is certainly the heritage of the Harmonic Chant as found in Tibet and Mongolia, where I received my first inspiration. As an experimental filmmaker and musician, I was searching for a 'refracted' or 'prismatic' sound when I came across the sacred overtone chanting of the Gyuto and Gyume monks of Tibet and the traditional 'hoomi' singers of Mongolia, all of whom I worked or studied with thereafter. These singers, and their counterparts in Tuvan Russian, each produce in their chanting several notes at the same time, that is, a fundamental note and one or more soaring harmonics, or overtones, of the fundamental note.
I was inspired—reminded, one could say—by the sounds of these monks, shamans and singers to learn to chant in the same way. My aim and inspiration was to bring to life a new, global sacred music emanating from this most basic music universal - the harmonic series - present in all vocal or instrumental sound. The harmonic series is to sound what the color spectrum is to light. —David Hykes
"Hykes is in a real sense a serious composer, reacting to philosphical assumptions behind Western art music and reaching to the East for different models and inspirations." —Fanfare
Aaron Jay Kernis 100 Greatest Dance Hits (NA083)
David Tanenbaum, guitar; The Chester Quartet; Aaron Berofsky, violin; David Harding, viola; Tom Rosenberg, cello; Christopher O'Riley, piano; Nancy Allen Lundy, soprano; John Dent, trumpet; Jeff Milarsky, glock & percussion; Benjamin Herman, glock; Leslie Stifelman, piano; Lisa Moore, piano; Kim Barber, mezzo-soprano; Kathleen Nester, flute; Larry Guy, clarinets; Anthony Cecere, horn; Mary Rowell, violin; Leslie Tomkins, viola; Tonya Tomkins, cello; Robert Black, bass; Susan Jolles, harp; Michael Barrett, conductor.
"... the most important young composer working in this country. Ambitious and witty, thoughtful and sensuous, alluring and provocative, his music grips both heart and mind. "—San Francisco Chronicle
As the title of this album suggests, this is a compilation of the composer's lighter works. The pieces in this collection exhibit all the wit and ebullience of Classical-period divertimenti, but also the craftsmanship and earnestness associated with more serious musical essays. Even in a lighter vein, there is zeal in Kernis's compositional method, in the fastidious notation, the control over rhythm, and in the minutiae of instrumentation.
The label minimalist is so often misapplied as a mask for the vapid that it seems wrong to use the term in reference to Kernis's music. Ultimately, Kernis's music rejects stylistic polemics. The music is unconcerned with constructed historical exigencies and manifestos. Kernis listens to all he hears, and then writes his own music, full of warmth and humor—eclectic in influence, but decidedly singular in voice.
Carson Kievman Symphony No. 2(42) (NA081)
Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra - Katowice; with the Polish Radio Choir of Krakow, Delta David Gier, conductor.
"Kievman uses a modernist's compositional tools, but he's a late-Romantic at heart .. challenges adventurous listeners without alienating those more traditional tastes." —Miami New Times
Symphony No. 2(42) was commissioned by the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra in 1991 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mozart's death. The music conveys a sense of Mozart as visionary artist, striving to pursue creative freedom despite the ultimate costs to his career and health. The final movement incorporates the "Lacrymosa" from Mozart's unfinished Requiem: the last bars of music that he wrote from his deathbed at age 35. For Kievman, this tragic ending becomes a frame of reference for the creative life, with the symphony's four-part structure depicting a metaphorical journey from youth through death, and beyond. From the midst of modernist techniques, Mozart's 18th-century theme arrives with an aura of otherworldly clarity and purity.
"... heavily layered music echoes Ligeti and Varese." —Denver Post
(Bar code: 0 22551 00812 0)
Komitas Divine Liturgy (NA033)
Performed by the Men's Choir of St. Gayane Cathedral, Yerevan, Armenia.
"Both a sacred and sensuously seductive composition ... polyphonic lines divided among the sections of the chorus, liberal use of canon, shifting harmonies behind leading melodies, and a diversity of tone colors created by striking combinations of voices and by vocalise." —Stereophile
The 1915-1917 Ottoman genocide of the Armenians was the beginning of Komitas' tragic period, which was marked by psychic trauma and artistic loss. In April 1915, with other Armenian intellectuals and artists, Komitas was arrested and deported to the interior of the Empire. …
Conceived as a capella for male chorus, "Divine Liturgy" is a monumental work which celebrates the enduring qualities of the Armenian 'melos'. It is inspired by Komitas' studies of the Armenian 'khaz' and his research in Armenian vocal traditions. It is the fullest expression of Komitas' lifelong preoccupation with the creation of a national music whose sources are at once secular and sacred, and which is rooted in the toil of the Armenian peasant and the aspirations to religious transcendence. —Taline Voskeritchian
Robert Kyr The Passion According to Four Evangelists (NA098)
Carole Haber, soprano; Gloria Raymond, mezzo-soprano; William Hite, tenor; David Murray, baritone; and the Back Bay Chorale, Beverly Taylor, director.
The challenge of composing a passion in the twentieth century is considerable given the fact that there is no sizable contemporary repertoire in this genre and hence, no prospective models—only two "recent" works come to mind: Krzysztof Penderecki's St. Luke Passion (1963-65) and Arvo Part's Passio (1973). In these modern passions, as well as those by Bach and other baroque composers, the story is narrated by a singe figure, one of the four evangelists. From the beginning, I decided to take a different path in terms of storytelling and musical dramatization. In writing the text, I began with the Revised Standard version of the gospels, and after interweaving the four stories together, I set about the task of "editing" the entire text. I distilled the stories into a poetic form, which has been created not as literature, but as a text to be set to music.
In The Passion According to Four Evangelists I intend every note to be heard simply and directly—I hope that the power of the story is felt through the starkness and clarity of the musical expression. I am not interested in reflecting trends or fads (the latest "-isms") or relying on historical references—rather, for each scene, I have strived to compose music which proceeds from the inner core of the narrative. I have tried to convey only the essential—no more, no less. Beyond that, that story speaks for itself.
Robert Kyr Unseen Rain (NA075)
Vocal music by Kyr, performed by Ensemble PAN with the Back Bay Chorale: texts by Guillaume de Machaut, Jean Joubert, Artur Rimbaud, Hildegard von Bingen, Leo Felipe, Jorge Luis Borges, Mirza Ghalib, Niu Hsi Chi, Kalidasa, Rumi a.o.
"A fascinating album consisting of new music steeped in the technique and aesthetics of music 600 years old." —The Atlantic Monthly
"Unseen Rain" was commissioned by the Chase Foundation in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Longy School of Music. Even before choosing the texts, I decided to compose a work for many more singers than instrumentalists, which would include as many members of the Longy community as possible. I wanted the vocalists to dominate the attention of the listeners and to be the dramatic focus of the work.
The Chase Foundation also specified that the texts were to be "in celebration of music" and must not be too somber or grim in general tone. Early in my search, it became clear that the twentieth century would probably not yield poetic texts of this nature. I wanted to find epigrammatic, haiku-like texts which were filled wth simple words and direct images. Fortunately, I found some beautiful translations of Rumi's quatrains (short poems of four lines each) and after reading at least 500 of them, I set about the task of creating a celebratory musical drama from the general collection. The work fell into three parts: in the first, "The Prophet's Quatrains," the countertenor is a prophet beseeching the community (the chorus) to remain awake throughout the night in order to fully experience the joys of music; in the second, "The Lovers' Quatrains," the soprano and tenor are lovers rejoicing in the similarities between love and music; and in the third, "A Communal Affirmation," the prophet and the lovers join the chorus to proclaim the spiritual power of music ("Listen to the unstruck sounds, and what sifts through that music..."). … —Robert Kyr
Robert Kyr Violin Concerto Trilogy (NA126)
Third Angle New Music Ensemble, Ron Blessinger, Denise Huizenga, Pacific Rim Gamelan.
This recording presents a trilogy of violin concerti … In each work, the violin soloist is an adventurer who sets out on a journey of discovery that is filled with challenges and surprises. The music of each concerto is a spiritual landscape that encompasses an array of thoughts and feelings ranging from the lyricism of the reflective music in the first concerto, to the boisterous energy of the finale of the second, to the balance of musical elements at the end of the third.
Violin Concerto No. 1—On the Nature of Love (1996). Thirteen variations on What Wond'rous Love Is This, for violin and string orchestra.
Violin Concerto No. 2—On the Nature of Harmony (1999). Transformations for violin, Balinese gamelan, and chamber orchestra.
Violin Concerto No. 3—On the Nature of Peace (2002). For violin and chamber orchestra
(Bar code: 0 22551 01262 2)
Steve Lacy Packet (NA080)
Steve Lacy, soprano sax; Irene Aebi, voice; Frederic Rzewski, piano
"Lacy and Rzewski ... make a compatible pair, creating luscious settings for Aebi's art-song renderings of Malina's supple, dark poetry and Lacy's stepwise tunes." —CD Review
This work had its origin in the '60s. That's when I met Irene Aebi and Frederic Rzewski in Rome. The three of us have been working together ever since. …
The songs are about theatre, life, death, birth, aging, pain, wandering, being a woman. They were written expressly for Irene, who, for now, is the only singer capable of performing them. All together they form a Cycle of Jazz Art Songs, which function as a musical structure and serve as basis for the improvisational match between the performers. Play-Wordplay-Fixed-Open.
Naturally a work like Packet is different every time we do it. The title refers to the idea of a loosely bound but tightly connected parcel of songs, carried around the world by a "Gypsy-Jewish" Performing Artist, perhaps on a Packet Boat... —Steve Lacy
Paul Lansky Smalltalk (NA030)
Realized on an IBM 3081 mainframe, DEC MicroVax II and NeXT computer with performances by Steve Mackey, guitar, and Guy de Rosa, harmonica
"Lansky's genius ... centers on the human voice .. in its possibilities, in much the way Cubists worked household goods." —Fanfare
The pieces on this recording are concerned with everyday life. Two are about casual conversation and two are about familiar kinds of music. Each tries to create a new view of its subject, to make the familiar into something special, even ideal. In a real sense these pieces are musical documentaries: musical-photographic images and transformations of their subjects. —Paul Lansky
"The architecture and the sonorities go far beyond what a live instrumentalist could produce." —Keyboard
Daniel Lentz Apologetica (NA097)
I Cantori, Edward Cansino, director; The Archbishop's Ensemble, Zdenka Vaculovicova, director; Bradford Ellis, keyboard.
In the library of a small Catholic college in Pennsylvania I found the complete "Chilam Balam," the sacred books of the Maya Indians of Yucatan. The prophet Balam in his 15th century writings foretold of strangers from the east who would bring a new religion to the Maya. It was from these books that most of Apologetica's text was gleaned.
The choral-string piece Totoka and the introducton to the song Lovely Bird use texts created from mixing Hopi and Navajo words and phrases. Apologetica uses a text drawn from The Tears of the Indians, a 1542 book by Fray Bartoleme de las Casas, the Spanish Bishop who was known as the Protector of the Indians.
The world premiere of "Apologetica" took place at St. Moritz Cathedral in Kromeriz, Czech Republic in June 1996 with Zdenka Vaculovicova conducting the Archbishop's Ensemble. Since that time there have been complete and excerpted performances in Kobe, Japan, the ISA's Drama City, and at Musica Visual Festival in Lanzarote, Canary Islands. —Daniel Lentz
Daniel Lentz Missa Umbrarum NA006
Voices and wineglasses; chorus with bells, rasps and drums.
"Achieves a totally original blending drawn from exotic forces, an overall sound at once contemporary and evocative of ancient voices under some imagined Gothic roof." —Newsweek
The performance notes for Missa Umbrarum (1973) instruct the conductor to begin by pouring red wine into the glasses the chorus will play as they sing. The chorus performs on the wine glasses by variously rubbing the rims with moistened fingers; striking the bowls, stems and bases with mallets and knuckles; and tipping the struck glasses to bend notes. Pitch changes per individual glasses are accomplished by sipping the wine.
The text is drawn from the Ordinary of the Mass, the most solemn service of the Roman Catholic church, which commemorates and mystically invokes the Last Supper. … "Missa Umbrarum" (Mass of Shadows) refers to a compositional technique in which the text of the Mass is rendered through a 'sonic shadow' process. —Daniel Lentz
"A galactic Mass of the stars ... like a gamelan orchestra playing a Bach Mass." —Down Beat
Peter Scott Lewis Beaming Contrasts (NA060)
Alexander String Quartet; David Tanenbaum, guitar; William Winant, percussion; Julie McKenzie, flute; Lawrence Granger, cello; Marc Shapiro, piano.
"An appealing combination of intricacy and rhetorical straightforwardness, and the five pieces included here afford a good entree to his work." —San Francisco Examiner
Both "Journey to Still Water Pond" and "Night Lights" were completed and first performed in the fall of 1983 … "Beaming Contrasts" was commissioned by the Alexander String Quartet and the Newman/Oltman Guitar Duo in the Spring of 1988 as a guitar sextet and received its premiere in that version in Washington, DC, and New York City … "Little Trio" was commissioned by Sonus Lyricus in the Winter of 1987 and received its premiere in San Francisco … "Through the Mountain" was commissioned by bassist Steve Tramontozzi of the San Francisco Symphony … It was premiered in that version with Marc Shapiro at the piano in the Spring of 1990 in Berkeley, and was later rescored for cello and piano or orchestra in August of 1991. —Peter Scott Lewis
Peter Scott Lewis Where the Heart is Pure (NA079)
Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, Kent Nagano director; Kees Hulsmann, violin; Stephanie Friedman, mezzo soprano; Robin Sutherland, piano; Nadya Tichman, violin; Jack Van Geem, percussion.
"Lewis writes in an attractive tonal idiom that appeals to both heart and mind. The music is euphonious and often disarmingly pretty, but with a core of strength that shows itself in surprising harmonic choices and vigorous instrumental textures." —San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle
"Where The Heart Is Pure" was composed as a tribute to the wonderful Northwest poet Robert Sund, whom I've had the pleasure of knowing for over twenty-five years now. When I first met Robert, he was living in a converted net shed overlooking the Skagit River in the Northwest part of Washington State. For several years I made the journey out to visit him from my home in Seattle before moving to San Francisco. When I went to visit, we would typically stay up into the early hours of the morning while I improvised on the guitar and he read his poetry. Since I'd always wanted to set Robert's poetry to music, I decided to create a song cycle depicting a journey out to see him on the river. … —Peter Scott Lewis
Guillaume de Machaut Remede de Fortune (NA068)
Ensemble PAN performs works of Guillaume de Machaut (ca. 1300-1377): ballades, balladelles, rondelets, rondeaux and complaintes: Micheal Collver, alto; John Fleagle, tenor, harp; Shira Kammen, vielle; Laurie Monahan, mezzosoprano; Crawford Young, lute; with guest Robert Mealy, vielle.
"An eloquent, haunting recording. Passion and refinement combine here in convincing balance. Mauchaut's advice not to trust Fortune still rings painfully true." —The Boston Phoenix
The most influential 'dit amoureux' or courtly love poem in Medieval Europe, the "Remede de Fortune" of Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377) secured its creator's position as the premiere poet musician of 14th century France. Written around 1340 for the extravagant court of Jean of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia, the 4300 lines of the "Remedy of Fortune" codify with extreme refinement the complaints of chivalric love expressed in the previous century's famous "Roman de la Rose". A little less than a fourth of the Remede text is presented with notated music, but it is exceptional as the only long work of its kind integrating both said and sung poetry. The earliest extant copy of this work is also exceptional as one of the most extraordinary illuminated manuscripts of the period, featuring remarkably naturalistic scenes of courtly life. It was probably commissioned in 1350 by the future King Jean le Bon as a memorial to his wife Bonne, the daughter of Machaut's patron. Bonne, who had succumbed to the plague in 1349, has often been identified as the Lady of the Remede, and its inspiration.
George Marsh, John Abercrombie, Mel Graves Upon a Time (NA020)
Duets featuring percussionist George Marsh with John Abercrombie, guitar, and Mel Graves, bass.
"The players' mutual respect promotes a degree of passionate simpatico and risk-taking that is not only unusual, but spellbinding" —Jazz Times
In the course of my life as a musician, there have been a few relationships that have affected me deeply—partnerships that have created the music that is closest to my heart. These duet recordings not only document the great musicianship of John and Mel, but they also reflect our friendship. —George Marsh
I have a special love for this music. It has a real homegrown feeling that is possible because of the warm musical and personal friendship with George. I hope that it can happen "upon another time". —John Abercrombie
Ingram Marshall Dark Waters (NA112)
Libby Van Cleve, English horn & oboe d'amore; Ingram Marshall, electronics.
"Dark Waters," for English horn and tape, was written in 1996 for oboist Libby Van Cleve. The English horn is amplified and processed through several digital delay devices and mixed live with the tape part. The tape part was created using raw material garnered from sampling fragments of an old 78 rpm recording from the twenties of "The Swan of Tuonela" by Sibelius. The 'low-fi' sound and even the surface noise of the old acetate record, clearly heard at the very beginning of the piece, are essential to the dark qualities I tried to produce in this music
Ingram Marshall Evensongs (NA092)
The Maia Quartet, the Dunsmuir Piano Quintet.
The all too familiar hymns of my childhood have come back to haunt me ... For me the research into memory is an important tool .. we are, all of us, always searching our past in an attempt to understand the present. —Ingram Marshall
The music recorded herein ranges over a twelve-year period; most of it is imbued with strains which will be recognizable to many. For me the research into memory is an important tool in my compositional workshop. We are, all of us, always searching our past in an attempt to understand the present. I think this is especially useful for the artist. …
For those who think of me mainly as a composer of tape and/or electronic music, which is understandable in light of my discography, this music presents another side. Although there is some electronic processing in Entrada and a bit of tape collage interjection in Evensongs, this is "musica acustica." Yet, I like to think that my treatment of purely instrumental sound is not so different from that of taped and electronic sources. —Ingram Marshall
Ingram Marshall Fog Tropes; Gradual Requiem; Gambuh I (NA002)
Brass sextet, fog horns & other ambient sounds; synthesizer, mandolin, voice, gambuh, piano, electronics, tape delay, with John Adams, conductor and Foster Reed, mandolin.
"This is an extraordinarily mellow piece ... a seemingly vast three-dimensional expanse ... sober and reflective." —High Fidelity
The genesis of "Fog Tropes" is as follows: In 1979, performance artist, Grace Ferguson, asked me to prepare a "soundscore" for her piece, "Don't Sue the Weatherman." I went around the San Francisco Bay and recorded a number of different fog horns. A kind of tape collage resulted, using not only fog horns but other sea sounds, falsetto keenings and gambuh (a Balinese flute). Much electronic processing and tape manipulation were visited upon the raw sounds.
I extracted part of the score, calling it simply "Fog", and began playing it as a tape piece before "Gradual Requiem". The idea of adding brass music as an overlay—or a trope, if you will—came when John Adams invited me to perform at the San Francisco Symphony's "New and Unusual" concert series. He suggested that "Fog" might benefit from some "live" horns.
So, I composed the new version in January, 1982, employing some of the harmonic ideas of "Gradual Requiem" (e.g., ascending minor triads) and it was premiered at the Japan Center Theater on February 18th with members of the San Francisco New Music Ensemble, John Adams conducting. It has since enjoyed performances by other brass groups and seems to have become one of my most popular pieces.
A lot of people are reminded of San Francisco when they hear this piece, but not I. To me it is just about fog, and being lost in the fog. The brass players should sound as if they were off in a raft floating in the middle of a mist-enshrouded bay.—Ingram Marshall
Ingram Marshall Savage Altars (NA130)
The Tudor Choir; Sarah Cahill and Joseph Kubera, piano; Benjamin Verdery, guitar.
"Savage Altars," from a concert performance by the Tudor Choir, derives its title from the Roman historian Tacitus' Annals Book I, which chronicles the Roman campaigns against the German tribes. They suffered a devastating defeat by the Cheruscan soldiers in the Teutobugian forest. Six years later, the remains, bleached out bones, splintered spears and debris, of three Roman Legions, were found, the whole of which was named "barbarae arae"—savage altars. Elements of the hymn Magnificat, and the canon "Sumer is i cumen in" are also interwoven in melodic and textual contributions. This was written on the eve of the first Gulf War under Bush the elder.
"Authentic Presence" addresses a continuous state of spiritual mindfulness and was unconsciously inspired by the civil rights anthem, "We Shall Overcome".
"Five Easy Pieces" are a kind of homage to Stravinsky and were made for no other reason than for having fun.
"Soe-pa," the Tibetan word for patience, is for solo guitar with digital delays and loops. It is a more formal exercise in composition that involves the interplay between live and electronic media.
Frank Martin Etudes for String Orchestra, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Maria Triptychon (NA086)
Stuart Canin, violin; Sara Ganz, soprano; New Century Chamber Orchestra; Berkeley Symphony Orchestra.
"A first-rate performance." [Four stars!] —San Francisco Chronicle
Martin composed the Etudes for String Orchestra in 1955-56. This striking work consists of a sharply profiled slow overture, followed by four etudes, each of which treats an important aspect of string performance.
Composed in 1950-51, Martin's Violin Concerto was first performed in the spring of 1952, when Joseph Szigeti played it with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Ernest Ansermet. The work assumes the traditoinal three-movement concerto form.
The creation of Maria Triptychon evolved through the friendship Martin shared with the soprano Irmgard Seefried and her husband, the violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan. The work is a setting of three canticles: the Ave Maria, the Magnificat in Martin Luther's German translation, and the Stabat Mater.
"You can practically smell the rosin and see it powdering off the bow." —Fi Magazine
Sasha Matson Range of Light; The Fifth Lake (NA091)
Catherine Robbin, mezzo-soprano; John Schneider, guitar, Peter Kent, violin, Just Strings Ensemble, a.o.
Most of us are not able to live in a state of nature and wilderness, but perhaps the aesthetic dimension opened through art can bring the image of Nature to us where we do live; that is the goal of this music. —Sasha Matson
Range of Light was composed after encountering for the first time the writings of naturalist John Muir, in particular the posthumously published excerpts from his journals. In considering what it meant to be a composer with roots in California, the depth of the chord struck by Muir's beautiful language echoed my own desire to bear witness to the glorious reality of the Sierra Nevada mountains; this is a celebratory work. —Sasha Matson
Olivier Messiaen Visions de l'Amen (NA045)
Featuring Double Edge: Edmund Niemann & Nurit Tilles, pianos.
"Niemann and Tilles play like one person with four very powerful hands and the recording is as crystalline as Messiaen's religious vision." [Four stars!] —Oakland Tribune
I. Amen of the Creation
II. Amen of the Stars, of the Ringed Planet
III. Amen of the Agony of Jesus
IV. Amen of Desire
V. Amen of the Angels, Saints and Birdsong
VI. Amen of the Judgement
VII. Amen of the Consummation
"They capture the work's colour and atmosphere powerfully and evocatively—it is Messiaen at his most compelling." —Penguin Guide to CDs
Ira J. Mowitz A la Memoire d'un Ami (NA047)
Realized on an IBM 3081 at Princeton University, and at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University.
"Death is the title piece's subject, and the sense of space and loneliness is astounding. Mowitz's rich, booming, unidentifiable tones weep in some vast acoustic of the imagination." —Village Voice
"A la Memoire d'un Ami" is about memory and, in particular, memories of my close friend and first composition teacher, Norman Dinerstein, who died suddenly at age 45, while I was in the middle of making this piece. The entire piece is synthetic—the sounds were all made on a large, very UNmusical mainframe computer. That the sounds, gestures and general cast of the work bear such a close resemblance to sounds we know in the natural world was willful on my part - for me, computers are not machines programmed to yield unimaginable precision, but rather just a means of searching for imagined sounds and musics. That the results of sound generation instructions I give to computers are often quite unexpected, I take as a wonderful irony, and it's precisely this quality of unexpectedness that I find most stimulating and instructive in fashioning a work of art.
Oliveros, Dempster, Panaiotis Deep Listening (NA022)
For accordion, voice, conch shell, metal pieces, trombone, didjeridu, garden hose, whistling, metal pipes
"Recorded in the bottom of a cistern that once held two million gallons of water, the creators took full advantage of their environment's 45-second reverb time." —"Best Recordings of the Year," Pulse!
The space is real, and unique. A large cathedral will return slap echoes and uneven resonance characteristics. The cistern showed a very smooth frequency response and no echoes, only a smooth reverberation, the amplitude of which appears to begin at the same decibel level as the source. Consequently, it is impossible to tell where the performer stops and the reverberation takes over. One additional aspect of the reverberation field that does not seem to record easily and which makes simulation very difficult, is that it slowly moved from the sound source along the walls until it enveloped the listener: a most remarkable and beautiful phenomena. —Panaiotis
"Simply one of the most pure and unfettered albums of 1989." —CD Review
Astor Piazzolla El Porteño (NA065)
David Tanenbaum, guitar.
This is a cycle of some of the most loved works by Piazzolla (1921-1992), whose musical language was an Ellingtonian expression of his culture. It weaves the Latin urban forms of tango, milonga, rumba, rag and bossa nova into dance-like concert music. Featuring first recordings of arrangements by Sérgio Assad ("Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteños") and Leo Brouwer ("La Muerte del Angel"), David Tanenbaum's virtuostic performance also includes arrangements by Augustin Carlevaro ("Chau Paris") and the only works Piazzolla wrote specifically for guitar, the "Cinco Piezas".
"These pieces remain true to Piazzolla's equation: Tango + Comedy + Tragedy + Whorehouse" — Nuevo Tango
Quartett No Secrets (NA017)
Julian Priester, trombone; Jay Clayton, voice; Jerry Granelli, percussion; Gary Peacock, bass
"Grittier than the usual New Albion fare ... it has none of the academic pretensions of so much experimental jazz. Of the kind of collaborative improvisations so popular today, this is one of the best examples I know." —Fanfare
Quartett began in 1982 and has developed over the years a collaborative expression of improvised music. Sharing our deepest emotions in musical exchange is testimony to our appreciation of and trust in each other.
This recording is a direct reflection of time spent together as performers, composers and friends. 'No Secrets.'
Maurice Ravel Miroirs and Gaspard de la Nuit (NA096)
Sarah Cahill, piano.
In the half century of musical exploration since his death, we seem to have forgotten Ravel's stature as an intrepid experimentalist—and nowhere was he more experimental than in Miroirs and Gaspard de la Nuit. One can see, looking backward through time, that many of the ideas audiences found so provocative in the works of Olivier Messiaen and Morton Feldman were first imagined by Maurice Ravel.
Ravel was thirty when he introduced Miroirs to the Apaches, a group of avant-garde painters, writers and musicians who shared their creations at regular meetings. The composer explained that this set "marks a change in my harmonic evolution considerable enough to disconcert the musicians who have been most accustomed to my style until now."
On September 25, 1896 Ricardo Viñes, the pianist who would premiere Miroirs and Gaspard de la Nuit as well as others of Ravel's works, wrote in his diary: "Ravel stayed till eleven in the evening. We read ... Bertrands' Gaspard de la Nuit, which I let him take away." Ravel evidently liked the poems, because Viñes' diary entry for December 19, 1897 reads: "I asked him to give me back Gaspard de la Nuit and he said he would bring it around to my flat tomorrow because it was at the bottom of a trunk." Eleven years later Ravel composed his masterpiece evoking the dark visions of three phantasmagorical poems. … —Sarah Cahill
Silvestre Revueltas Música de Feria - The String Quartets (NA062)
"The four string quartets exhibit rhythmic trickery and a Ravelian harmonic sophistication, in additon to a cheerful way with folk materials that has parallels in Stravinsky, Bartok, and Janacek, though the feel is sunnier." —The New Yorker
As a small boy (and maybe as an adult) I always preferred banging on a washtub or dreaming up tales to doing something useful. And that is how I spent my time, imitating instruments with my voice, improvising orchestras and songs to accompaniments on the washtub, one of those round galvanized tubs that I always preferred to drum on more than to bathe in.
I began to love Bach and Beethoven at a very early stage. It gave me much pleasure to stroll Chapultepec Park's romantic avenues, taking long strides, arms behind my back, long hair in disarray. Those lithographs and engravings of poor Beethoven, grim-faced, defying the storm, had a stong influence over me. I could do no less myself.
I have had many teachers. The best of them, with no degrees, knew more than the others. For that reason I have always had little respect for degress. Now, after many years I still study, have teachers, write music, dream of distant countries, and sometimes bang on washtubs. —Silvestre Revueltas
Gyan Riley Food for the Bearded (NA119)
Gyan Riley, guitar; Tracy Silverman, viola; David Doll, percussion; Terry Riley, piano and voice.
It is not only an extraordinary capacity to interpret a wide variety of idioms with ease and integrity, depth of expression, inventive and adventurous improvising, interesting, intricate and deeply felt compositions; but also more subtle personal and spiritual qualities that make Gyan a unique and exceptional artist. —Dusan Bogdanovic
New Albion is pleased to announce the solo debut of guitarist and composer Gyan Riley. This set of compositions describes a path that started in what surely must have been a most unique household. Now, at the age of 25, his complete command of the canon for nylon string guitar is wedded with a Northern California sensibility for improvisation and drift.
Gyan Riley, born in California in 1977, is the son of renowned avant garde composer and North Indian Raga vocalist Terry Riley.
Terry Riley The Book of Abbeyozzud (NA106)
David Tanenbaum, guitar; with Gyan Riley, guitar; Tracy Silverman, violin; William Winant, percussion.
"Guitar? We think of Riley as a keyboard man just as we think of Glass and many another minimalists. Reading the composer's notes, though, the impression is that these pieces are more in fealty to the traditions of Spanish music than the guitar per se. Either way, the music sounds much as you would anticipate: American chamber with Jelly Roll Morton's beloved 'Spanish tinge', the Eastern modes which Riley sets his stars by, and that unique pragmatism which [Glenn] Gould suggested was manifest as music which 'requires instructions rather than instruction'." —The Wire
"The Book of Abbeyozzud" (say "ah-BYE-ah-ZOOD", a word invented by Riley, without meaning) is a planned series of 26 pieces for guitar, multiple guitars and guitar in ensemble. So far, thirteen pieces are completed. Riley writes "All of the pieces have Spanish titles and take a different letter of the alphabet to begin their names. They are also indebted to great Spanish music traditions and to those traditions upon which Spanish music owes its heritage."
"Some of Riley's most melodious compositions yet and his first written for the guitar ... make for one of Riley's most approachable albums; in particular, the mellifluous 'Cantos Desiertos' should be a public radio staple." —Billboard
Terry Riley Chanting the Light of Foresight (NA064)
Rova Saxophone Quartet
"A brain-food delicacy." —Westword, Denver
Following an abandoned collaboration with the playwright Lee Brewer that was centered on the Thomas Kinsella translation of The Tain, I found myself under a spell and so began the work for the Rova. The wonderful rhythms and colours of the ancient names and places; Badb, Bricriu, Conchobor, Cuchulain, Finnabair, Galeoin, Scathach and Daire mac Fiachna must have floated their way to surface in some musical line or other.
Although extremely difficult to accomplish, I wanted to have part of the quartet's movements in "resonant intonation" with pure intervals combining in the saxophones radiant timbres. After composing the music I made a tape on the Prophet 5 synthesizer of the tuning so that the players could match the intervals in their rehearsals. Rova has taken this challenge seriously. The result is sounds that I have not heard previously coming from saxophones and is right in the tradition of Rova cutting an alternate groove in contemporary music. When we originally conceived of the project we wanted to leave room for lots of improvisation. This not only takes place in the "Pipes of Medb" and "Medb's Blues" but in addition Rova created the Battle Music section which is one of my favorites and points to their strong compositional abilities. —Terry Riley
Terry Riley In C: 25th Anniversary Concert (NA071)
A gathering of 30 players from all corners of the Bay Area new music scene. Featuring: Bruce Ackley, Steve Adams, Don R. Baker, Chris Brown, George Brooks, Steve Coughlin, Blake Derby, Bill Douglass, Mihr'un'Nisa Douglass, Hank Dutt, David Harrington, Don Howe, Joan Jeanrenaud, Alden Jenks, Warner Jepson, Henry Kaiser, Jaron Lanier, Bill Maginnis, George Marsh, Shabda Owens, Jon Raskin, Gyan Riley, Terry Riley, Gino Robair, John Sackett, Ramon Sender, John Sherba, Toyoji Tomita, Danny Tunick, William Winant and Evan Ziporyn.
"I think this recording is a document of the best 'In C' performance ever... A labor of love for many musicians connected with the piece. —Terry Riley
"There aren't very many really revolutionary pieces of music in this century or any other: pieces that seem like cultural mutations that spring spontaneously into being without visible or audible precedent. Le Sacre du Printemps is an authentic example. So, I believe, is 'In C.'" —Douglas Leedy
"The joys of this recording are manifold; the ensemble bulges with 31 members including Riley, Jaron Lanier, Henry Kaiser and members of the Kronos Quartet—saucy and sensuous, rich with reed instruments and percussion." —Wired
Terry Riley Lisbon Concert (NA087)
Terry Riley, solo piano recorded live at Festival dos Capuchos, July 16, 1995.
"Equal-tempered piano improvisations that owe much to his lifelong study of Indian Nuusic—a brilliant CD." —Wall Street Journal
This concert represents about 50 years of thought, practice, composition and improvisation for that marvelous and ever challenging instrument—the piano. I seriously started to consider my voice or role in this arena, which includes the Pantheon of my teachers and heroes, Duane Hampton, Adolf Baller, Wally Rose, Art Tatum, Bud Powell and Bill Evans, in the mid 1960s when I began formulating and composing Keyboard Studies. These works, based on very basic improvisational procedures and heavily informed by many years of study of North Indian raga and jazz, form the basis of nearly all the keyboard and piano playing I have done. Since 1984 I have performed almost exclusively with my voice (not heard on this album) and the magnificent grand piano, which opens doors to one of the most liberating forms imaginable, making available lyrical sounds, orchestral sounds, sounds that are oceanic and percussive, sounds that pulse and flow over its entire majestic range. —Terry Riley
"Riley at an inspired creative peak." —The Wire
Rova This Time We Are Both (NA041)
Larry Ochs, tenor and sopranino; Jon Raskin, baritone; Bruce Ackley, soprano; Steve Adams, alto and sopranino; saxophone quartet recorded live on tour in Russia, 1989.
"Extremely fresh music contingent on just the kind of quick-thinking, big-picture inventiveness that Rova carries off so seamlessly." [Five stars!] —Down Beat
The 12th annual Leningrad Jazz Festival was well underway when Rova Saxophone Quartet inaugurated its 1989 tour of the Soviet Union with the first of two performances in Lensoviet Concert Hall. Six and a half years had passed since Rova had first penetrated the "Iron Curtain" for a three-city Soviet tour, documented on the hatART recording "Saxophone Diplomacy". In June, 1983, Rova had been invited by the offically banned Contemporary Music Club of Leningrad, and had been forced to play literally underground—in the basement of the Dostoevsky Museum. By mid-November 1989, much had changed: Rova was being sponsored by Gosconcert, a department in the Soviet Ministry of Culture, and its 23-member entourage of musicians, friends, family, writers, artists, poets, photographers and engineers, was being escorted by young Russian guides who were openly critical of both their government and the havoc wreaked on their society by 70 years of state socialism...
Frederic Rzewski The People United Will Never Be Defeated! (NA063)
Stephen Drury, piano; Quilapayun.
"A spectacular performance." —The New York Times
"The People United" is a series of 6 cycles, each of which consists of 6 stages, in which different musical relationships appear in order: (1) simple events; (2) rhythms; (3) melodies; (4) counterpoints; (5) harmonies; (6) combinations of all these. Each of the larger cycles develops a character suggested by the individual stage to which it corresponds, so that the third cycle is lyrical, the fourth tends toward conflict, the fifth toward simultaneity (the fifth is also the freest), and the sixth recapitulates, in such a way that the first stage is a summary of all of the preceding first stages, the second a summary of the second stages, and so on.
Two songs, aside from the theme itself, appear at various points: the Italian revolutionary song "Bandiera Rossa", in reference to the Italian people who in the seventies opened their doors to so many refugees from Chilean fascism, and Hanns Eisler's 1932 antifascist "Solidaritatslied", a reminder that parallels to present threats exist in the past and that it is important to learn from them. … —Frederic Rzewski
Somei Satoh Litania (NA008)
Margaret Leng Tan, piano; Lise Messier, soprano; Frank Almond, violin; Michael Pugliese, percussion.
Selected as one of the best recordings of 1988 by The New York Times
It is indeed ironic that "Litania", which appears early in Satoh's oeuvre, emerges as one of his most strikingly original and radical works. "Litania" is the first in a series of compositions for piano, all of which explore the reverberative qualities of the instrument thorough a single facet of pianism, namely tremolo technique. The ensuing drones are subjected to a subtle time lag through a digital delay process. This creates a sonic interference resulting in an extremely rich harmonic texture, which is further intensified by the overlaying of second or third piano. …
In "Litania", the colossal massed formations that arise out of Satoh's homophonic, single-minded approach to the keyboard create bands of sound which invite comparison to the Polish avant-garde composer Krzysztof Penderecki's "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima" for fifty-two stringed instruments (1960). … —Margaret Leng Tan
(Bar code: 0 22551 00082 7)
Somei Satoh Mandara Trilogy (NA099)
Three works for Voice and Electronics
"Mantra is a 23-minute sound meditation... It is strong, it is dark, it is powerful." —San Francisco Chronicle
Mandalas are sacred pictures that can lead viewers to a state of "Satori" through intense and concentrated viewing of them. It semed to be that "listening" was as cognitively viable as "seeing". Bloody human heads and skulls on the loins, copulating, and stomping on horrendous devils ... looking at those extraordinary and ferocious gods with their outraged faces twisted with anger, through the silence of the mandala, I couldn't help but feeling tremendous waves of furor and blasting roars. I felt the heaving engulfing waves steadily pushing forward, and body piercing arrows of lightning radiating from the mandalas. —Somei Satoh
Somei Satoh Mantra; Stabat Mater (NA016)
Satoh, voice and electronics; Jane Thorngren, soprano, and the Pro Arte Chorale conducted by George Manahan.
"[These] two beautiful vocal pieces by Japanese composer Satoh ... manage a minimalist elegance without sacrificing drama." —Option
"Mantra" was composed in 1986 at the Japan Broadcasting Corporation's Electronic Music Studio at their request. The only instrument employed is my own voice, which was layered repeatedly during recording. The surprising outcome is a pleasant variety of sounds and melodies surfacing through veils of overtone, falling on the listener's ears like a gentle spring shower.
"Stabat Mater" was composed at the request of the Arts at St. Ann's in New York, between January and February 1987. Reading the Latin text of "Stabat Mater" for the first time, I was immediately struck by a vivid image of the pitifully emaciated body of a young African child dead from starvation, and the hollow, vacant eyes of the mother looking on helplessly. It seemed to me there could be no deeper or more painful grief than that of a mother who has lost a child. I saw no difference between this sorrow and that which Mary experiences at the foot of the cross. I was reading of universal grief, of children lost to war, starvation, illness and sudden accident. "Stabat Mater," then, is dedicated to women everywhere who have suffered such loss. —Somei Satoh
"It is certainly interesting to discover this aspect of new Japanese music, especially via performances as sensitve, well prepared and well recorded as these." —Gramophone
Somei Satoh Sun Moon (NA069)
Akikazu Nakamura, shakuhachi; Shin Miyashita, koto.
"My living room just isn't good enough for this music. I need a bare wood floor, no furniture and a view of a mountain." —The Wire
SANYOU and KOUGETSU [from Sun Moon] are a pair, like the sun and the moon. In KOUGETSU I tried to express the clearness of the moon at night; in SANYOU, the purity of the early morning air.
The Chinese character getsu means moon. In Chinese, similarly, the verb 'to chip' is pronounced ketsu. They are connected by the fact that the phases of the moon represent a 'chipping' away of its face. In Japanese, however, the word for moon is tsuki, which has the same sound as the word for obsession. We can thus understand how the ancient Japanese felt about the moon. Even today we can feel the mysterious beauty of the full moon in the clear sky.
Somei Satoh Toward the Night (NA056)
String Ensemble Endless; Masaharu Kanda, cello; Kyoko Sato, soprano; Toshiyuki Uzuka, conductor
"Mingling minimalism and traditional Japanese music, imperturbably ascetic textures and the sensuous appeal of endless melody, Satoh's music opens another window on comtemporary music for listeners already seduced by the music of Arvo Pärt, John Tavener and Henryk Gorecki." —Calgary Herald
In Buddhism there is the idea of Samsara (transmigration). It is believed that man infinitely repeats life and death toward the next life. Mankind is also thought to repeat its fall and rebirth. After millions of years, the existence of mankind is beginning to sink into the deep dusk. As an ancient Chinese saint once said, "If I don't obtain enlightenment now, in which life should I be able to get it?" I find myself constantly returning to his words. "Toward the Night" is the tone of the dusk which resonates in my mind.
"Ruika" is an anthem to mourn the soul of the departed. Within this music we hear the wind from the world of spirit—it intrinsically emanates an odor of death. In listening, we immerse ourselves in the vibration of voices coming from the abode of departed souls, from a vacancy of sound …
"Homa" is a sacred fire, a fire of purgation, a sacrificial fire offering to celestial gods. In the summer of 1988 my grandmother passed away at the age of 90. I wrote this music as a prayer for the peace of her pure spirit in the firmament. This music is chanted as a mantra.
Five stars! —Classical Pulse!
Giacinto Scelsi Incantations: The Art of Song of Giacinto Scelsi (NA129)
"Genre descriptions such as 'liturgy' or 'evocations' betray the fact that Scelsi did not regard his songs just as an instrumentally motivated microscope in sound, but accords to them a real 'function'. Although he eschews 'comprehensible' words, he nevertheless—in his songs as in his instrumental music—wants to give linguistic expression to something. Peter Niklas Wilson is quite right when he describes Scelsi as an 'Expressionist', as a 'conversationalist' in sound, whose rhetoric begins with the very character of sound itself—these remarks being made specifically with regard to the Four Pieces for Orchestra (1959). The 'inner' sound that is so often and so extensively conjured up is not celebrated ominously, but relinquished. In her interpretations here, Marianne Schuppe is careful to express the 'direct speech' of Scelsi's music—and this succeeds clearly, for example, in the parlando passages of Taiagarù. The introspective, meditative side of Scelsi's music is clearly overestimated. It is this thoroughly hedonistic speech-character, which defies popular desubjectivization rituals, that finds a real 'voice' in Scelsi's music." —Michael Kunkel
(Bar code: 0 22551 01292 9)
Stefano Scodanibbio Six Duos (NA113)
Stefano Scodanibbio, double bass, with members of the Arditti String Quartet: Irvine Arditti, violin; Dov Scheindlin, viola; Rohan de Saram, cello.
The working relationship between Stefano Scodanibbio and the Arditti Quartet has existed since the mid '80s. … Stefano's music is original both in his understanding and exploration of string techniques and the sound. … Stefano is a composer of today who has a very individual language within which he works, but one can also feel a real sense of development from one piece to another. None of these pieces are really similar in any way. I was very happy when we had the possibility to make these recordings to document this work. —Irvine Arditti
Stefano Scodanibbio Voyage That Never Ends (NA101)
Stefan Scodanibbio, solo contrabass. Recorded direct-to-stereo, 1997.
"I haven't heard better double bass playing than Scodanibbio's. I was just amazed. And I think everyone who heard him was amazed. He is really extraordinary. His performance was absolutely magic." —John Cage, in Musicage
Scodanibbio travels the world with his double bass and performs for spell-struck audiences. He is recognized as the leading proponent of his instrument for contemporary composition and was for many years the colleague and collaborator of Giacinto Scelsi and Luigi Nono. Dozens of works have been written for him by such composers as Bussotti, Donatoni, Estrada, Xenakis, et al. He has written over 30 works for strings … He tours extensively with Terry Riley and is equally at home in classical and improvised music. This disc represents a suite of compositions that he has been performing for ten years, and it will redefine what people consider to be the double bass.
"Scodanibbio is quite simply a magician of his instrument. His exquisite tone, nifty arabesques and, most importantly, range of percussive effects are all devastating. Make a note of the name, and learn how to spell it, because if there's any justice it should crop up pretty regularly from now on." —The Wire
Stephen Scott Minerva's Web; The Tears of Niobe (NA026)
Scored for grand piano bowed and plucked by ten musicians, performed by the composer with the Colorado College New Music Ensemble.
"A dense web of sound that rumbles and moans impressively, hinting at dark mysteries." —San Francisco Chronicle
The two pieces are thematically related, both musically and in their literary reference. "Minerva's Web" refers to the storied weaving contest between the goddess Minerva and the mortal Arachne; it also suggests the webs of material used in the piano and a web-like arrangement of musical ideas in the composition. Like Arachne, Niobe is too proud to play second fiddle to the gods; daughter of Tantalus, Queen of Thebes and "a notable figure in Phrygian robes wrought with threads of gold, and beautiful as far as anger suffered her to be," she forbids the women of Thebes to worship the goddess Latona, saying, "I am queen of Cadmus' royal house, and the walls of Thebes, erected by the magic of my husband's lyre, together with its people, acknowledge me and him as their rulers." Latona's anger at this affront is quickly translated to revenge, at the hands of her children, Apolla and Diana. Soon all of Niobe's seven sons and seven daughters lay slain by divine arrows, and her husband Amphion kills himself in despair.
Stephen Scott New Music for Bowed Piano (NA107)
"Just for fun, put this record on and ask your friends to tell you what instrument is making the sounds. Assure them that it's an instrument they're quite familiar with. Unless they already know what a bowed piano sounds like, they're sure to be mystified. Scott's pieces betray a Steve Reich influence; the harmonies are rich, relatively consonant, and unexpected, and repetitive passages with a steady eighth-note pulse alternate with long sustained chords." —Keyboard
I first became aware that one could bow the strings of a piano in 1976, when I heard David Burge play a composition by Curtis Curtis-Smith. This was a solo piano work, played mostly on the keyboard but utilizing also some prepared piano techniques. One striking effect was produced by drawing nylon fish line across the strings. I was captivated by the sound and began immediately (before David's performance was over as I recall) to imagine the sound of several players bowing a piano's strings simultaneously, thus producing sustained chords. Thus was born the first composition for ensemble-bowed piano, Music One for Bowed Strings.
It should be stressed that all of the sounds heard in the ensemble pieces are produced by the piano strings; no electronics or other sound producing devices are involved. The recordings are made "live" exactly as they are performed in concert. —Stephen Scott
Stephen Scott Vikings of the Sunrise (NA084)
Bowed Piano Ensemble of Colorado College
"... the first truly provocative work of new music for the '90s." —Billboard
"Vikings of the Sunset" refers to the European explorers of the Pacific, beginning with Ferdinand Magellan, who first rounded South America from the Atlantic, sailing ever toward the setting sun to discover new trade routes and new lands to colonize (and Christianize as well), and to help complete the map of the world by proving finally that the earth was a sphere and could be sailed around. There are also references to the great explorer Captain James Cook and the latter-day anthropologist, adventurer and iconoclast Thor Heyerdahl.
While the themes outlined above provided the general inspiration for "Vikings of the Sunrise," the music should not be thought of as depicting a specific program or story. Rather it consists of sound patterns aroused in my own imagination by ancient and heroic sagas told of men and women who traveled the "Great Ocean of Kiwa."
"Whatever those people are doing inside the piano, the result outside the piano is an expansion of space and time." —NPR's All Things Considered
Dmitri Shostakovich Written with the Heart's Blood (NA088)
The New Century Chamber Orchestra, Stuart Canin Music Director. Best Small Ensemble Performance Grammy nomination, 1997.
The poet Carl Sandburg once said that Shostakovich's music is music "written with the heart's blood", and it was this feeling that enabled my colleagues and me in the New Century Chamber Orchestra to maintain the passionate energy needed to record these magnificent works.
The power of Shostakovich's music is evidenced by the fact that its composer used it as a weapon in the fight against Hitler: witness the 7th [Leningrad] Symphony, written in 1942, which became the worldwide symbol of resistance against Nazism. … —Stuart Canin, Music Director
Chamber Symphony for Strings, Opus 110a [arranged from Quartet No. 8 by Rudolf Barshai]; Two Pieces for String Octet, Opus 11; Symphony for Strings, Opus 118a [arranged from Quartet No. 10 by Rudolf Barshai]
"A superb accomplishment." [Five stars!] —San Francisco Chronicle
Karlheinz Stockhausen Mantra (NA025)
Yvar Mikhashoff, Rosalind Bevan, piano; Ole Ørsted, electronics.
"With its exotic, gamelan-like timbres (the result of electronic processing) and its deft balance of meditative stasis and kinetic repetition, Mantra is one 60's piece that has survived its era." —The New York Times
More than twenty years after its premiere, "Mantra" occurs as Stockhausen's first "Formelkomposition," and therefore as a keywork to almost all of his following pieces, such as "Inori," "Tierkreis," and "Sirius," as well as his music-theater cyle, "Licht." The basis of the piece is twelve-tone motive, where every note has a specific duration, rhythmic value and intensity. In connection with this, Stockhausen mentions that he has quite free images or sounds, just as in "Aus den Sieben Tagen," a meditation piece based on verbal notation which was created in California in 1968, and also in the piece "Fur kommende Zeiten" that was written at the same time as "Mantra." Although in interviews Stockhausen talks about how he uses rigid and free forms in mixed ways, all the works following "Mantra" are nevertheless "Formula" compositions, or even—as in "Licht"—"Superformula" compositions.
"This weird and wonderful music demands to be heard." —Gramophone
Carl Stone Mom's (NA049)
Carl Stone, Macintosh computer.
"It's as if he became so enamored of the beauty of the sample that he just had to take it apart, to discover what it was that made it so great, all the while creating something else equally lovely." —L.A. Weekly
There is nothing commonplace about the sophisticated sampling practiced by Carl Stone, who has been in the musical transformation business ever since graduating from CalArts in the '70s. For Stone, who says he is fascinated by everything from Japanese Enka to Motown to Mozart, sampling provides a way to encompass all his musical interests. Sampling that which is carved in Stone is like voyaging microscopically deep inside sound.
"Stone's slowly unraveling, unpredictable musical process creates truly delightful music." —Wired
Morton Subotnick The Key to Songs; Return (NA012)
Morton Subotnick, computer, with California EAR Unit.
"For starry nights when only cosmic electronics shining brightly will do." —L.A. Reader
"The Key to Songs" is music for an imaginary ballet inspired by A Week of Kindness, or The Seven Deadly Elements, the 1933 novel in the form of a collage by the surrealist painter, Max Ernst.
The 'novel' is wordless, being composed of dramatic and often erotic collages, using, principally, illustrations from French popular fiction. Each of the novel's seven chapters represents a day of the week and each day has a "deadly element" associated with it. Beginning with Sunday, the elements are: Mud, Water, Fire, Blood, Blackness, Sight and Unknown. A motto and a Dadaist or Surrealist epigraph prefaces each chapter, and the motto becomes an enigmatic visual motif.
Subotnick's score—two pianos, three mallet instruments, viola, cello and the Yamaha Computer Assisted Music System—provides a musical counterpart to Ernst's enigmatic collage in several ways. The phantasmagorical ambiguity between reality and fantasy found in Ernst collages, and in the surreal groupings of images, has its equivalent in Subotnick's application of electronics.
Richard Teitelbaum Blends (NA118)
Katsuya Yokoyama, shakuhachi; Trilok Gurtu, tabla and percussion; Mark Dresser, bass; Gerry Hemingway, percussion.
Teitelbaum was one of the founders of the revolutionary MEV group in Rome, which explored live electroacoustic and collective improvisation in the 60's and 70's. Subsequent to that era he began work with the renowned shaukuhachi master, teacher and composer, Yokoyama and began on a course of intercultural music. These works express his unique language and nuances of sound color which have given him a cult recognition among avant garde composers and audiences. Blends (1977) a kind of circumnavigation, is an exploration of the shakuhachi's timbral world in an extended dialog with Moog synthesizers, a pairing that was quite controversial at the time. Kyotaku/Denshi (1995) is more of a historical tour that follows a trajectory of Japanese history through the shakuhachi, from its roots of the travelling monks through various episodes of religious, artistic and secular events.
Tonino Tesei Preludi Ostinati (NA121)
Fausto Bongelli, piano.
The music that I have written for the piano has always been suggested directly by the positions of my hands on the keyboard; the compositional imagination comes directly from the hands, with their muscles and tendons. More precisely, it is a game of reciprocal adaptation between the creative thought, the anatomy of the hands and the instrumental technique. …
I am interested in folk music, not because I can quote themes or because I want to write music that is based in a folk language, but rather in order to renew and enrich my compositional style, the way Debussy did with the Javanese Gamelan or Ligeti with the African tradition. In my Sei Marchigiane, I've tried to reproduce the accompaniment of the concertina in the way it quickly alternates tonic and dominant chords. Also, I have attempted to recreate the flickering, the squabble, the weirdness, the frenzy of the old concertina players, who would play the instrument by ear in their spare time, as their job was in the fields…
In the Tre Valzer I have used a compositional technique that Arvo Pärt would call "tintinnabuli style". I have harmonized the melody with only one chord: the tonic. …
In the twelve Preludi ostinati (1999/2000), the rhythmical events happen in two layers: we have a fast uniform series of pulsations as a fundamental layer (ostinato) and an odd rhythmical module constantly changing in the overlapping layer. This technique allows me to create complex polyrhythmic structures. … —TT
Virgil Thomson Early and As Remembered (NA034)
Yvar Mikhashoff, piano; Martha Herr, soprano; David Kuehn, trumpet; John Boudler, percussion.
"Collectively, these  pieces, none of which runs more than seven minutes, remain one of the minor treasures of the American musical legacy." —San Francisco Examiner
"He was a composer with a fine ear who stubbornly refused to notate anything that he couldn't imagine with his inner ear. The result was a long list of clear and accessible scores always reflecting Thomson's personality and accessible to the general public when well performed. His musical personality is unique among 20th century composers." —Otto Luening
"These performers are very sensitive to Thomson's spirit, especially Mikhashoff, who worked with Thomson for the last decade of the composer's life." —Fanfare
Threnody Ensemble Timbre Hollow (NA109)
"Timbre Hollow" is the debut album by Threnody Ensemble—a new chamber group founded by guitarists Erik Hoversten (formerly of A Minor Forest), Dave Cerf and Dominique Davison. Incorporating into their compositions elements of improvisation, what is most striking about these pieces is Threnody Ensemble's use of non-Western instrumentation and techniques (hocketing, droning, etc.) in combination with more typical chamber instruments: Indian, Indonesian, and Cuban elements are all apparent but not overt. The effect is to complicate ideas of musical identity and authenticity, to discomfit lazy 'classical vs. folk' distinctions. But above all, the use of steel-stringed acoustic guitars and cello, with a variety of instrumental guests, creates a shimmering soundfield that is at once beyond instrumentalist ego and at home on the concert stage—chamber music in the new era.
Threnody Ensemble's core members come from diverse music backgrounds, though all were at one time or another heavily involved in the independent rock world. Erik Hoversten studied ethnomusicology and composition at UC Berkeley and founded the noted San Francisco avant-rock band A Minor Forest (Thrill Jockey). Dave Cerf studied non-Western musics at Cal Arts and was a member of the Washington, DC, based group Lorelei. Cellist Dominique Davison, also of A Minor Forest, has performed orchestral music since childhood and currently plays in the New York band 33.3.
Reza Vali Persian Folklore (NA077)
Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Alberto Almarza, flute, Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic, Juan Pablo Izquierdo, conductor.
"Had Bela Bartok gathered folk material from Persia, his string quartets might have tuned out something like Reza Vali's." —Philadelphia Inquirer
Many composers of the late nineteeth and early twentieth centuries used the folk music of their native countries as a source of inspiration for their compositions. In the present generation Reza Vali is a leading exponent of this practice and one of the few using Persian folk songs as a basis for composing Western classical music.
As a student at the Teheran conservatory, Vali began to collect Persian folk music, an activity he continues today. He soon began composing music based on the actual melodies he had collected as well as writing music in the style of these songs - 'imaginary' folk music, to borrow a phrase from Bartok. In 1978 Vali completed his first set of folk songs for voice and piano. The next three sets, composed in the early 1980s, were also written for voice and piano, but in 1984 Vali began to write folk songs for different combinations of instruments. This recording includes Set No. 9 for flute and cello, Set No. 11B for string quartet, and Four Movements for string quartet and string orchestra.
"A stunning blend of Persian folk music and the western classical tradition. That anyone would even try to combine two such disparate influences is remarkable; that Vali has done it so beautifully is big news." —Stereophile
Various [see below] Acoustic Counterpoint (NA032)
Music by Michael Tippett, Steve Reich, Peter Maxwell Davies, Roberto Sierra, and Toru Takemitsu.
David Tanenbaum, guitar; the Shanghai Quartet.
"It's the record that made me take the guitar seriously. Critic's Choice: Best of Last 25 Years." —San Francisco Examiner
As a collection, these pieces reflect some trends for guitar music in the 80s—a freedom from the influence of the Spanish tradition; individual and disparate languages of composition; the blurring of stylistic divisions; and the increased incorporation of the guitar in chamber music settings.
Three generations of composers are represented here. Of the five, only Takemitsu plays guitar. Tippett and Reich first turned their attention to the solo guitar in the 1980s, as many composers did, while Davies and Takemitsu continued career long associations with the instrument. Sierra had written for both guitar and string quartet when I decided to commission him to enrich the chamber repertoire.
Various [see below] Annum per Annum (NA074)
Organ works of Arvo Pärt, Giacinto Scelsi, and John Cage.
Christoph Maria Moosmann, organ. Recorded in the Cathedral of Rottenburg, Germany.
"Moosmann's sensitive and articulate performances reveal just how expansive, how impressionistic, how exquisite the instrument can be. A gorgeous introduction to modern organ repertoire." [Four stars!] —Classic CD
None of these three composers are or were organists, yet here is some of the most compelling contemporary organ music. Perhaps it is the intense religiosity of Pärt and the cooler spiritualism of Scelsi or Cage (both of whom were devotees of Zen Buddhism) that make their organ excursions so valid, because the organ is, finally, the instrument of the divine. All three have found ways to breathe life into the "monster which never breathes" (Stravinsky). Perhaps the breaths it takes are simply very long and deep.
Various [see below] Austral Voices: New Music from Australia (NA028)
Music by Alan Lamb, Alistair Riddell, Sarah Hopkins, Warren Burt, Ros Bandt, Jeff Pressing, and Ross Bolleter. For telegraph wires, tuning forks, computer driven piano, psaltery, whirly, cello, synthesizer and ruined piano.
"Never less than fascinating and most of the time quite magically lovely." —The Wire
I believe this recording paints, perhaps for the first time, a portrait of an important new generation of Australian composers. They are forging a tradition of experimental music long present elsewhere but only now emerging in Australia, though latent in the work of Percy Grainger (1882-1961) and perhaps a few others. They eschew traditional European instrumental and vocal resources and techniques, and they work principally outside academic institutions. Their music derives, for the most part, from direct experience with and response to their physical surroundings. Some of the sound material is drawn directly from the environment. Much of the music is based on drones or slowly shifting tonal content which suggest something of the vast drama of the land ("Journeys" and "Cello Chi"), though some is extremely active ("Fantasie"). Settings move from the pastoral ("Three Inverse Genera", recorded in a barn in rural Victoria) to the urban ("Genesis", recorded in a Melbourne parking structure).
While each piece is imbued with a strong individual personality, these composers as a group speak with a definite Australian character, a national stamp, an "Austral Voice". —Stephen Scott
Various The Bride Unfastens Her Braids, The Groom Faints: Ladino Love Songs (NA105)
Judeo-Spanish folk songs from Medieval Spain performed by Etty Ben-Zaken, Eitan Steinberg, Ensemble Yatán Atán.
The origins of the Judeo-Spanish folk songs lie in Medieval Spain, where Jews have lived for more than a millennium. For hundreds of years they had flourished as an influential community, creating masterpieces in the liturgical and secular literature, becoming famous as scientists, philosophers and kings' counsels. …
This recording includes songs from the Sephardic communities in Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Israel and Morocco. Creating a contemporary dialogue with this folk tradition, composer Eitan Steinberg set the songs for voice, baroque recorders, guitar, cello/viola da gamba and ethnic percussion. —Etty Ben-Zaken
Various David Tanenbaum (NA095)
Music by Steve Reich, Lew Richmond, Aaron Jay Kernis, Terry Riley, Frank Zappa, and Alan Hovhaness.
David Tanenbaum, guitar
"The highlight [of the Bath International Guitar Festival] was a world premier—Barabas ... Tanenbaum displayed astounding mastery and skill, drawing a bewildering variety of tones and colours from his acoustic guitar." —Bath Chronicle
Good guitar music is flying from the pens and computers of American composers at a furious pace. Terry Riley's guitar music is a case in point. I had gently nagged him about a piece for over a decade with no result, but when his youngest son took up the classical guitar and brought its world into their house, the tide turned. … Aaron Jay Kernis and I have been close friends since we met in school in 1978. … Alan Hovahness' Sonatas are the pieces with which I had the longest gestation period. They've never been recorded before and rarely have they been played… Lew Richmond is the least known of the composers here. An amateur musician, Zen-priest and software specialist, Richmond's Preludes are inspired by the guitar playing of Alex de Grassi…. Steve Reich's Nagoya Marimbas is here transcribed with the help of the composer for two guitars, becoming Nagoya Guitars. … The earliest piece on the recording is a little serial exercise by Frank Zappa. At age 18, Zappa was experimenting with serialism and the guitar and tossed off Waltz for Guitar. It remained unknown until Keyboard and Guitar Player magazine published a Zappa celebration edition in 1992. —David Tanenbaum
Various [see below] Four, for Tango (NA100)
Music by Astor Piazzolla, Arturo Márquez, José Evangelista, Miguel del Águila, Paquito d'Rivera, Javier Alvarez, Frederico Ibarra, Javier Montiel.
The Cuarteto Latinoamericano has been deeply invested in performing the cycle of composers of Latin American heritage around the world for the past few decades. On a given night on a concert stage they will perform works from these composers—as well as Silvestre Revueltas from Mexico, Héitor Villa-Lobos from Brazil, Alberto Ginastera from Argentina and many others—works which lift expression from the poplular and folkloric toward a variable abstraction, work of powerful individualty, which is the musical relative of literature's magical realism, and which Ginastera referred to as imaginary folklore.
Various [see below] Incitation to Desire (NA073)
Yvar Mikhashoff, piano.
Tangos, tangos, tangos, abstract intellectual tangos, heart on the sleeve romances, passionate pillow talk tangos, solitude cafe cold coffee tangos by Michael Sahl, John Cage, Dane Rudhyar, William Duckworth, William Schimel, Lukas Foss, Scott Pender, Richard Rodney Bennett, Chester Biscardi, Ivana Ludova, Colin Bright, Laszlo Sa'ry, Conlon Nancarrow, Jackson Hill, Raschke, Aaron Copland, David Jaggard, and Robert Berkman.
"The movements of the dance are less presentable to a polite audience than those of the habanera, and as now performed in the cafes chantants of Madrid and other cities of Spain, the Tango has become nothing but an Incitation to Desire." —"Tango", Grove's Dictionary of Music, 1944
Yvar Mikhashoff was an internationally known virtuoso pianist, bon vivant and ballroom dancer who died of AIDS a few years ago. One of his obsessive passions in life was to commission tangos from living composers of all ilk. This collection is drawn from sessions we recorded near the end of his life, when his sight was failing but his playing was still brilliant. These short pieces are mostly played from memory and include some terrifically funny titles: "Fromage Dangereux", which is self explanatory, and the final "Thorn Torn Lips" which observes the condition of the gypsy dancer who was kissed before the rose in her mouth was removed.
"Mikhashoff's tango collection tells us much abut this seductive dance, but just as much about the personalities confronting it." —The New York Times
(Bar code: 0 22551 00732 1)
Various [see below] Memorias Tropicales (NA051)
Cuarteto Latinoamericano performs string quartets of Aurelio Tello, Javier Alvarez, Roberto Sierra and Celso Garrido-Lecca.
"Readers with a care from white-hot to tepid for that most elevated of chamber ensembles, the string quartet, and more particularly in its recent repertoire out of the European mainstream, will likely love Memorias Tropicales." —Fanfare
While the roots and early flowering of the string quartet are clearly the pride of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European community, the contributions of Latin American composers to this genre in the twentieth century are astonishing. A variety and richness of musical style and depth of emotion is convincingly illustrated in this collection of four works from Latin American composers—one from Mexico, one from Puerto Rico, and two from Peru.
Various [see below] Metamorphosis (NA120)
Music by Steven Mackey, Hamza El Din, Joan Jeanrenaud, Karen Tanaka, Philip Glass, Mark Grey.
Joan Jeanrenaud, cello and electronics.
In 1999, after twenty years as cellist of the Kronos Quartet, I chose to leave the group and began a metamorphosis of sorts in my musical development as a solo artist. During residencies in Hawaii and San Francisco, I was able to freely explore the directions my interests were leading me at this pivotal point in my career. During this time I continued working with composers. I began to improvise, arrange and compose music myself, as well as research, produce and present muti-media and performance arts. I became interested in not only the visual and conceptual presentation of music but also the sound world my instrument could inhabit. Increasingly I became fascinated with the layering of sound and the versatility of the cello in this exploration. 'Metamorphosis' is much of the music that resulted from this phase, being the soundtrack to the staged musical theatrical production of the same name. —Joan Jeanrenaud
Various [see below] Modern Chamber Ensemble Compositions (NA019)
Music by Arthur Jarvinen, Rand Steiger, Michael Torke, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Elliott Carter, and Louis Andriessen performed by the California EAR Unit: Erika Duke, Lorna Elder, Arthur Jarvinen, Amy Knoles, Robin Lorentz, Gaylord Mowry, James Rorig, Rand Steiger, Dorothy Stone, Tony Holmes, Theresa Tunnicliff.
"This is the gift record for doubting friends who still tell you that new music is hellbound in a handbasket." —L.A. Weekly
This is a strange time for new music. All manner of divisions, irritating and restrictive as they've been, are disintegrating. Stereotypes, definitions, context—all are changing. Not to mention the audience.
Enter the California EAR Unit. Early on, they developed a collective style of working and management that is reflected in every aspect of their work. Like musical practitioners of earlier centuries, they each compose and/or improvise, conduct and direct stage performances. The EAR Unit does not make academic distinctions between musics; the group works on what is challenging, rule-breaking and fun. Whether it's Elliott Carter, Steve Reich or John Cage, the California EAR Unit has the freedom for funkiness, the discipline for complexity and the humor for profound seriousness.
(Bar code: 0 22551 00192 3)
Various Nordisk Sang: Music of Norway (NA031)
Performed by Kirsten Braten-Berg, Pernille Anker, Hans Brimi, Torleiv Bolstad and Eivind Groven a.o.
"A uniquely dark, gentle, austere, strikingly powerful disc of distant intimacy, cold warmth, and other oxymorons of the borders linking opposites." —Stereophile
The astonishing purity of the vocal music heard here is beyond description; it displays both virtuosity and utter simplicity. The marriage of voice and fiddle heard on some of these selections seems magical, but it goes beyond that; the Norwegian word 'trolsk' (troll-like) might describe it better. The immense capacity for poetry which is possible in the music of the 'hardingfele' (hardanger fiddle) has as its source a profound simplicity and stalwartness. The drone-based music of this tradition seems to stand outside historical time as far as Europe is concerned. It arose in northern Europe in the seventeenth century, but only in Norway did it develop and find a solid place for itself in a unique folk culture. The music seems very ancient, yet it is really the product of the modern age (17-19th centuries). Although there are connections to traditions in the Scottish isles - even today - and there were similar instruments found in Germany in the seventeenth century, only in the western valleys of this rugged, northward-stretching land has this enchanted instrument thrived (although the music almost died around the turn of the centry and then experienced a remarkable twentieth century revival).
Various [see below] Oiseau Bleu (NA078)
Darynn Zimmer sings music by Jules Massenet, Louis Beydts, Maurice Delage, and Charles Gounod. Darynn Zimmer, soprano, with Gait Sirguey, piano, and Solisti New York, Ransom Wilson, conductor.
"This imaginatively crafted recital of rarely heard French melodies places Zimmer in the forefront of emerging young American sopranos." —Classical Pulse!
This collection of lesser-known French art songs of the fin-de-siecle era presents the startlingly pure voice of Darynn Zimmer within piano and chamber orchestra settings. Poems of love, of nature, of despair, celebration and whimsy. This recital was created to evoke a world that had not yet fully become modern.
"The voice is unusually pure and forceful." —Classical CD
Various [see below] Portraits - Selections from the New Albion Catalogue (NA009)
Music by John Adams, Paul Dresher, Daniel Lentz, Ingram Marshall, Somei Satoh, Stephen Scott.
"Impressive enough to warrant New Albion's credibility as one of a very small number of labels attempting to make new and challenging music available in a highly listenable format." —Option
"A particularly appealing sampler of accessible experimental music." —The New York Times
Various [see below] Set Of Five (NA036)
Music by John Cage, Henry Cowell, Alan Hovhaness, Somei Satoh, and Lou Harrison performed by the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio: David Abel, violin; Julie Steinberg, piano; William Winant, percussion.
"One admires the trio's great skill at getting across music whose deceptively simple surface conceals great intellectual depth, even at its most playful." —Fanfare
This collection presents a view of Pacific Rim influences in modern classical composition. Among the many structural inventions, devices and languages developed in western art music during the twentieth century is a profound Eastern influence. This influence is sometimes overt (as in the Cowell and Harrison trios), with the use of exotic percussion and a the-world-is-one inspiration. It is sometimes implicit (as in the Cage and Satoh pieces).
Stephen Vitiello Bright and Dusty Things (NA115)
Stephen Vitiello, light readings and sound processing with Pauline Oliveros, accordion, David Tronzo, guitar
"...a master of the [sound art] medium." —New York Times
Light becomes sight becomes sound becomes music. New York-based installationist and sound artist Stephen Vitiello steps out as a composer in his own right, after years of collaborations with artists, musicians and choreographers including Nam June Paik, Scanner, Pauline Oliveros, Tony Oursler, Constance De Jong, Joan Jeanrenaud, Frances-Marie Uitti and many others.
During his "WorldViews" residency at the World Trade Center in 1999 (the first media artist to be invited by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and ThunderGulch), Vitiello was inspired by nightviews of the cityscape—billboards, harbor lights, police cars—to translate/amplify the visual into a sonic experience. Collaborating with noted sound technician Bob Bielecki, Vitiello developed the photocell controller, which translates the vibration (color, speed) of lights into tones.
Having thus captured the genie, Vitiello's sounds were further processed both in computer and in live musical collaboration with avant/improv friends David Tronzo and Pauline Oliveros (among others), musical geniuses in their own right. The result is a flowing, gorgeous set of sound/song pieces constantly alternating between noise and tone, between lyricism and disturbance.
"Bright and Dusty Things" at times recalls the drones of soundfield pioneers (La Monte Young, Michael Snow, Tony Conrad), the handmade imperfect loose wired contraptions of Fluxus artists (Kosugi), and the microcosmos glitchwerk explorations of younger European and Japanese artists.
A collection of 11 tracks dense with mystery and alien logic, consistently both alluring and elusive.... shouldn't be misconstrued as wilfully abstract, however. Even the ten minute-plus "Light Readings" is masterfully edited, describing a wandering melodic arc that reveals its shape in a similar way as the freeform alap portion that begins an Indain raga. Other tracks coalesce into something like new songforms, particularly those abetted by David Tronzo's guitar playing. Multiple bottleneck phrases unspool, then reverse upon themselves above muted arpeggiations constructed by Vitiello from fragments of Rebecca Moore's violin. The net effect is unsettling, yet arresting, as is each entry in Vitiello's presciently titled catalogue of bright and dusty things." —The Wire
Stephen Vitiello and David Tronzo Scratchy Monsters and Laughing Ghosts (NA127)
With Michael J. Schumacher.
SCRATCHY MONSTERS ARE THE BAD DREAMS. LAUGHING GHOSTS ARE THE GOOD ONES—according to my daughter, Georgia.
I've never been sure if I hear sounds in my dreams. I'm glad to know that she does. This is a record that I've wished to make for a long time. It seemed less likely as my own interests have moved away from guitar and more towards field recordings and site-specific sound installations. Meanwhile, my friend Mr. Tronzo has stayed as true to the electric guitar and slide as ever. That said, he is a guitar player who sounds like no other and I am more than honored by the collaboration. These tracks were assembled through dual improvisations, followed by files, loops and mixes mailed back and forth. Somewhere in the middle, we invited Michael J. Schumacher to come in and add piano tracks. Michael's improvised tracks now feel as crucial as any of the other elements. As much as this may be an experiment, we hope it is one that you will enjoy as much as we enjoyed making it. —Stephen Vitiello
Roy Whelden Galax (NA059)
"An introspective and quite accessible disc which is enjoyable on several levels, not the least of which is the experimental nature inherent in the very combination of new and old." —SEE Magazine, Edmonton
This album contains pieces for the viola da gamba, some written by me and some by the German composer Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787), recognized as the last of the great viola da gamba virtuosi.
Abel occupied a unique position in the history of music. With Johann Christian Bach, he co-managed, performed and composed for one of the most successful concert organizations in London during the late 18th century. From 1765 to 1782, the popular Bach-Abel series was his principal venue, yet the instrument on which his fame rested as a performer was by then universally ocnsidered to be old-fashioned and out-of-date. Few amateurs and even fewer professionals were attracted to the viola da gamba after the close of the Baroque period. However, the music which Abel played on these concerts was anything but out-of-date. The 'Adagio-Allegro moderato' pair on this recording is an example; these were taken from a manuscript (New York Public Library, Drexel 5871) containing thirty pieces thought to represent the style of Abel's solo improvisations.
Like Abel, I have chosen to write and perform music using up-to-the-minute compositional techniques on instruments commonly thought to be old-fashioned. These instruments include, besides the viola da gamba, the resonant and warm-toned Baroque flute, violin, and cello, as well as the fully chromatic triple harp, with its three rows of strings. … —Roy Whelden
Roy Whelden & Rudy Rucker Like A Passing River (NA072)
Music by Roy Whelden and Carl Friedrich Abel; spoken word written and read by novelist Rudy Rucker, with the poem Like a Passing River (Han-Shan, 8th Century), translated by Gary Snyder. Sung by Karen Clark, alto, with American Baroque (Stephen Schultz, Baroque flute and director; Elizabeth Blumenstock, Baroque violin; Whelden, viola da gamba; Sarah Freiberg, Baroque cello; Cheryl Ann Fulton, triple harp; with Karen Clark, alto).
"I have lived at Cold Mountain these 30 long years. Yesterday I called on family and friends: More than half had gone to the Yellow Springs. Slowly consumed, like fire down a candle; forever flowing, like a passing river. Now, morning, I face my lone shadow; suddenly my eyes are bleared with tears." —Han-Shan, 8th century (trans., Gary Snyder)
This album is a continuous thread of mutually supporting music and text. The music was created to accompany selections from Rudy Rucker's novel, "All the Visions."
Matthias Ziegler Uakti (NA104)
New music for contrabass flute, a personal vision of a solo polyphonic music.
Matthias Ziegler is a world-class musician and virtuoso flute player. On this CD he presents a personal vision of a solo polyphonic music that is complete in sound, form, melody, harmony, driving rhythm and rich with human feeling. Evocative, virtuoso, and playful, he takes us into a fantastic and joyful world of sound that is both unfamiliar in texture but familiar in its lyric construction. His wit, intelligence, and appetite for sound has created an array of music that references many musical traditions yet is still his own. It is one thing to discover a new sound, it is another thing to know its greater musical potential. Transformation from the unfamiliar to the familiar is one of Ziegler's many gifts.
A music that is so broad and performed with such virtuosic ease belies the fact that so much research, and consequent musical and technical solutions have been found. On the instrumental level Ziegler has been involved in the flute zeitgeist of the past twenty-five years pioneered by Robert Dick, Pierre-Yves Artaud and others who have been fascinated with unlocking and codifying the sonic secrets of a micro sound-world of the flute rich in nuance and musical potential. This work has been a collaboration between performer/composer and the worlds best and open minded flute makers (Kaspar Baechi, Eva Kingma, The Brannen Brothers, Kotato & Fukushima) to develop new instruments. In Ziegler's case, he has also worked with electronic sound designers, who have aimed to meet his needs of amplifying and making custom made microphones, some even imbedded within the instruments to project his rich sound world and imagination. He more than anyone else has found solutions to fully expand and project his language to make it perceivable to the public.
To overly emphasize this aspect would miss the point. All this is to the service of a broad musical vision, of rhythm, melody, harmony, sound fantasy, and human feeling. —Mark Dresser
Evan Ziporyn Typical Music (NA128)
"Pondok" (2001) is Indonesian for a cottage, such as the tiny bamboo hut I lived in during my first stay in Bali in 1981. I arrived unprepared for the cultural and sensory overload I encountered. I would sit on my porch, transcribing music, smoking clove cigarettes, listening to the shortwave, and trying to make sense of it all. Twenty years later, this piece imagines a different level of repose. Each movement is based on a particular aspect of Balinese music, taken in its own direction to the point of no resemblance. "Fragrant Forest" borrows an attitude toward pacing and phrasing from the first scene of the shadow play; "Tree Trunk" builds on a rhythm buried in the texture of beleganjur marching music; "Ginoman" abstracts from the immobility of the introductions to classical lelambatan; "Gebyog (Husk)" combines the intense rhythms of west Balinese female rice pounding music with the serene postures of its performers. The piece is dedicated to pianist Sarah Cahill.
"Piano Trio - Typical Music" (2000) was written for the Arden Trio. Before this piece I generally wrote for unusual combinations of instruments, and I wasn't sure what to do with this archetypically classical combination. As I was writing it, I saw Burmese master drummer Kyaw Kyaw Naing perform at a Unitarian Church in Brookline, Massachusetts. Most of his playing that day accompanied song or dance, until finally the well-meaning hostess announced that Kyaw Kyaw would play a solo, no singer and no dance, "just a piece of typical music." The piece is dedicated to Martin Bresnick, my teacher and friend, whose own piano trio serves as a lofty pinnacle of pure music.
"Ngaben (for Sari Club)" (2003) is for full Balinese gamelan and western orchestra and was written in response to the Bali terrorist bombing of October 12, 2002. I had just begun working on a very different type of piece for gamelan and orchestra, but the printed images of Balinese women crying and praying at the blast site overwhelmed me. Suddenly, musical cross-culturalism meant something far different than it had.
The ngaben cremation is the last and most important life ritual in Balinese Hinduism. Like a traditional New Orleans funeral, it covers a wide range, not all mournful. Loss is acknowledged but subsumed by the far more important task of releasing the soul from the body. The procession itself is serious, chaotic and circuitous: the raised, highly ornamented sarcophagus is spun violently at all intersections so as to confuse evil spirits. The subsequent burning frees the soul to await its next incarnation. … —Evan Ziporyn
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