Blogariddims 22: Disintegrations

Unlike my previous Blogariddims contribution there was a plan behind this mix. But as I started putting it together I also decided on a different strategy for mixing too. On Voices from Afar the idea was very definitely to keep layering things, filling up the sound space as much as possible; I might have up to 5 tracks running at once. That was fine, but I was always a bit uncomfortable with the fact that I seemed reluctant to let any of the music – all of which I loved – speak for itself, without the friendly support of massive overdubs. Why not let the music do more of the work on its own?

So if you know Voices from Afar, you’ll find this one a lot more sparse. There’s quite a lot of silence between notes left in here, a wider, more variable dynamic range, and the result is something much darker than before, much slower moving, but a bit more faithful to my sources.

As ever, you can find out more about the Blogariddims project here and here.

You can get the mix directly here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/blogariddims/
Or sign up for the podcast here: http://www.weareie.com/audio/blogariddims/Blogariddims.xml (see Droid’s helpful guide to podcasts for how to this).

lucier.jpeg (00:00) Ki (from Kwaidan): Toru Takemitsu
(00:03) The Wire III: Music on a Long Thin Wire: Alvin Lucier
(01:17) Piano Sonata no.3, Formant 2 – Trope – Glose: Pierre Boulez
(03:04) Anaklasis: Krzysztof Penderecki

Listening to Kwaidan on a Tokyo-bound train last December was where this mix started. There are strange links between Japanese traditional music and the European avant-garde, and I began sketching out a preliminary tracklist for a mix that would draw out some of these connections. Ultimately the most important connection is a particular sense of time: as the modern musical movement abandoned traditional notions of harmony, melody and rhythm, so the experience of time as something non-linear, cyclical and complex drew closer to some Asian concepts. Composers intermittently made such connections explicit through the 20th century by drawing heavily on Japanese and other oriental inspirations (Messiaen, Cage), but their discoveries had ramifications for the music of others who were not so heavily engaged with Eastern philosophies. The multi-faceted patterns of Boulez’s Third Piano Sonata are one example; the almost complete abandonment of pitch, harmony and rhythm for a purely sonic organisation that exists purely in the moment as exhibited by Penderecki’s sonoristic music is another.

smith.jpeg (07:52) Le réveil des oiseaux: Olivier Messiaen
(07:55) Genesis: Ros Bandt
(10:00) Three Strange Angels: Richard Baker
(10:59) Cogito/Trompe L’Oeil: Iancu Dumitrescu
(15:24) A Wasp on Her Abdomen: Chas Smith
(18:16) Movement Within: Glenn Branca

Messiaen is the key link between Eastern traditional music and European postwar modernism; the use of birdsong in his music is connected, via theological subways, to this, but the opening piano solo from Réveil is here ‘cos it sounds good as much as anything.

This section becomes progressively heavier, from Ros Bandt’s death zither to Glenn Branca’s microtonal doomcore. Do yourself a favour and dig out and listen to the Dumitrescu in full. You’ll love it.

stravinsky.jpg (21:38) Automne à Varsovie: György Ligeti
(23:27) Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune: Claude Debussy
(24:43) Symphonies Of Wind Instruments: Igor Stravinsky
(26:08) Sonata 6: Sonatas and Interludes For Prepared Piano: John Cage
(27:01) 6 Little Piano Pieces, No.6, Sehr langsam: Arnold Schoenberg
(28:24) Liturgie de cristal, Quatour pour la fin du temps: Olivier Messiaen

A bit of history in the middle of the mix, throwing up some of the key players in the out of time continuum. Debussy’s Prélude is commonly credited with ending Western classical music’s obsession with linear, progressive time and thus earmarks the beginning of modern music. Schoenberg’s atonality did its bit, as did Stravinsky’s jump cuts and additive rhythms, and by the time Cage is poking rubbers and nails in between his piano strings none of the old rules apply. Time could no longer function as it once did.

glass.jpeg (30:46) Kreuzspiel: Karlheinz Stockhausen
(32:29) Two Pages: Philip Glass

Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, Europe was in thrall to total serialism, a short-lived, notorious movement which has subsequently been blamed for everything. Messiaen was its accidental midwife in 1949 with a set of rhythmic studies for piano; Stockhausen responded with Kreuzspiel, one of the first total serial pieces, and a work that would have a massive impact on the international avant garde. The funny thing is, Kreuzspiel really grooves and it’s no leap at all from here to New York minimalism.

rhythmicon.jpeg (35:00) Chorus: Robert Normandeau
(36:49) Psappha: Iannis Xenakis
(38:26) She Was A Visitor: Robert Ashley
(39:44) Erewhon: Hugues Dufourt

Listening to this bit scares the hell out of me. The Normandeau (from this CD) is fantastic, but it’s the stuff of nightmares, and the other tracks hardly help…

murail.jpg (47:53) Désintégrations: Tristan Murail

The mood eases off a bit, with this 6-minute chunk from Murail’s Désintégrations, a piece that rocks really freakin’ hard. I like this bit though for the elegaic wind melodies halfway through, which is why it gets the nod rather than the more appropriately titled Time and Again from the same disc.

lentz.jpeg (53:41) Lascaux: Daniel Lentz

Just a lovely thing to end on, a kind of smoothed-out, fluffy version of the opening bells and drones that Takemitsu and Lucier started things off with, and that in some way have been around for the last hour.

Long Shadows rewind

Had some requests for the Long Shadows mix, so it’s been re-upped to Megaupload. Go get it.

And if you like that, you might also like the hour-long set I did for the Blogariddims podcast, available by subscription here, or direct download here (80MB mp3). Now would be a good time to subscribe (is there ever a bad time?), as I’ve got a new one coming up next month that I reckon is the best yet.

IODA Promonet

Having first spotted this on The Rest Is Noise, I thought I might sign up and give it a go.

What it’s all about, from the Promonet website:

Promonet is a unique promotional music distribution network that provides its users with a new way to legally download, publish, and share music. Promonet is run by IODA, the leading digital distributor of independent digital music. More than 3000 of the best and most influential independent record labels distribute their music through IODA, and they have given IODA permission to make thousands of their tracks available to Promonet users.

More on IODA here.

Hopefully mp3s should start appearing here periodically from now on; as an opening gambit though I’ve added download and purchase links to all my Innova reviews thus far, and suggest you check them out.

Links for the week

A lovely post at Tim Mangan’s Classical Life reproducing a 2003 article on Tower Records’ classical sales guy, Charlie Brand.

This (warning: sound) animated, automatic music box is way cooler than you’d first think. (Via Dial M/Crooked Timber.)

Get ‘em while they’re ‘ot: mp3 live recordings from the Whitney museum’s recent Reich extravaganza.

Matthew Guerrieri tracks down a man who could play those ‘impossible’ chords in Charles Ives’s piano music.

Be sure to check out the Pianoless Vexations mp3s recently added to Ubuweb.

And this story’s a few days old now, but I love it, so here you go: Teen Using MySpace to Lure Bands to Los Angeles.

New music download sites

By way of a service to other ‘iPod Oldies’ (sorry, I’m still tickled by this idea), here’s a quick selection of paid download sites where you can get your new and experimental classical music from. As ever, this list is far from complete, and I will add to it as and when I come across new sites. Feel free to add suggestions in the comments

Critical Notice. Produced by the British Music Information Centre, this site unsurprisingly includes Brit-only composers. But composition is in a pretty interesting place here at the moment, with the result being a pretty attractive roster of names. More please!

Lontano Records Ltd, or Lorelt for short – download site of top new music ensemble Lontano, and the first independent classical record label in the UK to offer its own MP3 downloads. Focusses on contemporary music, music by women composers, and Latin American classical music.

7Things. Commissions new albums from (mostly) experimental artists, which are available as either one-off purchases of the whole recording or as a subscription (16 albums per year).

Blogariddims 7: Voices from Afar

riley.gifI’ll admit there wasn’t much of a plan to this when I started out. Whereas with Long Shadows I started from a particular sound world (ringing harmonics, bell-tones, thick textures), in this mix I sort of improvised and let a plan reveal itself as I went along. Basically it all came together through experiment and road testing; if it sounded like it worked, it stayed. The mix was put together using some pretty basic technology – a stack of CDs, a virtual stack of MP3s, a few ripped LPs – with the whole lot mixed in Audacity. No tempo shifts, no EQ twiddles, no pitch shifts – just careful placement and judicious fade-in/outs. Hopefully track selection and juxtaposition is enough.

Mixing avant-classical stuff is a bit unusual, and without many examples for comparison (if anyone knows where I can get a copy of Murcof’s demo mix tape from back in 2002, I think, please let me know!) I’m still feeling my way a bit. The first thing is that usual concerns such as tempo and key go out of the window. On the whole you’re not dealing with beats – and even when you are, it’s not music that was meant to be beatmatched – and you’re not usually dealing with a straightforward sense of key. So don’t worry about these things. What you do have, however, is a particularly acute sense of musical pacing and momentum. This is hard to pin down, and plenty of the pieces I wanted to include didn’t have it. Those that are here, however, do, and it’s something I tried to preserve even as I trampled across every other aspect of these compositions. What results is a kind of polyphony, with the tracks often pulling or pushing against each other, but meeting at certain points to create a form that is bigger than themselves.

One other thing. For people subscribing to these podcasts who may not have come across much contemporary classical music before: although I’ve juggled things around here to keep a constant energy and momentum running through the mix, there’s been very little compromise on track selection. What you hear on this mix is a fairly representative cross-section of contemporary classical music from the last 30-40 years. Hope you enjoy it.

Find out more about the Blogariddims project here and here.

You can get the mix directly here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/blogariddims/
Or sign up for the podcast here: http://www.weareie.com/audio/blogariddims/Blogariddims.xml (see Droid’s helpful guide to podcasts for how to this).

Got it yet? OK, here are your sleevenotes…

takemura.jpg[0:00] Nobukazu Takemura: Conical Flask
[0:45] Read Miller: Mile Zero Hotel
[1:40] Harold Budd, Ruben Garcia, Daniel Lentz: Iris

A slow building, chilled-out kind of start. I’ve not checked but I’m pretty certain Takemura’s Conical Flask is an epic work-out on a sample chord from Steve Reich’s Four Organs. What plans I did have before I started involved three different angles on Four Organs – this, the original work, and the Berkeley 1970 concert by the Steve Reich ensemble as preserved on archive.org. This has a great little segment with Reich recording sceptical audience members for a version of My Name Is, with Four Organs in soundcheck in the background. But it never really happened.

Read Miller’s Mile Zero Hotel, from the essential Cold Blue compilation, is a typical piece of his, with overlapping spoken recitations from a collection of letters sent from ‘Miriam’ on a trip around Canada. ‘Iris’, from Music for Three Pianos, sets up a couple of the strands which did end up running through the mix. There are lots of piano sounds for one, and as a conceit on my part each of Budd, Garcia and Lentz get big solo spots at some point later on.

adams.jpg

[2:42] John Adams: Phrygian Gates
[3:17] Krzysztof Penderecki: Actions
[5:51] Brian Ferneyhough: Kurze Schatten II

The pulsating piano introduction to John Adams’s epic Phrygian Gates creeps up from around 2:40 and is the foundation for the next five or six minutes. The overlap with Actions was an experiment that came off first go. The first trombone note after the harmonic shift in the Adams just kills me: who’d have thought a Polish avant-jazz experiment would sit so well with gentle West Coast minimalism? The free jazz stylings of Actions morph nicely into the hyper-organised guitar splatter of Ferneyhough’s Kurze Schatten II. German speakers might notice a weak self-referential pun here.

grisey.jpg[6:12] Gérard Grisey: Faux interlude, La mort de la humanité: Quatre chants pour franchir le seul
[7:25] John Cage: 103, part 2
[7:32] John Adams: Hymns and Slews: Shaker Loops
[8:12] A Produce and Ruben Garcia: Last Chance
[9:12] Krzysztof Penderecki: String Quartet no.1
[11:26] Witold Szalonek: Three Sketches, nos.1 and 2
[12:26] Boguslaw Schäffer: Quartet 2+2

A long section that slowly collapses into more and more splintered, fractured sounds. Grisey’s percussion rolls have been lurking low in the mix for a while already, and as Phrygian Gates gets increasingly agitated it is slowly overwhelmed by these and the heavy, sliding drones of Cage’s 103 and Adams’s Shaker Loops. This recording of 103, under Petr Kotik, is a controversial one, and perhaps not truly Cageian, but despite/because of this it makes a good fit alongside Adams’ loops. While Ruben Garcia provides the keyboards, three Polish sonorists pile in with scratches, squeaks, thunks, bells, whistles and a twee little piano chorale. The Szalonek is from Polskie Nagrania’s 6-disc commemoration of the Warsaw Autumn Contemporary Music Festival, an interesting artifact, but a pretty uneven selection of works of which this is one of the best. The Schäffer (no relation to Pierre) comes from a much more consistent LP (Polskie Nagrania SXL 0573) showcasing the Warsztat Muzyczny (Music Workshop) ensemble of the late 60s, who helped keep avant garde experiment alive in Poland once sonorism began to wear thin.

gorecki.gif[11:37] György Ligeti: Etude no.1
[13:20] Henryk Górecki: Symphony no.2 ‘Copernican’, 2nd movt
[16:50] La Monte Young: The Well-Tempered Piano

Underneath all this chaos, as someone kicks a set of bells around the room, then tries to set fire to the stage (how it sounds to me…), wheezes Ligeti’s sickly, vacuum cleaner-powered pipe organ, out of which emerges the langorous music-of-the-spheres sonority of Górecki’s 2nd Symphony to round off this East European interlude. Further jangly harmonics are supplied by the non-East Euro La Monte Young.

budd.jpg[19:55] Harold Budd: Coyote: The White Arcades
[20:50] Olivier Messiaen: Jardin du sommeil d’amour: Turangalîla-Symphonie
[22:02] Daniel Lentz: Dancing on the Sun
[23:45] György Ligeti: Lontano
[27:45] Hans Otte: XI: Das Buch der Klänge

Harold Budd’s Coyote announces the beginning of the central third of the mix. Young’s Well-Tempered Piano is still clattering around, and is played off against a second item from the Cold Blue series, Daniel Lentz’s Dancing on the Sun. Messiaen’s langorous ‘Garden of Love’s Sleep’ and the desert terrain of Ligeti’s Lontano provide underlay, and this piano-dominated sequence is rounded off with a movement from Hans Otte’s highly recommended Buch der Klänge on ECM.

feldman.jpg[28:50] Miro Bázlik: Simple Electronic Symphony
[29:50] Morton Feldman: Four Pianos
[30:30] Pauline Oliveros: Beautiful Soop
[30:40] Ivo Malec: Dahovi II
[33:05] Kenneth Kirschner: June 18, 1995

The central section is mostly electronica, with Feldman’s Four Pianos acting as constant through this section and the next. The Oliveros is a classic; the Malec and Bázlik are less well-known but equally worth seeking out. Kirschner is an electronic composer who releases all his music through his website via a Creative Commons license, and it’s well worth exploring.

melis.jpg[35:15] Laszlo Melis: Etude for Three Mirrors
[36:45] Tadeusz Baird: Voices from Afar

Hungarian minimalism plays off against Polish expressionism, and slowly pulls us out of the dark heart of the mix. Two composers the world should know much more about: the vocal-orchestral Baird comes from a 2 CD set of collected works available on import from the US; the chunky Euro-minimal Melis is from a CD by the Hungarian ensemble Group 180 (and comes backed with some excellent Rzewski recordings).

vink.jpg[41:00] Jaap Vink: Screen
[41:30] Jack Body: Long-ge

Long-ge, by the Composer Who Sounds Most Like He Should be a House Producer is a neat little string thing that doesn’t stick around for long, and with Jaap Vink’s jet-plane Screen from the Philips Electronic Panorama – Utrecht LP it forms a transition into the finale…

murcof.jpg[44:30] Murcof: Ulysses: Utopía
[44:30] Arvo Pärt: Passio
[53:45] Arvo Pärt: Symphony no.2

… Which is an Arvo Pärt three-way. Murcof comes in as a second minimalism-sampling electronica counterbalance to Takemura from the start of the set. His gorgeous ‘Ulysses’ is backed by the work it so heavily samples – Pärt’s St John Passion. The two together provide the obligatory ‘palate-cleansing’ end to the mix, but with a twist as the finale to Pärt’s Second Symphony, from his less well-known, but much more interesting early period rounds things off in unexpected style.

My first avant-classical mix

Update (20 February 2012): Now available on mixcloud.

Something a bit special here. Or at least I hope so.

Below you’ll find links to a mix that I’ve been working on, on and off, for the last few months. I’ve long wondered what a fully mixed set of avant classical would actually sound like, and even if it was possible at all. However, although I know of plenty of DJs who drop classical works (of whatever stripe) into their sets every now and then, I’ve yet to come across any that do so for more than a couple of tracks at a time. (If anyone has any pointers or recommendations though, I’d love to hear them.)

So, I figured I’d give it a bash myself. Even though I don’t own any decks, or even any proper mixing software, and have never done any mixing before. The whole thing was done in Audacity, with no pitch changes, tempo changes, and only minimal edits and fades. I’m quite pleased with this side of it, although at points I think some more sophisticated EQ tools might have been handy. (The ogg version by the way sounds much better in this respect than the mp3.) And there’s a minor glitch about 4 minutes in that I wish I could be bothered to get rid of.

Although I didn’t start out with any rules, a set of guidelines for myself did evolve. Because I wanted to wanted to prove something to myself – that it was possible to mix with a certain kind of flow using avant garde concert music – I tried to avoid heavily rhythmic minimalism, etc, which would have been easy and not entirely original. So amongst the composer names there’s some compromise to approachability, but not much. The fact that the only nonclassical tunes are all early-90s shoegazy stuff is pure coincidence and more a reflection on my personal tastes and the sort of widely resonant spaces that started to come out of the mix as I was putting it together than any starting plan. At one point I did have Messiaen’s Et exspecto… pushed up alongside ‘Reduction’ by postpunkers Material to surprisingly funky effect, but I couldn’t quite get it to work in the mix.

The two files (the same thing, in ogg and mp3) are on YouSendIt, so they’ll be valid for 7 days or 25 downloads each. If there’s a big demand I might re-up them at some stage. Please leave feedback!

Long Shadows – avant-classical mix by Rambler

1. Meredith Monk – Long Shadows 1
2. György Ligeti – Cello Concerto, 1st mvt
3. Terry Riley – In the Summer
4. Alvin Lucier – I am Sitting in a Room
5. Ride – Nowhere
6. Gerard Grisey – Partiels
7. Chas Smith – October ’68
8. György Kurtág – Stele, 3rd mvt
9. Arvo Pärt – Solfeggio
10. Arne Nordheim – Solitaire
11. Gabriel Prokofiev – String Quartet no.1 (Max de Wardener remix)
12. Slowdive – Souvlaki Space Station
13. Dead Voices on Air – Funfundsiebzig
14. Dave Seidel – Sublimation
15. Morton Feldman and John Cage in conversation
16. Morton Feldman – Rothko Chapel
17. Curve – Hung Up
18. Meredith Monk – Long Shadows 2
mp3 | ogg

Update: ANAblog have generously uploaded the mp3 version to their hosting service, so once the YouSendIt links expire you can get your copies here.

Update 2: The mix is now uploaded as an mp3 to Rapidshare – click here. And I know Rapidshare (as a free service at least) can be a bit buggy – to say the least – but take my advice: invest a few quid in a monthly pass. All downloading bugs disappear, you’re not locked into any sort of contract with Rapidshare, and with the number of out-of-print albums populating Rapidshare at the moment you can go download crazy for next to nothing.

Update 3: You might also be interested in the mix I did for Blogariddims; available here.

Update 4: Uploaded once more at Megaupload: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=SXXLATXH