Blogariddims 38: The mouth, the feet, the sound

Find out more about the Blogariddims project here and here.

You can get the mix directly here:
Or sign up for the podcast here: (see Droid’s helpful guide to podcasts for how to this).

This mix is as much a collection of recent pre-occupations as anything else.

[00:00] La Bocca, I Piedi, Il Suono: I ­ – Salvatore Sciarrino (col legno)

I’ve become a little obsessed with this piece, for alto saxophone quartet and 100 ‘peripatetic’ saxes walking around the performance space. The music is composed not only of pitches and rhythms, but the touch of fingertips on keys, the smack of lips on mouthpieces, the sound of breath, the footsteps of all those walking performers. The whole 35-minute piece is an intense close-listening experience that doesn’t really climax until the very end (see track 16 of this mix). Anyone into lower case music, Wandelweiser, all of that, needs to know Sciarrino. Although I didn’t consciously think about it this way, almost everything else on this mix grows out of this piece: there are saxophones everywhere, from Berio, Burtner and Takemitsu; there’s also one buried in Manfred Werder’s conceptual piece.

[01:38] Dulcinée Du Toboso ­ – Jean Schwarz (Celia)
[03:40] Sequenza VIIb ­ – Luciano Berio (BIS)
[07:20] Journeys on the Winds of Time: I ­ – Alan Lamb (New Albion)
[09:47] Lux Animae (Rambler edit) ­ – Horatiu Radulescu (Sub Rosa)
[16:58] … sofferte onde serene … ­ – Luigi Nono (col legno)

With its intense focus on sound in both minute detail and enveloping ambience, La Bocca makes a real connection with … sofferte onde serene …, one of my favourite Nono works. Written for the pianist Maurizio Pollini, it combines live piano with recordings of Pollini himself rehearsing the work such that it’s impossible to tell where live ends and recording begins. Every note tolls inside an echo chamber of its own past.


[19:06] The Intermediary with a Rendition of Stardust ­ – Blue Gene Tyranny (Lovely Music)
[19:38] Triple (Remix) ­ – Mark Applebaum (Innova)
[26:18] Shur ­ – Alireza Mashayekhi (Prospectives 21e siècle)
[27:05] Distance ­ – Toru Takemitsu (BIS)
[30:00] More Things in the Air than are Visible: Section 3 ­ – Christopher Fox (Metier)
[33:00] 2006/1 – Manfred Werder (skiti)
[36:06] Isle Remix ­ – Evelyn Ficarra (Critical Voices)

Fox takes the piano–tape relationship further in More Things in the Air than are Visible. The third section of the piece combines quiet piano chords that sound like a half-distracted improvisation with a tape of the outdoor ambient sounds of an English summer day – birdsong, a dog barking, traffic noise, etc. Werder’s conceptual work is a grandchild of Cage’s 4’33”: “a place, natural light, where the performer, the performers like to be. a time. (sounds)”. Ficarra turns to the radio waves of the British Isles for her sounds.

[36:33] Split Voices ­ – Matthew Burtner (Innova)
[39:19] Unheimlich Schön ­ – Luc Ferrari (Metamkine)
[43:00] Jour, Contre-jour ­ – Gérard Grisey (Accord)

Ferrari makes an extended piece from the noises – breath, lips, tongue, heartbeat – around the repeating phrase ‘uncanny beauty’. Grisey finds whole worlds in the spaces between two notes.

François Bayle - Erosphère

[43:43] La Bocca, I Piedi, Il Suono: VIII ­ – Salvatore Sciarrino (col legno)
[50:25] un fini I ­ – Mark André (live)
[50:51] Toupie dans le ciel: I ­ – François Bayle (INA-GRM)

Having returned to Sciarrino, the mix finishes off with two tracks that are complimentary opposites: André’s harp solo empties out the space around us as it takes us into the heart of a sound; Bayle dissolves that central core, spreading us thin across the universe.

Welcome – and pull up a Schaeffer

Welcome to all those arriving here from Alex’s kind words in the New Yorker this week. This isn’t really an mp3 blog (although I have posted some avant-garde mixtapes of my own in the past), but I’ve just uploaded these for someone else, so I might as well share the links here.

If you thought the Polish avant garde of the 1960s was all about Penderecki and 101 Penderecki-clones, then say hi to Boguslaw Schaeffer. Schaeffer is one of the most interesting composers to come out of that whole period in Polish music – he’s known as a playwright and graphic artist these days, and both the visual and the theatrical feed into his music. I understand he’s known in the US mostly for his Introduction to Composition (1974).

Schaeffer notation

I don’t know nearly enough of Schaeffer’s work first hand; probably the most well-known piece of is the 1966 Symphonie, which appears on those fantastically expensive Electronic Panorama LPs that Philips put out years ago. I gave it another listen today (no, I don’t have the LP, no I wouldn’t sell it if I did); it’s not that great actually, and I have a feeling the mp3 I’ve got cuts it short anyway. But here are a couple of other Schaeffer schlices:

Little Symphony: Scultura:

Recorded at the 1969 Warsaw Autumn by the Poznań PSO and Andrzej Markowski. Composed in 1960.

Quartet 2 + 2:

I’ve previously mentioned Zygmunt Krauze’s new music ensemble Warsztat Muzyczne; this is a piece Schaeffer wrote for them (they perform it here), and is a minor classic of its type in Polish music. (You might remember this from my first Blogariddims contribution.) I love it – it sounds like mayhem, but it holds together somehow to moving effect.

There’s very little writing on Schaeffer in English – Adrian Thomas’s book on Polish music is your best bet (and contains more examples of his amazing graphic notation). If you’re OK with German, then this is the book you need. This book also looks very desirable.

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:
Or sign up for the podcast here: (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.