Saturday, March 26, 2011



Suite in e minor BWV 810 - JS Bach - Colin Tilney

There is a deep frustration in Bach's unstoppable imagining. He knows what he is doing and he knows that he knows what he is doing. But there is more that he needs to do, and that more that he needs to do cannot be done without breaking free of the repletely homogenous stylistic constraints within which he knows what he is doing. To do the more that he needs to do he would have to do without knowing. No can do. It is the frictive heat raised by the impossibility of transcendence from within the music that provides the aching possibility of transcendence in its contemplation.

Waltz in A-flat Major op. 69 #1 - Chopin - Peter Katin

The first trio fractures horizontally, becoming multiple musics.

Fantasia Contrappuntistica - Busoni - Wolf Harden

Busoni's obsession with Bach as the image of intellectual strength founders in the aesthetic world within which he worked, because the actuality of that strength is based on a homogeneity that had vanished. It is, however, a grand obsession and a grand wreck is made of it.

Nightingale Rag Blues - Hitch's Happy Harmonists
Symphony of Psalms - Stravinsky - RCA SO/The Robert Shaw Chorale/Robert Shaw

A big performance for a big space. Alas, the sound is less-than-transparently scrunched into a phonographic broom closet.


Operation ID at the Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, Seattle

Karen and I were amused to find ourselves far up into the upper percentiles of age at this well-attended and energetic show. She commented that my shows don't often attract the quantity of pulchritude on display. Alas, the vagaries of tribal demographics.

In the context of the Is That Jazz Festival a few months ago this band impressed me as having more rock & roll energy than jazz. This time, in the context of last week's Spinning Whips and Ancient Warlocks, the impression was decidedly more jazz than rock. Some of each, obviously. From rock, they bring an emphasis on ensemble playing, a stage presence full of crouching jumping weaving sorts of dancing, and a fashion sense that (as much as I might be qualified to comment) seemed more 80's geeky than cool. From jazz they bring impressive melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic sophistications, and a compositional sense at several removes from the verses, bridges, and middle-eights of pop song formatting.They behave on stage less like any band I'd ever seen and more like an on-line gamer guild out to vanquish monsters and have a blast at it. The music is played with a raucous-tight abandon that reminded me of recordings by the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande under Ernest Ansermet, in which the orchestra seems as ready to riot as to play. With Operation ID, it helps to be able to see them, because they all seem far too friendly to act out the energy they release into their sound.

Saturday, March 19, 2011



Pastorale 850114A - Keith Eisenbrey - Fehrwood Ensemble
...the one that got away... - Elaine Barkin, Paul Humphreys, Robert Kyr

Banned Rehearsal 556
Wrong Shape to be a Storyteller - Nate Wooley

A 50+ minute solo improvisation with a huge dynamic range that absolutely knocks it out of the park from beginning to end. I was completely grooving on the transparency with which every ugly-gorgeous sound was laid out into the room, always with plenty of time to sink in, never overstaying its welcome. Trumpet sound, feedback sound, other-room sound, all of it exquisitely raw.

Banned Rehearsal 770


Gradus 189 - Neal Meyer

Koko and the Sweetmeats, Ancient Warlocks, and Spinning Whips - live at the Columbia City Theater, Seattle

It was nouveau metal night at the Columbia City Theater, and we heard three energetic young bands demonstrate what full-on rhythm sections can do. I don't have much to say, other than that it was lots of fun, and that I kind of geeked out on the Spinning Whips' hollow-body bass.

Saturday, March 12, 2011



Suite in d BWV 811 - JS Bach - Colin Tilney

Waltz in A-flat op. 34 #1 - Chopin - Peter Katin

A little family group of waltzes: Papa Waltz, Mama Waltz, Handsome Bro' Waltz, and Giddy Little Sister Waltz - all introduced with great fanfare.

That Lovin' Rag - Sophie Tucker
Cataract Love - Hitch's Happy Harmonists
Symphony of Psalms - Stravinsky - CBC SO/Stravinsky

The material: a complex of infra-referential sounds that carry an image of coherence. They are parts of a thought and we recognize the parts of it as being the parts of that thought. How? Parametric set identity certainly plays a part, but also, I think, a plastic sense of parametric set proximity, or set similarity, as grasped and measured on the fly. Part of our psycho-acoustic apparatus is the bundling of raw sounds into the sounds of some thing in particular - the sound of that note, that violin, that choral voice, that phrase. Stravinsky's compositional ear loves to twist our habits of bundling into paths that astound us: "How did I make that connection?"

Xango - Villa-Lobos - New York Chamber Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz/Robert Bonfiglio
Variations for Orchestra op. 30 - Webern - London SO/Boulez

See above, re: Symphony of Psalms.

Ebony Concerto - Stravinsky - Netherlands Wind Ensemble/Edo de Waart/George Pieterson

Probably the most interesting conversation that Stravinsky and Ellington never had. Wish I'd been there.

Solitaire - Stan Kenton

Hearts of Stone (recorded live) - Elvis Presley
Wind Quintet #2 - George Perle
Mikrophonie II - Stockhausen - Studio-Chores fur Neue Musik Koln/Herbert Schemus/Alfons Kontarsky

The heavy ring-modulation throughout leaves me with a sense of oppression, or suppression.

Psalm 23 Dominus pascit me - Ivan Hrusovsky - Tirnavia/Andrej Rapant/Stanislav Surin
Quit Kickin' My Dog Around  - Delbert Spray, Art Rosenbaum
Tattoo You - The Rolling Stones

The antiseptic engineering gives the stripped-down arrangements on this album an interesting edge.


Christopher DeLaurenti at the Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, Seattle

Christopher improvised two sets on his laptop, each of which ended with an extended exploration of his recent recordings of local singers rendering the torch song You're My Thrill. In the first set we heard untreated field recordings as well as sounds from at least one earlier work that I recognized. In the second the source sounds were heavily treated before being allowed into the loudspeakers.

Sounds simple enough, but as usual with Christopher's shows I was left with more topics of thought than there is space here to discuss: The experienced relations between textual fragments and a presumed underlying song form, the relations among live sounds from out- and in-side the performance space and sounds brought in from the outside and then broadcast to the inside, time past and time present, multiple times past and multiple times present, what counts as treated and what registers as treated, the relation between the experience of registering a sound as being treated and the experience of the particular treatedness of the sound, the peculiarities of hearing the "same thing" twice in two different settings (does it make the same thing sound more the same or less the same, and does it make the two different settings sound more different or less different - or is it a fascinating shading among the various possibilities?), etc.

All this and it was often quite ravishingly lovely too. An extended segment in the middle of the second set in which two pitched sounds were imperceptibly perceived to shift downward was breathtaking, and the concatenate performance of Thrill, chopped into phrase segments and shuffled tenderly together, was both sexy and poignant, occupying a personal space not quite so distanced as to prevent a blush, and just near enough to tempt the feeling of an intrusion on an intimacy not our own.

Saturday, March 5, 2011



The Unashamed Accompanist - Gerald Moore

I don't want to make too much of this recorded lecture by the eminent accompanist, the main point of which is that accompanists have a difficult but rewarding job and that 19th Century art songs are duets in which both pianist and singer have important roles. Hardly earth-shaking propositions. But a common attitude about words and music hangs unexamined throughout: that the point of the music is to reflect the meaning of the words, to act as an illustration for the poem. The problem is that we are postulating that the composer intended to construct a music that disappears into a visual or poetic image, that he intended to write a music that we listen to without hearing. We are asked to play so as to deflect attention from possible musical experiences in favor of something else. Should this really be our default attitude?

Fool, Fool, Fool - Elvis Presley
String Quartet in f-sharp minor, op. 108 - Shostakovich - Fitzwilliam SQ

Skeletal, ghastly, and icily pure, this is the thinking person's Shostakovich - frantic structuralism barely clinging to the pretense of continuity.

Mikrophonie I - Stockhausen - Aloys Kontarsky, Johannes Fritsch, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Fred Alings, Harald Boje, Jaap Spek, Hugh Davies

Episodes without trajectory, the structurally sensual now.

Pole - Stockhausen - Harald Boje, Peter Eotvos

Popular, in that the greater culture leaks in, is roughed up, is consumed.

Tierkreis - Stockhausen - Markus Stockhausen

Little studies in continuity, lyricism, and contrast. Personal and lovely.

Sonata 1980 - Keith Eisenbrey

My live performance of June 6, 2009. The various species of pauses and interruptions are more clearly distinguished here than in my other performances, and I managed to refrain from rushing as much as I usually do. The Chapel piano sounds good.

Pastorale 85 01 13B - Keith Eisenbrey - Fehrwood Ensemble

For this run-through I had the players cut each note short - not quite staccato, but using only enough duration to voice the pitch. As I recall, I later did some cheap overdubbing of this cut (using two cassette decks, to one of which a switch was added to toggle the erase head).

Banned Rehearsal 210 - Banned Rehearsal
Rough throughout, but exquisite right at the end.

Mad Science ca. 2000 - John Eisenbrey

This little two minute tape showed up in a box recently. My son John had made it at an after school class when he was 9 or 10 or so. Among the over-amply-reverberated fart noises the big surprise was a spontaneous and enthusiastic performance of a little song we invented to amuse the kids in the car: "Do the Weedy Weedy at the Bop".

Two by Four - Tom Baker - Jesse Canterbury, William O. Smith

Allowing time for complex steady states to unfold, to define themselves, to allow thinking in their terms.

Strange Flower (album) - The Tipton Saxophone Quartet

Something about the flattened melodicism of the vocal lines in the last cut reminded me suddenly of Brian Eno. The mind does odd things now and then.


Gradus 188 - Neal Meyer


Seattle Composer's Salon at the Chapel Performance Space, Seattle

Wayne Horvitz

Wayne provided a brief overview of his life in composition, with samples - a window into the inherent chaos of a creative mind. I was left with the image of a vital exploratory imagination rooted in a deeply personal demotic sensibility. I would also like to hear that piece for rainstick and paper bag he mentioned, whether Schoenberg comes back from the dead to write it, or whether Wayne writes it himself.