Sunday, November 27, 2011



November 19, 2011
Curtains For You
Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs
The Posies
Neptune Theater, Seattle

I am coming to the local rock & roll party late, and I usually feel like the old guy who's just there to give the kids a ride home. Late in The Posies' set they were thanking all the people who helped put on the show (thoughtful!) and finished up by thanking us, their fans, for being with them all through the decades. I'm sure the spotlights weren't aimed just at me, though it felt that way, and I wanted to say "No, you should be thanking those guys in the next row down! I've never heard you before!"

In the old days when kids were asked what they liked about rock & roll the nearly unanimous answer was "It has a beat." But Bach has a beat and Chopin has a beat. It takes a good bit of work to avoid it. I think, though, that the ubiquity of the popular meme is a pointer to a more interesting inquiry. It isn't just that the beat is loud and in your face (sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't), it is that this music, as does jazz, gospel, the blues, and all their kin and progeny, consists not so much of particular relations to harmonies and pitch-patterning clarified by their metrical contexts, but rather of subtle vocabularies of weights, bounces, and viscosities in and among the beats themselves and between them and all their subdivisions. Pitch here is the handmaiden, not the lord of all.

What was interesting to me about these three fine acts is how exactly the players relate, amongst themselves, to the particular flavors of beats they create, how those flavors differ from each other, and how the idea of what a beat is in these musics is both different from and also akin to such ideas in other musics. Curtains For You plays with a quick, effortless, Superball bounce. Star Anna fills long bluesy measures with heavy, blunt, heels-to-the-ground hammer blows. The Posies are all about power and drive. Karen thought they were like a psychedelic-grunge version of Simon & Garfunkle, but I came away with a less clear picture of them than of the other two bands. This is partly because I have become familiar with Curtains and had time to think about them, and because Star Anna inhabits turf made familiar by many another electric blues diva. If and as I become more familiar with them I'm sure I'll have more to say.


November 20, 2011
Maggie Jones (Faye Barnes)
Dallas Blues - Maggie Jones [from Allen Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]

I love the sound of this recording. You can hear the room, its walls and chairs. The center of the beat is wide and soft, but precisely so.

John the Revelator - Blind Willie Johnson [from Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music]

Folk song as catechism.

Save It Pretty Mama - Sidney Bechet [from Allen Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]
Please Be My Boyfriend - The Shirelles [from The Shirelles Anthology, Rhino Records]

Just careful enough. Just articulate enough. 

Get Off Of My Cloud - The Rolling Stones [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]
Rock and Roll - Heart [from Heart: Greatest Hits]

November 21, 2011
Banned Sectional #1 KEE NWM - Banned Rehearsal

Neal and I made this tape in the spring of 1985. We begin with nearly 40 minutes of tiny sounds in spectacular concentration and wonderful cross-communication. In the last 7 to 10 minutes Neal started playing with feedback sound. I remember at the time I thought this was a big disappointment. We had been sharing something quite fine and subtle for most of the tape, and then the electric walrus comes in and nothing else can be heard. Listening back at it now I hear yet another installment of Banned Rehearsal's ancient argument between the sessions as experimental socialization and the sessions as the making of artifacts of recorded sound. As much as I admire the latter, and admit its often brilliant success, I am convinced it is the former that is a more difficult task, and holds higher possibilities.

November 22, 2011
Banned Rehearsal #225 - Banned Rehearsal

Karen, Aaron, and I made this tape in 1990 while Aaron was house-sitting somewhere. Fallacious Assumptions that are laid out here as on a slab: 1. The What (the notes, the information) of what is being played is crucial, not the How of how it sounds. 2. The Fact that a thing is made up on the spot guarantees its authenticity. 3. Known, identifiable, and scholastically approved compositional procedures have the power to unify and to make chaos coherent.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Upcoming Show

Your Mother Should Know
Karen mugging at EMP
Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 1PM - FREE - 
Sky Church at EMP, Seattle

Neal at Full Tilt Ice Cream

Your Mother Should Know is Neal Meyer and my spouse Karen in Rock and Roll mode. It will be loads of fun, so come on out!


November 13, 2011
Gradus 76 - Neal Meyer
Fungus - White River Valley, Mt. Rainier National Park, September 24, 2011

Subtly melodicizing the dynamic gradations. Beyond loud and soft.

Old Habits (album) - Hot Bodies In Motion

I bought this CD at their live show a few weeks ago. Their funk beats lead from the hip, and they make fine use of nearly silent breaks and big fat instrumental sound. Every once in a while the ping in the singer's voice reminded me of The Humidiflyers, a now-dissolved but much missed local band from the early oughts. This may count as the first time I listened carefully to a track that uses what I presume is Auto-Tune (just once, as an effect). Oddly, it gave off strong whiffs of Charles Dodge's Speech Songs. I guess there is really nothing new under the sun.

The Wagon - Ben Harney [from Allen Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]
The Lone Star Trail - Ken Maynard [from Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music]
In A Mellotone - Duke Ellington [from The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz]
When It Rains, It Really Pours - Elvis Presley [from Sunrise]
Stay - Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]

This fabulous arrangement is too darned short!!

A Change Is Gonna Come - Sam Cooke [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]

November 15, 2011
Banned Rehearsal 26 - Banned Rehearsal

Participating were Aaron, Neal, and me. It was March of 1985. It barely moves. What enters first waits, waits, waits. Then enters. Not a perfect session, weakening toward the end as we succumb to the stupid, but for the most part patient and still.

November 17, 2011
Banned Rehearsal 224 - Banned Rehearsal

Anarchy endrummed.
Participating were Karen, Aaron, and me. It was June of 1990. There are some big drum beats in here that sound great! I thought of a possible strategy for improvisation: Avoid variety and eschew repetition.

Nothing As It Seems - Pearl Jam

I am new to Pearl Jam, but I am finding some deep listening in these songs by all concerned. The arrangements are full of "just so" sound, even though the sound that it is "just so" as is far from simple, and far from simply good.

Book of Windows (studio version of 3/20/2005) - Keith Eisenbrey
Me, Neal and Aaron with scores of Book Of Windows in 1982

I used to say that I didn't need to think about minimalism anymore, because I had already written music that was much more repetitious and much much uglier than anything anyone else had ever done. Possibly not true, but not particularly interesting even if it is. Book of Windows is a massive score that I made in 1982. It is composed of a long text (Ben called it a word-mare) containing (among other things) three interlocked acrostics, and hugely repetetive, repletely patterned musics for piano and saxophone. I was exploring the notion of score-making as opposed to musical composition, and the format of the score has as much or more to do with how it hangs as a book than with how the music might go. The immediate influences were, I suppose, Ben Boretz's (" chart shines high where the blue milks upset...") with its lines of music as carefully placed on the page as any poem, and Gertrude Stein's Lucy Church Amiably. The score is explicitly open to interpretation concerning how it might be performed, and it never has been done with a saxophone. Aaron, Neal, and my brother Paul recorded it in 1982 with piano and clarinet, with Aaron speaking the text. Later that summer it was performed and recorded in the common area at Bard College with Jill Borner speaking, Bruce Huber on electric guitar, and me on Crumar. Both of these performances are long slow affairs, clocking in at between 90 to 120 minutes, but they are not without their charms. I spent several years re-making all of my scores digitally, and when I got done with this one I realized I could use the score to make a midi performance. I used a marimba sound instead of piano, and stuck with electric guitar for the sax part. I recorded the text, amending the sound of my voice with various cheap digital effects, and sped the whole thing up so that it goes by in just over 30 minutes. The result is a lighter-weight performance, not so much of an endurance test as the earlier version.

BF Vocals Rough - Keith Eisenbrey

This is the first mix of the choir of me singing There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood, for eventual use in Blood and Fire Hallelujah.

Sunday, November 13, 2011



November 6, 2011
Banned Rehearsal 223 - Banned Rehearsal

Participating were Karen, Aaron, and me in 1990. After about ten minutes of transparent chamber music, we call Anna in San Diego to celebrate the 6th Bannediversary. The rest of the session is 1/2 of a telephone converasation.

I Got Shit - Pearl Jam [from Rearviewmirror]

Check out the slow flange of the cymbal's sound rolling through the pounding rhythm. It is the antithesis of an 80's tight-ass production.

November 7, 2011
Banned Rehearsal 571 - Banned Rehearsal

My index only lists Karen, Anna, Aaron, and me, which would be an unusual grouping, in that Neal is not there. An error is always a possibility. A delicate session, and then raucous. But when raucous, raucous in detail and briefly.

Sounds of the Underbrush 2/28/2005 Track 10 - hosted by Keith Eisenbrey & Mike Marlin

The final mass improv of the evening.

BF Percussion Rough - Keith Eisenbrey

All the percussion tracks collected for eventual use in Blood and Fire Hallelujah mixed together. Seven minutes of kaleidoscopic rhythm wheels.

The Wagon - Ben Harney [from Allen Lowe's Really The Blues]

Allen also includes this cut in his earlier collection That Devilin' Tune, so I'll get to listen to it again soon. Ben's voice, alone, sings a cheerful tale of woe.

The House Carpenter - Clarence Ashley [from Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music]
Milenburg Joys - Kid Rena [from Allen Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]
Trying To Get To You - Elvis Presley [from Sunrise]
Only The Lonely - Roy Orbison [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]

Until Roy comes in, this could be The Fleetwoods. It must have been something in the air. I guess we could always blame Sputnik.

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]
Who'll Stop The Rain - Creedence Clearwater Revival [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]
Born to Run (single)- Bruce Springsteen [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]
Bebe Le Strange - Heart [from Heart: Greatest Hits]

November 8, 2011
Trance Butchered Knight 3 - Keith Eisenbrey

A somewhat less than successful mix of percussion (#1) plus Funmaker Sprite (#2). The progressive loss of signal has tipped a tidge past the optimal garbage-y quality of the Sprite tracks alone.

Recitative, Aria, and Burlesque - Sergei Slonimsky - Paul Taub, Roger Nelson, Matthew Kocmieroski - [from Edge - Flute Music from the Periphery of Europe]

I must presume that composers from within the former Soviet block view the various techniques and attitudes of free-world post-war concert music from a perspective that is as difficult for us to comprehend as our view of their attitudes and techniques are to them. And so it is no surprise that to some extent what is picked up as salient from our culture is just what seems to us most superficial to it. Extended instrumental techniques are as easy to hear as new and weird as they are difficult to produce well, and so can give what is otherwise a fairly standard musical endeavor the sheen of open-to-western-ideas-ness, without necessarily engaging in the full decades-long dialogue that led to them in the first place. The performances here are top-notch, but the overall effect is more like a duct-tape skin graft. The glitz of the not-so-unusual-as-all-that-special-effects doesn't shine from within the musical fabric. Instead, it obscures and distracts.

Sonata - Pteris Vasks - Paul Taub - [from Edge - Flute Music from the Periphery of Europe]

This one gets closer. Paul plays magnificently, as always, and the piece doesn't spend much time being music-as-usual - though it doesn't exactly not do that, either. Somehow in the midst of it, the technique of playing the flute while singing, and of playing the flute, and of singing itself, all become part of the activity of inhabiting this piece.

Light Years - Peal Jam [from Rearviewmirror]

The vocal part studiedly narrow both rhythmically and pitchwise. A composer's performance.


November 10, 2011
Solstice Quintet at The Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center Seattle
Ann Marie Yasinitsky, Keri E. McCarthy, Shannon Scott, Matthew Aubin, Ryan M. Hare

Wooden Miniatures - Gregory Yasinitsky
Three Little Fantasies - Oliver Knussen
Towns of Wood and Wind - Carl Schimmel
Mythos - Ryan Hare
Suite for Wind Quintet - Ruth Crawford Seeger

The wind quintet as an ensemble presents composers with numerous challenges. The instruments don't really balance dynamically all that well, each pairing has unique characteristics of blending-ness and not-blending-ness (which shift with the various pitch ranges), and unless you have five heroes of circular-breathing to work with you must always consider length of breath in every idea and at every moment. None of these are really bad challenges, and they are often met and vanquished to huge success.

This fine Palousian band was brave enough to travel from over the mountains, in November no less, to offer five largely successful assays into the field. I was especially taken by Oliver Knussen's little pieces with their surprising and imaginative textures and phrasings, Ryan Hare's subtle theatricalities, and of course Ruth Crawford Seeger's supremely slippery notions of parallel play. All said and done this was an attractive and well balanced program, and I enjoyed it immensely.

November 12, 2011
Curtains For You, Out On The Streets, and The True Bugs at North City Vintage Honda, Seattle

Neal had informed us that Mike Gervais's "other band", The True Bugs, would be playing in Lake City on Saturday night. Later we were informed that it was at a "used car dealership", and then at a "vintage Honda store" - "more of a party than a show". We had an intersection a vague time (8 or 9), and the instructions that the "entrance is on 140th". We drove by it twice without seeing anything even remotely lively, explored the other side of Lake City Way, and just before giving up and going home Karen happened to spot a van with North City Vintage Honda printed on it. It was parked in front of a dark commercial building. A "For Sale" banner covered its streetward sign. We wound back to the correct side of Lake City Way, parked a block off and, fortunately, spotted some folks heading in the right direction carrying instruments. We followed where they had disappeared into an unlit vacant lot. Hidden around the corner of a building a square canvas awning had been set up, with a fire-barrel in the middle for heat. We found Neal, and said our howdys to those we knew, finding out only then that not only would The True Bugs be playing but also Curtains For You. After an hour or so we wandered inside. Of course it turns out that the Hondas in question aren't cars at all, but motorcycles, with what I presumed to be a repair-shop garage space as the venue. The bands set up toward one end (with the restroom behind them), and we were surrounded by shelves of tools and motorcycle parts.

If I am not mistaken, the connection between all the bands and the venue goes something like this: Jeremiah, who I gather is the the proprietor of the venue, plays guitar in both Out On The Streets and The True Bugs. Mike and Matt Gervais, the respective singer and drummer of The True Bugs, are also the front end of Curtains For You.

CFY plays with an infectious bouncy beat. Their songs and arrangements are accomplished, gleefully professional endeavors. We'll be seeing them again next week - so more later. To my ear, OOTS was a bit under-developed. They play music reminiscent of early U2 with lots of skill and energy, but their sound hasn't gelled. I couldn't help thinking that it would behoove them to think hard about how much like U2 they really want to be. Why be a 300th rate Bono when you've got a shot at being a 1st rate Out On The Streets? I leave open the question of why anyone would want to emulate His Insufferableness in the first place, but to each their own. TTB is a fine specimen of second-generation Seattle Grunge, straight up and hard reckless driving beats. The moshing in the crowd got more reckless than I am comfortable with (being an old guy), but I suppose the young folks were having fun, and I didn't see that anyone got hurt.

Saturday, November 5, 2011



October 30, 2011
Banned Rehearsal 222 - Banned Rehearsal

Karen, Aaron and I participated. This session got blatty and chatty discussing the word assuage, and went downhill from there. 

Assembly Rechoired 45 - Banned Rehearsal

Pete Comley, John, Karen and me in April of 2000.

Sounds of the Underbrush 2/28/2005 Track 9 - Keith Eisenbrey, Neal Meyer

Neal drags the washtub bass across the floor of Gallery 1412 to great effect.

Garage 100520 - Keith Eisenbrey

Five minutes of my neighbor tearing boards off an old garage.

November 3, 2011
All I Want Is A Little Spoonful - Papa Charlie Jackson [from Allen Lowe's Really The Blues]
Cosmics - Frank Melrose [from Allen Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]

Frank Melrose
As though junkyard versions of Thelonius Monk and Art Tatum were mixing it up something fierce. Frank produces a whole suite of pieces in a four minute tour de force of pianistic touch.

Harlem Air Shaft - Duke Ellington [from The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz]
Mystery Train - Elvis Presley [from Sunrise]

Elvis the musician's musician. The closer the listen the more dropped the jaw.

Black Beauty - Duke Ellington [from Ken Burns' Jazz]

In 1960 Ellington drops in the sounds of 30's solos and ensembles.

Winter Potato 3 - Cornelius Cardew - John Tilbury

Two minutes of folds and creases. Tiny but not exquisite. It's more like a wee but perfect construction of found objects.

Turkey In The Straw - George Childers  [from Art Rosenbaum's The Art of Field Recording volume 1]
Trance Butchered Knight 2 - Keith Eisenbrey

My second go at this, and by now I was using the score that I later re-named Lacrymosa. Once again I was overdubbing using an erase-head override switch. In this case it ends up sounding rather grandly horrible.

In Session at the Tintinabulary

October 31, 2011
Gradus 200 - Neal Meyer


October 29, 2011
Carmen - Bizet - Seattle Opera

November 4, 2011
Seattle Composers Salon - Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, Seattle

Winds Go South - Yvonne Hoar

A short tango for woodwind quintet. For my part it seemed undercooked, and I wish it were more fully worked out. It just seemed a bit too satisfied to be what it was.

42 - Scott Adams

A solo accordion piece literally at sixes and sevens with itself. The tunes are nothing special, but they are exactly all they need to be to make the rhythmic concept shine wonderfully. Nice job!

Eternal Silence of Infinite Spaces - Conan McLemore

Conan dips his hands and splashes with cups in this attractive little piece for baptismal font.

Two Pieces - Nelda Swiggett

Nelda on piano with her husband Cliff on trombone, which he claims to have just picked up a few weeks ago after many years of neglect. We were all in amaze at the apparent resilience of his lip. I ended up liking most the second, less finished, of the two pieces she played. It had some nice Monkish touches.