September 12, 2014
Neil Welch, with John Teske and Ivan Arteaga
Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, Seattle
One of the cognitive snags for which we might blame written-down music is the stubborn idea that notes are atomic and irreducible. Tunes, figures, chords, and prolongations are all built from individual notes - as Fux intended. Midi, for all its twisted usefulness, wallows in this error. For at least the last 150 years musicians have made various attempts to challenge, or at least critique, this (see my notes on Liszt that follow), and Neil's compositional and performance stance is firmly in that tradition. His strategy is to discover or allow or tease notes or figures, or hybrid scraps or specters of what might have once been notes or figures, out of dynamic resonance systems broadcast through a tenor sax into the audiosphere by confluences of breath, mouth-shape, embouchure, tonguing, and finger-key wiggles. In short, the erstwhile atoms emerge as sparks from a flaming body, epiphenomena to the main show.
The evening was dominated by Neil's devastating performance of his recent A Response to the Wednesday Morning Shooting at Café Racer. Heart-felt does not even begin to describe. Also on the program, John Teske and Ivan Arteaga, on upright bass and alto sax respectively, explored the apparently vast and teeming territory just prior to pianissimo.
September 7, 2014
Sonata in G op. 78 - Schubert - Vladimir Ashkenazy
VA makes a great case for a first movement tempo so slow it barely moves and for taking the repeat. The sheer expanse lifts us out of flesh. The moments of wrath require adequate space for their resonance to breathe in or they would be petty, hurried, merely hemi-demi-semi-divine.
Waltz in A minor Op. 34 #2 - Chopin - Peter Katin
the memory of a hope of a dance
Symphony in B-flat "Spring" - Schumann - Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, John Elliot Gardiner
Between the opening fanfare call of horns and trumpets on forte D-naturals, unrevealed as yet as the key's median - though hinted in measure 2's B-flat, C, D! - and the response in full triadic orchestral glory, spanning 4 octaves plus, there is no apparent harmonic movement. But a terrible and intoxicating energy is unleashed that drives unrestrained to the end. Has there been an orchestral work this exhilarating since?
Études d'exécution transcendante - Liszt - Claudio Arrau
The self wrestles with the atom, each singular audible blasted and split. Atlas bursting his globe.
September 10, 2014
Die Walküre Act 1 - Wagner - Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Furtwangler
I was following along with the score this time, attending the rate at which the printed key-signatures change. The first two scenes hang out stolidly near D minor and C minor respectively, and not surprisingly there is, toward the end, a rapid acceleration as the tonality wobbles and spins before it finally collides into G Major.
In Session at the Tintinabulary
September 7, 2014
Coronet 140907 - Keith Eisenbrey
The current version of my improvisation project is to record a session on some instrument or other every week and then fold it, which is to say I layer the second half over the first half. This week's session was on an electric bass of unknown make. A recent repair replaced the face-plate with part of an old vinyl record. Coronet is the label.
September 8, 2014
Gradus 251 - Neal Meyer
September 13, 2014
Although I'm on a sabbatical from composition, I had an idea yesterday that needed working out. While listening last night to Neil Welch's performance in response the Café Racer shootings I started thinking about the late J. K. Randall and writing this piece.