Saturday, December 26, 2015

Playlist

Recorded

December 22,2015

arch boy band
Love At First Sight - XTC [from Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles Collection]

It is made of, apparently, briskly alternating rhythmic-harmonic states; larger groupings articulated by stepwise ascents; and some gentle hipwise accents that play off that. Love that low "Luuuhhve . . . " in chest voice.

True Blue - Madonna [collected from Dave Marsh's Heart of Rock & Soul]

Her voice track is calibrated just far enough down in the mix to sound vulnerable, the sexual persona situated just so, unthreatening, fixed forever in place with all the power of the music-industrial complex. She is what the business wants her to be: a target of social projections.

Seattle treasure Amy Denio
Psycho Marlboro - Amy Denio [from Tutto Bene]

Less a fully worked out song than a fully worked out sound: lusciously junky percussion and rhythm harmonica (?) glued together with a breathy flute. Really nice.


In Session at the Tintinabulary

December 21, 2015
Gradus 280 - Neal Kosály-Meyer

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Playlist

Live

December 13, 2015
Finnegans Wake Part I, Chapter 2 - James Joyce
the table is set for Finnegans Wake

Neal Kosály-Meyer, with Jake Thompson

Karen and I played a small part at the end of this production, aiming spotlights at Neal as he circumnavigated the space while performing The Ballad of Persse O'Reilly, shadowed by Jake Thompson playing bodhrán. The staging was less elaborate than last year's Chapter 1, but it really doesn't need much. He performed the greater part of it off to the side, allowing his amplified voice to occupy the dark stage alone.

Recorded

December 15, 2015
Quartet for Winds - Arthur Berger - Boehm Quintet

Subject matter: How harmonies arise from melody's twinings, and how they persist within their further twinings.

Concerto for Oboe - Richard Strauss - English Chamber Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim, Neil Black

Pleasing to the very end.

Sonatine - Karlheinz Stockhausen - Saschko Gawriloff, Aloys Kontarsky

A clever, attractive little piece from early in Stockhausen's oeuvre, with hints of Monk among his own clearly emerging voice. It is a short stylistic step from here to the music box pieces.

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra - Roger Sessions - Westchester Philharmonic, Paul Lustig Dunkel, Robert Taub

The murky motor rhythm strenuously fails to hold things together, threads slip out on their own cognizance - things to do, places to unravel.

December 17, 2015
Elis - Heinz Holliger - Klára Körmendi

Strong keyboard gestures predominate. In the middle, suddenly, emerges what is about the most effective use of non-standard (inside the piano) techniques I can easily bring to mind, subtly integrated with some exquisite pedal work.

Greg Short (1938-1999)
Twenty Four Tonal Preludes: 1 - 4 - Greg Short - Keith Eisenbrey

This was from my recital, Preludes in Seattle, of June 10, 2006, at University Temple United Methodist Church. I first encountered Greg Short in about 1970, when I performed two of his teaching pieces, Knuckle Rag and Little Rose, at a concert sponsored by one of the local music teachers' associations. His preludes are thorny pianistic puzzles in the Lisztian stamp. For a pianist of my modest technique the experience of performing them can be terrifying, but listening back after nearly a decade I find the pieces themselves to be quite attractive. I just wish some better pianist than I would pick these up and work on them. Though difficult, the piano writing is deeply intelligent, always effective, and well worth the trouble. Cristina? Tiffany? Julie? Adrienne? Anybody?

You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks - Funkadelic [collected from Dave Marsh's Heart of Rock & Soul]

The backing chorus arrangement features impressively reckless Bach-like stretto, ultra-quick, and is that ring modulation I hear on some of those bass tones? Gobs of great.

The Montreux/Berlin Concerts (cuts 1 and 2) - Anthony Braxton

A little jazz number of Brucknerian proportions.

In Session at the Tintinabulary

December 14, 2015
Banned Telepath 42 Seattle 151214
Banned Telepath 42 Somerville 151214
Banned Rehearsal 900 151214 - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey, Neal Kosály-Meyer (in Seattle); Aaron Keyt (in Somerville)

Wow. 900. Wow.
It took us 31 and 1/2 years, averaging 28 1/2 numbered sessions per year. My how the time has flown.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Playlist

Recorded

December 8, 2015
Marion Harris with Banjo Uke
Paradise Blues - Marion Harris [from Alan Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]

Give me some of that [fill in the blank] music: a trope of reflexive self-advertising by which popular music never ceases to tell us how much we should love it, from Alexander's Ragtime Band to Roll Over Beethoven. Apparently we are all and have always been just completely OK with commercials for a product embedded in the product.

Men - Carl Ruggles - Buffalo Philharmonic, Michael Tilson Thomas

Solid, tense, immovable. Not turned to stone, but jammed tight in the pile-up of its own mirrorings. Brief as Webern but battled, recklessly muscular.

I Want My Life To Testify - Hendersonville Double Quartet [from Alan Lowe's Really the Blues]

The microphone placement leads to an odd balance, with the baritone part way up front and everything else variously behind. One imagines a live performance would sound completely different, but here it becomes a very strange piece of music indeed. The piano, when it breaks in, does so in a completely different tempo than the singers.

December 10, 2015
Hungarian Sketches - Béla Bartók - Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Fritz Reiner

Bartók's piano style is overtly orchestral, and so one could regard these literal orchestrations as lessons in how to play the piano pieces: play this tune as though it were an oboe, play the accompaniment like soft strings - keep the voices clear!

David Diamond
First Orchestral Suite from the Ballet TOM - David Diamond - Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Gerard Schwarz

At the end of the first long phrase a chime rings out alone in glorious chimey dissonance, uncompromised, physical, present. From that point on the music prolongs the sensibility of that dissonance, carefully weaving its chromatic counterpoint. This focus drops in a few places for some 'happy southerner' hokum, which I suppose might be read in a similar way to some of Shostakovitch's contemporaneous satirical romps. I'm not sure I buy that here, but am willing to pass over it anyway for the long moments of really stunning stuff.



In Session at the Tintinabulary

December 6, 2015

Trio 151206A
Trio 151206B
Trio 151206C
Trio 151206D
Trio 151206E
Trio 151206F
Sextet 151206 - Keith Eisenbrey
At first I thought I might just make two trios, but I decided I could fold all six instruments on top of each other successively, then combine the whole thing into a Sextet. The instrumental tracks are: viola (A, E, F), selection from the big red bag of fun (A, B, F), toy steel drum (A, B, C), amplified acoustic steel string guitar (B, C, D), frame drum (C, D, E), and alto horn (D, E, F). The selection from the big red bag of fun was a plastic mayonnaise jar, a tin can into which the jar just fit, and a wine cork. The alto horn came to us, as most instruments do, circuitously, purchased at a thrift store by my late Uncle Jim Meyer and given to us (he had one already). On the case is stamped "U.G.S.D." - for Union Gap School District.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Playlist

Live
Yulianna Avdeeva


December 1, 2015
Yulianna Avdeeva
Meany Hall, Seattle

Nocturne in C-sharp minor, op. posth. - Chopin
Nocturne in E-flat Major, op. 55 #2 - Chopin
Fantasie in F minor, op. 49 - Chopin
Four Mazurkas, op. 17 - Chopin
Polonaise in F-sharp minor, op. 44 - Chopin
Sonata #8 in B-flat Major, op. 84 - Prokofiev

For the most part this was a very easy recital to like. Ms Avdeeva plays warmly, clearly, and with a flexible imagination. She didn't get in the path of the magical way Chopin has of making the performance hall disappear in favor of a created space within the music. The Prokofiev is perhaps a bit long for itself, but I was enjoying the way bits of revery would calve themselves off the main event, splendid discards.

For an encore she played, if I am not mistaken, Chopin's Grande Valse Brillante, op. 18. I may be mistaken because when I got home to check I realized that all the waltzes sound familiar, and I couldn't distinguish between what was familiar because I had just heard it and what was familiar simply because it was familiar. At any rate, she played this far too fast.

Recorded

November 29, 2015
String Quartet in E minor, op. 59 #2 - Beethoven - Amadeus Quartet

The increments of sequence tested, pulled up against, brought up short again and again, tolerances stressed.

Ballade in A-flat Major, op. 47 - Chopin - Vladimir Ashkenazy
Symphony in C Major, op. 61 - Schumann - Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, John Eliot Gardiner

Something grand approaches, or we approach amid grandeur, in the exuberant throws of a surgent culture.

November 30, 2015
Sonata in A Major, op. 100 - Brahms - Isaac Stern, Alexander Zakin

The blues artist Jarod Yerkes, in performance as SmokeStack and the Foothill Fury, would, at seemingly random moments, explode midsong into finger flying guitar riffs, explaining these, plausibly, as "guitar Tourrettes". There is something similar going on here, the lyrical passages taken over suddenly by shameless contrapuntal workings out. It is as though, in singing, he suddenly became interested in and completely distracted by some technical detail in the figuration, losing track of the phrase he was presumably articulating.

Rusalka (selections) - Dvořák - Czech Philharmonic Orchestra - Václav Neumann
Not me

When I was an undergrad at the UW way back in the way back I got roped into the opera chorus for a production of Rusalka. I believe that my abilities as a sack of meat of the tenor persuasion were alone responsible for this, my operatic debut and finale.

Nobody - Bert Williams - [from Alan Lowe's Really the Blues]

December 3, 2015
Symphony in F-sharp minor (#10) - Mahler/Cooke - Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy

I have three recordings of this piece, and you can read my earlier postings here and here. This time around I was thinking about a side effect of massing instruments of a type into a single section, first and second violins, or choral sections, for example. The sound is glorious but the performers vanish as individuals. Is it worth the trade-off?

In Session at the Tintinabulary

November 28, 2015
Banned Telepath 41 Somerville - 151128 - Aaron Keyt
Banned Rehearsal 899 151123-8 - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey, Steve Kennedy, Aaron Keyt
Aaron sent his bit from Somerville, and so we assemble the last Banned Rehearsal in the 800s. Due to Neal's rehearsal schedule for Finnegans Wake we plan to reconvene on the 14th for Banned Rehearsal 900. Wow.

November 29, 2015
Trio 151129 - Keith Eisenbrey
Improvising three tracks: angklung, toy reed organ, and nylon string guitar.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Playlist

Live


November 21, 2015
Finnegans Wake Chapter 1 - James Joyce - Neal Kosály-Meyer
Gallery 1412, Seattle

The small performance space allowed a deliciously huge unamplified dynamic range, with the piano's undampered reverberance coloring the whole in intimate detail. I've probably heard Neal perform this in public as many times as anyone he's not married to. With its stepped up pacing and minimal stage business this was easily the most enjoyable time out.

Recorded

November 22, 2015
Downtime [recorded live at SARC] - Benjamin Boretz - Ian Pace

threads of time enter fugally
discontinuities problemetize return
vast darkness
weightless strands float
delicate connections

No. 1 Phantom Killer - Ape City R&B [from The Funhouse Comp Thing]

The voice in the mix is not an instrument to equal guitar or drums or bass. It is just part of the noise generated among the guitar amp fuzz and cymbal hiss.

Elizabeth Hoffman
red is rows - Elizabeth Hoffman [from Milton Babbitt, a composers' memorial] - Conrad Harris, Paula Kim Harris

Wicked open string hoedown music. Hop-up-and-down fantastic. Now that's some noise!

November 24, 2015
Ma tu, cagion (Seconda Parta) - Gesualdo - Consort of Musicke, Anthony Rooley

obscure
through branches
a leaf

descending

mimed by a dancer's hand
in viscous
motion

Konzert in G BWV 1048 - J.S. Bach - Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan

This production is conceived as an orchestra of groups, not of individuals. It keeps the listener at a remove from the performers. We can hear all the familiar bits going on, but none of it really happens.

Petites Pieces "La Complaisante" Wq. 117.28 - C.P.E. Bach - Miklos Spanyi

A little caricature for private amusement. The human size of it appeals to the neo-classical mindset. The erstwhile subject is well fitted to the miniature sorts of social events available to music for clavichord.

Quartet in E-flat op. 17 #3 - Haydn - Tatrai Quartet
Concerto in C K. 503 (#25) - Mozart - English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner, Malcolm Bilson

Mozart's imagination, in default mode, is decorative: the aim is to make time lovely, to beguile and delight us. That deeper wonders can be found here is itself a deep wonder.

In Session at the Tintinabulary

November 22, 2015
Trio 151122 - Keith Eisenbrey

This week's trio was for tam tam, wood drum (like a small conga), and steel string acoustic guitar.

November 23, 2015
Banned Telepath 41 Seattle 151123 - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey, Steve Kennedy

We're waiting for Aaron's contribution from Somerville to complete Banned Rehearsal 899.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Playlist

Special

I was recently invited to submit a piece for consideration on an album review website. The writing prompt was "20 years ago today". I chose not to rework my essay to fit their mission, so I offer it here instead.

Sleater-Kinney (1995) by Sleater-Kinney
the clytemnestri

Sleater-Kinney's 1995 album Sleater-Kinney clocks in at just over 20 minutes, a good solid set for a dive bar, welcome not overstayed, time to break a string or two if necessary. The engineering of the whole is echt mid-'90s garage band, allowing in aspects of live performance sound - the band always essentially the same, amps have hum, the snare drum responds to feedback, count-offs are left in, session sounds intrude. It transpires in a believable place, a room one could imagine being in, restrooms in the back, plastered with band stickers and graffiti. So far, so good; it could be many another album by many another local outfit of the time. It has refreshingly strident feminist politics going for it, but the words don’t account for the punch. It’s a structure first, message and narrative a distant second. It isn’t a haunted house – it’s a house, haunted.

The first song, "Don't Think You Wanna," establishes the vocabulary and the procedure. In each of the first three segments the voice increases intensity and lifts its placement in pitch, staking out three carefully calibrated modes of vocal projection. The first, ‘A’, is a seething simmer, close to the microphone, the second ‘B’, full boil, belted to the back of the hall, the third, ‘C’, a stiletto scream. This is then repeated in a simple 'A B C A B C' pattern. The song ends, truncated, with the 'A' segment, as though it could repeat as many times as wished, while leaving a space open for the next song, "The Day I Went Away," which picks up in a similar 'A'-type vocal space. But here each 4-bar phrase is divided into two parts, with the higher, more intense, 'B'-type vocal joining with ‘A’ on the second half. This doubling functions as an acceleration of the pattern of increasing intensity in the context of the song as a whole, and could be regarded as a new, synthetic, vocal space in its own right. When the chorus arrives, predictably, at 'C'-type levels, the empty spaces between each two-syllable cheer ("So far! . . . So good! . . .") bifurcate the time-span similarly. The lingering effect, in each song, is of a static orbit of vocal modes. The singer is caught in an inescapable loop.

Moving through the album, the stylistic range remains quite narrow. One could, with some ease, group the songs into just a few categories, based on how many vocal modes each contains, and which they are. The first two begin with the close simmer, and increase intensity in steps - we'll call it the 'A-B-C' type. The third song, "A Real Man," is already a bit manic at the start, and has only two vocal projections - a 'B-C' type. "Her Again" is 'A-B-C', but the 'B' is just a hair's breadth above the 'A'. "How To Play Dead" I'll call 'B-C', but things begin to get even more interesting here, with the 'C' a similar interval above the 'B' as ‘B’ was above ‘A’ in the previous song – one could regard it as a long ‘A-B-C’ spread over two songs. "Be Yr Mama" over on what I would presume to be the flip side, if this were vinyl, is 'C-B'. "Sold Out" is essentially 'C-C', with a dip into 'B'. It can be seen that through this point the lean has been toward 'C'.

The next two songs, "Slow Song" ('B-B') and "Lora's Song" ('A?-B'), are easily the most interesting as individual songs, and in the context they act as a retrenchment, as the last bits of near sanity before all mythic hell breaks loose. The tunes are recognizably tunes, even exhibiting some show-off vocal moves, such as the fragment of yodel in "Lora's Song."

ABC, ABC, BC, ABC, BC, CB, CC, BB, AB - each successive song feeds on the types that came before. Each song precisely patterned, each mode of ever so exact a grade. It is the slow circling of subtle variations of these modes among the gathering songs that set the stage for the raw, hot-blooded evisceration of the last song, "The Last Song," the vocal types reduced to just two, the first song’s trajectory telescoped here to 'A-C'; 'A' is teeth clenched, heavy with violence, threatening, close to the mic, and 'C' is a murderous blind rage, Clytemnestra bloodying up Agamemnon across the street in a parking lot at 2 AM.
Tick Tally (by Elaine B)

Recorded

November 19, 2015
Out Back - Elaine Barkin [from Open Space 3]

Clear and sane. Nothing in this comes up to shake your hand to say hey there hi there I'm here to please. There are some things that might not be things on some walls that may or not form a room or space to be. It's up to you. Even its sense of its own openness is open to alternate thought.

Fired Up - Moe Tucker [from Moe Tucker I Feel So Far Away Anthology 1977-1998]

Keeping it in line. in line. in line.

Banned Rehearsal 413 - February 1996 - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey, Anna K, Aaron Keyt, Neal Kosály-Meyer


Dynamite opening, as though hovering over a downbeat forestalled past possibility. If we talk at each other long enough we won't notice that we have been left behind by our ground. As it moves along it remains focused all on a center of sound, pressing it together for maximum density at the core. When the center is lost, as they all are eventually, we flail to find a new one. Now we occupy a narrow space, each considering aloud for one's each own self what melody might be. It ends more relaxed, after 46 minutes transpire, but the relaxing is exactly gradual.

In Session at the Tintinabulary

November 15, 2015
Trio 151115 - Keith Eisenbrey

Xylophone, washtub bass, radio. Who could ask for a better ensemble?

November 16, 2015
Gradus 279 - Neal Kosály-Meyer

Pulling at an infinite tangle of weedchoke.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Playlist

Recorded

November 9, 2015
Homesickness Blues - Nora Bayes [from Alan Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]

Orchestrated and arranged, done-up all proper, but not so tightly bolted together that it doesn't allow lots of give.

Marche Triomphale du Centenaire de Napoleon I - Louis Vierne - Auburn Symphony Orchestra,
Albert Dieudonné
Stewart Kershaw, David Di Fiore

I kept thinking of the scene in Abel Gance's Napoleon where Napoleon (Albert Dieudonné) visits, at midnight, the assembly room where the great figures of the revolution argued. Their ghosts appear one after the other bidding Napoleon to take up the mantel of the revolution for them - the spectral-heroic.

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra - Copland - Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Gerard Schwarz, Lorin Hollander

Lorin Hollander
This is among my favorite recordings of Copland, right up there with Bernstein's Billy The Kid. What takes it over the top is Lorin Hollander's unhinged swing, as though Robert Johnson's poly-tempi had been wound up way too tight. The piano could shatter at any moment.

Bacchus et Ariane - Albert Roussel - Orchestre National de France, Georges Pretre

Program music has become illustration, in the sense that the style of the music is more important to the sense of what is happening than the story - you buy this book for the pictures, not the words.

November 10, 2015
Variations for Piano, op. 27 - Webern - Peter Serkin

A blank, a void of perception, every tune an attempt to enlighten, but the void is always just to the side, inaudible.

Suite 8 - Artie Shaw [from Alan Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]

Movie credit music, after which we find ourselves in a hoppin' joint for the first scene.

Dodo's Bounce - Dodo Marmarosa [from Alan Lowe's That Devilin' Tune]

The piano solo has a swing that's like steady eighths swerving wide in a fast turn, just this side of disaster.

Music of Changes - Cage - Herbert Henck
Herbert Henck

Narrow focus, nose to the page, a feat of concentration. The relations among what is within the immediate juxtapositional neighborhood of gesture are so complex as to make larger frame structures extremely problematic - hard to see the jungle as an organism when we can only see three or four leaves at a time. Large structures, if there are any, become objects of statistical perception. Come in anywhere. Leave any time. Or: stick it out, hang in there, participate in its feat-ness. Aside: writing music that only an expert could play, one assures oneself of being limited to only those sounds that an expert would play. One can not unlearn how to play piano. There will be no sound that doesn't project precisely, because expertise can make one incapable of anything less (and reinforces the notion that anything other than precise is less, rather than simply other.)

(I'll Remember) In the Still of the Nite - The Five Satins [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]

Floating a tune around a circulating pattern.

Crying - Roy Orbison [collected from Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock & Soul]

An object lesson in vocal production - he can float that high falsetto D out there perfectly in tune, but the last A, being pushed in full voice, is way out of whack.

November 12, 2015
Revolver - The Beatles

If I had to pick a favorite Beatles album this would probably be it. It isn't that my favorite songs are on it (they're not), but that the songs are so varied, that they don't do each other any harm moving from one to the next, and that it doesn't try to be anything other than a bunch of songs. I love that the last sung word is "beginning."

Hunky Dory - David Bowie

Tries on every hat he can find. Some of them are genuinely icky-creepy. Ever the arch-projectionist, he veers just away from the pastiche-play of Billy Joel and into something more like a critical memoir. He doesn't just 'do' Cat Stevens, for instance, his performance is a commentary from within the persona.

Darlin' Corey - Shorty Ralph Reynolds [from Art Rosenbaum's The Art of Field Recording Volume 1]

Fancy banjo time, after which he explains his tuning. Art asks him if there are any other songs that use that tuning. Apparently not. That tuning and that tune are one and the same.

Prince of Darkness (Sinner, Sinner) - Bow Wow Wow

Spawn of Thriller.

In Session at the Tintinabulary

November 8, 2015
Trio 151108 - Keith Eisenbrey

Back to the trio project after several busy weekends, this comprises three tracks on a suspended plow disk, two gears from a tractor clutch (hanging from a two-by-four A-frame), and a tenor banjo.

Banned Telepath 40 Somerville 151108 - Aaron Keyt

November 9, 2015
Banned Telepath 40 Seattle 151109 - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey, Steve Kennedy, Neal Kosály-Meyer
Banned Rehearsal 898 151109 - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey, Steve Kennedy, Aaron Keyt, Neal Kosály-Meyer

Tambourines across the continent! Shake it!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Playlist

Live

October 31, 2015
The Pearl Fishers - Bizet
Seattle Opera
McCaw Hall, Seattle

Leaving aside the deeply uncomfortable in-your-face mid-19th Century European attitudes about the 'exotic', there were plenty of things to enjoy - intricate vocal lines, lots of choral singing, and a good mix of solos and ensembles. It is very easy on the ears. The effusive emotional palette was nearly drowned out by the sets, whose colors and patterns seemed intent on out-shouting the music.

November 3, 2015
Cristina Valdés
Meany Hall, Seattle

Cristina, as always, played with clarity and thoughtfulness, doing her utmost not to get in the way of what she's playing. Truly a breath of fresh air.

Cantéyodjayâ - Messiaen
Messiaen

A group of astounding textural/rhythmic episodes marred by a refrain that sounds thrown away. In the notes M writes that it "gives unity to the work". I couldn't think of why such fabulous material would need unity, exactly.

Tres Piezas para piano - Jorge Villavicencio Grossmann

An organism, spacious, chantlike, emerges from its own roots. Completely believable.

fardanceCLOSE - Chaya Czernowin

Contrasts of size, of registers, of clottedness and transparency. I could have listened to this longer - or again for that matter.

Among Red Mountains- John Luther Adams

Full of big bold changes that make little difference.

Grossmann
Variations for Piano, op. 27 - Webern

Folded shapes, contraptual, un-nesting themselves in new ways each time we pick one up.

Piano Counterpoint - Reich

Tuning dials turned here and there to pick out different parts of the spectrum.

November 6, 2015
Seattle Composers' Salon
Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, Seattle

Nadya Kadrevis

I was taken by the peculiar narrative person of this music. My first thought was that it is like a film score, providing a sonic point of view of a visual sequence, but a visual sequence that is very nearly, but not quite, in the first-person singular - the so-close-as-to-be-nearly-first-person second person, the music in the position of a close observer of a close observer.

Clement Reid

I had forgotten, or didn't know, that Clement plays not just piano but guitar too - a trick I have never been able to manage. I liked his notion of "clumps of ideas".

Neal Kosály-Meyer

This silence is your own.

Nicole Truesdell

Violin and piano each finish the sentences of the other, person and place spilling into the same cup.

Beth Fleenor

Beth brings more ideas to the table in 10 minutes than there are crickets in Tennessee. Pretty much leaves me, gape-jawed, astonished, eating dust. Love it.

Recorded

November 1, 2015
Trio in C minor op. 101 - Brahms - Istomin-Stern-Rose Trio

Development is explored as a deep unraveling, the music coming apart, forced asunder by its own flexing.

Peacherine Rag - Joplin - William Albright

Syncopation as a flavor of rubato.

Passacaille - Satie - Frank Glazer

Unravels more quickly than Brahms, but much more comfortable with it.

Symphony in F-sharp minor, No. 10 - Mahler (Cooke) - Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle

A first person account of the experience of dying.

First Movement: It begins by levitating, never sinking to the utmost bottom. The phrases inflate and blossom, impossibly large, in long ocean swells of rhythmic time. Comforted again and again. The intensity of the expression is the disease that consumes, lurks.

Second Movement: About the business of finishing up, assembling scenes, back stage.

Third Movement: Quick alternations of state, nagging thoughts intercut with other distractions.

Fourth Movement: Crisis, clinging to the happy place, adrift on the dire abyss, invisible. The motor slows to a stop, fading past nothingness.

Fifth Movement: The passage beyond, confused, as if hearing the undersides of the most recent fading past nothingness. Infinitely slow easing back into bliss, long melodies leap through realms of realms. Breaking through. Plunging in one dimension, suspended in another, the moment when the bass drum does not come in is the moment we realize it was not a barrier keeping us from life, forcing us into death, rather it was what kept us back, the last tether. Now we can go on.

In Session at the Tintinabulary

November 1, 2015
Tambourine Quartet - Keith Eisenbrey

Karen and I were riffing about a scene in the novel she's writing when out popped the idea of a tambourine quartet. Once an idea like that is in the air the only option is to act. We had to buy a fourth tambourine to fill the quota. Darn!

November 2, 2015
Gradus 278 151102 - Neal Kosály-Meyer

Atmosphere in the sense of a 3-D, or Music-D, map - parameters of sound indexing parameters of temperature, pressure, humidity, the shapes of clouds in sound.

Exchange (continued) - see part one here.


(Keith) Riffing in contrapunctilio obligato:
Neal Kosály-Meyer:
Except that it seems that you DO have a notion that has a quite particular meaning:   that of being amputated or severed from that which you don't wish it to be amputated or severed from, or of being the instrument or victim of murder.
Keith Eisenbrey:
I don't have a way of understanding it that I like, that I would want to believe Cage meant. I don't want to believe Cage is a monster (or more precisely, that this is a monstrous statement), but I haven't been offered an alternative.
N:
It feels more direct to me to think of the sound AS nature, or as just being itself, rather than being an emanation, messenger or intermediary.   As when Beckett said that Finnegans Wake is not about a thing, it is the thing.
K:
For me this ignores that sound only exists for us through mediation. Direct perception isn't an option (at least for me), outside of divine intervention (which I don't rule out).
N:
Using the trappings of concert music certainly thickens the plot, especially back in the day when musicians and conductors would ignorantly or intentionally sabotage pieces like Atlas.   Nowadays recordings like this one or the SEM Ensemble's seem to me to offer a different and refreshing thing that a set-in-its-ways beast like a symphony orchestra can do.   Hearing orchestras do repertoire like this well actually gives me hope for music and I guess for humanity.
K:
Played well or ill isn't the problem. Either way it has been sucked into the prestige factory, stamped with a brand name.
N:
Hearing Cage played well always feels me to me intensely human and intensely uttersome, generally requiring significant engagement, attention to fine detail, a respect for the composer and what he has made.   I guess I find it more exciting when what is being uttered is a sound formed and contemplated in as much detailed glory and mystery as is possible to form and contemplate, and often mysterious as utterance, just as often serendipitously connecting to the rest of the piece in a theatre or a phrase or an arc that can be as extraordinarily compelling as if it had been the result [of] an intended design, and often the more enjoyable because I know there was no such intention.
K:
I have never been convinced that there was no such intention, and yet I often enjoy performances of Cage's music.
N:
As indicated, I don't think sounds cannot utter if we're actually listening to them.   There is perhaps an implicit metaphysic in Cage that utterance, consciousness, feeling, thought are not exclusively human qualities or attributes, but are generally present in all things.   At least that's the way I like to imagine the universe, not privileging thought feeling and design as being things that only humans do, but as being inherent properties of all manifestations of matter and energy.   Can't be proved or demonstrated one way or the other, obviously.   Imagining it that way, for me, makes the universe more fun, friendly and less lonely, I guess.   Cage's music played well usually makes it feel more likely to me that this is in fact the way things are.
K:
So thought-privileged sounds, as sounds themselves, are utterances of themselves, utterances of their own thinking, and therefore have everything present in them that would be present in them even if you didn’t think of them as being only themselves. As a way of understanding what Cage meant it seems to me like a fancy way to have your cake and eat it too.
N:
I would argue that privileging thought, feeling, design etc as exclusively human, and narrowly defining "utterance" to conform with that is the more amputating and murderous act, and the sort of thing that defines what Freud called the General Neurosis, that which makes us, as Nietzsche would have it, the "Sick Animal."    I don't need all music to be like Cage's, but I definitely need Cage's music among those I hear and contemplate--for me it opens kinds of doors and windows OUT of the sickness that hardly anybody else's does.
K:
How did Freud get in here? Anyway, I don’t believe I privilege TFDe as exclusively human, but rather that human TFDe are a privilege of being human. The TFDe of other’s are distinctly other, fabulously alien. Corrolarily, my own personal TFDe are exclusively, ineluctably, mine, they are not those of others. When I hear the music as an other’s utterance it is precisely the otherness of that utterance that I value.
N:
I'd add that all of this very much validates and confirms the work I've taken on with Gradus.    Among lots of things, that project is very much about taking that Cagean sound-in-itself notion and carrying it into a way of playing which is not dependent on the strictly composed ways that JC employed.    Your continued enthusiasm for Gradus means even more to me given the frustrations you still have with Cage, since it feels like I'm managing to transmit what's most important to me about him in a way that you can receive without as much ambivalence as you experience with Cage's own compositions.   Must be doin my job.
K:
Please see my copious, frequent, and often enthusiastic, comments on Gradus through the decades. Apropos of this discussion, the greater part of my frustration with Cage is in understanding what he was talking or writing about. The music I have heard is (apropos of this discussion) problematic in the sense that I have trouble lining it up with (some of) the talk about it.
N:
P.S.   Felt I needed to add that my final response (to your bit beginning "If emptying the sound of its utterance-hood . . .")  was not meant to be as harsh or contrarian as it may read.   That came out because it hit me that the imagery of amputation and murder were reminding me of something on point, which was Norman Brown's close reading of Freud, Life Against Death, especially the sections in which he traces the early developmental crises and their culmination in the Oedipal phase.  Brown emphasizes that these are not simply "normal" developmental phases however universal, but tragic and traumatic experiences that each of us has gone through, and that the final result, the mature human ego, is in fact something which is profoundly amputated or castrated from that which it would be better not to have been amputated or castrated from.    Freud's heartbreaking insight is that we are as a species burdened with an awful and constitutional illness out of which it is difficult to see the way out.   Brown sees more hope than Freud, partly through a re-thinking of psychoanalysis at a social level rather than just individual, but also in ways that artists might envision different, healthier ways of being human.
K:
Freud AND Brown! Yikes! We’re not gonna have enough pie! I was the one who chose the murder metaphor, perhaps I can clarify with less dire imagery:
Scene One: I hear the sound of a violin. Is that sound the utterance of the violin or of the violinist? Which would I rather do without? Cage’s “the sound as itself” suggests to me he would rather have the utterance of the violin and do without the violinist. I come down on t’other side.
Scene Two: I hear the sound of thunder. Is that sound an utterance? If not, it an accident of the sudden expansion of an air mass, or whatever other materialist explanation you prefer. If so, of what (or of whom) is it an utterance? If it is an utterance then it is the utterance of something or of somewhom, of nature (as placeholder for any number of concepts concerning the greater other out there), of a deity, or of God. If I’m serious about it’s being an utterance then I must accept the utterer, even if I created the utterer on the fly from the concept of utterance itself.
Scene Three: A child says “I love you”. Sounds as themselves or child?
(Neal) Responds to Riffing in contrapunctilio obligato:
N:
Taking the liberty of removing one stratum (my previous contributions).   Hopefully things will retain coherence without it. 
K:
I don't have a way of understanding it that I like, that I would want to believe Cage meant. I don't want to believe Cage is a monster (or more precisely, that this is a monstrous statement), but I haven't been offered an alternative.
N:
Realized this may be an important question:   Which Cage writings have you read?   If your response is to a quoted “Allow sounds to be themselves,” rather than to the article or essay in which he said that, the whole context may help.   The pieces in Silence and A Year From Monday pretty clearly state his take on things, and have never come across as monstrous, at least to me.  If you HAVE read some of them, and your perplexity remains, here’s what I’ve got for you at the moment.    Cage’s attempt to remove ego from composition and playing, to let sounds be themselves is part of a tradition:  Buddhist, Taoist, Upanishadist, and in the west represented by Eckhart and John of the Cross, among others.   The Zen goal to see your original face before you were born, Eckhart’s “I pray God to rid me of God,”   John of the Cross’s “Nothing nothing nothing and at the mountaintop nothing.”   All the same idea and goal, and the crafters of each statement knew they were dealing in paradox, in that these are all extraordinary personalities working with extraordinary and very individual craft toward the goal of extinguishing ego.   And the Zen Masters, Eckhart, Juan and Cage are definitely smart enough to know what they’re doing—none of this is naïve self-contradiction.   Rather all share the intuition that this mindset is necessary to get where we want to go.
K:
For me this ignores that sound only exists for us through mediation. Direct perception isn't an option (at least for me), outside of divine intervention (which I don't rule out).
N:
As an artist I always want to transcend mediation whether or not that is possible.   Direct perception is essential (at least for me), and I must further hold that divine intervention is a constant, though doubt and worry about this point never leave us alone.
K:
Played well or ill isn't the problem. Either way it has been sucked into the prestige factory, stamped with a brand name.
N:
Don’t know that that prestige factory is any worse than any of the others.   We want connection, revelation, ecstasy, partnership with the divine, yet we must constantly deal with conformity, stupidity, bullying and branding.   To my mind it makes a difference anytime artists do beautiful things in defiance of all that.   I heard Seattle Symphony do that at least twice last year playing Messiaen and Ives.   That recording of Atlas likewise breaks through whatever cynicism or hypocrisy may be going on in that world.   As the Irishman entering the bar in the old story said, “Is this a private fight or can anybody get in?”
K:
I have never been convinced that there was no such intention, and yet I often enjoy performances of Cage's music.
N:  
I’m starting to get that what you miss in Cage’s talk about what he does is what he’s trying to do, as opposed to what he’s not trying to do.   So here’s my take on a positive, active intentional version of the passive/negative “let sounds be themselves.”   Cage is always attentive either to defining a sound precisely in space and time, or else (in the indeterminate works), providing an example, a direction, and room for a performer to similarly make a sound in as precise and complete a manner as is possible.   The freedom to the performer is exactly one more dimension of that precision and completeness.   Letting go of intentions (chance procedures et al) exist precisely to allow possibilities and detail that would not occur to a composer operating out of taste or habit.   Silence and space receive as much attention as they do in order to frame and give room to these precision made sounds.   Letting sounds be themselves is to allow them dignity as sentient beings—assuming they are only fit to be medium to someone’s message to someone else is from a certain point a view an affront to their dignity and to their souls.   They don’t exist to do something for us or say something between us.  Or rather we all exist simply to delight in and take pleasure in each other, leaving mediation behind or perhaps shining our mutually radiant othernesses on each other otherness.
K:
So thought-privileged sounds, as sounds themselves, are utterances of themselves, utterances of their own thinking, and therefore have everything present in them that would be present in them even if you didn’t think of them as being only themselves. As a way of understanding what Cage meant it seems to me like a fancy way to have your cake and eat it too.
N:  
Not sure what you mean by a thought-privileged sound.   I was using privilege in the way that “white privilege” or “male privilege” is commonly used these days, to critique what I think of as the privilege of solely human sentience, which I don’t buy, and which I think impoverishes our experience of the world.   Privileging human consciousness seems to me to only make us unnecessarily isolated and lonely, and generally and needlessly creates the particularly human malady of alienation.   Zen, Eckhart, the Upanishads, Juan de la Cruz, John Cage pretty much agree on the way out:  Let go of that privileged sentience and let everything else have it as well, which I’m pretty sure everything already does.
K:
How did Freud get in here? Anyway, I don’t believe I privilege TFDe as exclusively human, but rather that human TFDe are a privilege of being human. The TFDe of other’s are distinctly other, fabulously alien. Corrolarily, my own personal TFDe are exclusively, ineluctably, mine, they are not those of others. When I hear the music as an other’s utterance it is precisely the otherness of that utterance that I value.
N:  
Freud’s here because of his particularly and empirically founded theory of the General Neurosis, which I understand Cage in particular as being an artist who profoundly seeks a way out of it, rather than just accepting it.    In order to seek the way out he must enter that paradoxical realm of intentional use of nonintenion, of having nothing to say and saying it.   In this he did not achieve a personality-less anonymity, and that was not his goal.    His utterance is there in the tremendous variety of compositional means he divided to continue working away within this paradox, never assuming there was some mechanical solution, say simply using the magic square of Music of Changes for the rest of his life, or for that matter, making 4’33” and saying, “I did it, I’m done.”
K:
Please see my copious, frequent, and often enthusiastic, comments on Gradus through the decades. Apropos of this discussion, the greater part of my frustration with Cage is in understanding what he was talking or writing about. The music I have heard is (apropos of this discussion) problematic in the sense that I have trouble lining it up with (some of) the talk about it.
N:  
As at the beginning, I think we’d proceed more constructively if we had a particular piece of writing by Cage to chew on.   If you have a particular piece in mind, maybe we could talk about that one.
K:
Freud AND Brown! Yikes! We’re not gonna have enough pie! I was the one who chose the murder metaphor, perhaps I can clarify with less dire imagery:
Scene One: I hear the sound of a violin. Is that sound the utterance of the violin or of the violinist? Which would I rather do without? Cage’s “the sound as itself” suggests to me he would rather have the utterance of the violin and do without the violinist. I come down on t’other side.      
N:   
Cage nearly always wrote for specific performers and collaborated closely with them.   Solo for Piano, that extraordinary and graphically beautiful compendium of compositional techniques is essentially a love letter to David Tudor, made with his virtuosity in mind, his love of puzzles, and the implicit trust in that performer’s capacity to do wonderful things with an indeterminate score.   “Letting the Sound be Itself” takes a village, so everybody involved matters, composer, player, bow violin, room, air, tone.
Scene Two: I hear the sound of thunder. Is that sound an utterance? If not, it an accident of the sudden expansion of an air mass, or whatever other materialist explanation you prefer. If so, of what (or of whom) is it an utterance? If it is an utterance then it is the utterance of something or of somewhom, of nature (as placeholder for any number of concepts concerning the greater other out there), of a deity, or of God. If I’m serious about it’s being an utterance then I must accept the utterer, even if I created the utterer on the fly from the concept of utterance itself.   
All sound is utterance when we listen, and ultimately all sound is the utterance of US, by which I mean, I think, that the more attentively and deeply we listen the more the barriers and the distances go away, the more otherness either goes away or else becomes a radiant other one confronts, or possibly a systole and diastole of oceanic oneness and confronting radiant otherness and back.
K:
Scene Three: A child says “I love you”. Sounds as themselves or child?   
N: 

Both/and, and a gift to me the recipient and obligation on myself as the caregiving recipient to give back.   What if all things are saying just that, and what if we are actually in a position to speak that back to all things?   That child is very likely seeking to re-charge, and carries the hope of that oneness which we as parents actually have the ability to impart if we are attentive to those moments;  And then we have to be ready to let the re-charged child go be OTHER again, and not need to hold on to the union.  It’s a dance and it’s not easy to learn the steps, but I’m persuaded they can be learned.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Playlist

Recorded

October 25, 2015
Se vi duol il mio duolo - Gesualdo - Consort of Musicke, Anthony Rooley

Part of what seems so modern about Gesualdo is the centripetally charged architecture of the virtual space he creates. Hidden rooms and dark hallways are implied. Out can't be got. The only option is further in.

Konzert in G Major BWV 1048 - J.S. Bach - Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer

The halls here are brightly lit, and there are windows open to the breezes. The balanced phrases spill out in every seeming possible combination of distributive weighting.

Petites Pieces "Les Langeurs tendres" Wq. 117 #30 - C.P.E. Bach - Miklos Spanyi

A mid-18th Century Chopin nocturne, though it would translate more graciously to lute or guitar than to piano.

Tatrai Quartet
Quartet in G Major Op. 17 #5 Hob. III:29 - Haydn - Tatrai Quartet

More fresh air and sunshine. Children are playing. Our music is a grace to the gracious living of others. This is the quartet from which Beethoven borrowed the recitative for the 9th.

Symphony in D Major K504(504) - Mozart - Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood, Jaap Schroder

It isn't just that all of Mozart's best music is opera, either for real or in drag, but that the extent to which it is Mozartean is exactly the extent to which the music is the image of staged singers in mid-plot. The slow movement of this one pulls a second twist, in that the moment of its plot is utterly still, without beginning or end - the characters entwined for all time in freely poignant, floating bliss.

String Quartet in E minor op. 59 #2 - Beethoven - Budapest Quartet

The close regard of little tids of figuration (as transformable music substance) is the musical substance. The larger structures (phrases, sections, movements) are accidents, epiphenomena of the cross-play among micro-compositions.

October 27, 2015
Polonaise in F-sharp minor Op. 44 - Chopin - Artur Rubinstein

Played with admirable lucidity, the phrases rounded just enough for clarity without telegraphing what might be suddenly there next.

Symphony in C Major Op. 61 - Schumann - Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan

This is recorded/engineered in such a gluey acoustic environment that even what sounds like it was played articulately becomes distant and blurred, in soft-focus. Ah, that '30's Hollywood glow. Doesn't do Schumann any favors though.

Deception Pass State Park, Washington
In Session at the Tintinabulary

October 25, 2015
Wishes Last - Keith Eisenbrey

I wrote/improvised a song that's like a hymn, accompanied by spoons and nylon string guitar. I'll be putting this up on Bandcamp soon with a couple of other recent songs. First take, best take.

October 26, 2015
Banned Telepath 39 Seattle 151026
Banned Telepath 39 Somerville 151026
Banned Rehearsal 897 151026 - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey, Steve Kennedy, in Seattle; and Aaron Keyt, in Somerville


Up to our usual shenanigans, Steve found a way to bow the washtub bass with a loose spring, to excellent effect.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Playlist

Live

October 20, 2015
Jonathan Biss
UW World Series - President's Piano Series - Meany Hall, Seattle

Sonata in C minor, K. 457 - Mozart
Sechs kleine Klavierstücke, Op. 19 - Schönberg
Sonata in F Major, K.533/494 - Mozart
Kreisleriana, Op. 16 - Schumann
Waldszenen: Abschied (encore) - Schumann

It would have been nice if he had played the Schönberg twice, there is so much there and it goes by so quickly. But also it exists within such a radically different projected social image than Mozart that it takes a while for the ear to adjust itself. It's like the scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen's character finds himself unexpectedly, and with growing horror, closeted with Christopher Walken confessing to self-destructive fantasies.

My feelings about the evening were mostly positive (lovely singing tone, delicate shadings of phrases, etc.) my major gripe being that the fast tempi were, to my ear, simply too fast for the music's internal articulation to come through. This was most apparent in the Schumann, who perhaps doesn't do himself any favors with his sehr rasch and noch schneller. However, there is potent contrapuntal detail in the quick figurations that simply doesn't make it to the back of Meany when played too fast. A quibble I suppose, but it seems a shame that only the pianist himself is close enough to pick up on all those marvelous twists and turns.

Recorded

October 22, 2015
Sonata for Viola and Piano - Ivan Sokolov - Karen Bentley Pollick, Ivan Sokolov

As though a long lost sonata by Franck had been discovered, though eventually it nods toward the modernism of Debussy.
Warren Burt

the shape of the voice I: Milton Babbitt - Warren Burt [from Milton Babbitt, a composer's memorial]

We turn pages of textured modulations

I am not sure
the sound having stopped

and having sat after
for some time

when
I should

or should want
to regard this

as being

(ever)

finished

On a personal note, I had the good fortune to meet Warren Burt many years ago when he visited Bard College in the early '80s. I remember him passing out the (single page) score of a piece that could be played even post-apocolyptically - not certain there would be instruments left or any technology with which to construct them, it is scored for rocks (banged together). An experimental stalwart and a fascinating thinker.

In Session at the Tintinabulary

October 19, 2015
Gradus 277 151019 - Neal Kosály-Meyer

I started thinking about the musical metaphor of the vertical, the up-down-ness of pitch, and how embedded this concept is in our language, how "high and low on the pitch spectrum" could be mistaken for a qualitative primitive, irreducible. But I was noticing in my hearing of these assorted E-naturals and C-sharps that I was also hearing vestiges of a different, tonally-functional vertical sorting. Any E seemed, somehow, to be higher than any C-sharp, and both tended down toward an implied A-natural root. In other words, in tonal perception, the root of a chord is always at the bottom of some metaphoric, but palpable, pile of notes, regardless of its particular actual spot along the spectrum.

Exchange

Last week's post included my comments on listening to a recording of John Cage's Atlas Eclipticalis. Neal Kosály-Meyer responded by email, and I offer here our exchange, I will give Neal the last word, but do plan on responding soon - so further installments are likely:
Me and Neal near the start of our disagreement about Cage

K: 
Atlas Eclipticalis - Cage - The Wesleyan Symphony Orchestra,with The Hartt Contemporary Players and The Arditti Quartet, Melvin Strauss

30 minutes of the most lovely of nearly-overs, of almost-dones, of penultimatisms, spent in contemplation of my constitutional inability to hear sounds as themselves, empty of meaning. To hear a sound as itself I would need to not be aware that it was made by a human being, or that it was laden with social freight. Such a position seems deeply misanthropic, murderous. Would music be best for Cage if none were there to hear it?

N: 
Would music be best for Cage if none were there to hear it?
            No, since for Cage hearing is the essential or even supreme musical act.   So more like, that music would be best which involved only listening.   He always said his favorite piece was the silent piece.

Such a position seems deeply misanthropic, murderous.
            “This project will seem fearsome to many, but on examination it gives no cause for alarm.   Hearing sounds which are just sounds immediately sets the theorizing mind to theorizing, and the emotions of human beings are continually aroused by encounters with nature. Does not a mountain unintentionally evoke in us a sense of wonder?  otters along a stream a sense of mirth?  night in the woods a sense of fear?  Do not rain falling and mists rising up suggest the love binding heaven and earth?  Is not decaying flesh loathsome?  Does not the death of someone we love bring sorrow?  And is there a greater hero than the least plant that grows?  What is more angry than the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder?  These responses to nature are mine and will not necessarily correspond with another’s. Emotion takes place in the person who has it.  And sounds, when allowed to be themselves, do not require that those who hear them do so unfeelingly.  The opposite is what is meant by response ability.”  JC Experimental Music, 1957

To hear a sound as itself I would need to not be aware that it was made by a human being, or that it was laden with social freight.

            If we hold listening to be the highest and subtlest musical act, “hearing a sound as itself” is an ideal, a koan, a counsel to let go of ideas and feelings about that sound and return to listening, then again and again letting go of the ideas and feelings that come to return again to listening and that sound itself whose heart we will never exactly reach, though in the course of the quest to reach it we may at some point find our ears to be now in excellent condition.

spent in contemplation of my constitutional inability to hear sounds as themselves, empty of meaning.
            See above—as in meditation no one’s heart or mind will shut up, ever.   Letting go of thought and feeling to return to stillness, darkness, silence, the deeper mystery, always being pulled back by thought feeling cough sneeze itch ache fatigue anxiety, all that is not the still dark silent deep we seek—that’s how this works.  And there is no empty, of anything.

30 minutes of the most lovely of nearly-overs, of almost-dones, of penultimatisms,
            Sounds like my idea of a good time.

Atlas Eclipticalis - Cage - The Wesleyan Symphony Orchestra,with The Hartt Contemporary Players and The Arditti Quartet, Melvin Strauss


I expect we'll continue to have this particular discussion on into the future.   Thanks as always for the stimulus to thought about what it is exactly that I am and we are doing.

K:
yeah yeah, chapter and verse, amen.

The problem is that I don't have a way to understand the notion of "the sounds as themselves" that has any particular meaning. If he means "sounds as an emanation of nature", well that's a completely different thing to my mind, but the media complex of concert music trappings he chose to work in pretty much overwhelms any hope of that. And any sound made by a human person, or even any sound I experience has having been made (conceived, designed, produced, reproduced, or banged out in situ) by a human person, becomes an utterance, a token of social exchange, more or less transparent, more or less charged, ineluctably connecting us together, actively communicating us.  For me, it is the hearing of sounds "as utterance" that sets the theorizing mind to theorizing, the empathic heart to understanding. If emptying the sound of it's utterance-hood is the ideal, then that would necessarily sever then connection between utteror and utteree, literally dehumanizing the token of exchange, leading back to murder.

Don't get me wrong here, I enjoyed the recording immensely, but as an utterance, as many things more than sounds "as themselves".

see you Monday!

N:
yeah yeah, chapter and verse, amen.

               I still pray for you, brother.
The problem is that I don't have a way to understand the notion of "the sounds as themselves" that has any particular meaning.
           Except that it seems that you DO have a notion that has a quite particular meaning:   that of being amputated or severed from that which you don't wish it to be amputated or severed from, or of being the instrument or victim of murder.

If he means "sounds as an emanation of nature", well that's a completely different thing to my mind,

             It feels more direct to me to think of the sound AS nature, or as just being itself, rather than being an emanation, messenger or intermediary.   As when Beckett said that Finnegans Wake is not about a thing, it is the thing.

but the media complex of concert music trappings he chose to work in pretty much overwhelms any hope of that.

             Using the trappings of concert music certainly thickens the plot, especially back in the day when musicians and conductors would ignorantly or intentionally sabotage pieces like Atlas.   Nowadays recordings like this one or the SEM Ensemble's seem to me to offer a different and refreshing thing that a set-in-its-ways beast like a symphony orchestra can do.   Hearing orchestras do repertoire like this well actually gives me hope for music and I guess for humanity.

And any sound made by a human person, or even any sound I experience has having been made (conceived, designed, produced, reproduced, or banged out in situ) by a human person, becomes an utterance, a token of social exchange, more or less transparent, more or less charged, ineluctably connecting us together, actively communicating us.

                Hearing Cage played well always feels me to me intensely human and intensely uttersome, generally requiring significant engagement, attention to fine detail, a respect for the composer and what he has made.   I guess I find it more exciting when what is being uttered is a sound formed and contemplated in as much detailed glory and mystery as is possible to form and contemplate, and often mysterious as utterance, just as often serendipitously connecting to the rest of the piece in a theatre or a phrase or an arc that can be as extraordinarily compelling as if it had been the result an intended design, and often the more enjoyable because I know there was no such intention.

For me, it is the hearing of sounds "as utterance" that sets the theorizing mind to theorizing, the empathic heart to understanding.

           As indicated, I don't think sounds cannot utter if we're actually listening to them.   There is perhaps an implicit metaphysic in Cage that utterance, consciousness, feeling, thought are not exclusively human qualities or attributes, but are generally present in all things.   At least that's the way I like to imagine the universe, not privileging thought feeling and design as being things that only humans do, but as being inherent properties of all manifestations of matter and energy.   Can't be proved or demonstrated one way or the other, obviously.   Imagining it that way, for me, makes the universe more fun, friendly and less lonely, I guess.   Cage's music played well usually makes it feel more likely to me that this is in fact the way things are.

If emptying the sound of it's utterance-hood is the ideal, then that would necessarily sever then connection between utteror and utteree, literally dehumanizing the token of exchange, leading back to murder.
              I would argue that privileging thought, feeling, design etc as exclusively human, and narrowly defining "utterance" to conform with that is the more amputating and murderous act, and the sort of thing that defines what Freud called the General Neurosis, that which makes us, as Nietzsche would have it, the "Sick Animal."    I don't need all music to be like Cage's, but I definitely need Cage's music among those I hear and contemplate--for me it opens kinds of doors and windows OUT of the sickness that hardly anybody else's does.

I'd add that all of this very much validates and confirms the work I've taken on with Gradus.    Among lots of things, that project is very much about taking that Cagean sound-in-itself notion and carrying it into a way of playing which is not dependent on the strictly composed ways that JC employed.    Your continued enthusiasm for Gradus means even more to me given the frustrations you still have with Cage, since it  feels like I'm managing to transmit what's most important to me about him in a way that you can receive without as much ambivalence as you experience with Cage's own compositions.   Must be doin my job.

P.S.   Felt I needed to add that my final response (to your bit beginning "If emptying the sound of its utterance-hood . . .")  was not meant to be as harsh or contrarian as it may read.   That came out because it hit me that the imagery of amputation and murder were reminding me of something on point, which was Norman Brown's close reading of Freud, Life Against Death, especially the sections in which he traces the early developmental crises and their culmination in the Oedipal phase.  Brown emphasizes that these are not simply "normal" developmental phases however universal, but tragic and traumatic experiences that each of us has gone through, and that the final result, the mature human ego, is in fact something which is profoundly amputated or castrated from that which it would be better not to have been amputated or castrated from.    Freud's heartbreaking insight is that we are as a species burdened with an awful and constitutional illness out of which it is difficult to see the way out.   Brown sees more hope than Freud, partly through a re-thinking of psychoanalysis at a social level rather than just individual, but also in ways that artists might envision different, healthier ways of being human.