Saturday, February 4, 2017



January 28, 2017
Seattle Opera
McCaw Hall, Seattle

La Traviata - Verdi - Stefano Ranzani, conductor

My puzzlement at Verdi, and indeed at Italian opera in general, is of long-standing. Looking back at my attitude now that I am finally finding something interesting going on, I think I was simply misapprehending, or possibly not apprehending at all, the particular point of view of the musical material, as an aspect of the drama, that is in play. Here there is neither Wagner's Romantic embedding of the drama within a symphonic structure, nor Mozart's Enlightenment era arch-ironical puppet master as a musical narrator. Instead the orchestra serves as a kind of scaffolding to support a close first-person that exists almost entirely within the sung melody. Nothing exists for the music except the expression of the line as it unfolds.

There was some discussion bandied about concerning the stripped down production. Apparently the orchestra was reduced from Verdi's scoring, and perhaps there were some cuts made. Any of these can be easily remedied (for my own purposes) by simply finding a reasonable recording for later study. For my part I have no musical complaints at all about what I heard that night. The set consisted of lighting and several layers of curtains. There might have been a chair or two, but I may be confusing that with the chairs and tables at Seattle Shakespeare Company's two-evening, production of the Henry VI plays (with an all female cast), Bring Down the House, which we saw on the Thursday before and the Thursday after. I thought the curtains were attractive, thoughtfully used, and ambiguous enough to evoke all sorts of pertinent things. Mostly they didn't get in the way of or distract from the music, for which I am personally grateful.


January 31, 2017
beneath the ground - Infamous Menagerie

industrial lasers cutting
blocks of mineral
as light
on film

Banned Rehearsal 418 (Speakeasy Set 1) - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey, Anna K, Aaron Keyt, Neal Kosály-Meyer, March 1996

morning after the May 2001 fire

Just shy of 12 years into our shared history we played two sets at the Speakeasy Café in Belltown. This is the first of them. It has never been about playing well, but that if we were invested enough in our listening, then making any sound would speak true.

February 2, 2017
Aku (aged tape) - Keith Eisenbrey

Oh the memories! In 1980/81 at the University of Washington I was studying with John Rahn, who, at that time, had just produced a piece on the Department of Experimental Musicology's new Synclavier. I'm not sure how it was all worked out, but somehow I managed to get quite a bit of time on it during Winter Quarter. I devised an elaborate chart, based on a series of eight digits, and wound up with a 30 minute, 8 part monstrosity of an electronic piece. I remember that it was while I was transferring the charts to notation, pages strewn all over the room, that my brother came upstairs to tell me that John Lennon had been shot and killed.

In order to realize it exactly I had calculated the timing of each "take" so that it could be recorded separately, at a slow tempo, and could be played easily without error. My friend Christopher Mehrens, whom I had met in middle school at various city-wide piano competitions, helped with this process. I don't remember how many hours it took, but I do remember we often had to wait 20 minutes or more for the first note to be played. I also remember going to a computer store, which was quite the novelty back then, in order to purchase a "floppy disk", my very first. At the end of the process I ended up with a reel-to-reel tape which was my clean master.

Pete Comley instructing a camel
I made a cassette copy right away, and then kept the master tape. As the years went by, and digital recording at home began to exist, I became acquainted with Pete Comley, who had both a working reel-to-reel tape deck and a DAT. In May of 2001, with high hopes of once again having a pristine image of the sound, we pushed play and record and waited for vintage synclavier sound to emerge. It is difficult for me to describe the combination of delight and dismay when I heard what time's deterioration had worked on that tape. Apparently tape stock from that era was notoriously unstable. It was partly stuck to itself, causing the 30 minute piece to stretch out to almost 40. The wobble is woozily wonderful. Most of one track didn't make it over the record head, and my intricately designed digital patches were converted to awesome shrieks. Later I overdubbed a version of my text-sound composition Confessions of a Polyphonist, and called the result Ms. Found in a Bottle, after Poe, of course.

Even later I transcribed the whole thing in midi. Not synclavier to be sure, but looking back on it, my particular patches were no great shakes to begin with, at least not compared to what time and neglect could accomplish with a physical medium. Analog takes revenge, and how sweet it is.

Banned Rehearsal 694 - Karen Eisenbrey, Keith Eisenbrey, Steve Kennedy, Neal Kosály-Meyer, January 2006

Early on we invented a word for sessions like this: 'sedatory'. Snorish, trajectorizing away from energy increase. Gentle, domestic - crib play. Time-biding. It takes a long time settling, and settling is all it does. Could be a long preamble to set up the wicked xylophone entrance about 20 minutes in. This requires patience.

in memoriam M. B. - Andrew Mead - Maria Sampen, violin [from Milton Babbitt, a composers' memorial]

Golly. This is truly, truly lovely.

Ivan Arteaga and Keith Eisenbrey 160202 B - Ivan Arteaga, Keith Eisenbrey

Playfully poking, right up to the end, where some quiet place, gracefully turned, is revealed.

In Session at the Tintinabulary

January 30, 2017
Gradus 305 - Neal Kosály-Meyer

Rich Trove struggling to cross Vast Emptiness. Pushing, spreading, expanding, more inexorably than the possibility of measuring. // Delving, pushing down against buoyancy.

Unfortunately the recording device ran out of memory 28 minutes into this 40 minute session. Bother!

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