Friday: Annie Gosfield at Moving Sounds Festival

From tonight until Saturday, the Austrian Cultural Forum sponsored Moving Sounds Festival takes place. Thursday saw the Mivos Quartet perform new works by Carl Bettendorf and Reiko Füting while Christian Meyer and Franz Hackl gave a lecture recital entitled “Schoenberg and the notion of Avant-garde.”

On Friday, composer Annie Gosfield appears in a portrait concert at the Czech Center as part of Moving sounds. It includes the premiere of “Phantom Shakedown”. The piece for piano accompanied by a broken shortwave radio, a cement mixer, and tube noise. It’s one of the pieces on Gosfield’s latest CD, the just released Almost Truths and Open Deceptions (Tzadik). Dynamic and captivating, both the concert and  CD embrace amplified industrial music and distressed chamber works, in a concoction that balances sonic seduction with formidable avant gauntlets.

Annie Gosfield in concert
September 14 and 9 PM
Bohemian National Hall at the Czech Center
321 E. 73rd St.
New York, NY 10021

For more Moving Sounds events on Friday and Saturday, check out the festival’s website here.

Tilbury plays Cage (CD Review)

John Cage

Sonatas and Interludes

John Tilbury, piano

Decca CD

Part of a reissue program by Decca and DG, which will feature 50 recordings by 50 different artists of important works from the 20th century, this new edition of John Tilbury’s excellent 1975 recording of John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes is also a welcome addition to the spate of Cage centenary releases. Known for his performances of New York School composers, Cardew, and his work as an improvisor, Tilbury is an ideal interpreter of this piece. His performance is an incisive one, embracing both gamelan-like percussive elements imbued by the preparations as well as the classically proportioned organization of the works’s proto-sonata structure (when composing the piece, Cage was thinking of Scarlatti’s sonatas rather than Beethoven’s).

The sound has held up well, imparting a warm LP era vibe without lacking in detail. The close-miked quality of the recording makes some of the effects created by Cage’s preparations all the more apparent. It’s like sitting next to Tilbury while he plays, rather than hearing a more muted effect further out in the hall.

If all of the reissues in this series return to us elusive treasures such as this recording, we are in for a trove indeed.

Golden Tree on Important Records (Review)

Kawabata Makoto & à qui avec Gabriel

Golden Tree

Important Records

Kawabata Makoto is best known for his work with the group Acid Mothers Temple, a post-psych noise rock collective that can melt paint off of walls with the amplitude of their recordings. When the guitarist joins forces with accordionist and vocalist à qui avec Gabriel for the album Golden Tree (Important Records), he creates an entirely different sound world.

The album consists of three extended duets; one, “Solid Torus,” lasting in excess of half an hour. Balancing with long held tones on the accordion, the guitar lines provide an uneasy counterpoint that, while less subdued than the torrents of fuzzed soloing one hears on AMT releases, is no less focused. Indeed, there is a sense that the energy Makoto is keeping in reserve could at any moment be unleashed; released like a tightly coiled spring. Instead, most often balance is sought by both parties, with guitar harmonics and the occasional feedback flirtation blending with the accordion’s treble register drones and ephemeral clusters. à qui avec Gabriel also has a beautiful soprano singing voice, which she sometimes lends to the proceedings in sustained lines and repeated tones. Golden Tree is at its most beguiling when vocalized tones, sustained guitar lines, and accordion drones dovetail together in an intense dovetailing of dolphin-like song.

Eli Keszler: “Cold Pin” (Vimeo)




Next week is a big one for Eli Keszler. Catching Net, a 2xCD release of sound installations and compositions by Keslzer, is out on 2/5 via PAN.


According to its release notes (haven’t seen the physical yet), the Berlin-based imprint certainly isn’t scrimping: the recording’s packaging includes a booklet with notes, installation sketches, schematic diagrams, score excerpts, and documentary images, contained in a hand-silkscreened, heavy vinyl cover with a drawing by Keszler. US listeners will be able to acquire it via Forced Exposure.


On June 7, Keszler’s latest installation/composition L-Carrier, will be presented at Eyebeam Art & Technology Center in Chelsea, NYC. The work was commissioned by Issue Project Room and Turbulence.

Event details and videos of Keszler’s work below.




L-Carrier
Installation
June 7-23, 2012
Turbulence.org and Eyebeam

Performance
June 7, 2012; 7:00 – 8:00 pm
Eyebeam, 540 West 21st Street, New York
Admission: $10 Suggested Donation


Carter Tutti Void: Transverse (CD Review)

Carter Tutti Void
Transverse
Mute

Chris Carter & Cosey Fanni Tutti (Throbbing Gristle) and Nik Void (Factory Floor) created Transverse for the Short Circuit presents Mute festival at the Roundhouse, London in 2011. Rehearsing and preparing these tracks in the studio, they then performed them live (and live to tape) at the Roundhouse. The results are head turning and head-spinning, with many complexly hued textures that prove a revelatory exhibition of sonic timbres. Tutti’s singing is often treated as one instrument in the midst of many, rather than the conveyor of narrative or explicit sentiment. Void’s guitar work is also unconventional; he contributes bowed passages and grittily sinewed strata that combine with Carter’s musicking into a welter of drones.

Transverse explores the continuum between noise based improvisation and more rhythmically articulated and pitch-inflected music-making. Carter Tutti Void make avant-electronica at its most exultant and the results here are a jubilant clangor that ups the ante for acts – both analog and digital – to follow.

American Mavericks: Cage Songbooks (Review + Video)

At least on paper, one of the more fascinating collaborations of the 2012 installation of American Mavericks brought vocalists Jessye Norman, Meredith Monk, and Joan La Barbara together with Michael Tilson Thomas and members of the San Francisco Symphony for a performance of John Cage’s Song Books. Complete with lighting, sets, stage business, camera work, and sound design, this was an ambitious undertaking. Unfortunately, it raised as many questions about performing Cage as it answered.

In the performance of the work last night at Carnegie Hall, Jessye Norman sang like Jessye Norman. Meredith Monk did Meredith Monk. MTT made a smoothie and tore up newspapers. But Joan La Barbara: now she performed a John Cage piece. Here she is doing the same work in 2011, with Ne(x)tworks at Greenwich Music House.

Hats off to Monk and Norman for reaching outside their comfort zones. But they were placed in a difficult situation. My wife, a director and playwright, described it thus: “It felt like all the things ripped off from Cage by bad experimental theater were donated back for one night only. And it seemed like the design team were having much more fun than the audience.”

It’s great that San Francisco is giving the American Mavericks another airing. And I’m really looking forward to hearing what is, for me, a dream program at Carnegie Hall tonight: Ruggles, Feldman, and Ives orchestrated by Brant!

But their Cage presentation left me with questions about how those interested in interpreting his music are to proceed. The challenge: creating a performance practice for Cage that doesn’t become its own museum piece of cliches. The scores deserve it. There’s plenty of music in them and, indeed lots of ways to present Cage entertainingly, but without so much shtick.

2/11: Vicky Chow and Loadbang celebrate Cage Centennial

On Saturday, the 2012 Avant Music Festival presents a program celebrating the John Cage Centennial. Our friends Loadbang join pianist Vicky Chow and other avant musicians in a performance of Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra. It’s a piece that avoids the “O” in concerto by allowing the musicians considerable freedom in the performance of their parts. Thus, the soloist has to operate in a constantly shifting environment. It’s recently been done brilliantly by SEM, and in a hammy fashion by the New Juilliard Ensemble. Given the parties involved, one should expect nothing less than a thoughtful and exciting interpretation of the work.

For more information about the Avant Festival, check out Chris McGovern’s interview with Randy Gibson.

Loadbang will also be giving another Cage concert at Greenwich Music House in March (details below).

One of their members, Andy Kozar, is fundraising through next Tuesday for a CD project featuring his compositions (and several appearances by Loadbang) via Kickstarter.

Wild Project – February 11th, 2012 8PM

loadbang performs John Cage’s Living Room Music, plus Concert for Piano and Orchestra with Vicky Chow as part of the Avant Music Festival

195 East 3rd Street, Manhattan
$15/$10 at door, $12/$8 presale online

Greenwich House – March 8th, 2012 8PM

John Cage: A Portrait in 5 Parts: loadbang celebrates Cage’s centennial

46 Barrow Street, Manhattan
$15/$10 students, tickets at door

Justly Blissed (CD Review)

Randy Gibson
Aqua Madora
Gibson, piano and sine wave drones
Avant Media CD

Composer Randy Gibson’s 50 minute long Aqua Madora, for sine wave drones and piano tuned in just intonation, is an exquisitely lovely piece. Gibson uses his studies of tuning systems, composition, and singing with LaMonte Young and Marian Zazeela as a jumping off point – even going so far as to tuning some of the intervals (particularly seventh scale degrees) in homage to these masters of early minimalism.

As touching as this tribute is, especially at a time in which the importance of Young’s work is not nearly as widely known as it should be, Aqua Madora is not just about expressing gratitude for knowledge transmitted between teacher and student. In collaboration with Ana Baer-Carrillo and Dani Beauchamp, Gibson spent a long time refining this piece as a multimedia work containing film and dance.

One needn’t have these visual elements to enjoy the suppleness and subtleties of Aqua Madora’s music. Gibson’s play with intervals that sound “out of tune” to those accustomed to equal temperament is particularly sensitive. He allows the tangy appearances of these notes to color the drift of harmonic progressions and provide fascinating variants that add a tinge of the unexpected to scalar passages.







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An aside: I wasn’t the only one in the house to be floored by the piece. Our tabby cat, Happy, comes running every time I put it on, and blisses out between the speakers. While I’m not trying to make a partisan statement in the temperament wars using inappropriate anthropomorphism, it’s worth noting that she seldom gets this excited by music in equal temperament!