Jacob David Sudol(b. Des Moines, Iowa 1980) writes intimate compositions that explore enigmatic phenomena and the inner nature of how we perceive sound. He recently finished his M.Mus. at McGill University and currently resides in La Jolla, CA where he is working towards a Ph.D. in composition at the University of California at San Diego with Roger Reynolds, Chinary Ung, Philippe Manoury, and Rand Steiger.
Over the last five years some of Jacob's mentors in composition have included John Rea, Denys Bouliane, Philippe Leroux, Sean Ferguson, Dan Asia, and Craig Walsh. He has also participated in master classes with Danish composer Bent Sørensen and German composer Manfred Stahnke.
During 2005-2006, Jacob was the first-ever composer-in-residence for the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble under the direction of Denys Bouliane, in collaboration with the McGill Digital Composition Studio. He has also written music for the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, the Contemporary Keyboard Society, percussionist Fernando Rocha, saxophonist Elizabeth Bunt, and clarinetist Krista Martynes. As an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, he composed the music for a collaborative dance project with choreographer Hillary Peterson, and he was the principal composer and pianist for El Proyecto de Santa Barbara, a chamber Latin jazz ensemble.
During the 2005 and 2007 Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques and 2006 MusiMars festivals Jacob was an electronic assistant for performances with Court-Circuit, Matt Haimovitz, Sara Laimon, Martin Matalon, Moritz Eggert, Manfred Stahnke, the Caput Ensemble, and the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble. These concerts were broadcast by the CBC and the European Broadcasting Union in over fifty countries throughout the world. He is currently a studio research assistant for Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Roger Reynolds.
During his free time Jacob takes an active interest in religious phenomenology, cinema, acoustics, literature, poetry, and visual art. As a composer and performer, he always attempts to bring insights from these other fields into his work.
All music posted on this blog is posted out of love and the idea that for the truly great music of our time(s) to be known it must first and foremost be heard. If you like what you hear please support the artist by buying the recordings, scores, and/or encouraging the performances of the music in every way possible.
If you are the composer, performer, performing organization, artist or directly represent the composer, performer, performing organization, or artist of anything posted on this website and would like your material removed please contact me and I will happily oblige.
Disclaimers: * It may seem probably a little strange to a best of 2006 almost one month into 2007. I began writing this in November and had a draft ready in late December. I wanted to post it the first draft but didn’t because I wanted to include mp3 selections and didn’t have access to a fast enough connection to upload music while I was in Arizona. Since coming back I also began to know some albums on the list better and was able to rank and write about them with greater insight.
* I’m not posting a “classical music” best album list because I typically don’t pay too much attention to new “classical music” album releases. Since it often takes so long for new classical works to get recorded, I’ve come to believe that the best place to hear contemporary art music is the concert hall. Furthermore, since I’m always just surfacing enough to catch my breath and trying to hear as much classical music that I didn’t know beforehand I barely have a chance to also keep up with the large stream of new classical releases. These points aside, I also feel that the album medium is one that better suited for more popular song-based music and in 2006, more than any other year before, I really tried to keep up with new album releases.
* The following mostly represents my personal tastes for highly literary songs and things that, although they may be on the radar, are not necessarily what you’ll hear the most on commercial radio stations or see regularly on some music video channel. Also, to try and make this a bit more precise I’m appending an “Almost Best…” list for a few albums that are almost good enough to be included.
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1. Bob Dylan: Modern Times What can I say? Bob Dylan has done it once again. I think that this is one of the most consistently rewarding albums he has put out since Blood on the Tracks. Also compared to his last excellent album ”Love and Theft” Bob Dylan’s are melodies are much clearer and his lyrics have become much more simple and direct. I feel so glad to be around for what may end up being another of Bob Dylan’s golden ages. A song like “Nettie Moore” possibly has the most devastating chorus Bob has ever written, “Workingman’s Blues’ #2” has one of the best workings of a Robert Johnson line I’ve ever heard (especially since it’s mixed with a Shakespeare reference), and the new lyrics and performances of “Someday Baby” and “Rolling and Tumblin’” even top Muddy Waters’ recordings.
2. Joanna Newsom: Ys Joanna Newsom’s last album was one of the strangest and most charming albums by a singer-songwriter that I had heard in years. It seems almost impossible to understand how she so quickly reached the profound level of song craft found in Ys and its songs like “Emily.” The five songs on this album almost total an hour and show a view into one’s inner mind and life that is rarely found in song. It is a world that isn’t easy but, if you’re willing to let it, can welcome you in tenderly and slowly.
3. Destroyer: Destroyer’s Rubies I first heard this album a month ago and instantly started researching the rest of Dan Bejar’s (or Destroyer’s) catalogue to try and get a point of reference and better sense of the esthetic that drew me to this album so quickly. There’s little more I can say to praise this album except that besides being lyrically challenging and musically intricate it’s also completely listenable and – even exceeding most of the Destroyer catalogue – almost ingratiatingly catchy.
4. Sunset Rubdown: Shut Up I Am Dreaming I know I’m just repeating what many an mp3 blogger has said before, but I think this Spencer Krug is one of the next big things in rock music. I really don’t want to add much to the gushing I’ve heard all over except that I have a particular fondness for the sloppy quirky and eccentric way he seems to reconstruct a standard rock song with his wonderful array of lo-fi keyboards, EBowed acoustic slide guitars, squeezebox, and glockenspiel.
5. TV on the Radio: Return to Cookie Mountain This album crept up on me like no other album this year. I first heard it when it leaked over the summer and until a few weeks ago I didn’t intend to include it on this list. Unlike many other albums I heard in 2006, almost every time I heard this album – besides a few times during a brief misanthropic spell in October when I was not particularly enjoying music – I liked it better than the previous time I heard it. One thing that drew me is the unique timbral and tonal it inhabits – for example, it is nearly impossible to play along with any track on this album if you have an equally tempered keyboard. I first noticed this after failing to figure out “Tonight” and discovering that “Wash the Day Away” is in E quarter flat. Besides that there’s also something cryptically truthful and cathartic about the lyrics in songs like “Blues From Down Here.”
6. Band of Horses: Everything All the Time There’s an open shimmering almost golden quality that the sound on this album exudes – I also picture a desert sky clearing after an overnight monsoon rain. It is not hard to enjoy this music it is warm and comfortable just like giving a lover your extra covers on a cold morning. There’s almost a sense of foreboding in the anticipation but there’s also the relief that there will almost always be human comfort to help when the dark comes again.
7. Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood I’ve had a long-standing love/hate relationship with so-called country music in my life. There are arguably few “genres” that I hate with more ferocity that commercial “country music” and although I do enjoy some of the more classic “underground” country artists like Johnny Cash I find I never like these artists so consistently to call them some of my favourites. On the other hand I have a really strong love for some country artists who produce really haunting songs full of grief and silent longing like Gillian Welch or Neko Case on this album. Other than saying that, it’s hard for me to explain the attraction except for the fact that it may relate to my musical upbringing. Maybe her songs will ring true for you too, maybe they won’t.
8. Yo La Tengo: I’m Not Afraid of You and Will Beat Your Ass Yo La Tengo has always one of those mildly schizophrenic bands that seemed to be more themselves when they wear many different disguises. Although I think “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out” may remain Yo La Tengo albums this new one comes in a close second particularly in terms of its eclectic and overall fun – “…Beat Your Ass” is alternatively rocking, meditatively calm, and completely danceable. It also arguably has the best guitar jam song on any Yo La Tengo album – “The Story of Yo La Tango.”
9. Jolie Holland: Springtime Can Kill You Jolie Holland puts on a concert that feels more like an impromptu living room jam session than any sort of ego-driven concert setting. I’ve often said that if you want to create good music now, you need to feel the blues. Jolie knows the blues better than nearly anybody else out there right now and communicates them in an personal honest direct manner that can break your heart just as you realize why it’s breaking or already broken.
Billie “Prince” Billie: The Letting Go In the last year Will Oldham – in his many guises (Palace Brothers, Palace Music, Palace, Will Oldham, and most recently Bonnie “Prince” Billie”) – has become one of my favorite singer-songwriters making music today. I’m not quite sure but the main reason that I don’t probably don’t place this album just above in the “Best of” list is because I also came to know some of Will Oldham’s best albums like I See a Darkness and Days in the Wake this year as well.
Mountain Goats: Get Lonely Okay, I’ll admit I’m a bit of a sucker for depressing folk albums but there’s just something strange about this album. It’s almost as if it is too depressing. Maybe it’s how it changes my mood after I listen to it, maybe it’s the lack of resolution that it offers, maybe it’s because its melancholy can seem so gentle at times. I really don’t know.
Flaming Lips: At War With the Mystics At moments this album is lot of fun like most Flaming Lips albums but at most other moments it’s surprisingly introspective and, frankly, almost a downer. It’s refreshingly addictive like most Flaming Lips albums and although the introspection thing isn’t completely novel for them (see some of the tracks on Priest Driven Ambulance) it is nice to hear Wayne Coyne express his uncertainty and doubt some.
As a result of the impasse in serial music, as well as other causes, I originated in 1954 a music constructed from the principle of indeterminism [or entropy]. …other paths also led to the same crossroads first of all, natural events such as the collision of hail or rain with hard surfaces, or the song of cicadas in a summer field. These sonic events are made out of thousands of isolated sounds; this multitude of sounds, seen as totality, is a new sonic event. This mass event is articulated and forms a plastic mold of time, which itself follows aleatory and stochastic laws. If one then wishes to form a large mass of point-notes, such as string pizzicati, one must know these mathematical laws, which, in any case, are no more than a tight and concise expression of chains of logical reasoning. Everyone has observed the sonic phenomena of a political crowd of dozens of hundred of thousands of people. The human river shouts a slogan in a uniform rhythm. Then another slogan springs from the head of the demonstration; it spreads toward the tail, replacing the first. A wave of transition thus passes from the head to the tail … The statistical laws of these events, separated from their political or moral context, are the same as those of the cicadas or the rain. They are the laws of the passage from complete order to total disorder in a continuous or explosive manner. They are stochastic laws.
In a former life, I studied Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Arizona. What drew me to the subject the most were the explanations and discoveries of the beautiful entropic reactions that kept us alive. Although I’ve never been a religious person, every time I would learn about something like a simple internal cellular reaction it seemed like I gained some, however slight, insight into an internal perfection present in all things.
The nature of laboratory work and the politics of scientific research turned me off of ever completing my Bachelor’s of Science, but fortunately I think I found a place for a more sublime form of dignity through expression in music.
Recently, I discovered Xenakis’ remarkably lucid description (quoted above) of how through the movement of disorder, or entropy, music can display the exact same naturalism that one finds in organic life forms. Since early this the summer I’ve made a concerted effort to see this entropy beauty, not only in so-called “stochastic music,” but all forms of music that I love. So, this is my first attempt at finding a logical link (albeit a rather experimental one) for posting more popular song-form music at the same time as more abstract contemporary music.
Although Xenakis called “Herma” symbolic music – writing the piece as one his many early self-pedagogical experiments – I find that the piece beautifully contains the winds pelting from a storm that carries both varying intensities of rain and countless swells of electrically ricocheting balls of crystalline hail.
In contrast, the more conventional foreground in Yo La Tengo’s (who I saw put on one thoroughly ass-kicking show on Saturday) “Green Arrow” follows the pace of one walking through a field whereas the background is the slowly transforming sound-mass of cicadas (or grasshoppers or locusts) that Xenakis explains above.
In Grisey’s “Partiels” (which I just couldn’t resist posting twice), one primarily hears the movement of crowds from order towards disorder, from disorder to order, and crossing over each other.
Joanna Newsom’s “En Gallop” begins with a slow and almost tentative harp introduction before the long first verse paints a haunting portrait of the transience in our existence. Afterwards, in the second verse, a disordered and increasing emptiness surreal-y pulls the meaning from the lyrics almost representing the foreboding final dissipation that the first verse hints at. Over the summer, after taking a year to understand this song, I had a dream where I tried to help a ghost dissipate only to realize that almost everybody I saw was a ghost.
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Outside of the general topic of this post, I’d like to mention that I saw Joanna Newsom put on an amazing show last night to a silently rapt and sold-out audience at the Ukraine Federation as part of Pop Montréal. In the concert she alternated five songs from her last charmingly sloppy album ”The Milk-Eyed Mender” with four breathtaking epic songs from her forthcoming album ”Ys” (which was produced by Van Dyke Parks, Jim O’Rourke, and Steve Albini). Last night and on “Ys” Joanna Newson’s playing and singing have advanced light-years and her new songs inhabit such a unique and grandiose emotional universe that it is almost hard to recognize the transformation she has gone through. In a way, it is a hard album to take, but when it comes out on November 14th, it is definitely not one too be missed.
If you’d like to read a more detailed description of “Ys,” I recommend reading Jordan’s posting on it over at a favorite mp3 blog Said the Gramophone. I personally think I may still be a little too shaken up after last night and other things going on in my life right now to trust myself in being able to make that much sense.