Archive for August, 2009

Vegetarian musicVegetarian Music? This is a photo taken by Peter Zummo himself. As I am enjoying the taste of fresh vegetables this summer, I enjoy the feel of this picture: a Dada spirit if there ever was one, as I am listening to Experimenting with Household Chemicals, a most unusual recording conceived by Peter Zummo and performed by him, Mustafa Ahmed (percussion), Jon Gibson (flute, soprano and alto saxophones), Joseph Kubera (keyboards), Dennis Masuzzo (contrabass), Bill Ruyle (marimba, voice), and Arthur Russell (amplified cello, keyboard bass, voice). It was released by Phill Niblock on XI the mid-90s but it hasn’t aged a bit. In evidence, a playful attitude but – make no mistake – a very serious commitment to avoiding redundancy and finding something unusual to groove by.

Zummo came up with a unique system of improvised composition based on symmetries of the movement patterns of the slide of his trombone, which lead to certain sequences of tones and their harmonics. What I love about his approach to composing is that he is comfortable saying that the written score can be quite different from the sound of the performance. This is definitely an album to remember – even though he has had other releases since, such as the intriguing Slybersonic Tromosome with Tom Hamilton (Penumbra) and the classic Zummo with an X re-released by New World Records. The reason for the “X” is not for effect: the X is actually one of the trombone slide patterns that he uses in his composition. There is a certain consistency of the music between the various releases and musician combos, an inimitable pacing of the melodies and rhythms. Interestingly, he is inclusive of microtonality without calling himself a “microtonalist”; in other words he knows all about alternative tunings and tuning adjustments that occur at various octaves on the instruments, but he is being cool about it, not fussing over of the sophistication of his tunings. Also I love his didjeridoo playing… Who else? Also note that Peter plays keyboards proficiently and can also sing (I used his vocals on choruses of The Death of Don Juan – who knew?)

Flash back: Peter Zummo meets dancer and choreographer Stephanie Woodard as Wesleyan University and they get married in 1969; they collaborate on many projects. They come to New York. Stephanie establishes her own dance company. Peter writes for the Soho News. He meets many musicians. He tours with shows from LaMama with Bill Ruyle; he performs with the Big Apple Circus with Peter Gordon, Boris Policeband, Michael Canick and Denman Maroney. He tours Europe and Japan with the Lounge Lizards, given a chance to develop his own free style. He meets Arthur Russell…and that is the beginning of a long and productive interaction.

In the early 80s, Arthur Russell, Peter and myself, along with Mustafa Ahmed, were the Singing Tractors (named by Arthur returning from a visit to his folks in Iowa), an experimental nexus that led to innumerable projects. Every member of the Singing Tractors was totally productive – recording Arthur Russell’s underground hit In the Light of the Miracle (which wasn’t released by Point until after he died in 1992), contributing to his albums and his many, many performances including Experimental Intermedia, the Walker Arts Center and The Kitchen; Peter Zummo’s compositions for choreographer Trisha Brown: Lateral Pass. Newark and Fast Dream, and his above-mentioned, amazing album  Experimenting with Household Chemicals; Mustafa Ahmed’s own production of Let’s Go Smimming, another of Arthur’s underground dance music specials, and his collaborations with other bands as one of the most popular percussionists on the scene; and  my early 80s albums Concerto for Piano and Orchestral Memory and The Death of Don Juan – the latter has been recently reissued on Unseen Worlds – and the Concerto (and other piano music from the 1980s) is scheduled to be reissued this year on the same label. Since then, every time I needed live rhythms I worked with Mustafa Ahmed and/or Bill Ruyle, including Existence at the Performing Garage, Waking in New York, where both carried the strong and driving rhythm section, and up to the present:  Bill Ruyle and Steven Hall on drums and bass performed the rhythms of my Two-Cents Opera, recently premiered at the Theater for the New City.

Peter Zummo is very active on the scene; he performs frequently in New York, with a group including Ernie Brooks, Bill Ruyle, Mustafa Ahmed, Danny Tunick, Michael Evans and Yvette Perez. He is also core member of Arthur’s Landing, a group devoted to the music of the late Arthur Russell (Steven Hall, Joyce Bowden Kirby, Mustafa Ahmed, Bill Ruyle, Ernie Brooks and other guest performers such as Peter Gordon). Arthur’s Landing will be performing at the New Museum on coming up on September 11 at 7PM. The program will also include my SOSWTC – for solo synthesizer that was composed immediately after the 9/11 trauma,  a meditative and healing piece for departed souls… Synergies will happen…

Peter Zummo in performance (2009)

Peter Zummo in performance (2009)

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Host of WPRB's Classical Discoveries

Marvin Rosen, WPRB Princeton

24 hour Classical Discoveries Marathon: 21st Century American Music

Tuesday, September 8 at 7:00 pm until Wednesday,  September 9 at 7:00 pm

These days it is nearly impossible to find a “radio” station that plays our music and other new music of interest. In my experience, some of the New York stations that used to play a lot of new music have somewhat shut us out for whatever reasons. There are new releases coming out from every country in the world, but who has the time to actually search this material on the internet?

Marvin Rosen, host of Classical Discoveries on WPRB Princeton, does. He is a devoted listener and audiophile and leaves no stone unturned, taking his search worldwide.

He is assisted by his wife Beata Rzeszodko-Rosen, who was born and raised in Poland and acquired a wide-ranging knowledge of the music of Eastern Europe.

In Marvin’s programs, which have been on the air for 12 years now, and have received an ASCAP award in 2005, I find rare music that is truly fresh and interesting. Even though I don’t have access to the broadcast from my radio in New York City, I can hear the music streaming on the WPRB  web site “ or you can find a link from the Classical Discoveries own website: This site is soon to be updated with a new look and additional ease-of-use features. The web site also provides a guest book for comments and feedback on the programs.

Through mid September on Wednesday mornings, from 5:30AM through 11 AM, Classical Discoveries airs; and then, from 11AM through 3PM, it is followed by Classical Discoveries goes Avant-Garde. Also, during the summer, special early music programs air on Saturdays from 6:00 to 9:00 PM – and that’s really premium time so check the web site for those.

Classical Discoveries represents a landmark of knowledge with programs that are uninhibited, with the widest possible range of music both historically and geographically. On Classical Discoveries you will hear the noble sounds of Polish Baroque from the 17th century, or the enchanting voice of a nun from Lebanon who also happens to be a composer. Here is the list of composers from letter L from the repertoire page on the web site – how many of these names are familiar?

Gyorgy Lang, Judith Lang Zaimont, Libby Larsen, Rick LaSalle, Elodie Lauten, Vytautas Laurusas, Jón Leifs, Leon Levitch, Zara Levina, Frank Ezra Levy, Peter Lieberson, Gyorgy Ligeti, Lukas Ligeti, Christian Lindberg, Bo Linde, Binnette Lipper, Ricardo Llorca, George Lloyd, David Loeb, Doug Lofstrom, Fernando Lopes-Graca, Oleksa Lozowchuk, William Lovelock, Pawel Lukaszewski, Wojciech Lukaszewski.

On the site, the “Special Presentations” page comprises a number of categories as for example: Women’s music, American music, Avant-garde and Electronic music, rare Baroque and Renaissance music, and music from other countries (Spotlight/Focus On Countries).

Some of the programs are particularly well researched: Voices Of Lithuania – Musical Voyage, The Glorious Sound Of The Polish Baroque, Music By The Nuns Of Italian Baroque, Beyond The Mysteries Of Middle-Eastern Music, Iceland: Land Of Fire And Ice, Classical Discoveries Goes Outback- Musical Voyage To Australia, Polish Music Beyond Chopin And Gorecki, Music For Kwanza – and other holiday programs from all different traditions.

The 24-hour Marathon program (see date and time above) is specially exciting as it is focused on exclusively new American music. Classical Discoveries has become a major source of cultural preservation in a shrinking music scene.

An article came out just recently about Classical Discoveries you might want to peruse it. This is the link:

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Andrew Bolotowsky performs a free program of solo flute by twelve different women composers from the 20th and 21st century, in a variety of styles, each performed on a different flute. August 22, 2009 at 2PM, FREE, Hamilton Fish Public Library, 415 Houston at Ave D.

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