Toy Piano

The toy piano is one of the best instruments we have right now.  Check out this competition for new music for piano!

http://www.rainydays.lu/pre2012/index_fr.html

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New Website

Please visit my new website that is currently under development – http://www.jacobsudol.com/

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Video of “…wash yourself of yourself”

Here is a video from a performance of my piece “…wash yourself of yourself” for piano and live electronics.  My wife, Chen-Hui Jen, is the pianist and I am running the electronics.

This was performed at a concert on January 14th, 2011 at Chapman University in Orange, California.

It’s a pretty darn good performance and video.  Enjoy!

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MP3 Blog #115: “Saturne”

Lunar Eclipse, Photo: Chen-Hui Jen

Hugues Dufourt: Saturne (1979)

For large ensemble of acoustic and electronic instruments

Performed by Ensemble L’Itinéraire, Peter Eötvös (conductor)

Currently out of print

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In honor of the first lunar eclipse on the Winter Solstice in hundreds of years, I’m offering a generally slow moving composition about space.

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MP3 Blog #114: Jürg Frey, String Quartet 2

Jürg Frey: String Quartet #2 (1998-2000)

Performed by the Bozzini Quartet

Currently out of print

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Silence

Noise

Silence

Breath

Silence

Repetition

Silence

Timbre

Silence

Stillness

Silence

Repetition

Silence

Breath

Silence

Choral

Silence

Repetition

Silence

Timbre

Silence

Breath

Silence

Prolongation

Silence

Progression

Silence

Fog

Silence

Choral

Silence

Humming

Silence

Breaths

Silence

Regression

Silence

Melding

Silence

Repetition

Silence

Progression

Silence

Separation

Silence

Silence

Still

Silence

Emptiness

Silence

Return

Silence

Filled

Silence

Melding

Silence

Silence

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MP3 Blog #113: “until we remain suspended…”

Jacob David Sudol: …until we remain suspended (2009)

For Tibetan singing bowls, tingshas, live electronics, and performer

Live performance by Jacob David Sudol

Not commercially available

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This openly structured piece quickly became my most performed piece.  Despite this, I’ve never successfully created a high-quality studio recording of it before.  That said, since the piece varies from performance to performance and location to location, I sort of prefer just having a collection of recordings of many different live performances.   This recording, from a November 2009 performance at the University of California San Diego, is of my favorite ones.

On a personal note, this piece was a sort of watershed that came after almost two years of continual compositional frustration.

I recommend preparing yourself for a long duration before listening.

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Program Note:

until we remain suspended… was completed and first performed by the composer at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in May 2009 during a residency with Master Artist Alvin Lucier and Guest Artist David Dunn.  The sonic materials for the composition come from two Tibetan singing bowls, one pair of tingshas, and synthesized sounds derived from real-time analyses of the two bowls and portions of the combination tones that our brains create when listening to these bowls.  Given the incredible and unpredictable timbral variety inherent in these bowls and the combination tones and a desire to remain true to the constant variations of how we experience sound in time each performance should greatly vary in timbre, time, structure, and form.

The work is dedicated to Alvin Lucier for his desire to share a love of sound and natural phenomena and Chen-Hui Jen who, although absent, remained in my thoughts and heart constantly during the residency.

-Jacob David Sudol
May 29, 2009
New Smyrna Beach, Florida

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(Repost) MP3 Blog #80: More on Anxiety and the Exotic

…another repost


Toru Takemitsu:
”In an Autumn Garden” (1973, 73)
For gagaku orchestra
Unknown performing ensemble
Another recording available on this compact disc

Giacinto Scelsi:
”Aus Canti del Capricorno” (1962-72)
For solo voice and instruments
Performed by Michiko Hirayama
Scelsi’s complete Canti del Capricorno available from Wergo Records

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My long previous entry “Anxiety and the Exotic” seems to be quite a fruitful ground for mp3 blog posts. For this entry I thought I’d just focus on two perspectives on the exotic – one from an insider and one from an outsider.

Although Toru Takemitsu was Japanese he was quite reluctant towards composing for traditional Japanese instruments. “In an Autumn Garden” (and the other movements in the larger eponymous cycle of which this piece is the center) is in fact the only work he wrote for the traditional Japanese Gagaku orchestra. Possibly because Takemitsu spent most of his career writing contemporary music for Western instruments his approach to the Gagaku, although filled with traditional approaches, is far more viscous and ghostly than the music in its traditional repertoire. To be honest, although I absolutely adore Takemitu’s approach to western orchestration, this is really my favorite of his compositions.

Scelsi’s complete “Canti del Capricorno” (from which this live performance takes excerpts) for the Japanese singer Michiko Hirayama is arguably one of Scelsi’s finest works and best representations of his esthetic position. Scelsi worked intensively with Michiko Hirayama who commissioned them while writing these works. Since these songs borrow so heavily from many of the world’s incantatory traditions it is actually impossible to place them concretely within any specific tradition. As a result the work is at once traditional, contemporary, completely personal, and brilliant.

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I should also note that I know the above photo is neither a Japanese or autumn garden, in fact I took it in the Chinese garden at Montréal’s beautiful botanical gardens last summer.

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MP3 Blog # 112: Jo Kondo

Jo Kondo: Under the Umbrella (1976)

Movement I

Movement II

Movement III

Movement IV

For 25 almglocken and 1 gong

Performed by Nexus

Buy it on CD from the label

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Liner Notes from the CD:

Under the Umbrella (1976), was written for, and premiered by, the Canadian percussion group Nexus. The work requires 5 percussionists (for this premiere recording Bob Becker, Bill Cahn, Robin Engelman, Russ Hartenberger and John Wyre) playing 25 (untuned) cowbells (“almglocken”), and a gong. The work is in four movements. The first emphasizes rhythmic cells and their staggered repetition. The event-density is thick, and the tempo is fast. The second movement, because of its thinner texture and slower tempo, emphasizes the melodic content. The third movement has the slowest tempo and the thickest texture, with much interplay between strongly accented punctuations, and the use of “rolling” to produce sustained sounds; and this interplay emphasizes the timbral sound image arising from an ensemble of homogeneous sound sources (25 cowbells), which incorporates pitches that do not belong to any single conventional tuning system, and which also include a high content of non-tempered harmonics. The fourth movement, having the fastest tempo in combination with a thin texture akin to that of the second movement, once again emphasizes the melodic content. As the shortest movement, and coming as it does after the long, slow, and demanding third movement, this segment affords a final release to a composition about which Morton Feldman said “I think [it] is going to be another kind of classic as the years go by.”

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MP3 Blog #111: Varèse Electronic

Edgard Varèse:

Interpolations from Déserts (1954 revision):

Interpolation 1

Interpolation 2

Interpolation 3

La procession de verges (1955) (first track on the link)

Poème électronique (1957-58)

All originally for magnetic tape

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I first got into Varèse’s music after hearing a performance of his masterwork Integrales.  Soon after I heard his piece Poème électronique and was really in love.

Collected in this post is all the electronic music that Varèse authorized for performance.

It has been said that Varèse considered it appropriate to play all of the interpolations from Desérts together as a single work.  Because of this I put them together here.

La procession de verges is a piece that is extremely hard to find.  To my knowledge, it has never been released commercially.  It is only recently that a friend of mine found this work online that I was able to hear this frequently overlooked component of Varèse’s tiny oeuvre.

Finally, I would consistently argue that Poème électronique is the first great masterwork of electronic music.  Related to my last two posts of the repeated instances of repeated decays are some of favorite and most affecting moments in this piece.

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(Repost) MP3 Blog #33: Music as Entropy

(…continuing with the reposts, here is one that merges both Xenakis and Joanna Newsom.  BTW, I tend to far prefer Yuji Takahashi’s more visceral version of “Herma” over Aki Takahashi’s version these days.)

Music as Entropy:

Iannis Xenakis:
”Herma” (1961)
Performed by Aki Takahashi
For solo piano
Available on this compact disc featuring some piano works by Xenakis

Yo La Tengo:
”Green Arrow”
Available on ”I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One”

Gérard Grisey:
”Partiels” (1975)
For 18 musicians
Performers unknown
Another performance by Ensemble Court-Circuit and the Frankfurter Museumorchestra available on Grisey’s “Les Espace Acoustiques”

Joanna Newsom:
”En Gallop”
Available on charming album ”The Milk-Eyed Mender”

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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.

-Iannis Xenakis, ”Formalized Music; thought and mathematics in composition”

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.

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