Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I moved to NYC from Poughkeepsie in October, 1976 at the age of 22. I'd been coming down to the city for various "loft jazz" events since the spring of that year, I think and once situated here, attended them regularly. The crowds, then as now, were pretty small (50 would be a good showing) and you'd see the same people all the time. At, iirc, a Don Cherry gig at the old Kitchen (Grand and Wooster), I got to talking to a fellow named Mark Forman and saw him again at some afternoon Tin Palace show shortly thereafter. Mark, it turns out, was working at Environ and invited me up to work the door at a Braxton show that evening, thereby attaining free entry. I did and ended up hanging on there for a few years, another story for another time. Shortly after I'd moved into our West 24th St., 5th floor walk-up with my college buddy Liviu, our place was robbed (super's kids, presumably) and my stereo was taken. Having no listening equipment for a while, I was liberal in lending out my rarer discs and did so to Mark. Things like the Unit Core release of Cecil Taylor's "Indent", the McPhee/Snyder "Pieces of Light", Frith's solo guitar album and others. Fairly soon thereafter, Mark all of a sudden split for parts unknown. I rued those missing albums, gradually replacing as many as I could. (the Taylor appeared on an Arista CD butI do miss that Unit Core pressing....)

All this by way of...I was checking to see if my previous entry on Muhal hit the google blog search engine and stumbled across a reference to Abrams in...Mark Forman's blog. He's in Taiwan, apparently, has been for a while. I posted a comment on his Muhal remembrance. Hmmm.....wonder if that Taylor LP is still extant! Nah, over that, but still pretty cool coming across someone like that who you hadn't seen or heard of in 30 years.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Muhal Richard Abrams.

By the time I started listening to AACM musicians (the Art Ensemble and Braxton) around 1973, Abrams had been on the scene for quite a while, having released a couple of records on Delmark, played with Eddie Harris and, not least, founded the AACM itself in 1965 (with Steve McCall, Phil Cohran and...I think Malachi Favors, yes?). But he was a little mysterious to me, one of those guys who looked different in every photo I saw. He showed up on the sublime AEC "Fanfare for the Warriors" recording in '73, but didn't have a regular label presence until Arista came along a couple years later. Gradually, records began appearing and he began to acquire a deservedly enormous reputation as the eminence grise (despite being only in his mid-40s at the time) of the avant-jazz world. He moved to NYC around this time and was a fixture on the downtown loft scene, spending much time at Environ, which I helped run from November 1976 until early 1980 (under John Fischer's direction). I got to know Muhal fairly well during this period. He was (and is) an absolutely wonderful person, quite willing to sit down and talk for several hours on any number of subjects. His rep, unlike many a musician, was one as the quintessential family man and, as near as I can tell, it was an accurate one. The cover from his second album, "Young at Heart, Wise in Time", hints strongly at this. (That's his daughter, I believe named Richarda, who I remember as the extraordinarily pleasant young lady taking admissions at AACM concerts in the late 80s and 90s at the Ethical Culture Center).

Beautiful photo, eh? Not your typical jazz cover, avant or otherwise, but it certainly refers to the very familial spirit that the AACM fostered. It's a very good record also, I believe the first time both Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Threadgill appeared on disc.
Browsing through, we come to the Lebanese oudist Rabih Abou Khalil. I mentioned I file my records and discs in strict alpha fashion, chronological within artist? I wasn't sure how to handle this fellow. Abou, I believe, is kind of a familial honorific, perhaps similar to "van" in German. I think? So I debated between A and K for ol' Rabih, eventually settling for the former simply because that's where I've generally seen him filed in record stores.

In any case, I picked up his "Odd Times" on Enja back around its release date, 1997 and the follow-up, "Yara". Khalil, though brought up (I'm assuming) playing traditional Lebanese music, gravitated toward a mixture of trad and jazz forms. "Odd Times" is pretty good for that type of thing--long flowing lines, spirited improvisation. Howard Levy is on harmonica and the excellent Michel Godard on tuba, serving to establish an unusual sound pallette. I'd say more, maybe, except that my copy is out on loan (probably to Carol, but I always forget who I lend these things out to). "Yara" was far blander, enough so that I lost the impetus to follow up on further recordings. They might be fine, but I'm guessing no very different ground is covered. It's kind of an interesting thing when you make the determination with a given artist that you're not likely to greatly enjoy work after x-date. Obviously, it's partly a practical decision and, even more obviously, you're probably wrong once in a while. But I bet, in general, I do pretty well at it. In other words, if I were to pick up the four discs Khalil has issued since "Yara", I bet that overall, I'd be less than thrilled by them, though they're likely perfectly enjoyable on their own terms.

His series on Enja features some rather unique covers, all shiny, silvered surfaces in deep colors. About evenly balanced between lush and garish, but they certainly stand out....

I note that if you go to All Music Guide's listing for Rabih Abou Khalil, you're presented with a photo of Steve Swallow. Excellent.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Continuing to browse this morning...

A May, 1999 date at the Stockholm club with the unlikely name, at least for a venue hosting this sort of music. I reviewed this for AMG here and, again not being too interested in this musical direction nowadays, I'd stand by it for its own sake. It might be their most solid release (not having heard 2002's "Double or Nothing". Kinda nice moody cover. I'll probably get into Mats and KV more when I wander down to their sections of the cabinet. Nice choice to record a Joe Harriott cover, "Idioms".

I've been searching out Harriott recently, having neglected to pick up the reissues when they first appeared a few years back. Now they're tough to come by. In my AMM research, it's become apparent that for the British musicians edging into free jazz in the early 60s, Harriott was really the guy they looked to, more so even than the Ornettes or Sun Ras of the world, as important as people like that were.

I imagine I picked up their fourth disc, "I Wonder If I Was Screaming" (Crazy Wisdom, 2000) almost out of a sense of obligation. Again, I gave it a very favorable review but in all honesty, I can't really recollect much about it today. This past January, really only to pay my respects to McPhee, I went to the Stone to see The Thing, one of Mats' current band with Joe, bass and drums. In addition to their own pieces, they sort of specialize in performing covers of the odd rock song, things like PJ Harvey, Black Sabbath ("Iron Man"!) and so on. Fun, I guess, but...why bother? At least on that night, they made the inspired choice of Mongezi Feza's beautiful "You Ain't Gonna Know Me Just Because You Think You Know Me" from the equally gorgeous album by Louis Moholo, "Spirits Rejoice!" But overall, Mats' ultra-macho roaring proved quickly tiresome. Yes, you're a stud. No, we don't care.


David Tudor - Piano Avant-Garde - Recordings 1956-60 (Cage, Cardew, Evangelisti, Nilsson, Pousseur, Wolff) hat ART

David Behrman - Wave Train (Alga Marghen)

Browsing through my record collection

The follow-up recording by Aaly, done in January, 1998. Amazing it's eight + years old already, especially in the sense that, good though it is, I'm really almost totally uninterested in the genre anymore. Nice blocky cover. Aaly, probably through permanent guest Vandermark's influence, had a propensity for doing covers, often intriguingly chosen ones. While Charlie Haden's "Song for Che" has been something of an avant standard at least since its appearance on his own fine Liberation Music Orchestra album from 1969 (if not its earlier showings as part of Ornette's sets in '68), it holds up to varied interpretations. It's just such a fundamentally strong and heartfelt piece that, if approached with at least a modicum of guts and grit, it'll carry the day. Aaly does a bang-up job on it here.

Wobbly Rail. Great label name, derived, I assume from the Cecil Taylor composition, "Excursion on a Wobbly Rail" but still inspired.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

On Friday, after meeting my friend Emily to see her furniture shop in Long Island City and have a lovely lunch (if I ever get around to publishing embarrassing personal histories, my reacquaintance story with Emily will be up there), I subwayed down to East 12th St. to catch "Cavite", an independent, extreme low-budget thriller by Ian Gamazon. It's a good, tight movie, taking the conceit of the godawful "Phonebooth" and working something interesting out of it. But in addition to the thriller aspect (which was gratifyingly harsh and unsentimental, a major coup from a filipino director given that culture's general prediliction towards the soppy--I say this as an asawa of 26 years...), the most striking thing was the handheld camera's journey through the impoverishment of Cavite City, providing a vivid, sad, tough image of how most filipinos actually live. The youngster pictured above was the only other character aside from the lead who was on-screen for more than a minute and kind of summed it up: an essentially smart kid who, more likely than not, will never escape his immediate environs. Not a great movie in many ways but well worth seeing.

Went up to the Met to meet my dear friend Carol. Got there early so went in to see the Girodet show which I guessed, correctly, that she'd have little interest in. Justifiably so. I'd known his work since college days, largely from a book on David and Napoleonic painting I'd had. He's not very good, but certainly is pretty odd. His Ossian painting is seriously weird. Paid my respects to the purple Rothko and the Agnes Martin paintings in the modern wing, the two works from that area which I'd choose if a museum theft was ever in the offing. When Carol showed, we went to the Betty Woodman ceramics show (not convinced....), the lovely assemblage of late Klee drawings and the Kara Walker exhibit (again...ok, but too didactic for my blood).

Then down to East 9th to meet Linda for dinner. Good times.


The Ambitious Lovers - Lust (Island? - I forget)
The Art Ensemble of Chicago - Fanfare for the Warriors (Atlantic)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A few words about nmperign. An improvising duo out of Boston, Bhob Rainey (soprano sax) and Greg Kelley (trumpet/electronics) have provided several of the more enjoyable concert experiences I've had over the last several years, including the single finest integration of dance into an improv performance I've probably ever witnessed, at Nancy three years ago (with Yukiko Nakamura). I've also heard Greg in a number of other projects that have been equally impressive, too many to recount. Twice, iirc, I've witnessed nmperign (I forget the origin of the name at the moment, but I'm sure it's available on-line) in the company of Jason Lescalleet, a strapping guy from Maine who looks as though he'd be equally at home trapping bears as prowling around a stage, stringing loops of abstract sound between ancient tape recorders.

nmperign and Lescalleet have a new double disc out (out June 1st, I believe) on Intransitive Records titled "Love Me Two Times". Very little of it calls to mind the Doors. It is, however, unusual in that the volume/aggression range is a good deal more than I'd heard from the group before which tended toward the microscopically quiet. Here, a good half of the tracks (there are 23 of them, another anomaly) are loud 'n' abrasive, often to deleriously good effect. I'd expected more of a rich drone emphasis, something Lescalleet specializes in, and indeed there are a handful of gorgeous examples of that here. But these cuts, amassed over six years, also include everything from snatches of recorded conversation to Julia Child captures to enormously loud shrieks and clatter, evincing a far wider pallette than I'd previously experienced from them. An excellent "sampler", as it were.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

So I was listening to a couple of pre-AMMMusic discs that Eddie Prevost had been kind enough to forward my way (from 11/65 and 03/66) and, aside from enjoying them purely as music, was attempting to discern any overt influences. You can hear Sun Ra pretty clearly, I think, things like the "Magic City" session seem to have reverberated strongly. Maybe some Ornette from his contemporary trio with Izenson and Moffitt, especially when he picked up the violin. But I was wondering about any influences coming in from outside of jazz and thought that, perhaps, they'd heard some of Stockhausen's electro-orchestral work by then as it had become relatively "popular" in the early 60s.

Now, I'd never been especially keen on ol' Karlheinz. Pretty early on, when I was in college, I'd picked up a couple of things including the 'Microphonie' album which I actually did enjoy a bunch. But hearing various works over the years on radio and elsewhere, I hadn't really latched on. Maybe some of this is due to what I'd read about him and his philosophy, not the most attractive things in the world. In any case, I thought I should do something of a re-listen, for fairness reasons if nothing else, and ambled over to Abbey's to borrow a stack. These recordings ranged from his earliest eletronic experiments (the Etude and Studies I & II from the early 50s) through 'Hymnen' and 'Spiral'.

I still ain't convinced. Too much grandiosity, too much serial baggage for my taste. Nice moments--it was good to hear the 'Microphonie's again (I'd long since lost my album somewhere) and other parts of things, like much of the electronics in 'Hymnen' were fine, but overall there's nothing here that hits me as hard as, say, Xenakis. I'm probably missing something but, for the time being, the Stock-y guy is out.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Keith Rowe participates in an improvising ensemble called MIMEO (Music in Movement Electronic Orchestra) made up of some ten to twelve musicians playing laptops, electric guitars, digital and analog synths and assorted electro-detritus. It's a rather massive creature and a fairly bureaucratic one, the musicians' hometowns scattered across Europe (sometimes a US citizen makes his/her way in too), each having their own projects. So they've probably only performed together 6-7 times I think; one such is coming up at a festival in Holland next month. Keith is kind of the eminence grise of the group, the past and current master of the genre who, as nearly as I can figure it, is also the one one tends to organize the ideas behind most of their performances (see the marvelous "Hands of Caravaggio" on Erstwhile) .

He has a rather wonderful idea in the works, something I hope sees the light of day sometime, something that cuts, if not to the heart, pretty close to some vascular arteries of what contemporary improvised music is about today. The idea is essentially this: Each musician, at home or wherever they please, will record music onto a 60-minute disc. They'll be asked to only supply a few minutes of sound, spread over that hour. The crucial notion is that they are to improvise this music as though they were performing in concert with the other members of MIMEO, as cognizant as possible of what they think these other musicians would be doing during that hour. They know each other well, they have a good working knowledge of how they all tend to approach these improvisations. There's a little something about this idea that's reminiscent of various Prisoner's Dilemma situations including Douglas Hofstadter's Luring Lottery published in Scientific American in the 80s. Each musician will send his/her disc containing the several seconds of music to one individual who will, without listening to any of them, "pile" them atop each other and create a single disc. I should mention that the inspiration behind this project is the painter Cy Twombly (visual artists often serving as the basis for many of Rowe's ideas). If you're familiar with Twombly's paintings, you'll know there's often a great deal of exposed white canvas, not dissimilar to the amount of silence one might expect to occur on this disc.

After the disc is ready, it will be issued by a company without having listened to it. The first persons to hear the music created by MIMEO will not be the musicians, not the mixer/masterer, not the record company. They'll be the people who purchase the disc.

Absolutely wonderful, thoughtful, honest and damned daring idea.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Realized that all my posts thus far have been music-oriented. This will change...but not today.

I belong to Record Club. I'm guessing there are more than one in existence, but I'm talking about the NYC Record Club, originally begun by Dan Carlson back, I don't know, around 1996. I've been attending since maybe 1998, sometimes sporadically, more recently with good regularity. The deal, simply stated, is that each person brings two CD tracks of material they, for one reason or another, enjoy. In randomly determined order (OK, we each pick from a hand of playing cards) the tracks are played with no prior speaking-about, listened to in silence, then played again whilst the song-bringer talks about what he/she brought, if they wanna. Discussion ensues. This is repeated for the second round, sometimes the track only being played once depending on the size of the group. Not too geeky. A compilation CD is manufactured post-gathering. There was a rather dramatic schism last year; well, not quite of Luther/Pope vintage, but a split occurred and the current group seems to have a five person core with selected guests on each occasion, more or less monthly. Dan, a musician in his own right (see an AMG review of his disc, "Now" here), his wife, the painter Julia Jacquette and artists Nayland Blake and Nina Katchadourian. That's Nina above, with paired caterpillars on her upper lip, a piece from her Natural Crossdressing project. Last evening, Derick Melander, a sculptor and member of the original group, was a guest. It's a rather amazing bunch of people--highly intelligent, art-attuned, very funny and altogether lovely to hang around, talk and listen to music with.

There's a strong tendency toward the rockish among this (as well as the former) bunch, a tide I generally attempt to swim against as much as courteousness allows, although last evening I was pretty accomodating, choosing Kip Hanrahan's "Two (Still in Half-Life)" and "Do I Want to Be a Dog?" by The Roches. I often go by the feel of the evening, sometimes holding pieces in abeyance to determine whether or not they'll fit. Last night, I had a Javanese gamelan work but, when my turn arose (following Julia's song by the Au Pairs, the one with "It's obvious" in the chorus) I didn't think it would have worked. But I've been known to introduce the odd abrasive jazz track (Pharoah Sanders from the Mantler "Communications" album, for instance) or some current electro-acoustic fascination. I stretched the limits last year by playing the incredible Keith Rowe/Burkhard Beins, 28-minute performance off ErstLive 001.

Nina has chosen some amazing tracks, including a found tape from 1975 of a teenage girl making a cassette recorded love letter to her boyfriend, sitting in a field somewhere outside of Memphis, wind blowing, distant airplanes roaring, utterly heartfelt and unironic. Last month she played bird calls, last night Beethoven (the string quartet section included on the Voyager spacecraft) and some insane jazzy recitation of contemporary artists names from around 1965, kind of a kitschier version of that Bob Dorough baseball song. Nayland played "Black Satin" off "On the Corner" last month, causing me to way belatedly add that one to my collection. The first time I attended, one of my cuts was Robin Holcomb's gorgeous "So Straight and Slow" from her first Elektra/Nonesuch album. Yesterday, Nayland chose the equally profound "Deliver Me" from the same disc. Turns out he'd been a couple with Wayne Horvitz' (Holcomb's husband) brother Phil back in the early 90s and was a virtual brother-in-law to her. Small world.

Lovely way to spend an evening...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

On October 29 1971, a senior at Poughkeepsie High School, I attended a five-band performance at the school's auditorium. Four of the bands were, I'm guessing in recollection, local rock groups. The fifth was Joe McPhee's Survival Unit. I didn't know anything from jazz proper at this point. Though I'd been listening and greatly enjoying a number of rock bands who, I would later realize, were heavily indebted to jazz (Zappa, Crimson, Soft Machine--I think I just began listening to Beefheart around this point), my own previous exposure had been quite limited. My Dad had taken me to a Giants of Jazz concert at Dutchess Community College, maybe the year before (Dizzy, Al McKibbon, Sonny Stitt, I think...not sure who else) and I think I'd heard Bitches Brew at a friend's house, but my knowledge of contemporary (Coltrane or post-) was virtually nil. So I had little idea what the hell I was hearing that evening. But I remember specifically liking it.

McPhee (Tenor and trumpet), Byron Morris (soprano and alto), Mike Kull (piano--I think it may have been electric) and Harold E. Smith (drums). There was no way in the world I could understand what was going on--it was entirely outside my range of comprehension--but there was something about it that struck me. I recall commenting to a friend that it was easily my favorite set of the night.

I know it was Oct 29 1971 because, when I mentioned the event to Joe a few years ago, he absolutely remembered the gig and said that the next day, they did their recording at WBAI with Clifford Thornton joining the crew. I picked up this disc (hat OLOGY 624) a couple days ago. I'm guessing that, aside from Thornton's presence, this was more or less the material they performed that night at PHS, though perhaps they rocked it up a bit. It's reasonably out-there stuff, very much in line with work Cecil Taylor was doing at the time, for instance, though as would be the case for a very long time, McPhee far outclassed his collaborators, Thornton excepted. Listened to today, it's perhaps more of an historical document, his musical ideas just beginning to coalesce, though "Song for Lauren" is as achingly beautiful as ever.

I'd meet Joe about four years later through our mutual friend (my painting professor at Vassar), Alton Pickens. In the intervening years, after awakening to modern jazz in the spring of '72, I'd picked up several of Joe's records on hat HUT, but that evening still lingers warmly in the memory as a key event in my opening to larger, deeper forms of music, for which I thank Mr. McPhee.


Kip Hanrahan - Desire Develops an Edge (American Clave)
Conjure - Bad Mouth (American Clave)
Luc Ferrari - Son Memorise (Sub Rosa)
John Cage/David Tudor - Rainforest/Mureau (New World)
Joe McPhee Survival Unit II - NY NY 1971 (hatOLOGY)


Orhan Pamuk - Snow

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Received Mark Wastell's new one on l'Innomable yesterday, a 28-minute piece from 2003 with eleven musicians. Beautiful title: Caressed on the brow by unseen hands. Now, give me a relatively large ensemble wherein the musicians are generally playing very quietly and I'm just about hooked. This one, though, on first run-through was OK but maybe a bit too much like what I would have expected to hear. I wanted to be more surprised. We'll see on repeated listenings...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Stuck way up in the far left hand corner of the leftmost wooden CD box in my niche devoted to CD storage is "Hidden in the Stomach", the first recording from the Aaly Trio (with Ken Vandermark), issued on Silkheart in 1998. Ironic in a sense that Aaly is the first up for my BTMC project as it's just about the last serious jazz ensemble that I had any great enthusiasm for, and that's since pretty much expired. In fact it's one (out of many, as we'll come to see if I keep this up) that I reviewed very positively for the All Music Guide here

The name "Aaly", in addition to pretty much guaranteeing first slot in the bins, was derived I take it from the Art Ensemble of Chicago piece, "Lebart Aaly" (a not-quite-anagram of Albert Ayler) which appeared on their superb album, "Phase One", recorded in 1971 and originally issued in the US on Prestige (elsewhere on America and maybe a couple of other labels, also titled otherwise). Not sure if it's still the case, but the first several Aaly "Trio" discs included Vandermark giving them, along with leader Mats Gustafsson an extremely studly frontline and the music does tend toward the testosterone-driven. There's a place for this, I guess, but damn if it doesn't become tiresome over time. Catching Mats live you have to be impressed by how much he puts into a performance, forehead vein athrob, braced like a first-baseman leaning toward a peg from short, massive baritone in hand. But there's only so much orgasmic wrenching one can tolerate before saying, "Enough! How about listening once in a while instead of automatically exploding?" Thing is, Gustafsson has it in him. He's done some pretty fine, more delicate work in duos with Jim O'Rourke, his solo project of Steve Lacy covers and, notably, on his fine large ensemble project, "Hidros I". He's also so much better, stronger player than Vandermark it's almost ridiculous. Have to give KV credit for having the nerve to get up on a bandstand with Mats; it's just no contest even when the latter goes overboard into technique for its own sake (which happens far too often). I caught him a few months ago at Stone with the band he co-leads with Joe McPhee, The Thing. Their gimmick, and I'm afraid that's what it is, is the occasional cover of some rock tune you wouldn't anticipate, like Black Sabbath's "Iron Man". That particular frisson lasts for a couple of minutes before inducing yawns. otoh, they did perform the wonderful Mongezi Feza song, "You Ain't Gonna Know Me Just Because You Think You Know Me" from Louis Moholo's spectacular Ogun album, "Spirits Rejoice!" That was a nice little choice there. But all too often, the theme would be stated and Gustafsson would unhesitatingly launch into upper register, high volume histrionics. Not very much less boring than the theme-solos-theme approach you hear in any billion jazz bands no matter how much shrieking. Too bad, really. (McPhee fared much better that evening).

Actually, the real, lasting presence on this disc and others by the band is bassist Peter Janson. A deeper, richer sound you'll not often come across on bass. Don't have any idea what he's been up to these last few years.


from between (Michel Doneda/Jack Wright/Tatsuya Nakatani) - no stranger to air (Sprout)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Way back when I first got on the Net--ten years ago now, I guess--and the notion of a web-page crossed my consciousness, the first thing I thought of was an idea I called, "Browsing Through My Record Collection" wherein I'd do just that, talking both about the musicians and music involved as well as using them as a springboard for the discussion of any other ideas that surfaced during the musing. So, I'll probably do just that here, from time to time at least. My collection is kept in Alpha/Chrono order without regard for genre (the only way to do it, imho!) so we'll be getting into Muhal Richard Abrams any day now....oops, I guess that would be the Aaly trio, actually.

Listening -

Arek Gulbenkoglu - self-titled (Document)
nmperign/Jason Lescalleet - Love Me Two Times (Intransitive)

Monday, May 15, 2006

OK, still slow...

I received Henry Gwiazda's "She's walking...." for review last week, an animated DVD with soundtrack. Pretty fascinating stuff, though it takes a bit of getting into as the animation is of the type that I think of as "generic computerized", but it's probably more than that. In any case, Gwiazda focusses on very small, "insignificant" everyday events--a woman's hand moving a coffee cup, say or various small movements of the head and hands during conversation or the play of light on a wall--and views them from four different angles/distances, then recapitulates the scene from a single point of view. Only a select few portions of a scene would move at a given moment; the rest remained static. By having the viewer concentrate on these events that might otherwise go unobserved the first time through, they're automatically registered in one's consciousness on second viewing, enabling a far richer experience than likely would have been achieved otherwise. Additionally, Gwiazda uses sounds, generally recorded in the field. They often, but not always, sync up with visually depicted action but never, as far as I can remember, match action-to-sound. For instance, a person might open a door and you hear birds singing or a truck passing. There are three "episodes". I found myself getting more and more drawn in as the disc progressed, glimpsing the logic of the sound placement little by little and gaining a great appreciation of Gwiazda's choices insofar as what he found "important" in a given scene.

I was reminded of a dance performance I'd seen way back in about 1978 at Environ, by a troupe from Arizona. Their idea revolved around baseball and all the tiny, "minor" movements a player makes during a game. So they stand there, fairly still, occasionally twitching a glove, adjusting a crotch, changing weight distribution from one foot to another. There'd be a brief flurry of game activity then a settling back down into small movements. This show has always stayed with me and not just because it concerned baseball (reason enough)--very beautiful concept.


Kenzaburo Oe - A Personal Matter
William Vollman - Europe Central


Keith Rowe/Toshimaru Nakamura - between (Erstwhile)
Saka Acquaye and his African Ensemble - Ghana High-Life
Java Court Gamelan, Vol. I (Nonesuch)
Pimmon - Secret Sleeping Birds (Sirr)
Terry Riley - You're No Good (Organ of Corti)
Stumbling around google this afternoon, slow work day, confronted with an offer for one's own blog, thought OK, maybe a place to post thoughts as they occur.

Today thinking about a discussion ongoing at on how one might listen to music. We're talking very, very quiet music (the disc in question, "Going Fragile" by Mattin and Radu Malfatti) that, on its own, might well merge with the ambient environment. I think that's fine, of course, and might hasten the merge by reducing the volume on the stereo so that I end up "not listening" to the disc any more than I'm listening to the hum of my PC, the traffic going by outside, etc. Not a new idea, of course. I recall first encountering it with Brian Eno's "Discreet Music" back around 1977 wherein he specifically advised playing his piece at a volume level low enough that it occassionally sank out of the range of one's hearing. Thought the idea was cool then; still do.

I've taken to, over the last several years, putting this idea into practice (when possible) in live performance settings. About three years ago, I attended a couple of outdoor events put on by a trio of Sean Meehan (snare drum), Greg Kelley (trumpet) and Zack ...arggh, I always forget his last name! (bass). Their first set took place in an underpass beneath the FDR Drive around 38th St. around 8PM. The traffic was a non-stop dull roar overhead and the musicians, as was their normal routine, played very quietly. I chose a spot against one of the walls fairly distant from the band, about 60-70 feet away, so that I could just barely hear them poking through the general din. Loved it. Later, they trekked crosstown to a pier on the Hudson in the 40s. Here they were a good 500 feet from the West Side Highway. It seemed pretty quiet though, of course, you could hear the traffic, the passing ferries, the wind etc. At one point an empty Coke can was being blown softly from side to side at Kelley's feet and he improvised along with it.

Since then, if the space provides a reasonable opportunity, I often situate myself at some point between the performers and, say, an exit door where the sound issuing from each is approximately equal. Works quite well, as a rule.

To me, this sort of "aggressive listening" has been tacitly approved at least since Cage's 4'33". In theory, at least. In practice, if known by others including (maybe) the performers, it raises what I think are likely ego-driven hackles. "What you're hearing is not what the artist meant!" Well, 1) Why not? and 2) So what?

More later. Maybe.