New Disquietude podcast episode: music by Lesley Flanigan, Dave Seidel, KMRU, Celia Hollander, and John Hooper; interview with Flanigan; commentary; short essay on reading waveforms. • Disquiet.com F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Monthly Archives: October 2007

Kronos, Kotche, Kitundu at SF Jazz Festival

Last night in San Francisco at the Herbst Theater, Kronos Quartet performed two sets of pieces arranged or composed for them, including several with electronic, prerecorded backing tracks. The concert, the second of two nights, was part of the San Francisco Jazz Festival’s 25th anniversary.

The evening opened with “Bloodstone” by the great drum’n’bass/breakbeat figure Amon Tobin, whose imagination seems to expand with each passing year. The original version appears on his 2007 album, The Foley Room; Tobin built “Bloodstone” from field recordings made in Kronos’s nearby Sunset District studio. Kronos leader David Harrington explained that for the live performance, arrangers (Stephen Prutsman and Michael Winger) had transcribed the string playing as heard on Foley’s “Bloodstone”; that was then set against electronic elements also heard on the album — bits of percussive grace notes and focused noise. The string playing had a “falling apart and then falling together” structure that didn’t necessarily distinguish it as a formal composition, but complemented the nature of the background cacophony.

Doubters of Kronos’s place in a jazz festival should be reminded that the group’s first album, before they ever signed with the Nonesuch label, was a collection of transcriptions of Thelonious Monk, which was later followed by an album of Bill Evans transcriptions. Last night they played a rendition of Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” that veered much further from the original than did the one heard on their debut recording. This version, arranged by Randall Woolf, splayed the oft-recorded song’s familiar melodic elements above a backing track of minimalist techno, with slow-paced beeps and, at one point, a smidgen of turntablism that brought to mind Guru’s Jazzmatazz jazz/hip-hop fusions.

There was no electronic backing, per se, in “Raga Mishra Bhairavi,” arranged by Kronos themselves (transcribed by Ljova) and composed by Ram Narayan, but it was founded on a rich, three-man drone that served as a bed for an extended solo by Kronos violinist John Sherba.

Walter Kitundu was one of the evening’s three guest composer-performers. Kronos revisited his Charles Mingus tribute, “Cerulean Sweet,” part of which they’d performed last year at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (I wrote about it here). Kitundu is a highly inventive instrument maker, and Kronos played machines he’d built that included strings and working turntables. It was more self-evident in this performance than during last year’s that Kitundu was using his laptop to double some of his playing. Also more than last year, the piece truly achieved a Mingus-like level of heightened, bluesy groove forged from conflicting sonic elements; holding down the groove was cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, Kronos’s newest member.

The concert was co-billed for Kronos and another composer-performer, the percussionist Glenn Kotche, who plays with the rock band Wilco and whose “Anomaly,” written for Kronos, had its world premiere this week at these San Francisco performances. Like the Kitundu, the Kotche was an extended multi-movement piece that required numerous instrument changes — the band switched from their standard tools to bells and other noisemaking machines. For all its expansive machinery, though, the piece often emphasized near-silence, including moments when the members of Kronos were called upon to exhale loudly. The work had strong ensemble moments, some excellent mixings of strings and drums, but it also felt tedious at times, like it hadn’t really justified its length. Perhaps it suffered from appearing on a program consisting otherwise almost entirely of single-serving compositions.

The Kitundu and Kotche were the evening’s longest pieces, and the shortest by far were the six entries from John Zorn‘s “The Dead Man,” the first of which ended so quickly that members of the audience laughed out loud. Perhaps they were also reacting to the playfulness of Zorn’s compositions, each of which barely filled a single individual page of music paper, and focused on specific elements of string technique. Zorn has an interest in expanded techniques, as when the members swung their bows in the air like whips. I think Zorn’s were the strongest pieces of the evening, something I imagine had to with a mix of their taut brevity, the fact that they were composed for string quartet (rather than transcribed from a pre-existing arrangement for different instrumentation) and the absence of a backing pre-recorded track.

The Zorn was knowingly followed by “Twilight in Turkey” by Raymond Scott, another master of short-attention-span composition. Scott’s work is best known for having accompanied countless mid-century American cartoons. The arrangement was by Randall Woolf, and it showed greater interest in fidelity to the original than did his Monk piece. (As I type up this entry, a disparity in the evening’s program notes has suddenly occurred to me. The program provides a lot of detail about the composers, arrangers, performers and individual compositions, but for arrangements of pre-existing works, such as the Woolf’s Scott and Monk pieces, no date for the version Kronos played is listed.)

Also heard was composer-performer Dohee Lee, who danced, sang and played a shrill horn instrument. Harrington explained the piece, “Sinawi,” was the realization of a long-held desire to bring traditional Korean music into Kronos’s work.

There was also a cover of Television‘s great punk-era rock song “Marquee Moon,” composed by Television’s Tom Verlaine and arranged by Steven Mackey. Though a classical quartet covering a rock song remains somewhat newsworthy for pushing boundaries, it’s worth noting that the original song was recorded five years before the founding of the San Francisco Jazz Festival. More info on Kronos at kronosquartet.org.

Tags: , , , / Leave a comment ]

Quote of the Week: Ruptured Model

Earlier this week a network of fileshares, called Oink, was shut down by law enforcement officials. DJ/rupture (born Jace Clayton) posted a lengthy take on the event on his website, negrophonic.com, in which he tried find some common ground between his status as a music maker and his self-identity as a music consumer:

My library metaphor for Oink makes more sense than economic analogies: for digital music & data, there’s lots of demand but no scarcity at all, which either requires that we rebuild an economic model not based on supply & demand, or start embracing commons analogies. I like living from my music but I also like libraries, the ideas behind libraries”¦

Rupture/Clayton’s take is interesting, though it’s worth at least keeping in mind that his own music is itself often built from samples of other people’s music.

This Oink service was based on BitTorrent, which meant the files were shared not on a central server but on users’ own machines. For further coverage, see Monty Phan’s piece at wired.com.

Tags: , / Leave a comment ]

Massive Japanese Turntablism Primer MP3

Want a crash course in Japanese turntablism? Set your dial to turntableradio.com, which is hosting an excellent hour-and-a-half-long mix of material performed by a variety of Japan-based turntable musicians. The file is whittled down from a six-hour mini-fest hosted in the Kami-Kitazawa, Tokyo, studio of Human Rhythm Group (humanrhythm.jp). The work here is minimalist, with generally more emphasis on mood and texture than on, say, groove and technique, the latter of which would likely rule in an American collection. There’s some nice traditional-instrument sampling, like flutes and string instruments over loops and scratches (MP3), that brings to mind the work of Japan’s best known hip-hop figure, DJ Krush. Here’s the set list:

Dj Baku - Turntable Radio intro
Exsample - Intro freestyle
Dj Ken-One - In-To-Yo (taken from Kan’s debut album)
Exsample & Human Rhythm - String freestyle
Exsample & Human Rhythm - Drums and cuts freestyle
Exsample, Human Rhythm and Miyajima - Freestyle
Human Rhythm - Intro
Human Rhythm - Track 1
Human Rhythm - Track 2
Human Rhythm - Track 3
Miyajima & Tsuyoshi - Freestyle
Exsample - Track 1
Exsample - Jam session
Exsample & Human Rhythm - Jam session
Tsuyoshi & Naoki - Electro freestyle
Exsample, Human Rhythm & Miyajima - Final freestyle pt 1
Exsample, Human Rhythm & Miyajima - Final freestyle pt 2
Dj Ken-One - Solo freestyle

Tags: , / Leave a comment ]

Aeris Ash’s Random Process MP3s

Aeris Ash has a recent four-track release, the comically titled [email protected]#&%!, which zigs and zags, jumps and bounds, from one short sound snippet to the next with such vitality that the overall effect resembles an old Carl Stalling score, one of those hyperkinetic orchestrations that so perfectly matched on-screen cartoon antics.

To hear Ash’s music is to imagine what Stalling might have done, had he restricted himself to the found sounds of musique concrete — and had a laptop available. The opening track is all minute blips of whirs, noise, out-of-context buzzing, spliced together to impart maximum disparity from cut to cut (MP3). Other tracks include longer stretches of tonal material, as well as spoken bits (MP3). One sounds like someone’s attic is being tossed down the stairs a few items at a time (MP3). Get the full release, and additional info, at notype.com.

Tags: , , / Leave a comment ]

Milton Babbitt Remix MP3

Up at the website of Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson (well, mostly Iverson, with the other members occasionally joining in — thebadplus.typepad.com): a sort of remix of work by 20th-century classical composer Milton Babbitt.

It’s just over a minute long, but Iverson has taken the jazzy inflections of Babbitt’s 12-tone original, “Semi-Simple Variations,” heard here with Monk-ish drums added in a live performance by fellow Plus member Dave King, with some subsequent editing in the audio program Peak to clean it up (MP3). Iverson describes the process:

After hearing me practice “Semi-Simple Variations” a few times on tour, Dave suggested playing some drums along at the soundcheck in Odense, Denmark. It actually sounded really good!

I … then threw it into Peak and added compression and harmonic rotation. The result sounds a bit like twelve-tone Aphex Twin (of course, Aphex’s tones would be vastly superior).

The complete post is at thebadplus.typepad.com. Iverson’s post is a lengthy program note to a concert he’s put together for this coming October 30 with New Yorker music critic Alex Ross — part pre-Halloween bash, part celebration of Ross’s recent book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century.

The fact of a jazzy, electronically mediated rendition of a piece of fairly hardcore serialism is exciting, certainly. (It doesn’t hurt that it follows quickly on critic Anthony Tommasini’s helpful overview of the state of serialism in the New York Times, at nytimes.com.) But even more exciting is the expansion of the idea of a remix: the MP3’s basis in an original, impromptu recording; the use of software to warp a proper performance. (Via Ross’s therestisnoise.com.)

Tags: , / Leave a comment ]