My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

tag: classical

“Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” Live

The 1975 composition performed late last year by Psappha

Following perhaps intentionally on the warm reception received by that recent posting of a three-part video showing Gavin Bryars’ Sinking of the Titanic being performed live at the Big Ears festival, we now have the other half of that very same record album, the first from Brian Eno’s Obscure label back in 1975. This is the ensemble Psappha on October 12, 2016, at the RNCM Theatre in Manchester, U.K., conducted by Clark Rundell. (The group’s general manager and artistic director is Tim Williams.) The work is “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” which takes the melody inherent in a creaky recording of a homeless man singing a hymn in a painfully sweet and wavering rendition and renders it in a gentle, sensitive setting that suggests a heavenly chorus if not outright beatification. Emphasizing the group’s attentiveness is how serenely they sit for the four full minutes before they actually join the nameless singer, whose verse is heard as a recording to which they eventually play along.

Video originally posted at the ensemble’s YouTube channel. More from Psappha, presumbably named for the Xenakis composition, at psappha.com.

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The Sinking of the Titanic (Live, 2017)

Performed March 26 at the Big Ears Festival by composer Gavin Bryars' ensemble

Gavin Bryars’ Sinking of the Titanic was the very first release on Brian Eno’s mid-1970s record label, Obscure Records. The album, from 1975, also included “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” which became better known in the subsequent decades than the title composition, in part perhaps because its structure — a minimalist work built on a fragment of a homeless man’s singing — bears resemblance to the decade older “It’s Gonna Rain” by Steve Reich, and later certainly because of a celebrity reworking when Bryars re-recorded it with Tom Waits performing the vocal. Sinking of the Titanic is a very different work from “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.” It’s a slow-motion chamber performance in which the ensemble performs an act of veritable theater, the piece intended to suggest the sound of a band playing as the ship goes down. This three-part video was apparently shot at the recent Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, on March 26, 2017, a Sunday. The videos are from the excellent account of Seijin Lee, who has access to an incredible and ever expanding catalog of live shows. I created the little playlist so the three parts can be easily viewed in sequence.

Playlist of three videos is at YouTube. More on the event at bigearsfestival.com. More from Bryars at gavinbryars.com.

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No Insects Were Harmed

In the recording of Clara Iannotta's "Dead Wasps in the Jam-Jar (ii)"

Clara Iannotta’s “Dead Wasps in the Jam-Jar (ii)” (2016) intrigues with its title’s promise of quotidian decay and, perhaps, with a bit of telegraphed moralizing about the price paid for sweetness. The suspense builds even before you hit play, thanks to its list of components: “for string orchestra, objects, and sine waves.” Now technically, virtually all music contains sine waves, since those are a major component of sound, but clearly the sine waves heard here are of the electronically generated variety. As for the objects, the brush held by the composer in the accompanying photo provides a hint at the untraditional instruments. What unfolds as “Dead Wasps in the Jam-Jar (ii)” proceeds is a study in controlled energies. In programmatic terms, the wasps seem to meet their fate as the four-minute mark arrives, a sharp swirling hitting hard, and more loudly than anything that proceeded it. Then warping torques and sudden jitters evidence struggle before the piece settles into an extended if anxious stillness. That final period, from about six minutes until the end, at eleven and a half minutes, is where concentrated listening is especially rewarded, thanks to Iannotta’s expert mix of textures, of held strings and fluttering percussion.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/claraiannotta. More from Iannotta, who is from Italy and is based in both Berlin, Germany, and Boston, Massachusetts, at claraiannotta.com. She is currently working on compositions for Duo 2KW and Arditti Quartet, among other ensembles.

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The Two Minimalisms

As merged by Loscil

There are many minimalisms. In electronic music, two key ones are the capital-m Minimalism, a movement/school of classical music whose founders include such composers as Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, Terry Riley, and La Monte Young, and the lower-case minimalism, an approach employed by musicians like Taylor Deupree, Steve Roden, and others. The capital-m school has, over time, become a genre, and now counts folks like Max Richter in its ranks. The lower-case one is more of an aesthetic, one felt in ambient music, techno, film scores, and various other realms. There’s significant overlap between the two minimalisms, which are both marked by an attention to rudimentary elements and repetition, and Loscil, aka the Vancouver-based Scott Morgan, merges them formally on the forthcoming Monument Builders, due out in early November on the Kranky label. The title track was posted this week as an advance listen, and it’s a satisfying work in which orchestral instrumentation, notably a horn section around the three-minute mark and a choral part earlier on, emerge from an underlying glitchy drone.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/kranky. More from Loscil at loscil.ca.

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Amanda Feery’s Cello + Electronics

A rough draft of her "Stray Sods" — plus a video excerpt

“Stray Sods,” as heard here, is a rough take of a piece for cello and electronics by Amanda Feery, the Dublin-based composer. The first thing you hear in the piece isn’t the cello, at least not in recognizable form, but a pulsing, filmic, beading field of percussion. The effect of these tiny percussive tones is caught somewhere between a tossed snow globe and the sound design of a particularly heightened moment in a contemporary thriller. A cello enters that zone and saws long, held notes. It fills the space between the many pointillist dots. At first the cello is halting, cautious, and then it gains melodic complexity. This isn’t a whisper-to-a-scream composition, however. Pauses come at appropriate increments, and the percussion fades back and forth between modes in a manner that suggests time shifts and tectonic adjustments. There have been times when I’ve let the nearly seven minutes of “Stray Sods” play on repeat for hours, and I recommend doing so.

As a bonus, here’s a video excerpt of “Stray Sods” performed by cellist Amanda Gookin. It’s the latest piece I’ve added to my ongoing YouTube playlist of fine “Ambient Performances.”

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/vanessaparody. More on Feery, who is completing a PhD in Compositon at Princeton, at amandafeery.com.

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