Monday, 29 June, 2009

Nels Cline, Andrea Parkins, Tom Raniey - Ash and Tabula (2004)

The idea behind Atavistic's Out Trios series appears to be a sound one. Put three compatible improvisers in a room, turn on the machines, and let 'em rip.Now although these particular artists don't play together frequently, they share skills on the highest level. They listen and respond to each other so quickly it's frightening, and they respond spontaneously with complementary colors. What's more, they cross genres as easily as the rest of us cross the street; they even make the occasional crash sound good.

Pick any one of the three, at any point in time. Tom Rainey is ridiculous throughout these procedings. A few seemingly random taps on a drum head imply more obvious structures a few bars down the road. Likewise, a repeated pattern creates momentary stability for his cohorts to take off from. He never locks into a groove for an extended period; there's always a door open at the end of the corridor.Andrea Parkins is known for her unique collection of keyboards—accordion, acoustic piano, analog synths, and laptop—but it's her taste in applying them that causes jaws to drop. On one tune, she references barrelhouse piano, while on another, she provides digital cloud cover for her companions to play under.Nels Cline avoids his standard approaches for the most part, delivering some of his most effective, off-the-wall playing captured on record. One moment, he's sending up S.O.S. signals in an electrical storm; another, he creates the sound of a swamp at twilight, though I think it's Parkins supplying the alligators.

Considered as a totality, this is strange, evocative stuff. "Ruination" begins with a suggestion of impending dentistry inside Godzilla's mouth, while "Alleys of North America" manages to find its way back to its aching piano intro after spending much time in deep space. These three musicians all have substantial discographies at this point, but this album rates near the top of any list of their recorded achievements. Michael Davis

Tom Rainey - drums
Andrea Parkins - accordion, effects, piano, electric keyboards, laptop samples
Nels Cline - guitar, effects

Recorded 5/8/2002.
Released by Atavistic in 2004 as Out Trios vol. 3.


Friday, 26 June, 2009

Zbigniew Rybczynski - Tango (1980)

"Thirty-six characters from different stages of life - representations of different times - interact in one room, moving in loops, observed by a static camera. I had to draw and paint about 16.000 cell-mattes, and make several hundred thousand exposures on an optical printer. It took a full seven months, sixteen hours per day, to make the piece. The miracle is that the negative got through the process with only minor damage, and I made less than one hundred mathematical mistakes out of several hundred thousand possibilities. In the final result, there are plenty of flaws black lines are visible around humans, jitters caused by the instability of film material resulting from film perforation and elasticity of celluloid, changes of colour caused by the fluctuation in colour temperature of the projector bulb and, inevitably, dirt, grain and scratches.”
- Zbig Rybczynski: Looking to the Future - Imagining the Truth,” in François Penz, Maureen Thomas, Cinema & Architecture. Mþliús, Mallet-Stevens, Multimedia, BFI, London, 1997

"In Tango, Rybczynski exploits this concept of the single offscreen space by filling it with a plethora of actions. It soon becomes obvious that such a small space, that of a small room, could not possibly contain all the actions taking place. Rybczynski also makes critical use of off-screen space, exposing it for the artifice it is. Off-screen space is the imaginary area beyond the edge of the screen, and in front of or behind the camera. There are a number of ways through to off-screen space in Tango - a window and a door in the back wall, doors on either side of the room, and cupboard which also has its uses. Rybczynski orchestrates his entrances and exits with great precision.”
- Roger Noake, Animation Techniques, Secaucus, Chartwell Books Inc., 1988.

Music by Janusz Hajdun

Thursday, 25 June, 2009

Edouard Artemiev - Siberiade (1979)

Siberiade was directed in 1979 by Russian film maker Andreyi Konchalovski, whose most celebrated films are as different as Maria's Lovers and Tango & Cash. Before entering mainstream Hollywood car chase culture, Konchalovski gained some repute as a film director and screenwriter in Europe and the US through relatively successful movies like Uncle Vanya and Siberiade (or Sibiriada, or Сибириада). Siberiade was filmed in 1979, won the Jury Special Prize in Cannes that year, and brought him the international recognition that would eventually take him to Hollywood.
Siberiade, according to IMDB, is a "story about a very small god-forgotten village in Siberia [which] reflects the history of Russia from the beginning of the century till the early 80s. Three generations try to find the land of happiness and to give it to the people. One builds the road through Taiga to the star over the horizon, the second 'builds communism' and the third searches for oil. The oil is found but this is followed by the destruction of the old cemetry and everything the people of the village cared for in order to get the 'black treasure' of Siberia".

The soundtrack, never released on CD, is something of a mystery. There is a clear cut distinction between sides A and B of the record, probably related to the historical phases which the plotline above describes. Side A (except track 7) contains several traditional tunes from Siberia, possibly arranged by Artemiev, through the voice of Dmitry Bouzilev. It seems difficult to believe that Bouzilev is backed by the same outfit that takes the B side, and Artemiev's contribution to these pieces remains doubtful; the label is to blame for such uncertainties.
Side B, by contrast, features synth-washed prog experiments by the Soviet band Boomerang (Бумеранг). This short-lived group includes Edouard Artemiev (better known for his soundtracks for Tarkovski's Solaris and Stalker) and Yury Bogdanov on the synths, backed by drums, bass and guitar, oscillating between more straightforward prog and ambient-like pieces. Tracks A7 and B5 are also played by the USSR State Cinema Orchestra, Révélation being one of the most interesting scores included here. While it may be strange, but not necessarily bad, to see a "world music" label like Le Chant du Monde releasing prog music, it is to be regretted that so little info is included in this edition.

A1. Ma Beauté a Fleuri Trop Tôt
A2. Le Soleil
A3. Les Yeus Emeraude
A4. La Chanson des Tziganes de Sibérie
A5. Le Long Chemin
A6. Dimitri
A7. Révélation
B1. Le Feu
B2. Le Vent de L'espoir (char à vole)
B3. Le Tourbillon de L'histoire
B4. Les Balançoires
B5. La Mort du Héros

Alexey Zagirov - bass
Edouard Artemiev - synthesizer
Yury Bogdanov - synthesizer, guitar
Sergey Bogdanov - percussion
Dmitry Bouzilev - vocals

Released by Le Chant du Monde in 1979.
A Petrol Pump to Prof. DOUBLE AVENUE for the fine vinyl rip.


Tuesday, 23 June, 2009

Duke Ellington - Ellington Uptown (1953)

For the sake of honesty, I must admit that I have never particularly enjoyed music recorded before the '50s, though the occasional interloper has caught my ear and found itself an exception. The problem with the earlier music mostly has to do with technology. First, sound quality is a mixed bag (and often a disaster) by modern terms; and second, length limitations prohibited any stretching out, whether in solo or ensemble space. The latter consideration gets at the core of what constitutes modern jazz, and it's an unfortunate dividing line.

Duke Ellington's concert bands broke through this boundary around the turn of the century, with entrancing results. Following on the heels of Masterpieces by Ellington, producer George Avakian introduced the original Ellington Uptown with a flourish. Columbia has bunched this reissue with Masterpieces by Ellington and Festival Session, including original liner notes and heavy essays by historian Patricia Willard. Ellington Uptown is the fourth release of a record which originally came with five tracks, having since been picked over and rearranged repeatedly by Columbia.There's nothing to complain about with this combination of standards ("Take the 'A' Train," "The Mooche," "Perdido"), suites ("Harlem Suite"), and one Louie Bellson original ("Skin Deep") which is essentially a vehicle for lots of drumming. The reissue, containing recordings from 1951-52, sounds good: hi-fi indeed.

This particular combination of tunes actually comes across a bit unnerving, making you sit up and pay attention when vocalists pop in and out, composition and improvisation change seats, and the tone of pieces shifts dramatically. But the upside is that diversity is basically a good thing. Notable moments include (of course) Louie Bellson's pert drumming and blizzard-laden solo space on the opener. "Take the 'A' Train" goes from piano trio to big band and back, featuring gentle if spare vocals (plus scatting) by Betty Roche, infectiously melodic and casually sophisticated. More of Duke's piano comes through again on "Perdido," playfully bouncing in the lower register but still hanging on the occasional oblique harmonies that he used like spice. Nils Jacobson

A hardcore Ellington massacre that would embarrass most modern musicians for its thickness and complexity. Some of the best, strangest and heaviest renderings of Duke's repertoire and an almost baroque excursion into Ellington country, sometimes verging on vertigo: a meta-ellington reflection. David Jacobs

1. Skin Deep
2. The Mooche
3. Take the "A" Train
4. A Tone Parallel to Harlem (The Harlem Suite)
5. Perdido

Saxophones: Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney, Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Hilton Jefferson
Trumpets: William Anderson, Clark Terry, Willie Cook, Ray Nance
Trombones: Juan Tizol, Quentin Jackson, Britt Woodman
Drums: Louis Bellson
Bass: Wendell Marshall
Piano: Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington.

Recorded in 1951-52.
Released by Columbia in 1953.

link@320 [new link]

Sunday, 21 June, 2009

Moebius, Plank, Neumeier - Zero Set (1983)

Matthew Weiner describes it for Soulmind Online: "Though not a dance record per se, Zero Set is one of the earliest extensions of Krautrock’s possibilities on the dance floor, pitting the profoundly electronic sequence patterns of Plank and Moebius against the hyperactive percussives of Guru Guru drummer Mani Neumeier. On tracks such as the prophetically titled 'Speed Display' and 'Pitch Control', the phasing, chattering and decidedly Germanic grooves found on Zero Set constitute vibrant proto-techno at its earliest and finest." David Ross Smith, writing for Allmusic, describes the album: "...a highly percussive affair with Mani Neumeier. The album is saturated in drum and synth rhythms and polyrhythms, resulting in compositions that are energetic and infectious." Zero Set was a turning point for Moebius and Plank, a fact lamented by Steven and Alan Freeman in their book The Crack In The Cosmic Egg. They say, in part: "...working with Mani Neumeier on Zero Set strangely took the music too close to techno for comfort..."

I purchased this on vinyl around '83 and instantly loved it. To me, so many albums like this, which never were widely released and were soon forgotten, embody the real creativity of the early 80's.This could accurately be called "intelligent dance music", long before the term was ever coined. It uses sequenced, rhythmic electronics combined with a live drum set -- perfectly syncronized. It is relentless without being monotonous. Every track is unique. Raw rhythmic energy with intricate, shifting layers of accents...
Robert Wilks,

Moebius & Plank - synthesizers, keyboards
Mani Neumeier - drums
Deuka - vocals on "Recall"


Thursday, 18 June, 2009

Heiner Goebbels & Alfred 23 Harth - Live à Victoriaville (1988)

Double Avenue, an old enemy of the Ewings, was kind enough to provide fine rips of some old LPs from the Dallas vinyl collection. He started off with 3 fine LPs, randomly chosen, which we will be posting in the following days. Hopefully, he will be ripping other LPs, just for the love of mankind.
To kick off, we selected this very emotional recording of Goebbels and Harth live in Victoriaville. This is a sort of "best of" by the duo, with tunes from several previous outfits and records. Fans of Cassiber and the duo will recognize most of the songs, although their music is here presented in a very stark and stripped down form. The audience is very excited and obviously knowledgeable of the night's repertoire. A very emotional and exciting performance.

A1. Los Campesinos
A2. The Ballad Of The Durable Grey Goose
A3. The Laughing And The Crying Man
A4. Lightning Over Moscow
A5. Imagine You're A Dolphin
B1. On Suicide
B2. Le Rappel Des Oiseaux
B3. The Peking Opera
B4. At Last I Am Free

Alfred 23 Harth: saxs, clarinets, trombone, voice
Heiner Goebbels: piano, synthesizer, clarinet, sax, voice, chinese violin, percussion

Recorded live in Victoriaville in 2-10-1987
Released by Victo Records in 1988


Tuesday, 16 June, 2009

George Russell Sextet - Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature - 1980 (1980)

"Nature likes those who give in to her, but she loves those who do not."

That quote is the inspiralion behind lhe title of George Russell's Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature, but it also, in some way, describes the composer. George Russell does not give in to the accepted norms of music. 
This stubbornness, if you will, this constant searching for new ways of musical expression has led to two important musical concepts - The Lydian Chromatic Concept and the Concept of Vertical Forms. At their simplest, the Lydian Chromatic Concept is based on the Lydian scale (a scale wilh a raised fourth - ie, C, D, E, F #, G, A, B) and the idea of Vertical Forms is the experiencing of layers of rhythmic modes (like standing on a crowded street comer and listening to all the sounds around you without focusing in on any one).

"I remember a musician who heard some of my music in Europe who said, 'You're an architect.' And that's what I am. I build structures. My focus is on the vertical evolution of a form, not necessarily on the horinzontal/linear 
exposition of that form. Music is architecture. Buildings go up - they're vertical forms."

This is how George Russell describes the musical idea which he has been working on since the late 1950's - the vertical form. And this is how he describes the basis for Electronic Sonata. Commissioned by the Norwegian Cultural Fund, the work was composed in 1968. The basis for the work was a tape made a year earlier composed of fragments of many different styles of music, avant-garde, jazz, ragas, blues, 
rock, serial music, etc, treated electronically upon which non-electronic musical statements of a pan-stylistic nature could be projected.

"This came about through my own compositional approach" says lhe composer. "The fact that I wanted to reflect the world cultural implosion at the time. This in 1968, don't forget. A long, long time ago. "Much is improvised, much is controlled improvisation, which is just what the Vertical Form technique is all about. The composer states a theme and suggests various tempos that the theme be played in. The band then plays 
the theme in those various tempos against, usually, a set or tonic tempo. So all of that is written -all ensembles are written, all solos are not written. But they may have a road to improvise on. So the composer is exercising varying degrees of control. But he's always in control. You never abandon control." 
The resulting piece is a melange of numerous musical styles. There are some funky bass riffs, some Eastern voicings, a bit of heavy rock guitar, a number of full-bodied tenor solos in a free bop vein, some African percussion and 
much space-age blips and beeps.

George Russell is heard here mainly on organ, as well as on the 13-year old tape which is the foundation for Electronic Sonata. "The tape was prepared at the electronic music studios of the Swedish Radio Ensemble on a huge computer. There are many things involved. The thing that sounds like a marimba is actually an old African man and his two sons. I have a friend who went to Uganda for the United Nations Relief Fund in 1967 and he brought me a tape of that Ugandan folk music. So we just run that through some remodulators and what not. The tape is fairly integrated with the orchestra. I think it may be the first example of that. There are three people playing at once on that tape, but the tape is so integrated with the other electronic material it's hard to distinguish what's what. For example, I spent some time on an organ in one of the old Norwegian churches and a friend of mine taped this and that was the basis of the material that this whole tape is 
based on - in conjunction with this African music which fits into this whole idea of a cultural implosion."

George Russell has been creative force in jazz ever since leaving his hometown Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was born, in 1923. He wrote his first arrangement, New World, as a drummer for Benny Carter's Band. The Lydian Chromatic Concept was developed during a 16-month stint in a New York City hospital, in the mid-40's. His first hit came with the introduction by Dizzie Gillespie of Cubana-Be and Cubana-Bop.

Russell spent much of the 50s working on his theories. He formed his own unit in 1960 which evenlually took him to Europe, where he taught in Stockholm and toured extensively. It was while in Europe that Russell developed and perfected his concept of Vertical Forms. Since then his time has been split between playing and teatching. ln the fall of 1980 he began his 11th year as a full-time professor at Boston's New England Conservatory. He is also currently revising his books on the Lydian Chromatic Concept. "I am aIso going to start a band in New York with the newer music that I've been writing," says George. "I'm going to perform as much as I can. With a new band and newer music and still further extensions of this idea of Vertical Form."

Russell was at the helm of a promising big band in the summer of 1978, but he gave it up "because most of our music was old music, although it wasn't old to the people who came to hear it. I want to have a band with one, concise, newer direction, the 1980s George Russell, not necessarily the whole. I still like the idea of presenting an "All About Rosie" with newer pieces, but need more newer pieces in the repetoire. That was a joy to do and I hope to be doing it again."

ln the meantime. there's Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature - a diverse, musical extravaganza. The piece is divided here into 14 "events". Each event represents a certain combination of rhythmic modes and, to Russel, " really expresses the whole Vertical Form idea. " The idea of the Vertical Form isn't new. An African drum choir has drummers laying sophisticated patterns, which are only sub divisions over the tonic lempo set by the principal drummer. It's really hard to verbalize something like this."

There is no need to verbalize - just play Electronic Sonata for yourself. Like all music, it is perfectly self-explanatory. From the blazing rock guitar of Comer to the pulse oft he African drummers to the gutsy solos of Soloff 
and Moore to the electronic wizardry of the leader to the rock steady rhythm of Copeland and Clark, this is another example of the genius of George Russell. A man who must be adored by nature. but not free of nature. "There's no such thing as free music", says George Russell, "because nothing under the sun is free. There's no such thing as freedom. There may be higher law, but everything is under law, under some kind of law. Even 
chance is under law." Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature is not 

LEE JESKE, from the inner cd booklet

1. Events I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII (23:45)
2. Events VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV (24:28)

** Recorded June 9 & 10, 1980 at Barigozzi Studio, Milano **
All compositions by George Russell, except Events VII, XII, XIII by Jan Garbarek.

Engineer - Giancarlo Barigozzi
Producer - Giovanni Bonandrini

Bass - J.F. Jenny Clark
Guitar - Victor Comer
Percussion - Keith Copeland
Piano, Organ - George Russell
Saxophone - Robert Moore
Trumpet - Lew Soloff


Sunday, 14 June, 2009

Fat - Automat Hi-Life (1991)

Fat are a Canadian experimental trio working since the 80s on the fringes of jazz, rock, improvisation and the wonders of circular sonics in general. They have been compared to Massacre and the like, although there is in this collection of 31 themes more freedom and playfulness than in Frith/Laswell/Maher's trio, whose highly technical approach to avant-rock sounds surprisingly cold and uptight in comparison with this underrated unit. Mechanical and circular, yet unpredictable and in constant mutation, the trio explores some of the possible confluences of no-wave, improv and rhythmical noiseology. The tracks are presented as brief fragments of a patchwork which can be rearranged by the listener, and the band appropriately encourages a shuffle mode approach to the collection. A highly rewarding experience. [PSL]

1. The Way On
2. Automat Hi-Life
3. Mamihlapinatapel
4. Ted'Kon
5. Dum Fellow
6. The Little Girl And The Workers
7. You Speakin' Chinese?
8. Cold, Cold, Ground
9. You Me Saturday Night Car Fun
10. Ear Chrome
11. Dazzle
12. Mr. Csodor
13. La Cucana
14. Was, Is
15. Pipe Dream
16. Deux S.V.P
17. The Golden Handshake
18. Breathing
19. Al -A-Din's Lamp. Lamp?
20. And The Waited
21. Workers Leaving The Factory
22. Trigger
23. Wolf Trap
24. First Ride On The Staten Island Ferry
25. More Workers
26. Ziggurat
27. Vegetable Kingdom
28. Debt-Equity Swap
29. The Chromolodotron Turns A Fancy Step At The Factory Social
30. Praha 4
31. Misty Dawn

Jeff Noble - bass, delay
Eric Rosenzveig - guitar
Phil Giborski - digital and acoustic drums

Recorded in Czecholosvakia in Sept 1990.
Released on vinyl by Rachot Records in 1990.
CD release by ReR in 1991.


Wednesday, 10 June, 2009

V/A - Zenial Reworked (2003)

Lukasz Andrzej Szalankiewicz is a Polish digital sound designer and multimedia collaborator who has worked since 1994 under the name Zenial and, later, also as Palsecam. Continuing the tradition begun with last year's (highly recommended) "Reworked" for Black Faction, a collection of artists from around the world have a go at Zenial's original material.

Here the tracks run the gamut from minimalism to noise. The first few, collaborations with Kasper T. Toeplitz and Maciek Szymczuk, are subtle enough - full of digital crickets, restrained noise and melodies, glitch rhythms and steady electronic hum. Then KK. Null rudely awakens anyone who might have been lulled to sleep with an unforgiving swathe of noise. Andrew Lagowski's first track offers more blips, smears and bass but the second (as well as the following Andrew Duke & Zenial track) moves into subliminal ambient territory. Vidna Obmana wraps windy textures around a repetitive bass/rhythm line while Amir Baghiri's near ten minutes gradually becomes one of his own "Yalda" tracks replete with tribal drumming and seething washes.

Two of Zenial's tracks (three are credited solely to him) are relatively tame, crackling and cooing tiny rhythmic melodies and murmurs while the other juxtaposes truncated Hip-Hop samples with electronic abstractions. Jason Wietlespach & Jon Mueller (both of the Crouton Music collective) add saxophone and found sound sort of percussion to the electronic sputtering while Tetsuo Furudate plays with deep gong-like tones. Vivo are a label to watch from here on []

1. Kasper T Toeplitz & Zenial - Van Helsing Froz
2. Maciek Szymczuk & Zenial - Zenial's Theme Remix
3. K.K. Null - Echoes From Lamberton Remix
4. Andrew Lagowski - Cyclosynapsia Remix
5. Andrew Lagowski - Aktyb7ff Remix
6. Andrew Duke & Zenial - IB7: Ludojad
7. Vidna Obmana - Palsecam Theme Recycled
8. Amir Baghiri - Ilustracja #1 / E-nimalic Remix
9. Zenial - Sanok 13
10. Zenial - Zenzo
11. Jason Wietlespach, Jon Mueller & Zenial - Angst
12. Zenial - Hippi
13. Tetsuo Furudate - Hamlet Remix
14. Zenial - Untitled
15. Zbigniew Karkowski - Sunset Remix [multimedia avi by Neon/Piotr Nierobisz]

Design by Krzysztof Slaby
Released by Vivo Records in 2003


Bravo Clippings # 41

SERIAL NUMBER ZE0485148. Issued in 1996.

Sunday, 7 June, 2009

Vladimir Ussachevsky - Film Music

Ussachevsky was one of the most significant pioneers in the composition of electronic music, and one of its most potent forces. Born in 1911 in Manchuria, China, Ussachevsky was the son of a Russian Army captain. His childhood was spent on the windswept and sparsely settled Manchurian plain, visiting with the nomadic tribesmen in their tents, and singing Old Slavonic chants as an altar boy in the local Russian Orthodox church. By the time he arrived in California, at the age of nineteen, he was a skilled pianist gifted in the interpretation of Romantic music, and a fluent improvisor. After receiving his undergraduate degree in music from Pomona College, he earned a Ph.D. in composition from the Eastman School of Music. From 1947 until his retirement in 1980, Ussachevsky taught at Columbia University, where he was known for his teaching of sixteenth-century counterpoint. But in his career there, he began experimenting with the use of tape recorders to manipulate sounds. Through much experimentation he developed the first works of “tape music,” a uniquely American synthesis of the French musique-concrète and the German pure electronic schools. In 1952, Ussachevsky's first works of tape music were performed at an historic concert at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, along with works of his colleague Otto Luening. Through a five-year grant awarded by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1959, Ussachevsky co-founded the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, and directed its course for the next twenty years as the leading electronic music studio in the United States.
Ussachevsky's electronic compositions include many milestones of the genre, covering a wide spectrum of solo tape pieces, pieces for live instruments and tape, tape music for radio plays, live theater productions, film and television. Among his solo tape compositions are such classics as Piece for Tape Recorder (1956), Metamorphoses (1957), and especially, Of Wood and Brass (1965). Perhaps the most beautiful of his works for tape and live musicians is the oratorio Creation Prologue (1961) for tape and four choruses.

On this recording are two of Ussachevsky's most powerful and innovative scores: Suite from No Exit (1962), from the film of Jean-Paul Sartre's play No Exit directed by Orson Welles, and the soundtrack for Lloyd Williams's avant-garde film Line of Apogee (1967).
Ussachevsky's score for No Exit is a traditional soundtrack in that the music was meant to be a background to spoken words. Line of Apogee is quite different: There are only a few spoken words, and the images on screen shift quickly and wildly between weird, dreamlike sequences and partial animation. Here, Ussachevsky's music becomes the primary organizing element, as the various sections of music flow into one another smoothly, easing the shocking effect of the visual changes.
In both film scores we hear Ussachevsky's favorite musical form: variations on several alternating themes. His themes are significantly different from those of his serialist colleagues, who often choose themes consisting of the same pitch material they would write for traditional musical instruments. Ussachevsky instead chose themes that often do not have traditional pitch or timbral characteristics. In No Exit, for example, he used three main sound sources: electronic, vocal and concrète. The electronic sounds range from searing and slicing noises, to the ominous, bell-like tolling at the end. Here his use of the human voice is especially effective, starting with the torturous, electronically manipulated screams of the opening scene, through the voices of distant children, a woman humming, echoing male voices, and at the end, men laughing—suddenly silenced by rifle fire. The concrète sounds in No Exit include a threatening, pulsing loop of hog sounds (which appear in varied form in Line of Apogee), the rising wind (also developed in Line of Apogee), the crackling of fire, a cloc ticking, and the rifle fire.
In Line of Apogee, Ussachevsky used an intriguing variety of sources: Environmental: wind, footsteps, splashing water, telephone, creaking chair. Animal: hog, songbirds, owl. Vocal: infant crying and laughing, woman humming and laughing, choruses singing Gregorian chant; Jewish cantor intoning. Instrumental: piano (Ussachevsky improvising), flute, organ, brass, glockenspiel, drums. These sources were electronically modulated through such devices and techniques as the electronic switch, echo chamber, feedback, ring modulation, tape loops, speed variation, volume control, complex mixing and detailed tape editing.
Due to his choice of such timbres, what constitutes a “melody” in his tape music can vary from the tempered scale of the piano in Line of Apogee to the simple intervals of high, medium, or low in the “wind” parts of the same score. By using the medium of tape music for its unique capabilities, Ussachevsky extended the orchestral resources of his time just as composers have done in every century, by developing an instrument with previously unknown musical possibilities.
But perhaps Ussachevsky's most remarkable achievement is that he did not fall into the common trap of electronic composers: he did not become obsessed with technology as an end in itself. Instead he concerned himself with the musically expressive possibilities of a sound or technique. Clearly, he brought to the development of electronic music an ear highly skilled in the perception and expression of emotion in music. This may be attributed to his early and intensive training in Romantic music and Russian Orthodox choral music, both characterized by the powerful expression of emotion. Ussachevsky's uncannily sharp ear could detect the slightest technical defect in a recording. But more important, he would go to extraordinary lengths to remedy anything musically dissatisfying. Those of us who assisted him in the tape studio can attest to the often excruciating hours of work to which he would submit himself and us to gain the sublest increases in musical effect. As we worked with him in the studio, we saw the means by which he transferred such emotional expressivity onto the tape: in a word, he danced. As he turned the controls of a machine, his whole body moved in graceful choreography in response to his simultaneously listening and sculpting ear. Any machine under his sensitive hand became a fully responsive musical instrument. —Alice Shields

1- 6: Suite From 'No Exit' (1962)
7-13: Line Of Apogee (1968)

With Alice Shields & Pril Smiley (7-13)
Originally produced at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, New York
CD release by New World Records in 1990


Monday, 1 June, 2009

Bornéo: Musiques des Dayaks et des Punans (1999)

Dayak is a generic term used to identify the non-muslim population in the interior of Borneo, the 3rd biggest island on the planet, now shared by the Indonesian and Malaysian states. The name was fixed by Dutch marauders, meaning something like "from the interior". Punan is the name of a formerly nomadic group in the island. Most Punans used to lived off hunting, but have in the last decades (or most probably even before) settled and become farmers like Dayaks.
Both are minority groups, the Punan being a much smaller unit than the Dayaks. Both were also notorious headhunters, a practice banned by British and Dutch pressure in the 1920s. Headhunting was a classical adulthood ritual without which no man was allowed to marry. This ritual was said to improve harvests and the skull was given all forms of honor as well as the duty to protect the village from several ailments. According to some observers, it was a way of acquiring an enemy's valor and status.
These recordings by Manuel Gomes include performers from the following Dayak divisions: Tunjung, Kenyah, Benuaq, Bahau, Meratus, and Kelabit. These, together with the Punan's, were recorded along the Mahakam river, Kalimatan Timur, and the Sarawak Highlands.

1. Hudoo Kenyah (Kenyah)
Played "to activate the growth of rice plants"
2. Kuranji Manis (Meratus)
A love song in which an old lady recalls being courted by a man who compared her with a soft flower called kuranji manis.
3. Ayun Suli (Meratus)
A lullaby.
4. Belian - Slow (Meratus)
A ritual healing ceremony, sang by the healer. This particular song is slow because the disease is benign.
5. Penyamutan Adat (Benuaq)
A song performed to welcome strangers in the village
6. Ngasak (Benuaq)
A tune accompanied by female dancing at the time of rice sowing.

7. Belian - Fast (Meratus)
A fast healing song for a serious illness; drums are incessantly played to recover the healer's spirit.
8. Tarian Huddoo (Bahau)
Part of an agrarian/ancestor ritual, the dance uses masks to chase away evil from the rice crop.
9. Tari Sapeh Kariang (Bahau)
Played in sapeh, it is a welcoming piece.
10. Tari Belian (Benuaq)
A ritual healing ceremony, performed by one Sentiu Dukun.
11. Adtah Ulus Lagku-Ai-Ai (Kelabit)
A love song.
12. Arang Kadang (Kelabit)
Entertainment night music for women's chorus.
13. Tubung (Kelabit)
A call for prayer at the church.
14. Tutu Udan Nepara (Kelabit)
A rain song, asking for showers.
15. Rabu-Rabu Dadtam Kinih (Kelabit)
An excerpt of a song in which a woman courts a man. They finally join at dawn.
16. Sepuk Noge Kepulu (Benuaq)
A melody to attract and capture birds.

17. Muwankai (Tunjung)
Played for a buffalo sacrifice at a funeral ceremony
18. Uyan Tiga (Kelabit)
Played in the sapeh, this song was interpreted when returning from headhunting.
19. Lago Serimbung (Punan)
A welcome song for a guest.
20. Game Approach Technique (Punan)
An array of sounds played with the mouth to approach game when hunting and merge with the environment.
21. Mengahu (Punan)
A hunting song.

Recorded by Manuel Gomes in Borneo, Dec 1997 - Jan 1998.
Released by Buda Records in 1999.