Monthly Archives: February 2012

Renegade Heaven
Bang On A Can
Cantaloupe Music

Bang On A Can’s been uptown, downtown, around the world (Tashkent, Uzbekistan in April – be there or be home). They’ve also been on major labels but now they have their own, Cantaloupe. On this first relase, are the Bang On A Can All Stars performing works by Julia Wolf, Arnold Dreyblatt, Michael Gordon, Glenn Branca and Phil Klein.

Julia Wolf’s composition Believing starts out with a tambourine violin and cello trio rhythmically pumping along. Eventually joined by the rest of the group, everybody gets some sort of solo. I’d call this minimalism except there’s too many little events and dynamic explosions. Continuing with this rhythmic drive is Arnold Dreyblatt’s Elevator. One of Dreyblatt’s interests as a composer is the harmonic series and the stringed instruments are bowed to bring out the harmonics. According to composer, the piece is based on transcriptions of malfunctioning elevators on the Blvd. Ansbach, Brussels.

I Buried Paul by Michael Gordon uses the end section of Strawberry Fields For Ever by the Beatles as a source of material. The incessantly trippy drums, tamboura, guitar, cello, a sample of a mellotron flute (in it’s self a sample) and other strange unrecognizable sounds float by in a psychedelic haze. I Buried Paul is the most interesting piece I’ve heard from Michael Gordon yet.

Glenn Branca’s Movement Within is performed here on his unique microtonal guitars and keyboards. Some might find the tuning unsettling, but Branca’s one of the brave composers who go after this territory. Undulating sliding tones create strange harmony and suggest alien planets covered with new found species – I don’t think I’ve been here before! In a lighter vein is Exquisite Corpses by Phil Klein with a chamber music/progrock vibe. Check it out.

David Beardsley
post y2k, 2000

Originally published in the Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter


OHM – Early Electronic Gurus Of Electronic Music: 1948-1980
[Expanded Edition: 3 cd set + DVD + book] (Ellipsis Arts 3690; USA)

An amazing three CD 48 track compilation to sumup the early years of electronic music in the 20th century. Spiffy plastic sleeve holds a book and a fold out sleeve with 3 cds. These guys will probably win awards just for the design alone. Music that ranges from Clara Rockwell playing Tchaikovsky on the theremin and Messiaen performed on the Ondes Martenot (a theremin with a keyboard) to the music concrete of Pierre Schaeffer’s school to Louis & Bebe Barron (the Forbidden Planet duo), John Cage, Edgard Varese, Richard Maxfield (unreleased too!) Stockhausen, MEV (unreleased), Raymond Scott, Reich, Oliveros, Subotnick, Tudor, Riley, Czukay, Luc Ferrari, Xenakis, La Monte Young (amazingly & it’s even unreleased – a drift study, only two notes but they change), Charles Dodge, Paul Lansky, David Behrman, MEV (unreleased), Maryanne Armacher (unreleased, adds to the available recorded documentation of her work), Klaus Schultze, Jon Hassell (unreleased and very welcome here), Brian Eno and others. Whew! Forward by Brian Eno. Articles and words by Joel Chadabe, Otto Luening, Francois Bayle, D.J. Spooky, Kyle Gann, Robert Moog, writer Simon Reynolds, Pete Namlook (FAX), David Toop, Thurston Moore, Bill Laswell and others. So it sounds cool and even looks cool – a great place to check out the roots of todays electronic music.

David Beardsley
August 2009

Originally published in the Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter

Ellen Band
90% Post Consumer Sound
Experimental Intermedia

Ellen Band creates sound and music pieces for performance and concert settings, installation, sculpture, and tape. Deeply inspired by the infinitely complex textures, rhythms, and colours within the so-called ordinary sounds of everyday life, she uses the technique of field recording to collect the source material she uses for her pieces. She then fashions works that reflect the imagistic, mnemonic (memory), and psychoacoustic properties of sound. With a strong background in 20th Century experimental music and sound art traditions, she crafts sound works which transform familiar sounds into new contexts and forms for listening to, perceiving, and experiencing sound.

“Ellen Band’s amazing world of sound is composed by layering groups of sounds in a very musical fashion. In Railroad Gamelan, we hear the click-clack of the tracks, track crossing bells, train horns and other down by the tracks ambience. Swinging Sings features Band and Adele Armin on violins playing along with very microtonal children’s swings in the park. Starting with swings gently swinging, the violins eventually join in until there is a swirling mass of sound. Bubbling, spitting and drooling radiators are the sound source for Radiatore and all kinds of bird sounds for Closet Bird. The binaural recording of Minimally Tough is remarkable. With headphones, one really does feel like they’re in the middle of a group of people wearing new leather coats. I feel like I’m being shrink wrapped.”

David Beardsley

Originally published in the Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter

Kyaw Kyaw Naing and Bang on a Can
Bang On A Can Meets Kyaw Kyaw Naing
(Cantaloupe Music 21023)

Bang on a Can plays the music of Burmese composer and master percussionist Kyaw Kyaw Naing. Naing plays the pat waing, the traditional Burmese drum-circle instrument made of 21 tuned drums. He is joined in this exhilarating session by Ma Aye Myint or Maung Maung Myint Swe on Si Wa (another percussion instrument) and the current Bang on a Can ensemble and special guest violinist Todd Reynolds (Ethel). Playing transcriptions of traditional Burmese music, the group nails this exotic melodic music. Even the improvisations, where BOAC members take spirited solos, are highly arranged.

Philip Glass and Bang on a Can
Music in Fifths/Two Pages
(Cantaloupe 21016)

Probably America’s most popular classical composer, Philip Glass is also the most visible of the Minimalists. But one really has to go back to his early work to find real hard core minimalism. Music in Fifths (1969) and Two Pages (1967 or 1968) are two excellent examples of this. Glass created these pieces by adding and subtracting notes from his repeating melodies to create hypnotic layers of undulating serpentine notes. Bang on a Can updates the well known original recordings by re-orchestrating the pieces for BOAC. Mark Stewart (guitar), Wendy Sutter (cello), Evan Ziporyn (clarinets), Robert Black (bass), David Cossin (marimba) and Lisa Moore (piano) turn in an amazing new definitive performance of these classics of early Minimalism.

David Beardsley
September 2004

Originally published in the Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter

Pauline Oliveros
(Table of Elements 53; USA)

Dreamy yet somewhat disturbing drone music from Deep Listening Band leader Pauline on modified accordion, Tony Conrad on cat-scratch electric violin, David Grubbs on harmonium, Anne Bourne on cello and Scott Olson on low-end oscillator. The elegant, florescent jellyfish cover art is not nearly as foreboding as the music found within.

“Pauline Oliveros has been around since the beginning. She was in the same composition class at the University of California with Terry Riley and La Monte Young and she was present in the audience at the authentic REAL big bang of minimalism – Youngs Trio For Strings (1958). She went on to start – with Morton Subotnick and Warren Sender – the San Francisco Tape Center at the San Francisco Conservatory. (later moved to Mills College). More recently she has performed and prolifically recorded with the Deep Listening Band and given Deep Listening seminars.

On Primordial Lift, Oliveros (accordion, electronics, vocals) is joined by The Evil Tony Conrad (electric violin), Alexandra Gelencser (electric cello), Anne Bourne (cello), David Grubbs (harmonium) and Scott Olsen (Low Frequency Oscillator). Damn tasty drones, Oliveros whipping up her amazing accordion glissandos, The Evil Tony Conrad blends well into the mix, not dominating the mix like he does on “Ahem!” all of his previous recordings. It’s a good thing this recording could be released before The Evil Tony Conrad could try to take Pauline to court over his “who’s the composer?” tricks. A welcome addition to the ever-expanding Pauline Oliveros catalog, in fact I think she should do more work with strings. One more thought: crank the bass!”

David Beardsley
March 2007

Originally published in the Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter. (at the time, possibly a reprint of the original review?)

Music for Violin and Piano
James Tenney
(Hat [now] Art 120)

Stylistically, James Tenny has been all over the map and this cd is no exception. From serious 20th century to electronic music to minimalism, he’s been there.

Ergodos II with Instrumental Responses is just that – Marc Sabat (violin) and Stephen Clarke (piano) responding, playing along with a 1964 vintage abstract electronic music tape. Clarke polishes off the 3 Pages in the Shape of a Pear (1995), a nod to Erik Saties Pieces in the Form of a Pear, although it doesn’t really sound like Satie. The title is a reference to the graphic score. Diaphonic Toccatta (1997) whips by with a busy piano part while the violin plays a slow melody. The slower Chorale (1974) has a thoughtful mournfulness to it. Koan (1971) is in the previously mentioned minimalist vein – solo violin slowly microtonal slides around, gradually rising in pitch over a long period of time. Diaphonic Trio (1997) is a quiet mellow end to the disc, modern but not terrifying. Of course the performances by Sabat and Clarke live up to the quality I expect from Hat Art. If you’re curious about Tenney’s music, this is a good place to start.

Solstice Spirit
James Nyoraku Schlefer
(Sparkling Beatnik spr 0001)

All the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) I’ve heard has been solo so I was very surprised when I heard the stunning opening track Solstice Spirit for 18 overdubbed flutes. Flute ensembles are way cool but this one seems to be tuned in an obviously non-western way. Worth the price of the cd alone, this track clocks in at 18 minutes and makes the tiny little hairs in my ears dance in ecstasy. Five other tracks of solo shakuhachi round out this cd.

Kyoto Spirit
Yoshio Kurahashi
(Sparkling Beatnik sb 0007)

In the west, at least in the “classical” music world, techniques like over blowing to get multiple notes at once (harmonics) and bent notes (microtones) are “extended techniques” and considered a bit outside and wild. Not so with the ancient Japanese shakuhachi tradition. The music is both chilled out and far out at the same time. I love it. Eight traditional compositions, this is the first commercial CD release by shakuhachi master Yoshio Kurahashi.

Samurai Spirit
Ronnie Nyogetsu Seldin
(Sparkling Beatnik sbr001)

New Yorker Ronnie Nyogetsu Seldin is one of only a few masters of the Nezasa-ha school of shakuhachi flute performance. Eight tracks – seven traditional pieces and one original composition by Seldin. The Nezasa-ha tradition seems to be obviously different from other shakuhachi styles, more pulsating, more rhythmic. Very interesting, I might have to go on a shakuhachi binge in 2000 and expose myself to more of this music!

David Beardsley
December 1999

Originally published in the Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter.

John Cage – The Number Pieces 5, Two2
(Mode 193)

The latest offering in MODEs expansive The Complete John Cage Edition, this one being volume 39. Two2 (1989) for two pianos – yet another of Cage’s number pieces, a rock garden of space and sound. In typical Cage fashion, there’s little melody here, but there is harmony…chords appear and disappear only to be replaced by silence. The piece is a peaceful quiet affair, performed by Rob Haskins and Laurel Karlik Sheehan. The form of Two2 is based on renga, a Japanese poetic design of five, seven, five, seven, and seven syllables expressed at least thirty-six times.

David Beardsley
February 2008

Originally published in the Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter.

Simon Wickham-Smith – Love & Lamentation
(Pogus P31048-2)

Another fine album from Simon Wickham-Smith, sound sculptor, Tibetan monk, translator, scholar of Mongolian and Tibetan literature, and a frequent collaborator of Richard Youngs. Extensive digital manipulations are the modus operandi on this disk. The three compositions/five tracks, The Sandokai, love&lamentation and The Kin-kindness of Beforehand are based on chants and prayers. Samples were processed and mangled, chants pitch shifted, sounds flip back and forth, some of the pieces have twisty sequencer driven beats…The Sandokai is a prayer written by the eighth century Japanese Zen teacher Sekito Kisen while love&lamentation started life as a recording of a blind Turkish troubador and the ex tempore psalm singing of the Scottish Isle of Lewis.

David Beardsley
May 2008

Originally published in the Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter.

Adam Kolker – Flag Day
(Sunnyside Records 1184)

The tone of saxophonist Adam Kolker, who’s worked with Ray Barretto, the Village Vanguard Orchestra, Maria Schneider, Freddie Hubbard, Judi Silvano, the Gil Evans Orchestra, Bobby Previte and others, makes another appearance as a leader, this time with guitarist John Abercrombie, percussionist Paul Motian and John Hebert (previously heard with Andrew Hill) on bass. On what may be the first released session with legends Abercrombie and Motian together, Kolker mixes his originals with Neil Young’s Don’t Bring You Down, Thelonious Monk’s Played Twice and Last Night When We Were Young by Harold Alden. Overdubbed clarinet and flute create a cozy chamber music intro to Ties and Only One has a Monkish vibe. The presence of Motian lends the date a casual, freely flowing feel, the duet with Kolker at the beginning of the Alden tune is a real treat.

David Beardsley
April 2008

Originally published in the Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter.

Tom Heasley – Where the Earth Hits the Sky

The Hypnos label has been around for a few years, quietly releasing ambient and space music. Recently Hypnos put out this gem by Bay Area tuba player Tom Heasly. In the past Heasley has worked the jazz/free improv/new music worlds with Pauline Oliveros, Loren Mazzacane-Connors, Charlie Haden, Bobby Bradford, Don Preston and others. But now he’s gone solo by attaching a microphone to the bell of his horn and routing the signal through digital echos and reverbs. The result is stunning: many layers of sustained tuba drones that leave one in a meditative state.

Besides an amazing two shows in NYC – Nova Nights @ Two Boots and Downtown Music Gallery, he’s been playing all over the Northeastern USA and Canada since late August. I also caught him in Philadelphia at the Gathering concert series ( with the throat singers Spectral Voices. This show was only a few days after the World Trade Center disaster – 9/15/2001, but they still had a great turnout. It was an impressive affair, both acts pumping their sound through digital delays and reverb. With the PA speakers at least 50 feet apart in this magnificent space at St. Mary’s church (chapel?) at the U. of Penn, I felt like I was hearing Heasley in a massive eternal canyon of sound. Tom should be back for a last show in NYC in early October. Stay tuned. Until then…this cd is the next best thing to his live performances.

John Cage – The Works for Violin 4
(Mode 100)
with Irvine Arditti, violin and Stephen Drury, piano.

Mode’s 100th release and number 23 of their John Cage edition, this disc is a nice collection of pieces for violin and piano. The pieces range from the very pleasant Six Melodies for violin and keyboard (1950), a slippery violin in Nocturne for violin and piano and Eight Whiskus for violin to the minimalism of Two6 and One10. The performers Irvine Arditti and Stephen Drury were hand picked by Cage before his passing in 1992. A spotless recording in the Mode tradition, with exemplary performances by Arditti and Drury.

David Beardsley
September 2001

Originally published in the Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter.


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