Tuesday, February 26, 2013

DISLIKE tonight at the Electric Lodge

I am happy to announce that tonight, March 1, Dislike will premiere at the Electric Lodge in Venice! It is a free show starting at 9pm, and there will be a cash wine bar with all proceeds going to the fantastic musicians involved.

Reserve a spot to see/hear Dislike through Brown Paper Tickets!

Dislike exposes the dark side of online anonymity and open-forum communication by deconstructing 24-hours worth of comments on the most "disliked" video on YouTube. Members of The People’s Microphony Camerata will speak and sing a text taken from comments left on the video’s YouTube page. Taken as a singular libretto, the result is a surreal text full of of anger, naivety, homophobia, desperation, and mischief.

Dislike is my new piece featuring experimental accordion orchestra Free Reed Conspiracy and experimental choir The People's Microphony Camerata.

Meanwhile, members of Free Reed Conspiracy will create a post-ambient soundscape with 8 accordions.  In contrast to the extremity of the libretto, the musical accompaniment for Dislike is a lush, enveloping sonic world in which one can be simultaneously comforted and disturbed by the tenacity of the text. The result is a surprising blend of Brian Eno, Robert Ashley, and Raymond & Peter’s “Shut Up, Little Man.” Dislike is a 21st century operatic documentation of a unique repository for the darker emotions swirling around the internet.

It's FREE! The show starts at 9pm, but seats are first come, first serve, so come a little early.

Electric Lodge

Dislike is part of High Voltage, a new series at the Electric Lodge featuring premiere works by local LA artists. 

Reserve a spot to see/hear Dislike through Brown Paper Tickets!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Brief Tangent on Nothing

We know John Cage's thoughts on Nothing from his Lecture on Nothing. Here are a few other takes on the subject.

Sun Ra:

Alan Watts:

Lee Hazlewood:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: Rattle Rattle

Dorian Wood has a new album called Rattle Rattle, and it sounds enormous. He has been working on it for several years now, and he's brought in an army of musicians to finish it off.

Rattle Rattle brings the weight of a massive personnel. The instrumentation expands and contracts greatly, matching the varying degrees of intimacy in the music. "Americana" has the smallest instrumentation, featuring a trio of piano/vocals, guitar, and percussion. It conjurs up a warped mixture of Gary Jules' version of "Mad World," Boys for Pele, and a broken music boxOn the other extreme, "A Gospel of Elephants/Hpssos" features Dorian's regular live band (princess Frank, Sebastian Steinberg, Leah Harmon, and Michael Corwin), augmented by no-wave/jazz ensemble Killsonic and The Difficult Women, a 45-person choir. Daniel Rosenboom's trumpet adds a nice layer to several tracks, and violinist Paul Cartwright also adds some nice violin touches.

Dorian's time as a member of Killsonic is evidenced by the apocalyptic dirge of the opening track, "Bodies (The Levitant)." His duet with Eddika Organista of El Haru Kuroi, "La Cara Infinita," seems to be the closest thing to a traditional radio-friendly single on the album, while "The Lady" is reminiscent of the micropolyphonic chroma of Ligeti's Lux Aeterna. "Glassellalia" and "Pearline" have been previously released as EP's, and you can hear them on Bandcamp. "We Are The Heart of Human Hair" is like Nick Cave leading a twisted gospel choir, and "O" is a great closing track that gently releases you back into your own world.

One can hear the influence of artists like Scott Walker, Tom Waits, or Nick Cave (who just released an album on Monday...). The softer, prettier solo piano moments bring singers like Rufus Wainwright or Jeff Buckley to mind. But while someone like Wainwright seems content to idly dawdle on the pretty side of music, Dorian is more inclined to turn it over and play with its dirty, surreal, and noisy underside. The resulting contrasts make the songs and performances far more believable and emotionally raw.

On March 5th, there will be a CD release for Rattle Rattle at The Echo with Killsonic and WIFE. If you can't wait, then this Thursday there will be a preview listening session at High Fidelity Vinyl.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

CONCERT REVIEW: Carl Stone @ the Electric Lodge, 02/08

On February 8, Carl Stone premiered Fujiken at the Electric Lodge in Venice. It is the first in a series called Alternate Currents, curated by West side new music maven, Daniel Rothman.

The 4-channel piece was presented in the Electric Lodge's front dance studio, while a play ran in their main theatre. Fujiken mixed field recordings and pre-existing music from Southeast Asia with live processing that made me think of an augmented reality version of a Sublime Frequencies album. As with Sublime Frequencies recordings, there can be a voyeuristic feeling of sonic tourism in pieces like this, which can be a refreshing journey for the right mindset. I love listening to vocalists in languages I don't speak, so I can appreciate the musicality of their voices without the added semantic layers. Stone's usage of a multitude of voices in languages I couldn't understand reminded me of my own travels in Southeast Asia.

Fujiken was a very episodic experience, and I could imagine it making a fantastic album. The opening snippets of conversation (I assume in Japanese) set the tone for the rest of the piece. I imagined some sort of taxi transaction, with the rest of the music being the requested trip. Also apropos to a travel analogy, the sound began in one of the four speakers, slowly expanding and contracting through the remaining three.

After the initial snippets of conversation, we were treated to what sounded like a 60's Cambodian song, which was eventually processed and looped in a style reminiscent of Terry Riley's You're NoGood. Other audio verité included children practicing Kendo, a fire breaking out in a street, someone vacuuming, and what sounded like a street vendor's monotone sales pitch. This last one transitioned wonderfully into a female singer's looped ethereal vocals, just one of several moments that brought a William Gibson-esque notion of augmented reality to mind.

The percentage of the concert that involved unprocessed (or very subtly/skillfully processed) field recordings was higher than I expected, but this was not at all negative. They were very interesting, personable recordings, especially in the wash of traffic sounds that is such a soundmark of LA. There was an interesting moment when the tables turned and the audible crowd sounds were from people exiting the play in Electric Lodge's main theatre, while the sound from the speakers was rather quiet. I always feel that a Cage-like blurring of music/sound distinctions is a key part of listening to field recordings, so this external stimulus was appreciated.

Carl Stone will present Fujiken at three other California performances in March: 03/04 in Claremont, 03/08 in Berkeley, and 03/14 in San Diego. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and suggest hearing it in it's 4-channel glory if you get the chance.

It occurred to me that if I travel west of the 405 to hear a concert, there is an approximately 85% chance it's one curated by Daniel Rothman. The next show he'll be presenting is Ulrich Krieger at Beyond Baroque on February 23.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Derek Bailey's ON THE EDGE

Ubuweb recently posted Derek Bailey's 4-part documentary on improvisation, On The Edge. Based on his book, Improvisation: It's Nature and Practice in Music, the films cover a wide swath of improvised music from around the world. You can also find it on Vimeo:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

REVIEW: Southwest Chamber Music @ Zipper Hall, 02/02

While Southwest Chamber Music's first concert of the LA New Music Festival seemed to feature Larry Kaplan on the flute, the second one on 02/02 prominently featured bassist Tom Peters.

The performance opened with a solo bass piece by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies titled Lux in Tenbris. This piece found Peters heroically venturing through a dense woods of double stops and non-idiosyncratic leaps. Lux in Tenbris was followed by Davies' arrangement of John Dowland's Farewell - A Fancye. It was a straightforward arrangement by a composer known to many for his eccentricities (EX: his notorious Eight Songs for a Mad King). This well-crafted orchestration allowed the ensemble to show a quiet reserve, a very effective dynamic for them.

The two Davies pieces were presented as a triptych along with the late Hans Werner Henze's solo bass piece, S. Biagio 9 Agosto Ore 1207. While Lux in Tenbris lived in several distinct sound worlds, Henze's piece presented itself as more of a singular musical statement. There were parallels between the two, most notably the fact that both conclude with extremely high harmonics beyond the end of the fingerboard.

Gabriela Ortiz's Elegia completed the first half. It was a very colorful piece for a large ensemble, full of textural surprises. Ortiz made full use of the percussion section, including a raucous timpani solo by David JohnsonElegia also featured four sopranos: Elissa Johnston, Sharon Harms, Laura Mercado Wright, and Ayana Haviv. Ortiz's use of the four women's voices reminded me sometimes of Ligeti, and sometimes of Xenakis.

The entire second half was devoted to Charles Wourinen's It Happens Like This, based on the poetry of James Tate. With so many Pulitzers on the case, it's a surprisingly humorous affair featuring the four singers who premiered the piece: soprano Sharon Harms, mezzo soprano Laura Mercado Wright, tenor Steven Brennfleck, and bass Douglas Williams. This quartet was obviously very comfortable with the piece, seamlessly and amicably alternating between speaking, singing, and acting in various smaller combinations of voices. When I was younger I initially had a difficult time digesting the music of composers like Wourinen or Carter. That is, until I came to understand them through the filter of Carl Stalling. It Happens Like This highlights that cartoonish connection, making it a fantastic place for musical neophytes to start with this heady composer. Alternating between recitative and mickey-mousing, Wourinen's music was unsurprisingly effective, but surprisingly endearing.

Southwest Chamber Music's LA New Music Festival picks up again on Feb 23 with Stockhausen's Nebadon aus KLANG and Cage's Muoyce II: A Reading Through Ulysses.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sun Ra's Arkestry of the Cosmos @ William Grant Still Arts Center

This Saturday 3-6pm will be the opening of the William Grant Still Arts Center's ARKESTRY OF THE COSMOS exhibit. Art, archives, and interviews on Sun Ra, members of The “Ark” and their quest to expand minds, music, and souls through musical experimentation for over a half-century.

Saturday at 3pm, you can hear a FREE special one-time performance of two former members of The Arkestra Derf Reklaw (percussion) and Dale Williams (guitar), playing along with Dwight Trible (vocals), Edwin Livingston (bass) and Marcus Miller (drums).

Through April 27, the William Grant Still Arts Center will be displaying a collection of local, national, international, and intergalactic archives, including rare photographs, videos, articles, complete vinyl discography (33 1/3s, 45s, and 78s), and original posters. Original artwork by Ramses, Ulysses Jenkins, and Aise Bourne will also be on exhibit, influenced or directly inspired by Sun Ra.

The music of Sun Ra is also being presented in conjunction with the Department of Cultural Affairs African-American Heritage Music Education Program, sponsored in part by Music LA. The William Grant Still Arts Center focuses on teaching music and cultural history through practice and playing experience via the works of groundbreaking musical innovators in the tradition of the Arts Center’s namesake, Dr. William Grant Still, to beginning and intermediate students of all ages.

February 9-April 27, 2013
Opening Reception & Concert: February 9, 3-6pm

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Joffrey's Rite of Spring @ The Music Center

People that don't like Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps are like people that don't like The Beatles: liars. In this centennial year of that landmark piece's premiere at the Théatre des Champs-Élysées, the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet's 13-city touring show is arguably the closest one will get to the original production. The version that Joffrey presented in 1987 was based on Millicent Hodson's reconstruction of Nijinski's original choreography, as well as Nicholas Roerich's original designs. This version is based on that prior Joffrey production, and never has a restaging of a restaging seemed so innately, inevitably appropriate. 

This timely piece was presented at the Music Center last weekend in repertoire with two other revolving pieces. When I saw it on February 1, those pieces were Son of Chamber Symphony and After the Rain, choreographed by Stanton Welch and Christopher Wheeldon respectively. The alternate program, which I didn't see, included William Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated and Edwaard Liang's Age of Innocence.

Son of Chamber Symphony was a solid display of elegance and athleticism. It offered itself for narrative interpretation, but thwarted any definite attempts to impose on the self-contained statement within. It began with a male ensemble and a solo ballerina, moving into a pas de deux for the second movement, and replaced the male ensemble with a female one for the third movement. The backdrop lighting reminded me of stylized studio loft windows, changing colors for each movement like sunlight giving way to night. Knowing that Adams' s surprisingly cantankerous score was was originally commissioned and premiered by the Mark Morris Dance Group, I wondered why Stanton Welch's version was chosen by Joffrey.

After the Rain, featuring music by Arvo Pärt, was second. It is essentially two pieces dovetailed together: an ensemble piece set to Ludus from Tabula Rasa, and a pas de deux set to Spiegel Im Spiegel.

Part I was stark grey from floor to ceiling, including the dancers' costumes. While the artistry with which the dancers executed their movements was exceptional, I was distracted by the lack of interaction with the music. The musical gestures of Ludus are anything but subtle, and the finely nuanced dance did little to acknowledged these broad sonic strokes. That independence of elements must be an artistic choice, but seemed out of context - at least until the non-sequitur transition to the pas de deux. 

As the three duos completed their final gestures, the duo emerged onstage. Their vibrant colors and display were a sharp contrast to the monochrome grey of part I. Many people found part II to be their favorite piece on the program. An elegiac display of grace and skill, this piece portrayed an unapologetic sincerity that is only fathomable in an artform such as ballet. Every time I have heard Spiegel Im Spiegel live, the audience has broken into an almost comical sea of coughing - so much so that it now feels like an integral part of the piece. Friday's performance was no exception, though the audience participation did nothing to detract from the unabashed splendor of the piece. However, while the pas de deux was extraordinary, and Spiegel Im Spiegel was a perfect complement to it, I found myself wondering why Wheeldon ignored Silentium, part two of Tabula Rasa.

After a second intermission, the Rite began. Involving less pointing and more stomping, Hodson's reconstruction of Nijinsky's choreography presented a stark contrast to the finely crafted ballet that preceded it. When I was in my teens, I would watch the 1987 production on a VHS of The Search of Nijinsky's Rite of SpringIf you have seen that video, then you will not be particularly surprised by what you see in this year's model. However, the goal of presenting Le Sacre du Printemps is not to subvert expectations, but to celebrate and honor the original piece that left such a scar on the world. Seeing that same piece live was an exhilerating treat, and Joffrey did a fine job in presenting it. The full ensemble scenes were wonderfully over-stimulating, with every inch of the stage coalescing into colorful joints of some particularly unruly organism. My favorite moment was when the chosen girl, having stood perfectly still for quite some time, finally launched into her sacrificial solo dance. There is something haunting about those strange, angular leaps and gestures, particularly after the stillness that precedes them.

Like so many other composers of the last century, my first orchestration "lessons" came from pouring over the score of the Rite. From the moment the iconic bassoon opening floats in, you know exactly what you are in for. While the ensemble seemed a little pared down from Stravinsky's original orchestration, the power of the music still shone through.

There was even a musical revelation of the evening, though it didn't come from the pit. The stomps, claps, thigh slaps, and foot slides of the dancers added a delightfully surprising texture that one would never get from any standard orchestral performance, recorded or live. Were those part of Nijinsky's original choreography, or were they inferred by Hodson? I am dying to know.

Los Angeles is just the first stop in Joffrey ballet's national tour in celebration of Le Sacre du Printemps' centennial anniversary. If you won't have the distinct pleasure of experiencing this cornerstone of contemporary music, then you can at least see a video of the 1987 production on Youtube: