Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Run Downhill's SPURS #1 and show Thurs

TJ Troy's Run Downhill is getting set to release its latest Song Comic episode this Thursday night down at Art Share! Their new album SPURS will be released one song at a time throughout the year 2014.

The first song, Unbreakable Man, is up now on Bandcamp. The video for it will be online Thursday, following their show at Art Share.


Their last album, Kilbourn, had 5 comic book-style videos illustrated by Scott Angle. You can watch them on YouTube now.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Notations 23: Barbier and Taylor

Here's the twenty-third installment of Notations! Inspired by Cage's 1969 bookNotations is a collection of graphic scores, hand drawn music calligraphy, computer code, compositional sketches, text scores, and other innovative forms of musical notation.

Every Monday we'll showcase notation by two different composers, primarily focusing on those local to Los Angeles. This week's composers are Matt Barbier and Luke Thomas Taylor. All images are used with permission, and copyright is retained by each piece's respective creator. Click on the images to see a larger view.

from Cube Intersecting Plane to Create Hexagonal Cross Space by Matt Barbier

Matt Barbier is an LA-based trombonist and composer focused primarily in the field of experimental intonation and noise music. Working collaboratively with composers such as Wolfgang von Schweinitz, Ulrich Krieger, and Marc Sabat, he engages with the emerging field of just intonation for brass instruments. Barbier is also a founding member of Gnarwhallaby, a Los Angeles-based mixed quartet. He received his education at the Cleveland Institute of Music (BM) and California Institute of the Arts (MFA). Barbier guest lectures at CalArts and Simon Fraser University.

More info at mattbarbier.com

from Untitled 2013 by Luke Thomas Taylor

Luke Thomas Taylor is currently studying for a Ph.D. in music composition at University of California, Santa Barbara. He recieved his B.A. in music at University of California, San Diego summa cum laude and his M.F.A. in composition at California Institute of the Arts. He has had the priviledge to study composition with Steven Kazuo Takasugi, Sean Franz Griffin, Rand Steiger, Chinary Ung, James Tenney, Morton Subotnick, Stephen "Lucky" Mosko, Mark Trayle, and is currently studying with Clarence Barlow.

More info at lukethomastaylor.com

Sunday, January 26, 2014

John Cage Can't Jump

Three considerations:

1. Consider John Cage's definition of music as "sounds heard."

2. With that in mind, consider the following scene from the movie White Men Can't Jump:



3. Consider what you have been listening to versus hearing. Also consider what others try to convince you are/aren't hearing.

I searched for an image of Cage playing basketball,
but could only find this PS image of him on a stationary bike...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Laughing Records

My favorite piece of American musicological jetsam is without a doubt the Laughing Record. Inspired by the novelty of Vaudeville and Minstrel shows, there is something endlessly magical and timelessly deranged about these.

There are many styles of laughing songs from the 20's onward. Besides the contextually anachronistic Strauss, other pieces titled The Laughing Song incorporated laughter into their melodic structures, such as those by Maurice Farkoa and George W. Johnson. However, the ones that adhere to the following formula are hands-down my favorite kind of laughing songs.

The formula is simple: A musician (usually a trumpet or trombone, sometimes a voice) starts a piece of music. They're interrupted by someone else's laughter, but attempt to keep going. The laughter becomes contagious and eventually takes over. The end. These records were big sellers in the 20's, with the Okeh Laughing Song being the most well known.

It sounds a bit predictable, but is it really much more so than typical song form, which Van Dyke Parks described as "the most portable piece of cultural baggage we can carry?"

Here are some great laughing records that I found online, in chronological order:

The Cameo Laughing Record (1922):




Okeh Laughing Record, AKA the Parlaphone Laughing Record (1923):




Sally Stembler and Edward Meeker's Laughing Record (1923):




Paramount/Puritan Laughing Record, and the Spoiled Cornet (both 1923):




Melotone Laughing Record No. 2 (1936)




Spike Jones' Laughing Record (1940's?):




Finally, the Okeh Laughing Song as used by Tex Avery in SH-H-H-H-H-H:



I know there are more out there. If you know of one that follows this format, please do send it my way!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Notations 22: Chessa and Hoffman

Here's the twenty-second installment of Notations! Inspired by Cage's 1969 bookNotations is a collection of graphic scores, hand drawn music calligraphy, computer code, compositional sketches, text scores, and other innovative forms of musical notation.

Every Monday we'll showcase notation by two different composers, primarily focusing on those local to Los Angeles. This week's composers are Luciano Chessa and Kristian Hoffman. All images are used with permission, and copyright is retained by each piece's respective creator. Click on the images to see a larger view.

Var. XXII: Valsugana (from Variazioni Su Un Oggetto Di Scena)
by Luciano Chessa

Luciano Chessa received a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of California–Davis; at the Conservatory of Bologna he earned a D.M.A. in piano and a M.A. in composition. His research focuses on twentieth-century and experimental music and can be found in Musica e Storia (Levi Foundation, Venice); he is the author of Luigi Russolo, Futurist (University of California Press), the first English monograph dedicated to the Art of Noises. Chessa is active as a composer, performer and conductor. Recent compositions include A Heavenly Act, an opera with video by Kalup Linzy commissioned by SFMOMA for Nicole Paiement and Ensemble Parallèle. Chessa's Futurist expertise resulted in a commission by New York City's Biennial PERFORMA to direct the first reconstruction of Russolo's intonarumori orchestra and to curate/ conduct concerts which received a "Best of 2009" mention in the New York Times. In March 2011 Chessa conducted a soldout intonarumori concert for Berliner Festspiele-Maerzmusik Festival; in December, for Art Basel Miami Beach, he conducted the New World Symphony with Lee Ranaldo in the premiere of Ranaldo's It All Begins Now!

More info on Wikipedia

I Like to Be Clean by Kristian Hoffman

Kristian Hoffman first emerged during the late 1970s as songwriter and keyboardist for New York City cult favorite the Mumps, and was also an active figure in the No Wave, performing alongside the likes of Lydia Lunch and the Contortions, and playing keys and singing on the James White and the Blacks LP Off White. As a member of Bleaker St. Incident, with Ann Magnuson and Robert Mache, he spearheaded the "anti-folk" movement. Concurrently he was in the lounge rock band The Swinging Madisons, and was the original musical director for Klaus Nomi, writing many of Nomi's best known songs. Kristian released his fourth solo album, Fop, on Kayo Stereophonic Records, in September 2010. It was met with overwhelming critical praise, making it one of the best reviewed albums of the year. A sample review from the highly regarded Magnet Magazine: "Hoffman’s latest solo LP is Fop (Kayo Stereophonic), and it’s a 17-song masterpiece sure to blow your mind." 

More info at kristianhoffman.com

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Eclipse Quartet @ Monk Space, 12/17/13

Happy 2014! After a holiday break, Auscultations is back in motion.

About month ago, on December 17, I got to hear the Eclipse Quartet perform at Monk Space as part of the Tuesdays@Monk Space series. This great concert included three pieces. The first half consisted of  Johanna Beyer's Quartet No. 2 and Julia Wolfe's Four Marys, while John Adams' John's Book of Alleged Dances took up the second half. The programming of the concert felt very organic, and one could imagine a sort of musicological narrative through-line.

Johanna Beyer's piece from 1936 portrayed a very era-specific relationship between form, consonance, and dissonance - sometimes steeped in functional harmony, other times steeped in dissonant counterpoint reminiscent of Rudhyar, Ruggles, or the Seegers. The piece seemed to be teetering on a conflicted edge, wanting to delve into a more free-form sound world but not quite ready to fully commit.

That lead nicely into Four Marys by Julia Wolfe, which fulfilled those aural implications of the Beyer. Eschewing the melodic content that may have burdened Beyer, Wolfe's piece leant heavily on the intuitively streamlined gestural textures that characterize much of her music. This was my favorite of the three pieces, and the quartet seemed to really dig into it.

After an intermission came the John Adams. John's Book of Alleged Dances was great to hear live, and it sounded like it was a lot of fun to play. The quartet played along with a pre-recorded track of prepared piano grooves, adding a acousmatic vibe to these playful tunes. This piece was written for the Kronos Quartet to perform with a pedal-operated sampler to be triggered onstage. However, the accompanying samples were later edited into a fixed recording to make live performance less harrowing for the players.

The Eclipse Quartet has a record of championing contemporary music. In June 2013, they released their most recent album with percussionist William Winant called Music for String Quartet and Percussion, featuring the music of Frederic Rzewski, James Tenney, and Zeena Parkins. There's a nice review of it on NewMusicBox.

Tuesdays@Monk Space is a great ongoing series in Koreatown featuring contemporary music by local musicians. Past concerts have featured Grammy nominees Vicki Ray and Aaron Kallay, composer Veronika Krausas (whose bass quartet the LA Phil just played on Tuesday), and the Lyris Quartet. The upcoming concert on January 21 will feature The Southland Ensemble playing the music of Alvin Lucier.