The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Nate Wooley (w / Laubrock / Modney / Roberts / Courvoisier / Smythe / Matt Moran / Greenberg):
Mutual Aid Music [2 CDs] (Pleasure of the Text Records)

"Mutual aid" is the primary ethic of an anarchistic utopia in which each knows what they have, is honest about what they need, and is prepared to give and receive accordingly; here in 8 compositions from trumpeter Nate Wooley performed with Ingrid Laubrock, Sylvie Courvoisier, Cory Smythe, Josh Modney, Matt Moran, Russell Greenberg, and Mariel Roberts. ... Click to View


Flow Trio w/ Joe Mcphee:
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Joining the exemplary New York City Flow Trio of Louie Belogenis on tenor & soprano saxophones, Joe Morris on bass, and Charles Downs on drums is NY legendary saxophonist & trumpeter Joe McPhee, performing on tenor saxophone in an album of collective free jazz that reminds its listeners of the power of passionately unfettered yet superbly controlled free playing. ... Click to View


Chris Corsano / Bill Orcutt:
Made Out of Sound (Palilalia Records)

Continuing the collaboration that started in 2013, the duo of drummer Chris Corsano and guitarist Bill Orcutt expand on their free playing during the pandemic, recording remotely, with Orcutt improvising two passes over Corsano's initial drum tracks, creating something that blurs the lines between jazz, rock, folk and something passionately unique to their dialog. ... Click to View


Chris Corsano / Bill Orcutt:
Made Out of Sound [VINYL] (Palilalia Records)

Continuing the collaboration that started in 2013, the duo of drummer Chris Corsano and guitarist Bill Orcutt expand on their free playing during the pandemic, recording remotely, with Orcutt improvising two passes over Corsano's initial drum tracks, creating something that blurs the lines between jazz, rock, folk and something passionately unique to their dialog. ... Click to View


Playfield (Carter, Muhr, Ishito, Plaks, Namenwirth, Takahashi, Swanson, Panikkar):
Vol. 2 (Orbit577)

The second of a 3-album trilogy Playfield offers the musical equivalency of a walk through the diversity of New York in a loft-style extended improvisation from the octet of Daniel Carter on horns & reeds, Luisa Muhr on voice, Ayumi Ishito on sax, Eric Plaks on piano, Aron Namenwirth & Yutaka Takahashi on guitars, Zach Swanson on bass, and Jon Panikkar on drums. ... Click to View


Paul Dunmall / Keith Tippett / Philip Gibbs / Pete Fairclough:
Onosante (577)

A 4-track collective improvisation project performed by Paul Dunmall (saxophones, fife & bagpipes), pianist Keith Tippett, guitarist Philip Gibbs and drummer Pete Fairclough, recorded at Victoria Rooms at the University of Bristol, UK in 2000 and originally issued on Dunmall's own DUNS label, here reissued 20 years later in the memory of Keith Tippett. ... Click to View


David Shea:
The Thousand Buddha Caves (Room40)

Composer, keyboardist and conceptualist David Shea continues his musical journeys through the world's ancient trading routes that began with his albums Hsi-Yu Chi, The Tower of Mirrors, Satyricon and Rituals, here in ten encompassing compositions exploring the trading route from ancient Xian to Rome, through music, stories, history and Buddhist influences. ... Click to View


Michel Banabila :
Wah-Wah Whispers (Bureau B)

Dutch composer Michel Banabila amalgamates genres, using acoustic and electronics elements to serve his work, here in 8 recent pieces that blend electronica, world forms and soundscape in sophisticated ways, with vocal samples from all n4tural and Yuko Parris, guitar from Cok Van Vuuren, and a collaborative composition with Machinefabriek/Rutger Zuydervelt. ... Click to View


Sun Ra:
Extensions Out, Plus: Four Poetry Books (1959/1972) [4 BOOKS] (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

Four books of poetry by Sun Ra: two pamphlets that accompanied early Sun Ra albums issued in the late 1950s Jazz By Sun Ra (1957) and Jazz In Silhouette (1959); and two published more than a decade later later by Infinity Inc./Saturn Research: The Immeasurable Equation and the very rare Extensions Out: The Immeasurable Equation Vol. II. ... Click to View


Elephant9 :
Arrival Of The New Elders [VINYL] (Rune Grammofon)

After their double live albums, the Norwegian jazz-rock prog trio of Stale Storlokken on keyboards, Nikolai Haengsle on electric bass and electric & acoustic guitars, and Torstein Lofthus on drums & percussion, take a step back from the heavy grooves associated with their music to present a new chapter of sophisticated, spacious and sonically satisfying psychedelic interplay. ... Click to View


Dennis Gonzalez Ataraxia Trio+2 (w / Phelps / Lakpriya + Derek Rogers / Jess Garland):
Nights Enter (Ayler Records)

Unlike anything in trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez's discography, this album was developed from Moog recordings by Derek Rogers, whose shifting tonalities and colors led Gonzalez to a Jon Hassel-influenced approach, adding a rhythmic basis of tabla and djembe from Jagath Lakpriya and sitar-inspired harp from Jess Garland, underpinned by the rich bass work of Drew Phelps. ... Click to View


Baptiste Boiron / Bruno Chevillon / Frederic Gastard:
La [2 CDs] (Ayler)

During a residency in 2020 at the Domaine de Kerguehennec in Brittany, saxophonist and composer Baptiste Boiron developed this repertoire for the trio Lá of Boiron on soprano, alto & tenor saxophones, Bruno Chevillon on double bass, and Frederic Gastard on bass saxophone, Boiron's compositions applying a wealth of creative approaches merging contemporary and improvised playing. ... Click to View


Kuzu (Dave Rempis / Tashi Dorji / Tyler Damon):
The Glass Delusion [VINYL] (Astral Spirits)

A wild ride in two live performances, one at Elastic Arts in Chicago and the other at The Sugar Maple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, both in 2018 from the Kuzu trio of Dave Rempis on alto, tenor & baritone saxophones, Tashi Dorji on guitar, and Tyler Damon on drums, evolving free improvisation that builds from introspective to full-on burning free jazz. ... Click to View


Luke Stewart Exposure Quintet:
[VINYL 2 LPs] (Astral Spirits)

Dave Rempis invited bassist & composer Luke Stewart to his Exposure Series at Elastic Arts in Chicago in 2018, assembling a band for Steward with Edward Wilkerson & Ken Vandermark on reeds, Jim Baker on piano, and Avreeayl Ra on drums; Vandermark then invited the band back to his Option Series at Experimental Sound Studio; this double album presents recordings from both. ... Click to View


Sarah Alexander Ruth / Damon Smith:
God Made My Soul an Ornament (Balance Point Acoustics)

An unusual duo of double bass, voice, hammered dulcimer, recorder, slide whistle, and various objects, recorded in 2019 between bassist Damon Smith and Sarah Ruth Alexander, freely improvising through nine pieces that show the breadth of creative imagination and powerful technical skills of each; curiously compelling, unpredictable and marvelously diverse. ... Click to View


Eric Wong:
Cognitive Dissonance (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Guitarist, computer musician, and improviser Eric Wong (D.N.A.N.D.N.A. with Simon Rose) focuses on sound textures and perception of sound, in three works composed using Ableton Live that explore concepts of psychoacoustic sound through dissonance, harmonic interference and hallucinatory sound, slowly developing works of rich sonic characteristic. ... Click to View


Florian Wittenburg :
Beyond The Traceries (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Various facets of German composer and experimenter Florian Wittenburg's interests, in two iterations of two pieces and two compositions, using voice, vibraphones and ringing bowls, treated electronically to emphasize unique characteristics of sound from warmly rich to mysteriously fragile, balanced with space and careful timing; a valuable introduction to his work. ... Click to View


Yannick Guedon:
L'insistance Des Possibles (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

French voice artist and composer Yannick Gu├ędon living in Brussels composed this extended work, the title translating to "insistence on possibilities", realized with cellist Deborah Walker and violist Cyprien Busolini, Guédon merging extended utterance into long string drones, contrasted with silence, as the piece moves through very specific placement. ... Click to View


Nordheim / Schmidt / Weinheimer:
Das Gekochte (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Sharing compositional credits with the title translating to "the cooked", the trio of Andreas Nordheim on cornet, Ole Schmidt on clarinets, and Chris Weinheimer on flutes, with pianist Jan Gerdes guesting on one piece, present 16 recordings of minimalist harmonic and tonal development, mysterious and haunting works are taxonomically named by their location. ... Click to View


Well... The Yes (Jeph Jerman / Dave Knott):
No, Really. [CASSETTE] (Self Released)

Beginning in 1995 in Seattle, audio explorers Jeph Jerman & David Knotts explore lo-fi approaches using cassettes, mini-cassettes, dictaphones, various assortments of homemade instruments & collected materials, this 2020 cassette including recordings of mouth, stone, wood, glass, metal, paper, plastic, radio, and input from a number of contributors. ... Click to View


Evan Parker ElectroAcoustic Ensemble (w/ Sainkho Namtchylak):
Fixing the Fluctuating Idea (Victo)

Evan Parker's Electroacoustic Ensemble, merging reeds, strings and percussion with live signal processing to create something indescribably transformative is further amplified with the addition of free improvising vocalist and Tuvan throat singer Sainkho Namtchylak, adding an unearthly layer of interaction and transmogrification to this incredible 1996 FIMAV performance. ... Click to View


Rempis Percussion Quartet, The (w/ Haker Flaten / Daisy / Rosaly):
Sud Des Alpes (Aerophonic)

The 10th album from The Rempis Percussion Quartet, the dual-drumming free improvising collective quartet of Dave Rempis on alto & tenor saxophones, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten on bass, and Tim Daisy & Frank Rosaly on drums, celebrating their 15th anniversary as a working band through this exhilarating concert captured during their 2019 European Tour at AMR in Geneva, Switzerland. ... Click to View


Mike Cooper / Duck Baker :
Cumino In Mia Cucina (Confront)

Having been acquainted with each other for decades but never finding the opportunity to record, improvising American guitarist Duck Baker and British guitarist Mike Cooper finally found their chance in 2010 while both were in Rome, taking two acoustic nylon Spanish guitars into the studio to record these three extended, intertwining improvisations. ... Click to View


Damon Smith / Peter Kowald / Joelle Leandre / Bertram Turetzky :
Bass Duos 2000-2007 [3 CDs + 3 Postcards] (Balance Point Acoustics)

Three CDs, each dedicated to a mix of concert and studio recordings of double bass duos, the first between Damon Smith and Peter Kowald in 2000 at Gallery 2310, in Oakland, CA; the 2nd between Smith and Joëlle Léandre in 2002, which was recorded by Henry Kaiser; and between Smith and Bertram Turetzky at 1510 8th St. Performance Space, in Oakland, CA in 2007. ... Click to View


Rhodri Davies:
Wound Response (Amgen Records)

First released in 2012 on the Alt.Vinyl label and now reissued on his own Amgen label, Rhodri Davies performs solo in Newcastle upon Tyne on lap harp and electronics, using two main techniques: over-articulation of the strings (what harpists are taught not to do) and attacking the strings with a plectrum, forcing the tuning into new relationships until the strings eventually break. ... Click to View


Rhodri Davies:
An Air Swept Clean of All Distance (Amgen Records)

First release on the Alt.Vinyl label in 2014, this album finds harpist Rhodri Davies performing on the same instrument as his prior album Wound Response, but here with no amplification, preparations or distortion, improvising through "tumbling phrases, arpeggios and articulate rhythms", in a compelling album of assertive and joyful playing. ... Click to View


Various Artists (curated by Nick Vander):
Walk My Way, Volume Four (Orbit577)

The fourth of a five volume compilation series curated by Nick Vander, a testament to the incredible musical range of the guitar and the imaginative possibility of guitarists around the world, with tracks from Janet Feder, Martin Vishnick, Ikbal Lubys, Edward J. Gibbs, Joshua Weitzel, Guram Machavari, Eric Wong, Garth Erasmus, and Bill Horist. ... Click to View


Donald McKenzie II Sturge Anthony (feat. Elliott Sharp, Bill Laswell and Vernon Reid):
Silenced II - Views from the Auction Block (577)

Drummer Donald Sturge Anthony McKenzie II trades off duos with a set of masterful musicians in the second volume of his "Silenced" project, here with guitarist Elliott Sharp for a complex and inspired dialog; with bassist Bill Laswell for a rich and moody soundscape; and with guitarist Vernon Reid in a piece for McKenzie's daughter; plus one solo drum piece. ... Click to View


AMM (Tilbury / Prevost):
Industria (Matchless)

The title Indústria was chosen by Eddie Prevost in tribute to the history behind the Museu Industrial de Bala do Tejo, in Portugal where this concert took place by the legendary free improvisation band AMM, represented here as the duo of percussionist Eddie Prévost and pianist John Tilbury, performing as part of the 2015 OUT.FEST - Festival Internacional de Musica Exploratoria do Barreiro. ... Click to View


Fred Frith / Ikue Mori:
A Mountain Doesn't Know it's Tall (Intakt)

Having worked together for 40 years starting in the 80's in the Downtown NY scene, guitarist Fred Frith and electronic artist Ikue Mori recorded this album in Germany, using studio time left after recording the music for a radio play by Werner Penzel, using that work as an influence for these exceptional improvisations on home made instruments, toys and electronics. ... Click to View



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  Great Minds at Play  

Finding Art in Science, Monthly at Cornelia Street Cafe


By Matt Rand 2003-06-24

A room full of people who have just held in their hands a meteorite that hit the earth in 1576 is a tough room to play. And so it was that a good portion of the audience at Cornelia Street Cafe's "Entertaining Science" night (this one was "Heavy Metals") had left by the time Elliott Sharp picked up his miniature steel guitar. They had stayed through Oliver Sacks' lecture on the weights and properties of various metals, complete with fun handouts such as the meteorite, and even through David Brush's detailed explanation of the manner in which he sculpts with gold and steel. Both had something very tangible in common, in that both discussed specific ways that specific metals acted in specific situations.

So when Sharp took off his hat and started to set up his instrument and effects, people might have thought that this would either be too gimmicky ("Look, I'm making noise from metals!") or too vague ("Here is an ode to metal, bittersweet metal.").

Among those who stayed, however, was the inventor of fractal geometry, Benoit Mandelbrot. He was in for a treat, as Sharp warmed up with a series of harmonics played against a droning open string. Then, suddenly, he was playing a weepy slide melody, but the harmonics, fed through a delay pedal, hadn't stopped.

With the looping, he was able to add layer upon layer of new sound, from sliding melodies to distorted riffs to ethereal harmonics. However he didn't use the loops to create a bottomless cacophony. He let the more distant sounds slip out the back door, so that the sound at any given moment was a fluid combination of only the last couple of things that he had done.

Maybe Sharp got Mandelbrot's attention with the pattern, zooming into a space, exploring it, picking a spot and zooming in some more. The implication was that the piece could have been infinite, rather than a structured musical form.

"Entertaining Science" began on a whim. Los Angeles Timesscience writer and UCLA teacher KC Cole had written a book on the concept of nothing (The Hole in the Universe: How Scientists Peered into the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything) and she wanted to do a reading at the restaurant and performance space Cornelia Street Cafe in Manhattan's West Village. Robin Hirsch, co-owner and founder of the cafe and a long-time friend of Cole's, however, was concerned that the reading wouldn't draw enough of a crowd to make any money.

As Hirsch told the story: "So she said, 'Well, how about me and Roald Hoffmann?' and I said 'Who's he?' 'He's a poet and he's a nobel laureate in chemistry.' And I said, 'Well in all candor, nobody is going to come for him either.' 'Well, so how about me, Roald and Oliver Sacks?' And it was an incredible night."

There was a write-up in the New Yorker, pegged on Sacks' appearance (Sacks is an NYU neuroscientist with an interest in unusual psychological phenomena, and is the author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, Awakenings and Uncle Tungsten, among other works). Anywhere between 150 and 300 people showed up, depending on whom you ask. Either way, it was more than the 85-person occupancy of the basement room where the event takes place. According to Sacks, "it was very much an experiment then, which rose almost by chance," but Hirsch and Hoffmann decided to make it a monthly event, with Hoffmann becoming the event's curator.

In January, 2002, the series began, individual nights usually centering around a theme, such as "Heavy Metals," "What's So Funny About Science?" and "Get Lost in Translation." With his vast network of friends and colleagues, Hoffmann manages to find three people per month to round out the program, though he sometimes uses fewer if a scientist can also sing, dance or otherwise entertain. No one gets paid, but there is a free dinner in it for the participants. "They sing for their supper," Hirsch said.

Sacks, who has attended almost every month, said it has been so successful because it's "informal, not like going to a lecture, and it's conversational, interactive. Roald has had some extraordinary and important people coming and there's a great hunger for contact with scientific ideas and artistic expression."

But the informality can also lead to difficulties in booking people used to academic settings. "Sometimes I have to twist the scientists' hands a little bit to get them to participate," Hoffman said. "There are a lot of great scientists who are just afraid of standing in front of a stage in a Cafe."

About a month after "Heavy Metals," the subject of the next "Entertaining Science" event was music itself, or "Music on the Brain." Neurobiologist Fredrik Ullen of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and psychologist and cognitive scientist Carol Krumhansl from Cornell spoke about the brain's perception of music. Krumhansl discussed the perception of musical key and how that relates to the idea of expectation (such as you expect the song "Happy Birthday" to resolve in the same key in which it started). Ullen, who is also a renowned pianist, discussed the organization of various parts of the brain involved in making the rhythmic movements involved in playing an instrument, and performed compositions by Gyorgy Ligeti and Frederic Chopin on the piano.

There was, though, a disconnect between Ullen's lecture and his performance. His style on the piano, even while playing Chopin, was sober and unromantic. He played crisp, clear notes that brought out the structure of Chopin's writing rather than getting lost in the emotion of the piece. Then, even if the audience was still caught in Chopin's lilting melodies or Ligeti's churning rhythms, Ullen was not. He had stood up from the piano and he was already speaking and giving a PowerPoint demonstration. He would sit back down at the piano again, but just as an interlude oras an example during Krumhansl's talk. His music was his music and his science was his science. That his science was built around music did not seem to feed anything back into the music-making.

This is the difference between the science of music and the music of science. From one side of the table, scientists like Ullen and Krumhansl, or Sacks with his studies of music as a blueprint for motion for Parkinson's patients, attempt to find out why existing music affects us like it does. On the other side, Sharp is intent on creating music that seizes on the patterns that science has detected in nature. His compositions often follow structures based on the discoveries of mathematicians such as Fibonacci and Mandelbrot.

In the early 1970s, Sharp was studying music at Bard College and living in a house on the Hudson River. "I spent a lot of time walking along the river," he said, "and we had a porch, and you would see literally thousands and thousands of butterflies. There were times they would form patterns and almost seem on the verge of spelling out things. That led me to thinking about all the rhythmic structures we were composing, structures that are open-ended. It was all right there, all the fractal shit, pine cones and branches, streams and currents. It inevitably found its way into my thinking and I did a Hudson River series of compositions. They were all instruction sets, basically conceptual pieces, it being the '70s, but with a mathematical subtext.

"Self-similarity, mapping from the micro to the macro, is something that became very much a part of my approaches to composition, where I'm creating structures that echo each other both on a micro and a macro level, in the shape of the phrase from a 2-bar or 5-bar level out to its full structure."

But this kind of structure isn't obvious to every listener, and to many a piece made up of such algorithms might sound like a whole bunch of noise. In response to a questionabout the people who left the Heavy Metals show before Sharp had the chance to play, he explained that "music is the most abstract of all of the arts, and people either like it or they don't. The thing about music is you can't shut your eyes. Even with earplugs you're going to feel the vibration in the room... People are able to take in dissonant visual images much more easily than they can dissonant audio."

Sharp might be understating the point that visual dissonance is easier to stomach than audio dissonance. Ken Jolls, an Iowa State thermodynamics professor, jazz vibraphone player and January, 2003 Entertaining Science performer (he played the vibraphone and talked about its physics), has found that visual images of thermodynamic models make the traditionally undergrad-torturing concepts of thermodynamics far easier to understand for most students.

"The beauty of Gibbsian thermodynamics with its precisely connected functional structure can be demonstrated through computer imaging.... Ideas that have long been hidden under layers of abstraction now emerge through their understandable, spatio-geometric analogs," he wrote in his paper "Visualization in Classical Thermodynamics".

As with the intricate and beautiful images of Mandelbrot's fractals, a visual representation can make a concept more accessible. But we don't, for some reason, process sound the same way.

And yet Sharp wants the abstractions in his music to sing for themselves. For him, the listener shouldn't need to be versed in science or mathematics, or to have a copy of the score or an explanatory statement, to recognize the abstract structures from the sound of a given piece of music.

"I'm hoping someone hearing this music will understand, like a piece like 'SyndaKit,' they'll hear the complexity in it, they'll wonder how it's generated, maybe they'll hear the order, maybe they'll hear the rules," he said. "And they'll go backwards from thesound of the music to the systems that went into it, thinking about birds flocking, thinking about the way RNA molecules combine, thinking about genetic mutation, thinking about African drum choirs, thinking about how nature creates an algorithmic structure."

It's an ambitious approach. And it has won him a fan in Hoffmann, who said, "what attracts me to Elliott is a combination of just plain good musicianship and then this interesting thing where he plays on real instruments but he also does this computer work, simulates real things. And there's a deep intellectual structure to the work. My general feeling is there's something smart and intuitive about music, and if both are there, that's where Sharp is."

While some audience members might not yet be ready to skip their dinner reservations for the audio abstractions, Hoffmann likes what Sharp's getting at. Sharp uses science as an input, but creates something outside of science. Some scientists might stop at the boundary, waving at the bald-headed, black-wearing musician from inside their classrooms, but Hoffmann's humanized science brings him outside and into the cafe.

Hirsch and Sacks each brought up C.P. Snow when discussing Hoffman. Snow is best known for his mid 20th century work The Two Cultures, in which he examined the gulf between literary and scientific academics at Cambridge. He was disheartened by the ways in which academic specialization could work against the open sharing of knowledge.

Sacks explained that "Roald once gave a talk of the 'One Culture', against the Snow idea of two cultures, that comes out of the similarity of the creative processes, and also from, in many instances, some focusing on the same subjects. For example, language can be studied by a linguist, by neurolinguistics but also by a poet."

Hoffman is a Renaissance Man. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1981 for his explanation of the geometric behavior of molecules, and he has published four books of poetry. He spoke six languages by the time he was 12 years old, all while he was traveling across Europe, a Jewish refugee from the Nazis. Now his goal is to "humanize science," because, simply, he is a human and a scientist.

"I think the image of science and scientists is of dry, insensitive people, also super-rational," he said. "I think [the image is] that science is just for smart people and that it's dry and that it depends just on the facts and that there is no ethical edge to it. And I think that all of that is guaranteed to distance human beings from scientists."

Hoffmann benefits from a growing collection of friends and acquaintances who hail from all over the academic world, some who aren't academics at all. "Entertaining Science" revolves around his curiousity and his enthusiasm, and is the only place where you might find a microbiologist singing about leprosy (Helen Davies in February) or a program that highlights the similarities between tae-kwon-do and songs about aliens (The Two-Fisted Singing Universe in June, 2002).

As a result, the series offers "great minds at play," presenting science at a palatable, even entertaining, level, Hirsch said. "What Roald has achieved is to speak without condescension to the intelligent man on the street," he added.

Asked if he learns much science at the events, Hoffmann responded, "I do always learn something, if factually, but I think I experience something emotionally: even the science turns into a performance art here, and I experience it as an art form."



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Recent Selections @ Squidco:


Flow Trio w/
Joe Mcphee:
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(ESP)



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