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Daniel Bernardes / Drumming GP: Liturgy of the Birds - in memoriam Olivier Messiaen (Clean Feed)

Pianist Daniel Bernardes pays homage to French composer Olivier Messiaen, augmenting his piano trio of Antonio Augusto Aguiar on bass and Mario Costa on drums with the Drumming GP Ensemble of Miquel Bernat on marimba, Jeffrey Davis & Pedro Gois on vibraphones, and Joao Dias on glockenspiel, a wonderful merging of contemporary percussive composition and modern jazz. ... Click to View


Avram Fefer Quartet (w/ Marc Ribot / Eric Revis / Chad Taylor): Testament (Clean Feed)

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Gorilla Mask: Brain Drain (Clean Feed)

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Gorilla Mask: Brain Drain [VINYL] (Clean Feed)

The 4th album from German saxophonist Peter Van Huffel's Gorilla Mask, the 3rd on Clean Feed, is another powerful blending jazz and rock forms in restless and profoundly determined music, energetic but intelligently structured, with great riffs and melodic grooves from Roland Fidezius (electric bass) and Rudi Fischerlehner (drums and percussion). ... Click to View


Jose Lencastre Nau Quartet: Live in Moscow (Clean Feed)

The collective free jazz Nau Quartet led by alto saxophonist Jose Lencastre with Red Trio pianist and bassist Rodrigo Pinheiro and Hernani Faustino and drummer Joao Lencastre are caught live at Moscow's DOM Cultural Center for this album of thoughtfully informed improvisation, using open and spontaneous structures as they evolve each conversation in organic ways. ... Click to View


Tim Stine Quartet: Knots (Clean Feed)

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Kimchi Moccasin Tango (Nyberg / Bjora / Andersen): Yankee Zulu (Clean Feed)

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Almeida / Duynhoven / Klein: Live at the Bimhuis (Clean Feed)

This is the 2nd release of this trio on Clean Feed, with Tobias Klein (alto saxophone, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet), Goncalo Almeida (double bass) and Martin van Duynhoven (drums) captured live at Bimhuis in Amsterdam in 2017, taking on compositions by Ornette Coleman alongside original compositions in a free jazz mode from all three players. ... Click to View


Egil Kalman / Fredrik Rasten: Weaving a Fabric of Winds (Shhpuma)

Swedish bass player Egil Kalman, here on modular syntheizer, joins Norwegian guitarist Fredrik Rasten, for a lovely album of drifting electronics and beautifully entwining acoustic guitar, unhurriedly developing environments of warm, slowly evolving chord structures that show influences from players like Catherine Lamb or the Wandelweiser collective. ... Click to View


Egil Kalman / Fredrik Rasten: Weaving a Fabric of Winds [VINYL] (Shhpuma)

Swedish bass player Egil Kalman, here on modular syntheizer, joins Norwegian guitarist Fredrik Rasten, for a lovely album of drifting electronics and beautifully entwining acoustic guitar, unhurriedly developing environments of warm, slowly evolving chord structures that show influences from players like Catherine Lamb or the Wandelweiser collective. ... Click to View


John Coltrane Quartet: Impressions Graz 1962 (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

Taking his quartet on a European tour in the fall of 1962, his band with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on double bass, and Elvin Jones on drums performed in Graz, Austria at Stefaniensaal, the concert beautifully recorded by ORF Steiermark and here released as the first of two volumes, showing both Coltrane's lyrical origins and expanding free inclinations. ... Click to View


Louis Moholo Octet: Spirits Rejoice! [VINYL] (Otoroku)

Featuring an incredible lineup of masterful players from 1970's London creative jazz scene--Harry Miller & Johnny Dyani (bass), Keith Tippett (piano), Evan Parker (sax), Nick Evans & Radu Malfatti (trombone), and Kenny Wheeler (trumpet)--South African drummer Louis Moholo's debut album under brings both joy and spirituality to freedom and lyricism, a joyful achievement. ... Click to View


Tatsuya Nakatani : Rock Garden (Nakatani-Kobo)

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Tatsuya Nakatani : Rock Garden Extended [CASSETTE] (Nakatani-Kobo)

Twelve percussion solos from incomparable Japanese percussionist living in Consequence, New Mexico, Tatsuya Nakatani, a dramatic presentation starting with bowed and resonant cymbals and developing into active sections of intense drumming using bowls and found objects to create complex and unique percussive environments filled with detail, mystery and excitement. ... Click to View


Ryoko Akama / Apartment House: Dial 45-21-95 (Another Timbre)

Nine compositions from Ryoko Akama commissioned by Another Timbre while she was doing research at the Krzysztof Kieslowski archive in Poland, the scores based on fragments of notes and objects from that archive, realized here by the Apartment House ensemble as a beautiful set of floating works invoking "clouds, as shape, as light, as colour, as body, as element". ... Click to View


Jon Heilbron: Puma Court (Another Timbre)

Two compositions from Berlin-based Australian composer-instrumentalist Jon Heilbron scored for two double basses and two hardanger fiddles--violins with extra sympahetic strings-- in his two part "Puma Court", a slowly-evolving work that develops uniquely rich acoustic environments of interacting harmonies & timbres, punctuated with subtle percussive elements. ... Click to View


Frank Denyer: The Boundaries of Intimacy (Another Timbre)

A set of varied compositions from Frank Denyer, most of them of a delicate acoustic intimacy, with works for female singers & flute, two works for koto, a string quartet, one for flute and electronics and the two-part "Frog" for a bowed stringed instrument of Denyer design, the "sneh"; uncategorizable music of sublime imagination and unusual approaches. ... Click to View


Frank Denyer: The Fish That Became The Sun (Songs Of The Dispossessed) (Another Timbre)

A uniquely epic work in 14 parts by composer Frank Denyer, with a large ensemble of 40 musicians, many playing specially built instruments made from discarded materials, with other instrumentation including sitar, mandolin and hammered dulcimer, 4 male vocalists, 4 female vocalists, 4 players of adapted organ pipes, crumhorns, bowed wine glasses, 3 double basses, a contrabassoon, &c. &c. ... Click to View


Adrian Democ / Apartment House: Ziadba (Another Timbre)

London's Apartment House in a quintet configuration performs four chamber works by Slovakian composer Adrian Democ, the Czech ensemble Ostravska Band / Fama Q performs one composition, gentle music of deceptive simplicity, using color, shade and hue through unique orchestration, his works built upon creative foundations steeped in historic reference. ... Click to View


Octopus: Cyanea (Creative Sources)

A concise and essential concert from the Octopus octet, recorded in performances at O'Culto da Ajuda, in Lisbon, Portugal during the Creativefest XII, the ensemble of mostly acoustic instrumention (ello, viola, flute, clarinet, classical guitar, piano, percussion and synthesizer, carefully evolving a shade of blue in subtle details of tense restraint. ... Click to View


Toh-Kichi (Satoko Fujii / Tatsuya Yoshida): Baikamo (Libra)

The duo of Japanese improvisers, pianist Satoko Fujii and drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, continue their collaborations which includes many albums with the Satoko Fujii Quartet, their duo "Erans" record on Tzadik, and the original "Toh-Kichi" album on Victo, here in a new studio album of intricate, energetic and ebullient improvised dialogs, named for the aquatic flower "Baikamo". ... Click to View


exclusiveOr (Peter Evans / Wooley / Muncy / Olencki / Karre / Cimini / Young / Snyder / Pluta): Modules (Carrier Records)

The NY electronics duo exclusiveOr (Sam Pluta and Jeff Synder) join forces with the International Contemporary Ensemble and Architeuthis Walks on Land (Katherine Young and Amy Cimini) for this tour-de-force ensemble work, combining composed forms, electro-acoustic improvisation, noise, and lush harmonies, in a fascinatingly detailed album of creative musicianship. ... Click to View


exclusiveOr (Peter Evans / Wooley / Muncy / Olencki / Karre / Cimini / Young / Snyder / Pluta): Modules [VINYL] (Carrier Records)

The NY electronics duo exclusiveOr (Sam Pluta and Jeff Synder) join forces with the International Contemporary Ensemble and Architeuthis Walks on Land (Katherine Young and Amy Cimini) for this tour-de-force ensemble work, combining composed forms, electro-acoustic improvisation, noise, and lush harmonies, in a fascinatingly detailed album of creative musicianship. ... Click to View


Henry Cow: The Henry Cow Box Redux: The Complete Henry Cow [17 CDs, 1 DVD, 250pg Book] (Recommended Records)

The ultimate Henry Cow collection bringing together all of the 40th anniversary releases of this influential and innovative band, with all the remastered studio CDs, live CDs, Bonus CD, DVDs and booklets from each prior box, plus an additional 60 page booklet of band commentaries, pictures and other documents prepared specifically for this release, all in a sturdy & handsome box. ... Click to View


Krokofant w/ Stale Storlokken / Ingebrigt Haker Flaten: Q (Rune Grammofon)

Bassist Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten (The Thing) and Stale Storlokken (Elephant9, Supersilent, Terje Rypdal) join the Nordic Krokofant trio of Axel Skalstad on drums, vibraphone, Tom Hasslan on guitar, and Jorgen Mathisen on saxophone for the band's 3rd album, performing the 4-part work "Q", an intense and sophisticated album of complex and passionate instrumental rock. ... Click to View


Fay Victor: Barn Songs (Northern Spy)

With cellist Marika Hughes (2 Foot Yard, Anthony Braxton's Trillum) and saxophonist Darius Jones (Little Women, Darius Jones Trio), vocalist Fay Victor introduces her Fay Victor Chamber Trio, the open instrumental foundation highlighting Victor's expressive songs and insightful lyric content, developed with Victor and Jochem van Dijk; a great example of creative contemporary jazz song. ... Click to View


Brian Osborne: Decorous Novelties (Heat Retention Records)

Using metal, glass, wood, and plastic, percussionist Brian Osborne (The Gate, Hatchers) offers twelve tracks of interweaving layers of simplicity and complexity, clarity and haze, many pieces initiating with deceptive simplicity and insinuating themselves in unique ways, all performed live in the studio and presented with no overdubs or affects. ... Click to View


Radical Empathy Trio: Reality and Other Imaginary Places (ESP-Disk)

Recorded during Thollem's 2017 residency at Brooklyn's multi-discipline center Pioneer Works, the trio of Nels Cline on electric guitar and Michael Wimberly on drums apply treatments, alterations and processes to acoustic-electro improv, their unusual approach often inviting the listener to discover organization under a wonderful commotion of sound. ... Click to View


Hands To (Jeph Jerman): Scrine (Notice Recordings)

Sound explorer and composer Jeph Jerman created the 11 pieces on this release while living in the Knob Hill neighborhood of Colorado Springs, using unusual recording techniques he refers to as "guerrilla recordings" like tossing tape decks off buildings or putting them inside running clothes dryers, inching tape manually over the heads, exploiting creative field recordings, &c. &c. ... Click to View


Chik White / Xuan Ye: Breath Fractals (Notice Recordings)

Chik White (Darcy Spidle of rural Nova Scotia) uses a jaw harp, and Xuan Ye (Toronto) uses voice, percussion and field recordings, in this series of rich, peculiar, startling and altogether satisfying recordings that investigate a variety of approaches to their instruments, taking them to the fringes but bringing the listener along with them; oddly entertaining. ... 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.



continued...




The Squid's Ear presents
reviews about releases
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written by
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Recent Selections @ Squidco:


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Avram Fefer Quartet
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