The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Yong Yandsen / Christian Meaas Svendsen / Paal Nilssen-Love:
Hungry Ghosts (Nakama Records)

Chinese Buddhism defines "Hungry Ghosts" as beings who are driven by intense emotional needs in an animalistic way, an apt description of this trio's dynamic and often bristling collective free jazz, with Malaysian saxophonist Yong Yandsen and Norwegians, Christian Meaas Svendsen on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums, performing live in Kuala Lumpur, 2018. ... Click to View


The MacroQuarktet :
The Complete Night: Live At The Stone NYC [2 CDs] (Out Of Your Head Records)

NYC Downtown mainstays, trumpeters Dave Ballou and Herb Robertson, are heard in a full concert at The Stone in NYC in 2007 with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey, concentrating their work in the Satoko Fuji Orchestra and Orange Then Blue into their own quartet, this their first performance together their energy, inventivenss and enthusiasm is on full display. ... Click to View


Webber/Morris Big Band:
Both Are True (Greenleaf Music)

Since 2015, composers-performers-conductors Anna Webber and Angela Morris have brought their compositions and playing skill to their Webber/Morris Big Band, 18 stellar New York improvisers integrating improvisation and composed material in unorthodox ways & with extra-musical sources, heard here at Roulette in Brooklyn in 2018 and at Buckminster Forest in 2019. ... Click to View


Adrian Waade Loseth :
Kitchen Music (Nakama Records)

Norwegian violinist Adrian Løseth Waade's first release as a leader is this melodically-inclined album of brightly evocative improvisation, buoyant strings and creative rhythmic drive with Waade providing all compositions, performed with Kjartan Laereid Gullikstad on guitar, Bardur Reinert Poulsen on bass, and Simon Olderskog Albertsen on drums. ... Click to View


Andrew Bain / Alex Bonney / Peter Evans / John O'Gallagher:
No Boundaries [VINYL] (Whirlwind)

London drummer & percussionist Andrew Bain leads a quartet with Alex Bonney on electronics & live processing, Peter Evans on trumpet & flugelhorn, and John O'Gallagher on alto sax, through two improvisations performed live at The Hexagon, Midlands Arts Centre, in Birmingham, UK in 2017, challenging idiom, genre & instrumental boundaries in a thorougly modern jazz ensemble. ... Click to View


Karl Evangelista (w/ Alexander Hawkins / Louis Moholo-Moholo / Trevor Watts):
Apura! [2 CDs] (Astral Spirits)

Filipino guitarist Karl Evangelista translates the name of the seminal South African sextet Chris McGregor Group's album "Very Urgent" to the tagalog equivalent--"Apura!"-- recording in London with McGregor group drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo and kindred soul Trevor Watts on saxophones, plus luminary pianist Alexander Hawkins, for a sophisticated album of exemplary collective improv. ... Click to View


Don Dietrich:
Option [VINYL] (Feeding Tube Records)

Recorded in 2019 as part of the OPTION series in Chicago, this is only Borbetomagus saxophonist Don Dietrich's second solo album, which is surprisingly his first solo performance, using an amplified tenor sax modified by effect pedals on a wild and boisterously harrowing performance of free improvisation by one of the preeminent practitioners of noise jazz. ... Click to View


Jurg Frey (Davies / Correa / Chang / Thut):
Echo.Trio.Fragile.Eyot (A New Wave of Jazz)

Two solo installation works from Wandelweiser composer Jürg Frey--"Paysage d'échos" in Aarau, Switzerland, in 2009; and "Equilibre fragile" in in Aarau in 2014--plus Frey's "Streichtrio" performed by Angharad Davies (violin), Johnny Chang (viola) and Stefan Thut (cello); and a solo piano work, "Eyot", performed by Antonio Correa. ... Click to View


Tonus (Serries / Verhoeven / Webster):
Segment Tones (A New Wave of Jazz)

Exploring long tones and harmonic interactions of consonance & dissonance through a slowly rotating and patiently evolving series of tones with each of the players in the Tonus trio doubling on wind instruments, as performed by Dirk Serries on soprano melodica & accordion, Martina Verhoeven on concertina & cello, and Colin Webster on clarinet & alto saxophone. ... Click to View


Liberty Ellman:
Last Desert (Pi Recordings)

Guitarist/composer Liberty Ellman's album takes its name from the four deserts--Atacama in South America, the Gobi in China, the Sahara in Egypt, and the "White Desert" of Antarctica--in seven sophisticated compositions performed with Steve Lehman on alto sax, Stephan Crump on bass, Damion Reid on drums, Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, and Jose Davila on tuba. ... Click to View


Whit Dickey (w/ Nate Wooley / Matthew Shipp):
Morph [2 CDs] (ESP)

Two albums released together as a single-priced 2-CD set, NY drummer, composer and free improviser Whit Dickey leads two groupings: on Reckoning, a duet with frequent collaborator, pianist Matthew Shipp; and Pacific Noir, a trio with Shipp and trumpeter Nate Wooley; both superb examples of modern jazz with creative inventiveness and virtuouso execution. ... Click to View


Pauline Oliveros / Alan Courtis:
Telematic Concert [VINYL + DOWNLOAD] (SpleenCoffin)

An unreleased 2009 concert from the Deep Listening Institute's Dream Festival, performed virtually via collaborative software between American electronic innovator and Deep Listening artist Pauline Oliveros on accordion and expanded instrument system, and Argentinian experimental musician Alan Courtis (Reynols) on unstringed guitar, objects and live processing. ... Click to View


Tod Dockstader:
Aerial 1 [VINYL 2 LPs] (Important Records)

The first in a 3-part series of vinyl releases for Tod Dockstader's "Aerial 1-3", his major work of electronic drone environments developed over 15 years, using over 90 hours of shortwave radio sources, cross signals and fragments, creating vast atmospheric clouds from which emerge voices, mutated conversations and unexpected patterns; amazing! ... Click to View


Bernard Parmegiani :
Violostries [VINYL] (Recollection GRM)

Three works from Italian composer and sound artist Bernard Parmegiani, the title track "Violostries" performed with violinist Devy Erlih and Parmegiani on sound projection, intersecting several of Parmegiani's research concepts and presented as simultaneous dialogues; plus "Capture Ephemere" an active acousmatic work; and the rotating composition "La Roue Ferri". ... Click to View


Alvin Lucier:
String Noise [2 CDs] (Black Truffle)

Continuing Black Truffle's series documenting the recent work of legendary American experimental composer Alvin Lucier, the duo String Noise of violinists Conrad Harris & Pauline Harris Kim present three long-form compositions exploring acoustic phenomena, including echolocation ("Tapper"), inter-violin resonance ("In Love Song") and sustaining long tones ("Halo"). ... Click to View


Patrick Shirioshi :
Descension [VINYL] (Thin Wrist)

A layered work of solo saxophone, electronics and noise from LA free improviser Patrick Shiroishi, the work often dark and primal contrasted with warmly passionate playing, in a work that reflects on the history of concentration camps for Japanese-American citizens during World War II, and on the current struggles of minorities around the globe; cathartic. ... Click to View


Bill Orcutt / Michael Morley:
Electric Guitar Duets [VINYL] (Palilalia)

Reissuing on LP their 2016 limited cassette on the Land and Sea label of a performance by guitarists Michael Morley (Dead C) and Bill Orcutt (Harry Pussy, solo) at the L/S gallery in Oakland, Orcutt on a Fender Telecaster without effects and Morley on a modified 2006 Squire Telecaster made in Indonesia, in a conversation merging clear and crenulated playing. ... Click to View


David Behrman / Paul Demarinis / Fern Friedman / Terri Hanlon / Anne Klingensmith:
She's More Wild... [VINYL] (Black Truffle)

Originally released in 1981 as a 3-track 7", this collaborative project recorded at Mills College by David Behrman, Paul DeMarinis, Fern Friedman, Terri Hanlon and Anne Klingensmith is presented for the first time in its entirety, a quirky performance art work based on texts by Friedman and Hanlon in which female narrators comically embody a series of iconic roles. ... Click to View


Metal Chaos Ensemble:
The Riddle Of Steel (Evil Clown)

This Boston-area collective ensemble explores chaotic rhythms on metallic instruments, heard in this 2019 recordings with three horns, doubled percussion and electronics, analog synthesis, and driving drum and bass work from Yuri Zbitnov and Mike Gruen, leveraging the Evil Clown arsenal of percussive devices as they perform an extended improvisations covering a wide scope of sonority and concept. ... Click to View


Brian Marsella:
Gatos Do Sul (Tzadik)

Pianist and composer Brian Marsella leads an all-star octet including Cyro Baptista, Mark Feldman, Jon Irabagon performing Marsella's lyrical and upbeat compositions inspired by classical, jazz, and folkloric Brazilian music and influenced by composers from Ernesto Nazareth, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Pixinguinha to Baden Powell and Egberto Gismonti; irrepressible! ... Click to View


Bill Laswell (incl. Pharoah Sanders / Herbie Hancock / Chad Smith):
Against Empire (Mod Reloaded)

Four rich and soulful pieces of electric jazz with an often Mwandishi-feel, from bassist Bill Laswell in a 9-piece ensemble of outstanding improvisers: Pharoah Sanders on sax, Peter Apfelbaum on sax, flute & keyboards, Herbie Hancock on electric piano, and 5 drummer/percussionsts--Jerry Marotta, Chad Smith, Hideo Yamaki, Satoyasu Shomura and, Adam Rudolph. ... Click to View


Charles Ives E.:
Another Songbook (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

Conductor Sebastian Gottschick presents an additional selection of songs and chamber music works from composer Charles Edward Ives that reflect this broad range, 20 mostly brief and innovative works composed between 1898 and 1921, blurring the boundaries between genres through unusual motifs, themes, gestures and phrases that appear in new vocal and/or instrumental contexts. ... Click to View


Sebastian Gottschick :
Notturni (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

Seven works composed in the 21st century by Sebastian Gottschick, who arranges and conducts the Ensemble Fur Neue Musick Zurich, configured as an ensemble with percussion, a sextet, a chamber ensemble with baritone and soprano, and performing himself solo on viola; sophisticated and modern works that employ complex tonality, timbre and playing techniques. ... Click to View


Turbulence:
Friction Coefficients (Evil Clown)

Saxophonist & flutist Bonnie Kane (W.O.O.) joins the Turbulence group, the extended horn section of the Leap of Faith Orchestra from Boston area collective Evil Clown led by David Peck (PEK), a concert that was live-streamed to Youtube during the Covid-19 Pandemic in February 2020, in a sextet with four reedists, two trumpeters, electronics, drums & extensive percussion. ... Click to View


Futterman / Levin / DuRoche:
Timeless Memories (JDF/CLM )

Bringing together exemplary jazz musicians from three cities--Virginia-based pianist Joel Futterman, Bary Area multi-reedist Ike Levin, and Portland, OR percussionist Tim DuRochse, for two sets of dynamic collective free jazz with a lyrical intent, joyfully spontaneous music that unfolds in ways that appear composed through the compatibility and familiarity of each artist. ... Click to View


Joel Futterman / Alvin Fielder / Ike Levin Trio:
Live At The Blue Monk (Charles Lester Music)

A burning live album presenting two sets of collective free jazz at Portland, Oregon's Blue Monk in 2006 from the trio of frequent collaborators Alvin Fielder on drumsn, Joel Futterman on piano, soprano sax & wooden flute, and Ike Levin on tenor saxophone & bass clarinet, a concert of great range, from explosive freneticism to introspective spaciousness. ... Click to View


Joe Morris :
Instantiation: Switches (Glacial Erratic)

The 4th in improving guitarist and composer Joe Morris' Instantiation series, where each part is unique, composed with specific notated and operational components such that it impossible to perform any of them the same way twice; performed with two active Boston improvisers, trombonist Eric Stilwell (hear on Joe Morris Trio "Value") and cellist & bassist Brad Barrett. ... Click to View


Kyle Bruckmann:
Triptych (Tautological) (Carrier Records)

Performing on oboe, English horn and live electronics, West Coast double-reedist Kyle Bruckmann presents three extended solo works of deep electroacoustic binding, each dedicated to a writer, artist or musician: "A Spurious Autobiography for John Barth (2015)"; "An Extruded Introversion for Blixa Bargeld (2016)"; and "A Fuzzy Monolith for James Turrell (2015)". ... Click to View


Dave Douglas (w/ Joey Baron / Dave Adewumi / Matt Stevens / Fabian Almazan / Carmen Rothwell):
Dizzy Atmosphere - Dizzy Gillespie at Zero Gravity (Greenleaf Music)

Trumpeter Dave Douglas' tribute to the great trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, exploring the many facets of the great Be-Bop progenitor's work, including the more experimental side of his discography, performed with a band of great lyrical NY jazz musicians: Dave Adewumi on trumpet, Matt Stevens on guitar, Fabian Almazan on piano, Carmen Rothwell on bass, and Joey Baron on drums. ... Click to View


Kaffe Matthews:
Foreigner [VINYL] (Objects Limited)

Recording with an Italian ELKA 400 electric accordion organ, pioneering electronic and sound aritst Kaffe Matthews presents two sonification of the word F O R E I G N E R, reflecting on her experience regularly moving from country to country, dealing with varying borders and governmental laws, by organizing sound in clusters that attempt to cross a compositional line. ... 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."



The Squid's Ear presents
reviews about releases
sold at Squidco.com
written by
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Squidco

Recent Selections @ Squidco:


Yong Yandsen /
Christian Meaas Svendsen /
Paal Nilssen-Love:
Hungry Ghosts
(Nakama Records)



Adrian Waade Loseth :
Kitchen Music
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The MacroQuarktet :
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[2 CDs]
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Violostries
[VINYL]
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Henry Kaiser:
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