The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Martin Blume / Lou Houtkamp / Steve Beresford:
Shed 1 (FMR)

A superb concert of masterful collective improvisation capture live at LOFT Cologne in 2018 from the trio of Luc Houtkamp on tenor saxophone & clarinet, Steve Beresford on piano & objects, and Martin Blume on drums & percussion, in three extended improvisations, thoughtful work building to periods of powerful passion while maintaining a reflective introspectiveness. ... Click to View


In Layers (Marcelo Dos Reis / Onno Govaert / Kristian Martinsson / Luis Vicente):
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MPT Trio (Mela / Paz / Trujillo):
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John Zorn:
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Two compositions by John Zorn for solo cello and two works for cello and rhythm section, performed by cellists Jay Campbell (JACK Quartet) and Michael Nicolas (Brooklyn Rider, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)), with drummer Ches Smith and bassist Jorge Roeder taking the rhythm chairs; exciting and innovative compositions in virtuoso performances ... Click to View


John Zorn (Stephen Gosling):
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Matthias Muller / Eric Normand / Petr Vrba:
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A set of informed avant/abstract acoustic and electroacoustic improvisations recorded in the studio in Austria in 2019, from the transatlantic trio of Euro free jazz legend, trombonist Matthias Muller, Quebec bassist Eric Normand on electric bass, and innovate trumpeter Petr Vrba also deploying electronics, the trio's interaction focused on patient and inspired sonic detail. ... Click to View


Sun Ra:
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Sun Ra Arkestra:
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Joshua Abrams' Cloud Script:
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Double bassist Joshua Abrams provides the compositions for this studio album performed with Ari Brown on tenor sax, Jeff Parker on guitar and Gerald Cleaver on drums, an exceptional quartet of master improvisers who balance lyrical and soulful playing with explorative impulse, fueled by an empathetic responsiveness that only a long history of collaboration can engender. ... Click to View


Paul Dunmal Sextet (Dunmall / Pursglove / Foote / Saunders / Owston / Bashford):
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A studio project led by Paul Dumall on alto & tenor saxophones and alto flute, recorded while on touring hiatus during the pandemic, composing six passionate and melodically charged works performed by the brilliant sextet of Percy Pursglove on trumpet, Richard Foote on trombone, Steven Saunders on guitar, James Owston on bass, and Jim Bashford on drums. ... Click to View


Dunmall. Paul with Metcalfe / Owston / Jozwiak:
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The other side of Paul Dunmall's characteristic saxophone work is heard here on the alto flute, bringing Dunmall together with fellow flutist Neil Metcalf and the rhythm section of James Owston on bass and Tymek Jozwiak on drums for four exceptional improvisations that focus more on interaction and less on soloing, showcasing all four through sophisticated performance. ... Click to View


Trevor Taylor:
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MoE w/ Mette Rasmussen / Ikuro Takahashi:
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During their 2019 Japan Tour, the collaboration of the Norwegian experimental rock band MoE and alto sax virtuoso Mette Rasmussen extended their trio with legendary drummer Ikuru Takahashi to record this energetic, rough and tumble album exploring the boundaries between free improvisation, skronky rock, and other confrontational, conceptual crossover forms. ... Click to View


Metal Chaos Ensemble:
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Audrey Chen / Phil Minton :
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Sun Ra And His Outer Space Arkestra:
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This reissue of the 1983 Saturn Research LP presents two aspects of the Sun Ra Arkestra, the first side with the 80's classics "Nuclear War" along with "Retrospect" and "Makeup"; the second side presenting the extended and more experimental "A Fireside Chat with Lucifer", a 20 minute well balanced, open framework that allows for both melodic soloing and extended free exchanges. ... Click to View


Lisbon Improvisation Players:
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A precursor to his Motion Trio, this is a 2002 studio recording led by saxophonist Rodrigo Amado performing on baritone & tenor saxophones, with US West Coast saxophonist Steve Adams on soprano & tenor saxophones, Acacio Salero on drums, and New York bassist Ken Filiano, improvising over six works that show the depth and mastery of each individually and collectively. ... Click to View


Susan Alcorn Quintet:
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Eric La Casa / Jean-Luc Guionnet / Arnau Horta / Seijiro Murayama / Michaele-Andrea Schatt:
Installations [CD + 24 page booklet] (Swarming)

A fascinating set of stereophonic electroacoustic compositions based on the recordings and mixes used for four sound installations in four galleries in France, impeccably captured and creatively edited: Eric La Casa & Jean-Luc Guionnet; Michaële-Andréa Schatt & Eric La Casa; Seijiro Murayama & Eric La Casa; and Arnau Horta & Eric La Casa. ... Click to View


Femme / Sunk Heaven / Jeph Jerman / Somnoroase Pasarele:
7 & 7 : VOL. 1 [VINYL 2 7-inch BOX] (SpleenCoffin)

The 1st in SpleenCoffin's double-7" series, each featuring exclusive material and packaged in reclaimed 7" audio reel boxes, this volume featuring audio tracks by French synth duo FEMME; NYC's Sunk Heaven; a piece composed from a group recording of Jeph Jerman, Tim Barnes, Bill Hutson & Ten Byrnes; and a work from Romanian audio artist SOMNOROASE PĂSĂRELE. ... Click to View


Rafal Mazur (feat. Satoko Fujii / Guilleromo Gregorio / Ramon Lopez / Natsuki Tamura / Artur Majewski):
The Great Tone Has No Sound [4 CDs] (Listen! Foundation (Fundacja Sluchaj!))

Four settings with improvising bass guitarist Rafal Mazur, 4 CDs, the first a solo studio recording of two extended improvisations; the 2nd a duo with clarinetist Guillermo Gregorio; the 3rd a live concert at Baza Club in Krakow with trumpeter Artur Majewski; the 4th a quintet session with Gregorio, Satoko Fujii (piano), Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), & Ramon Lopez (drums). ... Click to View


Kier Neuringer / Rafal Mazur:
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Investigating the continuity of our perceptions through sound--the one sense that flows continuously into our awareness--through a concert at Baza Club in Krakow, Poland in 2018 between alto saxophonist Keir Neuringer and acoustic bass guitarist Rafał Mazur, using magnificent technique as they tentatively then boldy exchanges waves of the past, present and future. ... Click to View


Marco Colonna / Alexander Hawkins:
Dolphy Underlined (Listen! Foundation (Fundacja Sluchaj!))

A set of Eric Dolphy compositions and one Colonna composition in the style of Dolphy and a Dolphy-esque take on Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child", from pianist Alexander Hawkins and Marco Colonna on clarinet, bass clarinet & sopranino saxophones, recorded live in Rome in 2020 for a spirited and tender hommage to one of the great and most singular figures in jazz history. ... Click to View


Elisabeth Harnik / Steve Swell:
Tonotopic Organizations (Listen! Foundation (Fundacja Sluchaj!))

The title referring to the spatial arrangement where sounds of different frequency are processed in the brain, New York trombonist Steve Swell and Austrian Elisabeth Harnik performing inside and out of the piano, are captured live at Martinsschlossl, in Vienna, Austria in 2019 for 8 free improvisations of immense creative drive and ebullient rapport. ... Click to View


Kaluza / Majewski / Mazur / Trilla:
The Night of the Swift (Listen! Foundation (Fundacja Sluchaj!))

Picking up where the 2013 Clean Feed album Tone Hunting left off, the quartet of Anna Kaluza on alto saxophone, Artur Majewski on cornet, Rafal Mazur on acoustic bass guitar, with drummer/percussionist Vasco Trilla replacing Kuba Suchar, the refreshed quartet is heard live at the University of Zielona Gora, Poland for an informed 6-part free improvisation. ... Click to View


Bernard Santacruz / Michael Zerang:
Cardinal Point (Listen! Foundation (Fundacja Sluchaj!))

Seven succinct dialogs between two masterful rhythm improvisers--bassist Bernard Santacruz and drummer Michael Zerang--whose previous work with Jeff Parker, Joelle Leandre, Douglas Eward and Jean-Luc Cappozzo is distilled to this intimate setting, employing innate lyricism and unique approaches to their instruments to fascinate and captivate their listeners. ... Click to View


Mary Halvorson's Code Girl:
Artlessly Falling [VINYL 2 LPs] (Firehouse 12 Records)

The 2nd Code Girl release from guitarist Mary Halvorson presents an embraceable and ambitious set of songs from 8 poetic forms for which Halvorson composed words & music, 3 of which are sung by Robert Wyatt, the others by Amirtha Kidambi, in a band with Thumbscrew members Michael Formanek (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums), plus Maria Grand (sax) and Adam O'Farrill (trumpet). ... Click to View


Trevor Watts (feat. Moire Music Drum Orchestra / Mark Hewins / Jamie Harris / Gibran Cervantes):
A World View [5 CDs] (Listen! Foundation (Fundacja Sluchaj!))

Five CDs with unique and joyfully creative aspects of saxophonist and composer Trevor Watts' work, from concerts and studio settings in the UK, US and South Americal in configurations of Trevor Watts Moiré Music Group, with the Enjambre Acustico Urukungolo, Trevor Watts' Moiré Music Drum Orchestra, and duos with Jamie Harris, and with Marc Hewins. ... Click to View


Chris Cundy:
Mountains (Aural Terrains)

Bass clarinetist Chris Cundy, uses the studio as a performance tool for accompaniment along with pre-recorded tapes, as he contrasts two different composers--Cornelius Cardew & Ton de Leeuw and their compositions titled "Mountains", alongside a Cardew graphic score piece, and 2 work for 5 bass clarinets, from Thanos Chrysakis and John Cage, the latter from his Numbers series. ... 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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reviews about releases
sold at Squidco.com
written by
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Recent Selections @ Squidco:


Martin Blume /
Lou Houtkamp /
Steve Beresford:
Shed 1
(FMR)



Sun Ra Arkestra:
Swirling
[2 LPS]
(STRUT /
Artyard)



Trevor Taylor:
Oscillations
12 Tone Music
For Jazz Quintet
(FMR)



Joshua Abrams'
Cloud Script:
Cloud Script
(RogueArt)



Paul Dunmal Sextet
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Projection
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(Fundacja Sluchaj!))



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Eric La Casa /
Jean-Luc Guionnet /
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Michaele-Andrea Schatt:
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Mary Halvorson's
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Trevor Watts
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Antoine Beuger /
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Chris Cundy:
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Marie Takahashi /
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Christiane Bopp /
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Joshua Abrams'
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Matthew Shipp :
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