The Squid's Ear
Recently @ Squidco:

Ivo Perelman / Nate Wooley:
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Tight interaction in an incredible weaving of creative ideas and technical prowess from the duo of tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman and trumpeter Nate Wooley, the two New York-based improvisers recording in the studio in Brooklyn in 2020 for ten dialogs, a perfect distillation of their work together after four CDs in larger group efforts; captivating. ... Click to View


Courvoisier / Rothenberg / Sartorius:
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Cortex (Hoyer / Nilssen / Alberts / Johansson):
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Dominique Pifarely Quartet (w/ Rayon / Chevillon / Merville):
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Hearth (Silva / Rasmussen / Rave / Draksler):
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Meeting for the 1st time at the 2016 October Meeting in Holland, the quartet performance there of Susana Santos Silva on trumpet, Mette Rasmussen on alto sax, Ada Rave on tenor sax & clarinet and Kaja Draksler on piano, inspired the formation of Hearth to develop soundscapes focusing on moods and textures, as heard in these six rich explorative collective improvisations. ... Click to View


Andre Fernandes (w/ Sambeat / Campos / Heliodoro / Pereira):
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Active Lisbon guitarist and producer André Fernandes formed the band Kinetic to perform the lyrically upbeat and sophisticated works of composers he admires--David Binney, Ohad Talmor, Akiko Pavolka, Sara Serpa, Perico Sambeat and Xan Campos--in a band that includes saxophonist Sambeat and pianist Campos, along with bassist Frederico Heliodoro and drummer João Pereira. ... Click to View


Oker (Larsen / Myhr / Rasten / Gismervik):
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Existing between composition and free improvisation, this Norwegian quartet of Torstein Lavik Larsen on trumpet, Adrian Myhr on double bass, Fredrik Rasten on acoustic guitar, and Jan Martin Gismervik on drums & percussion are informed by minimal composed, folk and improvised musics, applying unusual technique and methodology to create beautiful textural and impressionistic sound. ... Click to View


Oker (Larsen / Myhr / Rasten / Gismervik):
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Existing between composition and free improvisation, this Norwegian quartet of Torstein Lavik Larsen on trumpet, Adrian Myhr on double bass, Fredrik Rasten on acoustic guitar, and Jan Martin Gismervik on drums & percussion are informed by minimal composed, folk and improvised musics, applying unusual technique and methodology to create beautiful textural and impressionistic sound. ... Click to View


Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble:
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Formed in 1990 as a sextet to explore the possibilities of real-time signal processing in an improvising context, the 30 year history of saxophonist Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble and the first new album in 9 years explodes with this incredible 2019 live concert at Wojciech Krukowski Hall, in Warsaw, Poland as a 10-piece ensemble of masterful improvisers. ... Click to View


Chrome Hill (Lerheim / Nymo / Lofthus / Arntzen):
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Aki Onda / Nao Nishihara:
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String Theory:
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The 8-piece String Theory ensemble directed by violist Ernesto Rodrigues performs a beautiful and subtle work inspired by a poem written by Rodrigues, "Une Ombre Du Bonheur", realized through viola, violin, cellos, viola de gamba, double bass, piano, zither and objects, a stunningly beautiful and deceptively tranquil work of exceptional detail and dexterous execution. ... Click to View


Lucio Miele:
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A solo album from Italian percussionsit Lucio Miele, presenting six works of layered percussion with live electronics and, on three tracks, recitation from actor Simona Fredella, each piece sound-oriented with an incredibly diverse set of percussive variety, detailed atmospheric settings and diverse rhythmic foundation; a remarkable and sometimes hair-raising album. ... Click to View


Youjin Sung / Simon Rose:
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Interested in exploring open form improvisation and pairing Western and Korean musical instruments & tradition, baritone saxophonist Simon Rose met gayageum player Youjin Sung, a member of the AsianArt Ensemble playing contemporary music, at the Berlin club Sowieso in 2019 to record these eight exotic and informed dialogs of unique timbral voicing and authoritative skill. ... Click to View


Taku Sugimoto:
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Three concisely plain compositions for guitar, two solo and one trio, are played only with open strings or natural harmonics, where all the tunings are respectively irregular, written by Tokyo-based guitarist and composer Taku Sugimoto and performed and recorded in St. Petersburg, Russia by guitarists Andrey Popovsky, Denis Sorokin and Alexander Markvart. ... Click to View


Fraufraulein (Billy Gomberg / Anne Guthrie):
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Using a handful of improvisations from French horn, bass guitar, voice, electronics and objects collaged with field recordings made separately, Ann Guthrie and Billy Gomberg reflect on their enforced domesticity during the 2020 lockdowns, using the time to expand on the balance of electronics & objects in relation to acoustic instruments, creating detailed abstractions. ... Click to View


Max Hamel:
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A live solo recording made using the amplified and processed sounds of snow, hail, and wind, captured by sound artist Max Hamel using a piezoelectric disc taped to a metal plate stuck out his window during the first snow storm of 2019, processed in real time using resonant filters, delay lines, and chaotic processors, the whole edited for these two compositions. ... Click to View


Peter Strieff:
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Exploring the difference between the two Greek concepts of time--chronos (measurable) and kairos (qualitative moments)--Bern composer Urs Peter Schneider's 1973 composition uses synthesizers to measure, divide, experience, forget, free from, and embody time; plus a 1968 composition with Ensemble Nueue Horizon Bern, and two recent works with Ensemble Montaigne. ... Click to View


Natural Information Society w/ Evan Parker:
Descension (Out of Our Constrictions) [VINYL 2 LPs] (Eremite)

The first live album from Chicago bassist and guimbri player Joshua Abrams is the 6th Natural Information Society album, captured live in the summer of 2019 at Cafe Oto in London, the core quartet with Lisa Alvarado on harmonium, Mikel Patrick on drums and Jason Stein on bass clarinet joined by UK legend Evan Parker on soprano saxophone for four ecstatic improvisations. ... Click to View


Treesearch (GoGwilt / Motl / Kuester):
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Iain Sinclair / London Experimental Ensemble:
Dark Before Dark (577)

Writer Iain Sinclair joins The London Experimental Ensemble to perform his narrative work, a sequel to Living With Buildings: And Walking With Ghosts, telling a surreal story of the imaginary 25-year journey of a whalebone box, told in detailed images and incredible sonic support through keys, strings, brass, winds, guitar, electronics and voice; profoundly powerful. ... Click to View


Roberto Miranda Home Music Ensemble (Bradford / Carter / Newton / Tapscott / &c):
Live At Bing Theatre: Los Angeles, 1985 (Dark Tree Records)

Dark Tree's Roots series continues to unearth hidden masterworks from the West Coast scene, here with bassist Roberto Miranda's Home Music ensemble in 1985, an 11-piece large band performing Miranda's lyrically rhythmic compositions, with an all-star cast including flutist James Newton, clarinetist John Carter, pianist Horace Tapscott, trumpeter Bobby Bradford, &c. ... Click to View


Gerard Grisey / Iancu Dumitrescu / Niels Christian Rasmussen / Thanos Chrysakis / Salvatore Sciarrino / Lori Freedman / Tim Hodgkinson:
Music for Violas, Bass Clarinets & Flutes (Aural Terrains)

Compositions for violas, bass clarinets and flutes performed by Vincent Royer, Jill Valentine, Jason Alder, Chris Cundy, Tim Hodgkinson, Yoni Silver, Lori Freedman, Carla Rees, Karin de Fleyt, Thanos Chrysakis, Katrina Lauder, with compositions from Gerard Grisey, Iancu Dumitrescu, Thanos Chrysakis, Niels Rasmussen, Salvatore Sciarrino, Lori Freedman, and Tim Hodgkinson. ... Click to View


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

The final of five volumes from this 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 Harvey Valdes, Antonio Guillen, Boris Belica, Sandy Ewen, Denis Sorokin, Arvind Ganga, Pengboon Don, Josue Amador, Todd Clouser, and Mohammed Ashraf. ... Click to View


Chris Abrahams / Mark Wastell:
A Thousand Sacred Steps (Confront)

Drenched in beautiful ambiance, this inspired and spiritual meeting between Necks pianist Chris Abrahams and percussionist Mark Wastell performing on tam-tam and cymbals, was recorded while The Necks were in residence at Cafe Oto in London, the empathy between the two immediately evident in their graceful approach to these four evolving improvisations. ... Click to View


Bob Drake:
Planets & Animals (Recommended Records)

Bob Drake continues to tug on the heart-strings of prog in short but smart songs that reference the best of the last few decades of prog/psych/avant rock forms, Drake as always handling all parts in a great balance of guitar, electronic & acoustic instruments, including some newly invented instruments; includes a fold-out poster in Bob Drake style from Joe Mruk. ... Click to View


Axel Dorner / Toshimaru Nakamura:
In Cotton and Wool (Ftarri)

Meeting in sound artist and vocalist Yan Jun's studio in Berlin in 2017, trumpeter Axel Dörner and no-input mixer artist Toshimaru Nakamura recorded these four active and bristling improvisations, Dörner using every inch of his instrument and treating it with electronics to create the controlled chaos and richly jarring recordings that make up this, their 2nd album together. ... Click to View


Greg Davis:
Throughline (Autumn Records)

Taking modular synths into unusual territory, Autumn Records label leader and relentless audio explorer Greg Davis spent years using a computer controlled modular synthesizer system to generate an obsessive set of synthetic and electronic sounds -- swooping, burbling, chattering, &c. -- assembled into this quick witted and energetic set of compositions. ... Click to View


Microfiche (Alduca / Calligeros / Conner / Gill / Manojlovic / Murphy-Haste / Schack-Arnott):
Everything and Other Infinities (Creative Sources)

The 2nd release from this Sydney, Austrlian acoustic sextet, creating subtle yet dynamic improvisations influenced by the musical concepts of John Cage and Morton Feldman, balancing contemplative sections with building surges, these works developed on their 2019 Europe tour, which included performances at Copenhagen Jazz Festival as well as shows in Berlin and Stockholm. ... 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
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Recent Selections @ Squidco:


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