Alvin Lucier – I Am Sitting In A Room (1980)

I am sitting in a room is Alvin Lucier’s idea of pure sound experiments. Through playback and recording of successive generations of his own voice the sound is washed until his talking is a pure harmonic. The album starts with a relatively bland Lucier..”I am sitting in a room” but as the generations progress everything becomes a pure ambient. As Lucier suggests in the recording, this sound is the dynamic of the room he records in. It is released in two parts on well pressed vinyl.

“I am sitting in a room, different from the one you are in now.” So begins one of the masterpieces of 20th century music merging processed music, minimalism, and self-reference into an utterly amazing and ultimately beautiful work. The instructions for producing the piece are, in fact, the piece itself. The composer sits and describes what will happen, and then it happens. Lucier tapes these instructions (about 80 seconds worth), tapes it, replays that tape into the room, tapes that, plays the second tape into the room, etc., and so on. Little by little, the “natural resonant frequencies of the room” erode the source material, softening hard edges, blurring boundaries between words. Different rooms will, presumably, give different results depending on their individual architectural properties. After ten or 12 repetitions, the listener already has difficulty distinguishing individual words, though the rhythmic pattern remains. But, and this is one of the cruxes of the work, all is not entropy. As the text becomes indecipherable, elements of undeniably musical tones emerge from nowhere, as though they were embedded in the original speech and only came to light after the surface structure was eliminated. Indeed, small melodies can actually be heard and the effect is absolutely magical. Fifteen minutes into the composition, Lucier’s speech has become a hazy cloud of wavering, bell-like tones interrupted by the occasional sibilance, the latter generated by the composer’s stutter, which adds an element of poignancy to the piece’s conception. Halfway through, no aspect of the speech can be gleaned except a rough cadence; instead, the listener has been transported to a sound world at such a far remove from the initial text as to leave one both baffled and awash in wonder. I Am Sitting in a Room is a unique, extraordinary idea/composition, a landmark among late 20th century avant-garde music and a touchstone for a generation of composer/theoreticians. It’s a rare combination of sensual beauty and intellectual rigor, and should be heard by anyone interested in contemporary music. [source]

Side A. I Am Sitting In A Room Pt. I (21:50)
Side B. I Am Sitting In A Room Pt. II (23:10)

This record was made by the composer on October 29 and 31, 1980 in the living room of his home in Middletown, Connecticut. It consists of thirty-two generations of the composer’s speech and was made expressly for this Lovely Music record.

Alvin Lucier – Vocals

 

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Conlon Nancarrow – Study for Player Piano 3a (1988)

From the album Studies For Player Piano by Conlon Nancarrow, recorded on Conlon Nancarrow’s custom-altered 1927 Ampico reproducing piano at the studio of the composer in Mexico City on January 10 and 12, 1988.

 Conlon Nancarrow’s Studies for Player Piano is a cycle of work unique in many respects, not the least being its seeming indivisibility from itself. As the primary text of the music is a hand-punched piano roll intended to be played on specific, Ampico model player pianos, it does not lead to a wide range of options in terms of interpretation. Studies for Player Piano, stems from master tapes made in Mexico City for release on the 1750 Arch label in the 1970s and ’80s, with Nancarrow´s own specially retrofitted pianos, in Nancarrow´s studio, and with the composer himself picking tempos and working with producer Charles Amirkhanian to achieve ideal results. These recordings were considered state of the art at the time and still sound great, and can certainly be considered definitive; CDs drawing from sources made later represent the music as played back by other machines and operators. While the differences might be slight, they are still significant, particularly in regard to tempo choices, which can either make or break this music, and breaking it isn’t hard to do at all. Hearing them played back on Nancarrow´s pianos also affords an additional layer of articulation missing from many reproductions; one of Nancarrow´s pianos was fitted with metal hammers, resulting a clattery sense of attack, whereas the other had hammers covered with leather strips for a more mellow sound. Make no mistake about it: the Other Minds set truly represents what Nancarrow himself wanted you to hear when it came to his player piano music, and he did have very specific ideas about that. [source]

Conlon Nancarrow – Piano

 

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Paul Dolden – L’Ivresse De La Vitesse (1992-93)

L’Ivresse De La Vitesse is from the album L’Ivresse De La Vitesse by Paul Dolden. This amazing mix of real instuments and tape recordings is beyond all limits of genres.

Culling material that covers a decade of work, L´Ívresse de la Vitesse (Intoxicated by Speed) had the effect of a bomb in musique concrète circles. Paul Dolden´s previous album, The Threshold of Deafening Silence (1990), already indicated that the composer eschewed traditional tape music esthetics, but this ambitious two-CD set consecrated him as a new voice. Dolden works with instruments. His compositions are amalgams of partitions, hundreds of them, recorded individually on a wide array of instruments. They are later assembled through pitch, polyrhythmic and textural relations to create high-density pieces that seem to be performed by massive lunatic orchestras. At the heart of the album are three such pieces: “Dancing on the Walls of Jericho,” “Beyond the Walls of Jericho” (these two completing a triptych started on the previous CD with “Below the Walls of Jericho”), and the title piece. The three works in the “Invocation” series feature tape parts from the Jericho cycle over which a solo part has been added. Performers include Dolden himself on guitar, Vivenne Spiteri on harpsichord, and cellist Peggy Lee; they are simply beautiful in “Physics of Seduction: Invocation #2.” The same method is applied to the title track, transformed into the two parts of the “Resonance” series, both performed by François Houle (on soprano saxophone and clarinet). An older piece, “Veils,” concludes the set with a look at the emergence of Dolden’s technique as it is made of acoustic parts and more conventional musique concrète treatments. The energy, richness, and density of the music bring to mind the Vancouver new music big bands NOW Orchestra and Hard Rubber Orchestra — that is to say that it conveys a much more organic experience than more standard tape music. Decadent and subversive, L’Ivresse De La Vitesse is a classic, a unique form of fin de siècle tape music. [source]

Paul Dolden- Electric Guitar, Tapes / Francois Houle – Clasinet, Saxophone


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Witold Lutosławski – Mi-Parti (1976)

Mi-Parti is an orchestral work by Polish composer Witold Lutosławski, written in 1976 to a commission from the City of Amsterdam for the Concertgebouw Orchestra. The name broadly means in two parts, and is in accordance with Lutosławski’s preference for two-part structures during the 1960s to 1970s: a preparation part, and a main body with development and climax (this is most clearly demonstrated in his Symphony No. 2). [source]

Composed and Conducted by Witold Lutoslawski.
Recorded in 1976 with The Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra, at Studios of Polish Radio & TV, Katowice.

From the EMI-album: Lutosławski* : Polish Radio N.S.O.*, Lutosławski* ‎– Concerto Per Orchestra · Jeux Vénitiens · Livre Pour Orchestre · Mi-parti

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Paul Hindemith – Sonata for viola and piano in F major, Op.11, No.4 (1919)

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963). Hindemith is among the most significant German composers of his time. His early works are in a late romantic idiom, and he later produced expressionist works, rather in the style of early Arnold Schoenberg, before developing a leaner, contrapuntally complex style in the 1920s. This style has been described as neoclassical, but is very different from the works by Igor Stavinsky labeled with that term, owing more to the contrapuntal language of Johann Sebastian Bach and Max Reger than the Classical clarity of Mozart. [source]

1. Phantasie (3:06)
2. Thema mit Variationen (4:01)
3. Finale mit Variationen (10:09)

Kim Kaskashian – Viola
Robert Levin – Piano

From: Paul Hindemith – Kim Kashkashian – Robert Levin ‎- Sonatas For Viola And Piano And Viola Alone, released in 1988.

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Dubravko Detoni – Phonomorphia II (1967 – 1970)

From the album by the Croatian composer Dubravko Detoni: Jugoslav AvanGarde Music: Graphies I.II.III / Phonomorphia 1.2.3., written between 1967 – 1970 and released in 1970.

Dubravko Detoni (born 1937 in Križevci, Croatia) is a composer, pianist and writer. Although active since the early 1970s he is almost unknown internationally.

He was educated in Zagreb, Sienna, Warsaw and Darmstadt, and studied with John Cage in Paris. He has written more than a hundred musical pieces, theatrical spectacles, multimedia and performance pieces, books of poetry, essays, commentaries, and radio and TV programs.

As the founder and leader of the ensemble, ACEZANTEZ, he has performed around Europe, Asia and America. [source]

Dubravko Detoni – Piano & Tape

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I Fagiolinia, Lessandro Striggio: Mass in 40 Parts (Decca)

Reviewed by Andy Gill.

I Fagiolini here presents the premiere recording of Striggio’s recently discovered Mass composed for five choirs of eight parts apiece, which is presumed to be the inspiration for Thomas Tallis’s similarly monumental exercise in Renaissance polyphony, “Spem in alium”. Though Striggio’s more formal Italian harmonic decorum precludes the kind of harmonic complexities that make Tallis’s masterwork such a superb experience, it nonetheless inhabits a powerfully affecting landscape, and is arranged here for period orchestration featuring viols, cornetts, lutes and the like. It’s accompanied by an impressive “Ecce beatem lutem”, the piece believed to be the seed-corn for his Mass.

[via The Independent]

Visit the album web site here.

Rufus Wainwright: Prima Donna (DVD)

A documentary film by George Scott.

Rufus Wainwright is a unique singer-songwriter and is one of the few pop musicians with the artistic credentials to be taken seriously in the classical world

Decca will release a comprehensive 90-minute documentary exploring Rufus Wainwright’s life-long interest in opera, the composition of his first opera, Prima Donna, and following rehearsals of the work up to the opening night on 10 July 2009 at the Manchester International Festival

The opera narrates the story of Régine Saint Laurent (Janis Kelly), once the world’s most revered operatic soprano, who is preparing for her return to the stage after six years of silence. But in doing so, Régine is forced to confront the ghosts of her past. Can she defeat the demons that destroyed her career, and emerge triumphantly once more into the spotlight?

The opera was received extremely well by press: ‘A love song to opera’ (The Times), ‘Disarmingly beautiful’ (New York Times), ‘Thrilling’ (Manchester Evening News) and ‘Breathtaking design’, found The Guardian.

The DVD is an extended version of the BBC’s Imagine… documentary, first broadcast on BBC One in the summer of 2009 and will include extensive interview footage with Rufus, his parents, sister, boyfriend, Prima Donna’s conductor and director, plus endorsements from Renée Fleming. The extra footage includes Wainwright singing the final Prima Donna aria at the piano and him singing Shakespeare’s Sonnet no.20.

Read a review in Financial Times here.

Album: Isang Yun, Concertino; Duo; Intermezzo; Pezzo Fantasioso (Wergo)

The concertina rarely features in classical music outside the work of Astor Piazzolla or Pauline Oliveiros, and its use alongside strings in these four pieces is indicative of the Korean composer Isang Yun’s fondness for unusual instrumental combinations. The Taoist principles behind his work are perhaps most evident in the rising figures representing the shift from darkness to light in Duo, or the contrast between the high, bird-like violins and the vibrant chord-clusters of Stefan Hussong’s accordion in Concertino. Originally scored for cello and piano, Intermezzo is less diverse, with the cello’s bowed lowing occupying similar space to the accompanying accordion drone. [The Independent].

Nonclassical Records Releases Gabriel Prokofiev's "Piano Book No. 1" Performed by GéNIA

When Gabriel Prokofiev first heard virtuoso pianist GéNIA, he was so inspired by her incredible control of the piano and expressive touch that he put aside previous reservations and decided to write a book of piano pieces for her. Initially he tried to veer away from the more traditional piano writing influences that had informed his early musical life (Chopin, Bach, S Prokofiev, Bartok et al). However, as the compositions started to take shape, it became evident that this connection to the past was unavoidable; with GéNIA encouraging Gabriel not to suppress his instincts. Yet this Piano Book is by no means a work of nostalgia; lurking under the surface of what occasionally sound like traditional harmonies and textures are subtle discords, pedal effects, rhythmic distortions, and even techniques that would normally be found in electronic and urban music settings.

Piano Book No. 1 contains all the usual, or should we say ‘unusual’ traits of Gabriel Prokofiev’s compositional style. There is a strong descriptive character in many of the pieces with ‘Cold Wooden Window’ clearly alluding to the shared Russian ancestry of Gabriel and GéNIA. ‘Tough Moves’ combines a hip-hop feel with romantic tremolo effects and ‘Fky House’ employs low bass clusters to work in the manner of drum patterns in dance music. Then ‘Glass swing’ is a 21st century bastardisation of Bach-styled 2-part invention. Gabriel’s method is perhaps comparable to the poly-stylistic writing of Schnikte, and his intuitive approach reveals that modern classical music can be sensitive and unafraid of bridging the gap between seemingly disparate musical worlds.

GéNIA’s subtlety of expression combined with her faultless technique enable her to unite the contrasting elements of Gabriel’s music seamlessly, creating effortless . Both performer and composer are well known for their pioneering attitudes in the contemporary classical world, with GéNIA having previously commissioned over 20 pieces for piano and electronics and developed a multidimensional playing technique called Piano-Yoga®. GéNIA’s UK debut in 2001 was met with critical acclaim and Nonclassical are proud to release their 2nd album together.

Piano Book No. 1 connects more to the classical tradition than previous Nonclassical releases, showing that though they may present classical music in a non-classical way, Nonclassical are still interested in continuing the legacy of classical music and moving it forward. One of the aims of GéNIA and Gabriel’s collaboration was to create an intimate sounding piano album that connected to the classic recordings of the past. This led to 88.2k digital recording of a hand-picked Steinway D-Series piano which was then mastered through analogue tape and vintage valve equipment, without compression.

Read the full Social Media Release here