Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Erling Wold: Mordake CD: "very interesting"

“A new chamber opera based on a bizarre story makes for very interesting, pleasant listening” is the headline for a new review of Erling Wold's Mordake CD.

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Writing in Audiophile Audition, Daniel Coombs also comments, “The libretto, by Douglas Kearney is lean and simple, befitting the score. The music is an outgrowth of pure minimalism,” adding “the recording and packaging are top quality.”

Here's Track 12, "Once there was a boy (2)":

The opera tells the story of young Edvard Mordake, secreted away in his apartments due to his disfigurement: a woman’s face on the back of his head, whose constant imprecations, heard by him alone, lead him on a terrifying course of action.

The CD is physically available at Amazon, CD Baby, ArkivMusic, and more. It's digitally available at iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, MySpace Music, etc.

The title role is sung by John Duykers, whose most celebrated role was Mao Zedong in the world-premiere of John Adams’ Nixon in China, which was televised (winning an Emmy Award), and recorded (winning a Grammy Award).

The eclectic composer Erling Wold has been hailed as “the Eric Satie of Berkeley surrealist/minimalist electro-art rock” by the Village Voice.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Amy X Neuburg: "The Secret Language of Subways" CD; downloadable

Amy X Neuburg's "The Secret Language of Subways" CD can be downloaded at iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, etc. The release has been enthusiastically received:
"Like Laurie Anderson joining up with Philip Glass or Annie Sofie Von Otter collaborating with Steve Reich."
- Audiophile Audition

“A beauty.”
- Vital Weekly

“Amy’s best work yet… She’s a massive talent whose work is always fresh and entertaining.”
- Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?
Two years in the making, the CD consists of intricately composed, multiple layers of cellos topped by Amy’s distinctive and striking vocals; the songs range from intimate art-song ballads to electronics-based pop to Dadaist meanderings to lush symphonic arrangements. Sometimes the cellos are processed with electronic effects, other times heard in the expressive richness of their natural timbres.

Amy X Neuburg describes The Secret Language of Subways as “a song cycle about the inane and perpetually unfinished businesses of love and war — and New York.” The thirteen songs form a compelling dramatic arc, drawing the listener into a vivid, subterranean emotional journey. Starting from the hushed a cappella opening of One Lie, the CD makes local stops at urban paranoia (The Closing Doors, Body Parts), nocturnal reveries (the haunting-yet-catchy Someone Else’s Sleep), the surreal juxtapositions of street life (The Gooseneck, Difficult), self-preservation through self-presentation (the lilting, folkish Hey), and Amy’s stunning closer, the resigned, chorale-like Shrapnel.
“Neuburg's new song cycle teeters beguilingly on the boundary between pop and avant-garde performance art, and to hear it complete and in sequence is to marvel at the grace and elegance with which Neuburg walks that tightrope.”
- San Francisco Chronicle
Amy's vocals and electronics are accompanied by The Cello ChiXtet, comprised of Jessica Ivry, Elaine Kreston, and Elizabeth Vandervennet.

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A stylistically versatile, classically trained singer/composer with a four-octave range, Amy X Neuburg has developed a unique career bridging the boundaries between classical, experimental and popular music. Her ‘avant-cabaret’ songs combine her interests in language, expressive use of music technology, and exploration of multiple genres.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Future Classical Music Sales

Anne Midgette recently interviewed Klaus Heymann, who has grown Naxos from a new budget classical label to a major leader in the industry. You can read the full article here, but a few excerpts are of interest:

“Physical sales are still surprisingly strong in classical music, unlike pop and rock. In June, Naxos was 12% up on the month’s budget. The year to date is up 6% over last year.”

 “Downloads are stagnating… growth is anemic: I think it’s up 1 or 2% over last year.”

 “Amazon is our biggest customer in many markets: the US, England, Germany.”

“We’re starting Blu-Ray audio doing a demo of John Corigliano's Circus Maximus…It sounds spectacular…It’s probably the high-end medium of the future.”

“SACD [is] almost dead… More and more indies are giving up.”

“I have no doubt we will do very well with digital things. There are lots of ways of making money now… it’s exciting.”

Overall, it's more evidence that the future remains unpredictable and murky.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pamela Z: "A Delay is Better" CD; iTunes, more

Pamela Z's  "A Delay is Better" CD is available digitally at iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, etc.
“Sheer genius from the most gifted and enterprising vocalist/composer/audio artist in the US since the heyday of Joan La Barbara and Meredith Monk… The effects are stunning… Essential.”
– The Wire

“A lovely listen.”
– Kyle Gann, Village Voice

“A shining overview of her work as a solo artist. Fascinating.”
– De:Bug
The only CD devoted exclusively to Pamela's music, the recording offers some of her most widely enjoyed signature pieces. The New York Times writes the "acclaimed internationally" Z is "a wonderfully compelling performer with a lot of range." The New Yorker comments that "at the center of it all is the simple beauty of her classically trained voice - which can give her work an almost medieval purity." And the San Francisco Chronicle has enthusiastically commented that "Pamela Z creates lustrous sonic landscapes."

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The essence of Z's mesmerizing music is a skillful blending of her lovely voice with refined electronic manipulations. Pauline Oliveros writes that "this CD beguiles us with a rich introduction to a fine vocalist/composer who adeptly embraces technology," noting that Z "invigoratingly explores great varieties of solo, chorused, extended, and manipulated vocal materials."

Fanfare's review concludes the CD is "an excellent introduction" to "an emerging voice that’s adventurous, attractive, and very American."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Charles Amirkhanian: "Walking Tune" CD: now digital

Charles Amirkhanian's  "Walking Tune" CD is now digitally distributed. Sources include iTunes, Amazon, and eMusic. The original CD received some fine reviews:
“Some of the most interesting use of sounds that I've ever heard.”
– NPR’s "Weekend Edition"

“Charles Amirkhanian is a highly imaginative sound poet, text-sound creator, and contrapuntal collagist of the first order.”
– Stereo Review

“One of the Year's 20 Best CDs.”
– Electronic Music Foundation
Regarding this CD, Laurie Anderson wrote, "The art of audio collage has been reinvented here,” adding “I'm reminded of Brian Eno's music for imaginary films, although Charles takes this idea much farther." The CD presents the premiere recording of one of Amirkhanian’s most well-known and warmly received works, "Walking Tune – A Room-Music for Percy Grainger." Amirkhanian writes:
"Walking Tune (1986-7) is an homage to one of my favorite figures in 20th century music history, the Australian-American composer and pianist Percy Grainger (1882-1961)...  A great worshipper of the outdoors, Grainger conceived of his piano solo 'Walking Tune' during a tramp through the Scottish highlands in 1900. It is a simple and charming paean to those all-too-few joyous escapes from life's everyday cares. Grainger spent the final years of his life in a frustrated attempt to create a music synthesizer which would free him from the restrictions of conventional musical instruments, performers, and formal compositional structures. In this work, originally conceived for radio, I used the Synclavier digital synthesizer, a tool Grainger eagerly would have embraced, to combine sounds recorded out of doors in Hurricane, UT (tramping), and Pagosa Springs, CO (a swarm of hummingbirds), with sounds sampled from a variety of sources in Australia. The music is, for the most part, unabashedly pretty, as is much of Grainger's own output."
Anderson offered these thoughts:
"Mixing the real and the imaginary is a skill that very few composers have. Charles jumps back and forth between these worlds with delightful ease, his curiosity and humor always evident. But in Walking Tune – and many of the other pieces he's done over his long career – this skill is mixed with a sensibility that is elegiac."
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Another premiere recording was the invigorating "Chu Lu Lu," about which Amirkhanian comments:
"Imagine that you were asked to create a 60-second 'commercial' in the form of a work of new music which was to be aired on a European rock station. Furthermore, that the sound of the piece was, in some way, to exemplify the cultural connection between France and the U.S. Via immigration, migration, domination, and through war and peace, the populations of these two nations have, by the late 20th century, taken on striking multi-cultural profiles, which in the allotted time can be only hinted at here. My solution was to collage snippets of various ethnic musics, both from the former French colonies and from Cajun and Native American music."

This CD also presented the premiere recording of the playful "Gold and Spirit." Amirkhanian explained the piece’s origins:
"The title of Gold and Spirit (1984), borrowed from Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, here refers ironically to prize medals and cheering crowds, both integral parts of Olympic competition. When asked to write a piece of music for radio broadcast as part of the 1984 Olympics Arts Festival in Los Angeles, I recalled going to basketball and football games and playing drums in marching bands during my youth, and that one of my cherished ambitions was to have sports cheers of my own design, with the names of artists as texts, performed at real sporting events. In the '60s and '70s I began composing these group cheers, such as 'Ray Man Ray,' 'Go Van Gogh, and 'Marcel – Duh Champ.' The cheers incorporated in Gold and Spirit include spoken phrases processed by a Buchla Synthesizer, an Eventide harmonizer, and a Lexicon reverberation unit; some of the cheers were constructed with 64 images of my voice, layered in the 1750 Arch Street Studio in Berkeley. Other sound sources include actual sporting events (cuero, racquetball, lawn bowling, indoor soccer, baseball, handball, and basketball), as well as drum cadences produced by a synthesizer."
Amirkhanian wrote about the haunting "Bajanoom:"
"The somber mood of Bajanoom (1990), the Armenian word for 'separation,' mirrored my own feelings in light of the many nationalist movements, from Montréal to Yerevan, which have surfaced recently after many years of frustration and bitterness. Gong sounds sampled at the home of Lou Harrison are combined with the sounds of a musical saw, coffee grinder, guitar, and strings."
The CD also contains a slyly witty tribute to the composer, conductor, critic, author, and lexicographer extraordinaire Nicolas Slonimsky. Amirkhanian writes:
"The title of Vers Les Anges (1990) comprises several references to the dedicatee, Nicolas Slonimsky, for whom the music was composed in celebration of his 96th birthday. A resident of Los Angeles, (Les Anges, in French), Slonimsky translated Schloezer's life of Alexander Scriabin, composer of the piano work 'Vers la flamme.' For my tribute, I assembled a number of musical references appropriate to Slonimsky's life. As a conductor, the Russian prodigy directed the first performance of Edgar Varèse's Ionisation (1931), which features the sounds of sirens and a battery of percussion instruments, referenced at the beginning of Vers Les Anges. Other raw sonic materials include the sound of a German music box (from the period of Slonimsky;s youth), a digitally sampled komungo (played by Korean virtuoso Jin Hi Kim), and cuckoo clock and cat sounds which recall Slonimsky’s home."
Anderson concluded that "Humor, colorful cinematography, and a brilliant sense of imaginary space are just some of the joys of this CD."

Composer, percussionist, sound poet, and radio producer Charles Amirkhanian (b. 1945) is a leading practitioner of electroacoustic music and text-sound composition and has been instrumental in the dissemination of contemporary music through his work as Music Director of KPFA/Berkeley from 1969 to 1992. He also directed the Speaking of Music series at the Exploratorium in San Francisco (1983-1992) and was the founding Co-Director (with John Lifton) of the Composer-to-Composer Festival in Telluride, Colorado (1988-1991). From 1993 to 1997 Amirkhanian was Executive Director of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, California. In 1998 Amirkhanian was appointed Executive Director of the Other Minds music festival. His music has also been recorded on 1750 Arch Records, Composers Recordings, Inc., Giorno Poetry Systems, Fylkingen Records (Sweden), S Press (Germany), OU Records (England), Perspectives of New Music, and Diffusion i Média (Canada).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Phillip Bimstein: "Garland Hirschi's Cows" CD: Now Digital

Phillip Bimstein's "Garland Hirschi's Cows" CD is now digitally distributed. Sources include iTunes, Amazon, and eMusic. The original CD picked up some fine reviews:
“Garland Hirschi’s Cows is a cult classic.”
– NPR’s "All Things Considered"

“Outstanding...[Bimstein] has used digital sampling technology to tell wry and moving stories, and to elevate the mundane to the level of high art...brilliantly original.”
– Stereophile

“Quirky and thoroughly engaging.”
– Wired

“A lot of immediacy, wit, and inventiveness.”
– Stereo Review 
WNYC's John Schaefer has written:
“Perhaps Bimstein, like Philip Glass, Henryk Górecki, Michael Nyman, Gavin Bryars, and Arvo Pärt, will find people calling his music Alternative Classical... Bimstein’s music is not meant for theorists to wring their hands over in some future century; it’s meant to be enjoyed and understood, its stories told, right now.”
The CD opens with the now classic "Garland Hirschi's Cows," which describes a Utah farmer, his cows, and why they moo. Radio airplay of the work has generated hundreds of calls (especially after being heard on NPR's "All Things Considered"). Here's the opening track ("A Little Bit About My Cows"):

"Dark Winds Rising," for string quartet and tape, presents the Kaibab Paiute tribe's successful fight against the installation of a toxic waste incinerator on their native land. Employing a technique he calls "voice organics," Bimstein uses sampled speech to develop rhythmic patterns, melodies, and sound effects such as mesa winds, industrial ratchets, a snake pit, and bird calls.

In "The Door," Bimstein uses samples of his creaking studio door to create some funky brass instruments, a pulsating rhythm section, fragments of a merry-go-round's music, and a mournful seal.

"The Louie Louie Variations" is a contemplative fantasy that deconstructs a classic rock chord progression, while the haunting "Vox=Dominum," the most mysterious piece on the CD, deconstructs a variety of Persian sounds.

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Bimstein resides in Springdale, Utah, where he served two terms as mayor, prompting Outside magazine to call him "America's only all-natural politician composer." His alternative classical music combines acoustic instruments with found sounds and voices to paint portraits and tell stories. Bimstein's music has been performed at Lincoln Center, Bang on a Can, and London's Royal Opera House. In addition to his studies of theory, composition, and orchestration at the Chicago Conservatory and UCLA, Bimstein led the new wave band Phil 'n' the Blanks, whose albums and videos were college radio and MTV hits.

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Visit Phillip Bimstein's website.