I am woefully behind in heppin' you-all to the latest and greatest releases awaiting your cold cash. I have so many samples of new releases that I'm splitting them into the avant-classical/experimental/electronic/weird-instruments genres (today's batch) and the novelty/outsider/wacko pop/rock end of things (next post). From the sublime to the ridiculous.
Our universities are still producing music majors who move into composing, teaching, conducting, etc. and labels like Innova and Ravello are still promoting them. I have no academic music background, but this collection of the latest works from composers far beyond the classical mainstream sounds great to me. Not exactly chilled/ambient, but, as it's mostly instrumental and often atmospheric and emotional, great stuff for waking to in the morning, or for evening's contemplation with a cocktail. Tho we start off with a bit of a bang:
1. David Kechley "Design And Construction - III. Cross Cuts": Percussion! The aptly-named "Colliding Objects" album features not only pitched percussives, but just about anything else that can be struck with a stick. The title track "requires marimba, cymbals, large drums, tam tam, pitched gongs, crotales, woodblocks and exotic bells." The piece featured here utilizes circular saw blades, and wooden planks cut to different lengths.
2. Andrew Violette's "Sonatas For Cello and Clarinet" is as moody as it's cover - tracks with names like "Mournful Bells" offer truth in advertising. The piece also boasts such non-standard classical music oddities as a cha-cha, but what really grabbed me was the dreamy piano that came in at 1:30 of "Grazioso leggiero." It's what I imagine Alice's trip to Wonderland must have sounded like.
3. McCormick Percussion Group "With Intensity": Awright, more percussion! The title piece of the McCormick's new album, "Concerti for Piano with Percussion Orchestra" is 15 minutes of variations on an oddly sentimental, but gorgeous melody. It's as old-fashioned as you can get for a piece for piano and nine percussionists. Part one is included here, but all three movements are, well, sublime.
4. Jeffrey Weisner's album "Neomonology" is bass-ically just upright acoustic bass. "The compositional process for Armando Bayolo’s 'Mix Tape' began with
Weisner sending a mix of his favorite tunes to Bayolo, who then reworked
them with pop and rock favorites of his own." I can't tell what the original sources are (maybe they were changed due to copyright issues?) but I dig this. It could have been the bass part to something out of Glass' "Einstein On the Beach." Elsewhere on the album, Weisner delves into micro-tonal territory.
5, 7. We now move completely out of any recognizable musical traditions with two short excerpts from Ulrich Mertin & Erdem Helvacioglu's "Planet X." Were this the '70s, the concept album about the arrival of a mysterious planet of hostile aliens would have been told with corny lyrics and a histrionic singer. Fortunately, today we get pure abstract electronica, along with something called a GuitarViol.
6. The title track of Yvonne Troxler's "Brouhaha" album, features violin, cello, and ball bearings being rolled around in three glass bowls. Cool! Elsewhere, Troxler and the 11-person Glass Farm Ensemble work their strings, horns, electric guitar and, again, plenty percussion into a variety of pleasingly dissonant (possible micro-tonal) shapes, inspired by the noise of New York City, and, on another track, meteorites. The meteorite piece is a good 'un, sounding like it's performed entirely on pitched plastic cups. Lots of variety and invention - one of my fave albums of this bunch.
7. Barry Schrader's "The Barnum Museum" is, like "Planet X," an electronic concept album, and this concept is so rad that the booklet that comes with the CD is at least as interesting as the music - a phantasmagorical visit to PT Barnum's 1800s "museum," where every room in the enormous mysterious building contains another enigma, or seemingly real-life myth, from mermaids to flying carpets, to things best left unexperienced. Behold! The Chinese Kaleidoscope.
8. Harry Partch's "Bitter Music" is one of my Albums Of The Year - a 3-disk collection of the legendary gay/ homeless/ hobo/ micro-tonal musical instrument inventor/ writer/ outsider /genius (phew!) It's mostly spoken-word, but hey, it's the journals of a Depression-era hobo "riding the rails" - illegally hopping on freight trains criss-crossing the country in search of work, all the while virtually re-inventing music. Reading from his journals is KPFK radio presenter, and founder of the Micro-Fest annual music festival John Schneider, who also plays some mean guitar, custom-made to Partch's bizarre specifics. This is one of the more musical, as opposed to text-heavy tracks: Just in time for winter, it's "December, 1935 - Night. Four black walls."
M4M Sampler: From The Sublime...
I have just done your holiday shopping for you. You're welcome. Coming soon: 'M4M Sampler: ...To The Ridiculous'