Righteous Girls: Gathering Blue

RighteousGIRLS-2-High-REs-e1434655231914-1105x336

I am thrilled that on July 10th Righteous Girls are releasing their debut album, Gathering Blue, on New Focus Recordings . It contains works by Andy Akiho, Akinmusire, Pascal Le Boeuf,  Vijay Iyer, Dave Molk, Mike Perdue, Jonathan Ragonese, and Randy Woolf, as well as my own “For Milton,” an homage to Milton Babbitt that is influenced in equal parts by jazz and serialism. Gathering Blue received a NewMusic USA Project Grant, a very competitive award to garner. There will be a release party for the CD at Joe’s Pub on August 7th, followed by a tour supporting the CD with dates in Washington DC, Baltimore MD, and Carrboro NC.

Thurston Moore and John Moloney: Full Bleed – Caught on Tape

Full Bleed: Caught on Tape

Thurston Moore and John Moloney

Northern Spy

It can be easy to frame an artist based on their most prominent or recent work. But while Thurston Moore has increasingly of late been involved in songwriting and poetry, one shouldn’t forget his roots in avant improv. Full Bleed: Caught on Tape is an excellent reminder of the ferocity of tone and boldness of amplitude Moore can undertake as an improviser.

Drummer John Moloney has in recent years spent much of his time playing with Moore in his Chelsea Light Moving incarnation. As a founding member of Sunburned Hand of the Man, he too has skronk improv cred. He demonstrates it here with thunderous enthusiasm, pushing Moore – and us – past anybody’s comfort zone. Full Bleed displays elements of drone rock and moments of finely layered textural playing. However, it mostly revels in the noise rock end of the spectrum. While that’s a place that Moore hasn’t visited quite as frequently of late as he did during his formative years, he proves here that he still can own it with abandon. Though not for the sonically squeamish, Full Bleed is an impressive, forceful document.

Happy Birthday Terry Riley!

Happy birthday to composer Terry Riley, who turns 80 today.

There are CD releases out this week to celebrate the composer. My assessment of ZOFO Plays Terry Riley appears in the CD Reviews section of Sequenza 21 and on my blog.

But wait, there’s more.

Nonesuch Records has done right by Riley. They have released One Earth, One People, One Love, a 5-CD boxed set of the complete recordings of Riley’s music composed for Kronos Quartet. The set contains a disc of unreleased tracks, Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector: Music of Terry Riley. For those of you yelling – “No fair! I already have the Kronos discs. I want to buy the unreleased recordings as a separate CD!” – Nonesuch is allowing you to do just that, separately releasing these recordings on a single disc.

Once again, happiest of birthdays Mr. Riley! May you continue to write the eloquently beautiful music we have come to know and love for many years to come.

 

Holly Herndon: “Platform”

Platform

Holly Herndon

4AD/RVNG Intl.

Most graduate students spend their time studying for comprehensive exams, giving conference papers, and readying their CV’s for the brutal academic job market. As a doctoral candidate at Stanford University, Holly Herndon is likely doing most or all of these things. But she is also crafting music of intense energy and winsome vitality that is being released commercially. It is nice to see the distinction between ‘academic music’ and ‘popular music’, between ‘electroacoustic music’ and ‘electronica,’ being utterly obliterated by her latest recorded outing Platform.

The use of electronic elements sits astride these two genres. There are beats aplenty that bump up against creatively morphed vocals and all manner of synthesizer magic. In terms of creative use of voices, I would put Herndon’s Platform alongside Jenny Hval’s Apocalypse Girl, Björk‘s Vulnicura, and Roomful of Teeth’s Render as this year’s exemplars thus far. It is exciting to contemplate what Herndon’s postgraduate work will look like.

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Herndon also has an enthusiasm for the visual. Several of the album’s tracks feature creative videos in which she is the protagonist in somewhat skewed scenarios. For an imaginative example, check out the video for “Morning Sun” below.

Thursday: Sarah Plum at Spectrum

Sarah Plum

On Thursday, June 25th at 7:00 PM, violinist Sarah Plum plays a concert at  Spectrum (121 Ludlow Street, NYC). Tickets are $15 ($10 for students and seniors) and are available at the door.

Plum, a new music specialist, has two CDs coming out on July 14th, both on the Blue Griffin imprint. On the first, joined by Timothy Lovelace, she presents the first volume in a projected series of music for violin and piano by Béla Bartók. The second is a CD of new music, concertos by Sidney Corbett and Christopher Adler.

On her gig at Spectrum, Plum plays works by both of the aforementioned living composers, as well as pieces by Charles Nichols and Mark Engebretson. Her program features both pieces for violin and electronics and violin and piano. She is abetted by pianist Francine Kay. Below, you can check out a video of a work on the program, Nichols’s Il Preto Rosso for violin and interactive electronics. Plum repeats the Nichols at New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival on June 26 at 4:00pm ( info at nycemf.org).

RIP Gunther Schuller (1925-2015)

Saddening news today. Gunther Schuller has died at the age of 89. A musical polymath, Schuller was active as a composer, conductor, arranger, historian, educator, arts administrator and, earlier in his career, French horn player. He pioneered the concept of “Third Stream” music: works that combine influences and materials from jazz and classical music.

In Schuller’s honor, today I’m listening to a Boston Modern Orchestra Project recording of his pieces for jazz quartet and orchestra. Given all of the attempts over the years to synthesize jazz and classical, it is amazing how fresh these pieces remain, how effortlessly Schuller (and BMOP) move from one style to another, and how seamlessly they blend the two.

I was looking forward to this summer’s tribute to Schuller at the Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood. Now this concert, with Magical Trumpets, a new work by Schuller, as well as his formidable Concerto da Camera, will serve as an elegy in memory of an extraordinary man of extraordinary talents.

Mercury Living Presence Boxed Sets

It has been an excellent year for reissues of audiophile classics. In my previous post about Decca’s Mono Sound boxed set, I mentioned that CD reissues of those classic recordings not only provided a collection of excellent music to enjoy, but they also gave one a sense of the history of recording.

Enter the Mercury Living Presence CD boxed sets; three volumes that are an embarrassment of riches. For audiophiles, MLP recordings are prized not only for their excellent sound, but also for classic performances by important orchestras such as the Minneapolis Symphony, London Symphony, and the Chicago Symphony. Soloists such as Janos Starker and Byron Janis are represented. In addition, the aesthetics of presentation – the album artwork – is often quite beautiful. An audio interview with the series’ producer, Wilma Cozart Fine, once again helps listeners to gain historical perspective.

There’s so much here that it is difficult to choose favorites, but I’ve particularly been enjoying a disc from Volume Three: the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Antal Doráti, performing Copland’s Third Symphony. A mono recording that is new to CD, it displays an impressive dynamic range, detailed sound, and a performance that is taut and fast-paced. It removes a layer of the unnecessary bathos to which this symphony has sometimes been subjected in recent years.

From Volume One, there is the very first (!) recording of Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition by Byron Janis. In addition to his solo recital, the disc includes a recording of the Ravel arrangement of Pictures, once again performed by Minneapolis under the direction of Doráti. From Volume Two, there is a recording that speaks volumes about its time: Morton Gould’s West Point Symphony, Alan Hovhaness’s Fourth Symphony, and Vittorio Giannini’s Third Symphony, performed by the Eastman Wind Ensemble under the direction of Frederick Fennell and Howard Roller. One may quibble about whether these are the most substantial works in the American canon, but the committed performances here by a collegiate ensemble of works by then-living composers serves as an object lesson for curating contemporary music.

Like all boxed sets, one must weigh the potential substantial investment against what it provides. Here, there are simply some of the best recordings released during the early LP era.