Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gordon Monahan Speaker Swinging


Speaker Swinging is based on the natural phenomenon of 'the Doppler effect.' The image and sound scale that this work produces is of the most primary form - terrible simple and terrible clear. Realized with electronic elements and tone generators, two dancers and a body builder are essential to carry out this piece: they swing the speakers.



Speaker Swinging

1st performance: Mercer Union, Toronto, 1982

Speaker Swinging is an experiment for three or more swinging loudspeakers and nine audio oscillators in an enclosed space. The idea comes from hearing such things as Leslie speakers, moving vehicles with broadcasting sound systems, airplanes, and other moving sound sources, both industrial and organic. The subsequent acoustical processes of phasing, vibrato, and tremolo are fundamental to the work, as are the elements of sweat, struggle, fear, and seduction.



Speaker Swinging grew out of a desire to animate the typical electronic music concert and in effect, to realise the loudspeaker as a valid electronic music instrument in itself. 

 

The rotary speaker motion and the corresponding Doppler shifts can become metaphors for the molecular movements of electrons that occur within solid state tremolo and vibrato circuits. It mimics these miniature processes that not long ago were modeled on human-scale mechanical-acoustic systems. 


 By making reference to the atomic, it necessarily acknowledges the celestial.
Speaker Swinging was first inspired by hearing Trans Am automobiles cruising on a hot summer night with Heavy Metal blaring out of the windows. As the cars cruised by, there was that fleeting moment of wet, fluid music, when one tonality melts into another.




First performed in 1982, this piece uses 9 sine/square wave oscillators broadcast over 3 loudspeakers that are swung in circles by 3 performers. This video was produced in 1987 and is edited to just over 7 minutes, while a live performance of the piece lasts approximately 25 minutes.




©Gordon Monahan 1982

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Michael Hedges Last Concert

Michael Hedges Last Videotaped Performance Two Weeks Before He Died 11-12-97 Somerville Mass 

 


Complete Full Concert, Full Show. This is the last video we have of the brilliant man that was Michael Hedges. This was filmed two weeks before he died. The story behind the video, blessings to the person who filmed this, was he called all the venues on Michael's tour looking for one that would allow a video camera. He found one, at the beginning of the tour, in Somerville, Massachusetts. And we have this. This performance has everything that would show off how brilliant he was, I don't really want to spoil it by mentioning examples (grabbing his collar while he sings 'You were perverted too' during Gently Weeps would be a classic case). This performance has been uploaded already as individual songs by another kind soul that has an entire channel dedicated to Michael Hedges, but he used auto contrast on the source copy which gives it a choppy look, and also requires the audio to be re-encoded. So here we have the darker, less well lit version, the video isn't choppy, and the sound is in all it's original audio source glory, turn the audio up L O U D for the full effect (nobody was more of a perfectionist about his sound than Michael Hedges, cept maybe Kimock or Garcia). A very sad day for Northern California and the world when he drove over a foggy cliff on the way home to Mendocino.

Dedicated to Shanti and Odele, whom I saw Michael with in Berkeley back in the early 90's. I only got to see him maybe ten times, the first time was in '86 at concord pavillion for some windham hill sampler, just the fact that he was a dreadie playing that kind of music had me hooked from that first time, also I was turned on to him by a very cool woman which didn't hurt. The last time was when he played the High Sierra Music Festival in '97, right before he died, i'm still kicking myself for being 15 minutes late for that set.

Michael Hedges home page: http://www.nomadland.com

Bill Frisell plays John Lennon - La Villete Jazz Festival 2012





Bill Frisell - guitar
Greg Liezs - pedal-steel guitar
Tonny Scherr - bass
Kenny Wollesen - drums
  • Across the universe
    John Lennon, Paul Mc Cartney
  • Beautiful Boy
    John Lennon
  • You've got to hide your love away
    John Lennon, Paul Mc Cartney
  • Number 9 dream
    John Lennon
  • Come Together
    John Lennon, Paul Mc Cartney
  • Julia
    John Lennon, Paul Mc Cartney
  • Please me Please me
    John Lennon, Paul Mc Cartney
  • In my Life
    John Lennon
  • Strawberry Fields Forever
    John Lennon, Paul Mc Cartney
  • Imagine
    John Lennon
  • Nowhere man
    John Lennon, Paul Mc Cartney








































Tuesday, September 16, 2014

George Crumb Black Angels


Ensemble Intercontemporain


Black Angels (1970) George Crumb



Electric string quartet
Thirteen images from the dark land

Things were turned upside down. There were terifying things in the air… they found their way into Black Angels.
George Crumb, 1990

Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Juan Pablo Izquierdo

Black Angels is probably the only quartet to have been inspired by the Vietnam War. The work draws from an arsenal of sounds including shouting, chanting, whistling, whispering, gongs, maracas, and crystal glasses. The score bears two inscriptions: in tempore belli (in time of war) and “Finished on Friday the Thirteenth, March, 1970”.

Black Angels was conceived as a kind of parable on our troubled contemporary world. The numerous quasi-programmatic allusions in the work are therefore symbolic, although the essential polarity -- God versus Devil -- implies more than a purely metaphysical reality. The image of the “black angel” was a conventional device used by early painters to symbolize the fallen angel.


The underlying structure of Black Angels is a huge arch-like design which is suspended from the three “Threnody” pieces. The work portrays a voyage of the soul. The three stages of this voyage are Departure (fall from grace), Absence (spiritual annihilation) and Return (redemption).
The numerological symbolism of Black Angels, while perhaps not immediately perceptible to the ear, is nonetheless quite faithfully reflected in the musical structure. These “magical” relationships are variously expressed; e.g., in terms of length, groupings of single tones, durations, patterns of repetition, etc. An important pitch element in the work -- descending E, A, and D-sharp -- also symbolizes the fateful numbers 7-13. 

William Blake 'The Good and Evil Angels', 1795/?c.1805. William Blake

At certain points in the score there occurs a kind of ritualistic counting in various languages, including German, French, Russian, Hungarian, Japanese and Swahili.
There are several allusions to tonal music in Black Angels: a quotation from Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” quartet (in the Pavana Lachrymae and also faintly echoed on the last page of the work); an original Sarabanda, which is stylistically synthetic; the sustained B-major tonality of God-Music; and several references to the Latin sequence Dies Irae (“Day of Wrath”). The work abounds in conventional musical symbolisms such as the Diabolus in Musica (the interval of the tritone) and the Trillo Di Diavolo (the “Devil’s Trill”, after Tartini).

Henry Fuseli Satan Starting from the Touch of Ithuriel's Spear 1779.

The amplification of the stringed instruments in Black Angels is intended to produce a highly surrealistic effect. This surrealism is heightened by the use of certain unusual string effects, e.g., pedal tones (the intensely obscene sounds of the Devil-Music); bowing on the “wrong” side of the strings (to produce the viol-consort effect); trilling on the strings with thimble-capped fingers. The performers also play maracas, tam-tams and water-tuned crystal goblets, the latter played with the bow for the “glass-harmonica” effect in God-Music.

 George Crumb

Sinfonietta Riga

Black Angels for string quartet was written as a response to the Vietnam War. The work draws from an arsenal of sounds including shouting, chanting, whistling, whispering, gongs, maracas, and crystal glasses. The score bears two inscriptions: in tempore belli (in time of war) and "Finished on Friday the Thirteenth, March, 1970".



Black Angels is primarily written for (in Crumb's words) "electric string quartet." Though generally played by amplified acoustic instruments, the work is occasionally performed on specially constructed electronic string instruments. The music uses the extremes of the instruments' registers as well as extended techniques such as bowing on the fingerboard above the fingers and tapping the strings with thimbles. At certain points in the music, the players are even required to make sounds with their mouths and to speak.

Arsis4 

 

Each of the string players is also assigned a set of instruments to play throughout the piece. Some of the equipment requires specific preparation, such as the crystal glasses, which are tuned with different amounts of water.


Violin 1

  • maraca
  • 7 crystal glasses
  • 6" glass rod
  • 2 metal thimbles
  • metal pick (paper clip)
Violin 2

  • 15" suspended tam-tam and mallet
  • contrabass bow (for use on tam-tam)
  • 7 crystal glasses
  • 6" glass rod
  • 2 metal thimbles
  • metal pick (paper clip)
Viola
  • 6 crystal glasses
  • 6" glass rod
  • 2 metal thimbles
  • metal pick
Cello
  • maraca
  • 24" suspended tam-tam, soft and hard mallets
  • contrabass bow


Black Angels, on the other hand, is a work of frightening intensity, where Jimi Hendrix and Pierrot Lunaire shake hands with the devil. Composed during the height of the Vietnam War, and 'finished on Friday the Thirteenth, March 1970 (in tempore belli)', Crumb's most celebrated work (which inspired the founding of the Kronos Quartet) was originally scored for amplified string quartet whose players are also required to bow glasses, shake a maraca and at a climax strike a tam-tam. It is presented here in a composer-approved 'expansion' for quartet and string orchestra.





Part of the effect of the original, particularly in live performance, comes from watching the players not only negotiate fearsomely difficult effects, such as bowing on the wrong side of the left fingers (creating viol-like tone quality), but also playing their array of percussion instruments and chanting in several languages; that heated atmosphere of intimate frenzy is lost when these labours are divided among a larger group.
--- Howard Goldstein, BBC Music Magazine


Filarmonica Quartet

Yes, this business of 7s and 13s came into the music. I don’t remember what they even mean. It was more technical, structural. I got carried away with the Friday the 13th thing. I think it is important in all music [not to reveal too much]. Beethoven doesn’t give us all of what’s in his mind. There are references to Shakespeare in his letters, but not in the score. Mahler’s Third originally had descriptive titles for all of the movements, but he dropped them. Even more abstract music is probably connected with other ideas—poetry, landscapes, and other things. [It’s better to] let the listener make the connections.
George Crumb

From the very beginning of the piece, specifically the title, it is clear that Crumb wants to bring the idea of evil to the forefront. The title Black Angels is a direct reference to the devil and therefore evil, yet even within this title the idea of good and God are present with the image of the angel. With, Thirteen Images from the Dark Land, Crumb emphasizes the 13 movements with its evil connotations as well as focuses on the idea of darkness, also an evil connotation. But, as mentioned above, the number thirteen has important Godly connotations. Crumb's decision to use electric string quartet is another focus on the unnatural and it will be shown that the use of amplification and distortion is used to promote evil in this piece.

 Spektral Quartet

The first movement, Threnody 1: Night of Electric Insects focuses on darker manner with the idea of threnody and night. Throughout the piece the presence of the electric insects motive indicates the presence of evil. The use of electronic amplification and distortion in this movement is pure evil. Threnody 1 is made up of predominantly melodic tritones with +2nds and few -2nds. Harmonically, the movement is mostly made up of semi-tone clusters, with some variation. The focus on the ‘diabolus in music' and the use of semi-tone clusters gives this movement an evil feeling. However, the repetition of motives in this piece focus around the number 7, a number which has good connotations.

David Harrington on George Crumb's Black Angels

 Despite the sensational effect of his work, when Crumb speaks of his own music, it is with a curious sense of detachment, as if he is himself still discovering connections and meaning. When he completed "Black Angels," he inscribed it "finished on Friday the Thirteenth, March 1970 (in tempore belli)." As he acknowledges, the work "will probably be forever known as the Vietnam Quartet. I didn't approach it that way. It was very late in the compositional process that I became aware of associations with that period. Some have suggested that even some of the titles refer to the geography of Vietnam, such as "Night of the Electric Insects.'" "Black Angels," a 20-minute work in 13 sections, took Crumb almost a year to complete. "I came to recognize that there was something of the feeling of that strange time. That's when I called it music in tempore belli, in time of war."
But even if the composer did not have the war explicitly in mind, there was inherent subject matter that naturally lent itself to such an interpretation. "Good versus evil was part of my thinking. The devil's music is for the violin. I use Tartini's "Devil's Trill.' The cello is the voice of God." Spirituality is also conjured with a quote from the slow movement of the "Death and the Maiden" string quartet of Schubert, but the musical homage goes further back as well. "There is something very medieval for me in some of the music. It sounds like quotes from medieval music [in parts] but is actually original."

Peter Burwasser



George Crumb (b. 1929) is one of the most frequently performed composers in today's musical world. Crumb is the winner of Grammy and Pulitzer Prizes, and continues to compose new scores that enrich the lives of all who come in contact with his profoundly humanistic art. Crumb's music often juxtaposes contrasting musical styles, ranging from music of the western art-music tradition, to hymns and folk music, to non-Western musics. Many of Crumb's works include programmatic, symbolic, mystical and theatrical elements, which are often reflected in his beautiful and meticulously notated scores.


Abraxas Quartet

A shy, yet warmly eloquent personality, Crumb retired from his teaching position at the University of Pennsylvania after more than 30 years of service. Honored by numerous institutions with honorary Doctorates, and the recipient of dozens of awards and prizes, Crumb makes his home in Pennsylvania, in the same house where he and his wife of more than 60 years raised their three children. George Crumb's music is published by C.F. Peters and an ongoing series of "Complete Crumb" recordings, supervised by the composer, is being issued on Bridge Records.


Paul Klee String Quartet