Saturday, September 12, 2015
After the popular English beat group Manfred Mann disbanded, founding members Manfred Mann and Mike Hugg continued their collaboration in an experimental, jazz-rock group, Manfred Mann Chapter Three. The new ensemble featured voodoo lyrics à la Dr. John over funk influenced rhythms and a full horn section with soloists doing their best Albert Ayler. Manfred Mann Chapter Three's first, eponymous album, released in 1969, was one of the first three records to be released on the newly minted Vertigo Records label. Volume Two followed in 1970 and was the their last recording. Mann went on to form Manfred Mann's Earth Band, apparently trying to get as much mileage as possible out of his given name. Download it here.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
David Rosenboom is an American composer. He studied electronic music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign among the likes of Kenneth Gaburo and Lejaren Hiller. He worked alongside Don Buchla and is considered one of the first composers to use a digital synthesizer, though I think Jon Appelton's works for the Synclavier synthesizer probably predate Rosenboom's digital works. He was also a pioneer in the use of neurofeedback and compositional algorithms as exemplified by Brainwave Music. These notes, taken from the back cover, describe the methods used to create "Portable Gold and Philosopher's Stones (music from brains in fours)" -
"Electrodes and appropriate monitoring devices are attached to monitor the brain waves of four musicians who have been well rehearsed in the voluntary control of their pyschophysiological functions. Monitors are also attached to two of the performers for body temperature and to the remaining two for galvanic skin response. This information is all fed into an analyzing system that extracts such things as, percent time per mint spent emitting Alpha brainwaves, average time spent emitting Alpha, the amount of variance in the amplitude of Alpha, the coherence time of any patterns discovered in the brain wave, correlations between brainwaves or two or more performers, relative entropy of the waveforms, relative intensity of various spectral bands in the brain waves, etc.
A sound producing system is set up as follows. Four frequency dividers, capable of producing pulse waves that are some integral division of a sine wave frequency being fed to all four, are set up. These dividers are capable of producing exact pitch ratios that are a function of some control voltage, in this case, voltages from the monitors of skin temperature and galvanic skin response. The resultant precisely tuned chord of pulse waves is fed, then, into a bank of voltage controlled resonant band pass filters, called a Holophone. Relative amplitudes of the filters' outputs can be programmed. The result analysis of the performers' brain waves is directly applied to the voltage control inputs of the filters. The relative output amplitudes of the filters are controlled by signals deriving from a Fourier analysis of the brain waves.
When two of more pulse waves of exact pitch intervals are applied to a resonant band pass filter, the filter can extract the harmonics present in the waveform composite. A particular intercal will then produce a set of extractable harmonics that forms a mode. The music proceeds as an improvisation within these modal possibilities.
The technician's part lies in the modes of analysis of the brain waves he uses and their application as control for the sound producing system."
Well, that's quite a bit to process. It all makes for highly enjoyable music, though. The piece described above is essentially an 18:30 long drone of various harmonics and waveforms that shift, incidentally forming harmonies and dissonance. The composition that follows, "Chilean Drought", features three vocalists who recite individual texts. Each vocalist represents either Beta, Alpha, or Theta brainwaves and recites their text as their assigned wave arises from the control performer. The vocalists are accompanied by piano for melodic cohesion. The final composition, "Piano Etude I" utilizes a piano passage taken from another composition amusingly titled "How Much Better If Plymouth Rock Had Landed On The Pilgrims." The passage is played fast and is intended to be complex and repetitive, requiring endurance. Rosenboom was interested in the relationship between Alpha wave production and intense motor tasks. The rapid brain signals produced when performing modulate center frequencies of two band rejection filters that have the piano sound as their input. This results in random, fluttering pulsations that, as he puts it, "place a mask over, or carve a hole in, the block of piano sound."
Download it here.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Now that I have revived this blog, I thought I would take us back to my very first post!
If you can remember correctly, Entourage was a collective beginning in 1971 and active for over a decade. They were a performance art group that incorporated music, poetry and dance, occasionally featuring as many as fifteen individuals. The group cites world music as an important influence on their sound and it is notably obvious in their use of various percussion instruments. Because of this influence, along with an aesthetic that can only be described as quasi-spiritualism or mysticism, I would consider Entourage early architects of the New Age movement. Their sound is a freer, unconstrained by melodramatic melody or programmed hifi world percussion, but the hallmarks are there.
The Neptune Collection is the follow up to The Entourage Music & Theatre Ensemble's eponymous debut, and it's more of the same free-form, experimental acoustic loveliness. This album features Wall Matthews, who had recorded previously with Biff Rose and went on to record a fusion record on Fretless followed by an odd, categorically easy listening acoustic piano record on Clean Cuts. At some point in the near or distant future, I will post an updated recording of Entourage's debut, as well as Matthews' subsequent releases for any completionists out there.
In the meantime, I'm going to listen to this record whilst I sit here with my cats and a dark beer, watching the sun set on my little island, enjoying a cool, late summer breeze.
If you would like to do the same, download HERE, and while you wait, watch this video of a performance by the group set to the first song on this album:
Monday, August 31, 2015
Léon Francioli is a Swiss bassist and cellist, b. 22 May 1946 Lausanne, Switzerland. Following his studies in piano and upright bass at the Lausanne Conservatory, Francioli worked in studios performing rock and classical. He was a founding member and guitarist of the instrumental rock group Les Aiglons. In 1970, he recorded his first solo album, Nolilanga, which is his foray into free jazz along with one of my favorite percussionists Pierre Favre. The ensemble also features English jazz saxophonist Alan Skidmore who is known for his solo work and participation in many UK jazz fusion/prog groups, i.e; Soft Machine, Keith Tippett's Centipede, The Nice, Elton Dean's Ninesense, etc.
Jean-Claude Risset is a French composer and respected pioneer in the field of computer music. Beginning in the mid '60's, Risset worked alongside Max Matthews at Bell Labs. Using Matthews' MUSIC IV software, Risset digitally recreated sounds of brass instruments. He is also credited with undertaking the first experiments in FM synthesis (think Yamaha DX series synthesizers) and waveshaping. Risset is also widely acknowledged for his elaboration on the discreet Shepard scale, an auditory illusion of a tone continually ascending or descending but ultimately never getting higher or lower in pitch. Risset's development, referred to as a Shepard-Risset glissando, has a tone that seems to rise or descend continuously in pitch, yet always return to its starting note. Risset created a similar rhythmic effect using drum samples. Both of these effects can be heard here. A further interesting development occurred in 1986 when psychologist Diana Deutsch reported that when a pair of Shepard tones are played in unison, seperated by an interval of a tritone, the pitch can be perceived as either ascending or descending. This is referred to as the tritone paradox.
Mutations features four compositions. The title track was commissioned in 1969 and composed for magnetic tape and synthesizer in 1970 at Bell Laboratories. "Dialogues" was composed in 1975 for a chamber ensemble of flute, clarinet, piano and percussion. The ensemble is processed on magnetic tape. "Inharmonique" (1977) is a collage for magnetic tape consisting of synthesized tones and sparse soprano singing. "Moments Newtoniens" was comissioned by Radio-France for the 50th anniversary of the death of Isaac Newton. Its written for a chamber ensemble featuring a string quartet, two trombones and one piano processed with magnetic tape.
Download it here.