Friday, October 26, 2012

Joan La Barbara - Reluctant Gypsy (Wizard, 1980)

Joan La Barbara is an American composer whose career has been devoted to exploring the human voice as a compositional tool. She is married to legendary electronic music composer Morton Subotnick, with whom she has worked alongside since the late '70s. She has also worked with other influential composers such as Phillip Glass, Robert Ashley, John Cage and Morton Feldman.

Reluctant Gypsy features four compostions for multi-layered tape. La Barbara creates all sounds with her voice and utilizes Buchla modules for movements in one piece. Taken from the back cover-

             "This album represents an aspect of my compositional activity during the late '70s utilizing expanded and traditional vocal techniques. Ten years ago I decided to make my living as a performer and composer unattached to a specific institution and began traveling to do concerts and to make pieces. These can be categorized as: (1) multilayered tape works usually commissioned by and produced at radio stations (Shadow Song, composed in Ampleforth, England, and Klee Alee, written partly in Cologne, were commissioned for radio and completed in West Berlin); (2) sound installations (for art galleries and museums); (3) solo performances of music for voice with and without tape. All sounds on Reluctant Gypsy were produced by my voice; Buchla synthesizer modules were used to accomplish movement in the soundances and to modify verbal material in Autumn Signal."

Download it here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Karlheinz Stockhausen - Der Jahreslauf ( Deutsche Grammophon, 1981)

Karlheinz Stockhausen is considered one of the most important composers of 20th century and is well regarded for his innovations in electronic music. He accomplished 370 total works during his prolific career as a composer which spanned almost sixty years. There's plenty of literature about Stockhausen and his music, and lots of information on the web. You can read about his interesting and often controversial life here.

Der Jahreslauf was composed on a commission from The National Theater in Tokyo in 1977. Originally, the piece was composed for Gagaku orchestra and dancers, but it is heard on this album performed by an orchestra with European instruments. The orchestra is comprised of three harmoniums, an anvil, three piccolos, bongos, three soprano saxophones, a bass drum, harpsichord and guitar. Taken from the notes:

             "THE COURSE OF THE YEARS represents 4 musical time layers simultaneously: milleniums (3 harmoniums), centuries (anvil and 3 piccolos), decades (bongo and 3 soprano saxophones), and years (bass drum with harpsichord and guitar). Four temptations stop it, and each time an incitement starts it again. In concert performances, these temptations and incitements are heard as special events and words through loudspeakers."

I've included images of the notes in the download. Enjoy.

Paul Bley/Jimmy Giuffre/Bill Conners - Quiet Song (Improvising Artists Inc., 1975)

Canadian jazz pianist Paul Bley began his career in music at an early age. Before he was eighteen, he had founded The Montreal Jazz Workshop that brought such artists as Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins to his hometown. Bley studied at Julliard from 1950-54 where he formed musical relationships with distinguished artists like Jackie McLean, Lester Young, and Charlie Mingus. In the late 50's, Bley moved to California and formed groups that included innovative players like Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. In 1958, that trio, along with Billy Higgins and Charlie Haden, recorded a performance in Los Angeles that may be one of the earliest recordings of what came to be known as free jazz. In 1964, at the request of Bill Dixon, Bley joined the Jazz Composer's Guild. In 1973, he met video artist Carol Goss and the two formed Improvising Artists Inc. to feature collaborations between jazz musicians and visual artists.

Quiet Song was the first release on IAI. Bley performs on electric and acoustic piano in his signature style, blending classical, jazz, blues and avant-garde techniques. The trio plays well together, allowing a lot of space for each other to operate in. They each step in and out but occasionally meet at common grounds to create beautiful, melodic passages. There's a lot of space and, like the title infers, quiet on this album.

I find myself particularly drawn to Bley's work at this time of the year. Despite how outside he plays, he creates a feeling of calm that can especially be heard on this album and it feels like appropriate listening as the fall sets in.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Jocy de Oliveira - Estórias para Voz, Instrumentos Acústicos e Eletrônicos (FIF, 1981)

Jocy de Oliveira is a Brazilian pianist, composer and multimedia artist. In her youth, she performed as a concert pianist for notable composers including John Cage. She studied with Marguerite Long in Paris and with Robert Wykes in St. Louis where she received her MA from Washington University. The pieces heard on Estórias showcase Oliveira's compositional eclecticism and skill by blending electronic instruments with voice and elements of concrete music to create collages of sound. This has been reiussed on disc by Creel Pone and is available here through Mimaroglu Music Sales. They have also provided translations from the back cover of the notes about each composition. Read while you listen and be sure to purchase a copy if you enjoy it.