Created as part of Chris Brown and Guillermo Galindo’s Transmission Series, Transmission Tenderloin was originally broadcast outside on four different FM radio frequencies during a street fair in San Francisco. As translated for this disc, the piece works best on headphones so you get to experience the surround sound bounce of the electronic beats and breaths around your head.
I’m not usually a fan of reading liner notes before listening, but for this piece it may help to set the mood. In live performance, “the audience brings in their own radio receivers and becomes a moving sound system for the piece—sounds jump from one radio to the next as they move around an outdoor performance space. The Tenderloin neighborhood, close to downtown San Francisco, is known for its large homeless population, a thriving drug and sex trade, but also for the vitality of its multi-ethnic community. This music was broadcast from the roof of the Tenderloin Recreation Center down into the ongoing party in the streets of the neighborhood below.”
Springboarding off the unmistakable dotted motif that opens Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, Kevin Puts conflates his own orchestral writing chops with the over the top drama of the classic warhorse. But instead of out Beethovening Beethoven, Puts quickly decides to reigns in the bombastic opening gesture after it completely explodes, transforming the aftermath into an atmospheric fog. Although more hushed, the angst remains and the music that follows struggles to restrain itself from further erratic outbursts.
Remember The Waltz Project? It was a 1981 record on Nonesuch (in the pre-Bob Hurwitz days) that grew out of a collection of waltzes by 25 contemporary composers published by CF Peters that put Philip Glass and Milton Babbitt on the same program years before there ever was a Bang on a Can Festival. That still-exciting LP (which has yet to make it to CD) now has a sequel in Eric Moe’s collection The Waltz Project Revisited. Mixing some of that LP’s highlights—yes both Glass and Babbitt are reprised here—in equally exciting performances by Moe with some brand new ones composed in 2002. I love how Akin Euba’s mix of Africa and Vienna turns into virtual Satie.
Every violist I’ve ever known has lamented the dearth of solo music written for the instrument. Though they’re usually referring to spotlight works with orchestra, Daniel Asia’s Orange, for viola alone, might well be embraced by these same repertoire-seeking musicians. Rather than the showmanship of a concerto, this piece offers the performer the chance to deliver a sort of poignant Shakespearian soliloquy that covers a broad range of ground in seven short movements. Originally penned in 1976 for violist Stephen Ansell, it is here played by Hong-Mei Xiao.
It’s hard to imagine Roberto Sierra’s new guitar mini-concerto Folias not becoming one of the most popular pieces of new classical music: it’s tuneful, soloistically flashy and has some ethnic exoticism thrown in to boot. Hopefully it will be the piece that makes Roberto Sierra a name known outside circles of contemporary music aficionados. Perhaps to show off how “listener friendly” this music is, it is paired on the CD with concerti by Vivaldi which inveterate record collectors will probably claim they do not need additional recordings of, despite Daniel Felsenfeld’s program notes which go at great length to justify the pairing.
As a fiercely loyal Radiohead fan, I confess I have long been suspicious of Christopher O’Riley’s transcriptions of the band’s music. Surely it would sound like a lounge pianist working his way through a fake book? I considered the whole thing an affront to my hipster pride and, as usually happens in situations of this sort, dismissed it entirely without ever hearing a note. Shamed by my uncharacteristic closed-ear-edness, I finally gave Hold Me To This a spin. Though the disc won’t be entering heavy rotation at my house, I admire the fact that O’Riley even confronted Radiohead “hit” “Talk Show Host” (the same track featured in Baz Luhrman’s film Romeo and Juliet) and made it his own. O’Riley is obviously a fan, and the project, while never approaching the depth of the originals, is perhaps most interesting when viewed as simply an expression of that.
The title might look like some sort of algebra problem, but here’s the deal: Cage never finished One13, but evidence suggests that the piece was intended for solo cello with three prerecorded cellos composed entirely of single tones. Furthermore, it seems that each cello would play the same pitches for approximately the same duration, each with a slightly different timbre. So, Glenn Freeman comes along and decides to use the time structure from Cage’s One7 as a skeleton for the sonic material that was supposedly intended for the unfinished One13. Get it? And for the Cage purists out there, the CD also contains a straight up performance of One8. It’s cello bliss-out time.
Donald Berman, piano
For years I’ve been decrying Sony for not re-issuing the only collection of the complete music of Carl Ruggles (a 2-LP set I treasure which features performances by Michael Tilson Thomas and others). But now I find out that set is not complete after all! It turns out that although Ruggles only officially acknowledged seven compositions, he wrote tons of others and thanks to pianist Donald Berman, who has sifted through Ruggles’s unpublished manuscripts, some of this lost music is finally coming to light. While it’s a thrill to hear Visions, which might have been an additional fifth movement to his solo piano masterpiece Evocations, my favorite is Parvum Organum. Must be all those glorious parallel fifths!
Ironically, thanks to New World Records and the vagaries of the commercial recording industry, the works Ruggles acknowledged are still not all available, but at least the ones he hid away in the drawer now are!
So far there haven’t been many successful connections between hip-hop and so-called “new music,” but composer Keith Obadike cites as his heroes both Nam June Paik and James Brown. Check this out: The Sour Thunder, described as an “internet opera” created by Keith and his wife Mendi Lewis Obadike, poet, media artist, and here, rapper. Imagine P.M. Dawn meets Paul Lansky (which relates it to other CDs in the Bridge catalog). Somehow it manages to be a little bit of both without compromising either aesthetic agenda.