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Barre Phillips / Motoharu Yoshizawa: Oh My, Those Boys! (NoBusiness)

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Barre Phillips / Motoharu Yoshizawa: Oh My, Those Boys! [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

... Click to View

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A fantastic album of free improvisation between two creative and versatile players captured live at Kerkje van Oostum, Groningen, The Netherlands in 2015--percussionist Gerry Hemingway and trombonist Samuel Blaser--both using immense talent and unorthodox approaches to their instruments as they shift from unexpected atmospheres to lyrical richness. ... Click to View

Martin Blume / Tobias Delius / Achim Kaufmann / Dieter Manderscheid: Frames & Terrains [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

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Elio Amberg / Christoph Baumann: Life In A Pond (Creative Sources)

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Paul Morgan Khimasia : peoplegrowold (Confront)

Paul Khimasia Morgan is a British guitarist and sound artist who performs on a prepared acoustic guitar body and zither, using objects and electronics to create works of tones, interventions and transitions, here in four rich pieces of well-chosen sound delivered with patient pacing, keeping each piece active while exploring the potential of his instruments and devices. ... Click to View

Giacomo Salis / Paolo Sanna: Humyth (Confront)

Creative uses of percussion from Italian drummers Giacomo Salis and Paolo Sanna, who explore gesture, movement, listening, and the investigation of natural materials and found objects, in five studio tracks that present the results of their research in both rhythmic sections and sections of abstract sound, honed from concerts, studio albums, and a collaboration with Jeph Jerman. ... Click to View

Ame Zek: First Bow (Creative Sources)

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Derek Bailey & Company: Klinker [2 CDs] (Confront)

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Golden Oriole: Golden Oriole (BeCoq)

Rough and ready, angular instrumental rock from this Stavanger, Norway-based instrumental duo of Kristoffer Riis on guitar and Thore Warland on drums, two parts of the power-trio Staer, here creating a massive dose of momentum as they push heavy rhythmic riffs with odd tonality and a great sheen of prickly effect layers, in a compelling and muscular album. ... Click to View

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An album of rich aural environments contrasted with clamorous action and disintegrating sound from the duo of French percussionist Rodolphe Loubatiere performing on snare drum and Berlin-based sound sculptor Pierce Warnecke, their second album as a duo presenting a sophisticated and diverse set of compositions that both entrance and disrupt their listeners. ... Click to View

IKB: Apteryx Mantelli (Creative Sources)

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Finn Loxbo / Erik Blennow Calalv : Snow Country (Creative Sources)

A duo between Swedish guitarist Finn Loxbo (Fire! Orchestra) and bass clarinetist Erik Blennow Calalv, in a low-key, moody and tranquil album of improvisations with titles implying their unhurried approach to their dialog--"Clouds", "Moving, Dancing", and "Ryoanji"-- making a beautiful album of nearly ambient but decidedly determined music. ... Click to View

Kang Hwan Tae : Live at Cafe Amores (NoBusiness)

Korean free saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan recorded this album of sincere and satisfying solo improvisations in 1995 at Cafe Amores, in Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan, two decades after forming his first free jazz trio of experimental improvisations, demonstrating powerful technical skills and a unique voice on the sax; a long-overdue distillation of his music. ... Click to View

Kang Hwan Tae: Live at Cafe Amores [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Korean free saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan recorded this album of sincere and satisfying solo improvisations in 1995 at Cafe Amores, in Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan, two decades after forming his first free jazz trio of experimental improvisations, demonstrating powerful technical skills and a unique voice on the sax; a long-overdue distillation of his music. ... Click to View

Jeph Jerman : The Bray Harp (White Centipede Noise)

Aural explorer Jeph Jerman reworks 20 years of source material into this large work of recurring sound, obscuring sources in a rugged mill that turns its sonic grist into a mesmerizing flow of ringing tones and resolute grit, constructed from Jerman's own recordings and tapes from Eric La Casa and Oskar Burmmel, and metal & wood from Ben Brucato. ... Click to View

Stephen O'Malley / Anthony Pateras: Reve Noir (Immediata)

Pianist Anthony Pateras and guitarist Stephen O'Malley (Sunn O))) performed a concert in 2011 at Instants Chavires in 2011, which they took into the studio to deconstruct and recompose on 1/4 inch tape, creating a compelling landscape of fractured musique concrete, introspective meditations, electro-acoustic textures and heavy guitar; includes a 20 page interview with O'Malley. ... Click to View

Rohan Drape / Anthony Pateras: Ellesmere (Immediata)

A founder of the Slave Pianos collective and co-organizer of the Inland Concert Series, Australian computer and synth artist Rohan Drap joins keyboardist Anthony Pateras for an extended exploration of interlocking vintage electric organs, allowing their tones and timbres to interact in microtonal richness as they create tonal environments and gradually unfolding progressions. ... Click to View

Max Eastley / Steve Beresford / Paul Burwell / David Toop: Whirled Music [VINYL] (Black Truffle)

Remastering a singular album of joyfully disruptive free improv recorded in England in 1979 at Ikon Gallery from the quartet of Max Eastley, Steve Beresford, Paul Burwell, and David Toop, their goal: to create music from instruments and objects that would be whirled to produce sound, performed behind a net and played with masks to protect the performers and audience. ... Click to View

Jean-Luc Guionnet / Daichi Yoshikawa: Intervivos [VINYL] (Empty Editions)

Recording at Empty Gallery in Hong Kong during a week residency, the duo Jean-Luc Guionnet (Ames Room) on saxophone and Daichi Yoshikawa (Eddie Prevost) using self-developed feedback of speakers, contact microphones & found objects, create intense yet constrained improvisations of impressive control, technique and exotic soundscape. ... Click to View

Matthew Shipp Quartet: Sonic Fiction (ESP-Disk)

Focusing on sound, warmth and exploration, pianist Matthew Shipp leads his quartet with saxophonist and clarinetist Mat Walerian, bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey through 10 tracks that explore a diverse set of moods and styles, allowing each player room for expressive solos, while never leaving the jazz and blues behind in this beautifully paced album. ... Click to View

Matthew Shipp: Zer0 aka Zero [2 CDs] (ESP-Disk)

New York pianist Shipp extends his infrequent solo career with this set of eleven solid studio recordings, taking us into the inner working of the influential pianist's approach to improvisation through lyrical, structured, enigmatic and unusual approaches to the keyboard; the first CD pressings include an hour talk "On Nothingness" that Shipp gave at The Stone. ... Click to View

Loren Connors: Pretty As Ever [VINYL] (Recital)

The Recital label continues its Loren Conners editions/reissue series with their 4th album of the guitarist's music, collecting and remastering tracks from out of print albums "Sails" and "Little Match Girl" in an album of ballads, complemented with a 12-page art-booklet of previously unpublished illustrations by Conners himself. ... Click to View

Sun Ra & His Astro-Ihnfinity Arkestra: Sun Embassy [VINYL WITH DOWNLOAD] (Roaratorio)

Recordings from Sun Studios made between 1968-1969 with Astro-Ihnfinity Arkestra including Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Daddy Davis, Ray Thompson, Danny Davis, &c. in nine tracks, six of which have never been heard before in any form, plus remasters on 1950s classics "Sunology" and "Ancient Aiethiopia", plus an early rendition of "Why Go To The Moon". ... Click to View

Sun Ra and His Intergalactic Myth Science Solar Arkestra: Sleeping Beauty [VINYL] (Art Yard)

An extremely soulful electric album from Sun Ran and the Intergalactic Myth Science Solar Arkestra, a groove driven and funky swirling masterpiece from the late 70's, with Sun Ra on piano, electric piano and organ, the Arkestra propelled by the drumming of Luqman Ali over a full band with Craig Harris, Michael Ray, Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Danny Ray Thompson, &c &c. ... Click to View

Bistre (Muller / Rodrigues / Wong): As We Read Along... (Creative Sources)

A trio of free improvisers recording five detailed and subdued dialogs in the studio, from trombonist Matthias Muller (Splitter Orchester), cellist Guilherme Rodrigues, and guitarist Eric Wong, collective improvisation guided by long pointillistic passages that converge into lyrical focal points, a profound example of concentrative discourse. ... Click to View

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Finding Art in Science, Monthly at Cornelia Street Cafe

By Matt Rand 2003-06-24

A room full of people who have just held in their hands a meteorite that hit the earth in 1576 is a tough room to play. And so it was that a good portion of the audience at Cornelia Street Cafe's "Entertaining Science" night (this one was "Heavy Metals") had left by the time Elliott Sharp picked up his miniature steel guitar. They had stayed through Oliver Sacks' lecture on the weights and properties of various metals, complete with fun handouts such as the meteorite, and even through David Brush's detailed explanation of the manner in which he sculpts with gold and steel. Both had something very tangible in common, in that both discussed specific ways that specific metals acted in specific situations.

So when Sharp took off his hat and started to set up his instrument and effects, people might have thought that this would either be too gimmicky ("Look, I'm making noise from metals!") or too vague ("Here is an ode to metal, bittersweet metal.").

Among those who stayed, however, was the inventor of fractal geometry, Benoit Mandelbrot. He was in for a treat, as Sharp warmed up with a series of harmonics played against a droning open string. Then, suddenly, he was playing a weepy slide melody, but the harmonics, fed through a delay pedal, hadn't stopped.

With the looping, he was able to add layer upon layer of new sound, from sliding melodies to distorted riffs to ethereal harmonics. However he didn't use the loops to create a bottomless cacophony. He let the more distant sounds slip out the back door, so that the sound at any given moment was a fluid combination of only the last couple of things that he had done.

Maybe Sharp got Mandelbrot's attention with the pattern, zooming into a space, exploring it, picking a spot and zooming in some more. The implication was that the piece could have been infinite, rather than a structured musical form.

"Entertaining Science" began on a whim. Los Angeles Timesscience writer and UCLA teacher KC Cole had written a book on the concept of nothing (The Hole in the Universe: How Scientists Peered into the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything) and she wanted to do a reading at the restaurant and performance space Cornelia Street Cafe in Manhattan's West Village. Robin Hirsch, co-owner and founder of the cafe and a long-time friend of Cole's, however, was concerned that the reading wouldn't draw enough of a crowd to make any money.

As Hirsch told the story: "So she said, 'Well, how about me and Roald Hoffmann?' and I said 'Who's he?' 'He's a poet and he's a nobel laureate in chemistry.' And I said, 'Well in all candor, nobody is going to come for him either.' 'Well, so how about me, Roald and Oliver Sacks?' And it was an incredible night."

There was a write-up in the New Yorker, pegged on Sacks' appearance (Sacks is an NYU neuroscientist with an interest in unusual psychological phenomena, and is the author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, Awakenings and Uncle Tungsten, among other works). Anywhere between 150 and 300 people showed up, depending on whom you ask. Either way, it was more than the 85-person occupancy of the basement room where the event takes place. According to Sacks, "it was very much an experiment then, which rose almost by chance," but Hirsch and Hoffmann decided to make it a monthly event, with Hoffmann becoming the event's curator.

In January, 2002, the series began, individual nights usually centering around a theme, such as "Heavy Metals," "What's So Funny About Science?" and "Get Lost in Translation." With his vast network of friends and colleagues, Hoffmann manages to find three people per month to round out the program, though he sometimes uses fewer if a scientist can also sing, dance or otherwise entertain. No one gets paid, but there is a free dinner in it for the participants. "They sing for their supper," Hirsch said.

Sacks, who has attended almost every month, said it has been so successful because it's "informal, not like going to a lecture, and it's conversational, interactive. Roald has had some extraordinary and important people coming and there's a great hunger for contact with scientific ideas and artistic expression."

But the informality can also lead to difficulties in booking people used to academic settings. "Sometimes I have to twist the scientists' hands a little bit to get them to participate," Hoffman said. "There are a lot of great scientists who are just afraid of standing in front of a stage in a Cafe."

About a month after "Heavy Metals," the subject of the next "Entertaining Science" event was music itself, or "Music on the Brain." Neurobiologist Fredrik Ullen of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and psychologist and cognitive scientist Carol Krumhansl from Cornell spoke about the brain's perception of music. Krumhansl discussed the perception of musical key and how that relates to the idea of expectation (such as you expect the song "Happy Birthday" to resolve in the same key in which it started). Ullen, who is also a renowned pianist, discussed the organization of various parts of the brain involved in making the rhythmic movements involved in playing an instrument, and performed compositions by Gyorgy Ligeti and Frederic Chopin on the piano.

There was, though, a disconnect between Ullen's lecture and his performance. His style on the piano, even while playing Chopin, was sober and unromantic. He played crisp, clear notes that brought out the structure of Chopin's writing rather than getting lost in the emotion of the piece. Then, even if the audience was still caught in Chopin's lilting melodies or Ligeti's churning rhythms, Ullen was not. He had stood up from the piano and he was already speaking and giving a PowerPoint demonstration. He would sit back down at the piano again, but just as an interlude oras an example during Krumhansl's talk. His music was his music and his science was his science. That his science was built around music did not seem to feed anything back into the music-making.

This is the difference between the science of music and the music of science. From one side of the table, scientists like Ullen and Krumhansl, or Sacks with his studies of music as a blueprint for motion for Parkinson's patients, attempt to find out why existing music affects us like it does. On the other side, Sharp is intent on creating music that seizes on the patterns that science has detected in nature. His compositions often follow structures based on the discoveries of mathematicians such as Fibonacci and Mandelbrot.

In the early 1970s, Sharp was studying music at Bard College and living in a house on the Hudson River. "I spent a lot of time walking along the river," he said, "and we had a porch, and you would see literally thousands and thousands of butterflies. There were times they would form patterns and almost seem on the verge of spelling out things. That led me to thinking about all the rhythmic structures we were composing, structures that are open-ended. It was all right there, all the fractal shit, pine cones and branches, streams and currents. It inevitably found its way into my thinking and I did a Hudson River series of compositions. They were all instruction sets, basically conceptual pieces, it being the '70s, but with a mathematical subtext.

"Self-similarity, mapping from the micro to the macro, is something that became very much a part of my approaches to composition, where I'm creating structures that echo each other both on a micro and a macro level, in the shape of the phrase from a 2-bar or 5-bar level out to its full structure."

But this kind of structure isn't obvious to every listener, and to many a piece made up of such algorithms might sound like a whole bunch of noise. In response to a questionabout the people who left the Heavy Metals show before Sharp had the chance to play, he explained that "music is the most abstract of all of the arts, and people either like it or they don't. The thing about music is you can't shut your eyes. Even with earplugs you're going to feel the vibration in the room... People are able to take in dissonant visual images much more easily than they can dissonant audio."

Sharp might be understating the point that visual dissonance is easier to stomach than audio dissonance. Ken Jolls, an Iowa State thermodynamics professor, jazz vibraphone player and January, 2003 Entertaining Science performer (he played the vibraphone and talked about its physics), has found that visual images of thermodynamic models make the traditionally undergrad-torturing concepts of thermodynamics far easier to understand for most students.

"The beauty of Gibbsian thermodynamics with its precisely connected functional structure can be demonstrated through computer imaging.... Ideas that have long been hidden under layers of abstraction now emerge through their understandable, spatio-geometric analogs," he wrote in his paper "Visualization in Classical Thermodynamics".

As with the intricate and beautiful images of Mandelbrot's fractals, a visual representation can make a concept more accessible. But we don't, for some reason, process sound the same way.

And yet Sharp wants the abstractions in his music to sing for themselves. For him, the listener shouldn't need to be versed in science or mathematics, or to have a copy of the score or an explanatory statement, to recognize the abstract structures from the sound of a given piece of music.

"I'm hoping someone hearing this music will understand, like a piece like 'SyndaKit,' they'll hear the complexity in it, they'll wonder how it's generated, maybe they'll hear the order, maybe they'll hear the rules," he said. "And they'll go backwards from thesound of the music to the systems that went into it, thinking about birds flocking, thinking about the way RNA molecules combine, thinking about genetic mutation, thinking about African drum choirs, thinking about how nature creates an algorithmic structure."

It's an ambitious approach. And it has won him a fan in Hoffmann, who said, "what attracts me to Elliott is a combination of just plain good musicianship and then this interesting thing where he plays on real instruments but he also does this computer work, simulates real things. And there's a deep intellectual structure to the work. My general feeling is there's something smart and intuitive about music, and if both are there, that's where Sharp is."

While some audience members might not yet be ready to skip their dinner reservations for the audio abstractions, Hoffmann likes what Sharp's getting at. Sharp uses science as an input, but creates something outside of science. Some scientists might stop at the boundary, waving at the bald-headed, black-wearing musician from inside their classrooms, but Hoffmann's humanized science brings him outside and into the cafe.

Hirsch and Sacks each brought up C.P. Snow when discussing Hoffman. Snow is best known for his mid 20th century work The Two Cultures, in which he examined the gulf between literary and scientific academics at Cambridge. He was disheartened by the ways in which academic specialization could work against the open sharing of knowledge.

Sacks explained that "Roald once gave a talk of the 'One Culture', against the Snow idea of two cultures, that comes out of the similarity of the creative processes, and also from, in many instances, some focusing on the same subjects. For example, language can be studied by a linguist, by neurolinguistics but also by a poet."

Hoffman is a Renaissance Man. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1981 for his explanation of the geometric behavior of molecules, and he has published four books of poetry. He spoke six languages by the time he was 12 years old, all while he was traveling across Europe, a Jewish refugee from the Nazis. Now his goal is to "humanize science," because, simply, he is a human and a scientist.


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