The Squid's Ear
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Matthew Shipp : Magnetism(s) (RogueArt)

The creative NY jazz trio led by pianist Matthew Shipp with Rob Brown on alto sax and flute and William Parker on bass re-release and re-master their 1999 Bleu Regards album "Magnetism", a 20-part suite of concise and informed dialogs; and add a live CD of the trio recording three larger "Magnetism" improvisations capture live at the Stone, 2016. ... Click to View


Larry Ochs / Sax and Drumming Core: Wild Red Yellow (RogueArt)

Rova leader Larry Ochs takes his Sax and Drumming Core to the next level with this charged album of mind-bending album of free improvisation with an hallucinatory edge, joined by Libra artists Satoko Fujii on piano & synth and Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, with Scott Amendola on drums, William Winant and Matthias Bossi on a wild set of percussive instruments. ... Click to View


The Seen: Archive: Volumes I - V (2005 - 2009) [5-CD BOX SET] (Confront)

Since 2005 bassist and percussionist Mark Wastell has been organizing concerts of ever-changing groups of improvising musicians under the collective name The Seen, using predominantly improvised material with occasional instructions or themes, here presented in 5 CDs, each a complete concert recorded at venues including Cafe Oto, Red Rose Theatre, &c. ... Click to View


Nicole Mitchell : Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE Records)

The second astounding album from Chicago Flutist Nicole Mitchell on the FPE label, continuing her project in the sphere of Sun Ra and Afrofuturists, merging fiction, fantasy and sound in an electro-chamber octet, encompassing contemporary classical, globally oriented fusion, gospel, avant-rock, spoken word, and funk-inspired groove research. ... Click to View


Nicole Mitchell : Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds [VINYL] (FPE Records)

The second astounding album from Chicago Flutist Nicole Mitchell on the FPE label, continuing her project in the sphere of Sun Ra and Afrofuturists, merging fiction, fantasy and sound in an electro-chamber octet, encompassing contemporary classical, globally oriented fusion, gospel, avant-rock, spoken word, and funk-inspired groove research. ... Click to View


Michael Foster / Ben Bennett: In It [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

The second release for the duo of Ben Bennett on drums, percussions and membranophones, and Michael Foster on tenor, soprano, sopranino saxophones and aerophone, in uniquely voiced improvisations that develop both carefully and, at times, erratically, but always with an ear to interesting dialog that captivates and confuses the listener. ... Click to View


Andrew Smiley : Dispersal [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

An uncommon solo guitar album from Andrew Smiley, a member of Little Women and the Chris Pitsiokos Quartet, creating textures on the guitar by applying unconventional techniques with his pick and fingers instead of using effects or guitar preparations, and accompanying himself on voice in Haino-esque ways, creating an album of sharp contrast and color. ... Click to View


Emmanuelle Waeckerle : Ode (owed) to O [2 CDs] (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

London-based composer Emmanuelle Waeckerle in a project of spoken word, flute and melodica with contributors including Antoine Beuger, using minimal and multiple narrations in texts that blend erotic literature, conceptual writing and verbal scores, presented as 2 Scores for voice(s) and instrument(s) based upon Pauline Reage's "Story of O". ... Click to View


HMS (Joe Houpert / Nathan McLaughlin / Erich Steiger): Tetrad [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

Blurring the lines between experimental music, improv, and composition, the trio of Joe Houpert, Nathan McLaughlin, and Erich Steiger use the studio to rework their improvisations, accenting aspects of the acoustic and electronic elements and morphing them in unexpected ways; "think Henry Flynt meets Cluster meets Revolutionary Ensemble". ... Click to View


W-2 (Sam Weinberg / Chris Welcome): Fanatics [CASSETTE] (Astral Spirits)

The Brooklyn duo of saxophonist Sam Weinberg (Captain Phillips) and synth player Chris Welcome (Chris Pitsiokos, Mike Pride) in an album of abrasive, rhythmically abraded and contorted electro-acoustic improvisation, each player embedding themselves into each other's sound, at time making their instruments indistinguishable from one another. ... Click to View


Steve Lacy: Free for a Minute (1966-72) [2 CDs] (Emanem)

Four sessions on a 2 CD set, all featuring Steve Lacy and Kent Carter: (1) DISPOSABILITY, the 1965 trio record with Aldo Romano of jazz standards, originals and free improv; (2) SORTIE, the 1966 free improv quartet + Enrico Rava album; (3) previously unissued 1967 'Free Fall' Film Cues in a quintet with Rava, Karl Berger, & Paul Motian; (4) two never issued '72 quintet pieces with Steve Potts, Irene Aebi on cello and Noel Mcghie. ... Click to View


Paul Rutherford : In Backward Times (1979-2007) (Emanem)

Four very different previously unissued concert settings featuring trombonist Paul Rutherford: 2 festival solos - one from 1979 with electronics and one from 2004 without; a 1988 duo with Paul Rogers a few months before their ROGUES CD; and a 2007 trio with Veryan Weston and Marcio Mattos, which turned out to be Rutherford's last public appearance. ... Click to View


Barry Guy: Frogs [VINYL 7-inch PICTURE DISC] (Trost Records)

A 7" limited vinyl picture disc made to celebrate legendary European Free Jazz bassist Barry Guy's 70th birthday, with Guy providing "acoustic sounds" along with his collaborating frogs, Wasserfrosch (Rana Esculenta) and Laubfrosch (Hyla Arborea), size A presenting Frogs & Barry Guy, and side 2, Barry Guy & Frogs; quirkly and wonderful free improv. ... Click to View


Christian Wolff : Berlin Exercises [VINYL] (God Records)

A series of shorter works composed by Christian Wolff written to explore the process of practicing and working within specified limits, exercises for both the composer and the performers, recorded live in Berlin in 2000 by an ensemble directed by Peter Ablinger and including Wolff on piano & melodica, Robin Hayward on tuba, Anette Krebs on guitar, &c. ... Click to View


Phill Niblock: Rhymes With Water [VINYL] (God Records)

A beautiful set of minimalist compositional drone from New York composer Phill Niblock, commissioned by the performers Natalia Pschenitschnikowa on bass flute and Erik Drescher on glissando flute, recorded at PIETHOPRAXIS, in Cologne, Germany by Marcus Schmickler, and in Berlin, Germany, by Thomas Ankersmit. ... Click to View


Simon Rummel Ensemble: IM MEER (Umlaut Records)

German composer and improviser Simon Rummel presents the 2nd release from his 11-piece Simon Rummel Ensemble, blending his interest in acoustic phenomena and improvisational harmonics in an extended work that shift from beautiful tonal work to disruptive cacophony and back to melodic music, blending jazz and 20th century approaches; a great achievement. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee / Bryan Eubanks: My Undocumented Alien Clarinet [VINYL] (Penultimate Press)

Recorded and presented as part of Pauline Oliveros Foundation's New Vanguard Series in Kingston, NY in 2006, the unusual duo of Joe McPhee on b-flat and e-flat alto clarinets and synthesizer and Bryan Eubanks on open circuit electronics explores unusual dynamics and psychoacoustic intersections of both acoustic and electronic instruments. ... Click to View


Blaise Siwula / Jorge Nuno: Waterscapes (Creative Sources)

Waterscapes is the performing duo of New York saxophonist Blaise Siwula and guitarist Jorge Nuno, interwining distinct approaches to acoustic and electric improvisation, creating rich sound environments and rapid interaction that draws the listener in and then sweeps them off their feet with passionate, complex and informed dialog. ... Click to View


Carlo Mascolo: My Tubes (Creative Sources)

A unique take on this large brass instrument from Italian trombonis and Free Flow Festival director Carlo Mascolo, using preparations, focusing on components of the instrument, and using extreme techniques to create a startlingly diverse set of sounds, vocalisations, microtonal output and simply bizarre utterances as Mascolo brings new language to horn. ... Click to View


Alfredo Monteiro Costa / Miguel A. Garcia: Aq'Ab'Al (Mikroton Recordings)

Audio experimenters Alfredo Costa Monteiro and Miguel A. Garcia join forces in an album titled after "Aq'ab'al", the Mayan Astrology Sign about polar opposites-- dawn and dusk, hot and cold, black and white--which represents renewal and change, through a series of opposing audio events, forceful sounds of texture, feedback, and intervention. ... Click to View


John Butcher / John Edwards / Mark Sanders: Last Dream Of The Morning (Relative Pitch)

A studio album between three UK master improvisers -- John Butcher on sax, John Edwards on double bass, and Mark Sanders on drums -- the trio pushing the envelope in technique and dialog in nearly telepathic playing that transports the listener into their environment, as the music builds and releases in effortless ways that are stunning and exulant; highly recommended. ... Click to View


Fred Van Hove / Roger Turner: The Corner (Relative Pitch)

Pioneering improvising pianist Fred Van Hove at UK's Cafe OTO for the first time, captured in a duo with UK drummer/percussionist Roger Turner, their first recording together, for a night of exceptional improvised interplay, sophisticated and complex playing that is constantly buoyant and charming, an enthralling conversation between two veteran players. ... Click to View


Magda Mayas / Jim Denley: Tempe Jetz (Relative Pitch)

A pairing of two innovative players, Berlin-based pianist Magda Mayas and Australian sound and wind artist Jim Denley, Mayas playing inside and out of the piano and Denley on alto sax and bass flute, both providing field recordings adding unexpected elements in a set of extremely balanced recordings that entrance the listener with unlikely and captivating settings. ... Click to View


John Butcher: Resonant Spaces [VINYL] (Blume)

Extreme acoustic space recordings from saxophonist John Butcher, part of Arika's Resonant Spaces event, with performances from resonant and remote corners of Scotland. ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Lean Left: I Forgot To Breathe [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The 7th album from the quartet of Netherlands guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels (The Ex) with Chicago free improvising multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and Netherlands drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love in an album balancing amazing energy with profound introspective moments in thrilling edge-of-your-seat improvisation - excellent! ... Click to View


Kontakte Trio (Trevor Taylor / Ian Brighton / Steve Beresford): Kontakte Trio (FMR)

An important and well-matched trio of electroacoustic improvisers, and a welcome addition to guitarist Ian Brighton's return to active music life, with Steve Beresford on piano, prepared piano and electronics, and Trevor Taylor (Circuit) on percussion and electronics, six unhurried improvisations of intricate interplay and interchange themed on physics. ... Click to View


Viv Corringham / Lawrence Casserley: Anemoi (FMR)

Lawrence Casserley is a pioneer of real time electroacoustic music, since the 60s working with other artists and developing his Signal Processing Instrument, using physical gestures to process and morph sounds; here he works with British vocalist and Deep Listening teacher Viv Corringham in an other-worldly collaboration of voice and electonics. ... Click to View


Kamins / Smith / Fielder / Hertenstein: After Effects (FMR)

A great example of traditional free improvisation spanning generations from the quartet of Danny Kamins on baritone saxophone, Damon Smith on double bass, and two drummer/percussionists--Alvin Fielder and Joe Hertenstein--for 10 tracks of swinging free music recorded in the studio in Texas, 2016, jazz with a lyrical intention and powerful rhythmic underpinnings. ... Click to View


Pat Thomas: The Elephant Clock of Al Jazari [VINYL] (Otoroku)

Inspired by the automatic water clock invented by Iraq inventor, engineer, and father of robotics, Badi' al-Zaman ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari built in the 12th century, pianist Pat Thomas recorded these four exceptional improvisations of powerful solo piano with an unusual and inventive twist live at London's Cafe Oto in 2015. ... Click to View


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  Great Minds at Play  

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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