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Pisaro, Michael : Hearing Metal 1 (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Greg Stuart realizes Michael Pisaro's first and haunting "Hearing Metal" on tam-tam, a large piece of metal which is mic-ed and recorded to create a vast and rich sound when played by bow or hand, here in 3 compositions layering the instrument in combination with sine tones.

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product information:

UPC: 4011778041627

Label: Edition Wandelweiser Records
Catalog ID: EWR 0902
Squidco Product Code: 21822

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2009
Country: Germany
Recorded by Greg Stuart.


Michael Pisaro-composer

Greg Stuart-recorded tam-tam

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Artist Biographies:

"Michael Pisaro was born in Buffalo in 1961. He is a composer and guitarist, a member of the Wandelweiser Composers Ensemble and founder and director of the Experimental Music Workshop, Calarts. His work is frequently performed in the U.S. and in Europe, in music festivals and in many smaller venues. It has been selected twice by the ISCM jury for performance at World Music Days festivals (Copenhagen,1996; Manchester, 1998) and has also been part of festivals in Hong Kong (ICMC, 1998), Vienna (Wien Modern,1997), Aspen (1991), London (Cutting Edge, 2007), Glasgow (INSTAL 2009), Huddersfield (2009), Chicago (New Music Chicago, 1990, 1991) and elsewhere.

He has had extended composer residencies in Germany (Künstlerhof Schreyahn, Dortmund University), Switzerland (Forumclaque/Baden), Israel (Miskenot Sha'ananmim), Greece (EarTalk) and in the U.S. (Birch Creek Music Festival, Wisconsin). Concert length portraits of his music have been given in Munich, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, Vienna, Merano (Italy), Brussels, New York, Curitiba (Brazil), Amsterdam, London, Tokyo, Austin, Berlin, Chicago, Düsseldorf, Zürich, Cologne, Aarau (Switzerland), and elsewhere.

He is a Foundation for Contemporary Arts, 2005 and 2006 Grant Recipient. Much of his music of the last several years is published by Edition Wandelweiser (Germany). Several CDs of his work have been released by such labels as Edition Wandelweiser Records, Compost and Height, confront, Another Timbre, Cathnor, Nine Winds and others, including most recently "transparent city, volumes 1-4", "an unrhymed chord", "hearing metal 1", "A Wave and Waves" and "harmony series (11-16)".

His translation of poetry by Oswald Egger ("Room of Rumor") was published in 2004 by Green Integer. He is Co-Chair of Music Composition at the California Institute of the Arts near Los Angeles. He has performed many of his own works and those of close associates Antoine Beuger, Kunsu Shim, Jürg Frey and Manfred Werder, and works from the experimental tradition, especially John Cage, Christian Wolff, James Tenney and George Brecht."

-Edition Wandelweiser (

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track listing:

1. Sleeping Muse 25:00

2. The Endless Column 28:36

3. Sculpture For The Blind 10:06
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"(after Brancusi)

The 60-inch ("Mikrophonie") tam-tam is a large piece of metal, a proto-sculpture. Brancusi might have altered it: rounding and tapering the edges, making an oval instead of a circle, polishing the surface into smooth gold.

The tam-tam is also a vast sound landscape-an instrument that makes noise at the slightest provocation. A resonance is created just in the act of walking past the instrument or breathing on it ... that is, if your ear (or a microphone) is close enough to hear it. Wherever it is touched with a bow or a hand, it responds with chaotic, unpredictable complexity, never producing the same sound twice.

I have attempted to work within the givens of this landscape, to allow some of its implicit contours to reveal themselves-by collecting sounds, giving them a duration, putting them into a clear structure, and cutting a path through them with pure tones.

Sleeping Muse is something like a four-part chorale of bowed sounds, with a melody made up of long sine tones buried in the sounds.

The Endless Column is a collection of sixty extremely light, close recorded strikes, randomly ordered, but with a rising scale of sine tones mixed in, more or less within the central frequency range of the tam-tam (from 50 to 671 hz).

Sculpture for the Blind arranges eight layers of bowed sounds (which are then released) along a pattern of lengthening durations and combined with a sine tone trio, again woven into the sounds of the tam-tam.

Hearing Metal 1 is the product of close collaboration between composer and performer. The piece evolved as Greg made test recordings based on my suggestions and then sent them to me. As it happened we feel we fell into its world, in order to move it slightly towards our own."-Michael Pisaro

"The first Stockhausen I ever heard, back in college, was Microphonie and I've always remained partial to the general family of sounds elicited therein. So it's not surprising, all else aside, that I'm drawn to the music here, derived from the excitation, via bows and strokes of a 60" tam-tam much like that used by Stockhausen, sensitively played by Greg Stuart. The added flavor, as is Pisaro's wont, is the integration of sine tones pitched very close to the range of the tam-tam itself, becoming almost indistinguishable from it insofar as the sine throbs might well be mimicked by bowing action on the metal. One soon ceases to care as the music, infinitely complex when played at volume, envelops the listener. Pisaro describes "Sleeping Muse" as "something like a four-part chorale of bowed sounds" and merely reading about the approach might summon up drone-y, rather flaccid work but this is nothing of the kind. As rich, (relatively) tonal and flowing as the music is, the range of detail, the the endless swirls are entirely absorbing; one guesses that the sine tones are the spinal fluid here, imparting a kind of meaning to the arcing tones.

"The Endless Column" (the three pieces, by the way, are all titled after Brancusi sculptures) slows things done lusciously, a series of strokes (recorded individually, ordered randomly, one after another) swaddling a slowly rising sine tone which, again, is more felt than heard. The deliberateness of this piece is wonderful; one gets something of a prayer bell feeling but with the peals entirely dissembled. The final work, "Sculpture for the Blind", superimposes eight layers of bowing, again interwoven with sine tones, the durations of the bowing increasing over the ten minutes of the piece. The structure thus falls midway between the preceding two, combining the drone of "Sleeping Muse" with the slow pulse of "The Endless Column" as well as containing a fine, subtle grainy character that gives it a different coloration. Again, the focus one hears, on the part of both the composer and performer, keeps the music from drifting into gauze, not even close.

Wonderful recording, one of the best I've heard in recent months."-Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
Get additional information at Brian Olewnick's Just Outside
Related Categories of Interest:

Compositional Forms
Electroacoustic Composition
Electronic Forms
Percussion & Drums
New in Experimental & Electronic Music

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