The Squid's Ear Magazine
Squidco: Improvised, Composed & Unusual Music from around the globe
Cart Checkout   Log In/Register
Squidco? New Releases Just In Restocked Upcoming
Artist Title Label

Great Waitress (Mayas / Brooks / Altman): Back, Before (Splitrec)

Gorgeously subtle improvisation of a primarily acoustic nature through unfolding soundscapes of intricate restraint and deep listening, from the trio of Berlin pianist Magda Mayas and Sydney improvisers Monica Brooks on accordion and Laura Altman on clarinet & feedback, in their 4th release, recorded live in the reverberant church hall of the Annandale Creative Arts Centre.

Price: $16.95


In Stock

Shipping Weight: 2.00 units

Quantity in Basket: None

Log In to use our Wish List
product information:

Label: Splitrec
Catalog ID: 30
Squidco Product Code: 32383

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: Australia
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded live at Annandale Creative Arts Centre, in Sydney, Australia, on June 7th, 2018, by Peter Farrar. Recorded by Peter Farrar


Magda Mayas-piano

Monica Brooks-accordion

Laura Altman-clarinet, feedback

Click an artist name above to see in-stock items for that artist.

Highlight an instrument above
and click here to Search for albums with that instrument.

Artist Biographies:

"Magda Mayas, born 1979, is a pianist living in Berlin. Developing a vocabulary utilizing both the inside as well as the exterior parts of the piano, using preparations and objects, she explores textural, linear and fast moving sound collage.

Alongside the piano, Mayas has recently been performing on a Clavinet/Pianet, an electric piano from the 60s with strings and metal chimes, where she engages with noise and more visceral sound material, equally extending the instrumental sound palette using extended techniques and devices.Mayas performs internationally solo and in collaboration with a large number of musicians and composers.Current projects are "Spill", a duo with drummer Tony Buck, a duo with Christine Abdelnour (sax) and "Great Waitress", a trio with Monika Brooks (acc) and Laura Altman (cl).

She is currently undertaking Phd studies at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden and investigating extended instrumental techniques, spectral music and psychoacoustics in an improvised music context.

Since 2013 she has also been producing radio pieces for ABC Australia and Deutschlandradio Kultur and has released 20 CDS to date.

Magda Mayas has performed and toured in Europe, the USA, Australia, Mexico and Lebanon and collaborated with many leading figures in improvisation and composers such as John Butcher, Andy Moor, Zeena Parkins, Joelle Leandre, Paul Lovens, Ikue Mori, Phill Niblock, Peter Evans, Andrea Neumann and Axel Dörner. She has performed at festivals and exhibitions such as Maerz Musik (2012,2015), Documenta (2012) or the Berlin Biennale ( 2014)."

-Magda Mayas Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Sydney's Monica Brooks has modelled sound works, compositions, and improvisations from piano, computer, field recordings, glasses, radio, and accordion. As a performer she has collaborated with various fabulous folks such as Jim Denley, Dale Gorfinkel, Herminone Johnson, Chris Abrahams, Robbie Avenaim, Kraig Grady, Richard Nuns, Eugene Chadbourne and Joe Talia." She is a member of Great Waitress with Magda Mayas and Laura Altman.

-MusicNSW (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Laura Altman is a clarinetist, improviser and composer. She is based in Sydney.

A long-standing member of Splinter Orchestra and Prophets, Laura has been an important voice in the Sydney improvised and exploratory music scene for more than a decade.

Her collaborations with Australian and international musicians have seen her perform across the country and around the world, and feature on multiple recordings, notably with trio Great Waitress. Other current projects include solo clarinet + tapes + feedback, duos with Low Flung (Couch), Monica Brooks, Melanie Herbert and Nick Ashwood, as well as folk-jazz-chamber ensemble, Chaika, and Prophets' side-project, BB+CAM.

Laura has been very active organising exploratory music events in Sydney, including the NOW now Festival and series (2010-2013) and Nights at Tempe (2018-present). She co-hosts a radio show Listening Space on Eastside FM, and co-founded the Sydney exploratory music calendar

Laura studied composition at the Sydney Conservatorium and she composes and produces instrumental and electro-acoustic music. She has had works commissioned and performed by Sydney Antiphony, Ensemble Offspring, North Sydney Girls High School and ACRONYM Orchestra, and has developed exploratory pieces for primary school students. She has more recently been exploring sound installations.

As an educator, Laura has experience teaching private clarinet students, tutoring composition to senior high-school music students, facilitating school workshops and also running early-childhood music classes with Bluebell Music."

-Laura Altman Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.
track listing:

1. Back 18:45

2. Before 25:32
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Formed in 2009, the members live on two separate continents but have maintained the relationship through concerts, touring and recordings. Their first release Lucid (Splitrec CD 22) was recorded in 2011 and released in 2013. John Shand wrote: "If spiders have musical dreams while spinning webs, they might sound like the fragile wisps of sound created by Great Waitress." Their second, Flock (234 CD Creative sources) was recorded in 2013, released in 2014, Shand wrote again about dreams; "...the resultant music evolves like the soundtrack for a dream that is both enticing and disquieting." Their third release Hue (Another Dark Age LP Aoo6) was recorded in 2014, released in 2016. Bob Baker Fish in Cyclic Defrost wrote; "...really quite remarkable. It squeaks, rattles reverberates, shimmers, converges into a truly unique organism, one that feels not just far beyond the sum of its parts, but also, oddly enough quite untouched by human hands." This fourth release, recorded before the pandemic and lockdowns in 2018, has taken four years to get to production. A live set, back, before was beautifully recorded by Peter Farrar at the Annandale Creative Arts Centre, mixed and mastered by Joe Talia.

In the elegant liner notes, Chris Abrahams writes of Great Waitress transcending "...the individual contributions of Mayas, Altman and Brooks. It's an identity made from a multi-dimensional counterpoint - timbral, rhythmic, harmonic, melodic, emotional... - that results in an ever-evolving gestalt." He finishes with: "External sound phenomena are subsumed by a music that welcomes any wayward noise, clothing it instantly in its mystery and beauty. The musicians can't put a foot wrong, because the whole concept of 'wrong feet' is anathema to their ideology."

Great Waitress unfold soundscapes, and beyond their horizons there is nothing to be heard but other soundscapes, and still other horizons. But if we go the other way - forensically listen in to the minutiae - there is nothing inside the sounds but other smaller sounds. They do this inward/outward listening within each of their four amazing releases and they also do it across these releases. This listening is achieved because we never arrive at cliché, genre, or the entirely known or predictable - Great Waitress keep you suspended on a cusp between knowability and novelty.

They have unfolded a body of work, of which back, before is the latest stunning example, that speaks of a brilliant, patient, humble collectivity - one of the most important improvising ensembles of the last decade. We hope you discover Great Waitress's world."-SplitRec

" There's a relationship between a music performance and a written-word account of that performance. But words arrive well after the experience has been abstracted, verbalised and written down and, although words do achieve something, doing justice to the experience of listening to this Great Waitress recording with them is an uphill battle. A favoured criterion I've lately adopted as to what constitutes 'good' music is that it should affirm the need for humans to make it; I should be able to intuit from listening: 'this is why humans make and need music.' This is how I feel when I listen to 'back, before.'

"I believe there's a strong formal aspect to the trio format in music. It tends to allow for a complex autonomy of constituent parts yet still succeeds in creating a recognisable 'whole'. Great Waitress have a strong identity, one that transcends the individual contributions of Mayas, Altman and Brooks. It's an identity made from a multi-dimensional counterpoint-timbral, rhythmic, harmonic, melodic, emotional...-that results in an ever-evolving gestalt.

"It seems effortless the way Great Waitress's music plays out; the way the various strands intertwine to inhabit a particular sonic area, for just the right amount of time, before shifting apart to explore other combinations. The music moves as if left to its own devices. That's not to say there's no human decision making: sections end and new material is brought into play, consciously. I detect a loose episodic structure that is in no way premeditated or explained verbally prior to the performance. The decisions to shift are felt, in the moment, by each player and are dependent on a shared, non-verbal, understanding of the unfolding context. Here I run up against the difficulty of explaining with words a form of communication that takes place without them. Nonetheless, it's obvious that Great Waitress are able to make this extraordinary music in large part due to the trust Mayas, Altman and Brooks have in each other and the group as a whole.

"There is also a respect for the fundamentals of music making. Mayas has an impressive array of techniques, preparations and tools at her disposal. These she utilises with a strong formal syntax and a deep understanding of musical space. Often several elements are incorporated together in sustained passages; elements each with their own timbre, envelope, and amplitude, each with their own rhythmic and melodic phrasing or pitch variations. Some are recognisably pianistic, others orchestral, metallic or electronic sounding. Altman's clarinet playing is powerfully affecting. Sometimes I hear proto speechifying; sometimes there's avian-like phrasing; sometimes she plays long held notes that microtonally 'beat' against other sustained notes or arc across the developing strands of the sound world. Brooks' accordion playing is always understated and occupies a vital dimension. The long-held chords are like the stretched-out breath of the group, made all the more compelling by the seeming effortlessness of their making. The instrument's sound is more translucent than Altman's clarinet, it seems to disappear and reappear-diaphanous, a slow swaying curtain.

"The Annandale Creative Arts Centre, where these pieces were recorded, is an old church hall in the inner west of Sydney. I was in the audience that night. It's on a busy main street where cars pass by, their rumble barely filtered by the stained-glass windows. When I listen to this recording, I can hear the room. I hear its high ceilings when Mayas' percussive utterances fly off into the dark reverb. I hear audience footsteps and coughing. Even a Google map direction blurts from a forgotten mobile phone. Yet none of this seems like an interruption, nothing damages the performance's aura. External sound phenomena are subsumed by a music that welcomes any wayward noise, clothing it instantly in its mystery and beauty. The musicians can't put a foot wrong, because the whole concept of 'wrong feet' is anathema to their ideology." "-Chris Abrahams, October 2021

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Electro-Acoustic Improv
Instruments with Preparations
Recordings by or featuring Reed & Wind Players
Recordings Utilizing the Natural Resonance of a Space
Trio Recordings
Australian Improvisers, Composers and Experimenters
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Improvised Music
Recent Releases and Best Sellers

Search for other titles on the label:

Other Releases With These Artists:
Recommended & Related Releases:
Mayas, Magda
(Another Timbre)
Other Recommended Releases:
Spence, Alister / Tony Buck
(Alister Spence Music)
Mayas, Magda / Tina Douglas
Objects Of Interest [CD + BOOK]
Butcher, John / Magda Mayas / Tony Buck
Glints [VINYL]
Mayas', Magda Filamental (w / Davies / Caddy / Theriot / Davies / Parkins / Thieke / Abdelnour)
(Relative Pitch)
Abrahams, Chris / Clare Cooper
Germ Studies For Guzheng & DX7
Denley, Jim
Through Fire, Crevice and The Hidden Valley
SSL (Gorfinkel, Dale / Robbie Avenaim)
Sonic Systems Laboratory
Gorfinkel, Dale
Switches & Hose [VINYL]
Gorfinkel, Dale
Switches & Hose
Kahn, Jason
Open Space [VINYL 2 LPs]
Mayas / Buck
(Creative Sources)
Mayas / Galvez / Nutters / Olsen
On Creative Sources (Hail Satan)
(Creative Sources)

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought:
Dry Thrust (Georg Graewe / Martin Siewert / Dieter Kern)
The Less You Sleep
(Trost Records)
Kimura, Izumi / Artur Majewski / Barry Guy / Ramon Lopez
Kind Of Light
(Listen! Foundation (Fundacja Sluchaj!))
Schlippenbach, Alexander Von / Francois Carrier / John Edward / Michel Lambert
(Listen! Foundation (Fundacja Sluchaj!))
Parkins, Zeena
To Dusk (Black Cross Solo Sessions 8)
(Corbett vs. Dempsey)
Fujii, Satoko (w/ Leo Smith / Tamura / Laubrock / Schoenbeck / Mori / Lopez / Rainey / Corsano)
Hyaku One Hundred Dreams
Frith, Fred / Susana Santos Silva
Laying Demons To Rest
Zorn, John / Eugene Chadbourne
John Zorn's Olympiad Vol. 3 - Pops Plays Pops - Eugene Chadbourne Plays The Book Of Heads
Ullmann, Gebhard / Steve Swell / Hilliard Greene / Barry Altschul
We're Playing In Here ? [VINYL]
Transmap+ (Evan Parker / Matt Wright / Robert Jarvis)
Grounded Abstraction
Dunmall, Paul / Phillip Gibbs / Andrew Ball / Neil Metcalfe / Hilary Jeffery
Shiraishi, Tamio
(Relative Pitch)
Work, The
The Worst of Everywhere [2 CDs]
Multicolored Midnight

About Squidco Contact Us Log In/Register Squidco?
The Squid's Ear Magazine

Rapid SSL





American Express

© 2002-, Squidco LLC