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Block, Olivia with Chicago Composers Orchestra: Karren [VINYL w DOWNLOAD] (Sedimental)

A two-movement electroacoustic-orchestral composition from composer Olivia Block, the first side of the LP using heavily processed field recordings taken from orchestral rehearsals and various public locations, including museums and zoos; the 2nd a layered orchestral score performed by the Chicago Composers Orchestra and recorded over several years.

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product information:

Label: Sedimental
Catalog ID: sedlp062
Squidco Product Code: 29507

Format: LP
Condition: New
Released: 2013
Country: USA
Packaging: LP
Side A recorded in the Fine Arts Building, Chicago, IL, in in 2012, by Todd Carter.

Field recordings from various locations recorded in 2011 by the artists.


Olivia Block-composer, performer

Jon Mueller-percusion, gong

Christopher Ramaekers-conductor

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Artist Biographies:

"Olivia Block is a media artist and composer. Her body of work includes sound recordings, audio-visual installations, performances, sound design for cinema, and scores for orchestra and chamber music concerts.

Over the last twenty years, Block has pioneered the utilization of audio field recordings and found materials in the realms of music and sound art. She combines field recordings, chamber instruments and electronic textures, resulting in mysterious and vivid electroacoustic sound pieces including Pure Gaze, Mobius Fuse, Karren, and others. Block creates multimedia installations and performances utilizing found sounds from micro cassette tapes, field recordings, video, and curated 35mm slides.

Block's work reflects her interests in site specificity, ethnographic sound, architectural sound, and found/archival materials from the 1950's-1990's. Her work with expanded cinema and film artists has led to interests related to cinema sound, and visual phenomena like shadows and reflections. Block has developed a body of partially-improvised compositions for inside-piano with various materials, including metal pieces and shards of broken glass. Her scores for orchestra and chamber instruments emphasize timbre and dynamics. Her most recent orchestral pieces include portions of "easy listening" inspired music from the 1970's, playing underneath recordings of room ventilation, white noise and commercial spaces like malls. Her solo performances include partially improvised pieces for electronics, amplified objects, and piano, presented in a slow and deliberate gestural style that Steve Smith of the New York Times described recently as having "palpable sensations of volition and emotional involvement."

Block has performed, premiered and exhibited her work throughout Europe, America, and Japan in tours in festivals including Incubate (Tilburg), Festival del Bosque Germinal (Mexico City), Sonic Light (Amsterdam), Kontraste (Krems), Dissonanze (Rome), Archipel (Geneva) Angelica (Bologna), Sunoni per il Popolo (Montreal), and many others. Additionally, she has presented work at the ICA (London), MCA (Chicago), La Biennale di Venezia 52nd International Festival of Contemporary Music, The Kitchen (NYC), ISSUE Project RoomExperimental Intermedia (Brooklyn), and TIFF (Toronto).

She has completed residencies and premiered works at Mills College of Music, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The Berklee College of Music. Block has presented talks at additional universities in film, music, media arts, and anthropology departments, including Yale University, University of Chicago, and Indiana University.

Block has created sound installations for public sites and exhibition spaces including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, CONTEXT (Miami and NY), Millennium Park (Chicago), the library at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the Lincoln Conservatory Fern Room (Chicago), and at the "Echoes Through the Mountains" exhibit at the 2006 Winter Olympics (Turin, Italy).

Her 2013 LP/download release, Karren (Sedimental, 2013) was chosen as "Best of 2014″ by The Wire, Pitchfork, and Artforum, among other publications. She was selected as a 2014 "Person of the Year" in the Chicago Reader. Aberration of Light, her latest solo release, is now available on NNA tapes. She recently completed her large-scale multi-speaker sound installation, Sonambient Pavilion, in Chicago's Millennium Park, utilizing sounds from Harry Bertoia's Sonambient sculptures. She is currently working on several projects, including a multi-speaker presentation of her forthcoming release, Dissolution (Glistening Examples), and pieces for piano and organ. Olivia Block is based in Chicago."

-Olivia Block Website (

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"Jon Mueller (born 1970 in Waukesha, Wisconsin) is an American percussionist and composer, active in experimental and rock disciplines.

Jon Mueller was introduced to music through his parents, and began taking guitar and piano lessons at an early age. After quitting both, he became interested in the drums after his friend inherited a drumset. The instrument appealed to him due to its focus away from melody. In an interview with Natasha Pickowicz, Mueller stated, "Hitting the drums and cymbals sounded good, no matter the combination." He then began taking snare drum lessons before moving to a full kit.

In 1990, he studied with jazz musician Hal Russell while attending Columbia College in Chicago.

Mueller graduated in 1995 from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee with a bachelor's degree in English. In 2008, he earned his Master of Business Administration degree.

In the 1990s, he met guitarist Chris Rosenau, with whom he developed a long-time association. Together, they founded the groups Pele and Collections of Colonies of Bees. The latter group later co-founded Volcano Choir with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. Their debut album Unmap reached number 92 on the Billboard 200 chart.

He has also worked with a variety of musicians such as James Plotkin, Rhys Chatham, Asmus Tietchens, Z'EV, Jason Kahn, Marcus Schmickler, Bhob Rainey, Jack Wright, and others.

In 2003, he began experimenting with vibrating drums on top of speakers. This direction is documented on his What's Lost is Something Important CD, Metals CD, Physical Changes LP/CD/DVD, and Alphabet of Movements LP.

He has performed solo and in various groupings throughout North America, Europe, United Kingdom, and Japan, in venues including New Museum (New York), Arnolfini (Bristol, UK), MusŽe des Beaux-Arts de MontrŽal, (MontrŽal, QC), Issue Project Room (New York), Guggenheim (New York), and Cafe OTO (London, UK). His solo and collaborative recordings have been released by labels such as Table of the Elements, Polyvinyl Records, Type Recordings, Jagjaguwar, Hometapes, Important Records, Taiga Records, and many others.

In 1999, he formed the record label, magazine, and music distribution company Crouton. Crouton published over 40 releases, mostly in limited editions, featuring the work of The Hafler Trio, Asmus Tietchens, Daniel Menche, Robert Hampson, Robert Haigh, Jarboe, Lionel Marchetti, Jason Kahn, Aranos, Alessandro Bosetti, Osso Exotico, Z'EV, Collections of Colonies of Bees, Pele, and many others, as well as his own releases. Crouton also organized events in the Milwaukee and Chicago areas. These were documented by the press and even filmed as part of a PBS documentary (on Ken Vandermark). The business closed in 2009.

In 2009, he was referred to by Pitchfork as "an audacious ringleader for new music."

In 2011, he started his Death Blues project, described by Mueller as, "a multidisciplinary project that addresses the inevitability of death as impetus to become more present in each moment." Performances for the project took place throughout the U.S., including Hopscotch Fest and Alverno Presents."

-Wikipedia (

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"Christopher Ramaekers is currently Director of Orchestras at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Associate Conductor of the Chicago Composers Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Davis Theater Concert Series for Access Contemporary Music. During the 2018-2019 season he was Interim Assistant Conductor of the Quad-City Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Quad-City Youth Orchestras. He has been Music Director of the Orchestra of St. Vincent's and the Hyde Park Youth Symphony, Principal Conductor of the Ravenswood Community Orchestra, and spent 9 summers as Director of Orchestras at Camp Encore/Coda in Sweden, Maine. As a guest conductor, he has appeared with the Kalamazoo Symphony, Skokie Valley Symphony, Salt Creek Chamber Orchestra, Lake Forest Civic Orchestra, Ensemble Dal Niente, the Chicago Opera Vanguard, and internationally with the Berlin Sinfonietta.

Dr. Ramaekers has held fellowships with the Allentown (PA) Symphony Orchestra and the Peninsula Music Festival in Door County, WI. He was winner of the 2011 American Prize in Orchestral Conducting and holds degrees from Western Michigan University and Northwestern University."

-Christopher Ramaekers Website (

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track listing:


1. Foramen Magnum 19:28


1. Opening Night 18:36
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.
"Karren is a two-movement electroacoustic-orchestral composition. The first movement, "Foramen Magnum", is an electroacoustic/concrete piece created from heavily processed field recordings taken from orchestral rehearsals and various public locations, including museums and zoos. The second movement, Opening Night, is a layered orchestral score performed by the Chicago Composers Orchestra, with whom I recorded and worked for several years in order to complete this project.

Thematically, Karren includes several personal interests and areas of study, including my recent work in anthropology and sociology. Erving Goffman's dramaturgical metaphor described in The Presentation of Self in Every Day Life is a lens through which the entire composition, presented on vinyl, might be viewed as a metaphor for the self. The act of turning the vinyl disc over to play one side or another highlights the binary quality of the metaphor. Side one of the record plays the chaotic, angular and unsettling back stage sounds of Foramen Magnum, while the other side plays the smooth front stage sounds the orchestral layers of Opening Night. The term foramen magnum literally means large hole or large opening in Latin. In anthropological terms, it is the name of the opening in the base of the human skull that allows the spine to connect with the brain. The position of the human foramen magnum is crucial to the evolution of bipedalism. The titles frame the composition with images of openingsan opening into a human skull on one side of the record and an opening into night on the other side."-Olivia Block

"An album presented in two distinct movements, one on each side of the LP, Olivia Block's latest work at first seems like two diametrically opposed pieces, but are thematically, if not evidently from the sound, tied to one another. Based partially on the idea of presentation, both in the form of musical performance and in the sociological perception of the self, Karren has conceptual depth, but is captivating even stripped of that fact.

The A side composition, "Foramen Magnum," is the darker and more discordant of the two by far. Culled from field recordings in a multitude of public locations, such as zoos and museums from across the world, as well as orchestral rehearsals (of the piece that lies on the other side of the LP), there is a chaotic, disjointed quality throughout. Unidentifiable found sounds, crispy processed static and a menacing far off hum sets a sinister tone at the onset.

The occasionally overt smattering of applause, fragmented conversation or obvious sound of footsteps makes for a precious few moments of familiarity, but the rest is disconnected and improvised feeling. It continues to move and evolve for its 20 minute duration, never really fully settling into a single mood or sound until the conclusion.

With "Foramen Magnum" acting as the back stage half, "Opening Night" is the on stage piece. Performed by the Chicago Composers Orchestra, it is a much more calming and meditative piece. Recorded over a period of multiple years and with added percussion courtesy of Jon Mueller, it results in a soaring piece of layered strings and organic sounds. Linked together, the result is more that of a mass of instruments than anything overly identifiable.

Even in this fog, an individual instrument sometimes floats to the surface only to be pulled back again into the mass. Throughout there is a slow, aquatic like flow that moves the composition forward, with sporadic, unobtrusive bits of percussion, but nothing that upsets the soft balance. Towards the end, the instruments seem to lose their identifiable qualities and instead take a turn for the synthetic and almost unnatural, closing in a very different way than it began.

Concepts aside, Karren makes for a distinctly bipolar pairing of compositional styles, with "Foramen Magnum" emphasizing the rawer, more electro-acoustic elements of Olivia Block's work, while "Opening Night" is rooted more in traditional sounds and structures. Neither feel rigidly rooted in their respective styles, however, and some bleed over does occur, reflecting Block's own self as a distinct and proficient composer."-Creaig Dunton, Brainwashed

Get additional information at Brainwashed
Related Categories of Interest:

Vinyl Recordings
Organized Sound and Sample Based Music
Field Recordings
Electroacoustic Composition
Compositional Forms
Solo Artist Recordings
New in Experimental & Electronic Music
New in Compositional Music
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