MusicSafari 8: Circling Strangers (CD Review)

Bowlines’ Circling Strangers
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Circling Strangers is the debut CD of the improvising string trio Bowlines (Ernie Gruner (violin/viola), Heather Stewart (violin) and Jenny Thomas (viola)). The CD is a live recording of Bowlines’ performance in Brunswick, Victoria on 27th of July, 2014. The music on this CD reveals the magical power of collective improvisation at work. The three improvisers create musical layers that blend, support, or reinforce each other in a variety of ways. Elements of musical traditions such as classical, blues, or klezmer provide the raw materials for the musicians to create new musical entities with depth and feelings.

Bowlines’ music leads listeners through various moods and audio landscapes. The title track of the CD, Circling Strangers (Track 2), shows collective improvisation at its best. Here, the three instruments are perfectly unified into a musical stream that fluidly evolves in a lyrical and dynamic way. Track 3 is a little beauty in which the combination of pizzicatos, spiccatos, brief patterns and long glissandos with walking rhythms seems to depict scenes from a ballet of marionettes. The music of Waiting in Long Empty Space (Track 4) is quite emotional. At times, the strings sound as if they are moaning under the delicate bows. Taking the Mantle Again (Track 8) is characterised by long and lyrical melodies. Sweet Behemoth (Track 9) is fused with energy and is beautifully crafted with layers of tremolos and pizzicatos in varying intensities.

Even though Circling Strangers only contains 35 minutes of music, the CD has much to offer to listeners who love to explore the beauty of spontaneity in improvised music.

The CD can be listened online at: Bowlines’ Bandcamp Site

For more information about Bowlines, please visit their website: Bowlines

MusicSafari 7: Twilight (2013) by Ge Wang

Stanford Laptop Orchestra : Twilight (2013)

Twilight (2013) for laptop orchestra by Ge Wang
performed by Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk) at Bing Concert Hall, Stanford University, May 2013.

A composition for the laptop orchestra that demonstrates the capability of laptop computers as powerful, sensitive and expressive instruments in a live concert performance.

Notes from the SLOrk’s video:
“Inspired by the classic science-fiction short story “Twilight” by John W. Campbell (published in 1934, under the pseudonym “Don A. Stuart”), this piece ruminates not of the dawn, ascension, nor triumph of the human race, but of one possible demise set seven million years in the future. This end is not one of annihilation through war, nor decimation from famine or disease, but a golden decrescendo of defeat brought on by the gradual, peaceful, but unstoppable usurping of technology and machines — and the loss of man’s curiosity and sense of wonder. From the original text:
“Twilight — the sun has set. The desert out beyond, in its mystic, changing colors. The great, metal city rising straight-walled to the human city above, broken by spires and towers and great trees with scented blossoms. The silvery-rose glow in the paradise of gardens above.”

i. The Dead City
“And all the great city-structure throbbing and humming to the steady gentle beat of perfect, deathless machines built more than three million years before — and never touched since that time by human hands. And they go on. The dead city. The men that have lived, and hoped, and built — and died to leave behind them those little men who can only wonder and look and long for a forgotten kind of companionship. They wander through the vast cities their ancestors built, knowing less of them than the machines themselves.”

ii. A Song of Longing
“And the songs. Those tell the story best, I think. Little, hopeless, wondering men amid vast unknowing, blind machines that started three million years before — and just never knew how to stop. They are dead — and can’t die and be still.”

This is the first installment in the Twilight series for various and mixed media. The cycle explores the psychology, longing, beauty and sadness of a twilight of humanity ending not in a bang, but an irreversible powerdown, basked in the golden, lingering, dying glow of man’s dusk.”

For more information about composer Ge Wang and his works:
Ge Wang page at CCRMA

Or:

Watch his presentation “The DIY orchestra of the future” at TEDTalks (2014):

Beneath the Surface

Beneath the Surface

Anne Norman: Shakuhachi
Anja Tait: violin
Emily Sheppard: violin

A collective improvisation recorded underground in the 172-meter-long Tunnel Number Five under Darwin (Australia), and released in the CD Beneath the Surface (2016)

Duration: 6:46

Artist’s notes:

Emily and Anja first met just before the gig when this piece was born. They are both remarkable improvisers. All sorts of things were going on for each of us beneath the surface, and of course for each audience member too. Entering a resonant space deep under a hillside, and opening yourself to fall into the moment, into the sound waves… make way for magic to be born. Music created spontaneously is an expression of things that one is not conscious of, and completely unable to put into words at the time…

All sounds and texts text © 2016 by Anne Norman, Anja Tait,Emily Sheppard

Rain Now and Then

Rain Now and Then

Poem and music by Anne Norman

Anne Norman: Shakuhachi

Outside My Window (Poem)

Written in 2011 at home in Victoria, Australia to accompany Rain Now and Then, at the end of a very long drought.

Anne Norman: spoken voice

Duration: 1:21

Rain Now and Then

Anne Norman: Shakuhachi

Duration: 5:28

Composer’s notes:

In February 2011, I experienced sheer delight at watching rain gently fall on my thirsty garden… sensations I had forgotten. The rain came and went throughout the day as I played my shakuhachi by the window, jotting down melodic ideas and colours until it was complete.

Recorded underground in the 172-meter-long Tunnel Number Five under Darwin (Australia), and released in the CD Beneath the Surface (2016)

All sounds and texts text © 2016 by Anne Norman

Dragon Dreaming

Dragon Dreaming

Anne Norman: Shakuhachi
Anja Tait: violin
David Matthews: field recording

Duration: 6:03

Artist’s notes:

On the northeast tip of Arnhem Land, where Macassans and Yolngu once traded, David recorded ocean swells surging in and out of air-filled caverns, pushing air through tiny nostrils in the bauxite. He called it “Breathing Planet” When amplified within the long tunnel, it sounds like a hung dragon asleep in its lair. Joining the dragon, Anne plays a traditional Zen meditation, Tamuke (Offering), accompanied by Anja’s violin. We respectfully acknowledge the Yolngu people for allowing David to explore that stretch of coast. This is our humble Offering in return.

Recorded underground in the 172-meter-long Tunnel Number Five under Darwin (Australia), and released in the CD Beneath the Surface (2016)

All sounds and texts text © 2016 by Anne Norman, Anja Tait, David Matthews

MusicSafari 6: Beneath the Surface (CD Review)

Beneath the Surface (CD Review)
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Beneath the Surface is Anne Norman’s recently released site-specific album of traditional works, new compositions and improvisations for solo shakuhachi and shakuhachi with violin(s). The CD features performances of Anne Norman (shakuhachi ), Emily Sheppard (violin) and Anja Tait (violin). As the name of the album indicates, all the music and spoken poetry on this album was recorded underground in the 172-meter-long Tunnel Number Five under Darwin (Australia). In this project, the tunnel, which was originally constructed in response to attacks by Japanese bombers during WW II, has become an underground concert venue and recording space. The fabulous acoustic of the site contributes a significant part to the projection and reflection of sound waves and in the way musical streams and layers are woven together to create the ultimate audio experience for listeners. Australian composer-performer Anne Norman, who spent many years studying shakuhachi in Japan, has brought a spirit of reconciliation to the tunnel to transform its original purpose and bring the little flute (the shakuhachi) and the giant flute (the tunnel) together to start a meaningful and daring adventure in sounds.

The music and poetry in the album flows effortlessly from the first to the last track to create a mesmerising journey which is rich in colours, pace and emotion. Anne Norman demonstrates her mastery of the shakuhachi as well as her in-depth understanding of the spirit of Japanese contemplative music in Sarus Cranes which opens the CD. Her exquisite rendering of traditional Japanese Zen music is heard again in Dragon Dreaming in which the traditional melody Tamuke is presented as an offering to the amazing sounds of ocean swells supported by a very sensitive violin accompaniment by Anja Tait.

Moving from the traditional sounds of Japan, the shakuhachi embarks on a journey across various horizons and boundaries. Original compositions for solo shakuhachi and improvisations with violin(s) provide a colourful feast of sounds.
The two original compositions for shakuhachi, Rain Now and Then and Whispered Shadows, are beautiful works. Rain Now and Then is a stream of delicate melodies born of a masterful control of breath. In Whispered Shadows, soft multi-phonic elements of the shakuhachi and voice come and go behind or in-between walking rhythms of recurring patterns, creating a surreal impression.

The improvisations, especially the live recordings on tracks 4, (Bouncing back), 10 (Have they gone yet?) and 17 (Beneath the Surface), reveal the exceptional power of collective and spontaneous creativity. Listeners are led through various landscapes of sounds and emotions by the magical sounds of the shakuhachi at play with the violin(s) through space. The last track, Beneath the Surface, is so rich in audio images that it sounds almost like an artistic cinematic soundtrack condensed into a timeline of less than 7 minutes.

The poems, written and recited by Anne Norman, add another dimension to the whole program. They generate atmospheres, add depth to the meaning of the music and lead listeners to the next aural world about to unfold.

This CD should be listened to as a whole (and on headphones) to experience the flow of music and emotions in a space that has been transformed into a higher purpose.

 

 

Listen to the whole CD at: Anne Norman’s Bandcamp Site

For the history of the Darwin World War II Tunnels: Darwin WW II Tunnels

MusicSafari 5: Bernie Krause’s Great Animal Orchestra

The Great Animal Orchestra

The Foundation Cartier pour l’art contemporain has created a virtual presentation to celebrate Bernie Krause‘s 50 years of nature recordings.

From July 2, 2016 to January 8, 2017, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain presents The Great Animal Orchestra, inspired by the work of American musician and bioacoustician Bernie Krause. The exhibition, which brings together artists from all over the world, invites its audience to immerse themselves in an aesthetic meditation, both aural and visual, on an animal kingdom that is increasingly under threat.

As an extension of the exhibition at the Fondation Cartier, the online presentation of The Great Animal Orchestra provides visitors the opportunity to conduct nature’s vast musical ensemble. Guided by the voices of Bernie Krause in English, singer Camille in French and musician Orlando Morais in Brazilian, the site, developed by the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, unveils the mysteries of the acoustic harmony of the animal kingdom, offering an unprecedented interactive experience that reveals the ecology of the soundscape and the forces behind it.

The Great Animal Orchestra

For more information on Bernie Krause’s works and his Wild Sanctuary Audio Archive, please visit:
Wild Sanctuary

“The Wild Sanctuary Audio Archive represents a vast and important collection of whole-habitat field recordings and precise metadata dating from the late 1960s. This unique bioacoustic resource contains marine and terrestrial soundscapes representing the voices of living organisms from larvae to large mammals and the numerous tropical, temperate and Arctic biomes from which they come. The catalog currently contains over 4,500 hours of wild soundscapes and in excess of 15,000 identified life forms.

Fully half of the natural soundscapes in this rare set are from habitats that no longer exist, are radically altered because of human endeavor, or have gone altogether silent”-wildsanctuary.com