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):

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

MusicSafari 4: Sound Testament of Mount Athos by Arsenije Jovanovic

Sound Testament of Mount Athos

by Arsenije Jovanovic

A rare soundscape from Mount Athos by Arsenije Jovanovic presented at Ear to the Earth:

“Mount Athos, or Sacred Mountain, or Áyion Óros, on the Khalkidhiki peninsula that extends towards the southeast from the northern coast of the Aegean Sea, is the only independent monastic state in the world. There are currently twenty Byzantine monasteries on Mount Athos — seventeen Greek, one Russian, one Bulgarian, and one Serbian — together housing about two thousand orthodox monks living in hundreds of cells. Many of these monasteries, built on high and inaccessible rocks, look like huge eagles’ nests. Since the ninth century when the sacred community began to allow no woman to set foot on Mount Athos, the population has been only men, only monks and occasional pilgrims. No one was born there, millions of men died there.”

Read more about and listen to the work at EartotheEarth.org

MusicSafari 3: Ocean breath (CD Review)

Ocean Breath

by the Breath Trio (Anne Norman, shakuhachi ; Sanshi, didgeridoo ; and Reo Matsumoto, beatbox)

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Ocean Breath, released in 2013, features original works for a unique ensemble combining shakuhachi, didgeridoo and beatbox (voice percussion). The remarkable feature of this ensemble is that the shakuhachi is played by an Australian (Anne Norman) while the didgeridoo is play by a Japanese (Sanshi), and they both demonstrate the highest level of mastery of their instruments on the tracks of this CD. Both Anne and Sanshi have successfully taken the shakuhachi and the didgeridoo beyond their traditions to enter a new musical space that corresponds well with the contemporary world.

At times the shakuhachi produces haunting and meditative melodies that remind listeners of the Japanese tradition. At other times, it evokes extremely lively and rhythmic atmosphere that make listeners feel to dance along. The didgeridoo part is also remarkable. At times, it has the stable, lingering and timeless characteristics of Australian Aboriginal music, but at other times, it is intensively dynamic to drive the rhythm of the music. I particularly like the way Sanshi creates the drones on long notes which gradually change the intensity and shape to evoke the atmosphere of the music. When the long flows of the shakuhachi and/or the didgeridoo are combined with the amazing rich palette of beatbox sounds and noises, a set of works that are highly captivating are born.

While all the tracks are worth of repeated listening, I particularly love Tidal Drift, The Sea that Connects (with Anne playing the fipple flute instead of the shakuhachi) and Ocean Breath for their exquisite structural flow and balanced texture. I also like the atmosphere evoked in Through the Mist (a duet of shakuhachi and didgeridoo). I was deeply moved by The Tears of Pearl (for Shakuhachi and bell). The last piece, Bodhisattva Blessing, is a very beautiful composition featuring deep throat voice and harmonic voice, shakuhachi and bell.

You can listen to the whole CD online at: Anne Norman’s Bandcamp site

For more information about the Breath trio, visit their website: Breath Trio

MusicSafari 2: The Sun Palace by Philip Blackburn

The Sun Palace
The Sun Palace is a captivating experimental music-film about tuberculosis in the pre-antibiotics era by composer, environmental sound-artist, and filmmaker Philip Blackburn.

“Another time. Another plague.

The Sun Palace (62 mins running time, HD video) is an epic visual and musical homage to the era, not too long ago, when tuberculosis consumed the nation. 80% of the populace had been infected and were one bloody cough away from a desperate prognosis. X-Rays were brand new. Antibiotics were four decades in the future.

While inspired by many actual stories, anecdotes, details, and events, The Sun Palace is not a documentary or a single narrative so much as a dreamlike, hallucinatory, sensory environment in which we can imagine ourselves lost in medical history. Just as the original patients may have felt. Part experimental documentary, part music video on steroids, and part multi-sensory, multi-narrative pile-up. Every element is derived from actual events and details. It is mysterious, occasionally disturbing while offering an appreciation for the kindness of nurses, the barbaric ingenuity of doctors, and the fervent desire for life of the lungers and wheezers…” (http://thesunpalace.org/)

The Sun Palace by Philip Blackburn:

For more information about Philip Blackburn and his works: Philip Blackburn’s Homepage