Favorite Music from 2011

My residency with David Behrman at the Atlantic Center for the Arts was an important part of 2011 and its effects trickled into the rest of (and best of) the year. I heard some great recordings as a result of the residency, namely:

Various Artists: Music for Merce (box set)
A massive collection that celebrates the musical legacy of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Great work by Christian Wolff, Pauline Oliveros, Takehisa Kosugi, Maryanne Amacher, John King, David Behrman and especially David Tudor. It’s astounding (and initially a little frustrating) that even with 10 CDs, many of the pieces are presented as excerpts. But hearing applause at the end of the live recordings reminds me that the pieces often lasted until the dance was over, and then they were over, too.

Ensemble vocal de Girokastër: Albanie – Polyphonies Vocales du Pays Lab
Mesmerizing choral music from Albania.

Otherwise, 2011 was the year of some exceptional music by many of my musician friends. Their work easily stands up against many of the releases from more established labels. In some cases, the work appears on established labels. In any case, the distinction between DIY and “signed artist” seems increasingly irrelevant. So I’m not hesitant to trumpet this work at all. I’m more concerned about leaving out some deserving recordings simply because there’s so much new material to consider. If we’re friends (I hope we are) and I don’t mention your work below, it’s probably because I haven’t listened to it yet. We’re still friends–I can’t wait to finally catch up on what you did in 2011 and hear what’s to come in 2012.

The Black Drumset: The Black Drumset
The crunchiest breakfast cereal.

Brent Fariss: Four Environments…Collapsing
Spooky action at a distance.

Matt Weston: The Last of the Six-Cylinders
A richly textured and surprisingly elegant electrified junkyard.

Jefferson Pitcher: Now the Deer
The quiet surface of a deep deep pool.

Bob Gluck / Joe Giardullo / Christopher Dean Sullivan: Something Quiet
My favorite kind of heterophony.

Here are a few other recordings that left their mark on my ears this year.

  • Various Artists: Music of Indonesia (multiple volumes) Daedalus Books has these on sale. I bought them all.
  • Michael Nyman: Decay Music
  • King Creosote and John Hopkins: Diamond Mine
  • Various Artists: The Friends of Old Time Music (box set)
  • Little Richard: The Georgia Peach
  • Kepler Quartet: Ben Johnston: String Quartets Nos. 2, 3, 4 & 9
  • Laura Viers: July Flame
  • Dave Douglas: Keystone

Cigar Box Guitar

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Had a great time building a cigar box guitar under the direction of John Nickel at Nickel Cigar Box Guitar.

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Here’s a detail of the piezo pickup that we installed in the cigar box. The small block of wood on the left is later glued to cover the piezo element.

Science Fair Video

Cycling ’74 has posted a new video from the Science Fair they hosted as part of the recent Expo ’74 event in Brooklyn. I show off my extended banjo instrument (along with my unashamedly geeky enthusiasm). My segment runs from 2:16-3:13, but watch the whole thing and marvel at the wonderful, strange things people do with Max (and their own geeky enthusiasms). Other videos in the series can be found here.

And a big shout out to Eric Prust who built the fine fretless banjo (minus the electronics) in the video.

Location Ensemble Catch-Up

Here’s the latest on all things Location Ensemble:

  • Read a review of our recent show at Saratoga Arts in Nippertown.
  • Listen to the recording of my piece Six Chords Every Rock Guitarist Should Know from the Saratoga Arts performance.

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  • Listen to an Upstate Soundscape broadcast featuring Eric Hardiman’s Diversion #3.

Save UAG!

The Upstate Artists Guild (UAG) has fallen behind on their rent. They need donations and new memberships to survive. Read the Times Union story here.

UAG has been a welcome host for many Albany Sonic Arts Collective performances and plays a similarly vital role for many other grass-roots arts organizations and presenters. UAG has also been an important force behind the First Friday events. Support UAG today.