Grocery Runs Special on Fresh Cobra

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Tomorrow is the third installment of the Sonic Frontiers Workshop Series at The Grocery. I’ll lead an introduction to Cobra, a musical game created by composer, improviser and saxophonist John Zorn in the mid-eighties. Performers in Cobra use hand-signals and a set of colorful cards to cue ever-evolving musical combinations. Previous experience is not required, so bring an instrument or noisemaker to participate in this fun, fast-paced, sometimes hilarious way to make music together. (Of course, it’s also okay just to listen and watch if you want.)

Wednesday March 11 @ 7pm
900 Main Avenue
Northport AL 35476

Workshops in the Sonic Frontiers Workshop Series are free and open to the public. Presented in partnership with the Sonic Frontiers Concert Series at the University of Alabama.

Anthony Braxton at Alabama

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I’m so excited to be part of Anthony Braxton’s week-long residency at the University of Alabama kicking off tonight with a free solo saxophone concert at the Bama Theatre and running through February 25th. Sonic Frontiers is presenting these events; visit their site for the full schedule of events. All events are free.

I’ll be performing on Friday’s concert as part of the Falling River Music Septet along with Anthony Braxton (reeds), Taylor Ho Bynum (brass), Andrew Raffo Dewar (soprano saxophone), Tim Feeney (percussion), Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Ingrid Laubrock (reeds). This is such an amazing lineup, and it’s just one of many throughout the 6-concert residency.

In preparation for this residency I’ve been listening to many Braxton recordings, starting with For Alto and moving through the entire Arista Records box set. I thought I had a grasp of Braxton’s work having heard selections here and there (likely beginning with the Muhal Richard Abrams duo on the Smithsonian Jazz compilation). But I was completely unprepared for both the amount of musical material and the incredible range represented: from ragtime and marching band music to post-bop solos and Sun Ra-like grooves, from the density of his music for four orchestras to the spare, spacey explorations on For Trio. And that barely gets us through the 1970s! I can’t think of another composer with such stylistic richness and diversity.

Amped Up Hemi

I recently upgraded my salad bowl hemispherical speaker with a new amp board, and I’m loving the sound. I get more volume with less distortion.

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This 6-channel board (Sure Electronics TDA7498) is significantly more powerful and easier to install than my previous configuration of 3 stereo amps. I had to use a router to make room for the cooling fan, but otherwise the installation was straightforward.

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Here’s everything hooked up before I stuffed the innards back in place and fastened the bottom plate.

Fencepost vs. Fencepost

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One is a refreshing pale ale from Back Forty Beer Co. with a modest alcohol content and an American hop profile: a touch of pine. The other is a wintry meditation on mortality from Post & Beam with an intoxicating Pythagorean minor third: slightly lower than equal tempered. Both are Alabama natives wistfully recalling a vanishing rural past.

This fall when I plow the fields under I’ll be thinking only of you.

 

Sudden Swan Soars Saturday

Susan WilliamsSoprano Susan Williams will premiere Sudden Swan for voice and live electronics at the Birmingham New Music Festival on Saturday August 23 at 7:30pm. The concert is at UAB’s Hulsey Recital Hall, 950 13th Street South, Birmingham, AL. Admission is free.

Susan and I have known each other since our college days at Birmingham-Southern.  Since then she’s landed leading opera roles and appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra, Akron Symphony, Duke Symphony Orchestra and many others. This is the first time Susan and I have worked on a piece together, and we’re so excited to present it on Saturday.

The performer in Sudden Swan improvises a melody to a drone using a small set of just-tuned pitches. Each pitch is associated with one or more words which are strung together to create an ever-evolving poetry. The computer responds to variations in the vocal performance with subtle shifts of timbre, pulsating rhythms, and sometimes unpredictable flourishes.

Here’s a snippet of our working score:

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Mouthpiece Mashup Mark 2

20140503-172118.jpgHere’s the second-generation prototype of a soprano sax / trumpet mouthpiece hybrid. This was printed on a Makerbot Replicator 2X. I modeled the soprano sax mouthpiece base and appended the geometry of a Bach 1-1/2C trumpet mouthpiece found on Thingiverse. The trumpet cup is a bit roomier than the previous prototype; I think I’ll try a trombone-sized cup next. Here’s the STL file so you can download, modify and print your own.

Whenever I try this mouthpiece on my horn my son yells at me to “Stop that horrible noise!” So it must be working…