2013 Favorite Music

Joining in the year-end spirit here’s a list (in arbitrary order) of some music-related items that were favorites of 2013. Some of this material was released this year; much of it was old-and-newly-discovered or old-and-thankfully-rediscovered.

Albums

  • Ana Maria Kiefer – Teatro Do Descobrimento
  • Tinariwen – Imidiwan
  • Various Artists – Goodbye, Babylon
  • Rebe and Rabe – Rebe and Rabe Gospel
  • Dawn of Midi – Dysnomia
  • Dwight Yoakam – 3 Pears
  • Kristin Norderval – Aural Histories
  • Laurel Halo – Quarantine
  • Meridian – Hoquet
  • Nathan Bowles – A Bottle, A Buckeye
  • Rob Stenson – Gold Mountain EP
  • Sibylle Baier – Colour Green
  • Ron Pate’s Debonairs featuring Rev. Fred Lane – Raudelunas ‘Pataphysical Revue
  • Suicide – Suicide
  • Talk Talk – Laughing Stock
  • Woody Guthrie – Woody at 100
  • Julia Holter – Ekstasis and Loud City Song
  • Butch Morris – When the Sun is Out You Don’t See the Stars
  • These New Puritans – Field of Reeds

Singles

  • Vampire Weekend – “Step”
  • Claude Debussy – “Jeux”
  • Igor Stravinsky – “Le Sacre du Printemps”
  • Big Star – “September Gurls”
  • The Blue Nile – “The Wires are Down”
  • Hasil Adkins – “Hot Dog Baby”
  • Howlin’ Wolf – “Bluebird”
  • Lightnin’ Hopkins – “Black and Evil”
  • Odds of Survival – “Neshoba”
  • Laetitia Sonami – “What Happened”
  • Little Milton – “Grits Ain’t Groceries”
  • Roxy Music – “Virginia Plain”

Wind Whistling in Overhead Wires: Soundtrack Companion to The Observers

Wind Whistling in Overhead Wires is a collection of field recordings and outtakes from my work on Jacqueline Goss’s film The Observers.

This is a pay-what-you-wish (starting at free!), digital download release on Bandcamp. I made the field recordings during our two amazing shoots at the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire (see these previous posts). I processed some of the sounds using custom effects developed with Cycling 74’s Max software and added a few instruments in the studio. I chose my favorite sounds and sketches that didn’t make it into the final film and sequenced them to create a continuous 20-minute piece (though some of the tracks work well on their own, particularly Downslope Flow). Enjoy!

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

Keir Neuringer, Holland Hopson, Rambutan, Living Things at 51 3rd

Tomorrow night! I went halfway around the world to Sydney, Australia where I heard about Keir Neuringer who only lives a few hours away. His last appearance at 51 3rd was great. I’m looking forward to hearing him play again.

Wednesday 11/30/11 @ 8pm
51 3rd St.
Troy, NY (former Troy Bike Rescue)

KEIR NEURINGER
composes & improvises acoustic & electronic music, writes socio-political performance texts & essays, & creates interdisciplinary artworks. Keir will play farfisa organ & drums (at the same time!), sing, and play saxophone & electronic…s. intense post-punk songwriter, playing songs off the new Afghanistan album Conquistadors.

HOLLAND HOPSON
is a local avant-gardist and member of the Albany Sonic Arts Collective. Well-versed in a wide variety of musical styles, from the most traditional to the most experimental, Holland will sew together these different musical worlds with pieces for solo banjo and electronics (off his 2011 release Post & Beam), as well as pieces for solo saxophone and electronics.

RAMBUTAN
is local noise/drone wizard Eric Hardiman, member of the Albany Sonic Arts Collective, local psych-rock collective Burnt Hills, and proprietor of TAPE DRIFT records, Albany’s most experimental music label. Eric will be performing a mind-bending set of improvised solo electronics…

intermission videos by LIVING THINGS

Fencepost

This month’s score from Post & Beam is Fencepost. This is the last song I wrote for the record and has become the sleeper hit of the release.

Download the score as a pdf file: fencepost.pdf
Download the score as a Lilypond .ly file: fencepost.ly

Notes on Fencepost

  • The cFCFAb tuning is one I came to after trying a more standard minor (fCFAbC) or sawmill (cFCFG) tuning. I use a Pythagorean temperament based on F which doesn’t change the tuning of the C’s and F’s very much, but makes the Ab significantly flatter than an equal-tempered Ab.
  • The whooshing, windy sound throughout (heard prominently during the intro) is generated by walking on a pair of foot pedals, almost the way you would pump an old pump organ. (You can see this motion in the video.)
  • While recording, I kept missing the foot pedals and accidentally stepping on a mic stand instead. I decided to embrace the resulting bass drum thumps and include them in the piece.
  • Yet another song with bird imagery (YASWBI).

Post & Beam CD Countdown: Printing

Hot off the letterpress… Here’s a sneak peek at the cover art for my forthcoming CD of music for banjo and electronics titled Post & Beam.

Many thanks to Travis Weller–composer, designer, letterpress operator, more–for all he’s done for this project. (Especially in light of the Austin New Music Co-op’s upcoming concerts of Cardew’s “The Great Learning”. Wish I could be there!)

Post and Beam CD Countdown: Sequencing

I recently finished sequencing the tracks for my upcoming Post and Beam CD. The hardest part was figuring out where to put the long form instrumental pieces like Telephone Temple and Spring Dissent (Bubbling) among the shorter, more song-based pieces. After auditioning countless combinations and creating crazy mind maps of relationships between pieces, I finally decided to jettison the instrumental pieces altogether.

I’m disappointed they didn’t make the cut partly because I wanted Post and Beam to represent a typical set of my current work for banjo and electronics. At the same time, I can’t deny that the album (Yes, I’m actually thinking of it like that; and yes, I do feel old sometimes.) works better without them.

The good news is that they’re not going away forever. I can easily imagine them as the foundation for my next CD, or as online bonus material. And the other good news is that with the sequencing done I can move along with mastering and sleeve design and … and …