On the Record rounds up details about new and pending recordings of interest to the new-music community: contemporary classical music and jazz, electronic and electroacoustic music, and idioms for which no clever genre name has been coined, on CD, vinyl LP, cassette, digital-only formats… you name it.
This list of upcoming release dates is culled from press releases, Amazon and other online record stores, social-media posts, and similar resources. Dates cited correspond to U.S. release of physical recordings where applicable, and are subject to change. These listings are not comprehensive—nor could they be! To submit a forthcoming recording for consideration, email information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There seems to be precious little information available on the World Wide Web concerning ghostses, a piece the Los Angeles composer Casey Anderson created from 2016 to 2018 for Bent Duo – keyboardist David Friend and percussionist Bill Solomon – or so it seems, until you find the page on Anderson’s website that refers to the piece. Even then, the details at first seem fairly sketchy. There’s a YouTube video of a complete performance of the piece, filmed at the University of Leeds on June 30, 2017, and a page of text rendered in different colors. The notes provided consist of a single line:
written for BENT DUO (David Friend & Bill Solomon)
Maybe it’s for the best, since part of the beauty of listening to ghostses is being confronted with its similarly elusive matter-of-factness. Both Friend and Solomon are featured as speakers, delivering alone or simultaneously fragments of text from the first chapter of W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn—this, according to the Bandcamp page for the new recording, as well as on the website of a wave press, the impressive young experimental-music label Anderson launched in 2016.
The players accompany their speech with a variety of small percussion instruments—bells, tiny cymbals, tuning forks, and so on. Friend blows a harmonica; Solomon squeezes a concertina, or maybe it’s a toy accordion—this, you can see in the aforementioned video. Both also tune in glitchy, fuzzy bits of live radio regularly; on the newly released recording you catch a bit of “Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress)” here, a snatch from “Bohemian Rhapsody” there, indistinct voices and electronic squelch throughout.
It all blends together surprisingly well. What transpires might not sound like music in a conventional sense, more like a ritual, or a game. But there’s no question that the performance is musical—even if its rhyme and reason seem abstruse.
But look again at that page about ghostses on Anderson’s website. Right under the picture of the page of text, you’ll see this line:
The software to generate the score, as well as various drafts, can be found here.
Click on the word here, and you find yourself on Anderson’s GitHub page, where all the components of ghostses can be found lurking: the Sebald chapter (in complete and edited forms); variously styled PDF files in which the text has been atomized by Anderson’s Python program into its constituent nouns, verbs, adjectives, punctuation marks, and so on; and, tucked away in a folder labeled “rendered,” a set of rigorously detailed instructions for the performers.
To summarize succinctly, both performers are reading the entire text of the Sebald chapter silently from a page labeled “background.” At the same time, two or more additional transparencies are positioned atop that base layer, with various components of the text rendered in different colors. Colored words signal the performers to read that word and a few adjacent words aloud. Those same words also serve as cues to play one or another instrument—nouns might be assigned to radios, adverbs to harmonicas, and so on. Punctuation marks, though not read aloud, similarly serve as performance cues. The layered stacks can vary from performance to performance; likewise, nouns or adverbs needn’t always correspond to the same instrument. The system is built to provide ample opportunity for chance and variety.
Knowing about all of those details and instructions makes listening to ghostses more intelligible, its workings discernible. For instance, here’s a sample passage from Sebald specifically concerning the Rembrandt painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp:
If we stand today before the large canvas of Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson in the Mauritshuis we are standing precisely where those who were present at the dissection in the Waaggebouw stood, and we believe that we see what they saw then: in the foreground, the greenish, prone body of Aris Kindt, his neck broken and his chest risen terribly in rigor mortis.
Now, listen to “Page 4” of the Bent Duo performance. Around 30 seconds in, we hear Solomon deliver parts of the passage quoted above:
If we stand… before the large… are standing precisely… who were present… stood, and we believe that we see what they saw then… terribly…
Workings that seemed unknowable suddenly become more clear. And yet! As if responding to Solomon’s words, Friend’s radio exactly then and nowhere else pulls in a snatch of a familiar Beatles song:
Try to see it my way…
If, as Arthur C. Clarke posited, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” the fact remains that calm logic still can’t explain away every serendipitous ghost in the machine.
New This Week
Casey Anderson – ghostses – Bent Duo (a wave press)
Lisa Bielawa– Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser – performers include Kronos Quartet, San Francisco Girls Chorus, Magik*Magik Orchestra, American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, PARTCH, and others (Orange Mountain Music) Greg Chudzik – Solo Works, Vol. 2 (New Focus) ☆ Alvin Curran – Canti Illuminati (Blume; remastered reissue) ☆ Bruno Duplant – Chants de Mémoire (Hemisphäreの空虚) The Flying Luttenbachers – Shattered Dimension (ugEXPLODE/GOD) Karl Fousek – In the Forest (Second Editions) ☆ Jay-Dea Lopez – Pulse (Hemisphäreの空虚) Žibuoklė Martinaitytė – In Search of Lost Beauty… – FortVio (Starkland) ☆ Modelbau – The Invaders (Hemisphäreの空虚) Nicholas Phillips – Shift – compositions by Reena Esmail, Gabriela Lena Frank, Whitney George, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Libby Larsen, Angelica Negron, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and Ingrid Stolzel (Panoramic)
Ryuichi Sakamoto – BTTB – 20th Anniversary Edition (Milan) Carl Stone – Baroo (Unseen Worlds) ☆ Sun Ra & His Afro Infinity Arkestra – Pathways to Unknown Worlds (Modern Harmonic; remastered reissue) David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith – Sun of Goldfinger (ECM) Byron Westbrook – Voice Damage (Psychic Troubles)
(☆ – new addition this week)
☆ Sun Ra & His Arkestra – The Spirit of Jazz Cosmos Arkestra at WUHY, 1978 (Cosmic Myth)
Sam Ashley & Werner Durand – I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good (Unseen Worlds) Caleb Burhans – Past Lives – performances by Simon Jermyn, JACK Quartet, and Duo Harpverk (Cantaloupe Music) Yevgeny Kutik – Meditations on Family – compositions by Timo Andres, Kinan Azmeh, Christopher Cerrone, Andreia Pinto Correia, Paola Prestini, Gity Razaz, Joseph Schwantner, and Gregory Vajda (Marquis Classics) Joe Martin – Étoilée (Sunnyside) NbN – trios (self-released)
☆ Vanessa Rossetto – you & i are earth (Tone Glow) Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir – Vernacular – compositions by Páll Ragnar Pálsson, Þuríður Jónsdóttir, Halldór Smárason, and Hafliði Hallgrímsson (Sono Luminus) ☆ Tredici Bacci – La Fine del Futuro (NNA Tapes)
Donnacha Dennehy – The Last Hotel – Claudia Boyle, Robin Adams, Katherine Manley, Mikel Murfi, Crash Ensemble/Alan Pierson (Cantaloupe Music) David Liptak – Dove Songs – compositions by Matthew Shlomowitz, Cara Haxo, Eric Wubbels, Theresa Wong, Sky Macklay, and Yannis Kyriakides (New Focus)
Nick Sanders – Playtime 2050 (Sunnyside) Splinter Reeds – Hypothetical Islands – performances by Tony Arnold, Alison D’Amato, Dieter Hennings, Steven Doane, Renee Jolles, Margaret Kampmeier, and Barry Snyder (New Focus)
☆ David First – Same Animal, Different Cages Vol. 4: Sitar Music of North Brooklyn (Fabrica)
Aries Mond – Cut Off (IIKKI)
Beat Circus – These Wicked Things (Innova)
June Chikuma – Les Archives (Freedom to Spend) Helen Grime – Woven Space – London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle (LSOLive) William Hooker – Cycle of Restoration (FPE) Louis Karchin – Dark Mountains/Distant Lights – performances by Miranda Cuckson, Steven Beck, and Jacqueline Leclair (New Focus) Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughan – New Rain Duets (Three Lobed)
Tobias Meinhart – Berlin People (Sunnyside) ☆ Charles Rumback with Jim Baker, James Singleton & Greg Ward – Cadillac Turns (Astral Spirits) Typical Sisters – Hungry Ghost (Outside in Music)
Fennesz – Agora (Touch)
Henryk Górecki – Symphony No. 3 (“Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”) – Beth Gibbons, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra/Krzysztof Penderecki (Domino)
Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones – From Untruth (Northern Spy) ☆ Dustin Laurenzi – Snaketime: The Music of Moondog (Astral Spirits/Feeding Tube) Logan Strosahl Spec Ops – Sure (Sunnyside) Third Coast Percussion – Perpetulum – compositions by Philip Glass, Gavin Bryars, David Skidmore, Peter Martin, and Robert Dillon (Orange Mountain Music)
Anthony Pateras – Collected Works Vol. II (2005-2018) (Immediata) Pateras/Baxter/Brown – Bern · Melbourne · Milan (Immediata)
☆ Michaël Attias – èchos la nuit (Out of Your Head) Alejandro Coello – Percussion Theory (Sunnyside) Anat Fort Trio – Colour (Sunnyside) Visible Cloaks, Yoshio Ojima & Satsuki Shibano – FRKWYS Vol. 15: serenitatem (RVNGIntl.)
This week in On the Record, The Necks defy expectation and categorization on 'Three,' their 21st album, new on Northern Spy. Plus dozens of listings for forthcoming releases.
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This week in On the Record: Bandcamp has responded to the current COVID-19 pandemic by waiving its fees for 24 hours, directing more money to artists and labels—here are some new and recent releases to buy today.