Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fred Frith

I have been doing more youtube-ing these days, and finding some incredible footage, so for now I am going to save three parts of a documentary on Fred Frith to watch at a later date, titled "Step across the border." From reading the wiki page on it, it seems to be shot similar to Ken Vandermark's documentary "Musician" in which they are non-narrated snapshots of the musicians doing what they do, without much information as to who is who, and where people are at in the filming.

I'll check this documentary out later on, but now it's saved!

EDIT: Just watched it a bit ago, great film, I think this is only a portion of it, but great pre-1990 footage of Fred Frith playing with Tom Cora, and with John Zorn, and a new band at the time "Keep the Dog." His solo playing was inspiring too, like a multi instrumentalist version of Derek Bailey with singing as well. The way it's shot is beautifully done, juxtaposing studio music of Frith projects with incredible black and white scenes of different areas from around the world. I gotta find the complete documentary!

Friday, November 20, 2009


Part 1

I can't figure out exactly everyone, but this is a 1987 performance on some television show of multiple John Zorn groups. Xu Feng is a game piece, and this features Bobby Previte on drums, Wayne Horivitz, Bill Frisell, Eugene Chadbourne, to name a few. The other performance is of the Sonny Clark Memorial group, featuring Previte, Horivitz, and I can't figure out the bass player. PART 3 is XU FENG, and all the others are the Sonny Clark Memorial.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

TREATISE and beethoven...

I know, I haven't listened to it yet, or had others listen to it, but here's the TREATISE post, now that I have completed the score and recording to the over 3 hour work realization of Cornelius Cardew's piece.

Here goes:



Circles are notes, larger the circle the longer the duration. The proximately of the circle to other circles, or to the middle black line determines pitch, higher or lower.

Triangles are triads (taken from a Cardew interview), and angles are double stops.

Squares/rectangles are harmonics.

Numbers are number of short sounds played by distorted electric guitar.

The black circles are played by distorted electric bass.

The black middle line is bowed acoustic bass. The pitch changes from page to page, and if the line is interrupted somehow. If the black line arcs up or down, it’s a glissando.

Empty staves, or lines that look like staves, stacked on top of each other vertically, are represented by improvised noise. The closer the lines are together, then denser the noise, the farther the lines are away from each other, the sparser and more long tone based the improvisations are.

Pitches in general follow the shape of the symbol, in going up and down.

A single line that stands alone is represented by a drone, either using tremolo picking on guitar, by playing whole notes of the same pitch in the bass, or bowed on the acoustic bass.

At this point dynamics are random due to the levels set when the different instruments were recorded, but sometimes their were F or P written in the score, in which I would follow them as their respective forte and piano.

Everything is read left to right musically, and if it isn't exact, than the gesture of the idea is realized musically in the notated score. ALL symbols are accounted for.


Voice (up to 4 parts) –only used when the page is filled with graphics, and plays the highest part of the page.

Distorted Electric Guitar (up to 2 parts) – only used when numbers are there, OR right under the highest part of the page

Acoustic Guitar (up to 5 parts) – only used to represent the graphics from above the Black line, to a quarter of the page up.

Distorted Electric Bass (1 part) – only used in black circles

Electric Bass (up to 5 parts) – from black line down a quarter of the page.

Acoustic Bass (up to 7 parts) – plays the black line drone AND the bottom quarter of the page.

So that's it for Treatise feel free to comment, or email me at with questions, or if you want to hear a recording. I no longer have any of the piece up on mymyspace page, but probably will soon.


I just finished a week ago writing out a score for 8 people + soloist for the COBRA Ensemble. The score calls for 2 bassists, 2 percussionists, 2 comping instruments, and 2 wind instruments, and a soloist. It is essentially a concerto, and is taken from 10 pages of the last movement of Beethoven's third symphony. I took scissors and tape, and cut out fragments from the score, didn't include key signatures or clefs, and wrote some text instructions for interpretation. Essentially their are 10 sections, and the accompanying ensemble is split into two groups, and get different cues. The soloist has completely different material than the ensemble, in the specific instructions of how to improvise the solo part. Hopefully the piece will be read in the next few weeks, and sounds like a fun open-ended idea. It's very controlled, but at the same will sound COMPLETELY different depending upon the performers/instrumentation. If anything the piece is reminiscent of Terry Riley and John Cage but meeting a more free improvisation world of sound and options.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

AACM Book, Part 3

I just finished up reading "A Power Stronger Than Itself," and picked out a few more passages to copy out and comment on through the rest of the read.

P. 216

“Part of the job of a musician is that of a messenger. If you ain’t ready to be a messenger, forget it. You need to get a job in the post office or somewhere. If you ain’t ready to travel, pack up your family, or pack up yourself and hit the road, you’re in the wrong business. Because that’s what music is about. It’s about spreading knowledge and education, and re=education. It’s about spreading. You have got to travel with it to spread the word. Like all the people in the past that have had to travel to spread the music.” -Lester Bowie

I am always looking for advice on the business of music, and the behind the scenes ideas of what needs to get done, and how to do it. Ken Vandermark's documentary "Musician" is a good insight into this world, as well as this quote from the Art Ensemble trumpeter.

P. 229

“…If you wanted a gig you wanted to be on somebody’s record, and you weren’t invited, all you had to do was go to the BYG studio with your horn. The guy would say, Oh, you have your horn, Come and play on this piece.” -Wadada Leo Smith

Since my vinyl kick, I have been trying collect a lot of the BYG Actuel records, which have been re-released over recent years, thanks in part to Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. This label recorded avant garde music in France from 1969-1971, and this quote makes me think about the atmosphere going on in the session at the time.

P. 363

“I seek new sounds

because new sounds

seek me

Why, Please tell me

Music I limit myself

To a saxophone or clarinet!

All the rhythm of All

The universe is flowing

Through me – Through all

Things, why must I become

“a master” –of anything

when all sound all movement

springs from the same


-Joseph Jarman

Jarman's poem on the idea of multi-instrumentalism, a school sort of "founded" in a way by the Duke Ellington musicians and later on in a figure like Eric Dolpy, or Yusef Lateef. Come of the AACM guys, like Anthony Braxton, or the Art Ensemble played every family of woodwinds, on top of hundreds of different percussion instruments, and more!

P. 442

“Thus, one can imagine the puzzlement of AACM experimentalists when a new breed of New York-based journalists, critics, and musicians advanced the claim that hose who had been creating the new music, had “no respect for tradition.” Curiously, this discourse is hardly to be found in other musical genres. Jimi Hendrix was not critiqued on his ability to sound like Little Richard, nor was Reba McIntyre challenged on her ability to sing like Patsy Cline. On the other hand, these musics did not, until recently, witness the kind of radical challenge to traditional modes of musical aesthetics that jazz did. When transgressive musics eventually came along in other fields – punk, techno, grunge, trash - those critical communities did not, for the most part, critique these musics on the grounds that they did not sound like the Beatles, or insist that they cover a Hall and Oates tune as part of their legitimation strategy. This is to say nothing of contemporary pan-European art music, where present-day composers are not judged on their ability to incorporate the sounds of Vivaldi into their work, though they are free to do so if they wish."

This is George Lewis talking about the idea of how backwards the neo-classical jazz movement seems, in comparison to all the other genre. He makes a good point, no other music makes you imitate the past verbatim, like jazz music does. In rock music today, no one is forced to know Buddy Holly tunes, in 21st century contemporary classical music, no one is forced to compose in the style of why in jazz are we all forced to play a limited amount of material(standards) in a limited way (bebop), when no other genre does that?!

p. 447

“Well, you often hear people nowadays talking about the tradition, tradition, tradition. But they have tunnel vision in this tradition. Because tradition in African American music is as wide as all outdoors… Music is much bigger than bebop changes. I don’t feel like being trapped in those halls of harmony.” -Julius Hemphill

Julius Hemphill, famous for his recording on Arista, "Dogon A.D." and being part of the World Saxophone Quartet, he echoes some of the sentiments of George Lewis. Music, call it jazz, call it contemporary improvisation, call it free, or avant, whatever music does not have to be limited to verbatim copying of musicians' licks/riffs from 60 years ago. Music is much more open than that!

Thus ends my AACM commentary, I may be doing a post soon on Treatise, a Cardew piece that I completed today, and I will write about my overall feeling after listening to it straight through, comments that people hearing it will say, and then what I have learned, and what I might have done differently. Also I will type up some of the interpretation rules I came up with or general tendencies of realizing the piece, as well as how many instruments were involved in the end! Until Next Time!

Monday, November 2, 2009

AACM Book, Part 2

A Power Stronger Than Itself

More excerpts from the George Lewis book with my own commentary

P. 91

“According to the Nigerian musician Babatunde Olatunji, Coltrane and Yusef Lateef were working with him on plans to organize an independent performance space and booking agency. Olatunji portrays the saxophonist as declaring in their conversation that “We need to sponsor our own concerts, promote them and perform in them” …The three musicians drafted a tri-partite mission statement:

To regard each other as equal partners in all categories

2. Not to allow any booking agent or promoter to present one group without the other two members of the Triumvirate.

3. To explore the possibility of teaching the music of our people in conservatories, colleges and universities where only European musical experiences dominates and is being perpetuated."

I think this is incredible, to show that had Coltrane not died, there would've been this powerful musical trio of these great musicians, always playing on the same bill together, and hopefully, even playing in a group together. This most likely would've put Yusef more into the forefront of music, as well as Olatunji. Incredible organizing and sticking up for one another though!

P. 177

“In one of our many interviews, Abrams presented a summary of what a first-time student in his class would encounter in the first few lessons:

We learn how to develop things from the raw materials. First of all, before we write any melody, I deal with the scales and derivatives of scales, which brings us across modes – Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian. We’re listening to stuff that’s around us, and then we can transcend. We’re not captive to the usage of things around us, the empirical part.

I take a tetra chord 2 =2 =1, C + D + E + F. We have to have a note to start from. That’s the first four notes of the major scale. If we proceed with the major scale, from the F we get another 2, to G. From the G we get another 2, to A. And then, form A to B another 2, and from B to C, a 1. So you have 2,2,1 with a 2 in the middle, then 2,2,1. That’s the major scale, and you can start it on any note of the major scale.

They have music paper by now, and they take this scheme and transfer it back to notation, so that they can see it. We’re heading towards composing, personal composing. We’re collecting these components, so we won’t be puzzled by how to manipulate them. First, we organize ourselves rhythmically, so that we have some idea of how to move things around in a verity of ways. We learn all the major and minor scales, and related scales, like the double harmonic scale, stuff that we hear around us.

We haven’t started talking psychologically yet, and we haven’t talked about how the Chinese or the Indian have different tunings. That’s left to personal investigation, which is strongly encouraged.

Then I make an impression up the student by playing it. All the time they’re getting an appreciation of what they hear around them, all over televisions, the symphony orchestra, and everywhere. Then you hear something a little more abstract, then you go investigate to find out how it was developed. This is giving you the basis for looking into it. If it uses notes, rhythms and harmony, you can find out what it is.

Next I give them rules for generating melodies. First, write an uneven amount of notes’ end on the same note you start on’ never make two skips in a row, because we’re trying to separate out chordal melodies. There are six or seven rules, then we start to construct melodies. Then we bring rhythms over, and we write a rhythm for the melodies. So in about the third session, we’re composing melodies. Here’s a person who didn’t know anything in the first session, and they’re creating with full confidence in knowing what they’re doing. They know the materials they’re using. I encourage people to be forthcoming to teach other people, and assisting them.

The AACM School was developed out of this."

I personally like this, because it shows me that these musicians were well trained, and that AACM literally was a school! This short excerpt is nice to read coming straight from Richard Muhal Abrams' mouth to see how this collective of musicians learned together.

P. 184


Reach down deep inside of what you are

And bring up the reality of

The “part” = you don’t need the

“training” of the “actor”; you need the training

of yourself, what you are already - that IS enough.

How to act in each “scene”;

Don’t “act” at all becoming yourself out

Of you life and do the scene, the reality

Of it, as it is the facts of you life

Are the only theatre needed.

-Joseph Jarman"

This comes from a collection of writings of Joseph Jarman, one of the members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, on theatre and acting. I thought it was pretty inspirational, and could be applied to music/composition as well as the theatre end of things.

Stay tuned for more updates/passages from A Power Stronger Than Itself, until I finish the book!