Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Some favorite records from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's collection

tENT in 1979 in Baltimore
tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE has been pursuing creative music and sound art for most of his life, self-releasing recordings on his Widemouth Tapes label since 1979. He is an accomplished pianist, composer, instrument builder, and polymath. Pittsburghers may have caught his frenzied sound-games with HiTEC (Histrionic Thought Experiment Cooperative), his colorful work with Syrinx Ensemble (with Michael Pestel, Ben Opie and Anthony Braxton), or his recent Church of the Subgenius devival performance. He is also an obsessive listener and collector of musical recordings, maintaining a running list of all 2,313 LPs that have been a part of his collection since 1967.

Since Crucible Sound #4 is more or less a celebration of tENT's monthly mm ("music meeting") record-listening events (as well as a release party for his "MM 26" compilation), I thought it would be interesting to have him list some of his favorite recordings of improvised music. Of course, being the d-composer that he is, he decided to...decompose the assignment a bit.

Anthony asked me for a list of "5-10 of your all-time favorite recordings of (fully or partially) improvised music" but given that I've listened to thousands of recordings of many different types of music I've decided to just list 10 of my favorite records acquired from 1968 to 1974 in order to dramatically narrow down the field.  Even this list is highly suspect - there's just too much left off it.

“The Soft Machine”

1st heard this on the radio, shockingly enuf, when I was 15.  Still love it to this day & often listen to Soft Machine when I'm driving long distance even tho I rarely listen to them otherwise.  Wyatt's drumming was amazingly subtle & precise.  Always loved Ratledge's keyboard phrasing & was reassured about my own horrible left-hand technique when I saw him live & realized his was even worse than mine.  Think this is even more important than Miles Davis' much touted "electric period".

“Electric Ladyland” - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

What can I say?  This is one instance where I'm happy to agree w/ a large group of people.  This is rock music mixed w/ musique concrete at its best.

"Gris Gris" - Dr. John the Night Tripper

Dr. John's 1st 4 'gris-gris' records still stick out like a very healthy thumb.  Amazingly original stuff yet still completely rooted in New Orleans.

"Trout Mask Replica" - Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band

Not surprisingly, I 'grew up on' rock music but always sought out the most original material.  Even tho this is steeped in blues influences & uses mostly conventional rock instrumentation it's rhythmically & timbrally exceptionally rich (as is the Dr. John).  Not to mention the lyrics.

"Urban Spaceman" - Bonzo Dog Band

I generally find 'art school bands' to be musically shallow but Bonzo Dog Band took it to a level that I don't think anyone has ever even come close to since.  The music's great, the instrument inventing was great, the songs were great, the humor was great, it's all great.  "My Pink Half of the Drainpipe" & "11 Moustachioed Daughters" rank w/ Hendrix's "If 6 were 9" as all- time freak-flag burners.

“Uncle Meat” - The Mothers of Invention

Frank Zappa must've been thinking 48 hrs a day when he made this one.  This version of the Mothers of Invention was always my favorite - despite Zappa's complaining that in the early days of it he had to do most of the work.  Hearing The Grandmothers live 30 yrs or so later w/ Jimmy Carl Black, Don Preston, & Bunk Gardner was the best rock show I've ever witnessed - & it was in one of Pittsburgh's shittiest rock bars w/ one extremely drunk guy screaming so loud most of the time it was hard to ignore him.

“A Second Wind for Organ” - Kagel, Mumma, Wolff - David Tudor

Mauricio Kagel & Christian Wolff being 2 of my favorite composers w/ Gordon Mumma being always pretty interesting too & then having my favorite avant garde keyboardist performing their work on instruments he's not usually associated w/ and THEN having the work itself be so totally fresh & new made this a mind-boggling experience for me.  The almost total lack of conventional musical 'qualities' (read LIMITATIONS) has never ceased to inspire me.

“Oresteia” - Iannis Xenakis - Ars Nova

Possibly my favorite Xenakis piece.  Xenakis never did anything by halves & this piece seems to've been an outgrowth of his deep research into ancient music.  Whatever the case, it's sense of profundity convinces me - even tho I'm not even particularly interested in ancient Greek myth.  The Lion's Roar particularly impressed me.

“Music Before Revolution” - Brown, Cage, Feldman, Ichiyanagi, Wolff

Possibly my favorite collection of recordings of all time.  5 of my favorite composers, all incredibly strong original work.  I will NEVER get tired of this.  NO MUSIC HAS EVER RESONATED W/ ME SO DEEPLY.  Maybe that explains why I seem to be so incomprehensible to most people, eh?!

“Gesang der J√ľnglinge/Kontakte” - Stockhausen

One of the 1st 'pure' electronic music records I ever heard.  Stockhausen, like most or all of the above, put an extraordinary amt of meticulous work into this.  It shows.  For me, most great music (or great whatever) has so much of its creator poured into it that no-one can really imitate it successfully.  Thank the holy ceiling light he was so prolific.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Crucible Sound #4, August 8, 2013

This month, we've got a special edition of Crucible Sound:

Crucible Sound #4
Thursday, August 8, 2013
"MM 26" CD release show

"MM 26" is a compilation CD which includes tracks by attendees of tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's monthly mm ("music meeting") events. tENT describes it as only he can: "An eclectic selection by a casual conglomerate of (M)Usic obsessives who've absorbed & rePORPOISEd jazz, pop, musique concrete, contemporary classical, sound art &, quite possibly, ye olde just plain uncategorizable." You can hear samples and purchase a copy at: CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.

As usual, the musicians will improvise in ad-hoc groups.

Matt Aelmore — electric bass & French horn
Rey Freme — Juno 106 synthesizer
Kenny Haney — clarinet & electronics (Zout)
Anthony Levin-Decanini — tapes & cards (solo, Binges, Marketing)
Ben Opie — saxophone & electronics (Flexure, OPEK, Thoth Trio, duets with Anthony Braxton)
tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE — sampler, wave-table synthesizer (HiTEC)

Between sets, tENT will be screening short films.

At Modernformations4919 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh
Doors at 7:30
Music starts at 8:00 (3 sets)
$8 suggested donation gets you a copy of the MM 26 CD

Facebook event

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Interview with Jim Storch

Photo © Intangible Arts, from Flickr

Jim Storch (also known as BurnOut warCry) has been a prolific improviser in Pittsburgh for almost a decade. Each one of his performances is a mini-spectacle, with Jim unloading his huge suitcase filled with toys, household objects, small instruments, and various miscellany onto whatever card table or surface is available and proceeding to sing, chant, bang, and just generally play with whatever seems to pass his fancy in the moment. In recent years Jim has taken up painting, producing delicate abstract canvases often influenced by Japanese calligraphy which seem as spontaneous and playful as his music. Jim will be improvising as part of Crucible Sound #3 on July 11th at Modernformations. This interview was conducted over email by RJ Myato.

Could you give us a brief history of the BurnOut warCry name? About when did you discover freely improvised music, and how long did it take you to start playing on your own?

I've been into jazz since high school and had been collecting little noisemakers for almost as long. I picked up an interest in free jazz (Sun Ra, John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, etc.) during college through involvement with WRCT. I attended Pitt, but they would take outside students dring the summer. Playing music was not something I pursued at that time, though. The turning point came years later when I met Matt Wellins. I had played a few jam sessions with coworkers, but it was Matt who convinced me that what I was doing was worth pursuing a little more seriously. We started jamming regularly, and I played with his band Network of Stoppages a few times. Finally, in 2006, I finally got up the nerve to record a demo and try to get some solo gigs.

The Burnout Warcry name was swiped from the Spin Alternative Music Guide. The entry about Black Sabbath talked about how punks got into them "once they started hearing it as music and not as a slothful burnout warcry". I just thought that would make a good band name.

What is the connection between your painting and your music, if any? Is there an overall aesthetic you see going on between them?

Before I start to play, I have to decide how to begin. Although there are certain things that tend to happen during a set, the episodes and their sequence grow spontaneously from that starting point. The pictures I make also have elements of planning and spontenaity, although the ratios differ depending on whether I'm making an abstract or a figurative picture. I guess it's not much of a coincidence that I'm making more representational work since beginning to study non-improvised music more thoroughly.

Has your participation in the Renaissance City Choirs affected your improvised performances at all?

Yes. It has made me a better musician and, thus, a better improviser. Being involved with a GLBT & Allies choir has helped free up my voice, both the sense of being an out gay man and in terms of actually using my voice during improvised performance.

How much do "accidents" play into your improvisational practice? It seems to me that you often play the sheer size of your kit against the table or other surface on which you set up, encouraging things to fall. Is this a situation you tend to foster?

Most of the time I don't consciously choose to knock stuff off of the table, although that does happen. Sometimes it happens by accident and I work it into the performance, and sometimes I just ignore it. It really depends on how it fits into the performance at that moment. I don't really plan on stuff falling off of the table; it's more an inevitable byproduct of my set-up. There are theatrical and ritual elements to what I do, but they rise spontaneously from how the entire situation (including the audience's reactions) proceeds.

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