editorial; notation from Leila Bordreuil; reviews
Bob Burnett and A.F. Jones’ short film on Keith Rowe, What Is Man And What Is Guitar?, is now available for on-demand viewing here, including two bonus short films with Sandy Ewen and Oren Ambarchi. Some recent compliments to this experience include a recording and reflections of Keith Rowe’s Rothko Chapel solo in Nameless Sound’s most recent iteration of 20 Years of Sound, “The Aural and the Visual; Dialogues, Convergences, and Blurred Lines,” and a list of some excellent Erstwhile Rowe recordings from Jon Abbey in this Twitter post.
I have just found out about Jake Wunsch’s new interview-based blog, News from the Shed, which currently features Q&As from Anna Webber and Pete Evans.
Likewise I have just come across Sam Weinberg’s radio show, The Renfusa Revue, which most recently featured an interview with Jean-Luc Guionnet with a focus on his 2021 releases, Totality and l'épaisseur de l'air.
$5 suggested donation | harmonic series will always be free with no tiers or paywalls. This approach is lifted from common practices in experimental music communities of openness, inclusivity, and accessibility in their performances. Similarly it is now lifting the common practice of suggested donations. If you have the means and find yourself spending an hour or more reading an iteration of the newsletter, discovering music you enjoy in the newsletter, dialoguing your interpretations with those in the newsletter, or otherwise appreciate the efforts of the newsletter, please consider donating to it. More or less is equally appreciated. Disclaimer: harmonic series LLC is not a non-profit organization, as such donations are not tax-deductible.
a squeeze of the hand
At this time I’d like to dedicate some space towards cultivating a kind of community around the newsletter. This includes:
(1) a call for feedback and engagement;
(2) a call for writers; and
(3) the introduction of a money structure that supports the writers, musicians, and others that contribute to the newsletter.
I’ll briefly review some of the intentions behind the parts of the newsletter with the hope of providing a good springboard for pointed feedback.
I like to shout out other resources whose spheres overlap with the interests of the newsletter. The newsletter recently updated its about page to include a resource roll; please let me know if you think something’s missing. If you have a project that you’re excited about, overlaps with the interests of the newsletter, and would like it shouted out at the beginning of the newsletter for a time or on the about page, always feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the first section of the newsletter is open to any heftier feature, it has so far been conversations. Probably because I value learning about other perspectives around sound more than I do coming up with ways to ramble about my own when reviews might have a similar function. And these are presented in Q&A format. As a reader, I’d rather hear it from the horse’s mouth. As a writer, I’ve found that I’m incredibly uncomfortable refracting someone’s words through my own. The selection process is entirely biased, determined by personal interests at the moment and a timidity around preconceptions of interviewees’ availability, familiarity with their practices, and retreading tired ground from other interviews. I am still finding my way as a conversationalist, and welcome any feedback on this process. If you’re involved with this kind of music - as a musician, organizer, labelhead, engineer, designer, writer, or otherwise - and would like to have a conversation about your practice, always feel free to reach out at email@example.com. Such a nudge would be appreciated, alleviate some of my bias, and I imagine provide more open discussions through engaging with practices with which I am perhaps less familiar and thus have less preconceptions. At the moment, I am limited to the english language.
The newsletter has so far presented graphic or alternative notation as a shorter recurring feature (indeed it is partly where the gimmick of the name, titling, and ‘logo’ come from). It has been an interesting experience. Interesting in the degrees of openness various composers have with sharing their notation, especially compared to, say, recordings. In expanding my awareness of the many varied practices utilizing alternative notation in truly unique ways. And in how access to the notation deeply changes my interpretation and engagement with the sounds it can represent as a listener; there are some recordings I would not be so fussed about if I were not awe-struck by the interpretive possibilities behind the sound that the notation illuminates. It has incalculably increased my appreciation for the ingenuities involved in performance interpretation and composition. Its often intuitive symbologies allow those illiterate in traditional notation - like myself - to meaningfully engage with the score and dilutes a lot of the mystery and the snobbishness around scores. And it quite simply provides a perspective that I think is underrepresented in popular writing about this kind of music. What originally began as a whim because pictures are cool has become what I think is something important. I hope this translates to you each month in presenting these scores. While I prioritize direction from composers on how they want their work presented, I’m open to feedback on what would be interesting to read here. This is a tenuous project and I am just beginning to realize a network of composers willing to share their graphic or alternative notation. So, if you are a composer utilizing non-traditional notation and are interested in featuring your work in this newsletter, always feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for permissions and purchasing of your scores; if you know a composer that might be interested, please share this call.
“Validation by peers and critics and the small cash prize from Pacifica Foundation were encouraging and appreciated by me. I was no longer alone with my passion to compose, and I continued.” - Pauline Oliveros, preface to Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice
I frequently think of those words when I think about reviewing something. While making this kind of music might require a will that would make it regardless, critical words around work have a power that is not known to the person that writes them. Particularly in this music, where dozens or hundreds might hear something, a couple might write something about it, and writers more often write for the people they’re writing about than any other audience. I doubt the utility of telling someone their work is such and such a rating, a ranking, a genre, or whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ So I don’t in this newsletter. These aspects of music writing also smack of a consumer guide approach. But - though there are certainly economic realities - this music is not consumer-oriented. So what’s the best that I can do? Right now, I try to convey meaningful engagement through interpretation. Sometimes it results in bland description, but I cannot assume that all ears listen to the same thing when they are hearing the same thing. I hope it encourages the people that made the work in showing that someone spent some time alongside it in a meaningful way. And I hope it’s interesting enough to encourage readers to engage the work deeply too and provide an interpretation that serves as a dialogue with their own. This isn’t so much an avoidance of popular criticism as a denial of its use here; if an interpretation doesn’t align with the gradient intentions from the performers or composers, they have already received a kind of criticism. The curation of what is covered can also be considered a kind of criticism, though no one could ever hope to know let alone write about everything they might enjoy and sometimes I just can’t muster words that I think are worthwhile for something no matter how much I enjoy it. I have already received feedback to include genre for digestibility, and began to include offset sentences indicating some information around the release and the process behind the sound and maybe some conveyance of what it sounds like. I have stopped including much context unless my interpretation hinges on it, having a growing hunch that words surrounding releases are more often promotional than musical. The newsletter always welcomes feedback about how things are reviewed, but will try to adapt it towards the openness that the work deserves. Every time I review something in this newsletter, I try to contact the musicians and labels to say that I have written words about it. This keeps me accountable and is an implicit invitation for feedback; it has also served as a kind of grassroots promotion for the newsletter when musicians choose to share those words. There is sometimes a kind of wall between many publications and the people they write about that might allow writers to feel they can talk shit. I don’t want that. I want to be as direct as possible. Provided the musicians are open to it - I will always stop emailing people if they ask me to do so. If you would like something reviewed in the newsletter, I encourage you to reach out. The newsletter can never guarantee some words will be written for any submissions. There are no specifications on what to include in your messaging, though a non-mass email from a musician is nice and will less likely land in the infrequently checked promotions folder. I waffle on whether it feels right to receive download codes because it affects the incentive to support the release with a purchase later; if possible, a happy medium might be to link to a sample stream, which leaves the option to support the release with a purchase open. Sharing media is absolutely not a requisite to be reviewed; the newsletter is glad to be apprised of projects you’re excited about.
I’ve retreaded what the newsletter does with some of the intentions behind it and ongoing calls for feedback to hopefully convey that musicians and related contributors, writers, and readers are valued alike. Which is where another part of the gimmick in the name enters, that popular music writing can be something other than a consumerist or PR mechanism and exist harmoniously in the musical ecosystem. I don’t frown upon those who don’t wish to engage, but I do welcome engagement and hope you always feel free to provide feedback. Readers have some agency over the directions of the newsletter. What I don’t want is for this to always be a project alone. It would be boring and burdensome.
To that end, I would like to involve other writers. Music writing is always more interesting with more perspectives.
harmonic series is issuing a call for regularly-contributing writers. Only two or three at this time. Ongoing until that number is reached. I cannot guarantee payment but can guarantee an equitable share of any monthly income through the newsletter if the writer contributed that month, detailed below. No published experience is required, and I especially encourage those that feel they have experienced barriers to publishing elsewhere to inquire. I am limited to the english language for now, so require comfort with the english language to communicate. However, I am open to presenting interviews and other features in other languages with english translation, and presenting reviews in languages writers are most comfortable with if they wish to preserve any poesy. I would prefer that writers are able to contribute at least two things each month, whether that is just reviews or a mix of reviews, an interview, or other features. I would prefer that writers are comfortable sharing their work with the team before publishing to receive collective feedback. And it would be awesome if writers want to develop their own recurring feature to rotate with annotations - preferably but not necessarily visual - whether it’s the use of sound and music in film, connections between visual art and sound art, whatever can be imagined. Writers cover what they will, and different perspectives on the same thing are encouraged, but the appropriateness of things should be cleared with me before writing begins. While I expect there to be some overlap with our interests, I would like writers to pursue their own threads in this kind of music. And while I intend to correct course to stay true to the intentions of the newsletter, I envision a team of partners editing each other and determining the directions of the newsletter together. If you’re interested in contributing to the newsletter, please email two writing samples to email@example.com and we can schedule a zoom call to determine if we’re a good fit for each other. Writing samples have no requirements except that they should be reviews about recordings of music and at least somewhat align with the intentions of the newsletter.
harmonic series also welcomes guest writers for heftier features. Up to one per month. As with the writers, I cannot guarantee payment but can guarantee an equitable share of any monthly gifts through the newsletter if they contributed that month, detailed below. I envision this as an opportunity for musicians, organizers, labelheads, engineers, designers, other music writers, and related people to expand on topics dear to them that they’ve been thinking about. If you’re interested, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk about it.
But music writing communities are not just writers. This newsletter is not possible without the generosity of people that share their work and time through conversations, recordings, notation, etc. I want any money structure to reflect that.
Starting today, harmonic series will distribute 40% of its income to the writing team that contributed that month and 40% to other contributors for that month at the end of each month. 20% will be held for operating costs, like anticipated taxes, fees, etc., which does not include purchasing media to cover for the newsletter. 40% will be evenly distributed among the writing team, not including any guest writer, that contributed to that month. Of the 40% towards other contributors, 40% will be distributed to the interviewee or guest writer, 30% to the rotating feature contributors, and 30% to select musicians among the reviews. If there is not an interviewee or guest writer, other feature contributor, or select musicians in reviews for a given month, those distributions will be held in a prize pot to be distributed annually to musician(s) or related people, from a shortlist curated by the writing team, voted upon by each person who contributed to the prize pot. This prevents the writing team from having the option to kick back funds to themselves by not involving the greater community. People receiving distributions always have the option to give all or a portion of it to the pot.
The select musicians in reviews refers to those people involved with a project that have reached out to apprise the newsletter of their work. Notably, this does not require those people to share downloads or physical media, simply to reach out. What is reviewed is always at the discretion of the writing team. This is not intended as a slight against labels and PR, but an effort to not dilute funds and presumably prioritize those people that do not have access to that heightened advocacy. It’s also practical in that lines of communication have already been opened with these musicians. For collaborative projects in which one musician reached out, the newsletter is relying on that musician to redistribute their distributions in a way agreed upon with their collaborators. One sticky area is that some people may choose not to apprise the newsletter of their work because the newsletter is probably already aware of it; to eliminate the bias of discretion in this case, there has to be some direct apprisal of a release for it to be included in this system.
For example, on October 1 I would receive 40% of the income the newsletter received in August since I’m currently the sole writer. Of the 40% towards other contributors, the prize pot would receive 40% because I chose to do this editorial rather than feature an interviewee or guest writer, the composer that contributed notation would receive 30%, and three musicians that reached out to apprise the newsletter of their work that the newsletter reviewed would receive an even split of the remaining 30%.
Each January, each member of the writing team will select up to two musicians, ensembles, or related people they support to receive the sum of the prize pot, accompanied by some words supporting their decisions. This shortlist will be emailed to each person that contributed to the prize pot, who can reply with their vote, with a voting period lasting four weeks. Notably, members of the writing team cannot vote unless they’ve contributed to the prize pot. The elected person and sum will be announced once the votes are manually tallied and the elected musician(s), ensemble, or related person(s) agree to accept the sum of the prize pot. In the event they do not wish to accept the sum of the prize pot or are unresponsive for four weeks, the musician(s), ensemble, or related person(s) with the next most votes will be approached. The mechanisms around this keeps the writing team honest, engages the community, encourages generosity, and, referring back to Pauline Oliveros’ words above, creates a small cash prize intended to celebrate someone’s work that I can only hope is as important to them as it seemed to her. I’m currently leaning towards this year’s pot rolling over into next year’s since this system was established late in the year and the newsletter hasn’t generated much income for the pot.
There might be some guilt in not establishing this structure for the musicians that have already contributed but, at the time of this publishing, the newsletter has just received its first ~$15 in August (thank you, thank you, thank you to those who donated) and is currently working towards distributing it according to this structure. At the time of writing this, that’s about $0.60 to the select musicians in the reviews for August - not a lot but still more than Spotify.
To be clear, all of this is donation-based. harmonic series will always be a free newsletter and prioritize accessibility - preferably without a sign up or sign in required. If donors explicitly wish in a note attached to their donation, their names can be listed in the next newsletter regardless of the amount donated as supporters of the previous month’s newsletter. I don’t believe I can offer much else without framing it as transactional. This doesn’t take the place of supporting musicians and related people directly, either through purchases of their merch, buying into performances, gifts, etc. and I encourage you to continue to prioritize that support. Additionally, I encourage ‘tips’ to individual writers if something they wrote particularly tickles you, though I ask that you contact them directly to find out a method of transfer that works for them. All money that goes through the harmonic series account linked in the donate button in the newsletter will stay in the structure described above.
So what’s the mechanism of donating? Right now, the newsletter only has a PayPal account and button set up. This platform was chosen for its broad use. I am open to feedback on what those who would support the newsletter would be most comfortable with. However, I am wary incurring many fees; I want to keep the money in the community as much as possible. Additionally, I waffle on subscriptions. They are a powerful funding tool that leverages disengagement to benefit what is being subscribed to - whether you use or enjoy something you’ve subscribed to or not, the fee is collected. In keeping with encouraging active engagement, I’d prefer that donations come when you appreciate the work around the newsletter and you have the means. Maybe the newsletter falters a bit and doesn’t deliver something you appreciate; you can save your money but hopefully send some feedback. And again, the newsletter will never offer content that isn’t available for free, so there might not be much incentive for subscriptions.
This is messy. And maybe too big for its breeches. But I think the heart is in the right place. It’s a structure that can start today, and I believe it’s scalable if the newsletter grows. I think it provides an opportunity to support a kind of holistic community around this music and equitably reflects the value of its parts. I’ll say it again, I’m absolutely open to feedback on any part of this process. And I’m glad to offer any transparency around it.
Within the next month, I’ll update the about page to reflect what I’ve talked about here. I’ll also provide updates on the failures and successes of this thing towards the beginning of newsletters.
These thoughts came from a lot of places, but I want to especially recognize that my interpretations around of Mutual Aid Music and the Catalytic Sound Co-operative served as seeds for a good chunk of it.
I want to address the issue of Substack, with an understanding that the platform has made what are effectively editorial decisions to fund some writers that are hostile towards women, LGBTQ+, and other communities. I’m open to feedback on whether you think this newsletter should be on Substack. If I receive more concern than not, I may conduct an open vote on the issue or I may just prepare to move elsewhere. Substack doesn’t charge fees or receive a cut for free newsletters like this one. My broader concern is that any platform is subject to the discretion of those that administer it, so these same writers can exist and thrive on something like Ghost, the developing Twitter/Revue or Facebook newsletters, or Soundcloud and Bandcamp if they choose audio as a medium; the rub is that Substack directly paid these writers and it became public knowledge. To avoid similar issues in the future, any move will likely be towards a more homegrown email infrastructure.
As always, thanks so much for reading. Promise these meta-discussions won’t be frequent. Feedback. Best,
annotations is a recurring feature sampling non-traditional notation in the spirit of John Cage & Alison Knowles’ Notations and Theresa Sauer’s Notations 21. As a non-musician illiterate in traditional notation, I believe alternative notation can offer intuitive pathways to enriching interpretations of the sound it symbolizes and, even better, sound in general. For many listeners, music is more often approached through performances and recordings, rather than through compositional practices; these scores might offer additional information, hence the name, annotations.
Other resources exploring alternative notation include: Carl Bergstroem-Nielsen’s IM-OS journal; Christopher Williams’ Tactile Paths; and various writings of Daniel Barbiero, including Graphic Scores & Musical Post-Literacy and the liner notes for In/Completion.
All scores copied in this newsletter are done so with permission of the composer for the purpose of this newsletter only, and are not to be further copied without their permission. If you are a composer utilizing non-traditional notation and are interested in featuring your work in this newsletter, please reach out to email@example.com for permissions and purchasing of your scores; if you know a composer that might be interested, please share this call.
Leila Bordreuil - Piece for Cello and Double Bass Ensemble II (2018)
Leila Bordreuil is a composer, improviser, and performer that blends classical, jazz, noise, and other sound perspectives, often using cello, amplification, and other objects and spaces. So far in 2021 she has released the solo not an elegy, the duos DUST with Zach Rowden and vol. 1 with Kyle Flanagan, and the trio Bird Meets Wire with Susan Alcorn and Ingrid Laubrock. For additional information, check out her website, bandcamp, or Instagram.
Piece for Cello and Double Bass Ensemble II is a 2018 composition for one cello, amplified objects, six contrabasses in various tunings, various means of amplification, and a distortion pedal. Three of five pages of the descriptive notation are shown above. The instructions prescribe: the methods of amplification; tunings; the meanings of particular symbols like semi-ovoid arrows for “extremely heavy down-bow attack” (which is demonstrated by a video accompanying the instructions) and boxes for invitations to improvise variations; the meanings of text like “metallic,” “resonant,” and “WN” for white noise; and reveal that time is dependent on the quantity required to achieve the overarching goal of the piece, which is to “enhance overtones and create psycho acoustic effects.” The descriptive notation is a delightful mix of traditional notation, notation particular to Bordreuil’s practice, text, and graphics. The text ranges from: traditional indicators like portamento and ppp for pianississimo; to prescribed gestures like “metallic” and “resonant;” to more open actions like “detune” and “styrofoam on strings;” to words with common but open meaning like “harsh,” “dense,” and “free;” to more poetic descriptions in “like a hooting owl.”
The many blending interests in Bordreuil’s practice seem to necessitate this likewise chimerical approach to notation. This piece is firm in its direction and simultaneously open to variations in the path to get to what is not always a tonal sound result but a noise with an end perhaps not just in its sounding but in the perception of the listener in its psychoacoustic effects. The notation indicates that the sound will be harmonically-rich, heavy low end radiating pulses and beatings and resonances. What’s less clear is how the noisier aspects might fit in. Before listening, you might think about how you would interpret harsh, distortion, and white noise to interact in an often quiet, beating context and see how your expectations compare with the performance below. And while listening, you might try to identify some of the special sounds and gestures like chopstick plucking and bowing, styrofoam on strings, and hooting owl. Once you’ve located yourself with these markers, you might try to differentiate the behaviors of wolf tones - resonances specific to an instrument, not just any cello but Bordreuil’s cello, for instance - from the other overtones, resonances, and beat frequencies indicated.
(N.B. ~7 minutes of the performance is truncated from the beginning of this video)
While reviews here can be about anything they are most often about recordings of sound. For some interesting perspectives on this topic, Frantz Loriot’s Recordedness is an interview-based project exploring the nature of recordings.
Angharad Davies / Dominic Lash - pieces of eight (self-released, 2021)
Angharad Davies and Dominic Lash play quiet, textural reciprocities for violin and contrabass on the four-track 43’ pieces of eight.
Soundings are more often whispers than not. And this scope of volume reveals the grain of finer textures. The catch and release of hair and gut. Sonic gyres massaged from the body that might be mistaken for a rope pulley rather than something from the violin family. The taut pops and acidic decay of fingers’ spiderlike movement across muted strings. The comedic interstellar wobble of high-tension wire. But despite a tight range of volume, they dynamically weave, strong soundings interrupting and exchanging space with those barely there, and they weave together in other ways too, especially in pulse, complimenting through contrasting. Each alternating sustained soundings and punctuated soundings, the pacing of scratching and scrubbing and the tempo of a lumbering swaying, high- and low-register step-pattern plucks together, and poetically at a cellular level in the mutual resonance of their beating patterns from difference tones.
Judith Hamann - A Coffin Spray (SUPERPANG, 2021)
A Coffin Spray is a single, half-hour track of meditative, sonorous cello arco from Judith Hamann.
The notes mention that this is drawn from breath work, or in my understanding the consciousness of breath’s effects on posture and gesture and in turn on performance, present here not in audible breath but the cadence of deep yet calm inhalation and exhalation in bowing, sounded lines tracing the expansion and contraction of the lungs and the ribs as if that bony architecture moved the arm more than any muscular agency in it. The body of performer and the body of cello as if one body. With a rich, woody tone, splaying harmonic spectra of a sound for the ear to hear clearly, accentuating the creaking pulse in the frictional catch and release of bow and string. Intertonguing sonic strata unfolding harmonic spaces through time, building beating patterns in their overlapping relationships, siren song fishtailing, warm purring, and sweet chirping. This pulse the evidence of the life the breath gave it. The dedication gives new life in a homeric sense but its animation in breath and pulse amplifies the sentiment in some way.
Minna Koskenlahti - Toinen/Other (self-released, 2021)
Minna Koskenlahti evinces a shared pulse on the six-track, 34’ Toinen/Other for frame drum, Spanish tambore, materials, and månmarkapipa.
The music seems like an exhibition of pulse across scales and complexities. The gravitational, shapeshifting polyrhythms of “Tunto/Sense;” the chimerical “Massa/Mass” that reminds me of Jagjit Singh’s “O Maa Tujhe Salam,” Susie Ibarra’s “Anitos,” and muslimgauze’s “Return of Black September” in turns; chaotic chimes in “Varjostaja/Shade.” The heartbeat of “Tunto/Sense” and the relentless march of “Hävittäjä/Destroyer.” The pulse of circular play parallel to the head, beats in its fluctuations in pressure and speed, and the lively beating patterns of “Varjostaja/Shade.” The symbiotic presence of breath, audible in some spaces between beats. Each often singularly and simply framed to savor it. With nearly a ritual austerity in pace. Primal or primitive are contentious words concerning folk music or its reflections, but that’s what this is - there is something distilled here that induces the urge to move. A common dissection of time. I cannot speak to the origins of this music, but it reminds me of music I have heard from many origins - “Viimeinen/Last” too, the wood whistle’s soaring melodies embedded in cascading scalular rhythms reminding me of Doc Tate Nevaquaya’s Comanche Flute Music without the vibrato. But not some sonic tourism, it rather reveals a kind of communal pulse intuitively understood.
Louis Laurain - Pulses, Pipes, Patterns (INSUB, 2021)
Louis Laurain transforms the trumpet into a rhythm machine through electroacoustic configurations on the five-track, 35’ Pulses, Pipes, Patterns.
While I recognize the sound of air, I’m not sure it’s ever breath, the trumpets instead serving as the resonating bodies for sounds generated inside them, their valves and mutes and sometimes deconstructed pipes still modulating and vibrating with the instrument though with renewed identities in this context. The loops and other electronic bleeps and bloops, clicks and pops can blur with key clicks, popping air notes, and airy thumps. Together they make timbrally-rich, dynamic, shifting polyrhythms, with the exception of “Satellites for Nawel,” in which feedback waves wiggle and transition into new pulses. Each track utilizes the trumpet in nuanced ways, reflected in the rhythms, the tempo, the attack, the timbre each scenario is able to achieve. A complex kind of beat music you might never associate with the trumpet unless you were told so.
LOTE - Jürg Frey: circular music nº2 (self-released, 2021)
The ensemble LOTE performs the stark, aptly-titled Jürg Frey composition circular music nº2 on a single 22’ track.
There is certainly something circular about this music. In the shapes of sounds, two notes in arced tonality, sharp attacks and long decays the curved trajectories of shooting stars, something like a bell played as if the clapper rimmed the mouth, something like an alarm clock’s bowed metronome, and - as waves are just circles traced through time - harmonic beatings oscillating and the scalloped rippling of guitar trills. In the larger form too, the music always sounded despite generous individual silences, the arced shapes of sounds wrapped some arcane concentric hengeform, some fractured cyclopean labyrinth, some birds-eye view of Dante’s terraces eroding. Circular but not cyclical, the individual identities of soundings foregrounded more than any structural location. The edges or timbres of sound shapes can be fuzzy or rough, their sources sometimes obscured, and their pacing austere, perhaps plaintive, all of which generate some wonder and mystery in the music as if it were tethered to some ancient ritual.
For comparison, another interpretation is available on the famous wandelweiser und so weiter set.
LOTE on this recording is: Cristián Alvear; Felipe Araya; Santiago Astaburuaga; Edén Carrasco; Nicolás Carrasco; Christian Delon; Sebastián Jatz; Marcelo Maira; Álvaro Ortega; Álvaro Pacheco.
luciano maggiore - drenched thatched roof (edizioni luma, 2021)
drenched thatched roof is a single 68’ collage of silences and acousmatic soundings from luciano maggiore.
The music of an unreliable witness. Its form flashes in the void, sounded vignettes in pure silence, fractured like dreams or memory, teasing the mind to find throughlines. Ruminative too, returning to the sounds before, recognized as something similar but not quite repeated, remembered sounds dancing around the understanding of the first time heard. Howling wind becomes whistling. Firecrackers contact mic taps and scrapes. A panicked rustling and rest of struggle becomes pedestrian movement, maybe frolicsome. Birdsongs from owls, ducks, pelicans, something tropical and others become their mechanical imitations. The vague unhearing of actual silence and the static hiss of recorded silence blur. Or maybe not. And maybe these were never either. The length of the piece only strengthens the weakness of memory.
Sergio Merce & Hernán Vives - Sonus Lumine (Rumiarec, 2021)
Sergio Merce (microtonal saxophone, ewi, synthesizer) and Hernán Vives (tiorba, cittern, regal, campanas) together make a music attuned to the pulse of things across five tracks on the 28’ Sonus Lumine.
Merce generates a polyrhythm of pulses characteristic of his sound practice with this instrumental configuration, sustained and sweeping layers of undulating piercing sines, earthshaking thrums, and sweet siren and low fan resonances braided but joined here with glimpses of more overt beats, four-on-the-floor throbs, bubbling electric clicks, and irregular ping pong rhythms. While Vives’ means are more discrete and more familiar, in coarse bowing and dissonant plucking, in organ swells and ringing bells, the ear is drawn to the pulses of these soundings too. The wavering of bowing, at times like a hurdy gurdy not just in timbre but in evoking a circularity, the decay of plucked strings allowed to oscillate into unsound, allowed to rattle rhythmically against the soundboard, the organ’s warm hum, the bell’s sinuous singing, and at the end of most tracks a beat from brushing or rubbing the body of the instrument. They weave together, contrapuntally, not just in sustained and discrete soundings or electric and acoustic sources but their very pulses - beating alongside each other if not interacting to form new beatings - appear to ebb and flow in mutual harmony.
ZRL - Our Savings (American Dreams, 2021)
Zachary Good, Lia Kohl, and Ryan Packard make eight entrancing songs that freely flit from tuneful melodies to textural harmonies for clarinets & recorders, cello, and percussion & electronics on the 30’ Our Savings.
Immediately striking is the comfort and clarity of its many bittersweet melodies and other patterns that stick in the memory. Winds’ languid vibrato flights with low swooping distortions on the title track. Strings’ scalular ambling on “Hardly Slept.” The casino chimes of “ATM.” The syncopated popcorn percussion of “Remarkable Savings.” Always elevated by contrapuntal movements in complimentary timbres. Swaths of cello swells crosshatched. A lurching beat and tropical calls. Bouncing bow and bubbly wind pointillism. Strong plucks and aggressive chirpings. These segments of dynamic movement often seamlessly shift towards static times of more sustained soundings, illuminating the harmonics of winds, cello, vibraphone and occasionally emitting beatings, providing a more tactile savoring of sounds similar to the tunes. The closer, “Telling the Difference Between Us,” is in a time between these two modes, its breezy melody among slow SCUBA shear, colorful cello strokes, and contemplative vibraphone decay, also offering the clearest sampling of environmental birdsong from which several wind passages appear to take inspiration. The digestible lengths of tracks and their total reinforce the punchiness of the sounds themselves.
Thank you for reading!
$5 suggested donation | harmonic series will always be free with no tiers or paywalls. This approach is lifted from common practices in experimental music communities of openness, inclusivity, and accessibility in their performances. Similarly it is now lifting the common practice of suggested donations. If you have the means and find yourself spending an hour or more reading an iteration of the newsletter, discovering music you enjoy in the newsletter, dialoguing your interpretation of something with those in the newsletter, or otherwise appreciate the efforts of the newsletter, please consider donating to it. More or less is equally appreciated. Disclaimer: harmonic series LLC is not a non-profit organization, as such donations are not tax-deductible.