Archive for the 'contemporary European' Category

Various ‘Trombone Extraordinaire’

Trombone Extraordinaire LP front
Trombone Extraordinaire LP backTrombone Extraordinaire LP spread
Trombone Extraordinaire side 1

This LP was released by Symphony Land, a Parisian sheet music publisher specializing in horn and percussion scores, to showcase the skills of some of the great names on their catalog and the mastery of trombone virtuoso Michel Becquet. A French library music composer from ex-Yugoslavia, Janko Nilović (born 1941) has a hundred LPs under his own name or various aliases (Andy Loore, Emiliano Orti, The Johnny Montevideo Group, to name a few) whose monumental Montparnasse LP ‘Rhythmes Contemporains’ is a recommended introduction (available here). His Concerto for Trombone and String Ensemble has some really great string parts even if, at times, the music is drawned from various sources, including Benjamin Britten’s Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes (check 2nd Mvt, ~2:40 and 5:40). Other quotations pop up here and there (some from Ligeti or Pendrecki, possibly), but as a whole, this Concerto is a joy to listen and the solo trombone is brilliant. Georges Delerue (1925-1992) is arguably France’s most famous film music composer, who collaborated with directors Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut or Alain Resnais (see Wiki). His Madrigal is a fine piece for 6 trombones, though the sound quality is marred by pressing and/or stylus limitations. The introduction of percussion in Jean-Michel Defaye‘s Fluctuations is a nice addition, as it opens possibilities of interplay and dialog with the 4 trombones, as opposed to solo trombones monologues in the previous pieces. Classically trained Defaye (born 1932) was French singer Léo Ferré’s arranger for years, as well as a respected contemporary music composer and film music stalwart, especially composing soundtracks for entertainer Louis de Funès’ films, including Pouic Pouic, 1963, as well as children TV program Collargol aka Barnaby The Bear, 1970 [listen here].

Janko Nilović ‘Concerto pour Trombone et Orchestre à cordes’
(Concerto for Trombone and String Ensemble)
01 1st Movement (6:18)
02 2nd Movement (7:24)
03 3rd Movement (10:10)
Michel Becquet: trombone
Chamber Orchestra, Bernard Thomas, cond.

Georges Delerue
04 Madrigal (6:55)
For trombone sextet, G. Delerue, cond.

Jean-Michel Defaye
05 Fluctuations (12:06)
For trombone solo, trombone sextet and percussion
J.-M. Defaye, cond.

Total time 42:40
LP released by Symphony Land, France, 1981


* *


Ron Geesin ‘Patruns’

'Patruns' LP front
'Patruns' LP back
'Patruns' side 1

Having issued some of the craziest solo LPs of the 1960s and early 1970s, Ron Geesin (born 1943) eventually released this studio recording of a continuous piano recital in two parts on his own label Headrest in 1975 (aka Headscope). During his career, Ron Geesin moved effortlessly from jazz to folk, from symphonic prog to library music, from children’s record to electronic, non-music endeavors. ‘Patruns’ evokes echoes of Scott Joplin’s piano rags as well as Cornelius Cardew’s Thalmann Variations, and I’d say Geesin shares similar influences with Conlon Nancarrow, i.e. Art Tatum, Boogie-Woogie and Howard Skempton. Indeed, Geesin started his professional carreer as a dixieland pianist with The Original Downtown Syncopators, as this mindblowing 1962 video demonstrates.

“I have recorded this album so that you are in the piano, particularly if you are a headphonatic! . . . There will be no sheet music of this work since I have ‘written’ it direct onto magnetic tape” (from liner notes). Somewhere betwixt Scott Joplin‘s Mapple Leaf Rag (1899) and Frederic Rzewski‘s The People United Will Never Be Defeated (1976), the music on Patruns evolves from repetitive, robust staccatos producing minute pitch variations, to meditative, cubist keyboard explorations. The tracks composing these semi-improvisations cue into each other without pause. Some strategies are similar to Systems Music, where a pre-conceived idea will produce the music (playing one octave only, playing white keys only, etc).

Ron Geesin ‘Patruns’ LP
Side 1 (20:35)
Side 2 (20:17)

Total time 40:52
LP released by Headrest, UK, 1975


.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

Discography until 1975:
member of dixieland band The Original Downtown Syncopators
1967 A Raise of Eyebrows LP, Transatlantic [+]
1970 Music From the Body, w/ Roger Waters, Harvest
1970 Sound-work for the British pavilion at the Osaka world fair
1971 produced ‘Songs for a Gentle Man’ by Bridget St John
1972 Electrosound, Vols. 1 LP, KPM (reissued by Glo-Spot, UK, 2008) [+]
1973 As He Stands, LP, Headrest/Headscope [+]
1974 Fallables, collection of writings, Headscope
1974 Smudge The Snail, 7”, Good Reading Limited (children record) [+]
2008 Biting The Hand – BBC Radio Broadcasts 1969-1975, CD, Hux Records

Above: “To Roger Waters Wherever You Are”,
from As He Stands LP, 1973
* *

Musique électronique Norvégienne

This selection of Norwegian avantgarde compositions from the 1960s was recorded by Norsk Phonogram A/S, the leading record company in Norway at the time, and originally released by Philips France in 1968 as part of the Prospective 21e Siècle series, with a UK version in 1968 as well, and a US reissue on Limelight in 1970 (the label also released Pierre Henry LPs in the US). The Arne Nordheim and Alfred Janson tracks combine live instruments with pre-recorded tape, while the Bjørn Fongaard is for 3 guitars in quarter tone with studio treatments. So this is not strictly speaking Musique électronique, but, back in 1968, electronic music was so hip it was supposed to boost sales just writing it on the LP’s cover. Nordheim’s Epitaffio, composed 1964, and Response I, composed 1966, are engaging contemporary music compositions where pre-recorded sounds on tape (wind instruments and female choir on the former ; abstract electronic sounds, organ and metal objects on the latter) add structure and a provocative counterpoint. Contrary to the rest of the album, Fongaard’s Galaxy, Opus 49,  composed 1965, was recorded by the composer himself through re-recording, and amplifier hum is noticeable throughout. It is nonetheless a stunning piece of microtonal electric guitar and studio effects. The unheard of, eerie sounds of this stellar soundwork can be considered the Astronmy Domine of contemporary music. Don’t leave Earth without hearing it! See also previous post for more Norwegian avantgarde. Note: de-clicking is noticeable on side 1.

  1. Arne Nordheim Epitaffio (10:10)
    For orchestra and tape
    Oslo Philarmonic Orchestra, Herbert Blomstedt, cond.
  2. Arne Nordheim Response I (17:43)
    For percussion and tape
    Per Nyhaug and Per Erik Thorsen: percussion
  3. Alfred Janson Canon (12:30)
    For chamber ensemble and tape
    Sverre Bruland, cond.
  4. Bjørn Fongaard Galaxy (11:56)
    For 3 guitars in quarter-tones

Total time 52:20
LP released by Philips France, ref. 836.896 DSY, 1968


Vítor Rua et al. ‘Vidya’

Vidya LP front cover
Vidya LP liner notes
Vidya LP lside B

Portuguese guitarist Vítor Manuel Ferreira Rua (born 1961) started his career in the late 1970s playing with folk bands, before joining new wave band Grupo Novo Rock (GNR) in 1980. He created improv/drone duo Telectu in 1982 with Jorge Lima Barreto (born 1949) and since then devoted his carreer to experimental/contemporary music and multimedia projects. During the 1970s, Barreto used to play in AnarBand along bassist Saheb Sarbib, who plays clarinet on this record. During the 1980s and 1990s, Telectu members have played with innumerable US and European improvisers, some of which feature on ‘Vidya’. The LP also includes members of obscure Portuguese bands D.W. Art (António Duarte+Mané), Duplex Longa (Carlos Raimundo+Mário Jorge Resende) or Patasound, as well as Osso Exótico (David Maranha+Bernardo Devlin), appearing in various configurations.

Vítor RuaMore than a mere anthology of improvisations, Vidya is a large collage of music lifted from innumerable improvisations and studio sessions, encompassing various styles like tape collage, found sounds, minimalism, drone, guitar solos, electroacoustic & improvised music, etc. The whole concept is brilliantly realized by Rua (with technical help from Nuno Rebelo) and the result clearly amounts to more than the sum of its parts. Hard to categorize, Vidya is a masterpiece of sound experimentalism and studio montage.

Side 1 (26:30)
01 Vítor Rua+Luis Carlos (1:08)
02 Vítor Rua (2:00)
03 Telectu+Elliott Sharp (7:22)
04 Saheb Sarbib (1:45)
05 Telectu (5:00)
06 Telectu+Carlos Zingaro (5:00)
07 Vítor Rua+Nuno Rebelo (1:30)
08 Miguel Azguime (2:30)
09 Vítor Rua+Paulo Eno (1:00)

Side 2 (28:30)
10 Vítor Rua+Miguel Megre+Rui Azul+Nuno Rebelo (5:23)
11 Vítor Rua+João Peste (3:00)
12 Vítor Rua+Sei Miguel+Luis Desirat+Rodrigo Almado+Fala Mariam+Osso Exótico+Nuno Rebelo (4:40)
13 Vítor Rua+Nuno Rebelo+Rafael Toral+Bruno Rascao+João Paulo Feliciano (3:25)
14 Vítor Rua+Tózé Ferreira (4:30)
15 Vítor Rua+Nuno Rebelo (2:27)
16 Luis Desirat (0:30)
17 Vítor Rua+Duplex Longa (2:00)
18 D.W. Art (0:45)
19 Vítor Rua (3:30)

Total time 55:00
LP released by Potlatch, Lisboa, Portugal, 1991

Download Option 1 / Option 2

Yasukazu Amemiya ‘Zen Percussions’

Yasukazu Amemiya 'Zen Percussions' LP front coverYasukazu Amemiya 'Zen Percussions' LP back cover
Yasukazu Amemiya

French audiophile edition of Yasukazu Amemiya‘s 1977 percussion classic Summer Prayer (RCA Japan LP, RVC 2154), which originally also included Morton Feldman’s King of Denmark. Being pressed at 45rpm speed, the disc conveys great dynamics, from subtle nuances to powerful membranophone resonances. Amemiya studied percussion and became a professional solo performer in Tokyo during the 1960s, before moving to New York in 1973. He composed Summer Prayer there in 1974, which was first performed by five US percussionists. Here, Amemiya performs all parts himself and, thanks to re-recording, he’s heard on piano strings, tympani, bowed cymbals, marimba, bells and steel drums and so on. The composition describes a day in a Buddhist monk’s life, the music’s great dynamic mirroring the meditative stillness or great agitation of his impressionable state of mind.

Original LP cover artSomewhat programmatic music like Debussy’s La Mer, Monochrome Sea, composed 1976, deploys subtle tone colors from an array of percussion instruments including marimba, steel drums and gongs, among others, as well as a prerecorded tape of a vibraphone played with a bow and minimal sound effects, sounding like wailing sirens in the background. Describing both depths of the sea and surface of water events, the composition succeeds in evoking gurgling waters, large swarms of fishes, agitated living organisms and mysterious sea creatures.

  1. Summer Prayer – Natsu Nebutsu (13:46)
    For Solo Percussionist, Tape and Percussion Ensemble
  2. Monochrome Sea (21:48)
    For Solo Percussionist and Tape

Total time 35:34
LP released by RCA France, 1978


Patrice Sciortino ‘Les Cyclopes’

Patrice Sciortino 'Les Cyclopes' LP front
Patrice Sciortino 'Les Cyclopes' LP back cover'Hidden Rites', staged by the Alvin Alley dance company, 1973

French composer born 1922, Patrice Sciortino briefly studied at Pierre Schaeffer’s GRM, before turning to stage music and library music during the 1960s. In the 1970s and 80s, he composed for symphonic orchestra, choir and chamber ensemble.
Patrice SciortinoPublished 1967, ‘Les Cyclopes’, his first official release, merges two of Sciortino’s passions at the time: ethnic music and studio re-creation of plausible imaginary folklore. Published by Disques André Charlin, a French audiophile company, ‘Les Cyclopes’ is a suite for assorted percussion instruments written for 8 percussionists and a bass player. Percussionists include French stalwarts Bernard Lubat, who played with Jef Gilson and Michel Portal, and Diego Masson, a close Pierre Boulez associate and Stockhausen interpret (he premiered Stop in 1969). Some of Les Cyclopes‘ other interprets played on Michel Colombier ‘Wings’ (1971) or with French singer Barbara. In 1973, the Alvin Ailey Company staged Hidden Rites, a choregraphy with music from Les Cyclopes – love the Rites of Spring reference!. Another Patrice Sciortino’s LP has been posted by The Library Hunt.

Serge Depannemacker
Yves Lestang
Bernard Lubat
Michel Lorin
Gerard Perotin
Diego Masson
J.-Ch. François
R. Solat
+ Willy Lockwood, double bass

01 Etincelle (2:00)
02 Berceuse du Soleil (2:36)
03 Mythes et Masques (4:57)
04 Ventre et Seigneur (2:45)
05 Noces de l’Eau et du Feu (3:39)
06 Grande Chasse (2:10)
07 Struction (3:14)
08 Cristaux (2:43)
09 Odeur d’Ombre (2:35)
10 Rhytmétis (2:54)
11 Black U.S. (2:11)
12 Lumières de la Nuit (2:21)
13 Cosmophonie (4:44)

Total time 38:40
LP released by Disques André Charlin, France, 1967


Pierre Barbaud/Akira Tamba

Pierre Barbaud/Akira Tamba LP front cover
Pierre Barbaud/Akira Tamba LP back cover

During the 1950s, French composer Pierre Barbaud (1911-1990) composed many film soundtracks, including Alain Resnais’ Le Chant du Styrène in 1958, and Chris Marker’s films Un Dimanche à Pékin, 1957, and Lettre de Sibérie, 1958. Coincidentally, he was researching algorithmic and computer-assisted music, where the computer would process the entire composition in terms of pitch, duration and intervals, in a technique similar to Lejaren Hiller in the US. Barbaud was then (1958) a member of the Groupe de Musique Algorithmique de Paris (GMAP) along Georges Charbonnier and wife Janine. From 1959 to 1975, Barbaud worked for the Honeywell Bull company in Paris and had access to large calculators able to fulfill the lengthy electronic processing required by his projects. Hand-crafted punch cards were used to feed data into the mainframe (large cabinet housing the processor), which eventually delivered digits forming the basis of the composition. For this task, Barbaud used an early version of FORTRAN, IBM’s Formula Translating programming language. Some of Pierre Barbaud’s music uses synthetic sounds (like this excerpt from Saturnia Tellus, 1980, used on the official website’s homepage), yet he also applied his concept to chamber ensemble and orchestra, as the present record demonstrates.

Pierre BarbaudIn French Gagaku, for string ensemble, composed 1968, Barbaud applied his cybernetic technique to the entire orchestra. The score was orchestrated with the help of a Honeywell Bull calculator, instructed to derive the music  from a variety of mathematical parameters. So this microtonal work is not programmed like with a computer today, rather the calculator computed each parts in the narrow limits allowed by Barbaud. Pitch is fixed, but height, length and intervals vary, resulting in a myriad of elaborated microtones from the strings. No development, no beginning nor end, rather like a sound installation, the elegant music of French Gagaku certainly evokes court music like the title implies. In case you’d want to give it a listen before downloading it, fellow blogger Acousmata offers a sound file and an analyis of French Gagaku on his own blog. The refinement is even greater in Mu Joken, composed 1970, for a small ensemble of 8 instruments including piano, flute, acoustic guitar, trumpet and cello, with notes subtly distributed among the interprets, like in a Klangfarbenmelodie. Fascinating music.

Akira TambaJapanese composer Akira Tamba, (Yokohama, 1932) moved to France in 1960 to study with Olivier Messiaen at the Conservatoire de Paris. There he became a noted musicologist and wrote several books on Japanese traditional music and Nô theater. As a composer, his style blends French clarity with Japanese intricacy and dramatization. The first piece included on this LP, Tathatà, for string quartet and onomatopœia, belongs to the composer’s early works from the 1960s. It brings Nô’s monosyllabic utterings into a post-Webernian string quartet, exploring minute microtonality from the string instruments. In Complexe Simple, eerie glissandos, similar to Toru Takemitsu’s film music of the 1960s, create disturbing soundscapes. The science fiction movie atmosphere is increased by the inclusion of Ondes Martenot near the 8:50 mark. On a side note, in a previous post I published a live recording of Tamba’s Accalmies, for 6 Ondes Martenot, composed 1978.

01 French Gagaku (14:05)
02 Mu Joken (8:58)
03 Tathatà (13:44)
04 Complexe Simple (11:15)

Total time 48:00
LP released by Barclay/Inedits RTF, France, 1971


Martin Fischer/Schwarzenlander ‘Warum sollte ich wohl? Ein Elektroakustisches Manifest Gegen Die Phallokratie’

'Warum sollte ich wohl?' LP front cover
'Warum sollte ich wohl?' LP back cover

Martin Fischer-Schwarzenlander is an Austrian composer, born 1955, Seewalchen, Austria. He studied double-bass and composition in Salzburg and Essen in the 1970s, where he was already composing electroacoustic and electronic music. He was the editor of KompAkt 23, Wiener Zeitschrift für neue musik’, a Vienna music journal. In 1987, he married feminist writer and journalist Erica Fischer and took her surname as a composer – they were apparently married for only one year. Schwarzenlander’s last known composition is Pas Rien, recorded at INA-GRM studios, Paris, 1988. Since this date, Schwarzenlander ceased composing, putting an end to a 10-year career.

'Warum sollte ich wohl?' side 1Warum sollte ich wohl? was recorded in the studios of G.M.E.B. in Bourges, France, 1987. Like the two other works included in this LP, the piece is based on readings of quotations and excerpts from literature or newspapers (Brecht, Schopenhauer, Peter Handke, Nazi officials, a French nuclear plant’s technical blurb). Texts are read by male and female voices alternatively, with various sound treatments creating a kaleidoscopic tapestry of vocies. The music matches the variety of vocals with an assortment of synthesizer, found sounds, sound collage and studio treatments, all conducted by Fischer in his peculiar way, as he did not allow the professional studio equipment influence his music. The idiosincrasy and uniqueness is only comparable (though not similar to) that of Steve Moore or Roger Doyle, for instance. Nicht ein Wassertropfen (Not a drop of water is missing from the sea) and Das Unrecht in meinem Bad (Injustice in my tub) were recorded at Institut für Psychoakustik und Elektronische Musik, Gent, 1984 and 1980, respectively.

Warum sollte ich wohl?
Ein Elektroakustisches Manifest Gegen Die Phallokratie

  1. Warum sollte ich wohl? (21:35)
    Erica Fischer, Miriam Ender, Martin Fischer: voices
  2. Nicht ein Wassertropfen fehlt dem Meer (13:32)
    Edith Hollenstein: voice
  3. Das Unrecht in meinem Bad (11:12)
    Georg Batik, Arno Fischbacher: voices

Total time 46:19
LP released by Arcana, Wien, Austria, 1987



Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.