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Poems From A Not Too Distant Shore

Mustapha Skandrani’s Istikhbars and Improvisations LP or CD. EM Records (EM1096), Japan. 2012. also released as Musique Classique Algérienne – Stikhbar. Pathé Marconi (STX 202), France. 1965. – Far from the cultural barrier we often imagine it to be, the Mediterranean is and remains a conductant to the life and practices teeming at its edges. Countless fishermen, sailors, merchants, criminals, pirates, soldiers, and refugees have charted the waters, bringing with them the trappings of their homeworlds. Movement, it seems, is more the rule than the exception in human history. Could water hold and replay sounds that verberate across it, so many mysteries of its deep past would be revealed. Whence came the Minoans, the … [Read more...]

Forensic Epistemology

Believing Is Seeing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography), by Errol Morris, (2011) The question of knowledge and what can be known is as old as literature itself. Even before the concepts of physos and kosmos [1], observations of pattern in the natural world were hatching in Babylonian omens and Sumerian riddles. Western philosophy has incubated these questions ever since, but their growth has been bounded by the problems of studying our perceptive organs with our perceptive organs. The problem of the reliability of perception and how we approximate the welt extends the epistemological current into the hearts of jurisprudence, aesthetics, semiotics, and even physics, deepening their lines and muddying their waters. Thankfully, … [Read more...]

A Gentleman’s War

An Interview with Faroese Musician Goodiepal, Part 2 – Aram Yardumian: What was the real story surrounding the Key2Sound incident? Goodiepal: The real story was that Key2Sound was a company called Koblo back in the day. They designed Vipra 9000, which was a very successful piece of music software. That one was programmed by my childhood friend Emil, whose brother Max developed the Key2Sound synthesizer. They called me up for assistance in hardware design so I worked on that for a number of years. When Koblo closed down and laid off the employees, no one could get customer support. They were still selling the software by mail but people couldn’t get the authorization code! So I hacked their support email and started a free hotline … [Read more...]

Goodiebags

An Interview with Faroese Musician Goodiepal, Part 1 – Long lectures at American universities on non-human intelligence and mirror points in music; Danish television demonstrations of a model solar system with tonal-valued planets designed to expose the poetic/scientific disjunction of 2D/3D space; classes on Eurobot mythology, complete with whistled discourse; a wind-up mechanical bird in a bell jar; an arrest warrant for the theft of a Eventide H8000 from the Århus Conservatory, from which he had been recently dismissed as a lecturer; some sixty record and CD releases with themes ranging from Skanderborg plate cutters to “how to reinstate the notion of utopia back into electronic music”; and a handlebar mustache. Personally, I … [Read more...]

Chauvet and Lascaux, The Deeper Syntax

Reflections on the Phenomenology of Upper Paleolithic Cave Art – One of the most important questions we can ask is how we came to recognize ourselves. This is not the same as asking when we first saw our image reflected in still water, or how we learned to react selfishly to pain and fear. It is not merely self-awareness we are after, but the awareness of oneself as oneself—the awareness of ‘I’ apart from the material continuum of the natural world, and without any other quality attached to it. So many uniquely human technological achievements—the fishhook, fire, cutting edges, even basic seafaring—the results of millennia of trials and errors—seem possible without recourse to ‘I’. But identity, philosophy, poetry, psychoanalysis, … [Read more...]

Politique Institutionnelle

A Simple Point About Freedom of Expression – Today, the Senate (Upper House) of the French parliament will vote on a bill to criminalize the denial of the Armenian Genocide. This bill was drafted by lawmakers from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party and approved by the National Assembly (Lower House) on December 22nd of last year. If it passes the Senate, anyone who publically denies the First World War mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks constituted genocide will face a one-year jail term and a fine of up to 45,000 Euros. According to Patrick Ollier, a UMP parliamentarian, the bill simply conjoins a 1991 French law defining Shoah denial as a crime. “This is a simple coordination of punishment,” he said. Reactions to … [Read more...]

Playing Along

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, Directed by F.W. Murnau, 1922 Organ accompaniment by Peter Krasinski – Byron Coley once admonished Janet Beveridge Bean and Catherine Ann Irwin of Freakwater to “take a fuckload of hallucinogens and improvise a new soundtrack to Zabriske Point”. As far as I know, that never happened. But something almost as sublime did come to pass on Halloween Night at University of Pennsylvania’s Irvine Auditorium, in Philadelphia. Those few hundred people who gathered there on that dark blue evening to watch a screening of F.W. Murnau’s 1922 German Expressionist silent masterstroke, Nosferatu, were also impressed by the live soundtrack as played by organist Peter Krasinski. The history of Nosferatu’s … [Read more...]

Listen

An Interview with American Sound Artist Jeph Jerman – In the end, whether we consider Postmodern music a calculated response to Modernist forms, or a convex re-analysis of music in general, the act of listening remains deeply mysterious. Whether we ascribe universal meaning to Mass in B Minor or The Pirates of Penzance within their authorial and historical contexts, or devise a hyperlogical system to register tones as phonemes, 4'33" and The Well-Tuned Piano still stare back like Rorschach blotter. Perhaps the acme of Postmodern music will be an authorless text without any possible universal interpretation, only individual descriptions and resonances, such that the only possible recourse will be to listen. The act of listening is … [Read more...]

Tba

Interview with Georgian composer Natalie Beridze – A discussion of Georgian music in polite company usually relays between two poles: Zakaria Paliashvili and polyphonic choral singing. Little else of Georgia’s folk, classical and modern forms have been granted a visa to cross the borders. And yet, the more I move about the country, the more intrigued I become by the diversity of styles. Song and dance traditions vary between regions and even between villages. There is a lively hip-hop scene in K’ut’aisi, and the whiff of a garage band catches my ears some nights in my neighborhood here in T’bilisi. The conservatory is still a lively place. For better or for worse, the Rus-pop virus has infected the disc-players of all who own a … [Read more...]

Point A to Point A – Interview Part Four: il sé interiore

The Music of Giancarlo Toniutti – A four part serial conversation between TQ's Aram Yardumian and Italian electronic musician Giancarlo Toniutti. This in-depth discussion is focused on Toniutti’s composition techniques, theoretical underpinnings and the role of language in the arts. Introduction and Serial Four-Part Interview Introduction Part One: Prolegomenon Part Two: Universal Structures Part Three: Authorship Aram Yardumian - Although your music is tightly composed and a cerebral experience—almost without limits—for the listener, I don’t find myself thinking it is bereft of emotion. Is emotional content a byproduct or part of the articulative structure, or something else? Giancarlo Toniutti - I think we should better define … [Read more...]

Point A to Point A – Interview Part Three: Authorship

The Music of Giancarlo Toniutti – A four part serial conversation between TQ's Aram Yardumian and Italian electronic musician Giancarlo Toniutti. This in-depth discussion is focused on Toniutti’s composition techniques, theoretical underpinnings and the role of language in the arts. Introduction and Serial Four-Part Interview Introduction Part One: Prolegomenon Part Two: Universal Structures Part Four: il sé interiore Aram Yardumian - What is the relationship between your album “Epigènesi” and epigenetics, if anything? Epigenetics is of course a most fascinating subject, but I failed to see how it was part of the concept of the album, if in fact it was. Giancarlo Toniutti - Epigènesi (Italian for epigenesis) has strong … [Read more...]

Point A to Point A – Interview Part Two: Universal Structures

The Music of Giancarlo Toniutti – A four part serial conversation between TQ's Aram Yardumian and Italian electronic musician Giancarlo Toniutti. This in-depth discussion is focused on Toniutti’s composition techniques, theoretical underpinnings and the role of language in the arts. Introduction and Serial Four-Part Interview Introduction Part One: Prolegomenon Part Three: Authorship Part Four: il sé interiore Aram Yardumian - Throughout your entire career, there seems to be a search for common or fundamental dynamics in the human psyche. More recently you come to this as pre-cultural habitus. But to trace this to the source, surely there must be some recourse to symbols as C.G. Jung describes them. Giancarlo Toniutti -Well, … [Read more...]

Point A to Point A – Interview Part One: Prolegomenon

The Music of Giancarlo Toniutti – A four part serial conversation between TQ's Aram Yardumian and Italian electronic musician Giancarlo Toniutti. This in-depth discussion is focused on Toniutti’s composition techniques, theoretical underpinnings and the role of language in the arts. Introduction and Serial Four-Part Interview Introduction Part Two: Universal Structures Part Three: Authorship Part Four: il sé interiore The following interview with Giancarlo Toniutti was conducted in June 2011 in hopes of providing some context through which his sound art may be introduced and appreciated. As with all permanent works of art, continued engagement yields continued reward. Aram Yardumian - First, regardless of how I may have … [Read more...]

Point A to Point A – Introduction

The Music of Giancarlo Toniutti – A four part serial conversation with TQ's Aram Yardumian and Italian electronic musician Giancarlo Toniutti. This in-depth discussion is focused on Toniutti's composition techniques, theoretical underpinnings and the role of language in the arts. Serial Four-Part Interview Part One: Prolegomenon Part Two: Universal Structures Part Three: Authorship Part Four: il sé interiore Introduction Essay by Aram Yardumian Giancarlo Toniutti began conducting sonic experiments in late 1977 with his friend Tiziano Dominighini in a glassworks owned by Dominighini’s father. With the various tools, machines, surfaces, and sheets of glass, as well as a few traditional instruments, they began making “not exactly … [Read more...]

“Isfahan is Half the World”

  The Isfahan Bible, A Historical Meditation – Of Isfahan in the mid-seventeenth century, French traveler Jean Chardin wrote, “It is the grandest and the most beautiful town in the whole of the east” and its surrounding countryside “incomparable for its beauty and fertility.” Situated on the central Iranian Plain, at the vertex of trade routes, Chardin found the city a bustling hub of commerce and education as populous as London, with broad tree-edged avenues and lanes as agreeable as those in Paris (though they predated Haussmann’s renovation program by two hundred years). The walls of its mosques were lined with porphyry and marble, the chambers of its palaces filled with mirrors, clocks, and cabinets of the finest … [Read more...]

Viva Verwoerd?

Nick Broomfield’s South African documentaries: “The Leader, His Driver and the Driver’s Wife”and “His Big White Self”, Metronome DVD (Region 2) ©2006 –  It was the endtimes of a fatuous delusion—the casting of a dream and the narrowing of a nightmare; the sluicing of whites-only beaches and blacks-only townships, and the opening of arms caches on Transvaal sugarcane farms; it was a time of ANC pub bombs, and meetings of obscure Afrikaner insurgents in restaurant basements to chart the overthrow of F.W. de Klerk, and germ attacks on expensive hotels, It was a time when women wore the Black Sash and police informants wore the Necklace; when mobs who could still hear the echoes of Sharpsville paced the streets of Durban; when … [Read more...]

Armenian Suite

Radiant Summit, Jacaranda, March 12-13th, 2011 – On the occasion of the Alan Hovhaness’ centenary, Patrick Scott, Artistic Director of Jacaranda, wanted to include another great Armenian American composer Richard Yardumian (1917-1985) in all-Armenian program. After much Googling, and efforts just short of the Library of Congress, Patrick, who had recently been introduced to me and the writings of Times Quotidian asked for an introduction to Aram Yardumian, whose musical musings, insights and historical research can be found regularly on TQ. Upon finally discovering a living link to the Yardumian family, a fruitful collaboration began with the composer’s daughter Miryam. Jacaranda needed permission to  commission a chamber … [Read more...]

Time Within Space

Remembering Milton Babbitt, The Path Least Taken – At age 76, Milton Babbitt received his PhD from Princeton University for his thesis on 12-tone theory—an event in and of itself unremarkable, and one the composer himself hardly noticed. That it came forty-six years after the thesis’s submission makes it somewhat more intriguing. By way of explaining the delay, the university claimed its readers in the music department at the time had simply not understood it. Impossible to understand, unplayable, unimpeachably academic—such are the stigmas notching the years gone and criticisms leveled against Babbitt’s far-ranging oeuvre. Yet there are also listeners who, without comprehending the high math architecture of Babbitt’s music, have … [Read more...]

Beatific Annihilation_Part 2

Swans, My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky, Young God Records, 2010 – My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky, the title of Swans’ 2010 record, refers to Michael Gira dying and following his parents up to heaven on a rope of smoke, and obliquely to the relief from asthma he experienced after giving up smoking. It is very much a journey into the unknown, as any endeavor would venture after a thirteen year hiatus. The new six-piece version of Swans includes members from different incarnations of the band—Norman Westberg and Christoph Hahn on guitar, Phil Puleo on drums, and Chris Pravdica on bass, as well as the percussionist Thor Harris. (Jarboe’s absence, though significant, is not conspicuous. She and Gira have not … [Read more...]

Beatific Annihilation_Part 1

Swans, Early Ruminations, 1981-1997 – One evening in 1981, the members of a New York City band called Circus Mort agreed to call it quits. Two of them, Jonathan Kane and Michael Gira, left the rehearsal space to get beer and cigarettes, and by the end of the night they had begun a new band called Swans, under Gira’s direction. Kane stayed with Swans less than two years and many other members have come and gone; only Gira has remained constant and for thirty years Swans has been his personal pursuit of the same untailored nihilism pursued by Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Strauss, and Yeats. Buttressed by No Wave rebar, Swans rebuilt the psychedelic castle with open-tuned guitar sound sheets and sonic cement. Yet at heart it was always pure … [Read more...]

Variegated Menace

Portion Control, “Progress Report 1980-1983” septuple LP box set (VOD 73) – Electronic Dance Music (EDM) rarely finds itself reviewed critically alongside, say, Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini or Requiem in D Minor. It is often regarded as derivative of Kraftwerk at best, cold cut kitsch at worst, or merely functional for those who get off by shaking their endoskeletons. Entertaining? Yes. Fine art? No. But if EDM is the property of the discothèque, not the audio boutique, what must we do with Portion Control?—the band who has for thirty years dedicated itself to composing and occasionally performing music that is meticulous yet aggressive, elevated yet idiosyncratic, challenging yet lyrical, and altogether subtle. It also happens to be … [Read more...]

Gone in the Air

“My Name is Gauhar Jaan!” The Life and Times of a Musician, by Vikram Sampath (©2010) Rupa Publications, New Delhi, ISBN 8129116185 – In 1857, following the deposition of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the cities along the Ganges one by one slipped into the hands of the British East India Company and three hundred years of Mughal reign in the subcontinent ended. Shifts in fortune, power, patronage, and custom at the eye of the pyramid dripped down the walls of Indian society, north to south; new power structures were erected, and with them new technologies and customs emerged, new histories were written, and new fortunes were made, many of them sealed with blood. It was against this unutterably complex social transformation that a young girl named … [Read more...]

Night Gives Way to Day

Hymns to the Night, Tommie Haglund (Composer), Hannu Koivula (Conductor), Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra (Orchestra), Elizabeth Pitcairn (Violin) Label: Phono Suecia, ASIN: B003QF0J6Q, Release July 2010 – The Ich in Novalis’ lyrical cycle Hymnen an die Nacht embarks on the great journey inward—an inversion of the hero’s journey taken by Odysseus, Rama, and Zarathustra—to a great and eternal interior space where death gives way to eternal life as night gives way to day. Typically Christian in its appeal, yet also heterodoxical, the journey into the dark night and the world beyond are dynamic and ongoing personal creations, for, as Novalis observes, “in us or nowhere is eternity with its past and future worlds”. Such ideas found a place, … [Read more...]

Musica Futurista, The Art of Noises

Italian Electronic Music Pioneers: an overview – The Second World War stands, for many, as the watershed cultural event of the 20th century. Prior to the War, electronic sound reproduction methods were limited primarily to phonographs, photoelectric cells, and rudimentary paper tape recorders. While the early proponents of electronic music on both sides of the Atlantic (Brown, Cage, Feldman, Tudor, et al in America; Henry, Schaeffer, Stockhausen, et al on the Continent), were at this time already laying the groundwork for their experiments and masterpieces, it was the horrors of the War and the dissatisfaction with pre-War culture which ushered in the age of Postmodern music, and advances in both magnetic tape machines and … [Read more...]

Sicilian Narratives

Electroacoustic Music from Sicily, Instituto Musicale Vincenzo Bellini of Catania – Islands are geographically unique in the ways they generate life and culture. On them we find species and traditions which have been forged in the crucible of isolation, from pollens and ideas that blow in with the trade winds, take root and grow without the pressures they would face on the continent. Remote islands such as Soqotra and the Andaman archipelago are renowned for their unique flora and fauna and outlying cultural tropes, while others like Zanzibar and Bali, closer as they are to the continental mass, respond more regularly to transmissions from culture-at-large. The Regione Autonoma Siciliana is, like all islands, the interface for … [Read more...]

Dronescapes in Red

Vittorio Gelmetti, Composer, Electronic Soundtrack for Il Deserto Rosso (Antonioni, 1964) –  The use of electronic music composed by Vittorio Gelmetti for the soundtrack of Antonioni's first color film Il Deserto Rosso, contributed greatly to the film's aesthetic complexity as well as the displaced psychological underpinnings of it's characters. Rarely heard before in cinema, this example of early musique concrète would serve as a harbinger of the now, widespread use of electronica in film and television. -NC Vittorio Gelmetti belongs among the earliest and most significant pioneers of electronic music, not only because his earliest compositions date to the mid-1950s, but also because he was self-taught and drew his inspiration not … [Read more...]

End of Empire

Persepolis (1971), Iannis Xenakis – "Nous Portons La Lumiere de la terre" "We Bear the Light of the Earth" The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was fomented by the unusual pairing of ultra-conservative Islamists, reacting against the so-called “cultural contamination” of Iran by the West, and by various leftist elements, long outraged by the nation’s history of injustice, brutality and extravagance under the rule of the Shah. Left and right together filled the streets for months of protest. They marched on and sometimes burned cinemas, casinos, banks, hotels and other ostensibly un-Islamic institutions and luxuries, paving the way for the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Symbolic of the extravagance perpetrated by the regime of … [Read more...]

Alain Neffe and the Home-Taped Electronic Music Revolution

The Insane Box – Alain Neffe launched his first tape label at home in Belgium in 1981. He called it Insane Music Contact and his first installment was called Insane Music for Insane People. Thus began a nearly thirty year foray into home-made, visionary and utterly unfashionable electronic music that has hardly made anyone involved a household name. Insane Music released 55 titles in its most prolific years (1981-87). Five of these were vinyl records and the rest were cassettes tapes. Why cassettes tapes? Magnetic tape was the obvious solution to the problem facing many artists working without record contracts in those days. Cassettes could be recorded at home, produced at home, dubbed at home, and sold or traded by mail. No need for … [Read more...]

The Window

The Lian and Chirgilchin Ensembles Collaborate – On April 9th, a Friday night at California Institute of the Arts, there took place an intimate and profound collaboration from a far away part of the world. The Herb Alpert School of music hosted The Lian Ensemble and Chirgilchin in their The Wild Beast music pavilion (aptly named after composer Morton Feldman's metaphor for the untamable in music) and a new sound emerged. The Lian Ensemble, a Los Angeles based group whose roots lie in the Persian classical and mystical Sufi traditions are no strangers to the idea of fusion. Each of their nine albums  incorporates such diverse different musical styles as jazz, Flamenco, and Hindustani. The addition of Chirgilchin, the Tuvan throat singers, … [Read more...]