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Editions 75
CD: Rational Melodies [Dedalus] PDF Print E-mail
Released by New World Records 
“I am particularly pleased, because the result is so different from the solo flute recording of Eberhard Blum and the solo clarinet recording of Roger Heaton. It is not just another interpretation, but a case where interpreters have added so much insight to the music that the music itself has grown. When I was composing this music around 1982, I really thought I was simply writing melodies, but now these little pieces, though remaining melodies, have become something much more, something I would never have imagined. They have become what you hear on this CD.”        Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson (b. 1939) belongs to a generation of American composers who founded musical minimalism. We know that this term was first applied to the visual arts, notably to Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and particularly Sol LeWitt, whom Johnson recognizes as an influence. However, it wasn't the repetition in itself that interested him, but rather the idea of music as a process. Steve Reich applied this idea brilliantly in his phase pieces. But after 1975, while the same Reich distanced himself from the radicalism of his first works, and younger American composers came out with music that was lusher, more expressive, even sentimental, Johnson insisted on the unrelenting rigor of formalized processes. The Rational Melodies, composed in 1982, may be regarded as the outcome of this research, first of all by their sheer quantity, but also by the fact that they summarize brilliantly and clearly procedures from the past, present, and future, which together characterize his work: combinations of cycles of different lengths (I, IV, XI, XVII, XVIII), permutations (VII, X), the paper-folding or "dragon" formula (II, XIX), other automata (XVI, XX), or self-similar structures (XIV, XV).”        Gilbert Delor

 


 

 
The Stroke That Kills (released on 2008) PDF Print E-mail

The Stroke That Kills

New World Records ref. 80661

Not for sale at Editions 75.

Works by Eve Beglarian, Alvin Curran, David Dramm, Michael Fiday, Tom Johnson, and Gustavo Matamoros 

Seth Josel, electric guitar, electric bass 

Over the past twenty-plus years, Seth Josel has established himself as a leader in helping to shape the electric guitar’s burgeoning future as a “classical” instrument. This album is a statement not only of his artistry as a performer, but also as a curator of new music for the guitar. The six pieces on this recording demonstrate a variety of means and approaches spanning the reified electric flamenco of David Dramm to the sound-art abstractions of Gustavo Matamoros. 

David Dramm’s (b. 1961) The Stroke That Kills (1993) is rooted in the fierce rhythmic strumming of the flamenco style, but its translation to the electric guitar propels the music to a harder, more vicious place. Michael Fiday’s (b. 1961)Slapback (1997) is inspired by a live recording of The Who in which the guitarist Pete Townsend plays a duet with himself as his sound echoes off the arena wall. In Slapback, the guitar performance—heard in the right stereo channel—is repeated, by means of an electronic delay unit, one eighth-note later in the left stereo channel. Like SlapbackEve Beglarian’s (b. 1958) Until It Blazes (2001) utilizes an electronic delay to augment the guitarist’s performance, but unlike in the Fiday, Beglarian’s use of echo does not create a separate contrapuntal line. Rather, it helps create a soundspace in which the delay effect promotes a sense of ambient depth and a more subtle sense of syncopation. Tom Johnson’s (b. 1939) Canon for Six Guitars (1998) is a process piece where rigorous adherence to its initial conditions of pitch and rhythm ultimately produces something of a commentary on itself. 

The idea of building a composition around a formalized exploration of the guitar as a harmonic medium is also taken up by Alvin Curran (b. 1938) in Strum City(1999). The first movement is relatively straightforward and presents a long series of chords, not unlike a chorale, through the aural gauze of the strum. While Strum City’s first movement is uncritically and unabashedly strum-centric, the second and third movements break apart the strum’s dual temporal nature, each focusing on one of the strum’s dual aspects. Gustavo Matamoros’s (b. 1957) Stoned Guitar (2005) comprises two separate sub-pieces: Stoned Guitar and TIG Welder. TIG Welder is a recording of the eponymous device that is played simultaneously with the performance of the Stoned Guitar score. The balance between guitar and recording is determined by means of external electronics as stipulated by the composer. 

 
Repeat! (released on 2008) PDF Print E-mail

In the second CD of  Repeat! Manuel Zurria plays Kirkman's Ladies and 32 Breaths in a version for alto flute.

Not for sale at Editions 75.

 
Rational Melodies, Bedtime Stories (released in 2006) PDF Print E-mail

Rational Melodies, Bedtime Stories (released in 2006)

Cover art by Esther Ferrer
The latest release of Ants Records features clarinetist Roger Heaton playing two well-known pieces by Tom Johnson: Rational Melodies (1982) and Bedtime Stories(1985).
“I want to find the music, not to compose it". This statement, one of Tom Johnson's most effective, explains the general sense of the music of this CD and of most of Tom's musical research. The Rational Melodies are one of the most important instrumental cycles of the "new music" repertoire. Here we have the application of rational methodology to musical composition, using additive operations, combinations, permutations, substitutions, inversions and other logical processes as directed by the ear of a passionate musician. "I am certainly not the first person to work with logical sequences and formulas," says Johnson. But we, the listeners, must thank him for letting us hear clearly (and musically) this rationality.
The Bedtime Stories can be heard as delicate, peculiar musical "nursery rhymes"; it's a little 12-story compendium of sound that takes us on an amazing journey in the world of numbers.

 
Symmetries (released in 2006) PDF Print E-mail

Symmetries (released in 2006)

Symmetries How does visual symmetry relate to musical symmetry? In 1980 composer Tom Johnson, known for his playful minimalist structures, produced 49 perfectly symmetrical drawings made out of musical symbols. These he then turned into a set of charming crystalline 4-hand piano pieces, each a tiny, perfect musical world. In this first recording, duo Oei and Vriezen bring these Symmetries alive with zest, clarity and a fine sense of color. The notes include the original drawings. 12 € (Euros)

 
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