Asymmetry archives (1): Ultima 2009

[Asymmetry has quite a backlog of material on concerts and festivals, going back to 2008. We have pledged to get caught up with that material in 2012 and to stay caught up with current happenings in the world. But we don’t want that material from years past to be lost just because it’s not current. Good music is worth listening to and talking about after it was first written. I hope that’s a convincing justification for publishing all this material in 2012 if not a sufficient apology for not getting to it until now.]

Asymmetry has only attended one Ultima festival, and so can only say that if the others were as good as the one in 2009, we deeply regret all the ones we have missed. This was simply a most pleasurable experience, a variety of good music, well-planned events, and a splendid staff. Plus Oslo, where it’s held, is a simply lovely place full of simply lovely people.
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March’s Modern Music Month

Monday evening, the fifth of March, was the start of Portland’s month-long celebration of modern music. Celebration and cerebration, as this evening’s events included a panel discussion with a few of Portland’s prominent musical thinkers.

But first, Robert McBride introduced a “performance” of John Cage’s 4’33” (by all of us). This piece really could have used a performer to focus on. It didn’t look to me that any but a few of us, three?, were really paying any attention at all to all the various sounds that happened in that time. And very interesting and various they were, to be sure. But no one seemed to know what to do or how to take it. A performer would have helped, I think. Read More »

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Feldman’s 2nd in Portland

On Friday the 24th, around two hundred people took advantage of a rare opportunity to hear at least some of the four hour performance of Feldman’s 2nd string quartet that Third Angle put on in the Ellyn Bye Studio of The Armory in Portland, OR.

The Studio seats about 200, but at no time were there any more than 70 people there, scattered about. On the other hand, there were never any fewer than 30, and the attendance hovered around forty for the duration of this free concert.
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Favorite Releases of 2011

Sometime around last October, I was thinking about all the CDs I’d acquired that year and wondered how many of them had been released in 2011. I discovered, to my chagrin, that most of the CDs I got in 2011 had been released in 2010 or 2009. Asymmetry has already reviewed one of those, Michèle Bokanowski’s L’étoile absinthe and Chant d’ombre, which if you have not gotten yet yourself, you really should do so; it’s a real treat.

In fact, so many cool things came out in 2010, I’m tempted to do a Favorites of 2010, regardless. But first, 2011.
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Who Put John Cage on the Guestlist?

Who put John Cage on the Guestlist? is the 2011 release of Hemmelig Tempo, a Norwegian project of Doktor Døv, Professor Waffel, and Professor Fokuda-san.

With the exception of tracks five and six, which merge into each other, each track on this CD is quite distinct and different. But what I have to say about this album is how the tracks resemble each other. That is, all the tracks aside from the last one, track 8, A Study Dedicated to Arne Nordheim. With that exception, these exceptional tracks each create the sensation of movement. Each track, furthermore, goes several different places, unexpected places. Unexpected, but, in hindsight, inevitable.
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M. Cristina Kasem

Asymmetry: So I hear that you won first prize in the Bourges’ competition. Which category?

Kasem: Musique electroacoustic with formal esthetics.

Asymmetry: Without instruments.

Kasem: Yes. Well, there are instruments in the mix, but not in real time.

Asymmetry: When did you start composing?

Kasem: At twenty-four or twenty-five years old. I started earlier than that with the violin, as interpreter. And then I needed to express myself further on, not only as a player. It was a necessity for me. I wanted two things–to be a violinist and to be a composer. I think that it is important for a composer to play.
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Festival Densités 2009 and 2010

Asymmetry visited the ’09 and ’10 Festivals Densités in Fresnes-en-Woëvre, once as Michael E. Karman and once as Michael S. Karman. This fortunately confused no one. Densités is a very bright, very tight little festival. High-powered music making with some of the most talented musicians alive today, all taking place in a remote village between Verdun and Metz. I never quite figured out the relationship, but some of the new music people from Metz were there both years. And it was there in Fresnes-en-Woëvre that I heard about the Turntable Titan Tour of 2009, the Metz appearance of which I was able to attend after some creative juggling with my travel schedule.
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New Jersey Laptop Orchestra

the willingness to be touchedThe New Jersey Laptop Orchestra’s first CD is called The Willingness to be Touched, which is also the title of the second track. And seriously, look at that album cover–that picture with those words? Who could resist? I’ve heard several laptop ensembles over the past six years, one in Ulm that was supposedly playing Luc Ferrari, one in Paris (GOL) that was tremendous. And many more that were all surprisingly tedious. So I was a bit apprehensive about accepting the New Jersey Laptop Orchestra’s invitation to send me a CD to review. Fortunately, it’s great, good fun. It is messy and exuberant and exciting. It sounds exactly like what it says it is, a bunch of college students playing laptops.
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Futura ’09

Futura ’09 was the second Futura festival Asymmetry has been able to attend. It is a short festival, only a weekend, but it is jam-packed with electroacoustic goodness. The initial draw for me in ’09 was the chance to hear another Bokanowski piece live (Trois chambres d’inquietude) as well as Ferrari’s Danses organiques. I have recordings of these, of course. And while electroacoustic music does sound more natural on a home stereo than does music for acoustic instruments–being made to sound through loudspeakers, after all–it is still true that hearing electroacoustic music live is much better than hearing it at home.
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L’étoile absinthe and Chant d’ombre

L’étoile absinthe first appeared on a Metamkine 3″ disc, reviewed here, part of that label’s Cinéma pour l’oreille series. Although these two pieces are separated by four years (2000 and 2004, respectively), Bokanowski considers them as companion pieces, so it is not only nice to have L’étoile absinthe reissued finally but to have it coupled with the first issue of Chant d’ombre, six (and ten) years after the fact, to be sure, but still. Better late than never, I guess.
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