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.

Hemmelig Tempo, Who Put John Cage on the Guestlist?

Of course. We just reviewed this CD. Of course it’s a favorite. The clip this time is from the title track.

New Jersey Laptop Orchestra, The Willingness to be Touched

Also of course. Also already reviewed. Its clip this time is also from its title track.

Radio Royal, Radio Royal

These guys were part of a splendid all day electroacoustic bash that preceded the 2011 Ostrava Days Festival, a report of which will appear some time soon. I enjoyed their live set, but I enjoyed their CD even more. How often does that happen?

Chaya Czernowin, Shifting Gravity

Czernowin’s music has intrigued me for several years, and this latest release of hers is no exception. Very likable music, easy to listen to over and over again. A fascination with sound, and with silence, that I find endlessly pleasurable. The clip is from the last track, Winter Songs III for ensemble and electronics.

Ernst Krenek, Symphony no. 4

Older music than Asymmetry usually talks about, but such a long overdue release of really fine European mid-century music, that we couldn’t resist. The other four symphonies have been available for many years, and the vast stylistic gulf between numbers three and five has made me keen to find out about number four.

Fortunately, four is like five.

The clip is from the Allegro pesante.

Quartet for the End of Space

I suppose that since the late sixties, this title has been inevitable for an album. I’m surprised it hasn’t been used earlier, it’s such a natural.

That’s not why I bought this CD, of course. Along the bottom of the CD are four names, Pauline Oliveros, Francisco López, Doug Van Nort, and Jonas Branch. I’d never heard of the last two, but the first two were enough to send me reaching for my wallet.

Each composer has two pieces on this disc, and I’d say that seven out of the eight tracks are very fine pieces. Never mind which one I didn’t particularly care for; your list of likes and dislikes is bound to be different from mine, anyway.

The clip is from Cyber Talk by Pauline Oliveros.

Francisco López, untitled #244

I know of two 2011 releases by Francisco López; this is the only one I have heard. It’s made up of recordings underwater and above water on the Paraná and Paraguay rivers. It’s quite a lot less watery than you might expect. It’s just as rich and strange and satisfying as you might expect. The sounds are wonderful as are the long silences (approximately two, three, and five minutes long, each).

The clip is from almost three minutes in to about five minutes in.

John Cage, The Works for Percussion I

Not to take anything away from any of the other CDs in mode’s Cage series, but this one is pretty special. The Percussion Group Cinncinnati plays these pieces–the five Imaginary Landscapes and Credo in Us–better than anyone else I’ve ever heard. Solid technique and perfect sense of style, beginning with (but by no means ending there!) the decision to use the original variable speed turntables and 78 test records that Cage specified. I don’t care how many Cage recordings you already have; you have to have this one, too. I mean it!

As is appropriate for this music, there are multiple versions of several of the pieces (Two performances each of Credo in Us and Imaginary Landscape No. 4 and two realizations of Imaginary Landscape No. 5).

The clip is from what I consider the first piece of the second era of the twentieth century, Imaginary Landscape No. 1.

Simon Steen-Andersen, Pretty Sound

The first solo album by one of the more inventive and original composers of the 21st century.

I first heard “Pretty Sound (Up and Down)” in concert. I was quite taken with this piece. Since than, I’ve heard several other pieces by Steen-Andersen, in concert and on recordings. I want more. (There are three other 2011 releases that include his music, on order as I write this.)

The clip is from On and Off and To and Fro, for saxophone, cello and three players with megaphones.

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