March 30, 2015

New Music From Rodger Coleman & Sam Byrd

I am very pleased to present some new—and very different—music from the Rodger Coleman & Sam Byrd duo. This will give you some idea what to expect on May 15 when we will be performing at The Black Box Theater in Centennial Park. Download your free (pay what you want) copy of our new digital-only album over at Bandcamp:

March 29, 2015

Playlist Week of 2015-03-28

* Takemitsu: I Hear The Water Dreaming (BBC Sym./Gallois, et al.) (DG CD)
* Takemitsu: A Flock Descends Into The Pentagonal Garden (Boston Sym. Et al.) (DG CD)
* Cage, et al.: John Cage Shock Vol.1 (Omega Point CD)
* Cage, et al.: John Cage Shock Vol.2 (Omega Point CD)
* Cage, et al.: John Cage Shock Vol.3 (Omega Point CD)
* Toudi Heath: Kawaida (Obe LP)
* David S. Ware Quartet: Live In The World (d.1-2) (Thirsty Ear 3CD)
* Pharoah Sanders: Summun Bukmun Umyun (Impulse! LP)
* Pharoah Sanders: Jewels of Thought (Impulse! CD)
* Pharoah Sanders: Karma (Impulse! CD)
* Pharoah Sanders: Thembi (Impulse! CD)
* Archie Shepp: Three For A Quarter, One For A Dime (Impulse! LP)
* Archie Shepp: Live In San Francisco (Impulse! CD)
* Air: Open Air Suit (Arista/Novus LP)
* Jean-Luc Ponty: Aurora (Atlantic LP)
* Steve Tibbetts: Big Map Idea (ECM CD)
* Latitude: Latitude (Lifestyle LP)
* Parliament: Live: P-Funk Earth Tour (Casablanca CD)
* Shaver: Tramp On Your Street (Zoo/Classic Records LP)
* Emmylou Harris: Luxury Liner (Warner Bros. LP)
* Emmylou Harris: Cimarron (Warner Bros. LP)
* John Renbourn: Sir John A Lot of (Transatlantic/Windham Hill LP)
* Ultimate Spinach: Ultimate Spinach (MGM LP)
* Hawkwind: Quark Strangeness And Charm (Charisma LP)
* Goblin: Roller (Cinevox LP)
* Simonetti/Pignatelli/Morante: Tenebre OST (Cinevox LP)
* Jah Wobble/The Edge/Holger Czukay: Snake Charmer (Island EP)
* Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase (KScope 2LP/BD)
* Enslaved: In Times (Nuclear Blast 2LP)
* Sunn O))): 00 Void (Southern Lord CD)
* Boris: Noise (Sargent House 2LP) †/
* Electric Wizard: We Live (Rise Above 2LP)
* Beach House: Bloom (Sub Pop 2-45RPM LP)



My new piano is such a joy to play, I have found myself practicing (almost) every day -- sometimes for hours  on end. Much to my amazement, my reading chops are slowly coming back and I have been really enjoying diving into some of the more challenging scores in my collection, including works by Debussy, Satie, Schoenberg -- and John Cage.

Of course, I do not have a grand piano, so Cage's seminal "prepared" piano works (wherein bolts, nuts, weatherstripping and other stuff are inserted between the strings) are beyond my current capabilities. But he wrote quite a bit of music for un-prepared piano and much of which can be found in two volumes published by C.F. Peters. Edited by Margaret Leng Tan, these newly-engraved scores are a treasure trove of early Cageiana.

Most of these pieces were written for Cage himself to play, as accompanist to choreography by Merce Cunningham, Jean Erdman and others and are, therefore, not all that technically demanding. However, Cage's compositions are idiosyncratic in the extreme. Pieces like "In A Landscape" and "Dream" (both composed in 1948) evoke the languid tranquility of Satie while hinting at "New Age" music to come -- yet Cage introduces odd dissonances and unexpected rhythmic displacements that prevent the music from receding into sonic wallpaper (and keep the pianist on his toes). And while "Suite for Toy Piano" (1948) restricts itself to only the "white keys" and a severely limited compass, Cage's complex rhythmic schemes make it more than just child's play to perform.

Even more interesting is "Ophelia" (1946), which shows remnants of Schoenberg's influence in its raw expressionism and prominently recurring tone-rows. Yet most of the piece is dominated by strongly accented rhythmic figures that prefigure the powerful physicality of rock music. "Soliloquy" (1945) is similarly driven by a primal, propulsive beat, centered low down on the keyboard and punctuated by leaping octaves and stabbing dissonances. These are both a lot of fun to play.

Given Cage's stated antipathy towards jazz, "Jazz Study" (1942) and "Ad Lib" (1943) pose some interesting questions: Are they mere parodies? Or was Cage aware of the birth of black American art music contemporaneously happening up in Harlem? His humorous sprinklings of "wrong notes," glissandos and tone clusters amidst the crude blues-scale melodies certainly implies the former. But the respect with which Cage treats the material makes me wonder how seriously to treat some of his later pronouncements on the subject.

"The Seasons" (1947) was Cage's first orchestral commission, a ballet in one act with choreography by Merce Cunningham and decors by Isamu Noguchi. A piano reduction was simultaneously prepared (presumably for rehearsal purposes) but it stands alone and is, in fact, more often performed than the full orchestral version. As one of the first pieces to utilize chance procedures to order pre-composed "gamuts" of musical events, the pianist is required to precisely articulate a "melody" of held tones while the surrounding aggregates decay at various rates. Not easy to do! But despite increasing abstraction, "The Seasons" has some strikingly beautiful passages, making it worth the effort.

Admittedly, I am no concert pianist. And I play "classical" music just to keep my fingers moving and my mind engaged. However, these early Cage pieces really resonate with me -- and are mostly within my technical abilities. Although I know nothing about dance, it would be interesting to perform them with their original choreography. Not likely to ever happen -- but I'd be game.

March 23, 2015

Playlist Week of 2015-03-21

* Venice Baroque Orchestra: Victoria Hall, Geneva 2008-02-28 (FM 2CDR)
* John Cage: Three Constructions (Knaack Percussion Ensemble, et al.) (Tomato CD)
* John Cage, et al.: Sala Verdi, Conservatorio di Milana 2007-09-28 (FM CDR)
* Morton Feldman: For Philip Guston (Blum/Vigeland/Williams) (d.1) (hat ART 4CD)
* Yusef Lateef: Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony (Atlantic LP)
* Marc Johnson: Shades of Jade (ECM CD)
* William Parker: Painter’s Spring (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Matthew Shipp Trio: Root of Things (Relative Pitch CD)
* Jemeel Moondoc: The Zookeeper’s House (Relative Pitch CD)
* Nate Wooley: Battle Pieces (Relative Pitch CD)
* Birgit Ulher & Leonel Kaplan: Stereo Trumpet (Relative Pitch CD)
* Slobber Pup: Black Aces (Rare Noise 24/96 FLAC)
* Rodger Coleman & Sam Byrd: Heeltop Home Studio 2014-12-29 (selections) (WAV)
* Grateful Dead: Dick’s Picks Vol.33: Oakland Coliseum Stadium 10/9-10/76 (GDP 4HDCD)
* Touch: Touch (Coliseum LP)
* Nick Drake: Five Leaves Left (Island/Universal LP)
* Nick Drake: Pink Moon (Island/Universal LP)
* Deep Purple: Deep Purple (Tetragrammaton LP)
* Tangerine Dream: Thief (OST) (Elektra LP)
* Tangerine Dream: White Eagle (Virgin LP)
* Johannes Schmoelling: Wuivend Riet (Erdenklang LP)
* Ricked Wicky: I Sell The Circus (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Royal Trux: Hand Of Glory (Drag City LP)
* Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase (KScope 2LP/BD)
* Hot Chip: One Life Stand (Domino 2LP/CD) †
* Expo 70: July 18, 2004 (Sonic Meditations LP) †
* Expo 70: Where Does Your Mind Go? (Immune 2LP)
* Lower Dens: Nootropics (Ribbon Music 2-45RPM LP)



Spring, continued!

March 15, 2015

Playlist Week of 2015-03-14

* Cage: Complete Piano Music Vol.1: Prepared Piano 1940-1952 (Schleiermacher) (MDG 3CD)
* Sun Ra: Secrets Of The Sun (Saturn/Universal LP)
* Sun Ra: Discipline 27-II (Saturn/Universal LP)
* Sun Ra: The Soul Vibrations Of Man (Saturn/Universal LP)
* Miles Davis: Kind Of Blue (Columbia/Legacy SACD)
* Ornette Coleman: Virgin Beauty (Portrait LP)
* Lou Donaldson: Mr. Shing-A-Ling (Blue Note LP)
* Dorothy Ashby: Afro-Harping (Cadet/Verve CD)
* Michael Mantler: Silence (Watt Works LP)
* Shakti: Shakti With John McLaughlin (Columbia LP)
* Free Flight: Soaring (Palo Alto LP)
* Susan Alcorn: And I Await The Resurrection of the Pedal Steel Guitar (Olde English LP)
* Rodger Coleman & Sam Byrd: Heeltop Home Studio 2014-12-29 (FLAC) (†/‡)
* Rodger Coleman & Sam Byrd: Heeltop Home Studio 2014-12-30 (FLAC) (†/‡)
* Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical (Fly/Sire LP)
* D’Angelo & The Vanguard: Black Messiah (RCA 2LP)
* Steeleye Span: Below The Salt (Chrysalis LP)
* Gong: You (Virgin LP)
* Gong: Shamal (Virgin LP)
* Steve Hillage: Fish Rising (Virgin LP)
* Steve Hillage: L (Atlantic LP)
* Lindisfarne: Roll On, Ruby (Elektra LP)
* Lindisfarne: Sleepless Nights (Shanachie LP)
* Coven: Coven (MGM LP)
* Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase (KScope BD)
* Electric Wizard: Let Us Prey (Rise Above 2LP)
* Pelican: “The Cliff” (Southern Lord 12”)



And now it's spring!


In other exciting news: Sam Byrd and I will be performing live at Free Form Friday at The Black Box Theater in Centennial Park, Nashville on May 15th! Admission is FREE and we will be premiering our new, electrified space-rock material. Also, a new download-only album of recent recordings will be available soon on Bandcamp, so please stay tuned!