Daily Postings
music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Crys Cole

This recording was made in June of 2013 in Lisbon. It was my first time in Portugal and I was completely entranced by its beauty and vibrancy. When I'm in a new place I find myself constantly tuning into its unique sonic character. I often do recordings from hotel windows and on trains and subways. This particular recording was made from the window of a beautiful B&B that my friend (and fabulous musician) Margarida Garcia was running. It was in the old quarter near a small public square. 

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music : portfolio

Free Exercise

by Marina Rosenfeld

Using a hybrid orchestra of military and experimental musicians, the most recent iteration of Marina Rosenfeld's large-scale composition, Free Exercise, was staged at this year's La Biennale de Montréal. Drummers, percussionists, wind players, and others—including les Fusiliers du Mont-Royal (an enlisted band based at the Cathcart Armoury) and luminaries from Montréal's rock, contemporary, and free/improvised music scenes—mounted the collective performance on October 19. The hour-long performance is presented here in its entirety.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Eve Essex

I find myself recording frequently, usually at practice sessions. I use these documents like a notebook, pulling out pieces to rework ideas later, but they often don't go much further. Capturing sounds outside the studio, out in the world, was something I seldom considered. After being prompted to do field recording for this project, I went into nature, looking for novel sounds, and was surprised to find that, in the end, what really caught my attention were my most immediate surroundings—my home and practice space.

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music : interview

John Wiese

by C. Spencer Yeh

"If I were to ‘play something,’ I don't think I'd ever feel satisfied. What I really want is to take that thing and transform it, process it into something else."

Without putting any further wear on tired, cursory, (even desultory?) artistic qualifiers like “prolific” and “hardworking,” I’ll say that, having known him for quite a while now, I’m still awed and enthused by the commitment and drive of John Wiese—the Los Angeles-based artist, composer, publisher of books and records, graphic designer, typographer, and many other things. Recently, Wiese has been in residence at the hallowed electroacoustic music center Ina/GRM in Paris, on tour with his grindcore unit Sissy Spacek, and then immediately on tour again solo. He also made a stop at New York’s Anthology Film Archives to present a program of his video works—a medium rapidly and vigorously incorporated into his practice over the last few years. Our conversation began shortly after Wiese had interviewed me for a new project of his.

C. Spencer Yeh Tell us about this film you're working on.

John Wiese It's a talking-head oral history of a noise label from Los Angeles called Troniks, which had a heyday in the mid-2000s.

CSY Because noise had its heyday in the 2000s? (laughter)

JW Well, Ron Lessard [who ran the label RRRecords in the '80s and '90s] would contend that noise has a resurgence every ten years or so, which seems rather true. That would indicate there should be a boom right about now.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Patrick Higgins

I've been working with the concept of remixing my own classical compositions for a number of years. In 2013, I released an album called Glacia, which treated a recording of my "String Quartet No.2" by warping, stretching, layering, and reprocessing audio stems from the original tracks. The idea was to create a new style of musique concrète, wherein the source material was an original musical composition, but distended and transformed into something like an iceberg, or a glacier—monolithic, slow, dense, and apparently static but, in fact, really dynamic, always moving.

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music : interview

John Mills-Cockell

by Robert Beatty

Electronic composer and synth pioneer Mills-Cockell on his genre-defying work with Syrinx and Intersystems—early forays beyond pop and psychedelia.

Over the span of five years and as many records, Canadian composer John Mills-Cockell was involved in two of the most idiosyncratic, unclassifiable, and consciousness-shattering groups to rise out of electronic music obscurity. First as part of the multimedia installation and performance art group Intersystems (1968–69), who were among the first to use a Moog synthesizer in a live setting, and then with the otherworldly synthesizer/saxophone/percussion trio Syrinx (1971–72). There's been a retrospective of Mills-Cockell's work recently, which started with the boxset release of three Intersystems albums (Alga Marghen, 2015) and now continues with Tumblers From the Vault (RVNG Intl, 2016)—a collection of Syrinx's two albums, along with unreleased material.

Robert Beatty I wanted to start with an eye-opening little story about how Syrinx is maybe better known than I'd thought. I was at a wedding reception, seated with strangers, and one turned out to be a music professor at the University of Kentucky, where I live. He asked what I do, so I told him about playing experimental electronic music. The very first thing he said was, "Oh, like Syrinx?" It blew my mind, because I assumed Syrinx was very obscure. But he used to go to shows in Toronto as a teenager and had seen you all perform many times. His first frame of reference for experimental electronic music was not Stockhausen or Cage, it was you guys.

John Mills-Cockell There's an odd irony here because I seem to have this ongoing thing, not an argument exactly, but just a thing with the academic community for electronic music in Canada. We don't quite meet somehow.

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music : review

All Is but Circuitry

by Steve Dalachinsky

On the 50th anniversary of 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, an intergenerational concert series celebrates the technological innovations of the 1960s New York avant-garde. Times have changed.

The nine concerts of 9 Evenings + 50 —which ran earlier this September at Fridman Gallery on Spring Street—were an homage occasioned by the 50th anniversary of 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering which took place at New York’s 69th Regiment Armory in 1966 at the incredible price of $3 per ticket. The fundamental idea of the original series was to bring art and science together to see how various musical and non-musical components, i.e. radios and TV monitors, could literally be taken apart—“deconstructed” as the Fridman catalogue states—and put back together to create new means for artists to create “sound.” Some of the original participants were David Tudor and John Cage (both represented at Fridman with performances of their work), as well as Robert Whitman, Robert Rauschenberg, Yvonne Rainer, and Lucinda Childs. Billy Klüver, an electrical engineer at Bell Labs, developed the 1966 concerts and invited the artists to perform.

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music : interview

Helen Money & Jan St. Werner

"Once a sound is released it's out there, and you can't do anything more with it, but I have this weird obsession with continuously shaping it somehow."

I've spent a few months listening to Jan St. Werner's most recent album, Felder, which is a beautiful record and also a concept album. This is very hard to pull off as a composer. He's writing music that is quite heady, but at the same time inviting, even moving—which is even harder to do. 

Having just completed my new record, Become Zero, it was great to connect with another musician who was not only comfortable discussing the process involved in creating, but  someone just as excited as myself by the visceral aspects of our art—playing, creating, and listening to sound. 

—Alison Chesley, aka Helen Money

Helen Money There are some artists who want an audience to come to them, and others who reach out—and all shades between, I'm sure. As an artist and performer, what is your relationship to the audience?

Jan St. Werner My work is, in a weird way, a combinatorial game or system. It's turning and there are different levels of orbit. Sometimes things really line up, and I feel everything is perfectly aligned and of one thought. But then sometimes it really feels scattered—almost total chaos.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Zaïmph

The piece develops as a process of observed phenomena. To start, I make some marks, improvise. Forms exist outside my direction. Black shadows, deep cracks. I document, combine, distort. Composition is created through points, parallels drawn into a relational map. Meditation on a snapshot of the everyday. A motif, a theme emerges. The city as a gateway to the subconscious.

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music : interview

Peaches

by Zachary Small

"I grew up having to sing along to very patriarchal, male, straight viewpoints—lyrics that had nothing to do with me."

Disruption is defined by radical change, a condition of forced reappraisal from outside the status quo. Deceptively catchy, with a strong dance beat cloaking explicit lyrics, the music of Peaches is a burlesque of disruption, a constant provocation to rethink the misogyny that underscores much of electronic music. Listen to her songs and you will end up singing along with tracks such as "Vaginoplasty," "Rock The Shocker," and "Two Guys (For Every Girl)." As a performance artist, Peaches knows not to take herself so seriously, deploying humor to ease in her message of sex positivity and gender fluidity.

Across six albums, Peaches has become a role model for a new generation of feminist artists who sing about female pleasure and power. But Peaches remains a major force in the music industry, and 2016 seems to be the year the mainstream is finally catching up with her. Recently, her song "Boys Wanna Be Her" became the theme song of the popular comedy-news show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, and she also appeared in an episode of Transparent. This June, Peaches released Rub Remixed, a collection of remixes from her latest album.

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music : interview

Senyawa

by David Novak

"I want it like this, just how it sounds."

Indonesian experimental duo Senyawa creates some of the most exciting experimental music anywhere on the planet, pairing the extreme vocal techniques of Rully Shabara with the intense virtuosity of Wukir Suryardi on his unique instrument and namesake, the bambu wukir [bamboo spear]. While Shabara originally hails from the island of Sulawesi and Wukir from Malang in East Java, the group formed in the cultural and artistic center of Jogjakarta, where the two fused hardcore metal, traditional folk culture, and free improvisation into a powerful sound that somehow echoes (and distorts) the gritty populist spectacle of Javanese village ritual, the confrontational intensity of punk, and the edginess of avant-garde performance. The exploratory, challenging energy of Senyawa bursts off the screen in videos of their live appearances, including itinerant director Vincent Moon’s Calling the New Gods, which captures the duo roaming the streets of Jogjakarta for impromptu guerrilla performances around the city.

Since their formation six years ago, Senyawa has emerged in various global experimental music networks, with appearances in Australia, Denmark, Holland, Scotland, and Japan, and released several original recordings and collaborations with international artists. I caught up with Rully Shabara at the start of Senyawa’s first tour of the United States in August 2016.

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music : portfolio

Field Recording

by Che Chen

I recorded a wedding just outside of Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. I traveled there briefly in the spring of 2013, compelled to go after hearing the compilation, Wallahi le Zein: Wezin, Jakwar and Guitar Boogie from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. I spent my days getting a crash course in the Moorish modal system and at night would often accompany my teacher, Jeiche Ould Chigaly, or his wife, the phenomenal singer, Noura Mint Seymali, to their gigs, which were always weddings. On this occasion, Jeiche was playing as part of a pickup band assembled by le grande chanteur, Mohamed Ould Hembara. I was taking guitar lessons from Jeiche, but that night he played tidinit—a fretless, banjo-like instrument known by many names in the region (ngoni in Mali and Niger, xalam in Senegal, and so forth).

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music : interview

Jon Gibson

by Britton Powell

Whether you're drawing a straight line or zig-zagging through the history of American Minimalist music, there is one person you're bound meet. Jon Gibson is a New York based composer and performer with an encyclopedic list of collaborators, including Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Arthur Russell, and Terry Riley. Gibson's own work evokes a sense of uncharted exoticism that invites the listener to spin the compass and follow. His phrasing and textures float like smoke in the air—boundless, serpentine, and weightless.

Arriving at Gibson's loft in Tribeca feels like entering the territory of his imagination. Sheet music covered with arpeggios line almost every surface of the house, echoing the rhythmically patterned geometries of Gibson's own visual art. Golden gongs bask in the window's light, Tibetan tapestries drape the walls, and enormous sculptures of dragonflies hang from the ceiling, slowly spinning. Seeing all this, you immediately feel that Gibson's home is a safe haven from the city below.

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music : interview

Vivien Goldman

by Michael Patrick MacDonald

"Dub was my sound because of postcolonial movements. I grew up in it. I bathed in it. I breathed it. So why shouldn't it be mine?"

I first heard the foreboding bass line of Vivien Goldman's "Private Armies" in Boston, 1981. Stereophonic sounds crashed into each other, dissipated, and appeared again, and the bass kept it all together while a British woman's voice alternated between sweet sing-song and militant shouts of resistance. That summer, police were violently clamping down on behalf of the new corporate state in the working-class Caribbean community of Brixton, as well as in striking white mining towns across England. As a kid, listening eagerly with big ears across the pond, "Private Armies" evoked all these images in visceral ways that newspapers could not. And that a woman's voice spoke up to the masculinity of oppression put the images in a focus we were not getting in mainstream reportage.

The lead voice and visionary of the project was a music journalist. Vivien Goldman often wrote in NME and Melody Maker about London's "sound systems" and the links happening between white punks and rastas at all-night Blue Parties. Coming from Boston's poor and working class white ghetto where any interaction with nearby poor and working-class black neighborhoods seemed unimaginable, such "crossing over" lit me. A glimpse into this faraway world sparked my own fantasies of class-conscious and cross-cultural intersections.

Thirty-five years after those angry teenage days of alienation, I called my now good friend and ally for a conversation about the new collection of her music—Resolutionary (Songs 1979-1982) (Staubgold Records), covering solo songs as well as her work with The Flying Lizards and Chantage—from that explosive and brilliantly creative period.

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music : interview

Michael Morley & Alan Licht

"Oh no, this is sounding too beautiful, too seamless, and too much like it was planned. I have to unravel it."

Last December I spotted a surprising new release by Michael Morley, Moonrise—surprising because it wasn't credited to his usual solo alias of Gate, but also because of Michael's description of the contents: "After thirty years of playing the acoustic guitar in private for no good reason, I decided to record the activity." Just a month earlier, my own first-ever acoustic guitar album, Currents, had come out, which also documented a practice not previously shared with the public.

Both of us are known as noisy electric guitarists: Michael as a member of the long-running New Zealand underground rock trio The Dead C, and myself in various experimental and indie rock settings. We've been acquainted since the early '90s via his Dead C bandmate Bruce Russell, who released one of my previous solo albums on his Corpus Hermeticum label, and Lee Ranaldo, with whom we've both collaborated. I was intrigued that we had each "unplugged," and wanted to talk to Michael about our respective routes to acoustic music. As it happened, a Gate “disco” album, semi-ironically titled Saturday Night Fever, followed just after Moonrise. Given my own 2001 deconstruction of Donna Summer's "Dim All The Lights," this too seemed to merit further discussion.

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music : interview

Ohal

by Jesse Ruddock

"It's like bouncing ideas back and forth with a friend, but the friend is you."

Ohal is a Brooklyn-based pianist, composer, and recording engineer for whom music is rule of the bone. Born and raised in Ashkelon, Israel, an ancient seaport town tucked into sand dunes on the Mediterranean coast, she was introduced to the piano as a child and rigorously trained in classical performance. At seventeen, prompted by a runaway affection for the French Surrealists, she left Israel for France, determined to practice new and non-traditional forms of music. Onward to Paris with no plan, she carried only a knapsack and a shrimpy MT-205 Casiotone keyboard.

After a decade of collaborations with pop bands and visual artists, Ohal has just released her first two solo projects: Cancelled Faces, her Berlinale-acclaimed score to Lior Shamriz's film noir of the same title, and Acid Park, an eight-movement electronic suite. Ohal's sound palette is partly handmade on her own synthesizers and theremins, and it brims with sounds ranging from basement experiments to the Baroque. Her melodies beguile and uplift, like puzzles that don't want solving, revealing themselves most fully through a cyclical listening experience. This experience had me, with my headphones on, hard-caught and missing subway stops.

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music : interview

Terry Allen

by Clinton Krute

“Making music work to the lyric, and making the lyric work to the note.”

Artist and singer-songwriter Terry Allen’s haunting 1975 album, Juarez, is a gothic story of the American Southwest—and not totally unlike something out of Cormac McCarthy or the early Westerns of Monte Hellman (who included an Allen song in his classic Two-Lane Blacktop). Comparisons to novels and films seem natural, as the album builds a coherent and complex narrative, with Allen’s rollicking piano and spare arrangements underpinning an elliptical tale of violence, sex, and “writing on rocks across the USA.” Juarez tells us of the murder of a sailor and his new bride, a Mexican prostitute, by the “pachuco” Jabo and his companion, an artist/witch/“rock-writer” named Chic Blundie, in the southwestern Colorado town of Cortez. Not quite country and not quite rock, the music of Juarez is as unique as the man himself. Allen’s voice is incredible; he shifts from mellow Texas drawl—a more nasal Randy Newman—to bloodcurdling intensity from line to line. Against the darkness of the material, Allen’s singing and songcraft manage to convey humor and warmth, elevating the story and music out of the realm of pulp.

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music : interview

Yoshi Wada

by Tashi Wada

“I was doing some plumbing work for a living and picked up a piece of pipe, blew into it, and it created a very good sound. So, I began building instruments.”

My father Yoshi Wada and I have been playing music together for the past six or seven years. It’s been exciting, challenging, and life-changing. The nature of our work varies—sometimes it’s clearly his, even historical in a certain sense, and sometimes it’s quite collaborative. We often joke that this is a family business, but there’s no money. While it may seem a little strange to interview your own parent, it’s also oddly intuitive because you know what and how to ask. I felt it would be interesting to dig into my dad’s process as an artist and musician, and try to avoid rehashing too much biographical information. To do this, I focused on his 1985 record Off The Wall, recently reissued via my imprint, Saltern.

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music : interview

Tashi Dorji & Shane Parish

“I don’t have a specific idiom that I’m aspiring to, and I’m not creating some sort of homage or giving a reference point for people to hang onto. I’m just playing whatever’s in my head, literally.”

Tashi Dorji and I share a mutual passion for the guitar as a vehicle for spontaneous creative expression. Although I’m originally from Miami and he is from Bhutan, we managed to converge in the Appalachian town of Asheville, North Carolina at the beginning of the twenty-first century, where we both still reside. Our new album, Expecting (MIE Music), is a collection of acoustic duo improvisations played on nylon strings, which we happened to record as we were both preparing to become fathers. This conversation reflects on the history of our friendship and music, following many a digression, as any improvisation is prone to do.

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music : interview

Lightstorm

by Jason Gillis

“The quest was always on. Inside, never out.”

I first discovered Lightstorm about five years ago, via the 1982 movie Boardinghouse, which enjoys well-deserved cult status as one of the strangest horror movies ever made, and happens to be the first feature-length film ever recorded on video and transferred to 35mm for a theatrical run. On that initial viewing there was something about the film’s spirit and texture that resonated with me. I’m not sure if it was the balls-to-the-wall yet playful DIY approach, the strange suggestive New Age subtexts, or both. It was immediately clear that there was a lot more to the film than the average horror fan would ever notice or want to know.

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music : review

Trees, Grass, & Collectivist Rock

by Clinton Krute

Träd, Gräs och Stenar and the democratizing power of the riff.

The Swedish heavy psych band Träd, Gräs och Stenar were clearly not in it for the money. They grew their own food, built their own guitars and amplifiers, and between 1969 and 1972, released four of their own records—two studio and two live. Although the early studio albums have some pretty incredible moments—in particular the shaggy, mammoth, 23-minute title track of 1971’s Rock För Kropp Och Själ (Rock for Body and Soul), which cuts off just as it turns into a proto-punk chant—they were really a band best appreciated live. Anthology Recordings’ new reissues, packaged together as a deluxe 6-LP box set, include the two live albums, Mors Mors and Djungelns Lag, along with an album of unreleased live recordings called Kom Tillsammens, discovered in the home of guitarist Jakob Sjöholmm. These records are documents of a countercultural approach to art-making, as well as monuments of trance rock, of subtle motion inside stillness, where their commitment to chasing a single riff can often overshadow any overt political agenda.

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music : interview

The Necks

by Clare Cooper

“There has to be a social music.”

For three of the four decades they’ve been musicians, Chris Abrahams, Tony Buck, and Lloyd Swanton have played together as The Necks. They return to play Australia each summer, and hearing these annual live performances has become a way of marking time on a long, slow clock. Indeed, their international routine seems to mimic their tacit musical agreements—cycles, simplicity, and patience. I’ve had the incredible pleasure of hearing thirty-two of their improvisations live.

My hippie allergy flared up when I went to my first Necks gig at The Basement [Sydney] in 2002; I saw audience members peacefully standing there, swaying ever so gently with eyes closed in preparation for the concert thirty minutes before they even started. I spent a good half hour of the concert holding on to my scepticism, and then: Bam. That thing happened, I let it in, and it’s moved me deeply ever since.
 
I’ve been friends with Chris, Lloyd, and Tony since we met through the NOW now festival of improvised music that I was organising about fifteen years ago. Chris and Tony both play in my Hammeriver project (a band exploring the music of the late Alice Coltrane), and Chris and I have a DX7 synthesiser and guzheng zither duo called Germ Studies. I’ve never played music with Lloyd. I’ve always thought of him as the straight-line staple jazz ingredient of the trio—the bread (and maybe the butter) that makes more cautious listeners feel like everything is going to be okay in the end. Things will resolve. But at the concert tonight, it was Lloyd’s timing and textures that rattled me like a Keiji Haino shriek. That’ll teach me.

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music : interview

Josephine Foster

by Gary Canino

“It’s not a very academic approach, it’s just a part of what I like to do.”

Beyond the simple pleasure of an acoustic guitar, a voice, and the mingling spirit of the two, listening to Josephine Foster really gets at something specific. To these ears, the era her music recalls the most is that of post-war Europe in the mid-twentieth century: delicate folk music created just before the decade of lounge singers and the popularization of the electric guitar. The ambience of this album might also conjure up Angelica Huston slowly descending the staircase as “The Lass of Aughrim” solemnly plays in The Dead, the 1987 film adaptation of a story by James Joyce. But all reverie aside, Foster’s voice is sonorous, and—after just a single listen—I’m grateful this record exists.

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music : interview

Tortoise

by Jason LaFerrera

“Trying to describe it to somebody, like the concept, succinctly, is difficult… and always has been.”

Tortoise, a powerhouse of multi-instrumentalists celebrating their twenty-fifth year as a band, have just released a new full-length studio album—their first in nearly seven years. The Catastrophist is a blend of all the styles they have toyed with over their career, collaborations, and side projects: there’s post-rock, jazz, electronica, dub, and minimalism. Here, their maturity really shows through; sonic wanderings are tightened into songs, and all while that same core of experimental rock permeates everything, even as the synths blurt and percussion overtakes melody, melting into a wall of texture and sound. This new sort of cohesion suits Tortoise well, and the comparative brevity of the songs on this album might broaden their appeal beyond any one experimental niche.

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music : interview

John Corbett

by Andrew Lampert

“The records I don’t listen to are as important as the ones I do.”

I signed on as a John Corbett admirer for life around twenty years ago after burning through his crucial compendium of essays titled Extended Play: Sounding Off from John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein. At the time—and even now, albeit to a lesser degree—there were so few books dealing with free, improvised, and experimental music that this collection became an instant classic for its deep insight and astute analysis of some of the most supposedly difficult music around. An invaluable critic, long-time teacher at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and co-proprietor of art gallery/publisher/record label Corbett vs. Dempsey, the man definitely knows how to keep busy. Our conversation occurred shortly after the late 2015 release of his essential new anthology Microgoove: Forays Into Other Music (Duke University Press). This new book is a must for fans of out music. For those who don’t know how or where to start, his forthcoming volume A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation (available this February) will be a perfect point of departure.

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