One History of Troy
This album was recorded in 2012 by the free improvising trio of Jonathan Chen (violin, viola), Jefferson Pitcher (guitars, clarinet, field recordings, playground – its metal structures being used as a percussion set-up) and Doug van Nort (electronics, GREIS = Granular-Feedback Expanded Instrument System, van Nort’s own ever-evolving performance system and digital music instrument). The title refers to the town of Troy, New York, home of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with which the three artists have been involved with during their career. Their shared memories of living and working in Troy shine through as a conceptual basis for the improvisations on this album. Titles like “The Hudson” and “Northern White Pine” situate the music in a geographical location – but the field recordings from different places, such as Chefchaouen Province in Morocco, open up this history to other sound-worlds.
The album is dedicated to the late Pauline Oliveros, with whom all three musicians collaborated during her lifetime. It is a fitting tribute to an artist with such a wide range of interests, abilities and fields of influence. Certainly, Oliveros’ focus on deep listening as a key to creating one’s own sounds is present not only in the mindful way the musicians interact with each other, but also in the way they integrate non-musical sounds from field recordings into their instrumental interplay. Likewise, the interfacing of acoustic instruments and live electronics that Oliveros pioneered in her expanded accordion set-ups is used to great effect by Chen, Pitcher, and van Nort. Instrumental and electronic timbres blend seamlessly, with harmonic/melodic and noisy elements perfectly balanced. The album is dominated by calm, rather meditative pieces which exude a certain melancholy – quite apt for a tribute by three artists to a deceased colleague and friend. However, the final piece “Chefchaouen Province | American Town” develops into an exuberant powerplay that makes the sheer joy of sculpting and connecting sounds, be they notes or noises, almost tangible. And, now even more than at the time of recording, the peaceful coexistence of an Arabic chant with an American brass band within said piece can also be heard as a sonic utopia, an acoustic glimpse of an alternative, and better, reality.
File under: Free improvisation
grey marbled 12" Vinyl Album
Released in 2018
limited to 300 copies
price: 16.00 EUR (excl. postage)
For Pauline Oliveros
Jonathan Chen I Violin, Viola
Jefferson Pitcher I Guitars, Clarinet, Field Recordings, Playground
Doug Van Nort I GREIS, Electronics
All Pieces composed and improvised by Jonathan Chen, Jefferson Pitcher, Doug Van Nort.
Recorded in Jefferson's basement and stairwell, early summer 2012.
Mixed by Jefferson Pitcher at Shumoto Sound Room.
Final mixing, editing, and mastering by Ron Guensche at New Future Vintage in Okaland, CA.
Pauline Oliveros' name returns as the record recorded by Jonathan Chen (violin, viola), Jefferson Pitcher (guitars, clarinet, field recordings, playground) and Doug van Nort (GREIS, electronics) dedicate their record to her. The music was already recorded in 2012, but is now released and is a fine mixture between acoustic and electronic instruments. There are familiarities with the CD by Stadlmeier, Penschuck and Kreysing that I just heard but also differences. One of the main differences, I would think, is that here the instruments are more defined. A guitar sounds like a guitar here, a violin like a violin and it is less based around the extensive use of effects to create space. The six improvisations on this record can also be classified as 'quiet' and 'introspective', but it is less spacious due to the fact their is a lot less reverb used. Everything is a bit 'dry' here, which means that the musicians have to walk an extra mile in playing their instruments. There is a fine conversation going on between these players, and everybody listens and responds accordingly. Sometimes it is a bit scratch like and abstract, but just as easily it veers back into something that is way more melodic and, sorry for the word, normal; almost like some sort of post-rock group intro. This trio is more on the edge of electro-acoustic and modern composition where as the other trio is more about improvisation and spacious approaches. Both are equally great, of course, and this LP is also a most profound statement of deep listening.
One History of Troy (ACW 1005, LP, grey marbled vinyl) führt nicht an den Ort des Gemetzels, sondern an das Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute als ein Vebindendes zwischen JONATHAN CHEN, JEFFERSON PITCHER und DOUG VAN NORT, die auch schon mit Al Margolis im American Space Quintet ihren gemeinsamen Nenner unterstrichen. Chen mit Violine & Viola, Pitcher mit Gitarren, Klarinette, Field Recordings und der Klangskulptur Playground, Van Nort mit Electronics und dem Granular-Feedback Expanded Instrument System GREIS. Nicht unerwähnt lassen kann ich, dass Pitcher mit Christian Kiefer, einst mit "Welcome to Hard Times" einer meiner Heroen am Fin de Millenium, "Of Great And Mortal Men: 43 Songs For 43 U.S. Presidencies" (2008) als ein Opus maximus realisiert hat. Hier überträgt Van Nort seine Deep Listening-Erfahrung mit Pauline Oliveros in Triple Point in einen geistesverwandten Kontext, in einem transatlantischen Brückenschlag, der mexikanischen Zungenschlag mit 'European Bells' verbindet und 'The Hudson', 'Northern White Pine'-Wälder und eiine Blaskapelle mit dem marokkanischen Flair von 'Chefchaouen'. Perkussive, fiedlerische und elektrobruitistische Erregungen, oft mit herber, kratzig-knarziger Gestik und kakophonem Beifan, kontrastieren mit zurückgelehnten Gitarrenreveries, monotonen Bogenstrichen oder dunkel tutenden Tönen. Ives und Partch und Oliveros, Amerika kann so schön untrojanisch sein.
This release is based on a compromise between composition and improvisation made by Jonathan Chen on violin and viola, Jefferson Pitcher on guitar, clarinet and field recordings and Doug Van Nort on GREIS which is a custom patch made in Max/MSP to process live sound input. This kind of open form i.e., a written composition with large margins for improvisation, could be a little hard to follow but lets to the performers the musical space to disorient the listener.
The first track "Sailing I Open Water I Land" is obtained by a rhythmic first part, a second part based mostly on field recordings and a quiet third part based on guitar notes. Strings are the main element of "Moving I Stone" with both guitar and violin while the electronic element is of tie and underline the parts. The voices of the field recordings that open "Residue I European Bells" introduces droning elements which are juxtaposed in a meditative way to let the listener enjoy the subtle tone's nuance. "The Hudson" oscillates between quiet parts and more lyrical ones. "Northern White Pine" uses silence to focus on various small noises generated by the instruments. "Chefchaouen Province I American Town" closes this release with a sort of long crescendo where all players has his moment of focus until they begin to juxtapose their line to close this release fading each other.
A relatively short but dense release based on a subtle interplay which requires a certain listener's commitment to be fully appreciated. Fans of EAI will enjoy this release but the others should be aware of its content.
FELT HAT REVIEWS
Jonathan Chen on viola and violin, Jefferson Pitcher on guitars, clarinet, providing field recordings and playground, Doug Van Nort - electronics and Greis.
3 gentlemen in tribute to the late Pauline Oliveros put us on a white knuckle ride of dynamic improvisation where climax is served carefully in a unorthodox mix of granular synthesis mixed with acoustic instruments and field recording.
The whole album is a swathe of meditative sounds with a bit of rhythmic quality to it. A showcase of truly utopian idea to blend different genres where we meet the American brass band idiom with Arabic chant.
Pauline developed this idea of mixing both electroacustic improvisation with live electronics to the absolute perfection - Chen, Pitcher and Van Nort help to re-invent it or look at it from a different angle.
The other aspect is the conceptual background of psychogeographical journey between Troy in New York and Moroccan province of Chefchaouen. Tresspassing the borders and understanding how the changing cultural landscape affects our perception of music is something crucial here.
A very diverse piece with amusing context.
RAISED BY GYPSIES
"One History of Troy" begins with clanking around like pots and pans, bottles and cans. This turns into acoustic guitar strums with a slow whistle in the background and breeze, like some kind of old western. This turns into a decent amount of drumming with wild strings in the background and that initial sound of tumbleweed blowing around now sounds like a stampede of cowboys on horses are riding into town. There are also these little pieces of sound which sound like a very quickly changing radio station.
Acoustic guitar strums return and there is this rhythm within it to end out the first song, which was really quite the journey. We are back to the acoustic guitar strums, other such strings are in place as well and it just has this deeper sound to it now as if it is being transmitted from a cave. A pounding sense of percussion brings about the scrapes and rush of sound which is somewhere between feedback and static. Such energetic gentle beats, such delicate guitar strings purposefully placed.
One of the first things you will hopefully take away when first listening to this album is that some of these notes are so intricate in the sense that they have this pattern to them that feels somewhat normal. At the same time, there are other notes (and sounds) which exist along with them and do not share the same structure; they are more a vision born of chaos. There can be fits of what sound like bells but also could just be lead pipes banging against each other or something of a similar material.
The third song begins with people talking to each other, a secret conversation I imagine and I've always kind of wanted to sit amongst a crowd of people and hit record on an app on my phone and see what comes of it. Is that wrong? Is that voyeuristic nature not inside all of us? This feedback type of ringing comes through with the words and then a somewhat harsher tone which almost sounds like a saxophone but as I read the credits on Bandcamp I think this is the clarinet. It also has this fairly Twilight Zone feel to it and who among us has not felt like we were in that show at some point while out in society?
What I once again believe to be that clarinet pushes out notes in a somewhat harsh manner while this thunderous bass trails from the distance. This particular song feels as if it could end here but instead comes back with these primal blasts and it builds into something that crosses the line between being in a sci-fi realm and out in the jungle, in nature. Glass bottles are also in play here ala Jay Peele.
With the acoustic guitar notes and strums, other strings bring way to what sounds like a dialtone and then that feedback comes back in as well. You must recognize that these acoustic guitar notes maintain their way throughout much of this album. It's this solemn, quiet reminder of what you otherwise might hear as being less easy on the ears. The music is just as much sci-fi/horror movie in its delivery as it is this droning, calming ambient feel. Some banging and scrapes come out during "Northern White Pine" and I almost feel like it has this stretching quality to it I can't put my finger on.
Acute strings come out in distant spaces. An acoustic guitar rattles. A slight form of jingle-jangles before this song comes to an end as well. The last song is the longest. There is this carnival/circus type of sound to open up this last song before the acoustic guitar comes in with the dark string drones. There is this suspenseful aura to this song now, as the strings somewhat sneak out from within the abyss. About five minutes into this piece it just gets really dark and grinding. Tones then come out which feel like a piano but are likely just higher pitched on the acoustic guitar.
Frantic strings and that still rumbling in the background as if a storm is off in the distance. It's as if everything on this album has built to this one moment and past the seven minute marker, eight minutes into it now, and it just all keeps on growing, soon to explode. By the end it sounds as if someone is singing while voices are also talking and it just takes you to this weird place where you feel like a planet should have been destroyed but rather it's more like we just awoke from some dream.