The Art of David Tudor

 

The Art of David Tudor  is a new 7 CD boxed set released from the ever great New World Records. The most exciting release IMO since their epic Music for Merce. Of course while there was much music of interest to me on Music for Merce it was the David Tudor pieces, especially the unreleased material, that was particularly of interest. In my series of posts covering that box set I time and time again bemoaned that the bulk of the Tudor pieces were only excerpts and more than once mentioned that there should be a boxed set of his pieces. Miraculously New World has provided.  This set can now be ordered, though I’m not sure if it’s in anybodies hands yet.  It will apparently be available for download on at least iTunes though the link is not currently active. However the liner notes for the set are currently available (major props to New World for putting these online – makes quotes and such from them a lot easier) and I’ve given it a looksee.  So before I have this set in hand let us consider what we are going to be getting.

 

The Art of David Tudor

Variations II  (John Cage)
For 1, 2, or 3 People  (Christian Wolff)
Bandoneon ! (A Combine)  (David Tudor)
Anima Pepsi  (David Tudor)
Pepsibird  (David Tudor)
Pepscillator  (David Tudor)
Mesostics re Merce Cunningham/Untitled (John Cage, David Tudor)
Weatherings  (David Tudor)
Phonemes  (David Tudor)
Rainforest IV  (David Tudor)
Webwork  (David Tudor)
Rainforest IV  (David Tudor)
Virtual Focus  (David Tudor)
Neural Network Plus  (David Tudor)

Quite a few of these pieces have been previously released either in whole or in excerpt. But these pieces were performed live and often performed with the Merce Cunnigham Dance Company or in concerts and due to the nature of live electronics can be quite variable. So in the cases where there are new performances or different versions it is certainly a cause for celebration.  The full versions of the pieces released only in excerpts are of course especially welcome.  Let us now consider each of these pieces in brief.

Variations II can be heard on the David Tudor Edition RZ set plus a different version on vol. 1 of the John Cage Shock set from EM RecordsEdition Omega Point. This version is from the ONCE Festival and is I believe a third recording of the piece. I’m all for more versions of this piece as they all vary due to the nature of working with feedback.

For 1, 2, or 3 People  is currently available on Edition RZ’s Christian Wolff set as well as an excerpt on the Music for Merce set. These two versions are the same IIRC and this one is listed as also from tour with the Merce Cunningham Dance company. So could be the same one or a different performance.

Bandoneon ! (A Combine)  This has been released in excerpt on the DVD documentary series on the E.A.T. 9 Evenings series. This is not listed here as an excerpt but at just over 14 minutes it almost certainly is. In my review of the DVD I note that the length of the performance is not known, but I do go into the available data. This is a longer excerpt than found on the DVD by about 5 minutes which is welcome, but one still awaits the full piece.

Anima Pepsi was released on the album  Live Electronic Music (Electronic Music Foundation) and this appears to be the same version (both are 23’37” which is a pretty good clue).

Pepsibird  & Pepscillator These two pieces were along with Anima Pepsi were recorded at Recorded in the Pepsi Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan but only Anima Pepsi has been released. So these are two new tracks that presumably will be in a similar vein of Anima Pepsi.

Mesostics re Merce Cunningham/Untitled  Untitled, a definitive Tudor composition, has been released in a couple of forms but was originally performed with John Cage’s vocal performance of Mesostics re Merce Cunningham. As far as I know this version has not been released (a version with Takehisa Kosugi on vocals is on the album Three Works For Live Electronics released by Lovely Music).

Weatherings  This was released in excerpt on the Music for Merce set and assuming this is an entire performance, this would be the first complete recording of this piece.

Phonemes  This was released in excerpt on the Music for Merce set and a complete version can be found on  Three Works For Live Electronics released by Lovely Music. However this is a full live performance of the piece, whereas the  Three Works For Live Electronics version is a layered version of many recordings. So this will be a full, live, single version which is a welcome addition to the recordings of this piece.

Rainforest IV  There are two versions of Rainforest IV on this set both credited to Composers Inside Electronics during the period when Tudor was performing with them (they are still a going concern). As Rainforest IV is a sculpture based piece that was constructed anew on numerous occasions and thus was often different this is certainly justified. However the Rainforest pieces are of course Tudor’s most well know and most well documented. Mode has a disc with Rainforest IV (as well as Rainforest I) on it and there was an German instance of the installation in 1980 which has been released on an LP  by Edition Block and on CD by Lovely. One of the versions of on this set is this German installation the other from a Stockholm version. While most likely the German versions are all from the same source it could be a different excerpt or even a different recording. The Stockholm one appears to be a new release.

Webwork – This was presented in excerpt form on Music for Merce so a complete performance is of course highly anticipated. This has only otherwise been released as a 7? excerpt  on the John Cage tribute CD A Chance Operation

Virtual Focus  This very interesting piece excerpted on Music for Merce so a complete performance is definitely a huge plus here. There has otherwise been unreleased barring a 3? of excerpt on Musicworks 73.

Neural Network Plus  Again excerpted on Music for Merce but in this set a whole disc is dedicated to a 55″ version.  While Lovely Music has put out a double CD of the related Neural Sythesis pieces and Atonal Records put out a disc split between Neural Synthesis No.2 and a Cage piece this is the only recording of Neural Network Plus which includes Kosugi on violin. Even the extract was intense and wild so really can’t wait for this complete performance

Basically the pieces from Expo ’70 are the most novel of the set but the complete performances of the later live electronics pieces are of course the big draw. There is still quite a bit from David Tudor’s oeuvre that is still unavailable. His first piece, Fluorescent Sound is of course the first one that springs to mind (though perhaps no recording exists) but just scan through his list of compositions on DavidTudor.org and you can see that many are not represented here or anywhere. One hopes that of those that recordings exist that some day these will come out in some form.  With all the variation and iteration in his live performances one hopes that in the future these will all be available for download. This is I think the direction that any music that is so varied in performance needs to. It is a shame that these recordings just languish in vaults.  Still I can’t wait to get this set and and it is a vital edition to the David Tudor legacy. I commend New World for putting it out and will write more here once I’ve had a chance to absorb it.

SFMoMA - Alexander Calder Lone Yellow, 1961

As discussed in my previous post, Haiku, Mobiles and Earle Brown, the individual recordings that constitute Sometimes the Rain is Hard to See (9 Haiku) can be performed as a mobile. So just for fun I encoded mp3 versions of the eleven haiku I recorded and set up players from there here. So you can create your own mobile version of this piece.

Update:
(I’ve moved the players under the fold since they load every time the front page is visited. So open the post to make your own realization of Sometimes the rain is hard to see (9 haiku).

 

(more…)

Alexander Calder's Spinner (1966)

As described in these pages the core concerns of the Eleven Clouds project was Post-Tudor Live Electronics, Conceptual Music and Music as Object. Typically most pieces realized two or all three of these notions in one way or another in a way that directly informed what the piece was.  Beyond each of these primary themes there could be numerous subthemes which shaped how the primary concepts was approached or realized. Of the eleven ‘Clouds’ three of them reversed this general form in that a subtheme was the primary driver for the piece and primary concept was somewhat tangential to this in that the expression of the subtheme resulted in an Object and (sometimes) the Conceptual aspect was a component of the interactions with the recipients.

 Calder PieceEarle Brown's Calder Piece

One thing that I share with Earle Brown is a love of the American sculptor Alexander Calder and like him I was inspired by his mobiles as a structure for composition. Earle Brown’s Open Forms directly implement the shifting nature of mobiles and of course his Calder Piece couldn’t be more explicit.

Spontaneous decisions in the performance of a work and the possibility of the composed elements being “mobile” have been of primary interest to me for some time; the former to an extreme degree in Folio (1952), and the latter, most explicitly, in Twenty Five Pages (1953). For me, the concept of the elements being mobile was inspired by the mobiles of Alexander Calder, in which, similar to this work, there are basic units subject to innumerable different relationships or forms. the concept of the work being conducted and formed spontaneously in performance was originally inspired by the “action-painting” techniques and works of Jackson Pollock in the late 1940s, in which the immediacy and directness of “contact” with the material is of great importance and produces such an intensity in the working and in the result. the performance conditions of these works are similar to a painter working spontaneously with a given palette. – Earle Brown from his Instruction on conducting Open Forms

The primary element of Calder’s mobiles that Earle Brown utilized in his open form scores is the shifting and unfixed nature of mobiles. Most of the open form pieces are traditionally or partially-traditionally notated piece with a mutable structural element that reflects this “innumerably different relationships of forms”. The Calder Piece itself involves an actual mobile which is performed upon (as can be seen in this charming gallery from a performance of the piece) and engages with other aspects of the mobile such as color, construction, material and so on. The Open Form is in my mind an ideal kind of implementation of one’s influences: it captures a genuine aspect of said influence and yet is not so dominated by it that it is of limited utility. That is to say that Open Forms was something that Earle Brown was able to utilize and develop throughout his career as a composer. In that way it is akin to John Cage’s use of the I-Ching to implement his notions of indeterminacy – a deep well that one could mine endlessly.

Sometimes the rain is hard to see (9 haiku)

Sometimes the Rain is Hard to See (9 Haiku)

 

Sometimes the Rain is Hard to See (9 Haiku) is a complex web of influences, intentions and methodology.  At the core though is the haiku and the poets to whom this project paid tribute. For the Eleven Clouds project, where a new piece was created each month, I delved into years worth of unrealized ideas, compositions and concepts.  I’d long wanted to do a project where I turned haiku into scores and for this project I finally realized that goal. I created a simple meta-score, that is to say a score for generating scores, that is used in concert with the generated score to create the realization.

Performing Haiku

1) Select a haiku
2) draw lines for each word whose length is determined by syllable count
3) Perform outdoors or bring the outdoors inside
4) Play an event whose duration is determined by length of the line.
5) Pause for a set amount of time between each “word”
6) Between each line pause for 3-6 times the length of (5)
7) Begin and end with a pause the duration of (6) or 2x(6)

I followed this direction using brushed ink on rice paper. For each individual recording I chose to use the prepared wire-strung harp as the instrument. The concept was that each piece was recorded open air, ideally out of doors, utilizing a single preparation. I chose eleven haiku from among my favorite Japanese and American poets and on a long scroll of rice paper brushed out the graphical element of the scores.

9 Haiku score fragment 1

A fragment of the original hand brushed (9 Haiku) score.

There was always meant to be Nine Haiku in this release but I recorded eleven for good measure.  For the object that was the result of this process was to be unique; nine individual objects for each of the 9 haiku.  For the construction of each object, I then copied the score onto rice paper which I hand stitched into an envelope utilizing a book binding stitching I had learned in elementary school.  The music was burnt onto square “business card” CD-R’s which were painted white which fit into these envelopes.  The final package was tied off with a red ribbon. The original description of the project:

Sometimes the rain is hard to see (9 haiku), the October entry in the Eleven Clouds project, are nine (9) individually handcrafted artifacts each one containing a singular piece of music. The culmination of several months of effort that began with a process that turns a haiku into a performable score, the selection of nine haiku (plus two), the creation of each score using brush and ink on rice paper, the recording of the score over a month (specific weather conditions were required), the editing and selection from among the takes of the most representative of each score, the development of the envelopes from rice paper which necessitated that they be bound by hand, the re-painting of the score onto the packaging, the creation of the labels, the preparing and burning of the cd-rs and finally the tying of the ribbon. Each one of this bespoke edition are unique from the score, to the music, to the packaging and each reflects this individuality. The music is a record of the artists explorations of the prepared wire strung with each recording utilizing a single technique, preparation or gesture. The score calls for the pieces to be performed out of doors (or the outdoors brought indoors) which makes for a varied accompaniment that is of course different session to session.

 

9 haiku No.2

This world of dew,
is but a world of dew,
and yet…
— Kobayashi Issa

As with all of the other Eleven Clouds releases the way the release was to be acquired varied. As I’ve explained in previous posts on this project this was part of the exploration of Music as Object and as well as often exploring various conceptual notions. When the conceptual was considered in this aspect of the project it was almost always to make the recipient a collaborator in the process. This was always to a greater or lesser extent and in this case while it was not a major factor (as compared to say 100 Black Kites or aleph) it was certain an important aspect. Again to quote the original press release:

Sometimes the rain is hard to see (9 haiku) is released in an addition of nine (9), each one a unique recording, in handmade packaging featuring the score performed within. In acknowledging the handcrafted aspect of this project these releases will be offered in trade for an item of your own making. Said item could be anything of your own creation that you are willing to mail out in trade: a handwritten poem, short story, a sketch, a piece of music, a fifty-ton cor-ten steel sculpture, a score of your own devising, a DVD, a 17 foot hand knitted scarf, a watercolor, or anything else that you have made yourself. Simply send electronic mail to the address below before November 12th stating your desire to trade for one of these and if one of the first nine to respond, you will be contacted with mailing information. All copies will be mailed out Saturday, November 13th; copies not claimed in trade will be mailed out randomly to previous Eleven Cloud recipients.

Five people engaged in this process sending me such objects as CD-Rs of their own music to little water color paintings. Three more were sent out randomly to those who had previously been sent releases. One release was kept as part of the archive which itself was considered the twelfth and final “release” in the project, titled aleph (there is more to aleph which perhaps I’ll write about at another time). There was at this point in this project a very small amount of people interested, but this group was pretty engaged with the project. As I’ve written elsewhere the degree of engagement in the project was somewhat discouraging, but (as also previously mentioned) I do tend to blame my own inadequacies in various aspects for this.

9 Haiku score 3

Another fragment of the original hand brushed (9 Haiku) score.

While I kept extensive notes throughout the project of recipients, communication, objects traded and so, by this point in the project other information was not being so rigorously maintained. For instance the oft cited essay No Ideas But In Things documented each release through August (47° 32′ 25.80″ N / 121° 54′ 32.0″ W) at which time I ceased writing it. Thus I do not have my specific motivations, thoughts, feelings and notions on record. Nor did I keep (at least that I can find now) a comprehensive list of the haiku that correspond to each of  the scores. I have to admit I find that rather unfathomable and I do have vague memories of writing them down to use for reference to create the graphical elements. These pages were never completely digitized (I have a document with a couple of them) and has been lost in the course of several moves. I do recall that the poems were by Issa, Bash?, Sant?ka, Snyder, Kerouac and Whalen but I can’t say with any confidence which poem goes to which score (beyond No. 2).

Beyond the lack of keeping more rigorous notes I also did not end up really exploring the secondary more ‘conceptual’ aspect of 9 Haiku which was that each individual recording could be thought of as a ‘leaf’ in a Calder Mobile. The idea here is that one can take each piece and play it in concert, starting each one independently, repeating each one as often or as infrequently as required and so on. The structure for this was only ever mentally sketched out and due to my lack of writing on this entry it is actually hard to say what I really intended at the time for this aspect. The individual pieces could all be played live as described, or the files could be arranged in a DAW, or one could take the individual rice paper scores and make them into a physical mobile and perform them as it lazily moves around. This last notion is definitely something I’ve long had in mind and this piece was certainly part of that.  The recordings released as part of this project, as their covers are the score, could certainly be tied onto a framework with their red ribbons and created into such a mobile. The bit of weight that is the CD-R in each one would help steady against light breezes. The far flung nature of the recipients who resided in Scotland, Maine, New Zealand, California, Spain, Texas, Australia  and Illinois makes assembling such a mobile seem very unlikely but to me just add to the notion.

9 Haiku score 2

Another fragment of the original hand brushed (9 Haiku) score.

 

I do hope that someday such a mobile will be constructed. But until then sharing files digitally is easy and as each portion becomes available then one mobile becomes more filled out.  Not monitoring online sharing sites I have no idea how much of it appeared online but now that I’m putting each of the releases out there myself and have described these intentions these forms can be experimented with. The two additional recordings I made, Haiku  No’s. 10 and 11 are also part of the archive being release allowing for one to create 9 Haiku from these eleven sources (though only 9 should be used in any one realization). Archives in lossless formats containing these 11 recordings, plus supplementary documents and images can be found here:
Sometimes the Rain is Hard to See (9 Haiku)

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