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jason on 06/14/2010 at 03:00PM

Jason Ajemian & The Highlife: Let Me Get That Digital

Jason Ajemian & The HighLIfe live (image CC by-nc-sa via rvajazz.rvanews on flickr

Jason Ajemian & The Highlife is a sixpiece jazz/rock ensemble from Chicago, working off of scores that Jason Ajemian composed using the Architectural Drafting software program "AutoCAD". The CAD stands for Computer Aided Drafting, but you'd never be able to tell as the result feels so fluid and organic. Or maybe it is apparent, since AutoCAD is a useful tool for designing three-dimensional works of art.

As a bass player, composer, and improvisor Jason Ajemian has played a part in an array of projects including Born Heller (with Josephine Foster), Who Cares How Long You Sink, Lay All Over It, Hush Arbors, Helado Negro (Asthmattic Kitty), Dragons 1976, and collaborations with Mary Halvorson and Ken Vandermark. Highlife brings these various endeavors together with a mix of styles both composed and improvised, guided by children and computers alike.

"Monsters" is from the Monsters and Animals 7'', with songs inspired by Ajemian's three-year-old niece Madeline. "Soak Up the Sun" is from the new album, Let Me Get That Digital. Both releases are available for pre-order from Ajemian's own Sundmagi label, where a donation of any amount will also allow you to "get that digital" (in mp3 format) of any Sundmagi release, including "a performance transcribing Black Sabbath's Into the Void from 1971 to a new version of the song performed backwards by a ten piece orchestra with a vocal accompaniment."

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katya-oddio on 06/14/2010 at 09:30AM

Bach for Piano

detail from album cover

Brazillian pianist Felipe Sarro performs original works by German Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as nine transcriptions of Bach's work for piano by Russian composer Alexander Ilyich Siloti. Sarro performed all pieces on a Grotrian-Steinweg Concertino piano.

There are over 1,000 known compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalogue) is a numbering system identifying his compositions. The prefix BWV, followed by the work's number is the shorthand identification for Bach's compositions. The works in the BWV are grouped thematically, not chronologically.

Sarro begins the CD with one of the six suites written for the clavier (harpsichord or clavichord) between 1722 and 1725 known as "The French Suites." The suite is followed by the Sinfonia No. 11 in G minor. It is part of the "Inventions and Sinfonias," a collection of 30 short keyboard compositions composed between 1685 and 1750, consisting of fifteen inventions (two-part contrapuntal  pieces) and fifteen sinfonias (three-part contrapuntal pieces). They were originally written by Bach as exercises for the musical education of his students. He titled the collection:

"Honest method, by which the amateurs of the keyboard – especially, however, those desirous of learning – are shown a clear way not only (1) to learn to play cleanly in two parts, but also, after further progress, (2) to handle three obligate parts correctly and well; and along with this not only to obtain good inventions (ideas) but to develop the same well; above all, however, to achieve a cantabile style in playing and at the same time acquire a strong foretaste of composition."

Quite the title!

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macedonia on 06/12/2010 at 01:06PM

With Regards To Richmond...

Mark Herbkersman, the core of Friends Or Whatever.

Those who dig through Creative Commons crates on the regular probably are familiar with blocSonic releases, all of which have been hip-hop or downtempo up until now.  However, to get hung up on that fact is to ignore their genre-busting netBloc series, which has consistently schooled us on choice netaudio selections from around the world, no matter what musical category they get filed under.  It is this series that sets the stage for blocSonic's latest release, the self-titled debut album from Friends or Whatever.

Clearly something wonderful is happening in Richmond, Virginia.  It's from out of this region that producer Just Plain Ant was called upon to deliver blocSonic's first original release, the sensational Dig Deep album.  Guitarist/producer Mark Herbkersman is another product of Richmond and the sole member of Friends or Whatever, writing and performing all the songs.  Both singles, "The Burns We Earn" and "Stuck In My Soul," have already seen remix support from the likes of Just Plain Ant, Tha Silent Partner, and a host of others.

If you like the rock/electronica hybrid that Phantogram presented us with last year, you're sure to appreciate this album.  The abrasive guitars and jaded lyrical contemplations of "Piss Test" and "Shattered" ride alongside the synth-driven hypnosis of "Everybody Stopped Calling Me," its percussive accents sounding like digital cicadas.  There's even a brief moment set aside for the futuristic beats of "Smoke Floats" and the ironic lounge of "Richmond Is Killing Us All."  It's an auspicious debut that wouldn't sound out of place on Warp Records or Ghostly International. 

Respect is due to Mark for sharing his FoW album with the world through Creative Commons means and thanks to blocSonic for making this one available through the Free Music Archive.  The attached songs below, "If Everybody Here Knew Me" and "The Terminal Replies," further explore the guitar-driven and keyboard-laden terrain that this release resides within...

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pop, electronic, indie-rock
jason on 06/11/2010 at 04:53PM

BNegão & Os Seletores de Freqüência: Explosive Brazilian hip-hop/dub

BNegão (center) e Os Selectores de Freqüência

Enxugando Gelo (Drying Ice) by BNegão e Os Selectores de Freqüência was not only one of the most acclaimed Brazilian music releases of 2003, but also a prominent early example of Creative Commons-licensed music in Brazil. BNegão posted the album to his website a month after its commercial release, and I found it through Overmixter, a Brazilian collaboration between Overmundo and ccMixter.

Bernardo "BNegão" Santos (born 1973 in Rio De Janeiro) is a former member of the Brazilian hip-hop collective Planet Hemp, where he shared lead vocal duties with Marcelo D2 and became the group's lyricist. Following a solo debut, Enxugando Gelo was BNegão's first album with Seletores de Freqüência, a full band featuring Gabriel Muzak on guitar, drummer Pedro Garcia, Kalunga on bass, DJ Rodrigues, vocalist Paulo dos Santos and Pedrão on trumpet. The music is an explosive fusion of hip-hop, bossa, samba, metal ("Qual é o seu nome" is super hard rock), and funk with a heavy dose of dub (dig the spaced-out "O oppositor").

BNegão is recognized for his lyrical wit, and a few of these tracks ("Nova Visão", "Enxugando Gelo" "A Verdadeira Dança do Patinho") contain lyrics that criticize the Brazilian government. You can delve into the lyrics here, and even use Google Translate to convert them from Portuguese to another language if you are so inclined.

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andrewcsmith on 06/11/2010 at 09:00AM

Banjo, plus a dozen and a half strings

Photo by Lori Baily

It seems statistically improbable that we would have two entirely unrelated artists playing modified banjos (extended banjos? prepared banjos?) in the space of a few weeks, but that's how we roll. The night before Uncle Woody Sullender broke out his electro-acoustic transducer banjo, Paul Metzger brought his own techniques to the floor. Metzger plays purely acoustic, but the spirit is so close to Sullender's that they seem like a perfect pair; instead of electro-acoustic drones and resonances, Metzger has added a dozen and a half strings to his instrument. Some of these strings are added to the neck of the banjo, which seems to be set up somewhat like a twelve-string guitar; others run from the top of the banjo's drum head to the bridge, and these resonate sympathetically with his playing. The bridge also seems to be raised, as Metzger bows the instrument at times.

It is impossible to discuss Paul Metzger's music without mentioning the seeming influence of Indian raga, from the modal harmonies and gliding inflections to the way the rhythm often clips along at a steady pulse without fitting into small accented phrases. Metzger's banjo doesn't ring quite like a sitar, though--it packs the punch of something like the Afghan rubab, that fretted plucked-string instrument where the whole set of sympathetic strings vibrates at once against the same membrane as the melody strings.

But comparisons are somewhat inconsequential to Metzger's music. He has his own well-wrought world, and the most immediately apparent aspect to his music is the clarity with which he conveys it. His long, partially improvised performance "The Uses of Infinity" (out soon on Locust Music) bears some resemblance to La Monte Young's ongoing work "The Well-Tuned Piano" in that it moves among harmonic areas, contrasting clouds of sound with moments of near-stasis. Moreover, it is an immensely physical performance, as emotionally immediate as it is structured in a larger sense.

Below is the last third of the performance, which expands to roughly 20 minutes on the album.

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paul metzger, banjo
katya-oddio on 06/10/2010 at 03:00PM

The Kazoo Funk Orchestra

Glasgow has been a center of learning since the middle ages. It was the focus of the Scottish Enlightment in the 18th century. It has been the site of major leaps in engineering. It has been a city of fearless, forward thinking people for centuries. Glasgow's Kazoo Funk Orchestra approaches pop music with the same fearless Scottish method. They are a pop band having fun and inviting you in on the joke.

Fall in love with Scottish fearlessness -- even in pop music! Enjoy the albums MIDNIGHT FINGER PAINTER and ADVENTURES IN FUZZY FELT LAND in full here at the FMA.

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scotland, lo-fi, indie-pop, pop, rock
andrewcsmith on 06/10/2010 at 09:00AM

Double the reeds, double the fun

Michael Kenney's schematic of his sculpture machine

These low growls, short ecstatic bursts of energy, distant soft whispers are all something that seem like they shouldn't be within the limits of any single instrument. Katherine Young's bassoon, in harmonic counterpoint to itself, contains the whole spectrum of timbres and sounds, from the resonant open ones to the terse, dissonant multiphonics that are unstable even as single tones. This whole gamut is deployed in the service of this unmerciful instrumentation of a rock band, plus electric violin, and the orchestra expat is left to ably muscle its way through the crowd.

Not that Young is working in a cheap pastiche of rock + classical + free jazz; the ideas are all there, and it begins with the expansion and discovery of hearing the fiendish double reed sighing, shouting, whistling or humming, and almost go bel canto for a moment or two. She's content to cede the floor sometimes to her rhythm section, but when she comes back it's as another intrument, fed through reverb and distortion pedals in the top register. It's these moments of total immersion in the sound, dissociating associations and reconstructing new ones, that make the performance stand repeated listens.

Young received one of ISSUE's Emerging Artists Commission Grant for 2010, so tonight at 8:30 she'll be performing Releasing Bound Water in Green Material involving a quartet of wind and brass (Dan Peck, tuba; Nathaniel Morgan, saxophone; Jacob Wick and Brad Henkel, trumpets), trio of percussion (TimeTable: A. Lipowski, M. Gold, M. Ward), duo of synth (Jeff Snyder) and keyboard (Emily Manzo), visuals by Michael Kenney ("a sculpture that externalizes its insides, projecting memories of the objects it contains"), and, one can only assume, a bassoon. For now, though, check out the first piece from Young's performance at the Porter Records Showcase back in March, and her well acclaimed debut on that label, Further Secret Origins.

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jason on 06/09/2010 at 09:30AM

Pod-safe Instrumental Themes

brainstorm image Creative Commons BY @boetter via flickr

My friend Paul asked if I had any pod-safe instrumental music suggestions for his public radio show pilot. He'd already found the YACHT instrumental album, and these Woodgrain Session tracks by NJ's hip-hop producer Pre, and was looking for more in that vein. So I compiled this mix of Creative Commons-licensed instrumental jams.

A few of these tracks have vocals ("Mirror Friends" at the beginning, spinningmerkaba has the refrain "Inspire Me Forever" and Thick Business has some subtle vocoder) but I think they'd all make great, unobtrusive music to listen to at the begging of an online radio show.

If you click on the name of the track (or press the "i") you'll see the Creative Commons license with the terms by which the music  can be used. All CC licenses require attribution, and these tracks also include the NonCommercial clause. Some have have the ShareAlike clause, meaning that if the work is modified for inclusion in the podcast, the podcast itself would also need to be distributed under a Creative Commons license. A few have a NoDerivatives clause, which means the song cannot be remixed, modified, or included in a new work like a video (a podcast is ok though because it is a "collective work"). As with all CC licenses, any of these conditions can be waived with permission from the rights-holder. Creative Commons' Podcasting Legal Guide goes into these issues more in-depth if you'd like to research further.

The track page also lists other people who've liked the song, or included them on their own mixes (some of them I've mixed before too!), so it may lead to other FMA finds. If you're on the prowl for CC instrumentals in particular, you can always filter your search results for pod-safe instrumentals. I'd also check out Bennett4Senate's Tracks to Sync series, and this mix of CC-BY and CC-BY-NC music as heard on CBC Radio's tech/culture show Spark.

One browsing method currently in development is a recommendation system where you can enter the name of an artist whose music you're looking for, some criteria about how you're looking to use it (i.e. in a video? is it a 'commercial' use?), and the FMA will offer some suggestions from our library. So in other words, what I just did for Paul could be replaced by an algorithm...but of course we'll still have curators and people like you to joining in on all the music sharing here on the Free Music Archive, it'll just be another way to discover exactly what you're looking for, whether you know it or not.

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katya-oddio on 06/08/2010 at 01:00PM

Manguebeat from Mombojo

The manguebeat movement is a cultural movement created circa 1991 in the city of Recife in Northeast Brazil as a response to the city's cultural and economical stagnation.

The original movement named itself mangue bit, "mangue" for Recife's mangroves and "bit" to the computer bit central to the movement's electronic music influences. Since then, mangue bit has been more commonly called manguebeat.

The stylistic origins of the music are in maracatu, punk rock, hip hop, samba, Brazilian folk music, and psychedelic rock. The first wave appeared in the 1990s. Mombojó is part of the second wave of the manguebeat movement. They were featured in MTV's coverage (Sintonizando Recife) of manguebeat along with fellow bands China and Maquinado.

Enjoy Mombojó's album NADADENOVO here at the FMA.

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herr_professor on 06/08/2010 at 09:00AM

minus the baby

Since introduced to the FMA a lil over a year ago, Richard Alexander Caraballo, aka minusbaby has been very active here (and elsewhere) with various FMA uploads, and an appearance at the Manhattan Highline a few weeks ago on DJ Trent's show along with DJ/rupture. Keen FMA watchers might've missed his most recent upload, however, Strong Arctic Winds Take Terns: Fourteen Songs Written and Recorded Between 2003 and 2004.

The songs skirt the definitions of what make chip music chip, but deliberately engage the pleasure center of the brain, and make a great early summer soundtrack for those looking for an audio chill-out from hot June nights. Check out them, and the rest of the tracks minusbaby has added in the last year. and catch you guys next week.

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dj rupture, wfmu, minusbaby
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