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andrewcsmith on 09/13/2011 at 12:00PM

Minor Musics: Japan – Not quite silence

Annette Krebs & Taku Unami / Photo by Yuko Zama

On September 16 & 17, ISSUE Project Room will present the series Minor Musics: Japan, highlighting a number of musicians associated with two geographically divergent but aesthetically related groups: Onkyo, in Tokyo, and Wandelweister, based primarily in continental Europe. Both of these groups are intensely invested in silence as a compositional and improvisational element, and the two-night event at ISSUE places them in solo and collaborative settings. The performers will include Taku Sugimoto, Taku Unami, Takahiro Kawaguchi, Moe Kamura, as well as Annette Krebs and Radu Malfatti.

The selection below is from the Annette Krebs and Taku Unami duo album motubachii, recently released on Erstwhile Records. In this album, seemingly musical sounds are juxtaposed with ambient noises, like sounds from a TV or radio playing in the background, or feet shuffling. It's ambient music by another means: rather than making making musical elements into furniture, the piece invites the listener to listen closely to the furniture of the everyday sonic world, placing it alongside manufactured and manipulated acoustic and electroacoustic sounds. 

The duo will perform this Friday night (more info | Buy Tickets), along with a duo performance by Radu Malfatti/Taku Sugimoto and a solo performance by Takahiro Kawaguchi. Both artists will also perform Saturday (more info | Buy Tickets) in various other duos (Taku Unami & Takahiro Kawaguchi, Annette Krebs & Taku Sugimoto, and Moe Kamura & Taku Sugimoto). Be sure not to miss this rare chance for a glimpse into one of Japan's most vital underground artistic movements.

Minor Musics: Japan is made possible, in part, by generous support from Japan Foundation NY.

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mwalker on 09/07/2011 at 12:20AM


Prince Rama returns with their cult of The Now Age.

Back in February, Prince Rama emerged from a haze of smoke and mylar mirrors to assume the guise of The Now Age, a pseudo-utopian cult eager to lead their followers through a transformative series of rituals and initiations. Having reincarnated ISSUE's loft space as a cosmic aerobic center, glittering and psychedelic, the Larson sisters woke the sleeping audience with generous sprinkles of perfume and chakra water to lead them through an 8-hour marathon of body- and mind-altering exorcise/exercise routines -- part Jane Fonda, part Jodorowsky. Below, view some highlights from the exhausting rituals that left me cleansed of demons and self-identity (and unable to walk the next day).

This Thursday (September 8), Prince Rama will return as The Now Age to guide us through the next cycle of transformation, taking the form of a free-for-all, 4-hour jam session. With the aid of roughly 400 pounds of soil, ISSUE will again metamorphose into a sacred space -- removed from time and space and yet inextricably connected to the present moment -- for housing advanced rituals in which the audience and their shamanic leaders engage in utopian musical creation as "a poetic reenactment and microcosmic creation of an ideal democratic society." All participants are encouraged to please bring along their instrument of choice. Read more about the free event and RSVP here.

To ready your mind and body for the next stage of the journey, Prince Rama have shared their new single "Rest In Peace," off their forthcoming LP Trust Now (dropping on Paw Tracks on October 4). If you find yourself in need of more preparation, you can revisit their fantastic in-studio from Brian Turner's show here.

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andrewcsmith on 06/14/2011 at 09:00AM

Immediacy in a reverberant space

Photo by Brad Buehring

This past week, ISSUE held a reception and short concert by our Artists-in-Residence Nate Wooley & James Ilgenfritz [Artist-in-Residence Nate Wooley with MIVOS Quartet + Peter Evans: Saturday, 6/18, FREE | RSVP] at our future home at 110 Livingston in Downtown Brooklyn. This space, which has previously hosted more than a few string quartets, William Basinski, Ellen Fullman, and a solo acoustic (amplified) performance by Elliott Sharp, had still barely touched the performance style that makes up a healthy portion of our programming: free improvisation. Both Nate and James seem to approach improvisation as an act of listening. They leave ample space for silence, and even when playing solo don't merely rattle off licks learned in middle school. The immediacy of their playing and their mental and emotional presence in the room is always felt.

This performance at 110 Livingston (their first public performance as a duo) seemed to amplify the artists' awareness of their own sound. This highly reverberant space has not yet been acoustically treated, and when there are few other people and no furniture it's difficult to even have a conversation in the room; any word spoken just bounces around the room for 7-8 seconds. So a duo performance by these two virtuoso listeners cannot help but include the room in the equation. The sounds are held, or blasted into the room. But they always step back to listen to the full sound. It's always about the result, and about the aggregate of sounds heard, not only spoken; it's not about the player.

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andrewcsmith on 06/10/2011 at 12:18PM

Wet Ink Ensemble @ ISSUE Project Room

Photo by Peter Gannushkin: DOWNTOWNMUSIC.NET

If Wet Ink Ensemble existed when "uptown" and "downtown" still had meaning, much of their programming would seem to land them decidedly north of 34th St. But like the capital-D Downtown groups, the bread and butter of their programming comes from the ensemble members themselves, with composers such as Alex Mincek, Kate Soper, Eric Wubbels, Sam Pluta, playing vital roles in the group. Lately, inching toward its teenage years, the ensemble has started to program ambitious portrait concerts of underheard-in-America European composers like Peter Ablinger and Matthias Spangler, usually in places like Columbia's Miller Theater or various cultural centers.

However, Wet Ink always seems to make two or three appearances a year at ISSUE. Tonight, for the annual Darmstadt Institute, Wet Ink Ensemble will play new works by composer, trombonist, early AACM member, and Columbia professor George Lewis, vocalist Kate Soper, and pianist Eric Wubbels, with older works by Rick Burkhardt and Alex Mincek. The tracks below are saxophone & piano duos from the group's March 2010 concert at ISSUE: "Pendulum III" by saxophonist and Artistic Director Alex Mincek; and "this is this is this is" by pianist and Executive Director Eric Wubbels.

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andrewcsmith on 06/03/2011 at 11:45AM

Darmstadt "Classics of the Avant-Garde" Institute 2011

(L-R) Jennifer Walshe, Larry Austin, John Moran, David Borden, Saori Tsukada

ISSUE Project Room's annual Darmstadt Institute — which borrows the name (if not polemic) of the famous incubator of post-WWII difficult music — runs throughout the month of June, with imports like John Moran & Saori, Terre Thaemlitz (aka DJ Sprinkles), and Jennifer Walshe; Darmstadt stalwarts like TILT Brass, Claire Chase & Rebekeh Heller, and the Wet Ink Ensemble; and some revivals of underrepresented American artists such as David Borden's Mother Mallard Portable Masterpiece Co. and Larry Austin. Almost all of these artists are represented in the mix directly to the right of these words, in works ranging from late-70s pieces by Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co. – one of the first-ever synthesizer ensembles, counting Robert Moog and David Tudor among its members – to an improvisation by inimitable pianist Thollem McDonas, recorded last year in the Can Factory.

We'll continue adding to this mix, as we excavate more recordings from the seemingly endless ISSUE archive, and feature tracks from artists once or twice a week. For now, though, check out the full Institute schedule and, if you're in town, check us out.

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andrewcsmith on 05/26/2011 at 12:44PM

Jooklo Duo + Bill Nace

Tonight (5/26/11) at ISSUE, we're bringing together two artists of ecstatic noise. The Italian group Jooklo Duo, having recently played in Philadelphia, Somerville, and around the U.S. in support of their new album The Warrior on Northern-Spy Records, and guitarist Bill Nace will each play their own sets, followed by a collaborative trio set. Also worth mentioning: Jooklo Duo will be on Scott McDowell's show The Long Rally tomorrow morning from 9 am.

The first time I heard Jooklo Duo (not until recently, unforutunately) I thought there was something wrong. This recording sounds a little like someone turned a microcassette recorder to full amplitude and dropped it down a saxophone. But, in that way, it sounds perfect—capturing the greater spirit of a live performance, without the inclination to make the instrument sound like it's in a real room, or to soften the edges. Instead, it's like an early bop track with so much to say and very little time to say it all. And after four and a half minutes, although there's an impression that they could have gone on longer, the track ends with a hit that seems like, even though they're getting cut off by the recording engineer, they'll finish up their allotted time and leave no room for a response. Bill Nace, always driving his guitar past the point of drive into a distortion, detaches from the solo electric guitar drone-set playbook. It's all about nearly breaking the instrument, or the amplifier, or your ears, and shaping a wall of sound that lacks the spectral coherence of Stephen O'Malley or Glenn Branca's open strings while still containing an internal logic.

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jooklo duo, bill nace
10khrs on 05/09/2011 at 03:40PM

Ten Thousand Hours: Vinny Golia

Composer, multi-instrumentalist, educator, and record label enterpreneur Vinny Golia discusses his unlikely entrance into improvised music, going from his cover artwork for albums by Chick Corea (The Song of Singing), Joe Henderson, and Dave Holland / Barre Phillips (the seminal Music From Two basses), to his acquisition of a Selmer Mark VI soprano saxophone, replete with metal mouthpiece to match the setup of his idol John Coltrane. He then goes on to discuss some experiments in Grand Central Station, his emigration to the west coast, and the gradual expansion of his staggerinly diverse collection of woodwind instruments. He discusses the development of his improvisational and compositional style, and his recent set of recordings featuring compositions for Like Instruments (one CD each for music featuring flutes, clarinets, Eb saxohpones, and Bb saxophones). He discusses his work with his record label Nine Winds and his stint curating half of April’s concerts at The Stone in New York. Also included are a handful of duo improvisations with host James Ilgenfritz.

As a composer Vinny Golia fuses the rich heritage of Jazz, contemporary classical and world music into his own unique compositions. Also a bandleader, Golia has presented his music to concert audiences in Europe, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the United States in ensembles varying dramatically in size and instrumentation. Mr. Golia has won numerous awards as a composer, including grants from The National Endowment of the Arts, The Lila Wallace Commissioning Program, The California Arts Council, Meet the Composer,Clausen Foundation of the Arts, Funds for U.S. Artists and the American Composers Forum. In 1982 he created the on-going 50 piece Vinny Golia Large Ensemble to perform his compositions for chamber orchestra and jazz ensembles. Vinny has been a featured performer with Anthony Braxton, Henry Grimes, John Carter, Bobby Bradford, Joelle Leandre, Leo Smith, Horace Tapscott, John Zorn, Tim Berne, Bertram Turetzky, George Lewis, Barre Phillips, The Rova Saxophone Quartet, Patti Smith, Harry “the Hipster” Gibson, Eugene Chadburne, Kevin Ayers, Peter Kowald, John Bergamo, George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band, Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennick, Lydia Lunch, Harry Sparrney and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra amongst many others. He currently teaches at California Institute of the Arts.

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andrewcsmith on 05/06/2011 at 03:00PM

Ellen Fullman's Long String Instrument

Photo by Judy Dater

In the early 1980s, Ellen Fullman began developing the "Long String Instrument," stringing tuned piano wire across her Brooklyn studio. In the last thirty years, she has moved this instrument all over the country, and for one day she'll perform in ISSUE Project Room's new space at 110 Livingston, in Downtown Brooklyn (May 22: 3 pm & 7 pm: brand-new ISSUE members get two free tickets). It's been compared to standing inside an enormous grand piano, or "some cyclopean subterranean grotto" (The Wire). She has an upcoming release on Important Records, Through Glass Panes, and the mix below includes a few of these tracks as well as collaborations with the artists she'll be joined by later this month.

These comparisons, like "standing inside an enormous grand piano," don't quite convey the symbiosis between Fullman's instrument and her way of playing it. It's true, the audience is sitting in a room with seventy 80-foot, precisely tuned wires strung across it, but the comparison seems to fall apart when you realize you've never quite heard a piano that sounds like this. Instead of playing digitally, Fullman's playing seems to live on the threshold of audibility. The on/off of the piano seems distant — can a light brush on a single string be counted as a "note," in the same way that pressing a key constitutes a note?

The careful tuning of the strings causes sympathetic resonances among them. The wire is strung between resonator boxes made of Sitka spruce, built by a harp builder, and the sound is entirely acoustic. This setup, which on the surface seems simple, like a giant guitar with no frets or a harp with no pedals, creates infinitely complex resonances and acoustic effects. In a resonant space, the line between the instrument sounding and not sounding could be blurred.

The uploaded tracks include collaborations with the musicians she'll be performing with on May 22. Through Glass Panes, her new CD on Important Records, includes a duet with Theresa Wong, "Never Gets Out of Me," and other tracks include a duet with percussionist Sean Meehan ("untitled 3," out on cut), electronic musician David Gamper, and trombonist Monique Buzzarté ("Fluctuation 5," from the album Fluctuations on Pauline Oliveros's Deep Listening label).

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beausievers on 05/02/2011 at 05:28PM

The Rat Bastard Experience

The Rat Bastard Experience at ISSUE Project Room, January 29. Photo by Lori Baily. View more photos.

Weasel Walter is involved in a number of different projects, including an upcoming set with Paul Flaherty, C. Spencer Yeh, and Steve Swell at ISSUE Project Room on Friday. But The Rat Bastard Experience, led by Cecil Taylor Unit drummer Marc Edwards, is unique. The band played at ISSUE Project Room on January 29th. A partial transcription of their performance follows.


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andrewcsmith on 04/29/2011 at 10:32AM

Table of the Elements: The Copernicium Festival

Image from Robert Longo's Pictures for Music (1979), which will be shown with a performance of Rhys Chatham's Guitar Trio on May 13, 2011, at ISSUE Project Room.

The label Table of the Elements lives up to its name: nothing more than elemental, and nothing short of encyclopedic. They’ve released a 4-CD box set by Tony Conrad titled “Early Minimalism,” and they’ve kept available a number of truly foundational works by Rhys Chatham, among them “Two Gongs” and “Die Donnergotter.” The concept of cover art was reinvented in the early age of the CD; a 128 page book was included with the 7-disc Charley Patton revival collection “Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues,” where used copies fetch around $200 on Amazon. The list goes on and on, with a dual focus on the avant-garde and on so-called primitive American musics: from John Fahey’s fingerpicking to Zeena Parkins’ electro-acoustic harp.

But the periodic table is only so large, and eighteen years later the label has reached the end of it. To celebrate this occasion, the label has assembled a three-night Copernicium Festival (May 12 – 14, $20 a night or $15 for ISSUE members) as a massive sendoff, with artists ranging from Stephen O’Malley, to Jonathan Kane’s February, to Tony Conrad, to Zeena Parkins, to a performance of Rhys Chatham’s Guitar Trio with a small guitar army. It’ll traverse minimalism, blues, death metal, free improvisation, film, and visual art (with projections of Robert Longo’s Pictures for Music from 1979).

I’ve uploaded tracks from Jonathan Kane’s February releases February and Jet Ear Party, as well as a recording of Zeena Parkins’ March 2010 duo with violinist Jon Rose. The mix also includes a track from Peg Simone’s performance at ISSUE which later appeared on her Table of the Elements release Secrets from the Storm, and a live performance by death-sludge-metal artists Sunn O))), whose Stephen O’Malley will headline the final night of the series. Check out the attached mix, and come by any or all of the three nights to celebrate the conclusion of a great label.

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