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natewooley on 08/19/2011 at 04:39PM

Appreciating the Open Space

Benjamin Boretz and Mary Lee Roberts of the Open Space

We're in a golden age of listening right now.  Of course, the dissemination of new music has been greatly broadened due to the ubiquity of the internet and things like Sound Cloud and Band Camp.  That's one level of the new model of making music, and it has it's beauty.  For some reason, whenever I run across a sound cloud track of weird prog rock from Italy or yet another dub remix of the Imperial March from Star Wars, I wonder if this is what someone like Cornelius Cardew or Hans Werner Henze (during his "music for the people" phase) had in mind when trying to connect with the masses through new music.  Something tells me that it isn't, but that they would appreciate it on a certain level anyway. 

The next level is the proliferation of apartment sized record labels.  This is a commitment.  This is about serious people being serious about serious music.  It doesn't matter if it's grime or dubstep or lower case or ultra-minimalism.  These are the believers, the proselytizers and the people that we need to bake cookies for and buy a beer the next time we see them at the local bar.  They are sleeping on boxes of CDs and LPs.  They are desperately trying to get someone else's music noticed by the press and the listening public because they believe in it and think you should too. If there is anything that even begins to make up for the amount of my time the internet has wasted, the fact that it is easier for these people to exist has more than made up for it.

But, this post is about the OGs...the original proselytizers and educators, some who have stuck in there for years, bringing those that find their way to them a little joy and something new to think about...these are labels like Pogus, Mode, XI, Lovely Music, CRI, New World, Aum Fidelity, Tzadik, Intransitive, Broken Research, and the list goes on and on.  Some have sadly fallen to the dust, but others are going strong.  All of them existed before owning a label was easy and cool.

The Open Space is one such label.  Run alongside a publishing concern of the same name, Open Space has consistently had the good faith, courage, and audacity to produce music 99.9% of even the experimental labels active even now would most likely deem "marginal".  Note that "marginal" does not mean "unimportant".  When I began at DRAM, this label was a complete mystery to me.  The covers were very plain: white background, black lettering with the names of the composers and compositions on the cover.  I was attracted to them in the same way I was originally attracted to the simplicity of old Jandek LP covers.  I started diving in and listening to the pieces.  I didn't like them all.  That's easy to admit for any label.  However, there was an excitement of knowing you were going to get something new and fresh, something to think about and argue with your friends over in our cubicles.  That excites me. That's what music should do, right?  Well, the Open Space is doing it.

I was lucky enough to speak with Benjamin Boretz, who runs the label and whose music is featured prominently (as is J.K. Randall among others).  He was able to give me a very succinct philosophical synopsis of the way the Open Space works, and I think it makes more sense to leave you with that and a very generous playlist of some of my favorite pieces from the label, then to add any more of my memory and coloring to the proceeding.  I will say this though;

Open Space and labels like it....new and old....deserve your respect and attention.  They have a lot to offer.  I know FMA is the digital choir loft that I'm preaching too, but even us heavily enlightened types can forget to say thank you to the people that fill our ears with wonder sometimes.

OPEN SPACE Publications, and THE OPEN SPACE Magazine, are output from a community for people who need to explore or expand the limits of their expressive worlds, to extend or dissolve the boundaries among their expressive-language practices, to experiment with the forms or subjects of thinking or making or performing in the context of creative phenomena.

We want to create a hospitable space for texts which, in one way or another, might feel somewhat marginal — or too 'under construction' — for other, kindred publications.

The people who populate our contributing/editing/reading/listening community are composers (in whatever medium), performers, historians, ethnologists, theorists, critics, philosophers, scholars and seekers of any kind who feel drawn to participate with us in scouting expressive frontiers. We hope you'll want to join this exchange.

-Benjamin Boretz

This is just a smattering of the works available in the Open Space.  I suggest you spend sometime at their website or with their work in DRAM and really check out the wide variety of composers, instrumentations, and musical experiments that are available.

 

1. J.K. Randall: Cleophila, performed by Martha Elliott, voice

2. Elaine Barkin: Three Rhapsodies-Rhapsody On A Rhapsody, performed by Ian Greitzer, clarinet; Susan Gall, alto flute; Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin, piccolo and flute

3. Mary Lee Roberts: Eusebio Consumed: II-Dialoguing with the Ventana Sea Nymphs, preparation by Mary Lee Roberts, electronics

4. George Cacioppo: Moves Upon Silence, performed by University of Michigan Percussion Ensemble

5. Dorota Czerner: Caves, performed by Dorota Czerner, voice; Benjamin Boretz, electronics

6. Benjamin Boretz: Language, as a music: II. Argument, performed by Benjamin Boretz, piano

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