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andrewcsmith on 09/11/2010 at 07:00AM

Lainie Fefferman: Tekiah, for bagpipes

Lainie Fefferman's "Tekiah" takes its name from the blasting of a ram's horn (called a shofar) during the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Jewish services. Matt Welch's bagpipes aren't quite ram's horns, but it's not as if the rest of the setting is traditional either: blasts processed and projected through the fifteen hanging hemispherical speakers, alternating between digital reverb-drenched inharmonic drones and dry, transparent shouts.

This antiphony between the immediacy of the bagpipes—with all their folk significations and assumed compositional constraints—and the seemingly limitless ability of digital technology, is used to create the illusion of space, and to find the line where the recorded and the live instrument are separated. In moments like the one about eight minutes in, when the reverb quietens and inharmonic pitches begin to drift apart, the line between these live and recorded sounds seems to disappear.

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andrewcsmith on 04/16/2010 at 12:11PM

More from the Porter Records Showcase

Matt Bauder (center) with his ensemble

Last week’s Nate Wooley post neglected to mention that his performance was part of a Porter Records showcase (I have an excuse: his performance had little to do with his fantastic Porter Records release, Throw Down Your Hammer and Sing, which includes electronics, cello, and bass).

Florida-based Porter Records, founded in 2005 by Luke Mosling as a way to reissue bits of his record collection that were no longer around, has since released recordings encompassing free jazz/improv, electronic, hip hop, international, and otherwise experimental music.

March 23 and 24 saw six sets of these performances at ISSUE, some of which were taken straight from Porter CDs and others that went in a different direction. Best of all, something close to the entire cast of musicians came to both nights, and almost all of them played in Matthew Welch’s Blarvuster Big Band. The two sets for today are somewhere between improvisation and composition, and it’s tough to tell when exactly they cross that line.

The first, from Matt Bauder’s May 18 release on Porter Records, is “Paper Gardens.” Bauder’s modular suite pivots between soft chords that seem to undulate without moving and moments where the saxes turn into other, more percussive instruments. Bauder plays with his woodwind group—the four wind players rotate through two tenor saxes, two clarinets, soprano sax, alto sax, and a bass clarinet, accompanied by an upright bassist—and he seems on a mission to detach the instrument from its jazz connotations.

The momentary cells in Bauder’s music repeat a few times, then arbitrarily stop. Beginning many of his sections with unisons allows Bauder to slowly branch out into clusters and sometimes even chords; he treats all motions as timbral rather than harmonic shifts. Many of the moments seem to break away from written material, like they are working with a theme or instruction rather than notation.

The second set for today, from Matthew Welch’s Celtic/funk/post-minimalist Blarvuster  Big Band, takes a little bit from a few different continents. The bagpipes figure heavily in Welch’s “Blind Piper’s Obstinacy #1,” where the seemingly-unending lines are transformed into time signature-unbound funk bass lines that meander without ever really finding a pocket to rest in. Under all this, a huge ensemble entwines lines in every direction before coming back to the occasional short unison riff. This recording features Welch’s regular-sized Blarvuster along with all five other artists from the two-night stint: Bauder, Wooley, Andrew Raffo Dewar, Jeremiah Cymerman, and Katherine Young.

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