Monday, February 13, 2012

mystical (ludic) syntax

one of my recent purchases (absolute bargain in leo's year end sale!) was the confusingly-mistitled gtm (syntax) 2003, which actually dates from 2007. if i'm going to be picky about this (and when am i not? let's face it), the vocalist's name is also repeatedly spelt wrongly (as well as correctly!) on the cd - ann rhodes for anne rhodes, director of the syntactical ghost trance choir, and also mrs carl testa apparently... i knew nothing about this, not being that far into the loop, but it seems that b's longtime bassist (taking over from chris dahlgren, pretty much) is also half of what-may-or-may-not-be the first proper braxtonian couple, as it were, which is in any case a tremendously welcome development, wedding as it does the love of music with that other kind of love; herein we begin to glimpse the possibilities of the virtuous circle or ascending spiral, seldom considered (its evil twin so much the more common in our imperfect lives).

- and it would have been silly to buy the one without the other: gtm (outpost) 2003, which actually does date from that year; though even here there remains some doubt about the actual date of the performance. (no, this one was not recorded at wesleyan for a change!) the first half of this one is actually a duet between b. and chris jonas, one of a distinguished line of dedicated reed scientists drawn to the maestro in his teaching capacity. (mr jonas has played a lot of gtm. he was gone by the time of the 12+1tet, but was the returning guest when that band was reconvened to mark the occasion of b's 65th birthday.) the second half features the adaptable vocals of molly sturges, in addition to the two reeds (and i would say that two reeds is the minimum it takes to give a proper gtm reading - solo recordings exist, but there has to be something missing, when one voice alone can enter the playing space...). and that, not in short at all, is why i am linking these two together. (they were non-identical twins anyway, released in the same week!)

ok, so... delight is my usual response to the sound(s) of anne rhodes' voice; and not so long ago (just last year indeed) i had never heard her. yet now it feels as if that voice has been in my ears forever, so perfect a vehicle is it for the music of my main man... back in the day, i almost made a slogan of my distaste for vocal jazz, and i remain very picky about singers in general, but that has been wavering over the last year and this lady is one key reason why. when singing without inflection, her simple attacks have the most marvellous timbral purity; it just makes my heart smile. and of course her range (in all senses) is well suited to the demands of the music. (she's not lauren newton; but then there is only one of those!) we know she's actively involved in teaching b's work as well of course, mainly through the choir as mentioned above, so we can all hope for exciting further developments from her... back to gtm (syntax), obviously a choir offers all kinds of wonderful possibilities which one voice alone can never hope to replicate, but a) we know from before the simple formula b+voc = magic/k, so that's fine and b) in this case, unheralded as it may be, there is heavy use of electronics right from the word go. i don't know anything about this at all: there is no mention of it on the cd, and therefore none at restructures; i have asked b. via email, but not really holding my breath for a response, and for that matter i have also asked mr feigin, but didn't get a response to that one either (and bearing in mind how hard i had to press in the end for an answer on that other matter, i didn't want to make much of a big song and dance about it; possibly he hasn't even noticed that my last mail to him contained a question..!). whatever we are dealing with here - and it comes across really as a sort of hitherto-unknown, hybridised gdtmcw construct - the effect of it is quite otherworldly, and entirely and wholeheartedly to be recommended {{{@*@@@**@}}}

thus for the syntax... as regards gtm (outpost), i confess i still haven't heard the duo disc but then we are dealing here with singers, and ms sturges - whoever she may be - contributes significantly to this music as well. if it must be admitted that her voice lacks *for me* the same magnetic quality that i find in anne rhodes, that is not to criticise, and besides, molly s. offers certain extended techniques which the later collaborator has never (yet) demonstrated. specifically, she has mastered a variety of throat-singing and uses it, and other unexpected inflections, to great effect in the concert... here, offering us still another subtle variation, the twin reeds entwine around each other and the voice also, the latter at times enmeshed, at times piercing through or soaring above. again, the effect is such that a diligent listener could lose him*self entirely within the sound-idea-space... and i trust that the audience was indeed held spellbound.

... and that brings me to another (slightly tedious) unresolved question, because the notes for disc 2 read as follows: "although comp. 265 is naturally divided into eleven sections by the applause from the audience one should remember that it was written as one piece of music." ah, tracks 2-11 on the cd actually are one piece of music, with (arguably helpful, but unnecessary) indexations breaking the piece up into smaller sections; track one is the end of something else, beginning in media res and soon proceeding to a rousing rendition of comp. 40i, then wrapping itself up to enthusiastic applause; i will just add again at this point that we don't hear any more of that, not even at the end of the disc, which is clipped off in midstream and may, or may not, dovetail with the beginning of track one (possibly, but i am not convinced). so, yes, it is safe to say that a pattern is emerging... one of missing details here and wrong info there, all of which could very probably drive me mad if i let it become a mission to sort it out. i'm not proposing to do that: firstly, and let's just be clear about this, leo records has supported b. as a featured artist for a long time now and has released more recordings of his than any other label, (excluding the revived, rapidly-mushrooming braxton house); many different facets of the man as both musician and composer have been explored, just within this one label's discography, and that is continuing into the future even now; if that legacy brings with it the odd mistake here and there, i can live with that. secondly - let this not be overlooked either - the production credit on outpost is shared equally between leo feigin and b. himself, hence the "absent-minded professor" must assume his share of the blame for any misinformation regarding the product. whatever, the music is great and i'm grateful for it. friendly experiencer, dive on in...

* see comments


centrifuge said...

... just the usual english-language nonsense regarding assumptions of gender in a (gender-neutral) posited third person. i always end up saying "him" - for reasons which are probably pretty fucking obvious ;-)

Anne Rhodes said...

Thanks for the very kind words! You may be right about Carl and I being the first "Braxtonian couple" fact we met met and first bonded over playing in the Braxton Large Ensemble at Wesleyan! We're not the only ones now, with the formation of the Pine Top Aerial Music sextet; dancer Rachel Bernsen is married to Taylor Ho Bynum.

centrifuge said...

... and just to prove that sometimes "him" might turn out to be "her" - ! anne, thanks very much for taking the trouble to leave a comment here... i have been listening to the cd a lot lately. i must admit i didn't know about the "second braxtonian couple"; let's hope there will be more! we need more women in creative music - and in the arts generally: i am fully in agreement with mr b on this one. best wishes to you for all your future ventures (and sorry it took me several days to reply!)