Monday, April 13, 2009

Now hear this...

Bloom Project: Sudden Aurora

The standard disclaimer applies: Thollem McDonas and Rent Romus are my friends, so this won't be the most objective review ever. But I can vouch personally for their eye-opening technical proficiency and solid inspiration.

Something I particularly like about the CD is the brevity of its tracks. To me it's a sign of thoughtful musicianship when ideas can be stated confidently in a short amount of time.

Since I was present at the October 2008 live performance that forms a lot of Sudden Aurora, I wish it were a DVD so listeners could also see what a sweaty, turbo-charged experience that concert was. I feel that way about a lot of CDs released by Bay Area new music people -- the live dimension just can't be beat.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Wind Moon concert Thursday night in SF

My Full Moon Concert Series which I'm curating for Outsound Presents and the Luggage Store Gallery continues this Thursday night with the Wind Moon. At 8 pm we have Three Trapped Tigers, the recorder duo of Tom Bickley and David Barnett. Then there's Dynosoar featuring Tom Djll, Ron Heglin, and Karen Stackpole. Finally we get treated to Edmund Welles: the bass clarinet quartet performing their classic, Opium & Absinthe. The gallery is located at 1007 Market Street at Sixth Street, San Francisco and admission is $6.00 - $10.00 sliding scale.


1. Three Trapped Tigers approach the Wind Moon using a new setting by Tom Bickley of haiku titled Wind Moon: haiku spoken in Japanese provides sonic material for the recorder parts. Along with this new work will be pieces by Italian 14th c. composer Francesco Landini and 20th/21st c. Japanese composer Ryohei Hirose.

2. Dynosoar: Welding together circles inside circles of brass and bronze, drawing deep for breath then ringing outward in concentric vastness. Vibrating air-energy drills inside and sparks dynamos of synaptic complexity. Can’t be heard in a vacuum.

3. Edmund Welles: Opium & Absinthe
I. Divination
II. Lucid Impression
III. Inertia
IV. Plasmosis
Vaguely inspired by a theta state, dream, half conscious and in between worlds kind of feeling, historically achieved through potent substances, but possibly achieved as well through sonic means and intention.


Tom Bickley and David Barnett formed the recorder duo Three Trapped Tigers to perform 14th century music with 21st century sensibilities and vice versa. They have performed on the Trinity Chamber Concerts, the Berkeley Festival Fringe, and for the San Francisco Early Music Society. They use instrument appropriate to the repertory: cylindrical medieval recorders, wide-bore renaissance-style recorders, and ones of modern design.

David Barnett was a very bad boy while a student in the New York City public school system. His punishment was to play the recorder for the principal once a week. While this did not necessarily solve his behavior problems, he did find that he enjoyed the recorder. About the same time he took up the clarinet and has been playing music on both instruments ever since in one form or another. A long time Bay area resident, he now lives in southern California. He has recently been a visiting artist at the California Institute for the Arts. He currently performs on recorder and chalumeau with the Los Angeles based ensemble, Jealous Nightingale. In a past life, he was the music director for the notorious San Francisco arts group, the Noh Oratorio Society. He has recorded for the Earthbeat, Pacific Artist and Centaur labels

Tom Bickley is a recorder player/composer/improviser/teacher in Berkeley, CA. He grew up in Houston, studied in Washington, DC (recorder with Scott Reiss, musicology with Ruth Steiner, and listening/composition with Pauline Oliveros) and came to California as a composer in residence at Mills College. He teaches recorder privately and at the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training, and is on the library faculty as music librarian at Cal State University East Bay. He curates the Meridian Music: Composers in Performance series. He plays with shakuhachi player Nancy Beckman as Gusty Winds May Exist, with recorder player David Barnett as Three Trapped Tigers and directs the Cornelius Cardew Choir. His work is available on CD on Quarterstick and Metatron Press.

Karen Stackpole performs and records with metals/gongs duo Euphonics, Dean Santomieri, Ron Thompson, Myles Boisen, Moe Staiano, and John Schott’s Ensemble Diglossia as well as collaborating on various other projects. Gongs and resonance are the calling. Small distinct sounds (a la insect music) and use of silence and space rank high also. She is the drummer for Cactus Motel and has played with Malcolm Mooney and The Tenth Planet, Moxie, Bolshoi Rodeo, and Rare Thing. She is the percussionist for the improvising quartet, Vorticella. Her percussive efforts include work with the Onsite Dance Company and the San Francisco Shin Taido group. Karen also operates Stray Dog Recording Services and works as a freelance writer for DRUM! and Electronic Musician magazines.

Ron Heglin is a Trombonist and Vocalist working with extended technique on the Trombone and with spoken and sung imaginary languages as a Vocalist. His vocal music has been influenced by his study of North Indian vocal music. He works both compositionally and in an improvisational mode and is a member of the Bay Area music context as well as performing internationally. He is a founding member of the groups MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS, ROTODOTI, and BRASSIOSAURUS, and has performed with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Leo Smith, Henry Brant, Logos Duo, Tim Perkis, John Bischoff, Tom Djll, and Toyoji Tomita.

Tom Djll studied music at Berklee School of Music, the Colorado College, the Creative Music Studio, and Mills College with Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Karl Berger, Lester Bowie, Leo Smith, George Lewis, Pauline Oliveros, and many others. He is the recipient of an MFA from Mills College in Electronic Music (1995) as well as a Deeploma from the Deep Listening Organization (1991), and was awarded the Paul Merrit Henry Prize for Composition while at Mills. Current projects include the orchestra-media satire project, Mockracy, and the international improvising ensemble Grosse Abfahrt. A player in the SF Bay improvised/etc. scene since 1985, Tom’s words about music have appeared in The Wire, Signal To Noise, Musicworks, One Final Note, Open Space and the SF Transbay Calendar.

Edmund Welles: the bass clarinet quartet has the distinction of being the world's only original, composing band of four bass clarinetists -- they invent and perform heavy chamber music. The bass clarinet has a 5-octave range and a huge span of tonal, melodic, and rhythmic capabilities. Drawing virtuosic precision from the classical realm; innovation and texture from jazz; and power, rhythm and overall perspective from rock and metal, the quartet's sound is characterized by a thickness of tone, a density of texture, absolute rhythmic precision, and the extreme use of dynamic contrasts: a dense, pulsing sound capable of expressing and reflecting the full range of human emotions. Since 1996, Cornelius Boots has led and composed for Edmund Welles, which received a Chamber Music America Grant in 2004 for the creation of Agrippa's 3 Books, a multi-movement work inspired by occult philosophy and heavy metal music. This piece is featured on their debut album of the same title [mixed and mastered by Grammy-award winning sound alchemist Oz Fritz]. The album made the Top Ten Albums of 2005, and the New York premiere of the piece made the Top Ten Performances of 2005 in All About Jazz NYC. The title track of their second album, Tooth & Claw, placed 2nd out of thousands of entries in the "Instrumental" category of the 2006 International Songwriting Competition. In 2007, The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco commissioned the group to compose and perform 2012: A Requiem for Baktun 12 [the 13th and Final Cycle]. Most recently, in 2008, the quartet was a featured ensemble at the International Clarinet Convention in Kansas City in addition to sharing a bill with the innovative "rock against rock" power-ensemble Sleepytime Gorilla Museum at several California venues. As their influence grows, Edmund Welles continues to be sought out for cutting edge music festivals and series including Three Drops of Blood (Installments II and IX), Switchboard Music Festival, and Hornucopia. There have also been several acolyte bass clarinet quartets (such as Acid Bass in New York) crop up around the globe over the last 3 years, playing both Edmund Welles arrangements and innovative pieces of their own. Engendering enthusiasm and expanding the musical horizons of both clarinetists and the general non-clarinet-playing public is at the core of the ensemble's existence.

Oakland reed renegade Cornelius Boots is a progressive rock composer, bass clarinet performance specialist, wu wei woodwind instructor and Zen flute adept. In 1996 he founded Edmund Welles, the world's only bass clarinet quartet, for which he has composed and arranged over 60 pieces including recent pieces commissioned by Chamber Music America and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.