Cold Blue Two CB0036
“As they did with their first anthology in the mid-1980s, the good people at Cold Blue have created an expansive sonic landscape populated with darkly lyrical, evocative works. The composers, many of them returning from that long ago first volume, are a gifted and varied lot, but they share the Cold Blue esthetic: Whether plaintive, hypnotic, or enigmatic, this is music that is cool but not unemotional—and always a rich, twilit blue.” —John Schaefer, host of WNYC’s New Sounds radio show
“This record pretty much kicks ass—an alluring, arresting document from a brilliant cast of contemporary composers.” —Glenn Kotche, composer and drummer for Wilco
Cold Blue Two is an eclectic anthology of 14 new, previously unrecorded works—many of them written specifically for this CD—by a diverse collection of composers whose personal musical visions usually blend intuition with process. The composers include both the well-known and the not-so-well-known, most with longtime associations with Cold Blue, and two making their first appearance on the label: John Luther Adams, Gavin Bryars, Rick Cox, Michael Jon Fink, Jim Fox, Peter Garland, Daniel Lentz, Ingram Marshall, Read Miller, Larry Polansky, David Rosenboom, Phillip Schroeder, Chas Smith, and James Tenney.
Sometimes stark, sometimes lush, this is music in which subtle emotions lurk just below cool surfaces. Among the tracks are dramatic pieces, drifting pieces, and pieces that simply defy easy categorization. From a dozen cellos to a solo just-intonation National steel guitar, from a Harry Partch diamond marimba with strings to a solo accordion, from music featuring celesta or hammered dulcimer or densely layered tracks of steel guitar and Hammond organ or classical guitar with electronics to string quartets, solo piano, and a variety of small chamber ensembles, this collection contains something to surprise (and delight) just about everyone.
Like most of the music on this West Coast label, this album’s pieces tend to focus on the various aspects of music’s inherent sensuality, which some critics have suggested is a uniting aesthetic interest among the composers whose work appears on the label.
Among the featured performers are many renowned new-music champions, including Sarah Cahill, Guy Klucevsek, John Schneider, ETHEL, the Formalist Quartet, Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick, and a host of other fine players, including a number of the composers themselves.
Cold Blue Two is also the long-awaited sequel to the label’s popular previous anthology simply entitled Cold Blue (CB0008), an album of thirteen short works that San Francisco’s Other Minds founder Charles Amirkhanian called “a classic anthology of American new music.”[Two tracks from this CD were chosen to appear on the Wiretapper series of CDs put out by The Wire magazine: Prelude to Alone appeared on Wiretapper 32, and Colorless sky became fog appeared on Wiretapper 33.]
Details about Cold Blue Two‘s music, composers, and peformers follows.
The music (in the order in which the pieces appear on the CD)
1. Lentz: Celli (2008)
“Celli, written for this CD, is scored for ‘solo’ cello. The notes of its solo line, however, are ‘suspended in time’ through the use of multi-tracking/overdubbing—as resonances or echoes (up to a dozen at a given moment)— thus creating the music’s rich harmonies/harmonic motion.” —Daniel Lentz
2. Marshall: Son of Soe-pa (2007)
Son of Soe-pa, written specifically for this CD, is based on Marshall’s earlier piece Soe-pa. He writes of his creation of Son of Soe-pa: “Soe-pa is an extended work for solo classical guitar with digital delay processing written for Benjamin Verdery a number of years ago; Ben has recorded it on New Albion and Mushkat records. In 2006, my son, Clement, then a pre-med student at Brown University, surprised me by sending me an MP3 file of his own realization of the short middle movement of the piece. This inspired me to re-mix or reconstruct his version, subjecting it to various delay and modulation processes. I sent it to him asking his ‘approval’ and got a luke warm response—he was a little critical of the ending and somewhat sarcastically suggested that I’d probably throw in ‘a recording of me singing hymns from when I was eight’ (I have done this actually in pieces such as Evensongs and Bright Kingdoms). Of course, I took his advice.”
3. Schroeder: Another Shore (2007)
“Another Shore, written specifically for this CD, features kaleidoscopic textures of florid arpeggios emerging and receding around a single lyric melodic shape. Fibonacci numbers were used to organize many musical elements—tempi, harmonic rhythm, voicing, the length of delay reflections, structure and form.” —Phillip Schroeder
4. Cox: Later (2005)
Later was written for an evening of short works by composers associated with the Cold Blue label. It is performed here by the same players who premiered it at REDCAT in Los Angeles.
5. Smith: Sometimes the Sword of Seven (2008)
Sometimes the Sword of Seven, composed specifically for this CD, was realized in the composer’s personal studio. Principal sources among its many layers of sound are Hammond organ and steel guitar.
6. Adams: Sky with Four Suns (2010)
“In the Arctic sky, the low angle of the sun and heavy ice crystals in the air often produce vivid halos, arcs and sundogs (parhelia). Sometimes these phenomena create the illusion of multiple suns. Sky With Four Suns is a musical evocation of such an apparition.” —John Luther Adams
7. Miller: Come out, sit awhile; break the bottle, and you is lost (1982)
Come out, sit awhile; break the bottle, and you is lost is a slow, casual-feeling piano solo that suggests both traditional jazz harmonies and hymn tunes. The title is a line the composer overheard while walking in Los Angeles.
8. Bryars: It Never Rains (2010)
It Never Rains was written specifically for this CD (and bears a dedication to label director Jim Fox and Cold Blue Music). Its unusual instrumentation fits that of Bryar’s current touring ensemble, which features himself on double bass. Bryars writes, “The title has two allusions. The first was to the (pre-climate change) ‘It Never Rains in Southern California’ [a popular 1970s song]—which takes me back to when I visited La Jolla in the early 1970s, during which visit my former wife and I, along with Warren Burt, walked to the top of Mount Tecate. The second is the (more prosaic) English proverb ‘It never rains—but it pours.’”
9. Fink: Prelude to Alone (2010)
“Prelude to Alone, consisting of a slow, stately melody over a solemn, measured accompaniment, gradually unfolds in ever-changing mixtures of clarinets, trombones, and electric guitar. The piece was composed for this CD.” —Michael Jon Fink
10. Tenney: Mallets in the Air (2002)
Mallets in the Air is a just-intonation piece featuring the Harry Partch-designed diamond marimba with string quartet. It is Tenney’s arrangement of the second movement of his earlier work Song ‘n’ Dance for Harry Partch (1999), a piece for adapted viola, diamond marimba, strings, and percussion.
The diamond marimba is a manifestation of Partch’s tonality diamond, with the droning G acting as, in turn, the root, third, fifth, seventh, ninth, or eleventh harmonic of each just intonation “hexad.”
“Mallets in the air” is a phrase drawn from Partch’s admonition to any future player of the diamond marimba: “Do not wave the mallets in the air, daintily or otherwise.”
Tenney wrote about Song ‘n’ Dance for Harry Partch, “Perhaps in this work I can finally repay my considerable debt to Harry Partch, without incurring his wrath. As his student/assistant, for several months in 1959, our relationship was somewhat problematic—mainly, I believe, because I was unwilling to become the devoted disciple that he needed—and surely deserved (if anyone deserves such a thing). But now, many years later, I have to admit that I learned everything I know about just/microtonal tuning theory from Partch and/or his book, Genesis of a Music.”
11. Polansky: Eskimo Lullaby (2006)
“Eskimo Lullaby is one of the ‘songs’ from Songs and Toods, five pieces written for the Lou Harrison Just Intonation Resonator Guitar. It is loosely based on a piano arrangement I found in a book of Canadian folk songs.” —Larry Polansky
12. Garland: Nights in the Gardens of Maine (2010)
“Nights in the Gardens of Maine was a request from Jim Fox to write a short piece for Guy, specifically for this anthology. A triangle of old friends; in Guy’s case, we’ve been friends for 40 years now, and this is the third piece I’ve written for him. I was especially pleased with his agreeing to it, because he told me that he pretty much only plays his own pieces now, but in his words, ‘since we go back such a long way…’ It’s my ‘Iberian’ piece, in the tradition of Debussy, Stravinsky, etc.; I could have called it Sketches of Maine (but it’s only one sketch). It’s a light-hearted, intimate piece, the kind of thing you write as a gift to an old friend. And, of course, Guy helped fix it up to be more accordion-friendly. (I essentially gave him a piano score.)” —Peter Garland
13. Rosenboom: Hymn of Change (2010)
“In my 1998 work for piano, Bell Solaris—the Sun rings like a bell, initiating waves of influence that traverse, shape, and create space, time, and life—twelve movements emerged from subtle and grand transformations of the Hymn of Change, which I had written earlier in 1992. Some years later, after hearing Bell, Andrew Tholl was inspired to arrange the Hymn, a kind of slow, gospel waltz, for string quartet. The Bell Solaris score includes imbedded texts as part of the communication with performers. In Hymn of Change they come from Pythagoras’s lectures on change, as reported by Ovid: ‘The phrase “being born” is used for beginning to be something different from what one was before, while “dying” means ceasing to be the same. Though this thing may pass into that, and that into this, yet the sum of things remains unchanged.’ (Metamorphoses, trans. Mary M. Innes)” —David Rosenboom
14. Fox: Colorless sky became fog (2005)
“Colorless sky became fog, based loosely on a few minutes of music I’d penned for a short film, was first played in concert on a Cold Blue evening of miniatures presented at LA’s REDCAT in 2005. In it’s earliest incarnation (c. 2002) the music was written to be juxtaposed with a film I had not actually seen, so it wasn’t created as ‘underscore,’ but an independent sonic element, a perhaps spectral presence existing apart from any specific film images.” —Jim Fox
The Composers (in alphabetical order)
John Luther Adams has been described by The New Yorker’s Alex Ross as “one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century.” Adams composes for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and electronic media, and has worked with many prominent performers and venues, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the International Contemporary Ensemble, eighth blackbird, the California EAR Unit, Bang on a Can, Percussion Group Cincinnati, Other Minds, the Sundance Institute, Almeida Opera, and the Radio Netherlands Philharmonic. He has written two books (Winter Music and The Place You Go to Listen (both Published by Wesleyan Univ. Press), and a book of essays about his music, The Farthest Place, was recently issued by University Press of New England. He has taught at Harvard, the Oberlin, Bennington College, and the University of Alaska; been composer in residence with the Anchorage Symphony, Anchorage Opera, Fairbanks Symphony, Arctic Chamber Orchestra, and the Alaska Public Radio Network; and served as president of the American Music Center. He has received numerous awards and grants, including the Heinz Award for his contributions to raising environmental awareness. His music has been released by a number of record labels, including Cold Blue, which has released five CDs devoted to his work: The Wind in High Places (CB0041), The Light That Fills the World (CB0010), Red Arc/Blue Veil (CB0026), the place we began (CB0032), and Four Thousand Holes (CB0035).
“Adams’s major works have the appearance of being beyond style; they transcend the squabbles of contemporary classical music.” —Alex Ross, The New Yorker
“The music of John Luther Adams is simply beautiful. It has a crystalline quality and a peaceful character that evoke the Arctic life…. Adams’ music sounds like it has nothing to accomplish. It simply exists, hanging in mid-air, waiting to be listened to.” —All-Music Guide
Gavin Bryars’s first musical reputation came as a jazz bassist, working in the early 1960s with improvisers Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. He abandoned improvisation in 1966 and worked for a time in the United States with John Cage. Subsequently, he collaborated closely with composers Cornelius Cardew and John White and taught at Portsmouth College of Art, where he was instrumental in founding the legendary Portsmouth Sinfonia. In the 1970s, Bryars co-ran the Experimental Music Catalogue (founded by Christopher Hobbs). From 1986 to 1994, he taught at Leicester Polytechnic (later De Montfort University), where he founded its music department. His two most famous early works, The Sinking of the Titanic (1969) and Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971), were first released on Brian Eno’s Obscure record label in 1975, and since then have been issued in various versions by a number of other labels.
Bryars has composed prolifically for the theater and dance as well as for the concert hall and has written three full-length operas: Medea, staged by Robert Wilson at the Opéra de Lyon and Opéra de Paris; Doctor Ox’s Experiment, staged by the film director Atom Egoyan for the English National Opera; and G, commissioned and premiered by Mainz Opera. Among Bryars’s smaller works are three string quartets and a great deal of other chamber music, much of it for his own ensemble. Among his notable commissions are works for Charlie Haden, John Harle, Nexus, Fretwork, Maggie Cole, Julian Lloyd Webber, Valdine Anderson, Holly Cole, the Orlando Consort, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, and many others. Also among the many famous and varied artists with whom he has collaborated are the Royal Shakespeare Company, Tom Waits, Will Alsop, Lucinda Childs, and Merce Cunningham. His music has been released by many labels, including ECM, Philips, Sub Rosa, Naxos, Point, and his own GB Records.
“The music of Gavin Bryars falls under no category. It is mongrel, full of sensuality and wit and is deeply moving. He is one of the few composers who can put slapstick and primal emotion alongside each other. He allows you to witness new wonders in the sounds around you by approaching them from a completely new angle. With a third ear maybe.” —Michael Ondaatje
Rick Cox is a composer and multi-instrumentalist whom guitarist/composer Ry Cooder called “the hidden master of the crepuscular and the diaphanous.” Cox was an early explorer/developer of “prepared electric guitar” techniques, and his music, which often employs himself (electric guitar, woodwinds, and/or electronics) in the company of other instrumentalists, has been recorded on the Cold Blue, Grenadilla, Advance, and Raptoria Caam labels. Music publication The Wire magazine wrote that “his enveloping harmonies are less innocent than they first appear. Prettiness with a tough core.” As a performer, he can be heard on recent recordings by trumpeter/composer Jon Hassell (including Maarifa Street and Fascinoma), with whom he has also toured, and on such popular film scores by Thomas Newman as The Shawshank Redemption, The Horse Whisperer, and American Beauty. Cox has also worked with Ry Cooder, arranging, composing and performing on the film scores Last Man Standing and Wim Wenders’s End of Violence. He’s also a founding member of the improvisation group Tokyo 77. (Cox’s music appears on six previous Cold Blue CDs.)
“The music of Rick Cox … its tones and timbres are subtle and suggestive, exploring a dark world where strange things are happening in the shadows.” —Incursion Music Review
“Edges and contours are all smoothed away, the music insinuating much more than it says.… Cox’s elusiveness soon becomes subtlety…opening up spaces and filling them—patiently, softly—with music. —Gramophone
Michael Jon Fink’s music has been described by The Los Angeles Times as “lustrous,” “metaphysically tinged” and “unapologetically tranquil” and likened it to the work of Morton Feldman. The LA Weekly has written that Fink’s music is “of ethereal simplicity.. he has shaped and refined his spare style greatly—it is distinctly his own.” Fink’s instrumental and electronic music has been presented at the Green Umbrella Series of the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, New Music L.A., the Monday Evening Concerts, the SCREAM Festival, the Fringe Festival, New Music America, Festival Commune di Chiesa, the Martes Musicales, Podewil, the Marquette Festival of New Music, the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival, Outpost, and other venues and festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe. He has performed and recorded with the ensembles Negative Band, Musica Veneris Nocturnus, Stillife, Pickaxe, and the Feedback Wave Riders. He has written much chamber music as well as concertos for soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, violin, and cello and incidental music for three plays by Wajdi Mouawad, Forets, Seuls, and Temps. Most recently he has focused on performing in solo and group situations, exploring new sounds and forms on the electric guitar. Fink’s music has been released on the Cold Blue, Centaur, CRI, Raptoria Caam, Bare Bones, Wiretapper, TrancePort, and Contagion record labels. He has taught theory and composition at CalArts for more than 25 years. (Fink’s music appears on seven Cold Blue CDs.)
Music that . . . feels as if it could go on endlessly . . . music that comes from the classical tradition, but that feels like it belongs somewhere other than the concert hall, . . . texturally rich, meticulously crafted and delicately beautiful.” —Dusted
Jim Fox’s usually quiet, slow, lyrical, and unassuming music has been described by The Wire as “austere” and “ethereal,” and by Fanfare as “sensuous” and “suffused with a beautiful sadness.” It has been performed by ensembles and soloists throughout the U.S. and presented at the Monday Evening Concerts, New Music America, Real Art Ways, Wires, the SCREAM Festival, the Ventura Chamber Music Festival, the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival, Podewil (Berlin), the Schindler House/SASSAS, REDCAT, the Ear Inn, L.A.C.E., and many similar venues and recorded on the Cold Blue, CRI, innova, Advance, Grenadilla, Raptoria Caam, and Citadel labels. He is the founder/director of the Cold Blue Music record company in Venice, California, and in that capacity has produced and/or otherwise overseen recording sessions for most of the label’s releases. He has also designed most of the company’s CD, as well as covers for albums from other labels. (Fox’s music appears on seven Cold Blue releases.)
“Phenomenally beautiful…[Fox’s music] is slow and moody, containing few events, though it is not without a certain pulsing energy. It is also written for some pretty odd combinations of instruments.… Were Fox a grim Eastern European patriarch who had suffered under Communism, like Arvo Pärt or Alfred Schnittke, musical pundits would listen and exclaim, ‘How soulful!’ But Americans are never quite allowed to get away with such depth of expression achieved through simple, clear means.” —Kyle Gann, Chamber Music magazine
Peter Garland is a composer, world traveler, musicologist, writer and former publisher (Soundings Press). He studied music composition with Harold Budd and James Tenney at CalArts and maintained long friendships with Lou Harrison, Conlon Nancarrow, Paul Bowles, and Dane Rudhyar. As a musicologist, he has primarily focused on Native American, Mexican, and Southwestern American musics and 20th-century experimental composers of the Americas, championing the work of such composers as Revueltas, Partch, Nancarrow, and others long before their music became fashionable and regularly programmed. Since the early 1970s, Garland’s own music has been marked by a return to a “radical consonance” and a simplification of formal structure influenced by Cage, Harrison, early minimalism, and a great variety of world musics. His unique and highly engaging pieces has been performed around the world by such noted performers as pianists Aki Takahashi and Herbert Henck, percussionist William Winant, accordionist Guy Klucesvek, and the Kronos Quartet and released on the Cold Blue, Tzadik, New Albion, Mode, Avant, Toshiba-EMI/Angel and other labels. (Garland’s music appears on five Cold Blue CDs.)
“[Garland] is an avatar of an experimental American tradition … a composer of mesmerizing music; and in many ways, the musical conscience of my generation.” —Kyle Gann, Chamber Music magazine
“So, Henry Cowell begat Lou Harrison and Harrison begat Peter Garland, in a manner of speaking. Each of them has been influenced by the culture, and in particular the musics, of the Pacific region, but to differing degrees. Garland’s inheritance is so rich that he treats it selectively and, like Harrison and Cowell, with respect though not with undue reverence, in that the aim is to make something new of ‘found’ musical material as its brought into new cultural contexts. ‘New’ is the keyword in the previous sentence. Garland is a restless, nomadic and often (one senses) lonely individual whose work makes reference to the musics of the distant and sometimes not-so-distant lands he’s visited, but his compositions exist entirely on their own terms and without a hint of pastiche or the uncomfortable feeling that cultural plunder is afoot.” —Signal to Noise magazine
Daniel Lentz’s works have been commissioned and performed by noted ensembles and soloists around the world, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, Zeitgeist, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. A prolific composer whose work is often characterized by intricate musical processes, a bit of theater, and an interest in the human voice, Lentz has written large- and small-scale works for most common instrumental combinations, many unique ones, and the many ensembles (usually consisting of multiple keyboards, singers, and electronics) with which he has toured his music throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan since the early 1970s. Lentz is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including five grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Video presentations of his work have been seen on Alive from Off Center (PBS), the Preview Pavilion at Expo 86 in Vancouver, NHK-TV in Japan, NOS-TV in Holland, BBC-TV in the UK, West German Television, Czech Television, and many local television stations in the US and abroad. Recordings of his music have been released on the Cold Blue, New Albion, Angel/EMI, Fontec, Aoede, Les Disques du Crépuscule, Gyroscope/Caroline, Icon, Materiali Sonori, and ABC labels. His music appears on eight Cold Blue CDs (including five that are devoted exclusively to his work: River of 1,000 Streams, In the Sea of Ionia, Los Tigres de Marte, On the Leopard Altar, and Point Conception).
“When it comes to attempts at musical seduction, Daniel Lentz’s music is way out in front.”—Kyle Gann, Village Voice
“Lentz’s music inhabits what he terms a musical ‘state of becoming,’ where both new and reappearing musical and textual fragments are fused through complex layering processes. However, the real basis of his seductive music may be the dreamy impressionism of Debussy and the lyrical voice and keyboard interaction of Schubert’s lieder.” — John Schaefer, WNYC, New Sounds
Ingram Marshall’s uniquely evocative music is performed regularly throughout the world by such ensembles as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, Kronos Quartet, Theater of Voices, and Bang on a Can All-Stars. His “painterly” approach to composition was developed in the sixties and seventies, when he spent hours in solitude working in the sonic cave of an electronic music studio. He studied with Ussachevsky, Davidowsky and Mimarogulu at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and worked briefly at the NYU Composers Workshop with Subotnick and Tcherepnin. At CalArts in the early 1970s he became seduced by the colors and forms of Indonesian music. Much of Marshall’s music has a slowed-down sense of time and a dreamy evocativeness that is derived from what he heard and played in Indonesia, although his sense of form and procedure have remained largely intuitive and personal. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Marshall concentrated on music that combined live electronics with acoustic instruments, writing such influential works as The Fragility Cycles, Fog Tropes (perhaps his most performed work), and Voces Resonae. In the eighties Marshall collaborated with photographer Jim Bengston on two works for moving still photography with live electronically processed music, Alcatraz and Eberbach. Among his other notable works are A Peaceable Kingdom, commissioned for the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group by Betty Freeman; Fog Tropes II, for the Kronos Quartet and Paul Hillier; Kingdom Come, for the American Composers Orchestra; Evensongs; Bright kingdoms; and Orphic Memories. Recordings of his music have appeared primarily on the New Albion and Nonesuch labels, but also on Starkland, Entrada, and Cold Blue (on the Cold Blue anthology).
“Marshall’s is a remarkable music.… Its sounds are beautiful and engulfing, its textures rich and compelling. There is an enticing mystery in his fog.” —Mark Swed, Chamber Music magazine
“He is one of the most unclassifiable composers of his generation, finding inspiration in the ritual music of Bali, the electronic music laboratories of Columbia University and the free-spirited maverick composers of the West Coast, where he lived for nearly 20 years. Today, he assembles his far-flung musical discoveries in his home studio in Hamden, outside of New Haven.” —Brian Wise, The New York Times
Read Miller is a poet, percussionist/drummer, and composer. After spending many years in the Los Angeles area, where he performed as a drummer in a number of jazz-based ensembles and a number of avant-pop groups, including the Dwindle Family Orchestra, the Improvisors’ Orchestra, Colin Gorman, Snakepit, the Red Poppies, Stillife, and others, he moved to rural Virginia in the late 1990s. His poems have been published in various poetry periodicals. His musical and text-sound compositions have been recorded on the Advance and Cold Blue labels. (Miller’s music appears on two previous Cold Blue releases.)
Larry Polansky is a prolific composer, theorist, teacher, writer, performer, programmer, editor, and publisher whom Kyle Gann deemed “the heir apparent to the Cowell/Nancarrow/Tenney genius experimental mantle.” He is the composer of a unique body of work that sets highly intellectual, often computer-based systems into action in the creation of wonderfully inventive music that sometimes incorporates “low-brow” source materials and vernacular musical styles into its “high-brow” mechanisms. His music has been performed around the world, including performances at such venues as Internationale Gesellshcaft fur Neue Music Zürich, the Darmstadt Summer Festival, Mobius, the Here Gallery Performance Series, the Experimental Intermedia Foundation, Roulette, and the Music Gallery, and released on the New World, Artifact, Frog Peak, Cold Blue, Centaur, Opus One, and Cuneiform labels. He has received many awards and commissions from various organizations, including the Parsons Fund (Library of Congress), the Astra Chamber Society, Meet-the-Composer, the Japan/United States Interlink Festival, the American Music Center, and the Mellon Foundation. Until recently, he lived in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he was codirector and cofounder of Frog Peak Music and taught at Dartmouth College. He now lives in California and teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Cold Blue’s previous issue of Polansky’s music, four-voice canons (CB0011), was described by The Wire magazine as “an unashamedly tactile approach to musical material, forging an oblique angle to tradition…. cool and elegant,” and International Record Review called “one of the best discs Cold Blue has issued.”
“The music of Larry Polansky is as much fun to listen to as it is to think or get serious about.” —International Record Review
David Rosenboom is a composer, performer, conductor, interdisciplinary artist, author and educator. He has explored ideas in his work about the spontaneous evolution of forms, languages for improvisation, new techniques in scoring for ensembles, cross-cultural collaborations, performance art, computer music systems, interactive multi_media, compositional algorithms and extended musical interface with the human nervous system since the 1960s. His work is widely distributed and presented around the world and he is known as a pioneer in American experimental music. Rosenboom teaches at CalArts, where he is Dean of the School of Music and conductor of the New Century Players. From 1979 to 1990 he taught at Mills College, where he was Head of the Music Department and Director of the Center for Contemporary Music. He also has taught at the Center for Creative and Performing Arts at SUNY (Buffalo), York Univ. (Toronto), the Univ. of Illinois, New York Univ., the Banff Center for the Arts, Simon Fraser Univ., the Aesthetic Research Centre of Canada, the San Francisco Art Institute, and Bard College. His music has appeared on the New World, Mutable, Centaur, Lovely Music, Pogus, Tzadik, Black Saint, West Wind, Elektra Nonesuch, and Frog Peak labels. Rosenboom wrote the books Biofeedback and the Arts and Extended Musical Interface with the Human Nervous System and co-authored (with Phil Burk and Larry Polansky) the widely used computer software environment for experimental music HMSL (Hierarchical Music Specification Language).
“Perhaps no composer has used more complex logical processes than David Rosenboom, a brilliant and multi-talented musician who also performs virtuosically on both piano and violin… If Rosenboom’s concepts are among the most abstract in the business, his sonic results are often sensuous and arrestingly meaningful.” —Kyle Gann, American Music in the Twentieth Century (Schirmer Books)
“Rosenboom’s work… is charged with concentrated intellect yet makes for rich listening.” —Julian Cowley, The Wire magazine
Phillip Schroeder has composed prolifically for a variety soloists, chamber ensembles, live electronics, orchestra, and choir. Critics have described his music as “shimmering” and creating “a complex calm and openness” (John Schaefer, WNYC)” and “full of elegant nuance (Textura).” He also concertizes as a pianist, improvises with a variety of ensembles, and conducts orchestral and chamber groups. He has appeared as guest composer, lecturer, and performer at music festivals, conferences, and universities throughout the U.S. and performed his own work on more than 175 concerts. He has had residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Palenville Interarts Colony, Millay Colony, and the Charles Ives Center for American Music. He has produced and engineered four anthology CDs (representing the work of 39 composers) for the Society of Composers (SCI) and hosted more than a dozen new music festivals at various universities where he has taught over the past couple of decades. He currently teaches at Henderson State University. Recordings of his work have been released on the Innova, Capstone, Albany, Vienna Modern Masters, and Boston Records labels.
“Phillip Schroeder’s ethereal music…is wonderfully opulent and rich in subtle detail.” —New Classics
“Meditative, deeply spiritual pieces [that] evoke Debussy and Satie in their spare phrasing, and their use of repetition also ties them to the work of the Minimalists; yet they have a Romantic sweep that points in an entirely different stylistic direction.” —Signal to Noise magazine
Chas Smith is a unique musician who has created his own musical world—complete with its own instruments and “language.” It is a world of expansive musical tapestries and carefully sculpted textures that evolve via a slow, constant change of aural perspective. A Los Angeles-based composer, performer, and instrument designer and builder, Smith, in the spirit of Harry Partch, creates much of his music for his own exotic instruments. His compositions, which always display his dualistic fascination with the scientific and the sensual, might owe their split personalities to the diverse collection of composers he studied with in the 1970s: Morton Subotnick, Mel Powell, James Tenney, and Harold Budd. As a performer, Smith has been heard playing both pedal steel guitar and his personally designed instruments on feature film scores by Thomas Newman, Christopher Young, Charlie Clouser, Mark Mothersbaugh, Jeff Danna, John Williams, and others. Smith’s playing has also been featured on recordings by composers Harold Budd and Rick Cox and numerous country-western bands. He has performed his own works at various new music festivals and art galleries in the U.S. and Europe. His music has been recorded on the Cold Blue, Arc Light, Cantil, MCA, and Straw Dog labels. (Smith’s music appears on eight Cold Blue CDs.)
“Smith’s pieces are music of experiment and discovery: a way of enabling the physical world to ‘speak’ by investigating, harnessing and organizing its sonic properties. The extraordinary sound-world of Smith’s articulately structured music captivates from the start.” —International Record Review
“Chas Smith, musician, composer, engineer, metal craftsman and inventor, is a classic American original.” —New Times (Los Angeles)
“With Smith’s music, the sounds are as compelling as his concepts and instruments.” —The Wire magazine
James Tenney (1934–2006) studied composition with Chou Wen-chung, Henry Brant, Carl Ruggles, Kenneth Gaburo, John Cage, Harry Partch, Edgar Varése, and others. He studied information theory with Lejaren Hiller and composed important early computer music before turning to almost completely writing for acoustic instruments, often using just intonation and alternate tunings. An excellent pianist, Tenney also performed with John Cage and the ensembles of Harry Partch, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass. In New York in the 1960s, much of his work involved Tone Roads, a group founded with composer/performers Malcolm Goldstein and Philip Corner. Tenney’s music often dealt with perceptional matters, stochastic elements, alternate tunings, the harmonic series, and what he called “swell” (arch form). The majority of Tenney’s mature works (post-1964) are instrumental pieces, often for unconventional instrumental combinations (e.g., Glissade for viola, cello, double bass and tape delay system; Bridge for two pianos eight hands in a microtonal tuning system; and Changes for six harps tuned a sixth of a tone apart) or for variable instrumentation. As an influential theorist, he wrote Meta (+) Hodos (one of the earliest explorations of gestalt theory and cognitive science as they apply to music), Hierarchical temporal gestalt perception in music: a metric space model (with Larry Polansky), John Cage and the Theory of Harmony, and other works. Tenney’s music has been recorded on the New World, hatART, Cold Blue, Mode, CRI, Frog Peak, Musicworks, and Zeitkratzer labels. (Tenney’s player piano work Spectral CANON for CONLON Nancarrow appeared on the first Cold Blue anthology.)
“In a way [Tenney] stands at the center of American music, a kind of focal point: he studied and worked with seminal figures such as Varèse, Partch, Ruggles, Cage, Kenneth Gaburo, and Lejaren Hiller; he performed in the ensembles of his contemporaries Philip Glass and Steve Reich; and he has taught some of the leading young composers, including John Luther Adams, Larry Polansky, and Peter Garland. Though his music and interests put him squarely on the side of the experimentalists, he is the only such composer so admired by the academic establishment that an entire issue of the academic journal Perspectives of New Music was devoted to his music. No other composer is so revered by fellow composers, and so unknown to the public at large.” —Kyle Gann, PostClassic
“James Tenney is the Zelig of American composition. He has been there for a lot of the big moments. He has known most of the big names. He has been, so to speak, in all the pictures…. [Tenney] resists characterization. … having created some of the earliest computer pieces during a tenure as resident composer at Bell Laboratories in the early 1960s. At the same time, he is grouped with the Minimalists, having hobnobbed … with Steve Reich and Philip Glass during the same period. He is associated with the Fluxus movement, and his first wife was the artist Carolee Schneeman. He was a friend and student of John Cage’s and Edgard Varèse’s. Yet this ‘downtown’ composer is also a long-time academic and a respected theorist with a couple of important treatises on music to his name. His main musical concern today? Harmony. In fact, most of the things Mr. Tenney is known for aren’t supposed to be able to be done in the same room, let alone by the same person.” —Anne Midgette, The New York Times
Andrew Tholl, who arranged Rosenboom’s Hymn of Change for string quartet, is an LA-based violinist (and member of Formalist Quartet), composer, drummer, and improviser “involved in music for concert halls, art galleries, films, puppet shows, bars, garages, and bedrooms.”
The Performers (in alphabetical order)
Erin Barnes is a Los Angeles-based new music percussionist and microtonal tuning specialist who has performed on many works by microtonal composer Craig Grady and worked with various ensembles led by microtonal guitarist John Schneider. She has recorded for Mode, and/OAR, and the ini.itu labels. “[Harry Partch] wanted performers who were physical presences. And he got them in the likes of Erin Barnes on the diamond marimba, whose performances were spectacular dances in themselves.” (Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times)
James Bergman, a graduate of The Juilliard School, where he studied with bassist David Walter, has recorded and toured with Tirez Tirez and the Mikel Rouse Broken Consort, performing at such venues as The Kitchen’s Gruppen Festival and the Bang on a Can Festival. He has also performed with the Princeton Composers Ensemble and at the Other Minds Festival in San Francisco. As an orchestra player, he regularly plays with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, and has been a member of the San Jose Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, and other orchestras. He has recorded for the Cold Blue (including Christopher Roberts virtuosic trios for double bass, Trios for Deep Voices), Dreamworks, Rough Trade, Sire, Cuneiform, Crammed/Made to Measure, and Le Disc du Crepescule record labels.
Sarah Cahill, recently called “fiercely gifted” by the New York Times and “as tenacious and committed an advocate as any composer could dream of” by the San Francisco Chronicle, has commissioned, premiered, and recorded numerous compositions for solo piano. Composers who have dedicated works to her include John Adams, Terry Riley, Frederic Rzewski, Pauline Oliveros, Annea Lockwood, and Evan Ziporyn, and she has also premiered pieces by Lou Harrison, Julia Wolfe, Ingram Marshall, Toshi Ichiyanagi, George Lewis, Leo Ornstein, and many others. Cahill has researched and recorded the music by the important early 20th-century American modernists Henry Cowell and Ruth Crawford, and has commissioned a number of new pieces in tribute to their enduring influence. Her recent concert appearances include Merkin Hall, Miller Theatre, and Le Poisson Rouge in New York; Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, the Pacific Crossings Festival in Tokyo, and concerts focusing on Cowell and Dane Rudhyar for Other Minds in San Francisco. Cahill and pianist Joseph Kubera appear frequently as a duo: among their recent activities, they premiered a set of four-hand pieces by Terry Riley at UCLA’s Royce Hall, and subsequently performed them at the Triptych Festival (Scotland) and Roulette (NYC). Sarah’s A Sweeter Music project, which commissioned 18 works on the theme of peace (music by Terry Riley, Meredith Monk, Yoko Ono, Frederic Rzewski, Pauline Oliveros, Peter Garland, Paul Dresher, Ingram Marshall, Phil Kline, Larry Polansky, and others) was premiered in the Cal Performances series in Berkeley in 2009 and was subsequently performed at New Sounds Live at Merkin Hall, Rothko Chapel, the North Dakota Museum of Art, Le Poisson Rouge, and various other venues around the country. Most of Sarah’s albums are on the New Albion label. She has also recorded for the New World, Other Minds, Tzadik, CRI, Cold Blue, Albany, and Artifact labels. Her radio show, Then & Now, can be heard every Sunday evening on KALW in San Francisco. Cahill is on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory.
Jessica Catron is a cellist who specializes in contemporary music. She has performed world and local premieres of solo and chamber works at such venues as the L.A. Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella concert series, Friday Nights at the Getty, the Los Angeles CEAIT Festival, the Big Sur Experimental Music Festival, the Festival International de Müsica Contemporánea (Bogota, Colombia), and the Sonic Boom Festival (Vancouver, BC). She has been an active part of the Deep Listening community, founded by composer Pauline Oliveros, and has performed in Oliveros’ Lunar Opera at Lincoln Center. She has also worked with Harold Budd, Nels Cline’s Blue Mitt Ensemble, the Vinny Golia Large Ensemble, the Jose Roque Ensemble, Wilco, and the improvising trio Missincinatti. Her solo CD, five violoncello solos, is available from Experimental Musical Research. She has performed on two earlier Cold Blue CDs.
Rick Cox (See composer bios.)
Theresa Dimond is principal timpanist for the Pasadena Pops, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and many touring companies, including the American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, and Kirov Ballet. Dimond also performs on the cimbalom, a Hungarian folk instrument. Recent cimbalom engagements have included work with Pierre Boulez and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lalo Schifrin and the Glendale Symphony, the Los Angeles Opera, the California Philharmonic, and the New York Virtuosi. Her recording credits include the film scores Edward Scissorhands, The Simpsons, and Pochahontas and recordings with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and various chamber ensembles. Dimond currently teaches percussion at USC, Cerritos College, Pomona College, UC Irvine, and Whittier College.
Cellist Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick is an active soloist, chamber musician, and new music specialist. She has performed in premieres of solo and chamber works throughout the US, Central and South America, and Europe, with appearances at New Music America, the Manca Festival in Nice, Ars Electronica in Linz, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Computer Music Festival in Zurich, Tanglewood, Aspen, and Ravinia festivals, and the San Francisco Symphony’s “New and Unusual Music” series. She has had works written especially for her by many composers, including Mel Powell, Alvin Lucier, Elliott Carter, and Morton Subotnick, with whom she has toured and recorded since 1981. She has recorded for the Nonesuch, Wergo, New Albion, Voyager, and Cold Blue record labels. She was a founding member of the California E.A.R. Unit, a new music ensemble with whom she toured throughout the U.S. and Europe for nearly 30 years. Erika is on the faculty of the California Institute of the Arts.
ETHEL, an acclaimed string quartet of Juilliard-trained performers (Cornelius Dufallo and Jennifer Choi, violins; Ralph Farris, viola; and Dorothy Lawson, cello), is a ubiquitous presence in New York City, performing adventurous music of the past four decades, with emphasis on postclassical works composed since 1995. The group performs music by such composers as Julia Wolfe, Phil Kline, John Zorn, Steve Reich, John King, JacobTV, David Lang, Scott Johnson, Don Byron, Marcelo Zarvos, Evan Ziporyn, and Mary Ellen Childs, as well as the group’s own self-composed works. Exploring synergies between tradition and technology, ETHEL has initiated innovative collaborations with such varied artists such as Joe Jackson, Kurt Elling, Bang on a Can, David Byrne, Ursula Oppens, Loudon Wainwright III, Todd Rundgren, STEW, Ensemble Modern, Jill Sobule, Andrew Bird, Iva Bittová, Colin Currie, Thomas Dolby, Steve Coleman, Stephen Gosling, Jake Shimabukuro, and the Dusan Tynek Dance Theatre. ETHEL has appeared at such varied venues as Venice Biennale, Sydney Opera House, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Ravinia, TED, Lincoln Center, Alice Tully Hall, Holland’s TROMP Festival, Kennedy Center, The Stone, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music and released CDs on the Cantaloupe and Innova labels.
Alma Lisa Fernandez, violist with the new-music championing Eclipse Quartet, performs regularly with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Long Beach Symphony, Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, and in Los Angeles-area studios as a frequently called session musician, recording for movie and TV soundtracks. She also performs solo, with electronics, and with other local chamber groups and has been featured as a soloist on the Jacaranda Chamber Music, People Inside Electronics, and Electronics Live! series. Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed described her as a “soulful violist.” Fernandez teaches a Pepperdine University.
Michael Jon Fink (See composers bios.)
The Formalist Quartet (Andrew Tholl, Mark Menzies, Andrew McIntosh, and Ashley Walters) is an ensemble dedicated to the performance of adventurous repertoire focusing on contemporary pieces and world premiers. Born in 2006, it has played frequently across the United States, at festivals and in concert halls, art galleries, cafes, and homes, including the REDCAT (LA); the Wulf (LA); Flatfile Galleries (Chicago); Cornelia Street Café (NYC); MOSA Concert Series (NYC); Eagle Rock Center for the Arts (LA); Villa Aurora (LA); LISTEN/SPACE (NYC); Hamiltonian Gallery (Wash., DC); ArtSpace (Herndon, VA); UCSD; Stanford Univ.; Univ. of Wisconsin.; Princeton Univ.; Univ. of Nevada; Univ. of Maryland; the Et Cetera New Music Festival, and the Reykjavik Arts Festival (Iceland). The group’s eclectic repertoire includes pieces by Harold Budd, Leos Janácek, Ulrich Krieger, Lei Liang, Luigi Nono, Marc Sabat, Wadada Leo Smith, members of the quartet, and many others. Formalist’s recordings include the epic 100 Cadences by the late composer Arthur Jarvinen, as well as music by Nicholas Deyoe, Henry Wolfe, Kristian Ireland, and Busta Rhymes and music for several small films.
Alex Iles has been principal trombonist with the Long Beach Symphony and has also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the L.A. Chamber Orchestra, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Opera Pacifica, the Pacific Symphony, the Pasadena Symphony, and the Santa Barbara Symphony. He performs and records as a regular member of many of the top big bands and jazz groups in L.A., including Bob Florence’s Limited Edition, Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, and The Tom Kubis Big Band. He has toured as lead and solo jazz trombonist with the Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson big bands, with whom he has recorded. He has also performed and recorded with the The Bill Cunliffe Sextet and The David Roitstein Group. As a much-in-demand LA session player, He has performed on hundreds of film and television scores by such composers as Danny Elfman, James Horner, Hans Zimmer, Lalo Shiffrin, and John Williams and on many popular music releases by such artists as Ray Charles, Terence Blanchard, Joe Cocker, Harry Connick Jr., Prince and others. Iles has performed on an earlier Cold Blue CD (The City the Wind Swept Away). He teaches trombone and jazz studies at CalArts.
Guy Klucevsek is one of the world’s most versatile and highly-respected accordionists. He has performed and/or recorded with Laurie Anderson, Bang On a Can, Brave Combo, Anthony Braxton, Anthony Coleman, Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell, Rahim al Haj, Robin Holcomb, Kepa Junkera, the Kronos Quartet, Natalie Merchant, Present Music, Relâche, Zeitgeist, and John Zorn. He has premiered over 50 solo accordion pieces, including works by Mary Ellen Childs, William Duckworth, Fred Frith, Aaron Jay Kernis, Jerome Kitzke, Stephen Montague, Somei Satoh, Lois V Vierk, and John Zorn. Performances include the Ten Days on the Island Festival (Tasmania), the Adelaide Festival (Australia), the Berlin Jazz Festival, Lincoln Center, Spoleto Festival/USA, BAM Next Wave Festival, Cotati Accordion Festival, San Antonio International Accordion Festival, Vienna International Accordion Festival, and the children’s television show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. He is a founding member of Accordion Tribe, an international ensemble of composer/accordionists that toured internationally from 1996-2009 and is the subject of an award-winning documentary film by Stefan Schwietert. Guy’s music theatre scores include Chinoiserie and Obon with Ping Chong and Company, Hard Coal, with the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, Industrious Angels for Laurie McCants, Cirque Lili for French circus artist Jérôme Thomas, which has been performed over 250 times worldwide. He has recordings on the Tzadik, Winter & Winter, Intuition, Starkland, XI, and CRI labels. He can also be heard on John Williams’s orchestral scores for The Terminal, Munich, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Adventures of Tin-Tin.
Ingram Marshall (See composers bios.)
Thomas Newman is the popular and critically acclaimed, frequently Oscar-nominated composer of numerous (more than 80) film scores, a highly varied body of work that includes American Beauty, Lemony Snicket’s…, WALL-E, Angels in America, The Good German, Finding Nemo, Jarhead, Road to Perdition, Erin Brockovich, The Horse Whisperer, The Shawshank Redemption, Scent of a Woman, The Player, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Meet Joe Black, Oscar and Lucinda, Little Women, Unstrung Heroes, Phenomenon, and Fried Green Tomatoes. He performed as pianist on Cox’s Cold Blue CDs Maria Falling Away and Fade and he and Cox collaborated as joint composer-performers on the Cold Blue release 35 Whirlpools Below Sound (CB0040). Newman holds degrees from USC and Yale University, where his composition teachers included Bruce MacCombie and Jacob Druckman.
Phil O’Connor is a clarinetist with many Southern California ensembles, including the symphony orchestras of Long Beach, Pasadena, and Santa Barbara, the Los Angeles Opera, Opera Pacific, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He also has performed with the new music ensembles Jacaranda, XTET, the California E.A.R. Unit, and Mladi. A graduate of Manhattan School of Music, O’Connor has been involved in numerous live radio broadcasts for WQXR (NYC), as well as KJAZ, KMZT, and many others. He can be heard performing on numerous motion picture soundtracks, and television shows.
Bryan Pezzone is an active L.A. pianist who specializes in contemporary music, film soundtracks, and jazz. He has worked with many noted conductors—Pierre Boulez, Oliver Knussen, John Adams, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Kent Nagano—and performed as a soloist with major orchestras. From 1991 through 1999, he was principal pianist with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He has performed regularly at the Monday Evening Concerts, the Green Umbrella Series, the Southwest Chamber Music Series, and the Ojai Festival. He has also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, the Joffrey Ballet, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Pezzone regularly tours with the jazz group Free Flight and has been the pianist on most of the cartoons released by Warner Brothers and Disney over the past ten years. He was the founder of the multi-focused keyboard program at the CalArts, where he taught from 1987 through 2000. Responsible for recording much of Yamaha’s Disklavier Piano Series. His recordings include works by John Harbison, Mel Powell, John Briggs, Michael Jon Fink, Jim Fox, and John Cage. He may be heard on seven Cold Blue CDs and on recordings on the Mode, Tzadik, Varése Sarabande, Decca, and Nonesuch labels.
John Schneider, celebrated guitarist (twice nominated for a Latin Grammy award), composer, author, and broadcaster, has for the past two decades performed almost exclusively on the “Well-Tempered Guitar,” performing Renaissance and Baroque repertoire in their original temperaments and contemporary music in alternative tunings by composers Lou Harrison, Ben Johnston, Terry Riley, and many others. A specialist in the music of Harry Partch, which he performs often, he is the founding artistic director of LA’s MicroFest (www.MicroFest.org), an annual festival of microtonal music, and Just Strings, a chamber group devoted to the performance of music in alternative tunings. Schneider commissioned the building of the first Just National Steel Guitar, on which he performs works written for the instrument by Lou Harrison, Terry Riley, Larry Polansky, and others. Schneider has performed throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, being featured by such organizations and venues as the DaCamera Society, Southwest Chamber Music, New American Music Festival, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, and the BBC. He has recorded for New Albion, Mode, Cambria, Bridge, and other labels. He is the past president of the Guitar Foundation of America and the author of the book The Contemporary Guitar (University of California Press), which has become the standard text in its field. For many years Schneider has been the host of Pacifica Radio’s popular and eclectic Global Village radio show (KPFK in Los Angeles, worldwide at www.kpfk.org).
Phillip Schroeder (See composers bios.)
Chas Smith (See composers bios.)
Marty Walker, a clarinetist who specializes in the performance of new music, has premiered more than 90 works written especially for him. Among the labels for which he has recorded are Cold Blue, innova, CRI, O.O.Discs, Tzadik, Grenadilla, Echograph, New World, and Rastacan. Walker has toured and recorded with various new-music ensembles, including the California E.A.R. Unit, Some Over History, eXindigo, Viklarbo, and Ghost Duo. He currently is a member of the Robin Cox Ensemble. As a soloist, he has presented live concerts on NPR, Pacifica, and other radio venues and has performed at such new music festivals and venues as New Music America, the International Festival of New Music (L.A.), New Music International (Mexico City), Real Art Ways, FaultLines, the Monday Evening Concerts, Knitting Factory West, Podewil, and Wires. Walker may be heard on seven Cold Blue releases.
Brian Walsh is an eclectic woodwind performer who specializes in clarinet and bass clarinet. He frequently performs with such diverse groups as the New Century Players, the Vinny Golia Large Ensemble, Inauthentica, the Industrial Jazz Group, PLOTZ!, and the Doug McDonald Brass and Woodwind Coalition. He also leads the Walsh Set Trio, a jazz-based ensemble focusing on the performance of his own compositions. Performances have taken him to Japan, Canada, Italy, England, the Netherlands, Iceland, and all over the United States. He has premiered pieces by Luigi Nono, Girard Grisey, James Newton, Rosalie Hirs, and many others. He has also worked with Peter Maxwell Davies, Gavin Bryars, Bobby Bradford, Nels Cline, Money Mark, Bright Eyes, James Newton, Larry Koonse, Muhal Richard Abrams, the Henry Mancini Orchestra, and the Riverside Philharmonic.
“Stellar.” —Alex Ambrose, Q2 Music producer, WQXR
“In the ‘80s, a small independent label called Cold Blue released a compilation that would put a whole group of composers from the US West Coast on the map. Those composers shared a certain style: delicate music that aimed for beauty and simplicity through the lens of modernity and the avant-garde. Thirty years later, Cold Blue delivers another compilation album…the esthetic cohesion around the Cold Blue name carries on, but creativity rules over homogeneity. [John Luther] Adams’ Sky with Four Suns is gorgeous, but there’s plenty of other splendors waiting for you on this CD.” —Francois Couture, Monsieur Délire’s Listening Diary
“The music by Daniel Lentz that opens this anthology, a solo cello line harmonically enriched through overdubbing, is graceful, understated and tinged with melancholy. The closing piece, Jim Fox’s filmic Colorless sky became fog, shares those qualities. They seem to define a Cold Blue soundworld, although these 14 previously unissued tracks, some specially commissioned, accommodate diverse and individualistic composers such as Ingram Marshall, Peter Garland, David Rosenboom and John Luther Adams…. This is a post-experimental label, presenting work that subtly channels lessons learnt from radical sources into music that is unapologetically attractive and accessible. —Julian Cowley, The Wire magazine
“Cold Blue Two. Its a fantastic introduction to a diverse range of works of modern composition…. an amazingly beautiful collection.” —In the Quiet, PBS-FM (Australia)
“This is sweet, elegant minimal and modern classical music, which sometimes has more of an edge than other times, but which makes this an absolutely fine compilation. All fourteen of these pieces are quite good, with no weak brother around…. It’s indeed the perfect kind of music to get up with, or to go to sleep with—as that’s what I did at the end of the day.” —Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly (The Netherlands)
“A superb sequel to the first anthology (issued in the mid-‘80s), Cold Blue Two offers a comprehensive overview of the West Coast label’s artists and their respective styles; anyone new to the label will come away enlightened and enriched by the experience. Many pieces are by Cold Blue artists of long-standing—figures like Rick Cox, Daniel Lentz, John Luther Adams, Daniel Lentz, and Jim Fox—while other contributions come from highly regarded figures like Gavin Bryars and Ingram Marshall….
“Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick inaugurates the hour-long collection with a moving setting for multi-tracked cello in Lentz’s Celli, with her plaintive lines weaving themselves into an affecting and stately whole. A few other pieces are similarly scored for a single instrument: pianist Sarah Cahill gives Miller’s piece a delectably slow reading that subtly alludes to both blues and jazz, while accordionist Guy Klucevsek infuses Peter Garland’s Nights in the Gardens of Maine with a light-hearted and uplifting spirit.
“Some settings are not only distinguished compositionally but sonically too. Ingram Marshall’s Son of Soe-pa, for example, finds the composer applying a dramatic dose of digital delay processing to the elegant classical guitar playing of his son, Clement (augmented by recordings of him singing hymns at the age of eight) to stirring effect. In Sometimes the Sword of Seven, Chas Smith uses multiple layers of Hammond organ and steel guitar to generate a massive force-field whose intensity culminates in a stabbing crescendo that’s eased by a restful deflation. Playing celesta on his own Another Shore, Phillip Schroeder uses digital delay to create kaleidoscopic vistas of luscious sparkle, while James Tenney’s just-intonation piece Mallets in the Air is scored for a Harry Partch-designed diamond marimba and string quartet (its title derives from Partch’s admonition, “Do not wave the mallets in the air, daintily or otherwise”). At disc’s end, Colorless sky became fog by Cold Blue head Jim Fox also sets itself apart in its incorporation of hammered dulcimer, whose shimmer adds to the piece’s already haunting character.
“Scored for two clarinets, piano, and electronics, Rick Cox’s Later is one of the more formal chamber-styled pieces on the recording, as is Bryars’s It Never Rains, which is emblematic of the English composer’s customary style—lyrical and ruminative, the setting tangentially recalls his earlier After the Requiem, which likewise pairs electric guitar and strings. The string quartet ETHEL contributes a sterling reading of John Luther Adams’s Sky with Four Suns, an evocation that draws inspiration from the Arctic sky, specifically the illusion that can be produced through interactions between the sun and ice crystals in the air. A slow and stately waltz with roots in gospel, David Rosenboom’s aptly titled Hymn of Change is given an affecting performance by the Formalist Quartet. Certainly one of the CD’s most arresting pieces is Larry Polansky’s gentle Eskimo Lullaby, not so much for the beauty of its Just-Intonation National steel guitar playing—as pretty as it is—but for the unexpected inclusion of guitarist John Schneider’s unadorned vocal. Anyone suffering from the delusion that Cold Blue’s music is emotionally cool will find that misguided impression quickly righted after sampling this resonant and wide-ranging collection, which incontrovertibly showcases the label’s penchant for music that exemplifies refinement without at the same time being overly burdened by formality and convention.” —Textura
“Is it possible for an album to be too pretty? It’s certainly easy to dismiss a piece of music that eschews superficial complexity in favor of loveliness, whose form favors harmonic stasis over dramatic contrast, as “too pretty.” But that accusation is almost always code for something else, some other agenda that the critic is bringing to the music, and dismissive listeners should probably interrogate their own responses before they look to the composer.
Case in point: the Cold Blue label’s second, terribly beautiful, anthology of new music, appropriately titled Cold Blue Two. Coming almost three decades after the first Cold Blue was released on vinyl in 1984, and reissued on CD in 2000, it shrugs off any such accusations.
“Unapologetically beautiful, Cold Blue Two presents 14 distinctive ways to make clear, still ‘pretty’ music, by 14 different composers, many of whom created these pieces especially for the album.
“Listen closely: there is almost always a sharp edge hidden among these glistening surfaces. Ingram Marshall’s Son of Soe-Pah manages to make the sound of major-key acoustic guitar and boy treble into something deeply disturbing, and Chas Smith’s Sometimes the Sword of Seven manages to bring just a hint of metal guitar edge into a disorienting swirl of warped organ. The late James Tenney’s Mallets in the Air marries the diamond marimba of Harry Partch to a string quartet in one of the album’s many nods to microtonal technique. Just as often, as in John Luther Adams’s Sky with Four Suns, the transparent loveliness of the materials provides a glimpse into the severe rigor of the underlying construction.
“On second thought, maybe there is such a thing as “too pretty,” and maybe this album has found it. The most casual listen to this haunted music-box, as often eerie or melancholy as it is soothing, is an unsettling experience, a quiet disquiet. Cold Blue the label and Cold Blue the anthologies are aptly named: cold and like a glacier or a clear winter sky, this music is as shiver-inducing as it is lovely.” —Daniel Stephen Johnson, Q2 Music, WQXR
“This marvelous CD assembles 14 works by contemporary composers…. While many of the composers here have roots in the experimental tradition, the pieces on this disc are fiercely consonant and infused with unique orchestrations and electronic processing. Fine moments include the stacked steel guitars of Chas Smith, and the pieces by label veterans Rick Cox, Read Miller, Michael Jon Fink, and Jim Fox. Essential! —Gino Robair, Electronic Musician magazine
“CB2 is a great compilation. Jim Fox has quietly been pressing some remarkable CDs on his Cold Blue label out of Venice, CA for a number of years now. It’s a wonderful catalog of treasures.” —Richard Friedman, Producer/Host, Music from Other Minds (KALW)
“It’s been about a decade since the CD release of Cold Blue (Cold Blue Music CB0008), a compilation of 13 short works by a panoply of the label’s favorite composers; many of those names reappear here. As before, these works are new to CD, and some of them actually were composed for this release. Cold Blue (which originally appeared on LP) was called ‘a classic anthology of American new music’ by Charles Amirkhanian, and Cold Blue Two is a chip off the old block….
“Most Cold Blue releases are devoted to a single composer. This one is devoted to 14.… All of these works are just short/long enough to make their point, and they rub shoulders amicably throughout….
“The booklet lists the works, the performers, and the timings, all against the backdrop of interesting and evocative photographs from the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the Santa Paula Snapshot Museum, and Fox himself….
“Perhaps a description of the first three tracks will let the listener know what he or she is in for. Celli, by Daniel Lentz, features cellist Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick, albeit squared, cubed, and quadrupled through the use of multi-tracking and overdubbing. Thus, one cellist sounds like a cello super-ensemble. The music is grave and beautiful, and deep enough to wander through, at least for four minutes and 23 seconds. Ingram Marshall’s Son of Soe-Pa begins with the sound of Marshall’s son Clement playing a hypnotic guitar phrase from his father’s earlier work Soe-Pa. Marshall then subjects it to electronic processing, including the introduction of delay and pitch manipulations. He then folds in multiple layers of Clement’s voice (when Clement was eight) singing a hymn tune. (The effect will remind some listeners of Marshall’s Hidden Voices, from 1989.) By the time Son of Soe-Pa is nearing its end, Marshall has restored Clement’s original sample, but as the piece fades out, the process of manipulation seems, hauntingly, to be starting again. Phillip Schroeder plays the celesta (and applies digital delay to it) in his Another Shore, taking the instrument some distance from the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The music twinkles and flitters.
“The sticker on the shrink wrap included a silly quote from Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, who opines that “this record pretty much kicks ass.” Cold Blue Two, I would counter, is too gentle and well-mannered to kick anything, let alone ass. It’s more like a quiet guy at a party who gets branded as a nerd or an eccentric, but who ends up amazing all the guests with his insights and innate sensitivity. Make his acquaintance before others do.” — Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare magazine
“What exactly is new music these days? There is no simple answer, which is a source of both frustration and delight, depending on one’s disposition, but this dazzling and broadly satisfying compilation gives an excellent snapshot of at least one wide corner of the new world…. Performances are excellent, including many veterans of the new music crowd.” —Peter Burwasser, Fanfare magazine
“A fascinating assortment of composers…. A very rewarding experience.” —MainlyPiano.com
“I find this a striking release that has more significance beyond its apparent surface…. None of these works have been recorded on previous Cold Blue releases, and many have been written especially for this collection. As a result, it’s an unusually recent, fresh, and wide-ranging ‘group portrait.’
“It’s worth pointing out a little bit of history here. So many and varied tides of innovation, revolution, and counterrevolution have swept over the musical landscape for the past century or so, that by now the waters are muddied, but interestingly so. The rule of high Eurocentric modernism in the U.S. began to crumble in the 1960s, with the double whammy of minimalism and postmodernism, led by composers as different as Steve Reich and William Bolcom. But before this clash, there were other and earlier important American traditions, in particular experimentalism (usually associated with Cage and his school), and the ultramodernist “mavericks” (think Ives, Cowell, Ruggles, Crawford). These strains were the first, even before the minimalism of Riley and Young, to advance a West Coast aesthetic, which was looser, more Pacific-oriented, and less afraid of overt evocations of beauty.
“And so this emphasis on experiment combined with beauty has become a unifying thread for a generation of mostly West Coast composers, generally in their 50s. To take just one example from this disc that I love, Philip Schroeder’s Another Shore has the glistening rain of celesta (with digital delay), but rigorously structured according to the Fibonacci series. John Luther Adams is another who often uses strict process to achieve effects parallel to natural processes, at times “sublime.” James Tenney (no longer with us) is one of the closest “ancestors” to this school, and his piece for string quartet and Harry Partch’s “Diamond Marimba” is a gentle but bracing tour through the overtone series in just intonation.
“Not all composers are such formalists. There are some who achieve effects of great complexity through increasingly dense digital overlays (Marshall, Smith). Others are firmly committed to an ideal of simplicity through repetition, deriving from both popular musics and minimalism (Bryars, Fink, Fox). Some are seemingly simple, yet also subtly unpredictable (Lentz, Cox, Bryars). And finally there is a trio of surprises towards the end. Larry Polanksy, Peter Garland, and David Rosenboom have written some highly complex, algorithmic music in their day. Yet these brainiacs give us a series of folk songs for the future. Polansky has a gentle tune in just intonation for guitar and voice, based on Inuit song; Garland (who’s moved from New Mexico to Maine) gives us a sort of sea chanty for solo accordion; Rosenboom contributes a tonal hymn that Ives would have been happy to get his hands on. All this goes to prove that these composers are truly “experimental” in their willingness to break any stereotype that might be settling upon them.
“The performances are consistently lovely and sensitive. I came out of the listening not only refreshed, but with a much stronger sense of this aesthetic, and how it continues to grow and mature in the hands of these composers. Highly recommended.” —Robert Carl, Fanfare magazine
“Cold Blue Two features 14 short tracks, many of which were composed specifically for this CD. It offers a panoramic view of Cold Blue’s offerings, which are quite varied and yet make a powerful unified statement. These works could be described as beautiful oddities—some even devastatingly gorgeous, but always with a twist. Even if unapologetic beauty is not your cup of tea, worry not—upon close listen each one of these works sports frayed edges, chipped corners, or other subtle disturbances that turn it into a highly personal proclamation; this is far more than lovely fluff. Daniel Lentz’s smooth, mournful solo cello-with-overdubs piece Celli, Phillip Schroeder’s shimmering Another Shore for celesta with digital delay, and John Luther Adams’s Sky With Four Suns are examples of flat-out pretty music bearing plenty of harmonic and thoughtfully structured substance. But stand by, because things get weirder, and quickly. Son of Soe-Pa for solo guitar with electronics by Ingram Marshall is performed by his son, and also includes a recording of his son singing as an eight-year-old child. This description sounds warm and fuzzy until you actually hear the digital delay pitch-bends dragging down the guitar in a mildly sea-sickly, disturbing fashion. Here, childhood memories are taken to a surreal place…. The disc also contains a healthy dose of just intonation; the 16th-note tremolo that opens James Tenney’s Mallets in the Air, scored for the Harry Partch diamond marimba with string quartet, ushers in an upswing of mood and activity level after a series of somewhat lethargically paced tracks. It is followed by the disarmingly lovely, glowing Eskimo Lullaby, written by Larry Polansky for Lou Harrison’s just-intonation National guitar and the diaphanous, untrained voice of guitarist John Schneider.
“All of the pieces have an intimate, small-space chamber music sound, whether it is accordion, clarinets, and piano, and/or electronics. Many are haunting, but not at all cold or alienating; this is music for friendly ghosts. Each work contains treasures to be discovered within, and the heart-on-sleeve honesty of the works is not something one hears often.” —Alexandra Gardner, NewMusicBox
“The Cold Blue label has rarely, if ever, failed to put out music whose provocation seems the greater for its thoughtfulness. This is evident on this second miscellany.… The sequence is set in motion by the pensive eloquence of Daniel Lentz’s Celli, the sound of whose solo cello fans out in subtly varied guises; then Ingram Marshall’s Son of Soe-pa puts the classical guitar through a variety of arresting as well as haunting electronic transformations. Phillip Schroeder’s Another Shore does something altogether more whimsical yet comparably intangible with celesta and digital delay, while the two clarinets and piano of Rick Cox’s Later combine with electronic samples in a calmly ruminative discourse. Chas Smith effects tonal and also intonational sleights of hand in the electronic maelstrom that is Sometimes the Sword of Seven, though the relatively self-contained and emotionally poised approach to string quartet in John Luther Adams’s Sky with Four Suns brings a telling instance of ‘less is more’ not for the first time with this always consistent composer, while there is a pronounced vein of deadpan thoughtfulness to the piano’s unfolding of Read Miller’s (perhaps) fancifully titled Come out, sit awhile; break the bottle, and you is lost. Gavin Bryars is encountered on familiar territory in the restrained modal interplay of guitar, viola, cello and double bass in It Never Rains, then Michael John Fink attains something demonstrably more soulful in the delicate exchanges of clarinet, electric guitar and trombonist who alternates between alto, tenor and bass instruments in Prelude to Alone. The spectre of Harry Partch is enticingly evoked through the combining of diamond marimba (playing in just intonation) and string quartet in James Tenney’s deftly minimalist Mallets in the Air, paralleled in less stylized terms with the whispering vocalist who plays National steel guitar (again in just intonation) of Larry Polansky’s Eskimo Lullaby. Peter Garland has come up with a study for accordion of engaging humour in Nights in the Gardens of Maine, while David Rosenboom’s Hymn of Change is a sepia-tinted elegy for string quartet of affecting warmth. Jim Fox rounds off proceedings with the gently enveloping interplay of hammered dulcimer, violin, two cellos, double bass and piano in Colorless sky became fog. All of the performances are as sensitively attuned to this music as might be expected from artists who have graced the Cold Blue catalogue, while the attractiveness of booklet presentation more than offsets the absence of notes on the individual pieces. It all adds up to a finely balanced and judiciously contrasted collection which will be eagerly sought by admirers of this questing label. Those suitably intrigued by what they might already have heard need not hesitate to acquire a sampler that confirms the tradition of American experimental music to be alive, well and in safe hands.” —Richard Whitehouse, International Record Review
“All music in some sense is an answer to a particular set of usually unstated questions. I presume those questions change over time and style sets, for music can be quite variable as we know and different composers-artists at different periods of time can be operating under very different premises compared to some other contrasting period.… When one is dealing with ‘new music,’ things thought-through very or relatively recently, it may be that the world has not quite caught up with what the artist is saying. Or perhaps the audience is there already but the ideas behind the music have yet to be made fully articulate. Not all music is only understandable by people in some future era, and not every era has universal population coverage for a style of ‘serious’ music, if that ever can be said…. Be all that as it may, it hit me as I have been listening to the new anthology Cold Blue Two that we may be experiencing a shift in the parameters, and the unstated questions lurking behind some new music today. If so, it is as a subset of the modern world, not as a total supplanting of it, as far as I can hear. The music is not entirely post-modern, in other words, because it exists within, presumes, and in part assumes the ‘today’ of modernity.
“Certainly the 14 relatively brief compositions by the 14 composers represented in this collection have something in common. There is tonality, yes, and there can be a certain cyclical use of motifs, though not always for the latter. The fourteen previously unreleased recorded works are not typically ‘modern’ for the most part in the strident sense, nor are they heroically expressive in the neo-romantic sense. It’s music somehow more intimate, personal, lived-inside.… Beauty seems to be a concern, for there is a constant kind of tenderness that feels like that throughout. There is also a range of expression but most certainly within that range a bit of melancholy, of contemplation, sometimes a plain-spun kind of naivete, and a sensuous attention to tone without the lushly gushed version that romanticism proffers.… This is music with a cinematic quality. It has a calling-up-of-imagery sense to it. These are soundtracks to a life being lived at the moment, perhaps.
“Performers are all quite up on the music…. All sound right and present themselves to us with excellent fidelity…. The music consistently engages and remains quite accessible without straying at all toward a new-age dumbed-down faux populism. That’s quite refreshing…. There’s so much in the way of variation within this overall mind-heart-set that I will not try to encapsulate the myriad particulars.
“So then what is the unstated question that motivates this music? I am not sure that words do justice to it or if there is enough space to go into it fully. But I will say that ‘how does it feel to be alive right now?’ may be a part of it all. It’s not as much about concept and carving new syntaxes that we might hear and sense in new music from later romanticism, the Darmstadt-Cagean and high minimalism forms of classical that are all very much still with us. This music seems different. An extension of folk-nationalism in a way but without necessarily being specific as to which folk and which nation? Perhaps…. At any rate it is music that communicates and shows a most definite human face. It’s not so much about technology and technique as it is about how it is like inside the technology, in spite of technology, with perhaps a bit of nostalgia and striving after the simpler forms of a pre-technical existence…. I could be wrong about all that. The main thing however is that this is singular music. Highly recommended.” —Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review
“If you haven’t got this record, then it’s worth checking out — the best in that kind of long, lovely and almost lonesome music that CB does so well. It’s very much an ‘LA’ sound, even though some of the composers (like Gavin Bryars) are not LA people.” —Virginia Anderson, EMC Blog (Experimental Music Catalogue, UK)
“Cold Blue Music, the landmark recording label that features minimalism and post-minimalist music centered on the West Coast, has issued a new CD collection containing previously unreleased works by fourteen artists. A sequel to Cold Blue (the anthology), Cold Blue Two maintains the high standards set by the first CD. With such artists as Daniel Lentz, Ingram Marshal, John Luther Adams, James Tenney, Jim Fox and others, Cold Blue Two stands as a valuable benchmark of the state of early 21st-century music…. evocative, warm, introspective and often profoun…. Cold Blue Two is a compelling collection.” —Paul Muller, Sequenza21
“Full of delights.” —KFJC
“Cold Blue Two is wonderful.” —Joel Krutt, Pushing the Envelope radio, WHUS
“The Cold Blue label has been around since the early 1980s, producing a number of excellent vinyl releases, then a few years later they folded up shop, only to re-emerge as a CD label a decade later maintaining the same high standards and musical focus, with many of the same artists. This compilation, featuring fourteen different pieces by as many artists is an excellent way of introduction to their ‘sound.’ Most of the material here falls into what could be considered new-classical, chamber, minimalist or post-minimalist music, essentially a composer’s forum for new ideas on not-so-easy to categorize musical fronts. Most of these artists were based in Southern California originally, where the label itself is from, but that’s certainly no longer the case; Gavin Bryars, for example, is from the UK and has a large body of varied classical work to his credit. Daniel Lentz is another innovative composer with a large body of work on many different labels; his offering here, a piece for multi-tracked cello opens the disc nicely and sets the mood for all that follows. Chas Smith is a composer and an instrument maker; his contribution here is a haunting five-minute lapse into some dark and foreboding sounds of mysterious origins. Prelude to Alone is Michael Jon Fink’s ode to solitude featuring a trio of clarinet, trombones, and his own electric guitar. Rick Cox offers Later, a beautiful chamber trio piece or piano, two clarinets, plus light samples and electronics near the closing moments. It’s worthy to note that on a number of these pieces, the composer doesn’t actually perform personally. Such is the case with John Luther Adams’s Sky with Four Suns, where a string quartet breathes life into this beautiful and haunting post-minimalist conceptual piece. Phillip Schroeder’s piece Another Shore, for celestra and delays finds beautiful bell-like sounds arranged in varied looping patterns that flow and ebb throughout its four-minute duration. James Tenney’s composition Mallets in the Air for Partch diamond marimba in just intonation is realized by a quintet that includes two violins, viola, and cello, and is one of the most interesting pieces here; and continuing the just-intonation, it’s followed by Larry Polansky’s Eskimo Lullaby, performed on National steel guitar, one of the only pieces here that features vocals. Closing the disc is Jim Fox’s appropriately titled Colorless Sky Became Fog, a surreal piece featuring hammered dulcimer, piano and strings. And that only summarizes about half of what’s here. Cold Blue is one of those labels that truly has its own recognizable sound, and this compilation is a compendious introduction that I can wholeheartedly recommend.” —Peter Thelen, Exposé