Halcyon Days   CB0065

The music

Halcyon Days draws together a vibrant collection of Byron’s early music for percussion and piano. Except for the final piece (Tender, Infinitely Tender, written in 2016), these pieces are from a previously under-documented period of Byron’s work—the mid-’70s, when he composed unique and remarkable minimalist-styled works. This album treats us to clangorous clouds of polyrhythms and simple, direct, quiet works, both of which explore rich harmonies and bespeak a sense of transcendent motionlessness.

Drifting Music (1972) and Music of Every Night (1974) are performed by Winant alone, via overdubs. The three-movement percussion quartet Music of Steady Light (1978) is performed by the William Winant Percussion Group (William Winant, Tony Gennaro, Michael Jones, and Scott Siler), the piano four-hands work Starfields (1974) is played by the Ray-Kallay Duo (Vicki Ray and Aron Kallay), and Tender, Infinitely Tender is played by Lisa Moore.

1.  Drifting Music (1972)

2.  Music of Every Night (1974)

3–5.  Music of Steady Light (1978)

   I ,   II ,   III      

6.  Starfields (1974)

7.  Tender, Infinitely Tender (2016)

Byron writes about the album:

“Poet Anne Tardos wrote that “Time doesn’t pass. We pass.”  Most of the pieces on this CD were composed in the 1970s. It seemed like everything was beginning then. Lifelong friends were made, and improbable ideas were shared; composing neither began nor ended.

“This CD features virtuoso percussionist, and my oldest friend, Bill Winant. Over the last 50 years he has performed and premiered every percussion piece that I’ve ever composed. These pieces, and this CD, are dedicated to him.”

The composer

Michael Byron’s music tends to be harmonically rich, rhythmically detailed, and extremely virtuosic. It is often praised for its ability to create uniquely dense constructions out of relatively limited materials: “Byron creates maximalist effect out of minimalist means.” (ClassicalNet) “One is reminded . . . of the mobiles of Alexander Calder, which are both fixed and moving. And, like Calder’s work, Byron’s music is immediately comprehensible and beautiful, while it remains experimental.” (San Francisco Bay Guardian) “Byron’s music, like Ligeti’s, is instantly recognizable, perceptually challenging, beautifully proportioned and deeply satisfying.” (Paris Transatlantic)

Raised in Los Angeles, Byron’s life as a composer began to take shape in 1971, when his path crossed those of composers James Tenney, Richard Teitelbaum, Peter Garland, and Harold Budd, all of whom would become his lifelong friends. In 1973, he cofounded, with David Rosenboom and Jackie Humbert, the Toronto-based multidisciplinary performance art group Maple Sugar. A few years later, he moved to New York City, where he worked on the periphery of the art rock / punk / noise music scene, performing in new music clubs with Rhys Chatham and others. At the same time, he was frequently engaged as a copyist and editor on projects for La Monte Young, Robert Ashley, and others. During the 1970s, Byron edited and published three volumes of Pieces, a journal of scores (including works by Budd, Ashley, Marion Brown, Philip Corner, Garland, Lou Harrison, Daniel Lentz, Alvin Lucier, and others), and edited Journal of Experimental Aesthetics. Recordings of Byron’s music have been released by Cold Blue Music, appearing on seven previous Cold Blue CDs, including Bridges of Pearl and Dust (CB0057), CB0054, CB0043, CB0012, CB0008, CB0005, and CB0003. His music has also been released on New World Records, Poon Village Records, Art into Life, Neutral Records, Tellus, Meridian Records, and Koch Records. He lives with his wife, poet Anne Tardos, in New York City. (www.michaelbyron.org)

“[Byron is] one of those contemporary composers who can justifiably be classed as crucial. . . . Byron’s music dances with tremulous iridescence.”—Julian Cowley, The Wire

“Byron’s music . . . can sway in the direction of shimmering minimalism, or turn to a more rigorous and near-frantic method of composition. Hot and cold, high and low.”—Incursion Music Review

The performers

William Winant, declared “the avant-elite’s go-to percussionist” by SPIN magazine, is a Grammy-nominated new-music champion who has appeared on more than 200 recordings. Among his recent recording appearances are on Roscoe Mitchell’s Bells for the South Side and Discussions, Joan Jeanrenaud’s Visual Music, Fred Frith’s Field Days (The Amanda Loops), John Zorn’s Malkhut and Fragmentations, Prayers and Interjections, the collaboratively composed (with Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Kaiser, and Tania Chen) Ocean of Storms, John Cage’s The Ten Thousand Things, and Alvin Curran’s Shofar Rags.

Winant has worked with and collaborated with some of the most innovative and creative musicians of our time, including John Cage, John Zorn, Alvin Lucier, Iannis Xenakis, Pierre Boulez, Frank Zappa, Keith Jarrett, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, Fred Frith, James Tenney, Terry Riley, Cecil Taylor, Gerry Hemingway, Mark Dresser, Barry Guy, Marilyn Crispell, George Lewis, Steve Reich, Nexus, Peter Garland, David Rosenboom, Michael Byron, Jean-Philippe Collard, Frederic Rzewski, Ursula Oppens, Joan La Barbara, Annea Lockwood, Danny Elfman, Oingo Boingo, Sonic Youth, Marc Ribot, Keith Rowe, Joey Barron, Bill Frisell, Yo-Yo Ma, Rova Saxophone Quartet, Lawrence “Butch” Morris, Henry Kaiser, and the Kronos String Quartet. For many years he worked closely with composer Lou Harrison, premiering and recording many of his works.

Winant is principal percussionist with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and the William Winant Percussion Group and has been featured as a guest artist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (under the direction of Pierre Boulez), the San Francisco Symphony, and the Berkeley Symphony (Kent Nagano, director), as well as at the Cabrillo Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the SFJazz Festival, Central Park SummerStage, the Ravinia Festival, the Salzburg Festival, the Donaueschingen Festival, the Victoriaville Festival, the Holland Festival, the Edinburgh Festival, the Ojai Festival, the Sonar Festival, All Tomorrow’s Parties, the Taktlos Festival, the Other Minds Festival, the Meltdown Festival, Lincoln Center, the Royal Festival Hall, the Library of Congress, the Barbican, the Kennedy Center, the Paris Opera, Disney Hall, the Miller Theater’s Composer Portraits Series, Merkin Hall, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. (www.williamwinant.com)

“Winant is a dazzling virtuoso but also a catalytic presence in adventurous music, a percussive dynamo generating rhythms, colours and textures that blaze life into visionary scores.”—Julian Cowley, The Wire magazine

“[Winant is] . . . one of the most wide-ranging musicians in North America . . . making a cumulative point about open-field maverick tendencies in the music of this country, whether it involves notes-on-paper composers, noise generators, rock improvisers, jazz-tradition players or whatever.”—Ben Ratliff, The New York Times

“William Winant is simply the best percussionist working today. . . . . Whichever piece it is, he is not afraid to make it come alive.”—Kim Gordon

“William Winant always plays his ass off!”—John Zorn

“Willie is very much responsible for my lifelong infatuation with percussion and remains to this day a true inspiration to me.”—Danny Elfman

“One of the great contemporary percussionists . . . San Francisco’s William Winant.”—San Francisco Chronicle

Lisa Moore is one of NYC’s top new-music pianists. Praised by The New York Times for playing that is “brilliant and searching . . . beautiful and impassioned . . . lustrous,” she was the founding pianist for the award-winning Bang on a Can All-Stars, and she has performed with such leading artists and ensembles as Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Ornette Coleman, Thurston Moore, Iva Bittova, Bryce Dessner, London Sinfonietta, Steve Reich Ensemble, New York City Ballet, American Composers Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, appearing in festivals throughout the world.

Moore has released 12 solo discs of music by composers ranging from Leoš Janáçek to Philip Glass. In 2022, she released her second album of music by Frederic Rzewski, no place to go but around. The New York Times noted that the album is “meticulous . . . clever . . . hits the gas with controlled force” with “a greater range of emotion than other interpreters.” Her 2016 CD The Stone People, featuring the music of John Luther Adams, Martin Bresnick, Missy Mazzoli, Kate Moore, Frederic Rzewski, and Julia Wolfe, made The New York Times Top Classical Albums of 2016 list and the 2017 Naxos Critics’ Choice. Moore has recorded over 30 collaborative discs (on Sony, Nonesuch, DG, BMG, New World, ABC Classics, Albany, New Albion, Starkland, Harmonia Mundi). Her recording of Steve Reich’s Music for Eighteen Musicians with Ensemble Signal made The New York Times Top Classical Albums of 2015 list.

Vicki Ray, whose playing has been described as “phenomenal and fearless,” is Los Angeles’s leading new-music pianist. Her concerts often include electronics, video, recitation, and improvisation. As noted by critic Alan Rich, “Vicki plans programs with a knack for marvelous freeform artistry. . . . [W]hat she draws from her piano always relates in wondrous ways to the senses.” As a founding member of Piano Spheres, an acclaimed series dedicated to exploring the less familiar realms of the solo piano repertoire, her playing has been hailed by the Los Angeles Times for “displaying that kind of musical thoroughness and technical panache that puts a composer’s thoughts directly before the listener.” Ray’s work as a collaborative artist has been diverse: She was the keyboardist in the California E.A.R. Unit and Xtet and she has frequently performed on the Dilijan, Jacaranda, Green Umbrella, and Monday Evening Concerts series. Vicki has been heard in major solo roles with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. With pianist Aron Kallay, she is a member of the Ray-Kallay Duo.

Her numerous recordings cover everything from the premier release on Nonesuch of Reich’s You Are (Variations) to the semi-improvised structures of Wadada Leo Smith, from the elegant serialism of Mel Powell to the austere beauty of Morton Feldman’s Crippled Symmetries, and include David Rosenboom’s Twilight Language (Tzadik) and Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet with the Eclipse Quartet. Her recording of Cage’s The Ten Thousand Things (Microfest Records) was nominated for a Grammy. In 2017 she recorded Daniel Lentz’s River of 1,000 Streams for Cold Blue Music (CB0050).

Aron Kallay is one of L.A.’s top new-music pianists, with performances that often integrate technology, video, and alternate tunings. His playing has been praised by the Los Angeles Times as “exquisite . . . alive, worthy of our wonder.” KPFK radio has noted that he possesses “that special blend of intellect, emotion, and overt physicality that makes even the thorniest scores simply leap from the page into the listeners’ laps.” Fanfare magazine described him as “a multiple threat: a great pianist, brainy tech wizard, and visionary promoter of a new musical practice.”

Aron has performed throughout the United States and abroad and is a fixture on the Los Angeles new-music scene. He is the co-founder and board president of People Inside Electronics (PIE), a concert series dedicated to classical electroacoustic music; the managing director of MicroFest, Los Angeles’s annual festival of microtonal music; and the co-director of the new-music concert series Tuesdays@MONK Space. He is also the co-director of MicroFest Records, whose first release, John Cage: The Ten Thousand Things, was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Chamber Music Performance. Aron has recorded for the MicroFest, Cold Blue Music, Delos, and Populist labels. In addition to his solo work, he is currently a member of the new-music ensembles Brightwork, the Varied Trio, and the Ray-Kallay Duo. In 2015, Kallay recorded the Daniel Lentz album In the Sea of Ionia for Cold Blue Music.

The William Winant Percussion Group has premiered works by Lou Harrison, Jose Maceda, Chris Brown, Johanna M. Beyer, Daniel Goode, James Tenney, Maayan Tsadka, and others. They can be heard on recordings on the New Albion, Tzadik, and New World labels. The ensembles members:
William Winant is a celebrated and very active new-music percussionist. See his bio above.
Tony Gennaro is a percussionist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improviser active in the LA and Bay Area music communities, with performances spanning the genres of classical, jazz, rock, free improvisation, experimental, and world musics. He is an active member of the William Winant Percussion Group and the new-music ensemble Dirt and Copper. He has recently been featured in projects by Larry Polansky, Roscoe Mitchell, Meredith Monk, Steed Cowart, Wendy Reid, Herman Kolgen, David Behrman, and Nicole Mitchell.
Michael Jones is a Southern California–based percussionist and conductor. He has performed in the LA Philharmonic’s Noon-to-Midnight Festival, the Other Minds Festival, Monday Evening Concerts, the Dog Star Orchestra Festival, the Hartford New Music Festival, and the Vernon Salon Series and had residencies at the Darmstadt Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and the Nief-Norf Summer Festival. He has appeared as a member of the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra; the William Winant Percussion Group; and the Empyrean, ECHOI, and red fish blue fish ensembles. As a performer and researcher of non-Western music, Jones has performed music from Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, West Africa, and Iran, and he studied Dagara, Ewe, Asante, and Dagomba music in Ghana at the Dagara Music Center and the Dagbe Cultural Center.
Scott Siler is an Oakland-based percussionist and composer. He holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Mills College. Since moving to the Bay Area in 2011, Siler has been active in the experimental music scene, playing in a wide range of contexts and genres. In addition to the William Winant Percussion Group, he also plays with the gamelan-influenced Lightbulb Ensemble.

Reviews