Thomas Buckner Re-Enters the Record Business


Space, Abrams, and Graves CDs
Space, Abrams, and Graves CDs
designed by Matt Schickele

New music baritone Thomas Buckner, founder of the legendary 1750 Arch Records, which released more than fifty creative record albums, recently announced the formation of a new label, Mutable Music.

Mutable Music will release recordings that promote creative contemporary music. A major focus of the label will be recordings that feature contemporary composer/performers in composed and improvisational settings.

“My motivation for doing this label came from the fact that, just as when I started [1750 Arch Records], there are all kinds of music that I wanted to see out there that other people are not particularly interested in recording,” Buckner stated in an interview.

There are four releases scheduled for spring 2001. The debut release will be The Visibility of Thought, the first-ever recording of Muhal Richard Adams’s classical compositions, played by Joseph Kubera (piano), Jon Deak (contrabass), Ethel (string quartet), Mark Feldman (violin), Thomas Buckner (baritone), Philip Bush (piano), and the composer (piano). “I think that it’s exceptional music,” Buckner commented. “He’s been composing and performing this kind of music throughout his whole career.” The disc includes Baritone Voice and String Quartet, written for Buckner, as well as Piano Duet #1, written for Ursula Oppens and Frederic Rzewski.

Composer Mel Graves has been a prominent music figure in the San Francisco area for the past 30 years. The disc Day of Love features the title track, based on poems by Pablo Neruda, also written for Buckner, and the quartet Global Village. Performances are by Buckner, Ethel, Robert Afifi (flute), and the composer (bass).

Next will come Space: New Music for Woodwinds and Voice/An Interesting Breakfast Combination. This is a reissue of the two critically acclaimed 1750 Arch Records (from 1981 and 1984) of composed and improvisational works by Roscoe Mitchell, Thomas Buckner, and the late Gerald Oshita.

Completing the initial quartet of releases will be Eight O’Clock: Two Improvisations. Since the late 1970s, Thomas Buckner has worked closely with composer/performer Roscoe Mitchell, one of the founding members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. This recording documents some of their strongest work to date in their ongoing studies of improvisation since the formation of the trio “Space” (with Gerald Oshita) in 1979. The way Buckner explained it, he and Mitchell have been improvising together so long that they walked into a studio one day in December, decided to do “a long piece and a short piece,” and then simply recorded the results on the first take.

Plans for future releases include a recording of an improvised piece Jump the Circle/Jump the Line, performed live by Buckner and Tom Hamilton at Engine 27 in December 2000; a new recording of the solo percussion music of Jerome Cooper; and two 1750 Arch reissues: Ethnic Fusion, the music of Big Black and Anthony Wheaton; and Randy Weston‘s solo piano album Blue, complete with some newly recorded tracks.

Buckner stresses that Mutable is not solely a reissue label. “I’m reissuing people I still find interesting. Music is not objective, it’s subjective. [My selection process] is very arbitrary and capricious,” Buckner quipped. Even if he wanted to reissue the entire 1750 Arch collection, there are logistical problems. When he stopped 1750 Arch Records in 1984, Buckner initially sought to find an arrangement with a record company whereby the performers and composers would be able to access their master tapes. When no record company stepped forward, he decided, instead, simply to give the masters back to the composers and performers in question, enabling them to seek out re-release arrangements on their own.

According to Buckner, the name Mutable reflects his love of “music that changes. A lot of the music we have so far has an element of mutability, whether it’s improvisation or indeterminacy. There is an element in the music that isn’t completely fixed in the score.” Mutable could also apply to Buckner’s open-minded approach. “I’m not going to swear that we won’t do something completely different,” he explained. “I’m not going to let a concept keep me from putting out a recording that I want to put out.”


Muhal Richard Abrams’s The Visibility of Thought



Mel Graves’s Day of Love