Every year since 2005, E. J. Decker has produced Heart of Jazz, an assemblage of thirty to forty jazz singers and instrumentalists who get together to honor the memory of those lost in the tragic collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. Until now, no documentation has existed for these performances. [Video content included.]
Sculptor Richard Serra condemned Stockhausen’s infamous remarks on the September 11 attacks for what he saw as “the aestheticization of terror.” But violence and terror are already thoroughly aestheticized–in music, movies, books, television, video games, and so on. After the fact, others have come to find a kernel of meaning in Stockhausen’s oddly detached musings.
Born and raised in Austin, Travis Weller came up playing violin and listening to all sorts of music, eventually gravitating to sounds and instruments that were well outside the norm. We’ve talked about composition, performance, and curation, but I’d never taken the time to speak with him about the instruments he builds. To remedy that, we sat down and talked about three of his creations: The Owl, The Skiffs, and The Steel Bells.
The potential to link sound to food, scent, and the tactile sensations of the mouth creates an entirely new field of sensory interplay, which may be harnessed to a wide range of expressive ends. Approaches include theatrical narrative structures that might tell a story, spatial or landscape meditations that might resemble a sound installation, and ritual events such as a Passover Seder or a wedding ceremony.
Weekly composing homework? Yes, please. For anyone intrigued by the sonic ideas this type of exercise can generate, your spelunking down the Disquiet Junto rabbit hole is sure to be rewarded. Even for those who don’t want to wade in and create music themselves, with 88 projects already completed, the curious listener has a cavernous library to select from.
Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology, the latest edition of the seminal collection originally released forty years ago, has the most democratic profile of any of its antecedents, but there are still some questionable inclusions and omissions as well as some curious musical pronouncements in the set’s accompanying annotations, e.g. should Ornette Coleman be called a microtonalist?
Dissolving Images is a great introduction to Mark Gustavson’s compositional aesthetic, one which seamlessly blends heady structural rigor with emotional intensity and humor. Although each of these five pieces—two solos and three chamber works—is strictly notated, some of the material hints at the musical vocabulary of improvisatory traditions ranging from early jazz to Middle Eastern maqam and other non-Western idioms.