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    Sarah Hughes – Accidents of Matter or of Space

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    Sarah Hughes’ ‘Accidents of Matter or of Space’ is a limited edition of 100 archival CD-R’s mounted on an 11×14 letterpress score produced by Milkfed Press in Alameda, California. A complementary informational sheet includes credits, track list, and an essay by Dominic Lash. This release brings together a solo zither improvisation recorded in a disused transmission station in mid-Wales with three realizations of the 2011 composition (can never exceed unity), performed by Rhodri Davies, Patrick Farmer, Jane Dickson, Neil Davidson, and Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga… In what has become an oft-quoted passage, the British composer and improviser Cornelius Cardew wrote that “it is impossible to record with any fidelity a kind of music that is actually derived in some sense from the room in which it is taking place – its shape, acoustical properties, even the view from the windows. What a recording produces is a separate phenomenon, something really much stranger than the playing itself, since what you hear on tape or disc is indeed the same playing, but divorced from its natural context”. This text is usually cited as evidence of the artificiality of recorded improvisation and the superiority of “the real thing”, the live concert happening in real time. I love “the real thing”, but it seems to me that recorded improvised music at its best deliberately exploits the strangeness to which Cardew refers. We are not forced to choose between either experiencing the “natural context” (if one is there in the room when the improvisation is taking place) or having no inkling of it (if one only hears a recording of the improvisation later). Rather the recorded sounds can give greater or lesser hints as to the nature of that context, depending on the way the music is recorded, and the particular sensitivities and sensibilities of each listener. These hints can be accurate or misleading in any degree and any combination, and the activity of the listener’s fantasy in relation to these hints comprises one of the great pleasures of listening to recorded improvised music.
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    Chen Brothers – Ally

    The Chen Brothers’ «Ally» is a limited edition of 50 archival CD-R’s in recycled, hand-made packaging designed and printed by Jeremy Chen with sound by Jonathan Chen… Several years ago, my brother Jeremy and I began discussing the possibility of a collaborative project. Our initial idea was just that the collaboration would have something to do with the creation of an album: I would be responsible for the sound, and Jeremy would be responsible for the visual. As our discussion continued, we decided that Jeremy would design the sleeve before I would make the music, reversing the way recordings normally proceed. Thus, Jeremy would determine all the visual content of the sleeve, including the track names and times, and I would create the music to fit these parameters. This turned out to be a difficult task for me. I wasn’t used to accommodating a time frame in such a specific way as a composer. I made several versions of a couple of the tracks, but I didn’t feel like they were right. Meanwhile, the sleeve, which had the year 2006 printed on it, was missing its well past due CD. I had put the project aside for a couple of years when I decided on a different approach. I decided that maybe my brother was the composer here and that I was the performer/improviser. He had determined the track times and the instruction to me was to “do something within that time.” I treated each of the times as a stopwatch score with the instruction being to start and stop within the given time frame. Within that given time frame I improvised on electronics, in this case feedback. The recording was made at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center in Troy, NY.
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