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Twenty years ago I was entirely ready to leave home, although entirely unprepared to do so. One thing I knew was which of my parent’s books and records I would take with me. I couldn’t simply claim my mother’s Herman Hesse novels to pad a shelf to impress girls, as I assumed they would, but if I had read them and expressed enthusiasm they were mine. So I read Siddhartha and I listened to a lot of Cat Stevens records. And that’s how I came to read John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, based on its humorous title (borrowed from Swift) and its Mort Drucker-ish cover. Oh, we had paperback then! and I that was one I wanted on my shelf.

The novel was published more than a decade after Toole took his own life after its rejection. His mother found a carbon copy in his belongings (the original manuscript remains lost) and spent years pursuing its publication — when finally put to ink, A Confederacy of Dunces won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and remains not merely a cult favorite but a genuine classic of American literature. Walker Percy, a Loyola University professor who helped Thelma Toole push her son’s book on publishers, wrote in the introduction:

… I read on. And on. First with the sinking feeling that it was not bad enough to quit, then with a prickle of interest, then a growing excitement, and finally an incredulity: surely it was not possible that it was so good.

Like Percy, I read Dunces laughing, shaking my head in wonderment. How could its magic have been unrecognized? And reaching the last page … how could it end? It was the only time in my life I finished a book and I didn’t want it to end.

There are a number of records we’ve been known to flip back to the beginning after the end of side B. Spider John & Willie Murphy’s Running, Jumping, Standing Still, for instance. One particular favorite around here over the past few years has been Songs to Love and Die To, the first album by Southside Desire. Two years ago the band approached us about carrying it exclusively for the first month, and they said some of the nicest things about the record shop in an interview for the City Pages‘ music blog Gimme Noise (here). Our first listen to the album might have been a little like Percy’s response to the unpublished novel a mourning mother had been haranguing him with, incredulous: surely it’s not this good.

It is and we wore out a copy that winter, and chose it as our favorite album of the year, although it went heartbreakingly unnoticed by most local music media. While we thought “When I Was Your Queen” was a natural radio hit, we hardly heard it on the air.

Songs to Love and Die To left listeners with a story yet untold, just as John Kennedy Toole had with his novel. A listener couldn’t help but wish there were just a little more when the bass walks aways just as it had arrived at the end of “The Ballad of a Flickering Flame,” a classic torcher in which Devitt speculates on life and death with striking candor. If you ask us (although no one has), this song alone should have merited Marvel Devitt as one of the best young songwriters in the Twin Cities. You should give it a listen, along with the whole album, here.

from the end of our days til the birth of the suns
our particles wanted to turn into one
and the birds will keep singing and the trees will still grow
and i’lll hold you forever, that’s all i know

Southside Desire’s story is essential to the band’s sound: a group of south Minneapolis kids who grew up together, playing in a succession of bands that didn’t ‘make it.’ The bassist who opens and closes Songs to Love and Die To is Devitt’s husband (and, full disclosure, an employee here at Hymie’s Records) — so when she speculates on “mak[ing] one together” in this last song from their first album, it’s very real. They’re expecting their first next month. “Ballad of a Flickering Flame” could easily have turned into a much darker piece of music, something like the Cowboy Junkies’ “To Love is to Bury,” but instead Devitt focuses on the precious time we have, in this case our heads safely rested on a shoulder.

wall-1260x946The band is back with a new album after two years of recording and launching a successful record label, Piñata Records, which has a staggering six new releases in 2014. They’ve shot some great videos (here’s the latest) rehearsed their way to more than merely a reliable live set, but one you wouldn’t want to miss.

Southside Desire approaches the same themes as the debut album (loving, leaving, dying) through more sophisticated arrangements without losing their appealing blend of old fashioned rhythm & blues, power pop and punk rock. In fact, in a lot of ways it makes us think of those second and third albums by new wave-y bands coming into their own — Get Happy!!!, All Mod Cons, Plastic Letters, those sort of albums.

southside desireYou can hear the entire album for yourself on their bandcamp page here. It opens with “Four Broken Souls,” a song which pushes the boundaries of their further than any other into the same new wave/disco territory Pennyroyal tapped in our favorite song of last year, “Record Machine.” Everything about this song works well, especially guitarist Paul Puelo’s performance which has become more prominent as the band has expanded its sound. The dynamic opening establishes high expectations, but the album doesn’t disappoint — especially Devitt, who delivers with all the dexterity and dignity of a genuine pop music diva.

What we’ve come to love about the Piñata Records approach, which includes bands like Black Diet, Narco States and Mystery Date, is that its not a rehash of something we’ve already heard as much as a fresh approach to the familiar. They’re giving new life to power pop, garage rock and good old fashioned soul music. Southside Desire ties them all together, even shades of sixties girl pop and the singer-songwriter expressions of the seventies, where Devitt is accompanied by piano and vocal arrangements on “Taking Time.”

On either side of that song are solid single we hope to hear on the radio. “The Heat” sounds a little smokier than the tune they released on a split single with Black Diet last year, “Casualty of Love.” Puelo and fellow backers Trevor Engelbrektson and Damien Tank sounding so surely like the Stax rhythm section (eg the MGs) one can’t help but tap a foot or nod a head.

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“the Heat”

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“Missing”

Most of the songs have rich back stories the listener has to discern from context, which makes them all the more interesting each listen — none of them seem like happy stories. The sugar-sweet artwork on the album, by singer Joy Spika, hides the heartbreak-heavy themes throughout the songs, just as the band’s bright sound often has. Besides the far heavier production of “Four Broken Souls,” the other stylistic change is their increased inclusion of keyboards. “Taking Time,” Devitt’s piano ballad, is the simplest arrangement they’ve recorded yet but one of their very best songs.  It might be the first time we’ve heard the gentlemen’s voices, also, although they’re still surely in the background.

This album exceeds their debut in every way — it’s that next chapter we wanted each time we flipped Songs to Love and Die To back to the beginning. On the last track Devitt sings, “We are saving for the things dreams cost / the work is never done.” It may be so, but it seems to us the work is paying off. The insights into love and loss in Devitt’s songs are sharper, the band’s backing better. Southside Desire is the kind of record you can listen to several times, discovering something with each passing, and it’s become a favorite around here this fall.

Southside Desire’s record release show for their self-titled second album is this Wednesday at the 7th Street Entry. Details here.

 

Minneapolis is one of the largest cities in America to toss out Columbus Day and no longer celebrate the life of a genocidal mass murderer. Today is Indigenous Peoples Day in the city, although when you got to the bank and thought Damn! the sign on the door probably said “Closed for Columbus Day.”

There are celebrations at the Minneapolis American Indian Center on Franklin Avenue this afternoon starting at 4pm. Similar events are taking place in Duluth and Red Wing, both cities that have also dropped the archaic holiday.

We’d like to offer a huzzah and hurray to Alondra Cano, who took our friend Gary Schiff’s seat on the City Council two years ago, representing the 9th Ward. She worked very hard to make this change, and was quoted in this mornings paper as saying “It’s much more than a symbolic gesture.”

We had proposed this change here on the Hymie’s blog every Columbus Day for years, and also produced a program about the music of the Native American protest movement for KFAI’s Wave Project in 2011. Re-run for the last time, here it is:

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Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of all things?           –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ben Weaver Buffalo LPListen closely and you can hear birds and animals throughout Ben Weaver’s new LP, I Would Rather Be A Buffalo. It was recorded by Tom Herbers, an engineer with a storied career capturing Minnesota music, in a barn outside Rochester. It’s Ben’s eighth album, and also the first released by our shop through its own in-house imprint.

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7 Inch LabelTomorrow we’re also releasing a 45rpm single by Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade, two songs we are very proud to share with the world. If you’ve been following us here, you’ve already heard the A side, which was featured in a very sweet video shot by Ali Rogers (here) and included footage of the band playing at our block party this past spring. We’ve added the B side of the single at the end of this post.

You may have read this Washington Post article when it was picked up by our local paper last week — one of the plants featured in the article is Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records, who are the folks we worked with in making these first two releases. You may also have an idea how difficult it has become to press records these days. The cost, the quality and the timing are all very serious considerations — we’re really happy with our experience working with this plant (and would totally recommend them!) but we’ve heard some terribly heartbreaking stories from friends who have had poor luck with other, larger presses: lost masters, entire runs mis-pressed, damaged lacquers and poor communication. And this is all after the long process of learning to play, writing new music, performing it before an audience, and recording what you want to preserve and share.

Those of us who never stopped buying and listening to records are a little confused by the “resurgence of vinyl” craze. None of us understood what everyone was doing with their CDs and iPods, and DJs that don’t play records. We’re baffled that record shops stopped selling LPs for years, though not surprised they jumped back into it once it proved both fashionable and profitable. When asked if records are “really coming back” by new visitors here, we’ve always just said they never left.

Dropping the needle onto a record never loses that magical feeling — it’s sublime no matter how long you’ve understood the physical process that recreates the sound stored in the grooves. And playing one you helped create has been one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve ever had here in the record shop.

While we have been working on these projects, I have been running along the river, which is a unique experience early in the morning during this time of the year — the trees are beginning to show us the fall colors, and all the critters are frantically storing away for the coming winter. It has provided a perfect setting to think about ideas presented by these two records, and what Ben and Brian and so many others have brought to our lives with the music they bring to the shop.

I read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1836 essay, Nature, for the second time this fall. Emerson is one of those writers one ought to revisit at different stages of life, because they’ll find new inspiration. A young man takes his lessons from Self Reliance and its theme of independence and individualism, but after the world has worn him down a little he can appreciate the more pensive expressions in Nature.

There are passages of Emerson’s essay which fit beautifully with the words Ben wrote for his new album. In the second section, “Beauty,” he describes the benefits our access to the natural world provide for our physical and spiritual well being:

The tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and craft of the street, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. In their eternal calm, he finds himself. The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.

Of course, even in Emerson’s time, urban life prohibited such peaceful repose, and little has changed in the nearly two centuries since. Artificial living continues to leave us both physically and spiritually unfit. Even one of our most base expressions, music, has become sterilized when it is produced in insulated and windowless studios intended to eliminate such nuisances as the wind that rustles the leaves above our heads.

This past week Ben has visited a couple local radio shows, including one of our favorites, KFAI’s Pam Without Boundaries, which happened to be, sadly, on its last broadcast. In his conversation with Pam Hill Kroyer (which you can stream here) and with the Current’s Dave Campbell (here), Ben offers a familiar explanation for his bicycle tour, one we have heard before here at Hymie’s: “There’s nothing harder than driving to Cleveland on a Tuesday night and playing to ten people in a bar, where they’re probably not listening anyway,” he explains. “It’s so inconducive to having the kind of interactions I want to have with people.”

Instead he has planned to tour on this new album by bicycle, performing in farms and nature centers instead of bars, and participating in projects such as prairie restorations along the way. Details for Ben’s tour to New Orleans, which he has called It’s All the River, can be found on his website here. It’s a plan which again recalls Emerson, who famously wrote, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Way up above we promised to post the B side of Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade’s new single, and its fitting we should. It was a conversation with him at the picnic table in our garden which led to the creation of a record label based in this shop — and since announcing these two releases we have started building the plans for the next several.

Over the years we’ve expressed our love for the flip side of a single several times (recently here and here), and so it was with a sort of reverence for the irreverence of the B side that we approached the first ever issued on our own label. Brian brought to us a song he described as “classic Family Trade” which we could hardly resist.

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“Glad for Every Burden” expresses just how we feel about all the work that has gone into these two records, and into this record store. All of it has been a blessing, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ben Weaver and Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade will both perform at the Cedar Cultural Center on Friday October 10 (details here). Both new releases from Hymie’s will be available. They will also be reading at Rain Taxi’s Twin Cities Book Festival on Saturday (details here).

 

A local release we have been anticipating all summer is Nightosaur’s third album, Set Fire to the Mountain. You’ll be able to hear the whole thing — and take home a copy for yourself — on Friday night, but until then all you’ll get to hear is this single, “Devourer,” which they have posted online. It is but a heralding, a brief forewarning of all that is to follow, the smoke before the eruption of the mountain, a tremor to hint of the bursting of the Earth below.

It is so because we know. Hymie’s has been given foreknowledge of the coming of the new Nightosaur in the form of a disc of the master before it was sent to press. We have heard all that is to be unleashed, and we can attest that it is good. Very good. The title track is our favorite thing the band has recorded, a driving epic we cannot wait to add to the archives of our collection. And Set Fire to the Mountain is, by the way, their first release on an LP, although one of the new songs (“Skeleton Key”) was on Learning Curve Records’ Held Hostage Vol. 2 which came out this spring — it the main reason we brought home a copy of that collection.

coverweb

Nightosaur sounds a little different on Set Fire to the Mountain, having shifted from a ‘twin axe attack’ to a trio, but they didn’t drop their flair for dynamic, dramatic arrangements. The album opens with “Old Man Grandfather Tree,” a sludgy, steady burner that’s good enough to recall vintage Sabbath. Drummer Brad Schwab adds otherworldly percussion in just the right proportion to his pulsating fills, while the new dual attack lineup, bass and guitar by Andy Webber and John Henry, play off one another with harmonic intensity. Any fears the band would sound smaller are put down like a lame horse in the first six minutes.

Last year Numero Group released a compilation in its Wayfaring Strangers series, Darkscorch Canticles, which featured obscure occult-themed Sabbath-sounding seventies metal singles. We can’t possibly recommend this collection enough — it really reinvigorated our enthusiasm for everything from Iommi to Iron Maiden, and reminded us there really isn’t enough music like it anymore. What we love about Nightosaur is that they fill that hole in our hearts and in our record collection. They ace the familiar form in songs like “Old Gods” and “Bow Down to the Destroyer” while also pressing their range in “(The Shocking Tale of) Wilson Pinafore” and pretty much everything about the album’s epic title track.

All this isn’t to say the new Nightosaur sounds like a ‘throwback’ act — not that it would be such a bad thing if they stopped there, as we’re a little fatigued with retro-soul records and would love to hear a revival of some fresh blasts from the past. “Wilson Pinatore” and “Old Gods” are brightly-recorded and thrashy, a successful more modern turn not entirely removed from the big M’s of the 80s, Metallica and Megadeath. And “Skeleton Key” (which you can listen to here by the way) is awesomely Iron Maiden-y even though Nightosaur no longer has that signature dual lead ‘twin axe attack’ sound.

We agreed not to post anything but the single until after the release show, but we’ll probably post another song from this album next week. In the past we’ve called Nightosaur the funnest band in the Twin Cities. The musicianship on Set Fire to the Mountain far surpasses anything they’ve previously recorded, but they’re still, especially in their vocals, not taking their music to the heights of seriousness which started making metal no fun. Schwab sounds especially awesome throughout, and the bands interplay on “Bow Down to the Destroyer” and “Set Fire to the Mountain” is both intuitive and rockin’. The disc we were given this summer had a handwritten message, “some of the titles may be shortened,” so we may have been listening to an extended version of the album all this time (doing the math it seems likely all seven tracks will fit over two sides of an LP without pushing the limits of good sound quality).

We’re told the jackets for Set Fire to the Mountain were custom screen printed, but haven’t seen one yet — either way we are very excited for this album. You can bet it will be playing in the shop a lot this fall.

Nightosaur’s record release show for Set Fire to the Mountain will be at the 331 Club this Friday, September 26th at 10pm. Free, 21+. Also performing will be Gay Witch Abortion and Bongonya. We have also scheduled an all-ages in-store appearance, but it’s not ’til November so you better get your butt up to Northeast on Friday to hear these guys.

This Saturday we’re hosting an all-ages record release show for the Persian Leaps. , whose second EP was launched last Friday at the 331 Club. Drive Drive Delay is tighter and catchier than their previous disc, and just jangly enough to recall 70s power pop as surely as 90s indie rock. The band recorded at Neil Weir’s awesome Old Blackberry Way studio, and sound substantially more confident on the five new tracks, especially the hook-heavy “Pretty Boy” and the downright addictive “Truth=Consequences.”

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Nothing cracks the three minute mark on Drive Drive Delay until the richly satisfying closer “Permission,” which has all the rock and roll grandeur of the Buzzcocks’ longer jams and stretches out over nearly five minutes without losing its energetic drive. While the band definitely leans towards the classic lo-fi style of Guided by Voices, Weir gives them just enough shine to balance the sludgy riffs and the jingle-jangle.

The Persian Leaps join the legion of local bands taking good old fashioned rock & roll out of the garage for a spin this year — look for Mystery Date to release a full length LP later this fall, and check out ’14 singles by Lutheran Heat and Juvie if you’re uncertain. We welcome the energy these bands are bringing to clubs around town, and the invigorating records they’re making — Drive Drive Delay is an excellent disc of well-crafted, catchy rock and roll.

You may wonder what record the folks from Hymie’s are looking for since there are hundreds of thousands of albums packed into this place — well, until this week one album was the second record by the Upper Mississippi Jazz Band, a traditional group that recorded here in the 60s. We posted a bit about their outstanding clarinet player, Dick Ramberg, last year when we were sad to learn he had passed away, but we didn’t have a copy of both albums the group made. It’s one of those records that falls into the category of ‘difficult to find but not particularly valuable,’ and we’re glad to have one on our shelves.

Minneapolis has always been a hotbed for traditional jazz, even though we’re on the opposite end of the Mississippi from New Orleans — We have a couple favorite bands in town that are playing and recording New Orleans style jazz, and both have regular gigs you should really check out if you love ‘the good stuff.’ The Southside Aces perform the second Thursday each month at the fabulous Eagles Club ballroom, and they even raffle off records from our shop. Patty and the Buttons is the other band, and they appear at the Aster Cafe for a Sunday brunch (11-2pm). They’ve also just finished recording a new album of classic tunes and originals called Mercury Blues.

Patty has produced a parody of the crowd-funding crazy which may or may not be a serious attempt to raise money to press the album. We really can’t tell. They’re calling it “$hitstarter” and we’ll let Patty himself explain it:

pattyYou are probably eager to hear XXX, the disc of vintage smut recorded by the band as an incentive. Check it out on their bandcamp page here. You can also find copies of their new disc here at Hymie’s, wrapped in a brown paper bag.

Musicians in the 20s and 30s produces a surprising variety of explicit songs — many were recorded by famous performers, such as Ukelele Ike (ie Cliff Edwards, the voice of Jiminy Cricket) whose “Give it to Mary with Love” we posted here this summer.

One of the interesting things to come out of the 60s folk revival, from a record collector’s point of view, is the large number of compilation album collecting vintage 78s that begin to pop up during the following decade. The movement began with Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music in 1952 — the six-LP Folkways series exploring the breadth of America’s forgotten or dismissed traditional music. We have previously listened to tracks from the legendary compilation here. Many of its songs became standards or were reinterpreted by the folks singers who followed, including famous figures like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Doc Watson and Dave Van Ronk.

In 1961 Columbia Records compiled sixteen sides by Robert Johnson onto a single LP, King of the Delta Blues Singers. The collection is considered one of the most influential blues albums of all time, helping to shape both the Chicago electric blues sound and the British blues boom. The record also established the modest commercial potential of archival releases, which the label tentatively explored the following year with an album of recordings by Leroy Carr with Scrapper Blackwell, Blues Before Sunrise. By the seventies they had issued an extensive compendium of Bessie Smith split over five double-LP sets, and other labels were following the example. RCA, by this time the owner of the Bluebird catalog, issued collections of music ranging from the Monroe Brothers to the collected Benny Goodman (split over at least seven volumes) — while never big business, archival collections of obscure 78s became a record shop staple in the seventies.

In fact, some of it was very small business. The archetypal archival label was Yazoo, which was run out of New York City apartment by a Harry Smith-like character named Nick Perls. The Yazoo collections are again in print on LP — you may have noticed some of them here in the shop, if only because several include vibrant covers by cartoonist (and 78 enthusiast) R. Crumb. Perls was known for his ability to get the cleanest recording of a vintage record, and his label’s catalog collected such essential recordings as Mississippi John Hurt’s 1928 recordings for Okeh and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” a song that was chosen by the Voyager Project to be included in the “golden record” which has been cast out into interstellar space like a message in a bottle.

Getting back to our original subject, Patty and the Buttons’ new collection of vintage smut, we turn to Stash Records, a seventies label which issued twenty-five fun LPs. Their first collection,  Pipe, Spoon, Pot and Jug, was filled with riotous drug songs like “Reefer Man” and “Don’t You Make Me High.” Their second release was Copulatin’ Blues, filled with the sort of smut the Buttons’ have recorded on their new disc, and it has been followed by a variety of similar records.

copulatin bluesHere’s a little sample of songs from Yazoo and Stash compilation albums:

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“New Rubbin’ on the Old Darn Thing” by Oscar’s Chicago Swingers (1936)

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“Please Warm My Weiner” by Bo Carter (1935)

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“Adam and Eve” by Tommy Bradley & James Cole (1930)

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“If You Don’t Give me What I Want” by Lil Johnson (1936)

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“Shave Em Dry” by Lucille Bogan (Bessie Jackson) (1935)

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“You Put It In, I Take It Out” by Papa Charlie Jackson (1934)

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“My Daddy Rocks Me (With a Steady Roll)” by Tampa Red’s Hokum Jazz Band (vocal by Frankie Jaxon) (1929)

please warm my weiner

 

sixfamiliesMMjohncageOur friends Six Families are back with another mind-expanding program here at Hymie’s. First they’ll screen a documentary about composer John Cage, and then perform several pieces afterwards — all starting at 6pm tonight. The performances will be:

Composed Improvisation for Snare Drum is a 1989 piece combining elements of improvisation with aleatoric composition. The performer is given instructions to use chance operations to split an 8:00 time interval into three sections, each of which is similarly split into 1-8 “events”. It is determined, again by chance operations, how many “sonic occurrences” may be within each event, and then the performer is free to improvise within those parameters.

Aria was written in 1958 for a solo singer with any voice range.  The score is a combination of black lines with color, these differences represent 10 different styles the singer must assign to each combination.   The text uses sounds and words from Armenian, Russian, Italian, French, and English.  The notation represents time horizontally and pitch vertically.

Living Room Music is an informal piece written for a quartet to use any household objects or architectural elements as percussion instruments.  One of the movements is group reading of a Gertrude Stein poem.

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