P is for Pisaro

Much like Jürg Frey and Antoine Beuger I have covered Michael Pisaro’s work in my Recent Recommendations #2: Wandelweiser post however there is so much to talk about with Michael’s work I most likely have no need to repeat myself.

Michael is an incredibly prolific composer, I can barely keep up with his work. As many of you may know I am obsessive when it comes to collecting CDs and Michael is one of the few people who has such a variety of recordings and pieces constantly flowing that I have trouble keeping up (which is a great thing).

Michael’s music often has extended silences, a trait that is fairly uncommon outside of the Wandelweiser composers. It’s really interesting hearing the difference between the silences on his albums versus silences on the same piece in person. This may in part be due to the different listening environments. Usually recordings are being listened to at home or during travel, while live performances often take place in some sort of concert hall. The community surrounding the listening can also play a role here, the idea of a group dynamic in listening has always felt different to me than listening on my own.  While these are all contributing factors I think the biggest factor is Michael’s ability to frame silence within he context of the piece. Michael has an amazing ability to create different meanings and types of silence based on the music that proceeds it and the music that follows.

Michael has also made incredibly use of what he often refers to as “gravity percussion”. Gravity percussion takes some common found sounds or percussion instruments such as, a vibraphone bar, a metal bowl, or a cymbal and pours rice or beans or other small items to create a randomized granular sound. He frequently collaborates with percussionist Greg Stuart on several of the pieces that use gravity percussion. There has been a massive amount of music written and performed between the two of them to the point that it becomes difficult to think of one without the other.

Michael is one of the most inspiring composers I have had the chance to meet and study with. He is the initial reason for my interest in CalArts (of course being here now, there is unmeasurable list of reasons why CalArts is a good fit for me). I am excited to continue learning from him for at least the next year.


Recommended Listening/Viewing

The Punishment of The Tribe By Its Elders


Hearing Metal 1

Hearing Metal 2

Hearing Metal 3

Hearing Metal 4

Harmony Series

Continuum Unbound 

The Fields Have Ears (a series of pieces)

Green Hour, Grey Future