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



F is for Frey

One of the most interesting composers alive today is Jürg Frey. Frey lives in Aarau, Switzerland. He is a member of Wandelweiser. I was first introduced to his music when I began trying to discover and listen to the Wandelweiser composers. I bought 10 CDs during their summer sale, one of which was his 24 Wörter for piano, violin and voice. It’s an amazing composition. It’s an incredibly fragile piece which, is characteristic of most of his works. Frey’s music has a somewhat wandering quality. It travels down a path but, when approaching a fork in the road the music decides it will find a way to explore both options, perhaps by taking neither available path or taking one and returning to another.

In January, I was able to participate a week long class taught by Michael Pisaro and Andrew McIntosh on the music of Jürg Frey. The culmination of the class was two performances, one of his chamber works including his new pieces Ephemeral Constructions and Circular Music No. 7 and the other a concert featuring his Second and Third string quartets. It was a beautiful set of concerts. I had heard the recording of the second and third string quartets but, They are completely different live. As with most of the music of Wandelweiser composers I found myself being captivated and leaning as far forward in my seat as I could to hear the delicate sounds being produce by the Strings. In the Second String Quartet there is a fantastic effect in which the string players touch the string at the major second above the note they are playing, as if to produce a nonexistent harmonic. The result is an incredibly airy sound that allows the instruments sound much more like they could be part of the wind instrument family.

Jürg Frey’s Music has so much emphasis on timbre and color that sometimes (especially when listening to recordings) the music could almost seem entirely electronic due to the way the instruments are blended together. Even a trained musician can at some point start hearing things that might not be there (for example at this very moment I am listening to a recording of Canones Inherit and I cannot tell if there is voice in the music or if I am just hearing that timbre as the result of many instrumental timbres being infused into a new color). I think for myself, there is a lot to be learned from Frey’s music and while that is true of each of the composers in this project it seems particularly relevant with Frey.

Recommended Listening/Viewing:

Ephemeral Constructions

Circular Music No. 7

String Quartet No. 1

String Quartet No. 2

24 Wörter

More or Less Normal 

Canones Inherit

60 Pieces of Sound



B is for Beuger

First off, I’d just like to address I made a mistake in my previous post, I am actually not a day behind in the challenge so the Letter C will be saved until tomorrow!

Now with that disclaimer out of the way I’d like to introduce today’s composer, Antoine Beuger! Antoine is a composer I have recently discovered (within the past year). Since learning about him, his music has been an excellent source of intrigue and exploration. As some of you may recall from my “Recent Recommendations” post Antoine is a member of Wandelweiser (in fact he runs Edition Wandelweiser). Much of his music consists of incredibly quiet sounds, silence and, extended durations.

Recently, I took part in a performance of his piece of Being Numerous in Michael Pisaro’s Experimental Music Workshop at CalArts. I found the performance to be incredibly ear opening both as a performer and as a listener. I have performed many pieces for an “open instrumentation” but for some reason Antoine’s piece seemed to indicate something more than just choosing  an instrument or even a sound or sounds. The movement of the sound and the physical placement of the instrument or object seemed to be of great importance. Perhaps this is due to the subtlety of the music itself or the use of silence. Everything in this music becomes amplified due to the vast space and durations. The reduction and subtly in the music of Antoine Beuger is not only inspiring but also invigorating. To many people silence and slow moving music can be boring or uninteresting but in Antoine’s music nothing could be more exciting


…Of Being Numerous for open ensemble

Silent Harmonies in Discrete Continuity electronic music

Landscapes of Absence various instruments and speaker

Calme étendue for mbira

His music can be found on Edition Wandelweiser Records and more information on his work can be found at http://www.wandelweiser.de. If you haven’t checked out the music of Wandelweiser I highly recommend it (also check out my post Recent Recommendations #2 to read more about Wandelweiser).

Recent Recommendations #2: Wandelweiser

Notice: It has been brought to my attention that WQXR’s Q2 music has already has a segment entitled Current Obsessions so I have changed the title of my “Current Obsessions” to Recent Recommendations.

It may be due in part to my studying with Michael Pisaro, a member of the Wandelweiser group at CalArts, but recently I cannot get enough of the music written by these composers. Wandelweiser is a group of composers/performers/artists that center around silence and create absolutely stunning music. My original intention with this post was going to be to discuss their work and the group, but it seems that recently, many larger outlets have been doing just that. Instead I’m going to use this as a kind of hub of links for more information on the the group (Sort of a small reference guide) as well as some of the pieces I’ve been obsessing over. The biggest hope is to have a discussion about the work created by this group.

This link is to an article on the history of Wandelweiser written by Michael Pisaro and can be found on the Wandelwieser website (which is also linked below):



Gravity Wave (a label curated by Michael Pisaro) as well as Erstwhile Records (which distibutes many of the discs put out by wandelweiser composers including Edition Wandelweiser) Both labels are run by Jon Abbey.



There is also a fantastic write up of Wandelweiser by Alex Ross that was recently feature on  his “The Rest is Noise Blog/The New Yorker:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/09/05/silence-overtakes-sound-for-         the-wandelweiser-collective

My CD Recommendations:

The Punishment of the Tribe by its Elders – Michael Pisaro

The Middle of Life -Michael Pisaro

Tombstones – Michael Pisaro

Continuum Unbound – Michael Pisaro

The Earth and The Sky – Michael Pisaro

On Foot – Craig Shepard

On Foot: Brooklyn – Craig Shepard

String Quartets – Jürg Frey

String Quartet #3 – Jürg Frey

24 Wörter – Jürg Frey

Grizzana and other pieces 2009-2014 – Jürg Frey

Silent Harmonies in Discrete Continuity – Antoine Beuger

Cantor Quartets – Antoine Beuger

Wandelweiser und so weiter – Wandelweiser Box Set

Responses to Cage

The following questions are an exercise I did in response to reading page 43 for John Cage’s book Silence. Silence is one of the most interesting, unique, and important music books ever written by who I believe to be the most important figure in modern music (and my personal favorite composer/music philosopher). On this page (and several others) Cage presents a series of questions I have responded to these questions by asking my own. Cage’s words are in normal font and mine are in italics. I recommend any/everyone to find a copy of silence and try this. its a great tool to further understand Cage’s world. Plus it’s a lot of fun.

Have we got religion?

Do we need to have Religion or Spirituality?

Do we have mythology?

Does the role of mythology differ from the role of religion?

Would we know what to do with one if we had one?

Will we always abuse religion to harm others?

Have we got a way to make money?

Once we have a way to make money, then what?

And if money is made, will it be spent on music?

Does culture or money motivate music…or is it something else?

If Russia spends sixty million for the Brussels Fair, lots of it for music and dance, and American spends one-tenth of that, six million about, does that mean that one out often Americans is as musical and kinesthetic as all the Russians put together?

Will lack of money change music production?

If we drop money, what have we got?

If use money what do we have? 

Since we haven’t yet dropped truth, where shall we go looking for it?

Shall we start from within?

Didn’t we say we weren’t going, or did we just ask where we were going?

Are we always going somewhere?

If we didn’t say we weren’t going, why didn’t we?

Will we ever admit we aren’t going somewhere?

If we had any sense in our heads, wouldn’t we know the truth instead of going around looking for it?

is truth what we seek or the discovery of truth?

How otherwise would we, as they say, be able to drink a glass of water?

is intuition the only aspect of the journey, or even the most important?

We know, don’t we. everybody else’s religion, mythology, and philosophy and metaphysics backwards and forwards, so what need would we have for one of our own if we had one, but we don’t do we?

Is identity important for us?

But music, do we have any music?

Do we have any music now?

Wouldn’t it be better to just drop music too?

Would we have an identity without it?

Then what would we have?

would we still have sound or art?


Pop art?

What’s left?

Is there more now?

Do you mean to say it’s a purposeless play?

is sound accepted now?

Is that what it is when you get up and head the first sound of each day?

is that (sound) music?

Is it possible that I could go on monotonously asking questions forever?

Could I possibly create unique answers through only questions?

Would I have to know how many questions I was going to ask?

Would it become uninteresting or just be uninteresting from the beginning, or neither?

Do I have to know when to stop?

is monotony truly boring?

Is this the one chance we have to be alive and ask a question?

Have we got religion?

How long will we be alive?

What is truth?