Various Artists: Earth Music - Ten Years of Meridian Music: Composers in Performance (2010)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Earth Music commemorates a decade of musical art presentations by the forward-thinking Bay Area Gallery founded on and operating under the firm conviction that significant art increases social, philosophical and spiritual change. It seems popular now to support the new music, which by those two words seems to implyand this is becoming odious toothe entire artistic impulse to create experimental music. There should really be no such thing because all music is ultimately experimental, including those familiar standards that are recast by adventurous musicians.
For instance, when Philip Gelb, the former curator of this program at the Meridian, playing shakuhachi, a gorgeous-sounding Japanese, end-blown flute and the Chinese musician, Jie Ma, the pipa player, attempt the difficult task of re-reading Anthony Braxton's "Composition 40n" and "Composition 110a" this act is already experimental and new. And there is much to savour here. From Vinny Golia's excerpt from "Steps," played on bass clarinet and recalling the path once taken by Eric Dolphy, to the spectacular "Lines for Trio (to Paul Klee)" performed in inimitable manner by Damon Smith on contrabass, Hugh Livingston on cello and the wonderful Carla Kihlstedt on violin.
Sara Schoenbeck makes a remarkable statement on a little used, but spectacularly textured bassoon in the vaunted company of flutist, Ellen Burr as they perform their "Improvisation." Jon Raskin grumbles majestically on his baritone saxophone as he barrels through his "Sonic Coordinates." Pauline Oliveros' solo accordion performances are truly memorable. And there is an uproarious performance of an excerpt from Ben Goldberg's "All Chords Stand for Other Chords," by Goldberg himself on clarinet and John Schott on acoustic guitar. The koto improvisations of Shoko Hikage are spectacular as well, as is the alto saxophone improvisations of Frank Gratkowski, who seems to fly from a plane created by Pharoah Sanders. It is performances like this one and the work flowing from Braxton that gives music its timeless quality.
It is this very elasticity of music that arises when cultures collide to produce varied oceans of sound that makes the musical continuum so exciting and full of surprise.
Track Listing: Steps (excerpt); Quarter Turn (excerpt); Improvisation (excerpt); Lines for Trio (to Paul Klee); Pauline's Solo (1993/1997); All Chords Stand For Other Chords (excerpt); Improvisation; Improvisation; Improvisation; Improvisation (with San Francisco sounds); Sonic Coordinates; Microtonic Meditations for Endings and Beginnings (Movement II--Scherzo); Composition 40n and Composition 110a; Nightwatching.
Personnel: Vinny Golia: bass clarinet; John Bischoff: electronics; Matthew Sperry: contrabass; Damon Smith: contrabass; Hugh Livingston: cello; Carla Kihlstedt: violin; Pauline Oliveros: accordion; Ben Goldberg: clarinet; John Schott: acoustic guitar; Shoko Hikage: koto; Frank Gratkowski: alto saxophone; Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon; Ellen Burr: flute; Viv Corringham: voice, electronics and field recordings; John Raskin: baritone saxophone; Tom Bickley: recorder, voice; Bob Marsh: accordion, voice; Philip Gelb: shakuhachi; Jie Ma: pipa; Teresa Wong: cello and voice.
Record Label: Innova Recordings
Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde