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Peter A. Schmid & Vinny Golia: Birdology

Rex  Butters By

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Just in time for spring, Leo Records releases Birdology, a collection of duets played by reed regent Vinny Golia with Swiss gastroenterology specialist and fellow horn collector Peter A. Schmid. Their common interest in Benedict Eppelsheim’s tubax, a newly redesigned contrabass sax, impelled their initial contact. Then the synchronicities began falling into place. Like Golia, Schmid experiments with new ways of fusing composition and free improvisation. He shares the fascination for extreme instruments, as well as the allure of birdsong. The son of a Bronx zookeeper, Golia grew up listening to exotic birds and soon became aware of other musicians influenced by birdsong, including Dolphy, Braxton, Messiaen, and Cage. Schmid holds a degree in biology and also began studying birds as a child. Their collaboration results in sixteen brief performances, each suffused with the players palpable delight in the project.

The two men play six clarinets through the magic of overdubbing to create “Clarinet Choir.” After that stately, ceremonial opening, the duo get serious about birdsong on sonorous bass clarinets. “Blackbirds” features them loquacious in the trees, clearly conversing and intertwining with remarkable speed and empathy. Remembering that the bird named in the title lives on the backs of rhinos and elephants, “Madenhacker I” features Golia circular breathing an active saxello on the back of Schmid’s agile tubax.

Picturing the courtship of the dove on “Taubenbalz,” Schmid moves to bass flute with Golia on alto. The gorgeous tones of the low flutes fly into a frenzy of passion and inventive sound. Named with the Italian name for a pheasant, “Pharaona” has Vinny playing drone on bass clarinet to Schmid’s North African travelogue on taragot. The “Flute Choir” utilizes five overdubbed flutes, with the low flutes popped and their pads snapped, the high flutes chattering like birds.

"Frasserbline” features taragot and B-flat clarinet in multiphonic measures, while “Some More Blackbirds” has them on E-flat clarinet, once again in uncannily close conversation. “Ameisen und b-meisen” features wooden flutes overdubbed with ney and bass recorder. The sounds range from marketplace bazaar to calliope. Tubax and contrabass clarinet roam under sustained piccolo and E-flat clarinet on “Dodo and Other Extinct Species.” “Madenhacker II” sees the musicians switching positions, with Schmid on top playing sopranino and Golia going low with the tubax.

With twenty different wind instruments exhausted between the two musicians, Birdology offers an intimate look at joyous improvised music mastery.


Track Listing: Clarinet Choir; Blackbirds; Madenhacker; Taubenbalz; Pharaona; Flute Choir; Moventanz; Weidehopf; Frasserbline; Some Other Blackbirds; Ameisen und b-meisen; Dodo & Other Extinct Species; Movenschrei; Madenhacker II; Woodpecker Duet; Saxophone Choir

Personnel: Peter A. Schmid, tubax, baritone & sopranino saxophone, bass flute, bass recorder, wooden flutes, taragot; contrabass, bass & E flat clarinet; Vinny Golia, tubax, sopranino sax, saxello, alto flute, piccolo, wooden flutes, ney; bass, B flat & E flat clarinets.

Title: Birdology | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Leo Records

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