Dario Calderone

doublebass

JAMES TENNEY: BASS WORKS

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tenney-verso
I’ve always been a CD lover, since when the CD industry started. By that time there were cassettes, tapes and vinyls of course, but nothing was clean from noise like CDs. I remember the time when it was possible to rent and copy CD, and I’m nostalgic of that time. The internet era of course gave us the possibility of discovering many more tracks, and gave us access to an infinite range of things. So why publishing a Cd now? I’ve found out that most of people in our sector do not really listen to music on the internet: they just check it out. After my first son was born, I’ve discovered again the pleasure of putting in my stereo a CD that I liked, from the beginning to the end. This choice made me more conscious of what I like, without the distraction of algorithm-related connections from youtube.
A special thanks goes to SENA, a dutch association who knows how difficult is today to make a CD, and supported me financially in the production of the release. And maybe the best thank goes to Micha de Kanter, a man with precious ears and sensitivity in sound, who recorded all this cd, and edited with infinite patience.
So why Tenney? First of all I wanted to record a CD that I really wanted to listen to, but which did not existed before. Moreover the music by James Tenney, especially the postal pieces, would have offered me the chance of expressing myself in a more creative way: the idea of interpretation is here challenged in itself, as well as the idea of virtuosity. In one interview Berio was talking about who is a virtuoso nowadays: “he is someone that sees his instrument as medium to research, and who is able to contribute to the musical thinking without the fake humility of those who say that they only serve the music”. If a Virtuoso is someone who puts his virtues into music, I believe that today musicians should not  necessarily be judged if they play more fast and louder, but also for the amount of conscious choices that they do in their interpretation.
The scores of James Tenney allowed me to do all that: first of all thinking a CD as a different experience, alternative to a live concert: something that you can listen at home, able to walk around your familiar space, sitting on your sofa, or even while doing other things, something different from the live experience. I admired the James Tenney recording since when I was a bit more than a teenager, and one of my favorites was the solo percussion Cd for HatHut Records by Matthias Kaul. It’s a big honor for me to be today part of the same collection.
But let’s get into the details of BASS WORKS.
The first issue that i have encountered in recording these pieces by James Tenney regards the way this kind of music should be recorded. Actually all this music is conceived to be listened live, and any recording  requires to make choices that limit the wider range of casualties that occur during a live performances.
Beast 
Beast was written for Buell Neidlinger, jazz and classical player; it is a double-entendre of the word beats. The score of Beast requires to perform a variable amount of beatings between the open III string and a glissing IV string.  The piece is devided in four phrases, or large humps, which have different lengths according to the Fibonacci Series.The composer prescribes these oscillations in number of beatings on a diagram.  So far, no problem , if we consider 1 beat per second as a sixth-tome, 3 beats a flat semitone, 6 beats a flat major second, 10 beats a quarter tone flat major third, and 15 the triton. In reality, during a live performance, the listener will perceive a continuous crossfade of beatings in accellerando or in ritardando, overlapping at different speeds. The overtones of the stopped strings will also produce beatings, actually at a different tempo than those some octaves lower. The result is a continuous mutation both in time and space. Actually, due to the long waves of the bass frequencies, the amount of beatings that we perceive psychoacustacaly, vary if we move in the space. How to translate all this sound experience on a recording? We’ve using 10 mics more or less, spread around the room, in front of the bass, on the back of the bass and next to the scroll in order to capture different partials. if you play in your HiFi, pump it up, pump the bass and move around the room to enjoy all these details.
(night) 
The score of ( night) prescribes  that the piece should be played ” on percussion or…”. This encouraged me to make a version for doublebass. And not even one version, but 2. Why 2 versions? My Idea It is based on the will of defining an object through its negation and its contradictions. Hermeneutically, I’m trying to define ( in this case through performance) something which is too wide to be presented in just one way.
The only indications in the score say:
Very long
extremely soft
nearly white
The 2 versions read the score in 2 different ways.
In the first one , I’ve chosen the first line to refer to the duration of the piece, the second to the dynamics used in the piece and the third to the timbre, evoking the white to be represented as a certain amount of noise.These parameters never vary, and are kept constant and static throughout the performance
The recording is extremely close mic, picking up all the noises of the hair of the bow. The left hand performs one unique glissando from the nut to the bridge, in flageolet pressure. The result of the pitches is very interesting, as the occurring pitches are specular in their distribution in time, as the periodic nodes of the partials overlap. A glance at the spectral view of the recording makes this evident.
spettro-night
In the second version, after having decided to which characteristic of sound assign which parameter, I performed a variation in their application. The result in sound is something extremely dynamic and changeable throughout the piece. I assigned the  first line of the instructions   to the durations of each bowing, from very short at the beginning of the track to very long at the end. Assumed that the bowings use the same amount of hair length, the pressure implied goes from flautando to overpressure. Extremely soft:  My interpretation then goes from extremely loud to extremely soft. And what about White, almost white?White Noise elements in the sound have a maximum concentration at the beginning and at the end of the track, and swell to a minimum in the center. I have used a small preparation on the second string of my bass using some patafix placed at one specific node.
Glissade
The first time I’ve got in contact with this this score was because Bob Gilmore was showing it to me. It was never recorded before, and perhaps only performed once, probably because of the inconvenience of the tuning of the bass. Actually the doublebass needs to be retuned at every movement and starts from an extreme scordatura, which lowers the 4th string to a low C. The piece uses a tape delay system, an object which is nowadays easily substituted by digital delay, which avoids the problems that occur in performance when the sound can tilt the machine through its vibrations. The whole composition explores glissandi on different angles.
For this recording I’ve asked some help from two friends of mine: William Lane, excellent viola player from Tasmania, now based in HongKong, and Francesco Dillon for me a kind of a legend of cello playing. Glissade is a later piece of Tenney, and was composed more than 10 later than the postal pieces, and is completely notated in a traditional way. But even if the score tends to be descriptive, in all the movements the perception of the final result generates psycho-acoustically something completely different from what expected. For example, in the 4th movement, Trias Harmonica, a unison expands gradually through slow glissandi in a octave and a fifth. The different ratios between the pitches occurring (precisely notated by Tenney) generate a constantly changing amount of beatings: the overtones overlap in a way that magic chords get generated. This is something that Boulez would have called the perfection of the number!
For more information please read the liner notes of Eric Smigel
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3 comments on “JAMES TENNEY: BASS WORKS

  1. dariocalderone
    1 March 2017

    rewieuw from squidco http://www.squidsear.com/cgi-bin/news/newsView.cgi?newsID=1934

    review by Brian Olewnick
    2017-02-28
    James Tenney: Bass Works (performed by Dario Calderone) (hat[now]ART)
    A very impressive addition to the distressingly small Tenney discography. Bassist Calderone divides the recording into two sections. The first comprises three readings of Tenney’s 1971 collection, ‘Postal Pieces’, one of ‘(Beast)’ and two of ‘(night)’. The former well lives up to its name, a deep, sonorous work (originally written for Buell Neidlinger), the two lowest strings resulting in waves of beats as the “open A string and the stopped (and retuned) E string…are bowed together” (from Eric Smigel’s excellent notes). It’s a ferocious, extraordinarily rich piece, one that will set your whole room vibrating. Calderone offers two very different takes on ‘(night)’ which carries the instructions, “very soft”, “very long” and “nearly white”. The first is more or less in the area one might expect from those descriptives, a fine matrix of high scraping tones (never too acidic), a rustling middle that might almost go unnoticed and a deep but soft rumbling beneath, very much evoking a dirt road over which the upper registers are traveling. It’s a gorgeous example of layered textures and tunings. Throughout this recording, there’s a liquidity to Calderone’s playing that negates any possibility of the kind of academic aridity that can be all too common in this area of music. His second reading of the piece allows more abandon in interpretation, his passage a bit wilder as though that road has been transformed into choppy seas. But the control remains as does the listener’s utter fascination with the grains and tones of the bowed strings, a continuous, fluctuating line, self-similar but never quite repeating, never settling into anything remotely routine.

    The second part of the disc is taken up by ‘Glissade’ (1982), a composition in five parts wherein Calderone is joined by violist William Lane and cellist Francesco Dillon. An unusual feature is that each of the sections is quite different from the others, each examining a certain segment of Tenney’s sound world. ‘Shimmer’ begins with a drone and settles into a complex, repetitive loop — it sounds oddly reminiscent of Fripp and Eno’s ‘The Heavenly Music Corporation’ from ‘No Pussyfooting’, in fact — that unfurls in delightful and surprising directions before nestling back into a drone more “comfortable” than the first. ‘Array (a’sysing)’ investigates the perpetually rising tones Tenney first dealt with in his classic ‘For Ann Rising’, here for a trio of strings “rising” in various rhythmic cycles and tunings, entirely lovely and still somewhat disorienting. The brief and intriguingly titled ‘Bessel functions of the first kind’ has some of the tonal properties of the preceding piece but the strings are set aswirl and buzz up an apian storm, circling and dipping rather than rising, while in ‘Trias Harmonica’, again from Smigel’s notes, “The bass sustains a D while the cello descends an octave and the violist ascends a fifth at carefully measured rates so that specific ratios resound in perpetually new harmonic configurations, all in continuous glissando”. The effect is sumptuous and almost indescribably rich — creamy, cloudy layers of shifting harmonies but never, ever “light”, always with a paradoxical feeling of grain and earth. The final part, ‘Stochastic-canonic variations’, begins furiously with rapid, forcefully agitated bowing, soon compounded with violent percussive strikes on the bass strings and eventually the same on the cello and viola, the bass adopting a surprisingly jazzy pizzicato attack. Gradually, the howling vortex sublimates into broad swathes of resonant strings, almost evoking a hymn-like atmosphere, approaching a kind of nostalgic Americana, drifting into the ether.

    Bass Works is an absolutely marvelous, absorbing recording, beautifully conceived and performed, one of the finest realizations of Tenney’s music I’ve heard.

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  2. dariocalderone
    11 April 2017

    http://www.rts.rs/page/radio/sr/story/1466/radio-beograd-3/2697332/.html
    U emisiji posvećenoj impro i fri-džez sceni slušaćete kompozicije Džejmsa Tenija sa kompakt diska „Bass Works” u izvođenju kontrabasiste Daria Kalderonea i njegovog trija

    Džejms Teni
    Džejms Teni
    Italijanski kontrabasista Dario Kalderone je 2015. godine snimio jedanaest kompozicija preminulog američkog kompozitora i muzičkog teoretičara Džejmsa Tenija koje su se našle na Kalderoneovom kompakt disku Bass Works. Objavljene su 2016. godine za švajcarsku Hat Art produkciju. Džejms Teni se smatra jednom od centralnih ličnosti u istoriji američke eksperimentalne muzike, umetnik koji je bio posvećen širenju slušne percepcije , tragalac za inovativnim metodama koje doprinose bogatom i raznorodnom doživljaju slušanja u kompozicijama satkanim od elegantnih i kompleksnih veza koje postoje unutar prirodnih akustičkih fenomena. Dario Kalderone je ovom prilikom odlučio da uvrsti na kompakt disk Bass Works Tenijeve kompozicije za kontrabas iz 1971. godine: Zver i dvostavačnu Noć, kao i glisando za violu, violončelo, kontrabas i sistem trake sa kašnjenjem iz 1982. godine. Izvode: Dario Kalderone, kontrabas, Vilijam Lejn, viola, Frančesko Dilon, violončelo. Večeras slušamo tri kompozicije za kontrabas i stohastično-kanonske varijacije pisane za trio.

    Autor emisije Milenko Mićanović

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  3. dariocalderone
    12 April 2017

    dusted: http://dustedmagazine.tumblr.com/post/158436759560/james-tenney-bass-works-hatnowart
    Sun Ra coined the term tone scientist to describe the cosmic calling involving organized sound and self-reliant erudition at the core of the endeavors of his Arkestra. Though never formally associated, the fanciful vocation could also be ascribed to American composer James Tenney, whose life’s work involved the exploration and atomization of musical dualities and the binding language used to describe them. Tenney approached music not as assembled notation and orthodox structure, but rather as existing independently of such artificial constructs and hinged primarily on individual perception.

    In title Bass Works intimates a solo recital of bull fiddle. In truth, only half the program gives over to bassist Dario Calderone in isolation rendering three of Tenney’s pieces composed in 1971. The other half the discs adds violist William Lane and cellist Francesco Dillon along with tape manipulations for investigations of a suite-like succession of five more compositions dating from 1982 and designated under the collective rubric “Glissade”. The same degree of detailed micro-level attention to timbre, texture and pacing informs both contexts with Tenney placing particular emphasis wide dynamics and gestalt-worthy gatherings of discrete events.

    Tenney was part of a 20th century continuum of composers that included Edgar Varese, John Cage and Morton Feldman. All were concerned with breaking apart established musical conventions in favor new and often radically-received forms of expression. The collected pieces recorded in an Amsterdam studio in February of 2015 certainly exercise fealty to the illustrious lineage. “Beast” and two variations on “Night” form the solo portion of the program with Calderone giving a miniature master class in self-contained expression by means of marshaled string instrument and loosely-consulted score.

    In Calderone’s command the double bass becomes a gigantic acoustic generator with rippling, resonating drones occupying the entirety of the studio space and at times almost approximating respiration. There are sections of “Beast” (composed in honor of bassist Buell Neidlinger) where the aural mirage of multiple bows persists through the summoning of oscillating, overlapping beats to hypnotic effect. “Night” transmits less immediate menace in each of its incarnations, the first a comparatively quiet sequence of ghostly harmonics stamped with stray atonal deviations while the second adheres to heightened intensity and volume over shorter duration.

    The ensemble pieces open up the parameters of the sound floor considerably with tape manipulation employed to bolster the presence and resonance of each instrument. The strings still retain the totality of their acoustic properties through a scintillating sheen of delay. Fluctuating drones form the basis of the fittingly titled “Shimmer” while “Array (a’sysing)” cobbles a collection of Doppler-like swells to create the aural illusion of acceleration. “Trias Harmonica” and “Stochastic-canonic Variations” find the strings taking on symphonic, horn-like sonorities the first with vaguely fugue-reminiscent density and the next in a sustained flurry of fervent arco and pizzicato severity. Tenney was almost eight-and-a-half years gone to the day when these performances were recorded, but he would have no doubt approved of their sustained sagacity and mettle.

    Derek Taylor

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This entry was posted on 17 February 2017 by .

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