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A/Rythmia


Release Date: 09/15/2009 
Label:  Nonesuch   Catalog #: 467708   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Benedict MasonMichael GordonGyörgy LigetiDavid Wong,   ... 
Performer:  Alan PiersonPayton MacDonald
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



A/RHYTHMIA Alarm Will Sound NONESUCH 467708 (54:56)


MASON Animals and the Origins of Dance : Jitterbug mécanique; Camouflages des agreements; Highland Balls and Village Halls; Dégringolade des pingouins; Disgraceful Bossanova with Lemurs. GORDON Yo Shakespeare. LIGETI Chamber Concerto: Read more class="ARIAL12i">Movimento preciso e meccanico. NANCARROW Player Piano Studies: No. 3a (arr. Bermel); No. 6 (arr. Mikhashoff). MOCHIPET (arr. Freund) Dessert Search for Techno Baklava. BIRTWISTLE Carmen arcadiae mechanicae perpetuum. AUTECHRE (arr. DeSantis) Cfern. CICONIA (arr. Chuck) Le ray au soleyl. JOSQUIN (arr. MacDonald) Missa L’homme armé: Agnus Dei II


There are certain high-concept new music albums that sink under the weight of their conceits, but this is not one of them. I found A/rhythmia to be consistently smart, provocative, and beautifully performed.


Can I play pedant for one moment, though, and object to the title? In the notes, its definition is given as “want of rhythm or regularity, specifically of the pulse.” Well, that is not what we have here. Instead, this is music that is full of pulse s , often overlaid on one another, constantly changing, never predictable. It’s totally “rhythmic,” but in an extended sense. Maybe “counter/rhythmia” could have been a better title, but I know, it wouldn’t be as catchy.


Okay, that may seem picky, but in fact it goes to the heart of this release. This is a very savvy disc, in that it chooses to combine supposedly incompatible musics, that all explore experimental rhythmic realms, into a seamless flow. At its core are a series of very “serious” pieces by major composers of several generations, all of whom create their distinctive profile through the manipulation and distortion of rhythm. So we have two amazing arrangements of Conlon Nancarrow’s player piano pieces, Harrison Birtwistle’s Carmen arcadiae mechanicae perpetuum, the third movement from Gyôrgy Ligeti’s Chamber Concerto, and Bang On A Can founder Michael Gordon’s visceral Yo Shakespeare , a landmark postminimalist/totalist work. All these pieces, from various points in a post-1950 canon, are subtle, yet crazy. They push limits from every angle, and should be a revelation to the techno crowd Alarm Will Sound (AWS) is probably trying to reach with this release.


Benedict Mason (b. 1956) is a British composer whom I’d encountered a while back on a Bridge release (9045), but had fallen off my radar. His 90-second works on this release are fantastic in several senses of the word: imaginative, loopy, over-the-top. They are like a compendium of postmodernism crossed with cartoon aesthetics, compressed into Webernian time space. The Ciconia and Josquin are late ars nova and High Renaissance works that indulge in strict process, and they are made current by great arrangements by AWS members Gavin Chuck and Peyton MacDonald, respectively (the latter adds several polyrhythmic layers to the source, but in a way that to my ear makes the impact of the piece just that more intense).


Finally, there are two examples of what AWS’s director Alan Pierson’s notes call “I.D.M.” (Intelligent Dance Music). And that it is. These are sharp pieces, though one more than the other. Mochipet (aka David Wong) presents a crazy evocation of Balkan music, enhanced by a stunning arrangement by Stefan Freund. Autechre (aka Rob Brown and Sean Booth) offers a work that is less compelling for me; it reminds me of AWS’s release on Cantaloupe 21028 of their arrangements of Aphex Twin’s techno pieces (which still fall short for me, despite their astonishing ingenuity). In both cases, the source music isn’t best served, as a major part of its impact is its otherworldly sound as well as its structure. When you transfer the music to the acoustic medium, I fear its structure starts to compare poorly to the music of those such as the “classical” composers on this release. It’s the one moment where it seems the performers are pandering a little. But it’s a miniscule portion of the program, and it makes an ideological point, at least, with which I’m in sympathy.


Overall, this is a release to which I’ll return, with pleasure. Also a likely Want List item for 2010.


FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

1.
Animals and the Origins of Dance: Jitterbug mécanique by Benedict Mason
Performer:  Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 1 Minutes 35 Secs. 
2.
Yo Shakespeare by Michael Gordon
Performer:  Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Length: 11 Minutes 17 Secs. 
3.
Animals and the Origins of Dance: Camouflages des Agréments by Benedict Mason
Performer:  Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 1 Minutes 35 Secs. 
4.
Chamber Concerto: Movimento preciso e meccanico by György Ligeti
Performer:  Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1969-1970; Berlin, Germany 
Length: 3 Minutes 53 Secs. 
5.
Dessert Search for Techno Baklava by David Wong
Performer:  Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Stefan Freund. 
6.
Le ray au soleyl by Johannes Ciconia
Performer:  Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Period: Medieval 
Length: 2 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Gavin Chuck. 
7.
Animals and the Origins of Dance: Highland Balls and Village Halls by Benedict Mason
Performer:  Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 1 Minutes 35 Secs. 
8.
Study for Player Piano no 6 by Conlon Nancarrow
Performer:  Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1960; Mexico 
Length: 3 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Yvar Mikhashoff. 
9.
Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum by Harrison Birtwistle
Performer:  Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1978; England 
Length: 9 Minutes 2 Secs. 
10.
Animals and the Origins of Dance: Dégringolade des Pingouins by Benedict Mason
Performer:  Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 1 Minutes 39 Secs. 
11.
Missa "L'homme armé" super voces musicales: Agnus Dei 2 by Josquin Des Préz
Performer:  Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Length: 1 Minutes 51 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Payton MacDonald. 
12.
Cfern by Rob Brown
Performer:  Payton MacDonald (Drum Set), Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 5 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Dennis DeSantis.
This work was written in collaboration with Sean Booth. 
13.
Animals and the Origins of Dance: Disgraceful Bossanova with Lemurs by Benedict Mason
Performer:  Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 1 Minutes 32 Secs. 
14.
Study for Player Piano no 3a by Conlon Nancarrow
Performer:  Alan Pierson (Keyboards)
Conductor:  Alan Pierson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alarm Will Sound
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948; Mexico 
Length: 5 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Derek Bermel. 

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