Here’s my most recent episode of Getting Warmer for NTS Radio. This one is comprised of entirely early Western vocal music (technically some of this is toeing the line into the Baroque period), almost completely a capella (I actually haven’t listened back to this to check, but I think there might be an instrumental drone or two in here), and mostly sacred, though I think at least one of these songs are non-devotional love songs. I’ve listed the composer as the artist, and then the performers in parentheses after the song title. In full transparency, I’m neither an expert on this stuff nor am I at all religious–I just really love this music, and I think it makes an ideal winter hibernation soundtrack. I hope you like it too. You can download an mp3 version here. Stay warm!
1. Hildegard von Bingen – O Lucidissima (Rosa Lamoreaux & Hesperus Ensemble)
2. Claudio Monteverdi – Ah Dolente Partita
(Emma Kirkby & The Consort of Musicke)
3. Pérotin – Plainchaint: Viderunt omnes fines terrae (Tonus Peregrinus)
4. Tomás Luis De Victoria – Kyrie (The Tallis Scholars)
5. Léonin – Viderunt Omnes, 2 Part Organum (Tonus Peregrinus)
6. Claudio Monteverdi – Donna, Nel Mo Ritorno (La Venexiana)
7. Unknown composer, 12th century Aquitanian monasteries –
Lux refulget (Sequentia)
8. Carlo Gesualdo – Sabbato Sancto, Responsorium 5 (The Hilliard Ensemble)
9. Walter Frye – O florens rosa (The Hilliard Ensemble)
10. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina – Motet Nigra Sum (The Tallis Scholars)
11. Pérotin – Beata viscera (The Hilliard Ensemble)
12. Unknown composer, 13th century England – Conductus:
O Maria stella maris (Anonymous 4)
13. Léonin – Pentecost: Repleti sunt omnes (Red Byrd)
14.Thomas Tallis – Spem in alium (Motet for 40 Voices) (The Tallis Scholars)
I was lucky to have a very sweet conversation with Hayley at The Le Sigh, a website dedicated to the work of female-identifying and non-binary artists. We talked about early electronic music, the rise and fall of the album download blog, and the politics of music writing, among other things. I also made a 90 minute minute mix of music made by women (though to be clear, men contributed to many of these songs in different capacities). As you can imagine, this was way too much to fit into one mix, so I focused mostly on synth pioneers, experimental, and new age, with a few wildcards thrown in. The mix opens with Wendy Carlos giving a verbal walkthrough of some technical aspects of her synth process, and ends with Nina Simone ripping our hearts out. You can download an mp3 version here.
1. Wendy Carlos – Electronic Pointillism & Hocketing (from Secrets of Synthesis) / Sonata in G Major, L. 209/K. 455 (Scarlatti)
2. Phew – Expression
3. Delia Derbyshire – The Wizard’s Labratory
4. Pauline Oliveros – Wolf
5. Michele Musser – In The Air
6. Pauline Anna Strom – The Unveiling
7. Laurie Spiegel – Drums (Excerpt)
8. Deutsche Wertarbeit – Auf Engelsflügeln
9. Virginia Astley – I’m Sorry
10. Laurie Anderson – Kokoku
11. Miyako Koda – A Story Teller Is The Sun
12. Björk – Come To Me
13. Kate Bush – Delius
14. Bridget St. John – Many Happy Returns
15. Joanna Brouk – Winter Chimes
16. Alice Coltrane – Er Ra
17. Claire Hamill – Winter: Sleep
18. Suzanne Ciani – The Third Wave: Love In The Waves
19. Gal Costa – Volta (Live)
20. Nina Simone – Don’t Smoke In Bed (Live)
Compilation of four self-released cassettes (each with 50 copies made), recorded in 1981 from power duo Chrislo Haas (Liasons Dangereuses, Der Plan, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft) and Beate Bartel (Einstürzende Neubauten, Liaisons Dangereuses, Mania D, I have a major crush). The compilation was released unofficially on vinyl in 1998 and to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t been released since. As it’s a compilation, there’s a lot of range–industrial, noise, bouncing new (no?) wave on closer “Go Go Go!”, and the incredible proto-techno “Neger Brauchen Keine Elektronik,” which I still can’t believe happened in 1981. Gritty and very, very good.
Something for everyone on this mysterious left-field self-release recorded in Germany in the spring and summer of 1990. An onslaught of percussion, wind, and string instruments from around the world (heavy use of tabla and gong), alongside excellent synth programming. Wide variation between tracks, but all contain Arabic harmonic modalities. Some tracks, like “Gaya’s Gone,” are quite percussive, reminding me of a rougher, more frantic, and more sinister Mkwaju. Also good for fans of Popul Voh and Tri Atma. A phenomenal work!
I included the track below in a mix I made for the Ambient Tent at this year’s Sustain Release. Keep your eyes peeled for the entire mix available soon!
Hard to pick a favorite release from Hans-Joachim Roedelius, who’s contributed to 92 different releases, according to Discogs. Though most famous for co-founding Cluster and Harmonia, he’s been even more prolific as a solo artist. Wenn der Südwind Weht (“When the South Wind Blows”) was his seventh solo release, though he followed it up with a casual 35 more full-lengths, most of which I still haven’t heard. Of his earlier releases, this is both my favorite and the most exemplary of signature Roedelius. The most remarkable moments are when synthesizer acts as a vessel for his pastoral sensibility, with unabashedly sentimental lines of synthetic oboe, clarinet, organ, and something theremin-like sitting on top of rolling piano chord pulses muffled in golden-warm reverb. The title track, “Veilchenwurzeln,” and “Mein Freund Farouk” are the best instances of this kind of classical miniaturism–they’re what make this record feel like a favorite sweater–but in very German tradition, a handful of the other tracks meander into more shivery, drawn-out synth meditations (and that’s certainly a good thing). Ideal rainy day music.
Classic. Michael Shrieve is a drummer who was one of the founding members of the original Santana band and is featured on their first eight records. I haven’t spent enough time with his other work to have a sense for it, but Klaus Schulze feels like the dominant force behind Transfer Station Blue–it sounds squarely like guitary Berlin school, using Shrieve’s insistent percussion as a vessel with which to drive Schulze’s pulsing, icy synth work (as well as guitar from Kevin Shrieve, who may or may not be Michael’s brother). The two long tracks (“Communique – ”Approach Spiral'” and the title track) are the centerpieces, both using long, tense build-ups and ominous arpeggiations to propel to a particularly anthemic release on the title track. The two shorter tracks, “Nucleotide” and “View From the Window,” explore more kosmische and new age territory, though they’re still plenty sinister. Good for fans of Double Fantasy (guys, that record is so good, go listen to it), and anything slick and shivery and German.
Supremely beautiful recording from German minimalist composer and author of the 1978 book Through Music to the Self: How to Appreciate and Experience Music Anew, which I swear I was reading in my town’s library growing up when I was supposed to be doing readings about the Civil War.
The album looks and feels likes something that might have made its way into my library stack as well. Recorded at the Academy of Music in München with pipe organ, conch, and Tibetan cymbals, this is a pipe organ study, exploring a range of moods as well as Hamel’s impressive knowledge of eastern and western scales and motifs. Much of the music comes on crescendoing waves of arpeggiation, from calmer melodies to dense, almost unbearable chaos–only to be sliced through by a return to peace.
For anyone interested in more of Hamel’s, his 1977 release Nada is also very good.
I’ve been dragging my feet on this one for two years, both because it’s very dear to me and because I have no idea how to talk about it. There’s also very little information available about it anywhere, but from what I can cobble together, this is the only release from Jutta Li Garattoni. She produced Find Out What I’m Dreaming herself, and it features her husband Jean-Pierre Garattoni on drums alongside a slew of other musicians. As none of the listed credits suggest otherwise, I assume both piano and vocals are Garattoni. She passed away in 2004. She was a Taurus. That’s about all I know.
The range on this thing is remarkable. It opens with “Dornröschen,” a flanged-out synth lament featuring whispery, Blonde Redhead-esque vocals and a whole lot of doom. We then move through a piano jazz-rock ballad (“Lonely”), sing-songy pastoral (“Find Out What I’m Dreaming”), dusty electronic soul (“Friends,” which would have been perfectly at home on the Personal Space compilation), and some loungey art pop in between, before closing with a short reprise of “Dornröschen.” Garattoni’s vocals are similarly diverse, ranging from girlish naïveté to full-blown belting. Unabashed, capricious, sweet, a little unhinged. Even writing it out now, it doesn’t sound like much–there’s something quietly brilliant going on here that’s hard to identify. The only thing I can think to compare this to is Kate Bush. Has Kate Bush heard this? I see all y’all UK readers on our traffic stats; can someone please ask her?
Four of these tracks appear on a compilation called Relax Your Soul which has some very good album art and can be purchased on Amazon (linked below)–other than that, this is long out of print and fetching triple digit prices on the rare occasion that it surfaces on Discogs. Enjoy!
In 1975, pioneering minimalist composer Terry Riley and jazz trumpet cosmonaut Don Cherry joined forces for a magnetic performance in Köln, Germany. Recorded live, but never commercially released, the concert is something of a hushed treasure, as well as the only record of a profound spiritual experience and meeting of two free form jazz titans. Riley’s swirling synth, droning and clairvoyant and prescient in its clarity, parades along with a triumphant Cherry, leaving behind trails of mystery and a sense of beauty in a larger, more universal form. Side A, the twenty-minute “Descending Moonshine Dervishes,” is a transcendent moment of improvisational experimentation and spiritual jazz. As Cherry’s physical presence slowly liquifies, “the lonesome foghorn blows” into some kind of misty dawn. His mournful trumpet immerses the listener into dense layers of playful percussion and dissonance. When Karl Berger joins the duo on vibraphone for side B, the tone becomes more hypnotic and reedy – a strange mystical noir – with the final three-and-a-half minutes of “Improvisation” exuding a vivid imagination. A lucid and rhythmic front row seat to the startling beauty of minimalist explorations and eloquent fusions of Eastern and Western ideas.