Participating Labels


8bells Records

A recording offshoot of the Meridian Arts Ensemble, 8 bells Records contains a collection of innovative music by innovative brass players.  Besides the work of the Arts Ensemble itself, 8 bells includes new jazz work by some of the Pacific Northwest's brightest players such as Brian McWhorter and Douglas Detrick.

Albany Records

Albany Records was established in 1987 by Peter Kermani, a former chairman of the American Symphony Orchestra and board member of the American Composers Orchestra. The label’s mission has been to make available underrepresented works by American composers such as Morton Gould, Peter Mennin, David Diamond, and Eric Ewazen. With over 1,000 discs represented in DRAM alone, Albany provides a healthy cross-section of the twentieth century American composers of opera, orchestral and chamber music, also branching out to include many works from the classical and romantic canons by composers such as Handel, Rossini, and Schubert.

http://www.albanyrecords.com

Archeophone Records

 

 

Archeophone Records, was founded in 1998 with the aim of preserving public-domain recordings of the acoustic era of the recording industry on digitally remastered media, together with extensive annotations, discographies, and rare graphics. Their collection covers a very important and often over-looked area of American 78 rpm music preservation: early 20th century popular music. In the rush to make available the extremes of unheard music, Archeophone features the music that was being consumed by people of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in America. This provides a view of musical tastes and aesthetics that complement work by more esoteric collectors and curators of lost 78 rpm music to give a broad and brilliant picture of the listening mind of 1900s America!

http://www.archeophone.com/index.php

Artifact Recordings

Artifact Records is part of the non-profit, artist-run organization Ubu, which supports experimental music and performance originating from the San Francisco Bay Area. Artifact's catalog represents composers and performers that “thrive in the cracks between the commercial, academic and classical music establishments” and is predominantly electronic in nature.  Representative composers and performers include Mark Trayle, John Bischoff, Tim Perkis and Larry Polansky. 

http://www.artifact.com

b-boim records

Austrian composer and trombonist Radu Malfatti writes music that strips away the edifice of the composer and leaves what can, somewhat naively, be described as a purity of sound and silence.  His music is a form of architecture to the ear, dealing with the basic building blocks of form, material, and structure in interesting new ways.  

Malfatti works with these elements in a series of pieces that are featured on his own label, b-boim records, which DRAM proudly presents as one of its newest collections.  The works by Malfatti and some like-minded composers and collaborators, such as Jürg Frey and Michael Pisaro are intense studies in the construction of musical work through the confrontation of organized sound and the relative disorganization of silence in performance.  The easiest connection to make is to the composition of John Cage and Morton Feldman, Erik Satie and Thelonious Monk, but these works take that aesthetic to a new extreme. 

Ben Hall Gospel Archive

DRAM is very pleased that the author and musician Rick Moody agreed to write a special introductory essay to this archive of gospel music from Detroit-based musician, restaurateur, artist, and social activist, Ben Hall.

 

Gospel For Beginners

 Rick Moody

 
I was at a conference in Oxford, MS, one time. Ten years ago. Oxford has many things going for it. It’s old, it’s got a great bookstore, it has clubs that offer some semblance of the blues. Oxford also has Southern literature. William Faulkner’s house, Eudora Welty’s house, etc. But what I remember that trip for, most of all, is discovering gospel music.

Which is to say: whereas Oxford, MS, offers a lot of the white history of the south, nearby Memphis, TN, features a lot of the African-American counternarrative. Stax Records, for example. And: the Full Gospel Tabernacle, noteworthy among other things for its pastor, soul music legend Al Green. A friend was along for this trip, and she suggested we take in a Sunday service at Al Green’s parish while we were in the neighborhood. And so we did.

Now, I knew something about gospel music, because you can’t listen to the contemporary popular song and not know something about it. You can’t listen to Aretha Franklin and not know something about it, you can’t listen to the Staple Singers and not know something about it, you can’t, in fact, even listen to the later Talking Heads and not know something about it. To the extent that the American popular song stands on African-American bedrock, from the blues up through (and including) hip-hop, the American popular song cannot shake the legacy of gospel.

It’s one thing to know abstractly about gospel, however, to know about the simple open-hearted chord progressions that dominate in the idiom, and about the big choirs that are often a part of the way it is executed, and it’s another thing to go to the churches themselves and to open yourself up to the experience.

Al Green’s church was not gigantic, not overcrowded, at least not on the Sunday I was there, and it was integrated (because so many people love to go and hear the Rev. Green carry the message), and in my recollection it didn’t have one of the megachurch choirs that would have required a lot of resources and a lot of rehearsal to carry off. What it did have, indisputably, was faith. What I learned about gospel, from watching Al Green perform it, was that in the African-American gospel tradition, the music is the liturgy. There is not much of a service, despite the readings from New Testament and the sermon. Indeed, not much happens apart from the music. The ministry is musical, even the preaching is a series of musical moments. The featured vocalist, in this case Al Green himself, is improvising his impressions over the music, and this is how the message is carried, even during the sermon, that is how the holy ghost, to speak in the idiom of gospel, broadcasts its purpose. I can remember the Reverend Green looking around the room and singing about being able to see the light in the audience—“I can see the light in that sister there, I can see the light in this brother here”—and so on. While the band vamped. Going through the audience nearly entirely. No doubt, the Rev. Green is able to see the light every week, the light is amply demonstrated every week, along with speaking in tongues, spontaneous dancing in the audience, and so forth, but the reliability of the presentation (such is ritual) does not diminish the absolute fertility of Green’s singing, his flexibility, his incredible phrasing, his ability to go very soft where others need to go very loud, and in this way, over the course of a couple of hours, you are transported, in this way you learn just how redeemed you are.

The experience at the Full Gospel Tabernacle was a life changer for me, just as I have often heard from others who have begun attending African-American churches and in the process first encountered gospel live. But I was not changed simply because I needed the boisterous, unfettered love of the service. More epiphanic was the way the service changed how I thought about music. Gospel, according to this experience (and according to how I have experienced it since), is tendentious music. It is music with a goal. Accordingly, whereas the language of scripture, especially in the current translations of the Holy Bible, has become commonplace, rote, degraded, predictable, the music of gospel is anything but commonplace. It is virtuosic, transformative, reverential, and sung with complete abandon so as to give evidence of spirit, so as to cause the heart to understand what language itself may not always be able to convey. If Jesus spoke in parables because it was hard, otherwise, for him to make clear what he intended, gospel music has a similar form, a parabolic form, as if to suggest: what we want you to know about God is in the shape of this statement, in the experience of singing this music and listening to this music. If you can be transported here, inside the church, by this music, you can be transported out there.

Which is a lot different from how ministry works in the Episcopal Church of my childhood. The mainline protestant experience is not without its transcendental moments. Especially in the Eucharist. And the mainline protestant evocation of Protestantism often features powerful music. The Episcopal Church has a great hymnal, and this hymnal has been incredibly influential. But this brand of reverence is rarified, distant. It overpowers with awe, not with experience. You have, in the hymnodies of Episcopalianism, high art, and our religious experience is in the admiration of high art, as in a sculpture by Bernini, or a fresco by Caravaggio. The gospel message is completely different. It’s about getting down into the aisles with the choir, and it’s about being part of the music, and it’s about simplifying the message so that participation is everything, and participation is transcendence, and no singer, no participant, will be left behind. The harmonies may be astounding, whether in a small group setting (The Dixie Hummingbirds, let’s say, or The Swan Silvertones) or in a choir of a hundred singers, but the song is not about harmony entirely, it’s about erasing the distinction between congregation and choir, and by singing the song, you are made part of the work of grace.

The massive collection of gospel recordings we have before us here, assembled by musician Ben Hall, is composed entirely of vinyl, and the vinyl is part of why it’s a great collection. Vinyl is warmer. The understanding of the superiority of the vinyl medium is like the intuitive experience of the light in gospel. Gospel on digital is one step removed from the Holy Ghost, because digital mastering is about sheering off the sheer sonic delight of the human voice and making it more streamlined. If the live experience of gospel is best, it follows that the recording must be closest to the live setting, and the vinyl reproduction is closer to that live message, by reason of warmth, than the digital version. Furthermore, the snap, crackle, and pop of this collection suggests the many times these recordings were treasured and listened to by their owners over the years. In some cases, these are seventy-eight r.p.m. recordings that date back many decades. That the preservation of the recordings is now digital and happening on a web site is a curatorial fact of necessity, not a fact in nature, and you are enjoying these recordings despite this. They are being made available to you when you otherwise might not have the opportunity to partake.

The other salient feature of the Ben Hall collection is that it was mostly assembled in and around the Detroit area, often from tag sales, flea markets, and the like. What does Detroit tell us about this great wealth of gospel music, as collected by Ben Hall? It tells us that the most destitute and impoverished cities are the most spiritually advanced cities, and that God, to use the gospel way of thinking, is most present where people are suffering most. Detroit, which civically is barely hanging on, is the perfect place for the gospel message, and not only because a lot of African-American people live there, but also because Detroit has a wealth of impoverishment, and though a lot of this music was recorded elsewhere, it was all owned, at one time or another, in the Detroit area, where people are thinking about eternal life and the savior divine because they have little else to think about, what with an extraordinarily high unemployment rate, a mostly beleaguered auto industry that has shipped away many of its jobs, political corruption, etc. As Roland Barthes has said, the site of a negation always, inevitably, becomes the place of affirmation, and here are the affirmations, I dreamed the angels came down! And the evening and the morning were the first day! The gospel message takes hold where there is the least hope. You could almost chart the future sites for similar gems, as far as this message goes: all the suffering metropolises of the Northeast and the Rust Belt, the beleaguered border cities of the Southwest, the failing democracies of Europe.

In a collection this large, there must be heterogeneity. There has to be more going on in the form than you think, and the Ben Hall collection does not fail to disappoint. First, the music was produced over a great many years, nearly sixty, and thus there are a great variety of sounds, recording technologies, styles of singing. And then there is so much range in the ensembles themselves. There are gospel ensembles here that sound like funk bands from the seventies. There are gospel ensembles that sound like Motown bands. There are gigantic, and well funded choirs here that sound more like the kind of gospel that might be performed before the president of the United States at some state dinner. There are ensembles here that even rely on relatively inorganic sounds like the synthesizer, and which therefore are not completely ignorant of such local developments as Detroit Techno.

And yet despite the great heterogeneity of the sounds, there is an abiding message, and the abiding message is the good news is coming. It is easy, in this historical moment, to disbelieve that the good news is coming. There are a great number of people who would tell you otherwise, relying on the facts and figures of empirical reasoning to “prove” to you that this is so. But these recordings, while they require the lyrics that argue for the imminence of good news, do not just argue for it; they actually embody the good news. A fine example for me, though there are many of them here, is the track called “Genesis” by the Palestine Missionary Baptist Church Concert Choir. This composition attempts to rehearse, in recitative, the entire opening of the Genesis chapter of the Old Testament, but that’s nothing compared to what happens once the choir itself starts getting into the act, most potently at about the five minute mark, and the rhythm section starts and stops with them, over and over and over, to the growing delight of the audience, who begin anticipating the stuttering rhythm, applauding for it, with testifications, all on the occasion of the phrase “Let there be . . .” The place that the audience is transported to, with its ecstasy in the sheer message of the song, likewise its pacing, as conveyed in the performance, is the enaction of reverence for the creation story, a reverence that is all but absent, in, for example, the translation known as the New Revised Standard Version. This reverence is not in the words alone, it is as much in the song as a whole, in the music, in the singing.

            To single out one track in Ben Hall’s collection does an injustice to the whole, which must be experienced in just the way a spiritual life should be experienced, which is to say in an improvised journey over a great period of time. I have myself been living with these tracks for a couple of months now, letting them surprise me, in any way that they need to surprise me, by sheer volume, by stylistic diversity, and I have not gotten close to exhausting the collection, nor even to having more than a nodding acquaintance with the better part of it, and I imagine that a complete understanding of this work will take years, and though Ben Hall is a young man still, one can only surmise that the work of his collecting has been just as thorough, just as committed.

There are three layers to the great gift of this collection, therefore, one is the musical layer. If you want to know about how gospel sounds and how it has developed over decades, especially in Detroit, then you are in the right place. The second layer is the sheer scholarship of the collection itself. It’s a curatorial virtuosity, especially as collated in a spot, online, where many listeners may avail themselves of its riches. We have Ben Hall himself, and the Database for Recorded American Music to thank for this access. But the third layer is an ineffable one and one harder to talk about, and that is about the effect that this work has on your spiritual life over time. I defy you not to feel at least some musculature beginning to move, that’s first, and then some other part of you is moved, the heart, whatever that organ means to you, and it happens in increments, as it did for me in Memphis, in the sway of the Full Gospel Tabernacle; I was a child, I was but a child, before the Full Gospel Tabernacle, I was but a child, until I heard something there, I heard something, I was a child, but then I heard something, and it was in a certain repetition, it was in the one and the four, in the way the words were improvised over the chords, that was where I heard something, though I couldn’t even say what I heard, a sense of history, of a music that was made of oppression, that provided some relief from oppression, and which provided it in repetition, even when it couldn’t say how it was providing it, and didn’t subject its effects to the kind of scrutiny that explained it all, and I was impervious, because I was a child, and the lessons of oppression weren’t meant for me, because I had no experience of it, but then the repetitions caught me up, just as they caught up everyone else, because there was no one who could sit by and not get caught up, because if the message had any specific meaning, its specific meaning was that the good news was possible, in the repetition, and having experienced this, having felt what there was to feel in it, I ultimately went in search of more. Which may be how a person becomes a collector.

Rick Moody is one of the most gifted American novelists of his generation. Born in New York City, Moody spent his childhood and youth in many northeastern American locations. The suburbs of New York City; Manchester, New Hampshire, where he attended St. Paul's School; Hoboken, New Jersey, where he lived after graduating from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island; and Columbia University in New York City all appear in barely disguised form in his fiction. Like the work of other well-known East-Coast American writers (John Irving, John Updike), Moody's fiction is firmly rooted in, as well as written in response to, the urban, rural, and suburban landscapes of the area roughly bounded by New York City to the south and Boston to the north. His three novels, Garden State, The Ice Storm, and Purple America, and his short story collection, The Ring of Brightest Angels around Heaven, all published at a prolific pace within five years, create not only a distinct literary geography but also a fascinating temporal picture. Like the fiction of his contemporary, the Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland, Moody's fiction features protagonists of Moody's own generation. These are Americans (a word Moody often uses to ironic effect) who lived through the Vietnam War as pre-teens, came of age during the Reagan-era 1980s, and who are intensely aware of the significance of pop cultural references, right down to the significance of their own clothing.
 
Read more about Rick Moody at http://biography.jrank.org/pages/4604/Moody-Rick.html

 

 

www.bap-tizum.com

BMOP/sound

BMOP/sound, the label of the acclaimed Boston Modern Orchestra Project, explores the evolution of the music formerly known as classical. Its eclectic catalog offers both rediscovered classics of the 20th Century and the music of today's most influential and innovative composers. BMOP/sound gives adventurous listeners a singular opportunity to explore the music that is defining this generation and the next.

Cedille Records

Cedille Records was founded in 1989 by James Ginsburg, then a 23 year old law student, as a project of the Chicago Classical Recording Foundation. Its mission was to promote music being made by Chicago’s most talented musicians and composers. Composers predominantly featured include Easley Blackwood, James Ferris and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. Often the music of these composers and many others is performed by Windy City musicians such as Rachel Barton Pine, Jennifer Koh, Alex Klein, Patrice Michaels, Eighth Blackbird and the Pacifica Quartet. The repertoire found on Cedille is not purely Chicagocentric though. A significant portion of their catalog also features showcase performances of the classic masterworks of Europe.

http://www.cedillerecords.org

Cold Blue Music

Cold Blue Music features Southern Californian minimalist and post-minimalist composers such as James Tenney, Chas Smith, Harold Budd, Ingram Marshall and Peter Garland. Cold Blue started in the early 1980s as a vinyl-only label, releasing short works by electronic and electroacoustic composers on a series of 10” and 12” EPs and LPs.  Despite a 15-year hiatus, the label still maintains a commitment to the minimalist aesthetic with newer releases by Charlemagne Palestine and John Luther Adams, and short CD singles of works by West Coast composers.

http://www.coldbluemusic.com

CRI

CRI (Composers Recordings, Inc.) was founded in 1954 by Otto Luening, Douglas Moore and Oliver Daniel. Moore was a well-established American composer, Luening was just beginning his work with Vladimir Ussachevsky, with whom he would help found the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in 1958, and Daniel was a promoter for such American musical luminaries as Henry Cowell and Lou Harrison. CRI was dedicated to the promotion of new music by American composers, releasing over 600 recordings on LP, cassette and CD over its 49 year history, CRI includes works by Earle Brown, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, Harry Partch, Ned Rorem, Roger Sessions and Charles Wuorinen, to name just a few. In 2003, CRI was forced to go out of business due to financial pressures. Ownership of the CRI catalogue was assumed by New World Records in 2006, since which time New World has restored the availability of many CRI titles that had gone out of print or never before been digitized.

Dartmouth Archive

Jon Appleton (b. 1939) is a composer of both acoustic and electro-acoustic music. He is well-known for his help in developing the Synclavier, an early synthesizer and sampler that has become prized in pop studio and electronic music recordings. For 38 years, Appleton was the Arthur R. Virgin Professor of Music at Dartmouth College. He is currently a visiting professor at Stanford University.

The Dartmouth Archive of Jon Appleton’s works feature some of his most iconic and popular compositions, including the early tape piece, Times Square Times Ten and 1967’s Chef d’oeuvre, arguably his most commercially popular work. Other notable works are his pieces that capture the sound and atmosphere of island culture, Japan and Europe, like Narita Airport Rock, and Nyckelharpen Variations. Also featured are a number of insightful interviews and live performances by Appleton himself on the synclavier. A helpful starting place for the newcomer is Struggling to Be Heard, an excerpt of Appleton’s autobiography read by the composer and accompanied by some of his most important works.

Read more about Jon Appleton

Deep Listening

Curated by experimental composer/theorist/improvising performer Pauline Oliveros, Deep Listening Recordings is committed to “music and sound works that transcend cultural boundaries and stretch the mind.” Primarily an outlet for the Deep Listening Institute and Oliveros’ own work, the recordings focus on music involved with Deep Listening, a philosophy and practice developed by Pauline Oliveros that, “distinguishes the difference between the involuntary nature of hearing and the voluntary, selective nature of listening. The result of the practice cultivates appreciation of sounds on a heightened level, expanding the potential for connection and interaction with one’s environment, technology and performing with others in music and related arts.” The Deep Listening catalog has a concentration on electronic music, drone and free improvisation.

http://www.deeplistening.org

Edition Wandelweiser Records

 Edition Wandelweiser is a product of the Wandelweiser Group, an international aggregate of composers including founders Antoine Beuger and Burkhard Schlothauer, Austrian trombonist Radu Malfatti (of b-boim records), American guitarist Michael Pisaro and others.  The concentration in this music is on silence and the way it prepares and resolves sound.  Most of the works are cd length in scope and require focused listening, but are incredibly rewarding to their dedicated audience.

Einstein Records

Einstein Records' world of sound, like the aesthetic of the time, is no singular style, but offers the output of a community built around Jim Staley, namely Staley's collaborators within the New York Downtown scene, such as John Zorn, Ikue Mori, Zeena Parkins, Elliott Sharp and Shelley Hirsch; as well as his cohorts that shared time, space and blossoming musical ideas from the University of Illinois, including Morgan Powell, Michael Kowalski and others from a collective known as the Tone Road Ramblers.

Anything was a potential avenue for musical exploration, and any source materials and sound making devices (electronic, classical, rock/pop, non-musical) were considered usable, even “dirty” amalgams of various styles and degraded samples. Roulette was a crucial venue for this burgeoning community, and Einstein documents the growth of those musicians, and furthermore the world of composer-trombonist and Roulette Director Jim Staley.


Experimental Intermedia Archive

Experimental Intermedia Archive in DRAM
 
Introduction
 

The Experimental Intermedia Archive in DRAM features live performances, interviews and radio programs from one of America’s longest-enduring committed homes to experimental performance. Since its debut series of concerts in December 1973, the loft space at 224 Centre Street in New York’s Chinatown and the organization around it have been a site of induction for multiple generations of artists pushing the boundaries of film, movement, and music. Over those 40 years, the loft space, now known as Experimental Intermedia (EI), has become not only a center of American and international artistic experimentation, but a social gathering place for generations of composers and performers. And, through it all, there has always been one primary figure driving the activities (musical and social): composer and film/video artist Phill Niblock.  

In 2010, after over 40 years of living at 224 Centre Street and providing a performance venue for some of the most interesting thinkers in the New York “downtown” and American minimalist music scenes, Phill was in danger of being evicted. This, sadly, is not a new story to New York artists. Since 2001, real estate prices and housing developers in lower Manhattan have forced a number of iconic New York art spaces and music venues to move or, more often, to close altogether (the best-known being the landmark punk and new wave venue CBGB’s, which folded in 2006). To compound the issue, closing the EI loft also meant the possible endangerment of its archive, seven large boxes containing recordings of almost every concert given in the loft since 1979, including early performances by important musical voices such as George Lewis, Malcolm Goldstein, Eliane Radigue, and Arnold Dreyblatt.

Through a series of musical connections Phill was put in touch with one of DRAM’s curatorial assistants, and impressed upon him the urgency of getting the tapes out of the loft space as soon as possible to protect them against the jeopardies of eviction. Recognizing the severity of the situation, DRAM curatorial personnel took custody of the boxes at 224 Centre Street, catalogued their contents, and within a few weeks’ time had submitted the first series of ¼” reels to Experimental Sound Studios in Chicago for preservation and digitization. Now, a year later, DRAM is excited to announce the availability of this material in its debut of the Experimental Intermedia Archive. This Archive exemplifies DRAM’s ongoing relationship with Phill and EI, and the shared commitment to preserve and disseminate a wealth of historical recordings from one of America’s cultural centers before it is permanently lost.

Organizational History
 

EI as an organization was originally founded in 1968 by the choreographer Elaine Summers who, along with a group of collaborators from the Judson Dance Theater (including Philip Corner, Trisha Brown and Phill Niblock), formed the collective to provide the organizational structure necessary to access funds from the then recently-created National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and apply for grants from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). Originally named Experimental Intermedia Foundation (EIF), it was Summers who provided the definition of the term “intermedia” which still plays a prominent role in the aesthetic of Experimental Intermedia under Niblock. She says, “Intermedia is when you enter the image and get wrapped up in it. You become part of the image.” A true melding of multiple medias, this definition could be exemplified by her own use of the dancer’s body as a projection screen for the early experimental cinematography of Niblock’s, and it helped to inform the mixture of sound, movement and video/film that germinated into EIs later programming, especially its popular annual winter solstice event featuring eight hours of video, film and music.

Through the mid 70s the three most active members of the Experimental Intermedia Foundation were Summers, Niblock, and composer Philip Corner. For almost a decade, these three artists used the Foundation as a way to secure funding for their work, but Corner ceased EIF-related activities in 1976 and Elaine Summers made Niblock the sole director when she stopped producing projects under its umbrella in 1986. At that time, Phill changed the name to its current Experimental Intermedia (EI). 

Performance History
 

While it’s very important not to downplay the function of Experimental Intermedia as an organization, one must not forget its other major contribution to the history of New York “downtown” music: the 224 Centre Street loft. Phill moved into 224 Centre Street on June 1, 1968. Since then, the large, open living space, with its informal “house concert” atmosphere, fantastic acoustics, and almost peerless sound system, has been the humble home to some of the most innovative minimalist music made in the late 20th century. The loft was first utilized as an alternative performance venue for another New York experimental music fixture, The Kitchen. Between 1972 and 1973, three Kitchen-sponsored events took place at 224 Centre: twice due to its superior sound quality and/or venue issues, and once in deference to the masses of dried animal blood on the Kitchen’s floor after a Hermann Nitsch performance. The response to the space was in any case overwhelming, and Phill decided that 224 Centre could become something greater than just his own home and studio.

And so, in December of 1973, Niblock hosted his first official series of music at the loft, called simply “A Week of Composers”. Each of the inaugural nights became a showcase for a different composer, including (in order of appearance) Joel Chadabe, Rhys Chatham, Jon Gibson, Garrett List, Phill Niblock, Charlemagne Palestine, and David Behrman. The programming was very well received, but many of the favorable reviews, including those appearing in The Village Voice and New York Times, made a special effort to enthusiastically recommend the casual attitude of the loft and advocate it as a comfortable and social place to talk about, listen to and meet composers of challenging music. Amazingly, that feeling of social solidarity has not left the loft in the 39 years since. It still manages to maintain its place as a small oasis of listeners friendly to experimentation and boundary pushing in the arts.

 Aesthetics
 

During the seasons between 1976 and 1980 the loft’s aesthetic began to solidify. It’s difficult to talk about any one performance venue as having a definitive dogma where it concerns what it chooses to support through programming, and EI is no different. Though one could, through analysis of the last 30 seasons and through talking to Phill, come up with a rough set of “rules” that have guided the programming of Experimental Intermedia they have never become hard and fast, as ideologies could easily be trumped by Phill’s personal taste or the strength of relationships made through the social channels of the loft and other venues such as the Kitchen and Roulette. Still there are certain artistic and political elements that could be said to typify the past 30 years of EI concerts.

First is a reliance on electronics for sound and structural/formal material in both composition and performance. Even when acoustic instruments are a part of the composition, as in the works of David Behrman and Niblock himself, there is usually some component of electronic sound or processing involved in either the form or sound world of the music that is presented.

Second is the role of the composer/performer. The composer does not arrive at EI to witness a performance of his or her composition by an ensemble of professional musicians, but is instead an active participant in the public presentation of their music. This insistence upon the composer as performer has given rise to a generation of musicians that have developed highly individual solo performance styles, some imbued with rigorous conceptualism (Carl Stone), others with structured improvisational elements (Ned Rothenberg). 

Finally, alongside such purely artistic concerns, there is a conscious social element of fostering creativity through Phill’s support of young and underappreciated artists. Many important composers and performers were able to develop their language through Phill’s practice of allowing them to come back and perform multiple times. This rare opportunity, combined with the friendly atmosphere of musical peers was partly responsible for the flowering of the New York downtown scene in the 1970s and 1980s. Composer/performers such as Jackson MacLow, Malcolm Goldstein, Charlie Morrow, and Joseph Celli in the 70s and Shelley Hirsch, Ned Rothenberg, Guy Klucevsek, and Lois V. Vierk in the 80s found in EI a place to develop their unique music. To this day, Niblock and EI are ardent supporters of young groundbreaking electronic artists such as Byron Westbrook, Alessandro Bosetti and Rafael Toral.

The 1980s

 

The number of concerts presented at EI rose dramatically between the years 1980 and 1988. This was partially due to Niblock’s increased willingness to make his space available, but also to the substantial support for American experimental music venues that existed at that time. Funding from government sources, such as the NEA and NYSCA, kept the loft’s operations manageable. During this period, EI also became an international force. As Niblock himself increasingly traveled abroad as a performer/composer, the open social atmosphere at 224 Centre Street expanded and became global. The EI loft evolved into one of the most important international centers for experimental music as more and more artists from Europe and Asia were able to travel to the United States and present their work to a hungry New York audience.

Unfortunately, however, following the 1988 Robert Mapplethorpe/Jesse Helms NEA controversy, government funding for the arts either turned toward more conservative projects or was discontinued altogether. Even though Experimental Intermedia continued to receive grants through 1992 (when the NEA stopped supporting the space), the loft curtailed the majority of its programming from 50-60 concerts in the early 80s to 15-20 post 1988. Far from giving up, EI used the opportunity to change its approach, allowing it to survive the decline in government arts support while other organizations around them either gave up or were forced to stop presenting. With a smaller season, Experimental Intermedia was able to sustain its vitality. Since the late 1980s, Niblock’s career as a composer has skyrocketed, providing him with the impetus to expand EI’s international presence, including the opening of Experimental Intermedia v.z.w. Ghent (where Niblock spends part of the year) in 1997. EI also expanded into the recorded medium. Many of the artists that have consistently performed at the loft are also now represented on the XI label, the official recording outlet of Experimental Intermedia (also featured in DRAM). It is important to note that, even in the shadow of doubt regarding the future of the 224 Centre Street loft, EI continues to present a concert series and Phill and Experimental Intermedia remain integral parts of the New York experimental landscape.

EI Archive and DRAM
 

As is clear from this long history, the music made at the Experimental Intermedia site is something very special and provides a unique insight into the growth and maintenance of an American musical language. For this reason, DRAM is proud to be a part of the restoration, preservation and presentation of this material.

The first group of recordings that are available for DRAM subscribers come from a series of radio programs produced by Steve Cellum and Niblock in the early 1980s. They were chosen as the inaugural works from the archive due to the rapid deterioration of their ¼” tape masters, the broad stylistic range of the performer/composer participants (including loft jazz legends, early experiments with Japanese instruments and tape, and compositions for bells), and the depth of information provided through the well crafted interviews with each of the musicians profiled.

The radio programs are split into two formats.  The first is the Concerts by Composers series, which is a short conversation with the composer and then some excerpt of one of their concerts. Often these concerts took place at the EI loft, but there are also performances from other early New York venues such as The Kitchen and Roulette, venues still as important and active as Experimental Intermedia. The other programs are called Ultrasounds, and vary greatly in presentation from complete concert footage (Pauline Oliveros or Alvin Curran) to radio program as assemblage/composition (George Lewis).

The second group of documents, being slowly transferred and uploaded now, come from an archive of hundreds of DAT tapes and cover the period roughly between 1988 and 2007. These concerts represent some of the most interesting experimental thinking in digital and analog electronic (as well as purely acoustic) work in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Unfortunately, not all of the programs were able to be represented. A handful of these tapes were not able to be transferred at a quality high enough to honor the artistic intent of the composer’s work. Since DRAM was also involved in contacting each of the composers to obtain their permission to stream these programs, there are two that cannot be made available in accordance with their wishes. Whenever there is a specific issue with a program included in the archive with regard to sound quality, misinformation in original presentation, or a change to a recording at the composer’s request, we have included erratum in italics at the bottom of that program’s liner notes.

Many of the composers represented in the Experimental Intermedia Archive are also found elsewhere in DRAM. By accessing the liner notes for each individual program, you will find some biographical information and links to find out more about their work. In some cases, the composer/performer has also provided DRAM with a short quote about the place that the Experimental Intermedia loft occupied in their development. The recordings in the Experimental Intermedia Archive are tools to be used not only for the discovery of unreleased live performances and insights into compositional and performance practice, but a way to discover new and exciting artists. With that in mind, DRAM encourages you to find out more about these artists by exploring the database, and/or purchasing their music.

 
 

DRAM would like to extend a very special thanks to Dr. Bernard Gendron, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, whose paper on the history of the Experimental Intermedia Foundation and the 224 Centre Street loft was essential to the historical and aesthetic portions of this essay. His original history will be featured in a book on Phill Niblock, edited by Yvan Etienne and available soon from les presses du reel. Gendron is also the author of “Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde” from University of Chicago Press.

Firehouse 12 Records

Firehouse 12 Records documents the work of creative musicians active in a particular place and time.  Firehouse 12 is a performance space and recording studio located in New Haven, Connecticut.  Owner and chief engineer Nick Lloyd began the Firehouse 12 imprint along with acclaimed cornetist and composer Taylor Ho Bynum to document the music of some of America’s leading practitioners in the jazz and creative music idioms.

The label has quickly become a major force in jazz, presenting the first records led by young stars such as Peter Evans, Tyshawn Sorey, and Mary Halvorson as well as documenting recent major works of creative improvised music legends such as Anthony Braxton and Bill Dixon. 

Almost all of the recordings have been impeccably documented in the Firehouse 12 studio during live concerts or studio sessions.  The attention to detail in the recording process is quickly becoming a trademark of this series, as is the freshness of the music made by its label roster. 

 

www.firehouse12.com

Frog Peak Music

Frog Peak is an artist-run organization that specializes in publishing the writings, scores and recordings of their member artists. The organization attempts to provide a forum for composers in keeping with Kenneth Gaburo’s idea of “publishing as an eco-system.” Alongside Gaburo’s writings (Lingua Press), Anthony Braxton’s tri-axium writings and composition notebooks, and the word works of Australian Chris Mann, the Frog Peak label features the works of such underappreciated experimental composers as Larry Polansky, Anne LaBerge, David Rosenboom, Daniel Goode and David Mahler.

http://www.frogpeak.org

Henceforth Records

San Diego based label Henceforth Records features music made by "some of today’s most vital artists whose vision crosses the boundaries and expands definitions of contemporary classical, improvised, electronic and experimental music." Curated by Bonnie Wright, long a fixture in the San Diego musical community, Henceforth claims the following as their philosophy, "While we love virtuosity, we don’t love it for its own sake. From the beginning of time, music has carried a message and we want to continue to carry that forward. Hence, the name, Henceforth: from now on. While the music we find important may not always be soothing, we hope it is a conduit for candor."

Henceforth's small catalog provides an insight to a dizzying array of contemporary composed and improvised music, featuring upstarts like the Dither quartet alongside scene stalwarts like Elliott Sharp and Lisle Ellis.

http://www.henceforthrecords.com/

Important Records

Important Records is one of the few remaining "large" labels committed to all things experimental in rock. Be it the hard noise of Japanese sound artist, Merzbow or the studies in microtonality of Duane Pitre, Important Records has been a rock of support for rock, noise, and electronic musicians working at the very edges of the fray.

DRAM is proud to present portions of the Important Records catalog featuring historical masters of electronic composition like Pauline Oliveros and Eliane Radigue, as well as new forces like Pitre, Eleh, and C. Spencer Yeh. The archive will grow over time but we start by presenting Important's epic and no out of print box set: Pauline Oliveros-Tape & Electronic Music 1961-1970!

League of Automatic Music Composers

The League of Automatic Music Composers was a small group of visionary computer networking musicians from the Bay Area of the US made up primarily of Jim Horton, John Bischoff, and Tim Perkis (although at times the group also included Rich Gold and David Behrman).  Their work centered around the hardwired networking of some of the earliest computers, especially the Kim models that were being produced in the 1970s.

The music they made was an experimental maelstrom of electronic sound, dense and, at times, incomprehensible upon a first consumption.  As a listener develops and makes multiple aural passes at a piece like Finnish Hall or Martian Folk Music, they begin to unravel the different skeins of electronic sound, and the interest turns from the aesthetic of pure electronic sound, then being practiced by David Tudor and David Behrman (at the time, teachers at Mills College at which many members of the LAMC were involved) to a fascinating study in interrelation.  Each bit of information is sent from one player to the next, transformed and fed back to be retransformed and so forth.  The massive webs of frequencies are just remnants of a process, great sounding remnants, but still part of a larger experimental whole that opened up worlds for groups like The Hub and Mimeo, and makes the League of Automatic Music Composers an important part of American musical history.

 

 

Lovely Music

Lovely Music was founded by Mimi Johnson in 1978. Originally only releasing early operas by Johnson’s husband, Robert Ashley, Lovely has become one of the longest-active labels exclusively for new and experimental composition. Besides Ashley, Lovely has released multiple recordings by other such leading American experimentalists as Alvin Lucier, “Blue” Gene Tyranny, Eliane Radigue, David Tudor and Annea Lockwood. From Ashley’s dramatic reworking of the operatic form to Lucier’s groundbreaking work with acoustic space, Lovely has consistently been at the forefront of post minimalist composition.

http://www.lovely.com

Mode Records

Mode Records is a New York-based label primarily concerned with composed music from latter part of the 20th century to the present day. Especially notable are their projects to release the complete recorded works of John Cage, Morton Feldman, Iannis Xenakis, Giacinto Scelsi and Christian Wolff. Far from just concentrating on the 1950s New York and Darmstadt schools, Mode has also already released significant recordings from a diverse group of composers such as John Luther Adams, George Cacioppo, Jason Eckardt, Anne LeBaron, Phill Niblock, Lou Harrison and Gerard Pape.

http://www.moderecords.com

Mutable Music

Mutable Music was founded by Thomas Buckner, a new music baritone and also the founder of the legendary 1750 Arch Records. Concentrating primarily on new chamber and electronic compositions and free improvisation, Mutable has released a large amount of work featuring Buckner, Roscoe Mitchell, Earl Howard and Tom Hamilton. Mutable’s catalog features everything from solo documents and chamber works by AACM members Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams and Jerome Cooper to electronic experimentalism by Hamilton and Noah Creshevsky.

http://www.mutablemusic.com

New Focus Recordings

New Focus Recordings was founded in 2004 by guitarist Daniel Lippel and composer Peter Gilbert. The mission of the label is to release recordings in full-length format that justify their presentation as albums, as opposed to a collection of singles. New Focus has released recordings by some of New York's most active young musicians, including the International Contemporary Ensemble, Flexible Music, Antares, pianist Jacob Greenberg, flutist Claire Chase, and guitarist Daniel Lippel.  While the label focuses on contemporary composers such as luminaries Mario Davidovsky, Louis Andriessen, and Nils Vigeland, and emerging figures such as Du Yun, Jason Eckhart, and Dai Fujikura, the catalogue also includes recordings of older music. 

http://www.newfocusrecordings.com/

New World Records

New World Records (incorporated in 1975 as Recorded Anthology of American Music, Inc.) is dedicated to the documentation of all styles of American music, many of which have been ignored by the commercial recording companies.  An essential resource for students, scholars, librarians, teachers and the general public, New World's catalogue currently includes over 400 CDs and embodies the widest spectrum of American music -- from Native American to jazz, 19th century classical to electronic, opera, musical theater, folk and beyond. New World Records is a non-profit organization.

http://www.newworldrecords.org

Nine Winds Records

Started in 1977 by multi-instrumentalist and composer Vinny Golia, Nine Winds features talented and undersung performers and composers from the West Coast of America.  Besides a healthy set of music from Golia's own output, including his large group and fantastic solos for woodwinds, the catalog includes seldom-heard treasures by bassist Bertram Turetzky and trumpet player Wadada Leo Smith.  Nine Winds is also a champion of young composers and performers such as Harris Eisenstadt, Kris Tiner, Jason Mears, Steuart Liebig, and Nels Cline.

Open Space

Open Space Recordings documents the musical offerings of Open Space Publications and the Open Space Magazine, a forum for artists, writers and composers to publish experimental work. The recordings concentrate heavily on the works of J.K. Randall and Benjamin Boretz and consist mostly of experimental works utilizing electronics or electroacoustic techniques. Most works are performed by the composers, but such new music stalwarts as Harvey Sollberger, Martin Goldray and Margaret Kampmeier make appearances as well.

Peacock Recordings

Since 2000, Peacock Recordings has been an outlet for some of the freshest voices in experimental composition and improvisation.  Based in Brooklyn, New York and managed by composer/violist Jessica Pavone, Peacock has provided an outlet to a group of young composers mainly working in the minimalist mold.  Improvisation and experimentation stand side by side in the work of many of these artists, especially in the work of such composer/performers as Aaron Siegel, Jackson Moore, and Jason Cady.

Pogus Productions

Pogus Productions is the brainchild of Al Margolis, a.k.a. If, Bwana and former founder of the Sound of Pigs cassette label. Releases concentrate on electronic, electroacoustic and experimental music that is “uncompromising, non-commercial and definitely not for everyone (unfortunately).” Besides being the primary outlet for If, Bwana’s recordings, Pogus has released important works by Annea Lockwood, David Dunn, David Rosenboom, Kenneth Gaburo and Pauline Oliveros ranging from modern chamber music to live electronics to tape collage pieces.

http://www.pogus.com

Porter Records

Porter Records represents the extreme eclecticism in musical taste that has blossomed in the 21st century, through the Internet and its globalizing effect. Founder Luke Mosling has curated a large selection of new music that swings from the 70s free jazz of Philadelphian Byard Lancaster to the Finnish psych-jazz of Heikki Sarmanto, all the way to featuring new composition and improvisation from New Yorkers such as Nate Wooley and Matt Welch.

Relative Pitch Records

Relative Pitch Records is a labor of love from Kevin Reilly, a true fan of jazz and improvised music and a constant and critical presence on the New York downtown scene. After years of listening to concerts with open ears and an active mind, he started a label to document some of the underappreciate heroes of jazz and improvised music from around the world.

Alongside more familiar names like Matthew Shipp and Mary Halvorson, Relative Pitch puts an emphasis on musicians like Jim Hobbs, Connie Crothers, and Torsten Muller, who have been woefully underrecognized by the international community while building unassailable reputations in their own scenes. This is wonderful music that should be heard by everyone.

Santa Monica Public Library

Shinkoyo

Shinkoyo is a collectively run label based in Brooklyn, Baltimore, Oakland, and other points around the United States.  Almost without exception, the members of the collective met while undergraduates at the Oberlin Conservatory, and the members have since branched out to run performance spaces on both coasts, dabbled in the concept of "free" on the internet, and have continued to push themselves and each other into new forms of musical composition.

Musically, Shinkoyo is a label that outlines development, both as a social group working together to make new music, but also as individual composers.  It offers a rare snapshot of the growth of young experimental composers.  There are connections in the music of Shinkoyo to a wildly diverse set of influences, from icons such as Robert Ashley, Gordon Mumma, and David Tudor, to "outsider" influences such as Al Margolis and Annea Lockwood, to genre work from left field locations such as new age and hard noise electronics.

Shinkoyo represents a young generation of American composer working in the electronic genre.  The members of the collective are pushing the boundaries of electronic, acoustic, pop, and experimental musics.  They are voices of a way of doing things in new music that is just now starting to gain recognition, and it is with great pride that we add their music to DRAM.

 

http://www.shinkoyo.com

Skirl Records

Skirl Records is an artist-run collective that highlights what is known as the "New Brooklyn Scene", which is exemplified by a fusion of jazz, electronic music, contemporary composition and avant-rock.  Musicians such as label head Chris Speed, saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo, drummer Jim Black, and guitarist Mary Halvorson create energetic and genre-challenging music on this small and highly independent label. 

Tompkins Square

Tompkins Square Records is the creation of San Francisco's Josh Rosenthal. Since 2007, Josh and TSQ have been championing the lost music of America, not only literally by reissuing such forgotten masters as Max Ochs and Charlie Louvin, but by giving a place for new voices in American musical forms to be heard. Recordings from fingerstyle guitarists such as James Blackshaw sit aside archival recordings of Mark Fosson and new work from established free jazz masters such as Ran Blake and Charles Gayle. Rosenthal has combined these recordings with a number of epic compilations of lost music on 78 rpm records like Ian Nagoski's "To What Strange Place: The Music of the Ottoman-American Diaspora, 1916-1929" to create a strange and wonderful portrait of the quiet dark corners of American musical history.

Tricentric Foundation Archive

The Tri-Centric Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that supports the ongoing work and legacy of eminent musician/composer Anthony Braxton, while also cultivating and inspiring the next generation of creative artists to pursue their own visions with the kind of idealism and integrity he has demonstrated throughout his long and distinguished career.

Specifically, it encourages broad dissemination of Braxton’s music through creation of, and support for, performances, productions, recordings and other new media technologies. It also documents, archives, preserves and disseminates Braxton’s scores, writings, performances and recordings and advocates for a broader audience, appreciation, funding and support base for Braxton’s work.

 

www.tricentricfoundation.org

XI Records

XI Records was founded by experimental composer Phill Niblock for the promotion of his work and the work of other artists working specifically with sound and acoustics.  XI’s releases tend toward drone and ambient elements. Much of the work of Niblock, Ellen Fullman, Tom Johnson and Eliane Radigue found on the label is more concerned with the micro-elements present in two or more tones interacting than in a more traditional contrapuntal setting. XI also represents many modern New York post-minimalist composers such as Alan Licht, Michael Schumacher, Peter Zummo and David Watson (New Zealander living in New York).

http://www.experimentalintermedia.org