Noted for its arrangements and recordings (with the composer's approval) of Frank Zappa's material, the Meridian Arts Ensemble approaches its eighth CD Brink
(Channel Classics) with commissioned concert-length works from cutting edge composers Elliott Sharp, David Sanford and Nick Didkovsky.
The Meridian Arts Ensemble notes, whereas we arranged rock or jazz tunes on previous recordings, this time we went directly to the composers who create this kind of music for complete pieces, rather than short tunes. These pieces draw on various styles of music available to today's listener: free improvisation in a densely notated art-rock setting, evocations of African vocal polyphony, oblique references to 1970s television themes to the rhythms and intonations of a sermonizing preacher--yet each one creates its own unique style and language."
The CD was recorded in the Doopsgezinde Kerk in the town square of Deventer, Holland, in a large pedestrian plaza referred to locally as the Brink.
Having also previously performed, arranged and recorded Renaissance, baroque and Bach pieces, Afro-Cuban dance and South American folk music as well as the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, King Crimson, Captain Beefheart and Milton Babbitt, it's only fitting for Brink that the Ensemble commissioned works from the three selected composers:
Guitarist/composer/producer/sound artist Elliott Sharp is one of the founders of New York's downtown scene of avant-garde experimental music, and leads the musical projects Orchestra Carbon and Tectonics. He has released over 65 recordings spanning the musical spectrum from blues, jazz, orchestral music, noise to techno. (His compositions have also been covered by such outfits as the Ensemble Modern.) Sharp's Beyond the Curve" for the Meridians uses the African technique banda polyphony" and features unusual percussion writing-- dropping chains on the drums, and interesting brass techniques-- tinfoil around the bells to produce a buzz" sound. At times some sections sound improvised, but the work is completely written out. Sharp also added his expertise to post production sound.
A composition professor at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts and former jazz trombonist, David Sanford structured Corpus" in the manner of a Baroque cantata with individual movements that lift elements of jazz, rock, '70s TV music (see if you can recognize which show) and various influences into a coherent whole. In reference to Meridian drummer John Ferrari, the composer notes, in the more stylistically recognizable repetitive drum figures of movements three, five and six, a beat pattern and dynamic markings are supplied for the percussionist, who is free to embellish and extend relating riffs. So if the beats are particularly raging, then all praise is due Mr. Ferrari."
Nick Didkovsky's Slim in Beaten Dreamers" was composed and notated in Java Music Specification Language, a computer music language that the composer designed with Phil Burk. My work on the composition itself had profound effects on developing JMSL, contributing many new design ideas. In fact, 'Slim...' is the first composition for live ensemble created in JMSL, representing the maiden voyage of a new creative music technology." Guitarist and composer Didkovsky, the founder of the avant-rock septet Doctor Nerve, currently resides in New York City, where he composes, creates music software, and teaches comp
uter music composition at New York University. He has also composed music for such ensembles as Bang On A Can All-Stars, Fred Frith Guitar Quartet, New Century Players, and Arte Sax Quartet, among others. Doctor Nerve, has shared a number of performances and projects with Meridian Arts Ensemble over the years. We have always enjoyed collaborating and performing together, and this led to the notion of my creating a new work specifically for Meridian."
Brink was recorded using Superaudio technology.