Soundings in Pure Duration Vol 2

James Dashow composer

Manuel Zurria bass flute
Nicholas Isherwood bass-baritone
Enzo Filippetti alto saxophone

Release Date: March 25, 2022
Catalog #: RR8063
Format: Digital & Physical
21st Century
Chamber
Electronic
Flute
Saxophone

The second volume of James Dashow’s SOUNDINGS IN PURE DURATION offers listeners a unique audiophile experience. The album of Dashow’s music for electronic sounds and instrumental soloists includes the last four works in the Soundings in Pure Duration series as well as the re-release of his Bourges Magisterium prizewinning work …at other times, the distances. The album is available on DVD, giving listeners access to surround-sound (5.0) mixdowns of the pieces as well as composer-prepared stereo mixdowns that have been spatially enhanced to approximate a wider audio field. According to Dashow, this presentation of his octophonic and quadraphonic electronic music is second only to a live concert performance in terms of realizing his artistic vision for the music.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
Surround-sound 5.0 mixdowns
01 Soundings in Pure Duration N.9 James Dashow Manuel Zurria, bass flute; James Dashow, octophonic electronic sounds 13:23
02 Soundings in Pure Duration N.8 James Dashow Nicholas Isherwood, bass-baritone; James Dashow, octophonic electronic sounds 14:36
03 Soundings in Pure Duration N.7 James Dashow Enzo Filippetti, alto saxophone; James Dashow, octophonic electronic sounds 11:09
04 Soundings in Pure Duration N.10 James Dashow James Dashow, octophonic electronic sounds 37:03
05 ....At Other Times, The Distances James Dashow James Dashow, quadraphonic electronic sounds 12:35
Stereo mixdowns (DVD only)
06 Soundings in Pure Duration N.9 James Dashow Manuel Zurria, bass flute; James Dashow, octophonic electronic sounds 13:23
07 Soundings in Pure Duration N.8 James Dashow Nicholas Isherwood, bass-baritone; James Dashow, octophonic electronic sounds 14:36
08 Soundings in Pure Duration N.7 James Dashow Enzo Filippetti, alto saxophone; James Dashow, octophonic electronic sounds 11:09
09 Soundings in Pure Duration N.10 James Dashow James Dashow, octophonic electronic sounds 37:03
10 ....At Other Times, The Distances James Dashow James Dashow, quadraphonic electronic sounds 12:35

TRACKS 1-3 / 6-8 (DVD)
Created between 2014-2017.
Recording, editing, mixing James Dashow 

TRACK 4 / 9 (DVD)
Created 2020

TRACK 5 / 10 (DVD)
Created 1999; 2nd Prize Musica Nova ‘99 Prague, November 1999; Magisterium Prize at the 27th International Competition of Electroacoustic Music and Sonic Art in Bourges, France, 2000

The DVD contains surround 5.0 mixdowns (tracks 1-5) from the octophonic and quadraphonic originals as well as stereo mixdowns (tracks 6-10) from the originals. The listener may choose at the very start of the disc which format is to be listened to. There is no subwoofer track; the 5 surround channels will be best listened to on 5 full range loudspeakers.

All works © copyright James Dashow (S.I.A.E.)

All works were created in the composer’s studio. Live soloists were also recorded in the composer’s studio.

Art et Al. by Stephen Dobyns, used by permission of the poet.

Mastering Engineer Brad Michel 
Liner notes by Egidio Pozzi 
Booklet cover photo Tim Murphy / Shutterstock 
DVD authoring by Andrew Gurian 

Executive Producer Bob Lord 

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw 
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil 

VP of Production Jan Košulič 
Audio Director Lucas Paquette 

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Aidan Curran
Content Manager Sara Warner 

Artist Information

James Dashow

Composer

James Dashow has had commissions, awards and grants from the Bourges International Festival of Experimental Music, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Linz Ars Electronica Festival, the Fromm Foundation, the Biennale di Venezia, the USA National Endowment for the Arts, RAI (Italian National Radio), the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Rockefeller Foundation, Il Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte (Montepulciano, Italy), the Koussevitzky Foundation, Prague Musica Nova, and the Harvard Musical Association of Boston. In 2000, he was awarded the prestigious Prix Magistere at the 30th Festival International de Musique et d’Art Sonore Electroacoustiques in Bourges.

Learn More
Manuel Zurria

Manuel Zurria

Bass Flute
Nicholas Isherwood

Nicholas Isherwood

Bass-Baritone
Enzo Filippetti

Enzo Filippetti

Alto Saxophone

Notes

Volume 2 of James Dashow’s series of works, Soundings in Pure Duration for electronic sounds, with and without instrumental soloists, includes the last four works in the series, composed between 2014 and 2020, and the re-release of his Bourges Magisterium prizewinning work “…at other times, the distances,” an earlier work from the 1990s. The general title of these pieces comes from the English translation of a phrase by Bergson (in The Creative Mind) where the philosopher was describing his notions about time and the profound human interaction with it. Unlike the original French, the English has the play on the word “sounding” which, in its double meaning related especially to time (duration), struck the composer as being a perfect description of what a musical work does.

All of the pieces here collected are originally for octophonic electronic sounds, except for the earlier “…at other times, the distances” which is a quadraphonic composition. On this DVD, the listener can find surround-sound (5.0) mixdowns as well as composer-prepared stereo mixdowns that have been spatially enhanced to approximate a wider audio field, consonant, somewhat, with the original spatial configuration—a configuration that, in concert, reveals itself to be fundamental to each work’s compositional conception. As Dashow has often written, controlling Movement IN Space and the Movement OF Space are now basic elements of his compositional approach, in functional collaboration with timbre, dynamics, and pitch/frequency structure. This latter aspect is realized using a rigorous, but not overly rigid, application of the composer’s Dyad System which offers Dashow the means to work within a time-varying complexity of multiple structural levels that correspond precisely to his unique way of hearing, i.e. his distinctly individual harmonies, lines, counterpoint and, above all, timbral conceptions. The pieces are in the order of a concert presentation, rather than chronological, encouraging the listener to listen to all of the pieces from track 1 to the end. Each piece with a soloist has its electronic timbral qualities chosen to enhance or contrast with the characteristics of the particular instrument. The pieces for electronic sounds alone are self-contained timbral-spatial constructions that elaborate their own kinds of sounds.

— Egidio Pozzi, Department of Humanistic Studies, University of Calabria, Italy

Soundings in Pure Duration n.9, for bass flute and octophonic electronic sounds was composed for and recorded by Manuel Zurria, one of Europe’s foremost interpreters of contemporary flute music. The work takes full advantage of the unique, even sensual, qualities of the bass flute especially in its lowest register, a full octave below the regular flute. Zurria is a master of the bass flute’s special effects, particularly the tongue slap which can produce a resonant percussive “thwack” a major (sometimes a minor) seventh still lower; in fact, this is the very first sound at the start of the piece announcing immediately the rich adventurous mood that permeates the entire work.

The piece is in five sections, or rather five textural/timbral divisions: the first is an attack pattern canon between the flute and different kinds of electronic sounds, the second dissolves the rigidity of the strict canon into a freer, more complex phrasing and interaction with the electronics; sections 3 and 4 are split into sub-sections and alternate with each other to provide an ongoing structure of tension and release or suspension. To be noted is the particularly effective use of shared frequencies in the section 3 textures between the bass flute and the sounds as the latter are spatialized in a variety of ways around the listener, the electronic sounds developing timbrally and spatially the pitches of the bass flute (a very typical Dashow formal construction). Section 4 is characterized by a stunning variety of articulation effects, or rather different ways of actually attacking the notes with special tonguing and fingering techniques, again in partnership with the electronics that have their own versions of quick sharp attack patterns. The final section displays once more the formal shape of building tension to release, in this case the entire section rather than just parts creates the form. Here we find also passages of genuinely virtuoso writing for the bass flute, unusually fast phrases that Zurria performs flawlessly and seemingly effortlessly, closing off with what might be heard as a sort of epilogue, a final winding down of the tension generated by the hyper-active passages, that ends with a pair of quite amazing double-harmonics in a “stratospheric” register of the instrument not normally reached with traditional bass flute technique—a Zurria specialty.

— Egidio Pozzi

Soundings in Pure Duration n.8 was composed for and recorded on this disc by bass-baritone Nicholas Isherwood, arguably the most accomplished contemporary vocalist active today. Isherwood for years was Karlheinz Stockhausen’s singer of choice for many of the German composer’s works, and has been heard\seen singing in an astounding repertory that ranges from very early and even non-western musics to the most demanding and “avant-garde” of contemporary western art music.

The text, “ART ET. AL.,” included here, is by the American poet Stephen Dobyns. It is a perfect example of one of the most characteristic tones of voice that the poet has developed in his long and important career: ironic dark humor, surrealistic but never without compassion for human beings who have done their best to face difficult, sometimes unforgiving, life experiences. Dobyns’s insights into the human predicament are often framed in a sort of tough-guy exposition that on the other hand never fails to communicate his sensitivity to the underlying fragility and almost tragic foundations of his subject and of people in general. And it is just this kind of tension between exposition and sympathy that appealed to Dashow, whose own concepts of musical structure are often just that: the creation of multiple layers of musical sensibility, some explicit, some implied, engendering emotional tensions that together form the expressive engine of his work.

The work alternates between two kinds of textures, one very active that evolves two different timbral characteristics over the course of the piece, and one very reflective, almost meditative corresponding to those moments when the text pulls back from the rollicking events taking place and reflects on the human conditions of the five characters: four crap-shooters and a fifth who regularly bangs his head. (If this sounds strange, please take a look at the text file!). A third texture, when a totally new character enters the scene, whose music is clearly a further development of the earlier, more active sections, functions as a sort of finale closing the work on a surrealistic note that is yet strangely and wonderfully optimistic. Isherwood here is asked not only to sing but also to do a great deal of pitched-talking, that is to speak the words on specific pitches. And for the main contrast the singer goes into his falsetto register to capture the poet’s reflections, not without irony, on the crap-shooters’ sadly unsuccessful lives.

The electronic sounds are what we have come to expect from Dashow, his rich timbral vocabulary closely related to and often enveloping the voice pitches, and the sheer fun of some of the musical phrases and sections, especially in synchronization with the sounds the head-banger causes; these recall such quasi-comic works as his radio satire Media Survival Kit, the ironic humor of Some Dream Songs on Berryman texts, and several scenes in his planetarium opera ARCHIMEDES. And as always the spatialization contributes significantly to the form and on-going development of the music:while there are many actual happenings in the poem that are “spatial” (the head-banger continually runs and dives over the crap-shooters game to hit his head against something or other) which Dashow doesn’t hesitate to enjoy with some rather spectacular “word-painting” (or perhaps better “space-painting”), there is as well a great deal of spatial counterpoint, the sounds being made to circulate around the listener in a variety of trajectories synchronized with vocal or electronic phrasing, all of which serve to elaborate the multi-layered sense of the poem, and place the listener inside its complex expressivity.

— Egidio Pozzi

Soundings in Pure Duration n.7 is for alto saxophone and octophonic electronic sounds, composed for and recorded by Enzo Filippetti, Italy’s leading specialist in contemporary art music for alto saxophone (actually for all the saxophones, Enzo has recorded and performed on everything from the sopranino to the bass saxophone, but his principle instrument is the alto).

As has become standard in Dashow’s work for almost three decades, the correspondence between the live instrument’s pitches and the electronic sounds is generated by applications of his Dyad System which is also rigorously applied for the development of the saxophone’s pitch structure. The timbral quality of the alto sax very much determines the choice of electronic timbre, for both a rich integration as well as expressive contrasts. Dashow himself played alto saxophone in his early student years and had a great deal of experience arranging for big band in high school and college. As such, the composer, with perhaps a touch of nostalgia, constructed the work so that it convincingly (but also quite surprisingly) includes an entire sax section in the final moments. The solo saxophone all of a sudden finds himself to be the lead alto of a traditional five-sax section on a series of chords (the other four saxophones, second alto, two tenors, and a baritone, are all pre-recorded) that represent the definitive emergence of the pitch structure, the overall compositional point of arrival. Filippetti is famous for his being able to play pitches in the octave above the standard extension envisioned by Adolph Sax’s original invention. Dashow has taken advantage of Filippetti’s extraordinary range to produce some stunning harmonies and melodic lines with the sax section and in other parts of the work.

Dashow’s intimate knowledge of the instrument, and Filippetti’s brilliant solution to some of the instrument’s classical “impossibles” has allowed the composer to write virtuoso passages that Filippetti performs with complete assurance and convincing expressivity. As one example, the piece ends with what has traditionally been something to avoid: a trill between the lowest two notes of the instrument, the B and Bb. Filippetti invented an ingenious and simple solution, so you hear an impossible trill made completely possible closing out the work.

Soundings n.7 is, like the others in this series of compositions, built on large-scale sections, each of which has its own timbral-spatial characteristics, its own particular degree of energy and tension-release patterns, and its own type of instrumental articulations that range from the lyrical, to the jagged, to the many percussive tongueing techniques that provide expressive contrast to the more sostenuto writing (especially that in the last section). The overall structure of the piece, again, like the other Soundings, places these sections in time in such a way that the varying energies, continuities, and interruptions are the principle source of the overall perceived form of the work that begins with long varied-interval trills, proceeds through sectional evolutions and transformations, and ends with the above mentioned “impossible” trill—unexpected, but fully prepared for. Along the way there is even an Adderley trill, a sort of homage to Dashow’s preferred saxophonist during the composer’s student jazz years, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley.

— Egidio Pozzi

Soundings in Pure Duration n.10 is the last of the Soundings series, and it is for octophonic electronic sounds without a live soloist. In it, Dashow employs his ideas about the spatialization of sound as the principle structural and aesthetic element of the work.As such, there are many moments where a variety of events and articulations cause different spaces (zones or areas of perception in the concert hall) to interact or rub up against each other, depending on the kind of electronic sound being used to define each space. For example, a variety of spaces each defined by three points (i.e. three speakers) in the octophonic environment will have not only their spatial “turf” but each will be characterized by certain kinds of timbral events that actually define the particular space, thereby allowing the listener to perceive it. Sometimes these three points are contiguous (forming what Dashow calls zones) and other times they are non-adjacent (forming the composer’s areas). They are articulated at times by sustained/evolving streams of sound and at other times by the trajectories of discrete musical events/phrases confined to the zone or area. And just as Dashow often uses common tone or common frequency relationships between successive or groups of sound events, spatial zones and areas can be related by common points (speakers) that, as a result, participate in different spatial configurations simultaneously. The interactions of not only sound-event sequences but especially the spaces they occur in form the primary form-building energy of the piece. Varying degrees and kinds of reverberation are of course fundamental to different spatial perceptions, and Dashow was favored with the extraordinary work of Michael Carnes whose full immersion reverberation software was the principle instrument for these spatial differentiations. There were others, among which should be mentioned the work of Matt Hill; but the list would be quite long! Each reverb can be made to have its own characteristics not found in the others, and as such any particular space can have its own unique aesthetic qualities.

Soundings n.10 is again sectional, but this time as three event conglomerations that grow in size and complexity during the course of the work. The first section is almost exclusively dedicated to carving out spatial zones and areas, especially with time-varying reverberation techniques; the second begins with a suddenly hectic ffff blast in all eight channels and proceeds to some intricate two, three, and four part counterpoint between sound sequences, each in their own spatial zones. As part two proceeds, more variations in texture and energy levels are developed in order to create tension-release patterns between phrases or sub-sections, all coming to a climax with a sustained series of short, fast sounds that swirl around the listener in a kaleidoscope of fascinating timbres. Then a moment of pause before part three begins that is by far the composer’s most elaborate timbral-spatial structure attempted in his work up to the time of writing—2020. The variety and luxuriousness of the sounds on so vast a scale provide a genuinely breathtaking experience of enormous timbral-spatial proportions, their continually evolving and transforming spatial distribution lending to the whole a quite extraordinary expressiveness.Needless to say, the more speakers available, the larger the number of spatial configurations that are possible, especially in a truly three-dimensional, fully immersive audio environment. The interactions of space, timbre, rhythmic articulation and phrasing all make for quite expressive musical events, now significantly expanded with the use of spatial elaborations as a compositional element. Counterpoint is now expanded to include the activation of several sound-event spatial trajectories simultaneously. The listener is inside the musical events, not external to them. The awareness of space by means of events happening in different locations around the listener or moving around the listener in various trajectories, all trigger quite new kinds of emotional response, or rather emotional reactions that derive from our awareness of the locations of things happening around us. As Dashow has written elsewhere: up to our time, music has been traditionally a question of What Happens and When. Now, with the possibility of compositionally controlling the spatial distribution and motion of sounds by precise electronic means, music is a question of What Happens, When and Where. This seems to be our epoch’s quite revolutionary contribution to art music.

Soundings in Pure Duration n.10 is Dashow’s most concentrated attempt at harnessing the expressive capacities of audio space. While the listener to this DVD will at best hear a five-channel mixdown of the octophonic original, it is highly recommended that he/she attend any concert that includes this work in its full octophonic configuration. The distribution of the eight channels in a concert hall makes the spatial activity all the more compelling.

— Egidio Pozzi

…at other times, the distances is a quadraphonic electronic piece that was composed well before the Soundings in Pure Duration series began. It is quadraphonic simply because the composer only had a four channel system in his studio at the time (which became hexaphonic soon after and then octophonic). This work gained for the composer the prestigious Magisterium Prize at the Bourges Electroacoustic Festival of 2000. It is a sort of through-composed work, very different from Dashow’s pronounced sectional approach in subsequent electronic compositions. It is wonderfully rich in full timbral events that fill the listening space with what one might describe as the delicious enveloping of a complex of beautifully sculpted electronic sounds. One can hear that even in this earlier electronic work, Dashow was concerned with the manipulation of different levels of musical energy, the juxtaposition of sometimes complementary, sometimes contrasting textures, and the spatial configurations possible in the quadraphonic arrangement, mainly differences between front and back, side to side, single points expanding into the full quad area, and between close up (next to no reverb) and far off (reverb more present than a very soft audio event). This recording of …at other times, the distances is a re-release from the Capstone DVD Radial Matrix with some added touches of signal enhancement.

— Egidio Pozzi

Texts

By Stephen Dobyns

Four men shoot craps in an alley, crouched
on the concrete. Suddenly they hear a shout
and a fifth man comes dashing toward them,
leaps across the dice tossers and smacks

into the brick wall head-first. The sound
of his dome banging the brick makes a smack
like a loaf of bread might make if dropped
from a rooftop to a sidwalk. The gamblers

gather the coins strewn by the man’s feet
and glance to see if he’s dead. He sprawls
without moving a nostril. The others return
to their game. Box cars, says one. Money

is exchanged. The man on the ground moans
and stands up. The gamblers roll their eyes
in vexation. The man totters down the alley,
pressing his palms to his brain. These aren’t

young guys and their clothing isn’t the best.
All need haircuts and shaves, need their shoes
resoled. Then they hear another shout and once
more the fifth man comes galloping toward them.

The dice are grabbed up just as the man dives
across their game and strikes the wall, whack,
cranium-first. The noise his head makes is like
the noise a boot makes, crunching a walnut.

Someone rolls the dice. Lady luck be with me now,
says a gambler. The man on his back groans,
gets to his feet and staggers down the alley.
The dice players raise their eyebrows and make

“what-next?” expressions. From this we may guess
the craps and behavior of the peculiar kibitzer
have gone on all morning. And in the next hour,
it happens five more times. They hear the shout,

the slap-slap of shoes getting louder, they see
the man’s determined expression as he dives
across their game, then, splat, the sound
of a head striking the brick. Briefly, the others

feel hope. Has he busted his neck? Then,
with a moan, the man gets up and does it again.
It’s hard to say who suffers most. None
of these guys lead happy lives and one way

or another each has made an adjustment to despair
and surrender, evil thoughts and failure. Some
shoot craps, others bust their noggin and the line
dividing them is more philosophical than physical.

Then one joker drags a Dumpster over to the wall.
This time when the fifth man comes barreling
down the alley, his head, on impact, creates
a pleasing bong. Of course no work of art achieves

perfection without modification and the Dumpster
has to be fine tuned, moved to the left, emptied
of half its contents but soon when the man
comes running, his forehead striking the metal

makes a pristine chiming noise which resonates
through the courtyard and sends a chill of pleasure
down the backs of the four men. The clang of his brain
banging the hollow Dumpster is like a chord swiped

from a Bartòk concerto: agreeable to the ears,
uplifting for the soul. Now when the man sprawls
on the concrete the others wish him well. They
help him to his feet and make little salutes

as he staggers away. Even here, in an alley
at the end of the world, art has its celebrants,
those who suffer to make it, those who make
the suffering their own, because for each man

the unique whack recalls a painful moment,
as if it hung before them, sparkling in the air.
One man thinks of a mother, long dead. One thinks
of a first wife, long unseen. Children, sunsets,

uncompromised youth, promises kept. Later when
the cop on the beat wanders in the alley
he discovers the dice players dreaming happily.
Drugs? he thinks, Too much cheap wine? Suddenly,

the fifth man comes sprinting toward them,
the footsteps get louder, there’s a brief silence
as the man goes airborne, then, Boing, his skull
slams the metal and the sound drifts up to wake

the rats from their slumber, disturb the pigeons
at their endless breakfast. The four men make
little sighs of pleasure. Any cop will tell you
he has seen it all, but for pure sadistic delight

this takes the cake and the cop slaps the guys
in irons. In the paddy wagon, their leader keeps
shouting about Art, but the cop knows all about Art.
He’s seen his mug shot on a thousand post office walls:

a dangerous perpetrator of disreputable behavior
who stays one jump ahead of the law. But this time
the cop is confident. Now that he has caught his gang
can Art hide out much longer? The cop thinks not.