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Earth & Wood


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Stereophile’s Michael Fremer rarely rates a vinyl album with an “11 out of 10,” but he did so for Yarlung’s earlier Smoke & Mirrors Percussion Ensemble release. We hope to make you (and Mr. Fremer) just as happy with Earth & Wood, offering more tracks from these now legendary recording sessions in Zipper Hall at The Colburn School. Michael Fremer wrote “The sonics here are spectacular. These performances were recorded live to tape with no editing by the seven members of Smoke & Mirrors. The recording is superbly transparent and well-captures the hall's natural reverb. I can't imagine you won't thoroughly enjoy listening repeatedly to this record.” One side includes Lou Harrison’s magical Canticle No. 3, a concerto for ocarina and percussion, written in 1940 and 1941. Canticle No. 3 uses the haunting primitive sound of the ocarina (a Mexican terra-cotta flute which looks a little like a knobby sweet potato or cuddly sea creature) and a steel string guitar, both a strong contrast with Harrison’s creative assortment of percussion instruments. The ocarina comes from many musical cultures, some ancient, but in our recording the Joe’s ocarina is a version of the earthen Maya and Aztec flute that Cortes encountered in the New World. The other side of our album contains three pieces for marimba, two tracks from Argentine composer Alejandro Viñao’s Book of Grooves, which Smoke & Mirrors Ensemble co-commissioned, and presents here in their world premiere recording. In this piece, Viñao writes, ‘The “groove” or “feel” of a piece is a pattern or sequence that repeats periodically in such a way as to create the desire to move, or dance, or to foot-tap in time with the rhythm.’ “A groove always attracts percussionists since it can be such an infectious culprit of rhythmic propulsion. Viñao establishes his groove at the outset of each movement, but then deviates from it by writing odd meters (adding or subtracting parts of beats) and including surprising interplay between the two parts.” We open this side of the LP with Steve Reich’s classic Nagoya Marimbas, written in 1994 and premiered in December of that year in Shirakawa Hall in Nagoya, Japan. Steve writes that the work is “similar to my pieces from the 1960s and ‘70s in that there are repeating patterns played on both marimbas, one or more beats out of phase, creating a series of two part unison canons. However, these patterns are more melodically developed, change frequently and each is usually repeated no more than three times, similar to my more recent work.” Yarlung captured these performances with a single AKG C-24 stereo microphone in the glorious acoustics of Zipper Hall at The Colburn School. We recorded each piece in its entirety, live to tape with no editing, to create the most lifelike performance possible. Rather than worry about how the ensemble would perform without the benefit of edits to camouflage mistakes, the members of Smoke & Mirrors loved the idea, embracing our concept that this recording represent a live concert experience. Music aficionados today sometimes lament the current trend in digital recording that allows or even encourages tens or hundreds of edits per movement, such that the resulting albums sound “perfect” but a little sterile. You can take heart in Smoke & Mirrors, who actually play this way (and this well) in real life.
Information
Catalogue number YAR84171-598V
Barcode 198002941711
Release date 12/05/2023
Category
Label Yarlung Records
Format LP (Vinyl)
Number of discs 1
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