I had two parallel experiences within the past month.
On the bus ride home from New York, I was tired and uncomfortable. Finally I realized the discomfort was of an aural sort. Someone a row ahead of me had decided to make all of her phone calls during the four-hour ride, and it was irritating me no end. I pullled out the CDs I had gotten the day before from Michael Pisaro after quite a wonderful performance of his new piece at Experimental Intermedia. Several of them involved quite a lot of silence, and that was not going to help me in this situation. But then there was hearing metal 1: three pieces, all made from sine tones woven in with recordings of a tam-tam played by Greg Stuart. I put it in my laptop, put on my (early Christmas present) Bose headphones, and in a moment realized I was not stuck on a bus hearing someone’s conversation. I was traveling through one incredibly beautiful and complex sound world after another. The closest visual experience I can think of is walking through fresh snow. There is a sameness, but you can watch how it settles in different contexts and how the light hits it, and how you impact it by being in it. That afternoon on the bus, I fell asleep in this world (I really needed to sleep), woke up and listened with that special waking-listening, heard it through to the end, started over, and over, and stayed right there until we pulled in to South Station.
Last Tuesday, nothing was going smoothly. Everything that might have happened seemed blocked, or delayed, or just too difficult. Finally I had to leave the house in the mid-afternoon to drive to one meeting and then another. I brought a CD called Over Shadows. Rhodri Davies was playing his own piece on harp, using EBow throughout. Normally road noise is a huge obstacle to hearing what is happening in the music that interests me most. But these sounds carried beautifully, and made the drive (up Route 128 through rush hour traffic near Boston) totally beautiful and interesting. The ways that Davies layers the sounds, and pulls off them one from another and combines them towards other effects are really masterful. I put it on just now to try to find a better way to describe it and realized two things: that I can’t, and that I can’t bring myself to turn it off. (The review included in the title link is much more descriptive.)
These two CDs have something else in common beyond using limited materials and completely turning my day around: they’re both available in the US through erstwhile records. Primarily a label for electroacoustic improvised music, it has also become a very successful US distributor for wandelweiser CDs, among others. Worldwide distributors for Pisaro’s recordings are listed on this Edition Wandelweiser directory. In Europe, you can get most of Davies’ CDs at Sound 323. In reading about Sound 323’s history, I finally learned about the origins of a beautiful and fascinating book and DVD that I got hold of a couple years ago, Blocks of Consciousness and the Unbroken Continuum.
Since this post has morphed into a listing of helpful distributors, I’ll go ahead and mention one that I just learned about that is quite close to where I live–miramoglu music sales, based in Porter Square in Cambridge, MA. They don’t happen to have the CDs in stock that I wrote about, but they have other work by both Pisaro and Davies, as well as many other artists that you’re not likely to find on Amazon.