Now Hear Ensemble

Piping-Hot New Music

Made in California 

This album accompanies the Now Hear Ensemble's 2013 "Made in California" project, an exciting collaborative concert series with 11 composers throughout the state of California. Made in California was presented at 7 venues throughout California in the cities of San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Track Listing:

Ghost in the Machine // by Dan VanHassel
Harmonic Distances // by Mateo Lugo
A Havoc Wrought // by David Werfelmann
Mobile // by Jon Myers
And After // by Eoin Callery
Punctuations, in/over silence // by Kevin Zhang
Into this Dislocated Assemblage, this Piece of Damaged Geology // by Iván Naranjo
Made in China, Made in California // by Carolyn Chen
A Smaller Moment // by Daniel Miller
Ghost Pepper Eyes // by Nick Norton
Variable Speed Machine // by Todd Lerew

Amanda Kritzberg // clarinet
Joel Hunt // saxophones
Anthony Paul Garcia // percussion
Jonathan Morgan // viola
Federico Llach // double bass

Recorded August 2013 in the Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Recorded by Federico Llach, Fernando Rincón Estrada, Now Hear Ensemble
Artwork: Gaby Goldberg
Mixing and mastering: Felix Cristiani

In "Ghost in the Machine" the entire ensemble is fused into a single robotic entity, playing tightly interlocking patterns of percussive sounds. Another aspect of this hybrid man-machine is live electronics; controlled by the performers and played back through percussion instruments. These instruments are conceived as extensions of the live performers, and are not actually physically played by anyone. Through the course of the piece the performers gradually introduce a very slow chord progression with glacial melodies spinning out of it. The vibraphone, with its combination of percussive and melodic qualities, is the link that holds this crazy contraption together.

I am convinced that the best music, regardless of style, is made when the people involved in making it – that is, those performing it - achieve a certain connection between each other that is difficult to describe.
With “Harmonic Distances” I seek to bring this connection to the foreground through a reconceptualization of vertical pitch structures (chords) as a continuum of harmonies that are “closer” or “further apart” within themselves. Using W.A Mathieu’s 5-limit lattice, I ordered all chromatic pitches in terms of distance from the root (for example “C” is closer to “F” than “Gb”) and included octave displacements as a parameter of measurement, arriving at a system in which a 12-digit number describes a particular chord and its degree of distance. “Harmonic Distances” attempts to bring the performers into a greater awareness of each other by exploring these different simultaneities.

David Werfelmann on "A HAVOC WROUGHT"
One of the more peculiar experiences of being a resident of Los Angeles is the fire season that threatens parts of the city each year. A particularly striking experience was the Station Fire of 2009 that burned the year I moved to LA. This deadly fire could be seen at night from the heart of the city as its red glare snaked across the San Gabriel Mountains. And though the foreboding blaze worked havoc in monstrous proportions, I saw a kind of beauty that can only be found in something so ravenous and destructive. A Havoc Wrought is a piece about this experience. The work ignites in unison in starts and stops until it gains momentum as it spreads into five independent voices before it eventually consumes itself into a slow, disquieted viola solo. The embers still burn however, and just as the brush fires of Southern California spawn new flames, the piece runs a course of fiery destruction.

Jon Myers on "MOBILE"
Mobile is a study of gradual tempo and dynamic curves using only two pitches. The processes involved lead to asynchronous rhythmic and timbral overlays. From moment to moment, sound objects in this piece seem to rotate past each other chaotically, while large-scale structural symmetries generate balance and unity throughout. In Mobile, as in the waves crashing into shore, moments of synchronicity are fleeting and ephemeral, yet the great tide rolls on…
Mobile is dedicated to my nephew, Andrew Clifford Myers.

The multiple prepositions in the title references the idea of temporality where signifying events happen either "in time" or "over time." (See eg. Kielan-Gilbert, Smithers, Iyer, et al.) The difference lies in whether the temporal space of an event constitutes significant agency for the event's identity, or if it is merely a medium through which the event is mediated. Thus, time can be experienced through various degrees of rigidity or elasticity depending on whether or not the event happens in or over it. The word "silence" implies that silence itself is the blank canvas in and over which these events (or "punctuations") occur. "Punctuations" serve as metaphors for the syntactic (and perhaps even semantic) desires, implications, and requirements the musical events create; some beg for expansion and unpacking, others serve as connections, and of course, others signify pauses and endings.

The original 'object' from which this piece departed, was conceived as an assemblage of multi-dimensional topological data on which a number of simple operations were executed; rotation, time-stretching, transposition, mirroring or inversion, as well as the interchange of data between parameters. Each of these variations, which inhabit spaces of different sizes, have their own energy, identity and sonority, while maintaining a strange similarity with each other. Their juxtaposition is neither teleological nor aleatoric, but decided upon their forces, weight and stability, across a more or less predetermined structure.

I was born in New Jersey and raised in California, but grew up with people assuming I was from somewhere else. Usually China. Having never been there, I spent a fair amount of time imagining what it was like. This year, I am living in China for the first time. So I asked some people in China and in California how they imagine the other place. This is a collection of small musics, moving around, listening to, predicting, or conversing with their thoughts. The score includes some notes and some games with video* sounds and images – jamming to overheard dance music, synchronizing to the chewing of an apple.

Daniel Miller on "A SMALLER MOMENT"
I have this dream, not yet realized, that all elements of sound can be combined into one piece in such a way that everything cancels each other out and we are left with "a softer moment." This is similar to the way in which the color white is actually all wavelengths of light being seen at once. Sound cannot function this way, unless we are comfortable listening solely to white noise. Rather than overwhelm our ears in such a way, I have focused on creating diverse and juxtaposed moments that are merely a reflection of how they are created and how they are heard. These moments become peaceful and tranquil, because they are heard and forgotten, and are absent of any meaning in the overall scheme of the piece. I don't think I've reached this dream yet, but perhaps attempting to reach it is enough.

Nick Norton on "GHOST PEPPER EYES"
I'd seen Now Hear a few times when I proposed the project, and I believe all I said about it in the proposal was, "groovy, fun to play, kind of dorian, kind of aleatoric, might have electronics." I had a groove in my head that was maybe two bars long, and I could imagine Fede utterly shredding it on his bass, and the band really locking together on it and just knocking it out. Rather than forcing that groove into a structure or trying to achieve any aesthetic goals, I just wrote whatever I heard happening next. Then I did that again. After a while I had a piece, written entirely on gut instinct. The title refers to Anthony and I first becoming friends over ghost pepper salsa. I did actually once get ghost pepper sauce in my eye. It was horrible, but delicious.

The Variable Speed Machine-Wound Monochord Chorus is written for custom instruments of the same name, which were constructed solely for this piece. The monochords have tuning machines (as would be found on a bass guitar) on both sides of the string, and the performers are instructed to loosen the string at one end at the same rate that it is being tightened on the other end. Given perfect construction and performance conditions, the tension on the string would remain constant and no change in pitch would occur. However, given the inevitable imperfections in both the mechanics of the tuning machines and the subtleties of the performers' actions, deviations are unavoidable. This is one in a series of pieces in which a largely closed system reveals a small window of indeterminacy, and it is the departure from an intended yet impossible action that generates the musical material.

We would like to thank the following people for making this album possible: Skip Stecker, Patrick Chose, Matt Wright, the UCSB Department of Music, Dallas Mercer, and Jon Nathan. // @now_hear // //