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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Top: Talujon; Bottom: Ctrl-Z. Photos courtesy of the artists.

This Wednesday, February 15th, The Jazz Gallery welcomes two genre-defying ensembles to our stage—the percussion group Talujon and the electronics gurus of Ctrl-Z.

For well over two decades, Talujon has been expanding the scope of percussion music through commissioning and performing new work, as well as devising and improvising their own repertoire. They have released ten albums as a group, including works composer-luminaries Julia Wolfe and Tan Dun. For their performance at the Gallery, Talujon will be performing a diverse program of works, including the ethereal and ritualistic Aura by Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir and John Cage’s indeterminate-improvisatory masterpiece Fontana Mix. In addition, Talujon will team up with the members of Ctrl-Z to give perhaps the first complete performance of Recording Piece by Lou Harrison, the esteemed west coast experimentalist whose piano concerto was recorded by Keith Jarrett. Ryan Page of Ctrl-Z describes how he came upon this forgotten Harrison piece:

Last year, I was handed a score of a composition by American composer Lou Harrison. There were two peculiar things about this; 1. I had never heard of the piece (I am very familiar with Harrison’s work) and 2. Harrison famously hated electronics. After speaking to Larry Polansky, the composer who unearthed the score, I found that there is no record of it having ever been performed. The work requires that an acoustic ensemble perform the score, while electronic musicians record, and then play back these recordings at notated speeds that are specified in the score, as the acoustic instruments continue to play. I eventually contacted Daniel Steffey about performing the work with our trio Ctrl-Z, and with 2017 being Lou Harrison’s centennial birthday year, it provides a great opportunity to bring this piece to life.

Written for five percussionists and electronics, the work is dated July 29, 1955 and what Harrison signed as “Out-of-this-world Day”, is the only known piece of Harrison’s to utilize electronics of any kind. The piece is dedicated to Bill Loughborough, who is credited as one of the inventors of the Boobams; drums made of long bamboo with a tuned head on top, making this work one of the earliest known scores written for the instrument. Harrison uses the idea of speeding up tape to alter the pitch of the tuned instruments, as well as the rhythms to create metric modulations and canonic structures. The recordings are also used by Harrison to further explore form and development, with repetitions and altering of the tape itself. While further research is still being conducted on the work and its history, we are lead to believe that Harrison wrote this for the Vortex Theater Group, with a possible premiere at the Morrison Planetarium in 1959. Because none of this has been truly confirmed, this is the first known and documented performance of the Recording Piece.

After the Harrison piece, Ctrl-Z will perform a set of their own, featuring three world premieres of their original compositions for live electronics, as well as Pauline Oliveros’s Sound Piece. The trio of composer-performers—Daniel Steffey, Ryan Page, and Nick Wang—all met while studying music at Mills College (a true center of electronic music since the 1950s) and have remained active members of the experimental music scene in Oakland, California. Don’t miss this concert spanning diverse style, era, and media.

Talujon and Ctrl-Z play The Jazz Gallery on Wednesday, February 15th, 2017. Talujon is made up of percussionists Ian Antonio, David Cossin, Matthew Gold, Matt Ward, and Michael Lipsey. Ctrl-Z is made up of Ryan Page, Daniel Steffey, and Nick Wang, and will be joined by special guest Ryan Ross Smith, all performing live electronics. Sets are at 7:30 (Talujon) and 9:30 (Ctrl-Z) P.M. $15 general admission ($10 for members) for each set. This performance is supported in part by NewMusicUSA’s Impact Fund. Purchase tickets here.