Once in a while, a true musical visionary emerges whose work redefines our perception of music, and how and why we make it. As a writer I am challenged to dig deep into my thesaurus to find adjectives adequate to the task of qualifying the work of a unique artist like Mark Deutsch. It is quite difficult to describe with words the astonishing psychic energy and breathtaking beauty of this music. One must experience it for oneself.
Mark Deutsch is a classically trained contrabassist and sitarist. In the late 1980s, Deutsch began exploring North Indian Hindustani classical music. His pursuits of this music, and work on sitar, inspired him to explore the mathematics of sound, particularly music’s underlying frequency structure. His sitar teacher, Ustad Imrat Khan, had told him that a westerner needed 20 years of study to properly hear the subtlety of intonation within Indian raga. He refused to accept this. So, he began to work out the mathematics of the musical intonation. He augmented this by playing recordings of Indian music in his sleep; especially recordings of the sarangi. His work revealed nonlinear mathematical patterns that exist in natural sound, the overtone series, fractals, the golden mean, and the Fibonacci series.
One night, he had a dream that he was playing sarangi on the contrabass. This was the initial inspiration that led to the design and construction of the Bazantar; an acoustic bass with additional sympathetic and drone strings. The instrument would take advantage of the nonlinear mathematical patterns found in sound. He began work on the first prototype of the Bazantar in 1993, and a finalized version was completed in October of 1997.
Wind Shadows is for trombone and pure sine tones. Two speakers are set up, one to the left, and one to the right, and one sine tone comes out of each speaker. They are tuned almost exactly the same. The subtle difference creates a beating pattern that sweeps from left to right through the room once every ten seconds, seeming to change volume for a few seconds as it passes the listener. The trombone stands in between the speakers, and places tones very close to the sine tones, creating another beating pattern. Each trombone tone moves very slightly, and the beating sometimes slightly slows, and other times slightly speeds up.
Even though this is a solo performance, the music comes out of a community. For technical assistance, I am very grateful to Ben Manley and Dan Joseph. For guidance in understanding the piece, special thanks to Daniel Wolf at Material Press, and Alvin Lucier himself, partly through the excellent interviews given in the MusikTexte book Reflections.
On Monday, 1/25/16, I attended the second public meeting of Musicians for Musicians (MFM). The regular DBDBD reader will recall my article about the first meeting wherein I mentioned that, as a milestone in the fledgling organization’s humble beginning, it was a successful first step. Now, MFM takes its second step.
MFM founder and president Sohrab Saadat Ladjavardi held court once again for the second meeting. The tradition of a musical interlude, started by Saadat at the first meeting, was led by Zikrayat leader Sami Abu Shumays. He led the participants in a vocal call and response that allowed the participants to experience firsthand the nuances of maqam based melodies.
Artist: Church of Betty Title: Swirled World Label: Shop Fang Records Genre: psychedelic rock / progressive world chamber rock
Review by Dawoud Kringle
Brooklyn’s Church of Betty, the brainchild of sitarist / guitarist Chris Rael, was, from its beginning, an interesting anomaly. Being a sitar player myself, I was intrigued by his concept. COB first hit the scene in 1998. An impressive list of musicians who performed and recorded with COB includes tabla master and Rael’s longtime collaborator, Deep Singh. Their live performances brought theatrics and dance to their live sound. Rael’s sitar style, far from orthodox classical raga, nonetheless used raga as a framework he built on a pop / rock / folk / psychedelic foundation.