Posts tagged Meerenai Shim
A/B Duo's "commitment to widening the repertoire and to fresh, vibrant new music"

This article originally appeared in Issue 40:4 (Mar/Apr 2017) of Fanfare Magazine.

VARIETY SHOW • A/B Duo • AEROCADE 005 (61:41)

MCGOWAN  Ricochet. DICKE  Isla. REINKEMEYER  Wrought Iron. BAKER  Limb. BROWNING  Sol Moon Rocker. FREDERICKSON  Breathing Bridge. RANDALL-MYERS Glitch.

A previous disc by Meerenai Shim on the Aerocade label (001, Fanfare 40:2) was mesmeric and fascinating. Here, Shim is joined by percussionist Christopher G. Jones: Together they fashion a sequence of soundscapes the like of which you may not have encountered before. 

First, a warning. Make sure, if you are listening on headphones, that the volume is set nice and low for the first track. I didn’t, to my cost. The disc announces itself assertively with a conversation between staccato contrabass flute (used in the manner of a percussion instrument) and percussion. This opens Ned McGowan’s Ricochet for contrabass flute, floor tom, three suspended cymbals, three woodblock, triangle, and flexatone. It is worth reproducing the scorings for each piece, as they give some idea of the sounds each one works with. The idea of ricochet evokes both the idea of game and of conversation, although if it is the latter this is a pretty full-on, wide-eyed discussion. Rhythms are fantastically (sometimes frantically) taut. The A/B Duo commissioned this work, a measure of their commitment to widening the repertoire and to fresh, vibrant new music. 

A remix of Isla Ferrari’s Isla de Niños, Ian Dicke’s Isla for flute, vibraphone, and live audio processing takes a line that is itself relaxed and garlands it with a plethora of active, energy-laden lines. The tension between the two elements forms both the starting point and the basis of the piece. Effective use of audio processing in the sampling and juxtaposition of syllables at one point forms the backdrop to a vibraphone solo. 

Andrea L. Reinkemeyer’s Wrought Iron for flute, vibraphone, bongos, tambourine, triangle, china cymbal, and splash cymbal is a musical response to a building, the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. In a rather neat conceit, the various shapes used in the hall itself determine the types of instruments used: triangles are the obvious instance, but circles also (cymbals, bongos, tambourine) and rectangles (vibraphone). The architect also tried to make metal look like stone, and in the spirit of referencing others, the composer invokes the ghosts of Beethoven and Chopin, both of whom are to be found within the confines of the hall itself. There is an intricacy to the players’ interactions that seems, to the present writer at least, to invoke or reflect some sort of physical design. Ensemble between the two players needs to be particularly tight in this piece, and the result is indeed magical. 

Drew Baker’s Limb for flute/piccolo, vibraphone, Thai gong, wind gong, and three crotales, finds cymbal evoking the crashing waves of the ocean. It opens quietly, hesitantly. The work is a response to the “scribble line drawings” of Sol LeWitt. Both LeWitt and Baker are involved with what Baker refers to as sensuality of gesture, and through simple but effective means Baker draws up an imposing, and imaginative, soundscape. As the booklet notes, state, “this piece is exceptionally soft and loud.” And although the track has been compressed “to save your eardrums,” it is still worth pointing out that you have been warned. If you wish to serve your masochistic side, there is an uncompressed version available by request and the email address is given in the documentation. Simple but effective, the piece paints gestures over relatively large durations. 

Scored just for flute and vibraphone, Sol Moon Rocker by Zack Browning is another A/B Duo commission. It has a philosophic basis, the dynamic between yin and yang, between Moon and Sun. Intriguingly, the second part of the work is generated by applying Feng Shui principles to the birth dates of both present performers. It gets deeper still: the section “Meerenai’s Moon Flight” is generated also by the Magic Square of the Moon; “Sol of Chris” has a similar basis, using the Sun Magic Square. References to relevant popular music are there, too: It’s a Man’s World (James Brown), Ladies’ Night(Kool and the Gang), and The Sun and the Moon have Come Together by The Fourth Way. It’s quite the tapestry, and it works brilliantly. There is actually a spirit of joy that suffuses the musical surface of Browning’s piece; quotations have a sort of exuberance about them. The final section offers a synthesis between male and female. The idea is wonderful: One wonders if some elements of alchemical theory could have been worked in there also? 

Scored for flute with glissando headjoint, glockenspiel, and vibraphone, Brooks Frederickson’s Breathing Bridge carries an entreaty: “If you’re ever in Brooklyn, listen to or imagine this piece while walking on pedestrian bridges around Red Hook.” On this bridge, one feels viscerally the vibrations of passing vehicles; lines in Frederickson’s piece represent the bridge’s structure. There is much delicacy here; the performance is simply beautiful. If one were to make that walk (no opportunity to research that; I’m afraid as I’ve never been to even America, never mind anywhere as specific as Brooklyn), one can only imagine an altered experience, a different and enriching way of experiencing the environment. 

Finally, there comes Brendon Randall-Myers’s Glitch for flute, vibraphone, and drum set. In contrast to the lulling aura of the preceding track, Glitch is colorful. Written for the A/B Duo’s “quirkiness, virtuosity, humor and groove,” it imagines a “prog-punk video game music cover that can’t decide what tunes to play or what tempo to play at” resulting in some “bizarrely hilarious musical collisions.” That promise is certainly lived up to in this rather garish ride. It does rather sound as if the players are having fun, too. The notes make a point of announcing that Christopher G. Jones plays the vibraphone with his left side and the drum set with his right side. Patting one’s head and rubbing one’s tummy at the same time? There is a slower, more shaded section that provides contrast, as if offering cool shade before re-entering the bright sunshine. 

The booklet notes for this disc can be found at both abduo.net and aerocademusic.com. Colin Clarke

"first-rate performances" in A/B Duo's Variety Show!

This article originally appeared in Issue 40:4 (Mar/Apr 2017) of Fanfare Magazine.

VARIETY SHOW • A/B Duo • AEROCADE 005 (61:41)

MCGOWAN  Ricochet. DICKE  Isla. REINKEMEYER  Wrought Iron. BAKER  Limb. BROWNING  Sol Moon Rocker. FREDERICKSON  Breathing Bridge. RANDALL-MYERS Glitch.

With this duo release, the Aerocade label continues along its path of presenting excellent recent compositions in excellent sound. I’ll admit to unfamiliarity with the composers whose works are on offer here, but their quality and intrigue is matched by first-rate performances and a very warm but detailed recording. 

One of the most satisfying pieces on this well-filled disc is Ian Dicke’s Isla, composed in 2012. Dicke follows in the footsteps of such composers as Scott Johnson and Pierre Boulez in that he integrates acoustic and electronic soundworlds quite convincingly into this widely varied piece for flute, vibraphone, and live audio processing. Like Johnson, speech is an integral component, but in this case, it is chopped up into micro-fragments that mirror and drive the instrumental rhythms and timbres forward. The A/B Duo creates an integrated yet somehow also heterogeneous sound, and this is also the case on the rhythmically dizzying Glitch, by Brendan Randall-Myers, composed in 2015 and commissioned by the Duo. There, the electronic world has a direct influence on how acoustic instruments are played, bringing those early Stockhausen visions to some kind of fruition. The electronic soundscapes on which this constantly changing piece is based recall the improvised music of trios such as Phronesis, Meerenai Shim, and Christopher Jones, and the intimate familiarity here with those sounds is like a Classical-era ensemble handling the rhetoric of contemporaneous dance forms, to site only one example. 

If all of this sounds too far afield of the classical music mainstream, take heart, as there’s even some of what Frank Zappa called “a bit of nostalgia for the old folks.” Andrea Reinkemeyer composed Wrought Iron (2012, on a commission from the Albany Symphony and for the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, an acoustically marvelous space I’ve loved for many years). The piece takes on tropes like Debussy and Ravel, and possibly a little Stravinsky thrown in for good measure; it’s hauntingly melodic and fun, dancing and almost running its way forward. There may even be a little Zappa in the syncopation and in the whimsical handling of modes. 

While I single out these works for discussion, every piece in this program is well worth hearing. As with the other discs on this new label, programming is superb, the instrumentation creating unity while variety is maintained by the order of pieces and of composers. I await future Aerocade releases with eager anticipation. Marc Medwin

"Shim is a superb soloist, her virtuosity seemingly endless."

Thank you Fanfare Magazine for another review for Meerenai Shim's Pheromone!

This article originally appeared in Issue 40:2 (Nov/Dec 2016) of Fanfare Magazine.

PHEROMONE • Meerenai Shim (fl); 1Jacob Abela (pn) • AEROCADE 001 (44:01)

FIELDSTEEL Fractus III: Aerophoneme. G. C. BROWN Huge Blank Canvas Neck Tattoo. O’HALLORAN 1Pencilled Wings. LAUSTSEN 60.8%. SCHANKLER 1Pheromone. M. J. PAYNE Étude for Contrabass Flute and TI83+ Calculator

This is an all-electroacoustic album. The inspiration was actually the first track, Fractus III: Aerophoneme (2011/12) by Eli Fieldsteel for “flute and live electronic sound”. Replete with extended performance techniques for the soloist and electronic sounds that seem primal in origin (the Supercollider software was used). There is also the feeling of great expanses around the ten-minute mark, while to the present writer at least the subsequent effects around eleven-twelve minutes in seem to evoke some sort of post-nuclear wind. Shim is a superb soloist, her virtuosity seemingly endless.

There is virtually no gap between the end of the Fieldsteel and the wonderfully titled Huge Black Canvas Neck Tattoo by Gregory C. Brown (2014). This piece, for alto flute and digital delay (using Ableton Live software) is, despite the images evoked by its title, much more approachable. Tape loops as used by Stockhausen spring to mind as the lines accrue and begin to interact and co-mingle; the very lowest register of this flute is so resonant it comes across as a bass flute, although only alto flute is credited. The busier sections are remarkably effective, as are the whimsical, flight moments elsewhere. The same software is used in Douglas Lausten’s 60.8% for bass flute and electronics (2014). The title refers to the unemployment rate in Greece and the piece is inspired by the hardship encompassing the Greek nation of late. The ghost of rebetiko music underpins the material, while the Greek flavor is unmistakable.

Elusive and soft textured, Emma O’Halloran’s Pencilled Wings, also of 2014, features pianist Jacob Abela (on a Yamaha concert grand). The soft-grained stereo playback audio file that underpins it all creates this relaxing ambience. The piece from which the album gets its name, Pheromone by Isaac Schankler (2014) is for flute (standard and bass), piano and electronics (MAX/MSP). The piano’s contribution is initially very gentle, and beautifully managed here; the piece gradually slows to a meditative space before inviting in frenzy.

Finally, Matthew Joseph Payne’s Etude for contrabass flute and TI83 Plus graphing calculator. Shim records audio directly from the calculator. There is a quite involved story of how the piece came to be a half-step lower and slower than the original because of a memory leak bus destroyed the original calculator part before the composer recorded it. What we really need to know, of course, is that the piece is phenomenal fun. Brief and to the point, it is also wonderfully unique in feel. Somewhat otherwordly, some might feel; others may find it links to computer game “soundtracks” (if so they could be called in those days) of the 1980s.

Colin Clarke

"Variety Show" featured in Best of Bandcamp Contemporary Classical

"One of the highlights is “Limb,” by composer Drew Baker, who drew inspiration from the large-scale wall drawings of Sol LeWitt—which were usually completed by hired hands from the artist’s designs. They make for a fitting reflection of the composer/performer relationship—particularly in the sonic evocation of small gestures thickening into dense waves. The rest of the album is equally vibrant and wide-ranging." - Peter Margasak, Bandcamp Daily

Read the rest at daily.bandcamp.com.

Pheromone: "wide-ranging in style and timbre, extraordinarily inventive, often wildly entertaining, and not for a minute dull"

Another great review for Meerenai Shim's Pheromone!

This article originally appeared in Issue 40:2 (Nov/Dec 2016) of Fanfare Magazine.

PHEROMONE • Meerenai Shim (fl); 1Jacob Abela (pn) • AEROCADE 001 (44:01)

FIELDSTEEL Fractus III: Aerophoneme. G. C. BROWN Huge Blank Canvas Neck Tattoo. O’HALLORAN 1Pencilled Wings. LAUSTSEN 60.8%. SCHANKLER 1Pheromone. M. J. PAYNE Étude for Contrabass Flute and TI83+ Calculator

As is often true of new music in the classical sphere this program is eclectic and owes as much to jazz, folk, and popular music, as it does to any tradition handed down through the concert and recital hall. All pieces are commissions, except the Eli Fieldsteel work, made by San Jose-based flutist Meerenai Shim for this first release on her new indie classical label, Aerocade Music. The music is all electroacoustic, with instruments ranging from the standard C flute to the behemoth contrabass two octaves lower. The electronic accompaniment is provided by a number of sources: fixed media, real-time audio synthesis using SuperCollider, Ableton Live, and Max/MSP, and the output from a Texas Instruments graphing calculator running sequencing software. (Who knew?) To those who do not follow electronic music, this may all sound like gobbledygook. Bottom line is that the electronics provide an orchestral palette of sounds, almost infinitely malleable, and capable of either responding within preset parameters to what the performer is doing, or creating a rich setting to which the performer can respond.

Received concepts of electronic music don’t apply. Expression of human emotions is very much the purpose, and it is in this that Shim, pianist Jacob Abela, and the various composers have excelled. Fieldsteel’s Fractus III: Aerophoneme, whatever the method used to achieve it, is a dramatic unfolding of cooperation, conflict, hope, and eventual dissolution with the electronics as the often menacing rival. Gregory C. Brown’s Huge Blank Canvas Neck Tattoo for alto flute and digital delay reflects on personal setbacks and triumphs in the composer’s life. In it, statements made by the soloist become the background—often enhanced—for future discourse. Emma O’Halloran uses a “tape” track and piano duo to accompany—and sometimes overwhelm—the flute’s fantasy flights in her Pencilled Wings. Douglas Laustsen’s 60.8% for bass flute and electronics ponders the devastating impact of unemployment on the youth of Greece since the imposition of austerity, using, as an inspiration, rebetiko, a once disreputable style of 20th-century Greek urban folk protest music. Schankler’s Pheromone deals, logically enough, with attraction and bonding, and Matthew Joseph Payne’s quirky Etude for contrabass flute and TI83+ calculator is, with its combination of low-res early video-game-like sounds and the mellow contrabass flute, two minutes of unadulterated nerdy delight.

Shim is an amazingly dexterous flutist, and works brilliantly with her electronics and her live keyboard collaborator. The sound is close, in the manner of popular music recordings, but it is appropriate to the music. Notes are minimal and hard to read in the type chosen, but are expanded to usefulness online at meerenai.com/pheromone. One small complaint: If Shim was offering “original cover” LP reissues at a few dollars a disc, I would say nothing about a timing of 44 minutes. But a new mid-price disc that is little more than half-full feels like short measure. Otherwise, that which is offered is wide-ranging in style and timbre, extraordinarily inventive, often wildly entertaining, and not for a minute dull. Pheromone is therefore warmly recommended to anyone who wants to explore some of the more accessible frontiers of new music and the alt.classical fringes of the flute repertoire. Ronald E. Grames

Pheromone review in Avant Music News

Daniel Barbiero reviewed Meerenai Shim's Pheromone in the Avant Music News:

"Pheromone, the third solo recording by San Francisco-area new music flutist Meerenai Shim, is a fine collection of new electroacoustic works, all but one of which were commissioned for this recording. The six compositions encompass their composers’ individual approaches to integrating the flute with electronics of various types, and reflect Shim’s own genre-challenging, eclectic engagement with new music."

Keep reading on the Avant Music News website.