Michael Pisaro/Taku Sugimoto - 2 seconds / b minor / wave (lossless)
Lossless AIFF (16bit/44.1kHz)
The collaboration of Michael Pisaro (guitar, sine tones, field recordings) and Taku Sugimoto (guitar).
For CD format, go to this page.
1. 2 seconds (20:00)
2. b minor (20:00)
3. wave (20:00)
(released December 14, 2010)
composed and recorded separately by Michael Pisaro and Taku Sugimoto in August-October 2010
design by Yuko Zama
Michael Pisaro and Taku Sugimoto are not generally closely associated, but have quite a bit in common. Both are composers whose primary instrument is the guitar, both have close ties to the Wandelweiser collective (Pisaro is a longtime member), and both have pursued their unique paths without much concern as to how the rest of the world will perceive them. 2 seconds/b minor/wave marks their first collaboration, but these aesthetic overlaps allow their independently conceived recorded parts to fit together remarkably naturally.
Michael Pisaro has been associated with the Wandelweiser collective since just after their formation in the early nineties. The departure points for his music were John Cageâ€™s ideas of the durational frame, Ben Johnstonâ€™s work with alternate tunings, Christian Wolffâ€™s opening of the relationship between composition and performance, and Alvin Lucier and James Tenneyâ€™s use of scientific hypotheses to explore sound phenomena. Pisaro has spent much of the last decade making field recordings, and occasionally using them in his work. Much of his recent composition, and especially the work with his primary collaborator, percussionist Greg Stuart, has concerned the massing and then the spatialization of sound to create â€˜homemadeâ€™ environments. Pisaro lives in Southern California, teaching at the California Institute of the Arts, running the Experimental Music Workshop, and curating his own recently launched recording imprint, Gravity Wave. This is his first recording for Erstwhile.
Currently Sugimoto's interest focuses on composition and its performance, rather than improvisation. With Taku Unami and Masahiko Okura, Sugimoto organizes the almost-monthly Chamber Music Concert at Loop-Line and the irregular Taku Sugimoto Composition Series at Kid Ailack Art Hall, both in Tokyo. He runs the label Slub Music, which in addition to Sugimoto's own recordings has released CDs by other Japanese musicians as well as Wandelweiser mainstays Radu Malfatti and Antoine Beuger. He has just issued the first four discs compiling the abovementioned Composition Series, a strong statement on two double CDs documenting his work over the past few years. This is his second recording for Erstwhile after 2000's seminal The World Turned Upside Down, and he also took part in the AMPLIFY 2002 festival in Tokyo and is featured on the box set of that event.
2 seconds/b minor/wave is a long distance collaboration, with each musician composing and recording their own parts, before hearing what the other had done. Pulse, pitch and wave were the three areas they wanted to explore on the three pieces, and loose rules/guidelines were agreed on beforehand, as follows: '2 seconds' was a unit of pulse, either as a basic unit or a point of departure; 'b minor' was a key, with Sugimoto playing harmony and Pisaro playing melody: and 'wave', with no further details, simply whatever that word brought to mind. This was the extent of the specific discussion between the two, and thus the entirely fluid melding of the results is a testament to their deep understanding of the other's aesthetic/s. Yuko Zama's intuitively empathetic design is a perfect symbiotic fit for the music contained within.
Matthew Horne, Tiny Mix Tapes
Ever since the Tokyo-centric onkyo coalesced as a sound in the late 90s — or as a way of listening, as Taku Sugimoto describes it — it has had a connection with the Berlin-based, ‘non-national’ Wandelwieser Composer’s Ensemble. Although onkyo historically has concerned itself more with improvisation, both aesthetic (e.g., an understanding of silence) and methodological (e.g., self-imposed limitations) overlaps exist between the ‘collectives.’ Moreover, the two subgroups of experimental music have had an increasingly interactive relationship over the past decade, best exemplified by the releases of Radu Malfatti and Antoine Beuger (both Wandelwieser mainstays) compositions on Taku Sugimoto’s Slub imprint in the second half of the oughts.
But even with this heightened coexistence, little has approached how monumental this collaboration between composers Michael Pisaro and Taku Sugimoto is. These two gentlemen aided in both defining and charting the development of Wandelwieser and onkyo, respectively, each directly involved with some of the pinnacles of avant-garde music from the past two decades. On 2 seconds / b minor / wave, with a bit of help from Jon Abbey’s Erstwhile, every iota of expectations one might attach to a joining of these two composers is met.
This ‘meeting’ is a peculiar one: the three tracks on 2 seconds / b minor / wave were composed and recorded with the artists in near-isolation from each other, with Pisaro and Sugimoto only communicating to establish simple motifs for the three compositions. Pulse, pitch, and wave were the sole common points of departure, yet in each piece, the two sound so in harmony with one another. Sugimoto’s metronomes on “2 seconds” (pulse) are perfectly in sync with Pisaro’s electronic rhythms. Likewise, Pisaro’s electric guitar offers an otherworldly counterpoint to Sugimoto’s scaling acoustic guitar on “b minor” (pitch). The feedback of “wave” evokes titular images and a balance and serenity seldom found as affecting as in this piece. The synergy on 2 seconds / b minor / wave is incredulous, a tip of the hat to both the composing skills of these two and their understanding of one another’s aesthetics.
As with MIMEO & John Tilbury’s The Hands of Caravaggio, this divorced production might have been the headline if it weren’t for how gorgeous every sonority is on 2 seconds / b minor / wave. Each moment trickles into another, whether it be silence or a filled void. Pisaro and Sugimoto capture stillness herein, somehow even in the more dynamic phrases of “2 seconds”; movement seems insignificant and unadvised in comparison to their stationarity. The whole of this album, including Yuko Zama’s lovely art design, is an incredible testament to Michael Pisaro’s and Taku Sugimoto’s unique and utterly captivating approach to sound, and, in this writer’s opinion, no other release from 2010 is 2 seconds / b minor / wave’s equal.
Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
Short of Yuko Zama, I may have been trumpeting the hosannas about Michael Pisaro's music as much as anyone over the past couple of years so it's interesting, to me, that recent efforts have given me a little pause. Not so much, but some. The first two releases on Gravity Wave each had aspects that mildly gnawed at me, as does this one, the highly anticipated, long-range duo with Taku Sugimoto.
The pairing is an inspired idea, of course, given Sugimoto's music of the last six to eight years which, at times, out-wandelweisered Wandelweiser at least in terms of sparseness. Add to that the fact that, quite recently both he and Pisaro have allowed faint traces of melody and expansiveness into their playing and it would seem to be a perfect match. And it is quite wonderful in some ways. Those who have been pining for Sugimoto to take a baby step or two back to the realms so beautifully explored in "opposite" will be very pleased on that score alone while listeners who may have found Pisaro's compositions a tad too acerb (I'm not among them) will certainly appreciate the large amount of pure sonic gorgeousity on display here. Me, I find myself going back and forth, experiencing a certain degree of discomfort.
For those unaware, the deal for the recording was this: Pisaro sketched out three compositional ideas, each for a 20-minute duration and relayed them to Sugimoto. Knowing his scores, I'm sure that there were levels of complication that aren't necessarily directly perceived by the listener. The two musicians performed the works in isolation from each other and the results, à la MIMEO's "sight", were layered atop one another.
This works absolutely beautifully in the first piece, "2 seconds". I'm not at all sure what reins the title put on the performers--sometimes it seems a "2 second rule" of sorts is in effect but often not--but the (partially?) serendipitous effects of the sounds (ringing tones, wooden clicks (a metronome?), a door or drawer opening or closing, what sounds like a coffee grinder, etc.) all slide across and through each other, floating with a calm quasi-periodicity that's enchanting and stimulating. There's a kind of dust-motes-in-the-sunlight effect, quite wonderful. This piece ranks among my favorites in Pisaro's oeuvre.
The trouble begins on the second track, "b minor" which, oddly enough, is the one that'll cause Sugimoto nostalgics to drool. Two guitars, one assigned "melody" (Sugimoto, I believe), one "harmony" (Pisaro), I'm given to understand, though I've no idea what other rules are in effect. It's pretty. It's very pretty. And for four or five minutes, it floats rather well, serene and rosy. But all too soon, for my taste, it begins to cloy. That sense of miraculous discovery attained on the initial track, of being pleasantly surprised and/or irked by what wafts into you, is largely absent here. There's a hint, perhaps, in Pisaro's playing, of the Beefheart of "Peon" or "One Red Rose That I Mean" but splayed out. It's attractive enough but I'm not sure more than that; halfway through, I'm aching for some real-world reference, some grime. I don't necessarily experience that with much similarly scrubbed Wandelweiser material; perhaps it's the overripe rosiness here that creates that thirst.
The last piece, "wave", is problematic in a different way. It's composed of two elements (I think. As I know from experience, I often underestimate just how much is occurring in Pisaro's music): a steady, complex drone with an organ-like feel (Sugimoto) and "waves" of field recordings emerging and ebbing (Pisaro), said recordings sounding rather abstract, wind-sourced, I think, but I'm not sure. The former, the dronage, is utterly wonderful; I could listen to an hour of that in sheer bliss. But the site recordings strike me as intrusive and, often, awkward. as though they were something hastily tacked on to enhance the drone. There's an oil and water aspect to the combination, something I hadn't heard in other Pisaro works where two such sound worlds intersect (the "Transparent City" series, for instance). Intentional? Perhaps but it never quite clicked for me.
As with the Gravity Waves, don't get me wrong--this is a fine recording and that first track is entirely fantastic. It's just not the whole ball o' wax that one's first hearing of the participants and methodology might have led one to expect. Get it and decide for yourself, though.