Howard and Wessel Return to CNMAT:

- There is little in today’s world of music that is more complex and challenging than Howard’s ensemble scores, so alien to melody and rhythm as one can be without sounding cacophonous. Each movement relies on counterpoint and juxtaposition, not on narrative development. It takes a while to realize that the synth is being used as a peer instrument to the others, not as a “novelty item” that “must” play a different role, and to realize that very few musicians have managed to demistify electronics the way Howard does. Whenever the harsh tones prevail, for example, Howard resists the temptation to use the synth to outperform everybody else. In fact, one could even argue that, most of the time, Howard does not use the synth as a keyboard at all. All the instruments are merely tools in the hands of the musicians: it is the musicians, not the instruments, that create the music.

- Earl Howard (born 1951 in Los Angeles) has been active since the 1970s, since he graduated from the California Institute of the Arts (1974). A virtuoso saxophonist who has expanded the instrument's boundaries on compositions such as Cinco Centavos (for solo saxophone) and Naked Charm (for saxophone and tape) and the 5 Saxophone Solos (Mutablemusic, 2005), and a frequent performer at the Knitting Factory, Howard later shifted his focus towards live electronics, electronic tape music and chamber music for electronics and acoustic instruments. He concentrated on superimposing electronic/manipulated sounds to live performances, as in Quarks, Pancho Via's Spoon and Nomad (for live electronics and ensemble), Fire Song (may 1999) for hyperpiano (Denman Maroney) and electronics, and Entanglement (2000), for saxophone and Creatophone (Curtis Roads on Creatophone), while the electronic pieces of the live Pele's Tears (october 1992), with an alto saxophonist, a tuba player and a bassist, displayed a more traditional approach.

The mixture of composition, improvisation and chance is exactly what life on this planet is all about. So it is not surprising that Howard's compositions seem to "grow" as they are "played". It is also not surprising that his work is frequently composed for and performed by musicians from the jazz tradition. Anthony Davis has recorded his Particle W (Gramavision) for piano and tape and commissioned Monopole (1985) for two pianos and tape, while drummer Gerry Hemingway recorded both C & D, on Solo Works (1980), Howard's first documented composition, and D.R. (Auricle), both for solo percussion.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010, 4:00am to 6:00am