Mauri's blog, and repository of texts published elsewhere, jokes, lists and considerations on life, music, art and worldly affairs.


Second selection of percussion music favourites of mine. Here is a detailed tracklist:


00:00 - John Cage; perf. Maelstrom Percussion Ensemble - Imaginary Landscape No.3 - album “John Cage - Imaginary Landscapes” - HatHut 1996

02:56 - Frank Zappa - The Black Page - album: “Zappa in New York” - Rykodisk 1978

06.46 - Ryuichi Sakamoto - Anger - Talvin Singh remix - album: “Anger / Grief” - Ninja Tunes 1998

13:47 - Kodo - Monochrome - album: “Heartbeat Drummers of Japan” - Sheffield Lab 1985

25:33 - John Psathas; perf. Evelyne Glennie & Phillip Smith - Matre's Dance - album “Drumming”, BMG 1996

34:51 - Maracatu N.E.B. do Recife - Moro Omin Ma - album: “Maracatu N.E.B. do Recife” - 2002

37:45 - Thomas Newton - Root Beer - album: “American Beauty - original motion picture score” - Dreamworks 2000

38:47 - Peter Hammill - Jargon King - album: “A Black Box” - S-Type records 1980

41:20 - Johnny Greenwood - Convergence - album “Bodysong” - Parlophone 2003

45:41 - Aphrodite’s Child - The Wedding of the Lamb / The Capture of the Beast - album: “666” - Vertigo 1972

51:18 - Antonio Sanchez - Doors and Distance - album: “Birdman OST” - Milan records 2014

53:30 - Daniel Ponce - Solo Para Ti - album: “New York Now!” - Celluloid 1983


And for those of you with an inclination for long readings, or simply want to know more about the tracks in the playlist, here's a track-to-track commentary from yours truly.

00:00 - IMAGINARY LANDSCAPE No.3 This was written in 1942, pretty much the same period of “Amores” (see my first FW mixtape), but it is very different from it in both mood and choice of material. In regards to the former, it is less intimate, more concrete; constructivist if I may say so. As for the material employed, whereas Amores was making use of fairly orthodox concert percussion instruments, in this piece we find tin cans, three turntables, an oscillator and various contact-amplified objects, all of which propels it rightfully and steadily into the second half of the XX century. 02:56 - THE BLACK PAGE I’m taking the liberty of putting here this all-too-obvious classic only because there will be more Frank Zappa on the next playlists. And that will be more of a dig into the less known repertoire. 06:46 - ANGER - TALVIN SINGH REMIX The original track is one of the four movements of a full-length opus for extended orchestra by Ryuichi Sakamoto, very much worth listening if you get a chance (and if you can smuggle a whole hour of peace into your schedule). I love this remix to bits, and I’d go as far as saying that this is the track that got me curious about the art of remixing, and its many creative challenges. 13:47 - MONOCHROME I hope this one comes out nicely of whichever cheap sound diffusion some of you might use. The dynamic range is insanely extreme, and even though for this purpose I’ve heavily automated the volume to flatten that a bit, it will still probably sound like total silence at times, on say laptop speakers. I hope that’s not what you customarily use to stream your music anyway. These are the drummers from Kodo, the Japanese island, and this is one of their original compositions. 25:33 - MAITRE’S DANCE In praise of non-repetition. This is Evelyn Glennie again, with Phillip Smith on piano. 34:51 - MORO OMIN MA More maracatú. Something peculiar about the singing in this piece, which makes it sounding rather unusual for North-East Brazilian music, and it reminds me so much about something coming rather straight out of the Grupo Folclorico Nacional de Cuba. 37:45 - ROOT BEER One of the main themes of American Beauty has been unhappily plagiarised in endlessly repeating ringtones, but it remains a great theme despite that; but there are many more hidden gems in this soundtrack, which I invite you to discover, like this one. 38:47 - JARGON KING I can’t begin to tell you how much of Peter Hammill and the Van der Graaf Generators I have listened and played along to as a teenager. This is a peculiar tune for Peter Hammill, and it is my justification for smuggling him into this series. 41:20 - CONVERGENCE I remember trying to figure out how Jonny Greenwood must have devised the construction of this piece in the studio. When I finally succeeded, I’ve ended up using the same trick in one short piece of mine. This is what good ideas are for, no? 45:41 - THE WEDDING OF THE LAMB / THE CAPTURE OF THE BEAST This was “666”, by the Aphrodite’s Child. After hitting it big with two indisputably cheesy albums they somehow created this monster concept opus magna, which propelled their music in dozens of divergent directions. It is no surprise that after that they could barely look at each other in the eyes and they just called it a day as a band. Demis Roussos continued to sing lightweight songs with huge success, Vangelis Papathanassious started a formidable and long-lasting career creating highly evocative synth instrumental music, while we are not given to know much of what happened to the other two. It’s amazing to think that what is often, and rightfully, mentioned as possibly the greatest progressive and psychedelic album of all times, is also one of the very first works of these genres. As far as I know almost certainly the first rock concept album of all. This is the very first album I ever got deeply into as a kid, and it had a massive and never-fading impact in my music life. Needless to say, I spent hundreds of hours drumming along this album in my bedroom, on pillows, buckets and other victims of my youthful excursions into music. It is all still there in my playing of today; it couldn’t be otherwise and I feel no shame. 51:18 - DOORS AND DISTANCE There’s something I find very enjoyable and intriguing about recording a musical source with a moving apparatus. The recordist upgrades from the rank of engineer to that of performer, and the spatiality of sound becomes integral to the musical poetry. 53:30 - SOLO PARA TI Congas, man; just congas until the end of life. Fascinated as I have always been about the sound of pretty much anything that can be found and hit, scraped, bowed or thrown around, the single instrument I have spent more time on as a percussionist is the conga, and I don’t see this dichotomy ending any time. Daniel Ponce is one of the players who have inspired me the most; still trying to figure how he does some of the things he does after all these years…



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George Nelson, a very present photographer of the London music scene, is running an intriguing feature on his blog, www.inflatedtearsonmars.com, where he asks musicians to pick ten seconds of their favourite tracks, and articulate why they pick that track, and what it is about those particular ten seconds. When he asked me I was delighted, because, of course, I love writing about music that I love. Here is what I chose, and why. Direct link to the page is HERE.

Bob Dylan - Visions of Johanna (4’20” - 4’30”) From: Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde (1966)

This is from Blonde on Blonde, my favourite Dylan’s album, on a par with Highway 61 Revisited musically, but possibly his all-time literary peak. I think the best way to listen to this album is on acid; not so much for the music, as for the lyrics: the unexpected, visionary, hyperbolic associations of subjects and concepts are enough to make any receptive mind whirl upwards into higher planes. These ten seconds are only one sentence, but here is the rest of the fourth stanza, the one that gave me the first hint of all the above.

Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues You can tell by the way she smiles See the primitive wallflower frieze When the jelly-faced women all sneeze Hear the one with the mustache say, "Jeeze I can't find my knees."

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Robert Fripp - Water Music I (0’00” - 0’10”) From: Robert Fripp - Exposure (1979)

I don’t even know exactly what it is… Maybe just the fact that I’ve heard this piece for the first time when I was a teenager, and I was experimenting with a lot of drugs. I’m not sure, but I’ve listened to this track repeatedly over decades, and the impressions is still the same: this is what my brain sounds like. Not my ideas, not my fantasies, not even my musical imagination: this is the actual humming and hissing of my brain in operation.

(Water Music is part of a tryptic, which includes a version of Peter Gabriel’s Here Comes the Flood. This video includes the lot)

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Genesis - In the Rapids (0’00” - 0’10”) From: Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Brodway (1974)

This tune comes almost at the end of one of the most epic sagas of youthful self-identification that prog rock has ever generated. It’s after Rael, the main character, has decided to miss his only chance to go back to his familiar daily life, and to stay forever in an unknown and forsaken place in order to save his drowning brother; it’s also few minutes before he realises that his brother is his own self, and that everything around and inside him is one and the same thing. These few chords from Steve Hackett are the prelude to this last fantastic twist of the story, and there couldn’t be a better way to portray in music the peace that comes after a perilous adventure, just moments before you make a last leap into the new you that the adventure itself has brought to life.

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John Cage - Imaginary Landscape no.2 (3’58” - 4’08”) From: Maelstrom Percussion Ensemble - Imaginary Landscapes, directed by Jan Williams (1996)

[3’12” - 3’22” in the Quatour Helios’s version, album John Cage - Works for Percussion (1991)]

Tin cans, man! How to ever grow tired of yet another chance to turn into beauty the endless stream of junk constantly belched out of the purulent cornucopia of modern society? As a percussionist you always live in the certainty that you only have to gather any three or four objects of the same kind - any objects: roof tiles, metal pipes, stones, clay pots, plastic containers, you name it - and you have a functioning musical instrument at hand. In 1939 Cage stated that "Percussion music is revolution". Long after the emancipation of percussion in music hierarchy has become an established commonplace, this statement has only shifted its focus, but has never lost its actuality. No matter at what stage of evolution you are as a society, percussion music will always be there as a divine tool, offering you the chance of experiencing reality on different planes.

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Popol Vuh - Hosianna Mantra (0’00” - 0’10”) From: Popol Vuh - Hosianna Mantra (1972)

I’ve never been much of a Popol Vuh fan, apart maybe from Nosferatu’s soundtrack, where they seem to blend so seamlessly with Wagner; but this album has always been a league apart from all the rest of their production for me. Part of it is the strangely pan-religious theme in the lyrics; but the orchestration is also quite unusual for them, and the melodic lines are more articulated than in most of their music. There’s a haunting quality to the first few chords of this tune, something which immediately transports you into a world of unspeakeable depth, at once far removed from everyday life and yet somehow compellingly rooted in it.

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John Cage - Music for Marcel Duchamp (4’12” - 4’22”) From: John Cage - Works for Prepared Piano (piano: Markus Hinterhäuser) (1998)

More John Cage, I know. In its disarming simplicity this little composition is never too far from the surface of the magma of my musical imagination. It’s one of those things: like the combined memory of all the trees you’ve seen in your life, all the birds you’ve heard singing; I guess John Cage would have been pleased with this comparison. I don’t think there is a piece of music that gets paraphrased more often than this one in my musical discourse, both composed and improvised; especially in my solo percussion work. These ten seconds are from the final section; the phrase is to be repeated seven times, with no rush, to bring the piece to conclusion, and it’s just one of the dozen ideas that this composition has to offer on how to deal meaningfully with one-line melodies, silence, repetition, natural reverberation, sound palette choice.

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David Bowie - “Heroes” (0’00” - 0’10”) From: David Bowie - “Heroes” (1977)

Am I being too banal here? Maybe not. I was thirteen when this tune was released; I still remember the first time I heard it, back from school, from the local radio: I crouched down to the floor, with my head in my hands, thinking this is the most epic you can possibly get in music - and I meant epic in the proper legitimate meaning of the word. When you’re thirteen there’s not much music you’ve heard yet, and you’re easily impressionable; but fourty years down the line, after rivers of music have passed through my ears and heart, my opinion of this track is still pretty much the same, and that accounts for something. David Bowie is one of the reasons why I’m a musician in the first place, and still to this day he’s a constant inspiration and a steady reference for what it means to be an artist, both as a means of self-healing for the artist himself and as a facilitator of human societies’ spiritual self-regulation.

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Pat Metheny / Ornette Coleman - Endangered Species (13’01”-13’11”) From: Pat Metheny & Ornette Coleman - Song X (1986)

A monumental piece of free music. These ten seconds are the final moment of release of a tension which has been accumulating for over 13 minutes. Surely there are tons of other earlier and more seminal works of free music out there, but this particular one has always been a league apart for me: the singleness of purpose throughout the track, the unhesitating energy, which stays unvariably dense, fast and fortissimo for the whole duration of the piece, did something for me that no other tune has done before, the first time I’ve heard it, at a young age, and left a permanent mark on my musical direction, and my ideas of beauty in a musical performance.


"Percussion Music Is Revolution!" is a series of one-hour long mixtapes of percussion music liberally picked from any area, age or cultural belonging. The Mixcloud pages where they appear often don't allow for a fully detailed playlist, or in-depth commentary, and for this reason they are embedded here in this blog.

The title of the series is a quote from John Cage (the exclamation mark is mine), one of my percussion music heroes. I’ve always loved the ring of that statement, even when isolated from its historical context. You’ll find me, elsewhere on the web, discussing freewheeling this unlikely and seemingly anachronistic concept; but here, let’s get on with the music.

I’m deliberately going to jump from popular music around the globe, to jazz, composition, incidental and rock music in these mixtapes, in a loose, yet persistent attempt to identify the basic human compulsion that is at the root of all these different expressions. Don’t be therefore mislead by any one choice I made along the progress of this series: there will be a lot of diverse stuff, at times obvious, because classics are such for a reason; many other times unexpected, because I’ve listened to tons of this shit in my life.


Here's the tracklist:

- Abissal E Os Caboclos Envenenados - O Maracatu Várzea Do Capibaribe (instrumental) - album: “Várzea Do Capibaribe”, 2003

- Pierre Favre Ensemble - Carnival of the Four - album: “Singing Drums” - ECM 1984

- Peter Gabriel - San Jacinto - album: “IV”, Charisma 1982

- Wolfgang Schliemann, Michael Vorfield - Drei - Gerade aus, Bärbel - album: “Alle Neune: Rheinländer Partie” - Creative Source Recordings 2007

- Max Roach - For Big Sid - album: “Drums Unlimited” - Atlantic 1966

- John Cage; perf. Quatuor Helios - Amores - album “John Cage - Works for Percussion” - Wergo 1991

- Billy Cobham - Snoopy's Search - album: “Spectrum”, Atlantic 1973

- David Lang; perf. Evelyn Glennie - The Anvil Chorus - album “Drumming” - Catalyst 1996

- Sven David Sandstrom; perf. Kroumata Ensemble - Drums - album “Play Music by Jolivet, Harrison, Cage & Sandström” - Bis 1984


Here below is a track-to-track commentary, if you still have a penchant for reading, and if you think you'd enjoy the company of my thoughts for twenty minutes or so.


- - -

O MARACATU VÁRZEA DO CAPIBARIBE

There might end up being a lot of maracatu on these mixtapes. Large groups of unison big drums will invariably instil excitement and awe on anybody who’s got ears and bones, but maracatu is something else still. For me it certainly is. It doesn’t sound like anything else on earth, and yet I remember the first time I heard it it felt like I was witnessing out there something that’s been in my mind all along, like an inert seed.

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CARNIVAL OF THE FOUR

I found this one during one of my unsurprisingly costly visits to Jean-Claude Thompson’s If Music shop. There’s some great stuff in this album, and this is easily my favourite track. It’s quartet music; Paul Motian and Nana Vasconcelos are here too.

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SAN JACINTO

I know this one might sound out of place, but Peter Gabriel’s fourth solo album was such a cardinal thing to listen to when it came out and I was beginning to study percussion, and I might as well start getting you accostumed to my prog-rock heart right away rather than later. There’s a massive amount of sampling in this album, and pretty much every single sound on it is the result of hundreds of hours spent around junk yards, hitting exhaust pipes, smashing tv screens, sledge-hammering car doors. Which incidentally is one of my favourite pastimes too.

Not that it was ever really under-rated, but memory may fade too soon on the importance of this work as a crucial episode in the development of Western modern percussion music.

- - -

DREI - GERADE AUS, BÄRBEL

More junk, only this time undisciplined, uncostrained, liberated from the duties of subjecting to the human aesthetics of order.

I know Michael Vorfeld from Berlin; this is an album I like a lot, which I’m probably going to play more from in the next mixtapes. It’s a duo work with another German percussionist, Wolfgang Schliemann. One of the things that fascinate me more about Berlin is the amount of musicians who put the majority of their time and focus into developing their own unique idiom on their instrument. There’s never a hidden agenda of trying to offer more than the competition, because in the case of improvised music or modern composition we’re talking about a form of music organisation which is non-hierarchical by definition. So what we have is a myriad of musos constantly exchanging ideas and surprising each other, in a passionate chase for new, hitherto unheard sounds; a scene where everybody is at once unindispensable and absolutely unreplaceable.

- - -

FOR BIG SID

No introduction necessary; I think.

- - -

AMORES

This is a four-part piece; what I’ve always found fascinating about it is that the two central episodes are so hushed, so fragile, that their presence is only justified and made possible by the two prepared piano pieces at the beginning and at the end. They almost seem to be there to guard and protect the two central pieces from external noises, to screen them in time, and create a zone of silence where they can safely live their brief, vulnerable and ephemeral existence.

This is the Quatour Helios version. First I wanted to put here the Kroumata Ensemble’s version, then I thought of making a mixture of the movements I like the most from each version, but that didn’t feel polite of me… They’re both excellent and worth listening, and I chose this one because there is other music from the Kroumata crew in this playlist; and chances are I’m going to play their version of Amores on one next mixtape…

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SNOOPY’S SEARCH

I have never been able to find a certain source for this information, but I am quite confident that this piece was played on an early synth-drum of some sort; I’d be really surprised if it was otherwise. It matches Billy’s style, and it is anyway one of four short solo pieces which serve as introduction to four of the album’s full length tracks.

The mystery remains, but this is a great piece of rhythm music, whatever it has been played on.

- - -

THE ANVIL CHORUS

There’s going to be quite some Evelyn Glennie here in these playlists, and why should I try to avoid it? The thing is that she played so much of the percussion music written in the last decades, and in a disarming number of cases she played the best version available. What I love about this piece is the way the writing cleverly creates an impression of differently paced pulses taking place simultaneously - which is what happens in fact, but the skill, and the fun, is to have it written as a piece for one player only.

- - -

DRUMS

Here’s the Kroumata Ensemble; I think this piece was written for them, but I’m not sure. More massive drums. A lot of what I love about them, percussion music and rhythm is condensed very eloquently in this piece.