Not disordered
Mark Applebaum
Berndt Thurner
Champ d'Action
Ensemble XX. Jahrhundert
Harmida Piano Trio
Magnus Andersson
Mark Applebaum
Skin and Bones
Catalog Number: 
new classical

Stanford, CA

Release Date: 
May 1, 2007
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
Applebaum, M.: Asylum - the Blue Cloak - Dna - Landscape - Go, Dog. Go!iTunes Artist's PageiTunes Album Page
Song TitleTimePrice
1.The Blue Cloak21:48
4.Go, Dog. Go!16:32
5.Asylum: I. Incubation04:19$0.99
6.Asylum: II. Inventory03:23$0.99
7.Asylum: III. Echolalia04:19$0.99
8.Asylum: IV. Insight and Interjections04:57$0.99
9.Asylum: V. Cadeza and Relapse03:11$0.99
One Sheet: 

Clinically speaking, Mark Applebaum does not have any of the mental disorders described in the American Psychiatric Association’s Manual. It’s not for want of trying though. From his Bay Area asylum he obsessively ponders the world of irrational behavior and has a tendency to illustrate psychological disorders in sound.

In his idiosyncratic chamber work "Asylum" this takes the form of a bipolar octet, an obsessive-compulsive trio, a narcoleptic quartet, an attention-deficit hyperactivity quintet, a paranoid flutist, a catatonic horn player, an anti-social guitarist, a narcissistic contrabassist, a dependent violist, and a Tourette’s octet…

Mark’s 9th innova release also finds him lucidly contemplating the “teaming figure paintings” of Bruegel whose complex Renaissance village scenes become more didactic and absurd the closer you look at them. Go, Dog. Go! derives its structure from a deep analysis of 17 categories of canine combined with musical shadows of Led Zeppelin, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Abba, and Spice Girls. It’s not just for bedtime any more.

Mark’s imaginary friends turn out to be some of the top new music performers from Europe and the U.S: the percussion duo Skin & Bones, Vienna’s Ensemble XX. Jahrhundert, virtuoso guitarist Magnus Andersson, The Harmida Piano Trio, and Belgian new music ensemble Champ d’Action. This musical bedlam has so much order you may end up believing you are the crazy one.



A jazz pianist and a builder of junkyard electro-acoustic instruments as well as a former composition pupil of Brian Ferneyhough, Mark Applebaum brings out the carnival beneath complexity’s surfaces. The excellent opening track, The Blue Cloak, demonstrates precisely this bi-polarity. It was inspired by Breughel’s ‘teaming figure’ painting Netherlandish Proverbs, a typical partly comic, partly disturbing tableaux of characters who illustrate in their bizarre daily rituals a total of 100 proverbs and sayings. The music, led by a substantial partly-improvised part for Applebaum’s found object sound sculpture the ‘mouseketier’, scurries and scatters itself about the room, sounding just like the Tom and Jerry score Ferneyhough himself may yet write. A serious-comic schizophrenia animates other works on this CD. DNA explores the notion of ‘neuromuscular economy’, whereby the virtuosity of a densely notated guitar solo is undermined as essentially the same four lines of music are looped round and round, detuning as they go. The percussion duet Go, Dog. Go! follows an uexpected route to rich rhythmic complexity, using rock and pop grooves (Led Zeppelin, James Brown, the Spice Girls) played at their original speeds, but stripped of all timbre, pitch and lyrics. It takes a keen ear to hear most of these for what they are, but the rhythmic diversity that results quashes any expectation of 4/4 monotony. The record’s title work turns such contradictory characteristics to more serious intent. It is scored for instrumental nonet and a theatrical percussion soloist, who is the subject of 22 mental disorders that play out in the piece’s 5 movements, the surrounding ensemble functioning periodically as the superego or a council of elders sitting in judgement. As with the rest of the CD, it is musically convincing, but for such a theatrical work (in the third movement, for example, the percussionist enacts a detailed series of Dadaist rituals that culminate in the bursting of a ballon in which is concealed the triangle beater to be used to begin the fourth movement) it is of course not possible to gauge fully the work’s effect. However, with the aid of sleevenotes, enough of the assorted manias comes through; overall this is another fine record from a consistently interesting composer.

by Tim Rutherford-Johnson