If Tigers Were Clouds

If Tigers Were Clouds

Eight decades of women in experimental music
Yoko Ono
Michelle Kinney
Beth Custer
Annie Gosfield
Eleanor Hovda
Pauline Oliveros
Mildred Couper
Philip Blackburn
Johanna Beyer
Christopher Cunningham
Yuri Merzhevsky
Arthur Ferris
Bertha Ferris
Michelle Kinney
Beth Custer
Mildred Couper
Pauline Oliveros
Philip Blackburn
Carl Witt
Christopher Cunningham
Pat O'Keefe
Yuri Merzhevsky
Anatoly Larkin
Catalog Number: 
new classical
homemade instruments
graphic scores
music for dance

Saint Paul, MN

Release Date: 
Nov 11, 2003
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Sounds from the heavenly orchestra? Revelations from the junk yard? Quarter-tone Chinoiserie? Yoko Ono with sticky tape? The American experimental tradition in music goes to the heart of the pioneer spirit. These rugged individualists, sonic prospectors, and intransigent iconoclasts -- composers who have forged their own paths, come what may -- often find the sort of lasting place in our collective imagination that eludes their less adventurous contemporaries. Billings, Ives, Cowell, Partch, Cage, and Nancarrow loom large among the usual suspects like adamantine faces on new-music's Mount Rushmore. But where are the women? Was it really only Ruth Crawford-Seeger who stepped out of the kitchen for a while? 

“If Tigers were Clouds lifts the lid on that crock, unleashing a panoply of potent flavors, a swirl of alluring fragrances, and enough joyous noise to tip the scales mightily toward some semblance of gender parity. Here are women who have been there all along, “Mavericas” to some, insufficiently sung heroines to others, each doing her own thing(s)---sometimes right under men’s noses, too often under their thumbs, and nearly always overshadowed. It’s time to stir things up. Zeitgeist, one of the nation’s longest-running new-music ensembles, has CDs of music by Harold Budd, Terry Riley, Fred Rzewski, Eric Stokes. They rock. All premiere recordings Detailed booklet included Enhanced CD



If Tigers Were Clouds opens with "Xanadu" (hold your laughter) by Mildred Couper (1887-1994...Innova wasn't kidding about that eight decades thing), a piano duet tuned a quarter-tone apart. Despite both pianos' constant pull to their appropriate tonal centers, the mix results in a surreal effect, texturally "Impressionistic" in a Debussy style, harmonically skewed like a Cage prepared piano work. Say what you will about her relationship to the implosion of the Beatles, but Yoko Ono's "Pieces For Orchestra" is an excellent example of the Fluxus movement in action (an example of a Fluxus score might read "write a poem, crumple it up and kick it around the room"). "Five Will Get You Seven" by Annie Gosfield (at 43, the youngest composer here) plods along as marimbas, cymbals, cowbells and snare drums weave together with isorhythmic independence, like a parade gone wrong. This continues until the five-minute mark, when a bass clarinet takes over, creating a subtle and intimate atmosphere through the use of silence, extended techniques, multiphonics and simple harmonic gestures.

Fortunately, the members of Zeitgeist aren't afraid to tackle any work, regardless of audience support (yes, I'm pointing at you, Kronos Quartet). Though your tastes might not be as experimental as those of your kooky, smelly John Zorn look-alike neighbor, you'll find that these works are well worth the patience it takes to get into them. And really, what great music isn't? - Dave Madden