Third Eye Orchestra
Mari Kimura (vio), Mark Feldman (vio), Stephanie Griffin (vla), Tomas Ulrich (cel), Briggan Krauss (as, bari), Marty Ehrlich (bcl, as, fl), Robert Dick (fl, cbfl), Detlef Landeck (tb), Dafna Naphtali (voice, live sound processing), Ursel Schlicht (p/kb), Denman Maroney (p/kb), Stomu Takeishi (b), Satoshi Takeishi (perc), Hans Tammen - concept, realtime arrangement
1) Part I - Opening 6:45
Solos : Mari Kimura (vio), Marty Ehrlich (bcl)
2) Part II - Death Clock 4:33
Solos: Briggan Krauss (as), Robert Dick (fl)
3) Part III - Mdina Experience 5:02
Solos: Dafna Naphtali (voice/elec), Detlef Landeck (tb)
4) Part IV - Coup d'Archet 4:14
Solos: Tomas Ulrich (cel)
5) Part V - Verrano 8:59
Solos: Mark Feldman (vio), Denman Maroney (kb)
6) Part VI - Triadic Closure 7:11
Solos: Dafna Naphtali (voice/elec), Ursel Schlicht (p), Briggan Krauss (bari)
7) Part I - Istres Control 4:07
Solos: Briggan Krauss (bari), Detlef Landeck (tb)
8) Part II - Subtle Inconsistencies 5:51
Solos: Denman Maroney (p), Stephanie Griffin (vla)
9) Part III - Zipangu 12:29
Solos: Robert Dick (fl), Dafna Naphtali (elec), Marty Ehrlich (bcl), Satoshi Takeishi (perc), Tomas Ulrich (cel)
10) Part IV - Intentionally Left Blank 7:51
Solos: Satoshi Takeishi (continued), Tomas Ulrich (continued), Dafna Naphtali (elec), all winds, Stomu Takeishi (b)
11) Part V - Treadmill 4:25
Solos: Mark Feldman (vio), all strings, Mari Kimura (vio)
12) Part VI - Red Eye 8:05
Solos: Dafna Naphtali (voice), Denman Maroney (p),
Ursel Schlicht (kb), Detlef Landeck (tb)
Hans Tammen, Third Eye Orchestra
Composer-conductor-endangered guitarist Hans Tammen is fascinated with creative spontaneity, which is not to say improvisation, if "improvisation" suggests a lack of planning, disregard for expectations and acceptance of casual results. Everything about Third Eye Orchestra, in which Tammen directs 13 of the most virtuosic instrumentalists to ever elude labels or boundaries, indicates mastery and control.
Yet Third Eye Orchestra's musicians are called upon to assert and enjoy -- for their composer-conductor, audience and not least of all themselves -- enormous freedoms in their contributions to the ultimate shape of multiple movements adding up to a heroic chamber symphony (or two). Given the multiple results which issue from a single "composition" conducted (and so, created) twice through by Tammen in successive sittings of his ensemble, this album's two versions, Antecedent and Consequent (each broken into six titled parts, according to Tammen by coincidence but for convenience) demonstrate how compositional and interpretive processes can work together to everyone's benefit. Neither composers nor improvisers subjugate themselves under such a plan. And the music that emerges can boast both enough rigor of form and flights of fancy to satisfy all involved.
This was, no doubt, Tammen's plan from the point of his inspiration by Earle Brown's Available Forms and his determination to assemble an all-star ensemble for an evening-length concert. Third Eye Orchestra documents an extraordinary gathering in December 2006 of New York "downtown" players at Roulette, the most venerable yet diversely lively of all independent downtown performance spaces to feature new and experimental music, as it's done since 1978. Glancing at the convened personnel, one is hard-pressed to find a player who has not presented music of their own design at Roulette, and several of the soloists (they are all soloists) are acclaimed as not just virtuosi but innovators on their instruments. As spontaneous composers-improvisers-call-them-what-you-will, these musicians do not stop even at devising new techniques; their aim is to use those techniques for purposes of self-expression. Considering the sensitivity and sophistication of their accomplishments across all these dimensions, it would be wasteful folly for a composer to dictate notes to them. But considering the wealth of ideas the collective can summon instantaneously, preconceived plot and guidance through it seem desirable, if not essential.
Though Tammen draws from a single repertoire of some 150 pre- conceived musical units for both performances of Third Eye Orchestra here, he never intended to cast the two performances in a single mold. Opening starts with Mari Kimura's exquisite violin exposition backed by low pitch alternations and a second intersecting part for a different subgroup of instruments, and makes the concert instantly welcoming by posing it as calm, perhaps meditative, clear and enveloping, moving gradually from near-unison towards polyphonic, polytimbral, polyrhythmic and polymetric complexities.
The mood changes radically as alto saxophonist Briggan Krauss asserts a rough-edged leading voice in Death Clock, and the brothers Stomu and Satoshi Takeishi (bass and percussion, respectively), along with pianist Ursel Schlicht, become ever more insistent, but the strings that follow them refer to the parts established in Opening, even as flutist Robert Dick takes off on a tangent of his own. The live sound processing Dafna Naphtali conjures in Mdina Experience even as she's singing wordless harmony, triggers an episode that floats over Marty Ehrlich's bass clarinet and rhythmic outbursts, leading to Detlef Landeck's heroic trombone feature (he flew to New York from Germany, just for this concert), out of which comes a flute and contrabass-flute (Ehrlich and Dick) duet that's almost pastoral in nature, joined by Stephanie Griffin on viola, then Tomas Ulrich on cello. Mark Feldman's tender violin, leaping to a penetrating high note over pianists Schlicht and Denman Maroney's contemplative chords in Verrano, reset the overall mood. Triadic Closure commences with high-string tension, gains lowest register rumbles and Naphtali's voice and processor-sweeps, horn riffs, off-kilter drum punches, Schlicht's keyboard-spanning touches, and Krauss's baritone sax squall to a pin-point end.
Suffice it to say Tammen's second set has none of the first's passages; Consequents' six parts do not even match the lengths of Antecedent's. The moment was different, for players and audience alike certainly as cast to a degree by the effect of the first set's parts. So how could the musicians, or the conductor/ composer, settle for the same?
It is difficult, nay impossible, to assert that either performance is "better" than the other, especially when the digital format of this album allows a listener to reshuffle the sequence of parts to his or her own heart's content. There are many strikingly beautiful moments -- for instance, the tutti comprising much of Subtle Inconsistencies -- due to the combined talents of Tammen and his musicians; they would surely be less "beautiful," cogent or coherent without either composer-conductor or this particularly alert and quickly responsive musical cohort. The combination of the two arrives at something inseparable, a sonic event that wraps impulse around forethought in a way that each survives and thrives. Take the single point of view of a composer-conductor, add in the multiple perspectives of a baker's dozen top-flight instrumental improvisers, and come up with sound that's broad and penetrating, all encompassing yet selective, too. Every listener may decide, individually, whether this is composition or improvisation, or a third thing that springs from the intermingling of those two, bearing forth Third Eye Orchestra. --------- -- Howard Mandel
Recorded live at Roulette, New York,
December 14, 2006.
Howard Mandel, contributor to Down Beat,
SignalToNoise, The Wire and National Public Radio, is author as well of Miles Ornette Cecil -- Jazz Beyond Jazz (Routledge, 2008).
Mixed and mastered at Harvestworks and
Roulette by Gisburg, and Jody Elff, 2007.
Cover photo: Peter Mautsch
Tammen photo: Lauren Camarata
Supported in part by a grant from the New York State Music Fund, established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller
innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.
Philip Blackburn, innova director, design
Chris Campbell, operations manager