Innova 631






Neil Rolnick


with Ethel, Joan La Barbara, Todd Reynolds, Quintet of the Americas, Tyrone Henderson


1.    Shadow Quartet – Western Swing

2.    Shadow Quartet – Breathing Machine

3.      Shadow Quartet – Release
performed by Ethel:  Ralph Ferris, Dorothy Lawson, Todd Reynolds, Mary Rowell

4.    Gate Beats

performed by Neil Rolnick

5.      The Real Thief of Baghdad
performed by Tyrone Henderson and Neil Rolnick, lyrics by Tyrone Henderson

6.    Fiddle Faddle

performed by Todd Reynolds

7.      Ambos Mundos

performed by Quintet of the Americas:  Edward R. Gilmore, Sato Moughalian, Barbara Oldham, Matt Sullivan, Laura Koepke

8.    Body Work (2004)

performed by Joan La Barbara and Neil Rolnick


All selections © & p Neilnick Music (BMI)


Jody Elff, recording, mixing and mastering. 

Manfred Knoop, recording engineer for Ambos Mundos. 



Neil Rolnick



SHADOW QUARTET: Western Swing, Breathing Machine, Release  (2003)


I first started working on Shadow Quartet in early 2003.  The original idea was to use a computer to make aural shadows of the players.  A very structural, technical idea.  Then, in March, my father died.  My mother and my siblings and I stood around his bedside as he passed away.  Later, I was haunted by the experience of feeling his life ebb as I held his hand.  It was sad, but not terrible.  His body had stopped working, and it was time for him to make this passage.  In those final moments, there was a strange rhythm amidst the sounds of the hospital room.  His breath slowed to nothing, while the heart monitor beeped on for several minutes, reminding us that the heart is reluctant to relinquish its grip on the spirit. 


My father was born in Texas.  I watched him dying in New England, still the cowboy.  The first music I remember hearing was from his 78 RPM western swing records.  As I watched him fade, it seemed that our hearts and our bodies are ultimately breathing machines, which persist with great tenacity, but eventually must cease.  And that cessation is ultimately a release, a passage we must all make. I miss him.  But I know he would rather I celebrate him.  Which I try to do with this string quartet. 




A noise gate is a device which lets some sound through, and stops other sounds.  Usually, a gate will follow the amplitude, or loudness, of a sound.  It will let the sounds above a particular threshold pass through, and stops all sounds below that threshold. 


In Gate Beats I recorded samples of Todd Reynolds, Andrew Sterman and Ron Horton playing melodies from a piece I’d written a year before for my improvising band Fish Love That.  The violin, tenor sax and trumpet samples were then cut up and looped.  In a live performance of Gate Beats I bring in different loops, often transposed or modified in some way.  I slowly lower the threshold of gates on each of the loops, creating new interlocking rhythmic patterns as only the loudest notes of each sample passes through the gate. As I lower the threshold, the rest of the loop is slowly filled in.  Finally, the whole tune comes out of the gate for a few circuits around the track.




lyrics by Tyrone Henderson


In 1940 Sabu was The Thief of Baghdad in a wonderful fantasy film, with a flying carpet, a mechanical horse, and a towering djini.  But, hey, it's 2003, and we know who the REAL thief of Baghdad is ...




Fiddle  Faddle in my cookbook is described as “butter toffee with almonds over popcorn … a variation on the commercial cracker jacks recipe.”  My dictionary describes it as “trivial nonsense.”  In either case, it’s sweet and enjoyable.  Not necessarily nourishing or profound, but not too bad for you.  What more could you ask of a piece which allows you to show off your violin chops while engaging in some pretty intimate interaction with a computer?




Ambos Mundos is the name of the hotel where Ernest Hemmingway stayed when he visited Havana, Cuba.  It’s a place of luxurious decadence.  In Spanish, ambos mundos means “both worlds.”  In this piece, the two worlds are the acoustic playing of the woodwind quintet, and the digitally processed echoes of that playing.  As the two worlds combine and interlock, they create a luxurious, decadent, and lively music.  Just the thing to go with a good cigar, a glass of rum, and a warm Havana night.


BODY WORK (2004)


The lyrics for this piece are taken from sidebar in the November 2003 edition of Harper’s Magazine, called “Frontiers of Science.”


The following questions were collected over the last ten years by University of Portland professor Terry Favero, who begins his human-biology course each week by accepting written science questions from his students.


Are boobs just mostly fat?

Can men be affected by a menstrual cycle?

Can the stomach actually explode?

Can you be addicted to soda pop?

Can you die from getting your nose pushed back into your brain?

Can you get someone else’s DNA from a bone-marrow transplant?

Do blind people see in their dreams?

Do fetuses burp?

Does smoking lower one’s voice?

How can you make a hickey heal faster?

How come I look like my grandmother?

How do those thigh creams work?

How do you get hunched over when you’re old?

I saw this Clint Eastwood movie where this bad guy took this good guy and laid him out in the sun and sewed his eyelids open.  What would happen to the guy’s eyeballs?  Would they dry up and fall out?

If someone drank a bottle of Liquid-Plumr what part of the body would dissolve first?

If you accidentally swallow tobacco can you get a cancerous growth in your stomach?

If you chew on candy and then spit it out do you still get calories?

If you cut off your ears could you still hear?

If you lost one ovary but the other one was healthy, would you only ovulate and menstruate every other month?

If you stand on your head for three days will your head explode?

If you wear a hat too much, will you go bald?

Is a beer belly really caused by beer?

Is déja vu a brain function?

Is it true that if you swallow tobacco you will kill the parasites in your stomach?

Is there any prevention from growing those ugly ear hairs like my dad has?

What’s the deal with wisdom teeth?

What is the purpose of lips?

When a kidney is removed, what happens to the empty space?

Why are boogers green when you a re sick?

Why are college students so preoccupied with sex?

Why are zits different colors?

Why do babies drool?

Why do bruises change colors?

Why do some people laugh louder than other?

Why do tattoos fade to blue?

Why do we dream?

Why do we get dark circles under out eyes when we are tired?

Why do we have earwax?

Why do we have eyebrows?

Why do we have fingerprints?

Why do you get all pruney when you stay in the tub too long?

Why does the hair on my legs grow unevenly?

Why don’t men shave their underarm hair?

Why when I’m nervous around a cute guy does my head get such a rush that I feel faint and seriously find it difficult to think straight?

Why when you laugh sometimes does the back of your head hurt?

Why do we dream?






Joan La Barbara:

Quintet of the Americas:

Todd Reynolds:

Neil Rolnick:



All tracks except Ambos Mundos recorded by Jody Elff.  All tracks except Ambos Mundos and Shadow Quartet recorded at Elff Productions, Brooklyn, NY.  Ambos Mundos recorded by Manfred Knoop at Knoop Studio, River Edge, NJ.  Shadow Quartet recorded by Jody Elff at Loho Studio, NYC.  All tracks mixed and mastered by Jody Elff at Elff Productions.