Christopher Adler

Ecstatic Volutions in a Neon Haze

Innova 694


1  Iris                                                16:25


      LisaCella, flute          FranklinCox, cello

      ColinMcAllister, guitar   MorrisPalter, marimba


2  SignalsIntelligence                                 5:46

      RobertDillon, percussion


3  LiberPulveris                                       4:18

      ColinMcAllister, guitar


4  IWant to Believe                                   14:14

      AlanLechusza, soprano saxophone

      ChristopherAdler, piano


5  EcstaticVolutions in a Neon Haze                   16:39


      CarrieShull, oboe         ToddHershberger, bassoon

      JohnMayrose, guitar       MarcFaris, electric guitar

      ThomLimbert, percussion   with Christopher Adler, piano



      The fivecompositions collected on this recording comprise a multifaceted examination ofmusical groove—theineffable resonance between sonic rhythm and bodily movement that overwhelmsintellect and order with feeling and energy. Within groove there is anirreconcilable tension between the enforcement of order—the martial musicof social control, the relentless rigor of Signals Intelligence and unisons of Iris and I Want to Believe—and the ecstasy ofliberation, as realized in the improvisatory Liber Pulveris, Ecstatic Volutions in a NeonHaze, and IWant to Believe.

      My ownsensibility towards groove is indebted to jazz, funk, American minimalism, andthe musical traditions of Southeast Asia. These musics share theirgroove-centrism and their structure of musical organzation (which I discuss in“Reflections on Cross-Cultural Composition” in Arcana 2: Musicians on Music, ed. John Zorn, Hips Road, 2007).Hidden throughout the compositions on this recording are sonic homages to each.



Iris (2003)


      Iris exemplifies the structuralcommonalities between Southeast Asian ensemble musics and early Americanminimalism. I selected quiet instrumental colors and playing techniques thatblur the aural distinctions between instruments resulting in a static,pulsating musical texture akin to that of Javanese gamelan. The rhythmic surface is inspiredby the early compositions of Philip Glass, where groupings of steady sixteenthnotes expand and contract without regular meter. This static structure isenlivened through the use of hocket, in which each instrumental part fills thegaps in another. Here, those gaps are not rests but idiomatic instrumentaltechniques to create hushed tones, such as hammer-ons for the stringedinstruments and dampened strokes on the marimba.

      The open stringsof the guitar and cello in their standard tunings provide the harmonic basis ofthis piece. The piece begins with the instruments playing in pairs, flute andcello, guitar and marimba, playing only the pitches of the lowest two openstrings of the cello and guitar. The number of open strings used is graduallyincreased as the work progresses, expanding the pitch register—an auralanalogue to the opening of an optical iris. In the final section, the guitarand cello play all of their open strings in sweeping arpeggios. Two newprocesses of expansion continue the ‘opening’ through this section: the fluteand marimba diverge from their nominal unison doubling and now double theguitar and cello in harmony, while rhythmically the two parts collapse onto oneanother—the beginning of each new arpeggio overlapping the end of theprevious—culminating in an eight-part hocketing polyphony.

      Iris was commissioned by San Diego NewMusic and NOISE.





Signals Intelligence explores the experience of hearing an electronictransmission in which order is clearly audible but the information density istoo high for a human to parse. The experience is one of being made aware ofthat which is always just out of reach, just beyond comprehension. Two relatedalgorithms are employed to generate melodic material using from one to sixpitches. One algorithm generates a self-similar pitch series which replicatesitself when played at different speeds, in effect comprising a mensurationcanon in compound melody. The second algorithm generates a self-similar serieswhich is also non-retrogradable (identical when played in reverse order). Inthe ensemble version (previously released on Epilogue for a Dark Day, Tzadik, 2004), the algorithmicoutputs are creatively orchestrated for six players. In the solo version,sixteen algorithmic outputs are presented successively without alteration. Thecompositional result was sculpted through the careful selection of inputparameters and length for each section.

      The solo versionof Signals Intelligence is to be performed on six indefinitely pitched objects of the sametype, arranged in ascending pitch. The performer is free to choose from a widevariety of objects, resulting in performances ranging from raucous to noisy todelicate. For this performance, Robert Dillon has selected six rectangularceramic tiles arranged in two rows on a small table.

      The solo versionwas composed in tandem with the ensemble version of Signals Intelligence, which was commissioned by theDuke University Department of Music for the Milestones 2002 Festival.



LiberPulveris (2005)


      Liber Pulveris was commissioned by ColinMcAllister for his Albus/Ater tour and was written to simultaneously address hisdedication to new complexity and his engagement with jazz. I employed a veryprecise rhythmic notation in the attempt to capture in composition the dense,percolating rhythmic energy characteristic of my improvisations for piano. Fromthis percolating field of rhythmic energy, a groove gradually crystallizesbefore being fragmented into mutliple tempi.

      The Liberpulveris (“bookof dust”) is one of four Latin translations from the twelfth century of Kitabal jami’ wa’l tafriq bi hisab al hind (The Book of Addition and Subtraction According to theHindu Calculation) by ninth–century Persian mathematician Muhammad ibnMusa al-Khwarizmi. In this text, known only through these Latin translations,Al-Khwarizmi instructs on the use of the nine-digit system of numerals, inheritedfrom India, for mathematical computation. The title of Liber pulveris refers to the method ofinscribing calculations into sand or dust spread on a board, which was widelypracticed in India and in the Arab empire before the use of paper becomeubiquitous. These ‘ghubar’ (dust) numerals, made their way to the West throughthese Latin translations, where they were referred to as algorismi, and are now called Arabnumerals.



I Wantto Believe (2002)


      I Want toBelieve is namedfor the UFO poster made famous by its appearance on Fox Mulder’s FBI officewall in the X-Files. I wrote the piece with woodwind player Alan Lechusza in mind basedon our experience working together in a free improvising duo and trio since2000. The piece is based on selected musical configurations (certain grooves,textures or ‘feels’) which had become characteristic of our collaboration tothat point, here realized with a greater rhythmic coordination than is possiblefor two players to achieve through improvisation alone. On these grooves aresuperimposed different passages calling for constrained or open improvisation,in effect recreating the form and style of a collaborative improvisation butwith heightened compositional coordination. Here the juxtaposition betweengroove-as-control and groove-as-liberation is most severe. This piece waspremiered as a trio with Nathan Hubbard on vibraphone, and may be adapted to avariety of instrumentations.



EcstaticVolutions in a Neon Haze (2005)


      Aurally marked bythe grooving high C’s in the piano, this piece offers a subtle homage to thefamous American minimalist Terry Riley and his seminal composition In C. The first part of EcstaticVolutions in a Neon Haze is in a semi-open form, in which each performer plays a number ofshort patterns with the number of repetitions and the dynamics left to theirdecision in the moment. These patterns are, for all instruments exceptpercussion, ordered (as in Riley’s In C) with the instruction that once a new pattern isplayed, the performer may still return to old ones. Thus each performer playsfrom a progressively expanding palette of possibilities. As this process iscarried forward, a determinate structure gradually coalesces along a groovewhich first appears in the bass register.

      EcstaticVolutions in a Neon Haze was commissioned by pulsoptional, Durham, North Carolina’s Band ofComposers.





      Christopher Adleris a composer, performer and improviser living in San Diego, California. Hismusic draws upon over a decade of research into the traditional musics ofThailand and Laos and a background in mathematics, and he is the world’sleading innovator in the creation and performance of contemporary repertoirefor the khaen,a free-reed mouth organ from Laos and Northeast Thailand. He has beencommissioned by the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall and the Silk RoadProject, the University of Kentucky Percussion Ensemble, the Seattle CreativeOrchestra, and by many performers, ensembles, and universities, and his workshave been performed at prominent venues on four continents including CarnegieHall, Chicago Symphony Center, Tanglewood, Merkin Hall, and Sumida TriphonyHall in Tokyo.

      He has performedhis own compositions and traditional repertoire for khaen at Carnegie Hall, the Bang on aCan Marathon, Music at the Anthology, the Cultural Center of Chicago, theRenaissance Society at the University of Chicago, and at many universitiesacross the U.S. and Thailand. As a soloist and pianist with the San Diego NewMusic resident ensemble NOISE he has appeared at the University ofPennsylvania, Stanford University, the University of California at Santa Cruz,the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the University of California at SanDiego, and the California Institute of the Arts, and he is a co-founder of thesoundON Festival of Modern Music.

      His compositionshave been released on Tzadik, and his improvisations and performances may beheard on Tzadik, pfMENTUM, Nine Winds, Vienna Modern Masters, Circumvention,Accretions, and Artship Recordings. His retrospective analysis of his first tenyears of cross-cultural composition has been included in John Zorn’s Arcana2: Musicians on Music(Hips Road, 2007).

      Christopher Adleris currently an Associate Professor at the University of San Diego. He receivedPh.D. and Master’s degrees in composition from Duke University and Bachelor’sdegrees in music composition and mathematics from the Massachusetts Instituteof Technology. He studied composition with Scott Lindroth, Stephen Jaffe,Sidney Corbett, Evan Ziporyn, Thai music with Panya Roongruang, and pipe organwith James David Christie and Haig Mardirosian.




Aboutthe performers



      NOISE isdedicated to the performance of the most challenging complex, minimalist, experimentaland grooving music of our time. NOISE has commissioned and premiered works bymany of the most exciting young composers emerging today, including SidneyMarquez Boquiren, Matthew Burtner, Derek Keller, David Lipten, Rosalind Page,Abigail Richardson, Edward Top, and Erik Ulman.

      NOISE is flutistLisa Cella, guitarist Colin McAllister, percussionist Morris Palter, andpianist and composer-in-residence Christopher Adler. Lisa Cella is a championof contemporary music who has founded many active new music ensembles includinginHale, C-squared, NOISE, and the faculty ensemble Ruckus at the University ofMaryland Baltimore County, where she is an Assistant Professor. Morris Palterhas performed internationally as a soloist and with red fish blue fish. Hereceived his DMA from the University of California San Diego and now teaches atthe University of Alaska Fairbanks. On this recording, NOISE is joined by guestcellist Franklin Cox, one of the leading performers, composers and theorists ofcomplex music, and Assistant Professor at Wright State University.

      Founded in 2000as the ensemble-in-residence with San Diego New Music, NOISE presents thesoundON Festival of Modern Music annually at the Athenaeum Music & ArtsLibrary in La Jolla, California. In addition, NOISE has given performances andresidencies at many leading academic institutions for new music, includingStanford University, the California Institute of the Arts, the University ofVirginia, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the University of California,Santa Cruz, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, the University ofCalifornia, San Diego and the University of San Diego.



      Robert Dillon isa founding member of the Third Coast Percussion Quartet and an active performerand teacher in the Chicago area. He has performed as a substitute with theBoston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and hasappeared numerous times on the Chicago Symphony’s contemporary music series,MusicNOW. He has served as principal percussionist in the Madison SymphonyOrchestra, and has previously held positions in the Civic Orchestra of Chicagoand the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra. He has been a member of PierreBoulez’s Lucerne Festival Academy and the Lucerne Festival Percussion Group(Switzerland), has been a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, and a memberof the Spoleto Festival USA, National Repertory Orchestra and Pacific MusicFestival (Sapporo, Japan). Robert holds a Bachelor of Music from NorthwesternUniversity and a Master of Music from the New England Conservatory, where hereceived the John Cage Award for Outstanding Contribution to Contemporary MusicPerformance. His teachers include Michael Burritt, James Ross and Will Hudgins.



      Guitarist Colin McAllister is widelyrecognized for his innovative concert programming, versatility, and dedicationto adventurous contemporary repertoire. He has performed throughout the UnitedStates, as well as in Europe and Mexico. Recent highlights include the XIIIFestival Hispanoamericano de Guitarra (Tijuana, Mexico), Pacific Rim MusicFestival in Santa Cruz, Monday Evening Concerts in Los Angeles, San FranciscosfSoundSeries, Unruly Music (Milwaukee), Breda Jazz Festival (NL), Bohem Ragtimeand Jazz Festival (HU), California Center for the Arts, Escondido, and theColorado College New Music Symposium. In addition, he has presentedperformances and seminars at major universities including CIEM in Mexico City,DePaul University, Stanford University, California Institute of the Arts,University of Maryland, Arizona State University, University of Virginia,University of Wisconsin, and the Colorado College, where he was a visitingartist-in-residence. He is a founding member of the new music ensemble NOISEand the ExecutiveDirector of the soundON Festival of Modern Music in La Jolla, California. Withxylophonist Morris Palter, he performs in the SpeakEasy jazz and ragtime duo. His twobooks, The Vanguard Guitar: Etudes and Exercises for the Study ofContemporary Musicand Fourteenth Century Counterpoint: Music of the Chantilly Codex are published by Les Productionsd’Oz (Saint-Romuald, Québec). He has recorded for the Old King Cole and Tzadikrecord labels. Colin earned the Doctor of Musical Arts from the University ofCalifornia, San Diego, where he is a Lecturer in Music and director of theguitar program.



      Alan Lechusza isa highly evolved multi-instrumentalist and composer who’s playing has beencompared to everything from Eric Dolphy (Jazz Notes) to Paul McCandless (LATimes). His mastery of all the woodwinds and vast knowledge of music from allgenres around the world makes him a well-respected resource for composers andperformers alike. Alan Lechusza continues to perform around the world innumerous contexts and settings with the worlds best performers and composerssuch as James Newton, Anthony Davis, Mark Dresser, Anthony Braxton, VinnyGolia, and Earl Howard. In addition to maintaining an active recordingschedule, Alan Lechusza has recorded on Tzadik, Nine Winds, Lira Productions,pfMENTUM, Plutonium Records, Black Phone Records, and many others.



      pulsoptional,Durham, North Carolina’s Band of Composers, challenges and enthralls audienceswith its innovative new music programming. From its inception in January of2000 through the recent release of its debut CD, the non-profit new-musicensemble and composers’ collective has developed a diverse, devoted audienceand continues to attract listeners new to contemporary music with itsboundary/genre-defying, high-energy concerts. pulsoptional creates and performsnew experimental works for its eclectic instrumentation, commissions new musicby emerging American composers and maintains a repertoire of experimental “classics”with an emphasis on the American experimental tradition. pulsoptional hasperformed in music festivals, rock clubs, dance spaces and othernon-traditional venues, as well as prestigious concert halls. pulsoptional’scommitment to performing in non-traditional venues has attracted audiences ofdiverse ages, ethnicities, and social and economicbackgrounds. pulsoptional has offered performance residencies at the NorthCarolina School of Science and Math, Greensboro College, Tufts University, andDuke University. The group has received grants and awards from The Alliance forImprovised Music, The American Music Center’s Henry Cowell PerformanceIncentive, The Durham Arts Council, The Duke Institute of the Arts, The DukeUniversity Department of Theater Studies, and Duke University's GraduateStudent and Professional Committee.




Thisrecording was funded by the Office of the Provost and the College of Arts andSciences at the University of San Diego.


Iris recorded and mixed June 18-19,2007, by Josef Kucera at UCSD Music Center Studios, University of California,San Diego, California


SignalsIntelligencerecorded September 23, 2007 by Todd A. Carter, Chicago, Illinois, and mixed byChristopher Adler and Nathan Brock, San Diego, California


LiberPulveris recordedand mixed June 12, 2006, by Peter Sprague at SpragueLand Studio, Encinitas,California


I Wantto Believerecorded and mixed April 22, 2007, by Kellogg Boynton at Studio West, SanDiego, California


EcstaticVolutions in a Neon Haze recorded and mixed September and November, 2007, by Thom Limbert atDuke University and HotWire Studios, Durham, North Carolina


Originalphotography by Lauren Sharon, San Diego, California. Lauren Sharon’sphotographs are made on film and are minimally altered during printing. Allcolors are true to each photographic experience. The photographs werecommissioned for this recording.


Artistphotograph by Supeena Insee Adler


Specialthanks to San Diego New Music, the Duke University Music Department, PercyKelley, Evan Rowe, Nathan Hubbard, Vikas Srivastava and Galoka, Supeena InseeAdler, Philip Blackburn, Julie Sullivan, Nicholas M. Healy, Carmel Raz, GeneColeman and Soundfield, Sidney Marquez Boquiren, Lauren Sharon, and all theperformers.