CLASSIC OPEYE | 2 Discs: Free Downloads!


2 Discs: Free Downloads!

1) SILK!


Silk! is a companion release to Moss ’Comes Silk (HB CD 1). It was recorded by engineer Myles Boisen the same two days in September 1995 as the earlier release. It is the only time all of the instruments OPEYE was using in performance were individually miked and recorded in a studio setting.

The music is a perfect complement to that on Moss ’Comes Silk. The flavors of Silk! are more subtle, more understated, but the multi-independent musical form is perhaps stretched even further.

From the notes to Moss ’Comes Silk:

OPEYE’s music is founded upon a new world creative aesthetic: one’s own experiences and background are central, but the fetters of provincial cultures are thrown off — we have all become heir to every tradition: Shared Humanity in all its richness and diversity — and the future is likewise embraced.

Free improvisation, we understand as a non-idiomatic approach to playing — an attitude about what we are doing — which is to say that although we remain attentive to all of our music experience, we are not playing music that is tied by necessity or design to any particular style or idiom.

Spontaneous composition, on the other hand, is the actual organizing of sound material, that which takes place at the beginning and end of each “piece” and in and between the lines of improvisation. It is the notions which formalize newly-created sound and the ways in which that sound is showcased.

Musically, we spoke before these sessions about moving more in the direction of true co-creation: we wanted each player to be as much as possible autonomous while remaining indispensable to the creation of the whole music.

In performance, we also frequently utilize masks, textiles, paintings, and unorthodox costume changes, adding a cross-cultural visual component to the music and heightening its dream-like and ritual qualities. For us, it becomes akin to a living shadow play, full of multi-cultural archetypes and (at times humorous) ambiguities.”


listen to Opeye | Improvisation No. 32


2) The Sun Divination Session

The Sun Divination Session is a self-recorded OPEYE rehearsal session from August 1996 at which only Ben and Esten Lindgren and John and Henry Kuntz were present. The open-ended and relaxed nature of our meeting (on an unusually warm Berkeley afternoon) facilitated the creation of some particularly organic music.

listen to Opeye | Drum Bear (excerpt)




Disc 1: C’AMELEON (39:43) listen to an excerpt

Recorded Live & Mixed Direct to 2-Track Stereo May 25, 2002 at TUVA Space Berkeley Ca by Scott R. Looney.

C & P 2011 Humming Bird Records

Disc 2: WHALAPAG’OS’ (41:08) listen to an excerpt

Recorded Live & Mixed Direct to 2-Track Stereo May 25, 2002 at TUVA Space Berkeley Ca by Scott R. Looney.

C & P 2011 Humming Bird Records

HENRY KUNTZ: tenor saxophone, musette, wood flutes, toy violins, Bali & Java gamelans DAN PLONSEY: Turkish clarinet, oboe, tenor & baritone saxophones CLEVELAND PLONSEY: flute (slide whistle) MICHAEL ZELNER: clarinet, alto saxophone, flutes and pennywhistle ESTEN LINDGREN trombone, trumpet, drums, percussion JOE SABELLA: tuba RON HEGLIN: tuba, trombone SUKI O’KANE: balafon, marimba, percussion BRETT LARNER: koto, zheng; HIRAM BELL: ukulele, clarinet, alto saxophone, harmonica, piano JOHN KUNTZ: ukuleles, guitar, mandolin, gamelans, percussion BRIAN GODCHAUX: violin, viola BOB MARSH: cello, JEFF HOBBS: violin NANCY CLARKE: violin JEFF PURMORT: Balinese gamelan instruments MARK SALVATORE: Balinese gamelan instruments

The theoretical concepts for the OPEYE ORCHESTRA, a world-expansive free-improvising ensemble, can be found by clicking here:

Thanks to the musicians who generously gave of their time and talents to breathe life into the OPEYE ORCHESTRA. Thanks to Eleanor Lindgren who provided Ben Lindgren’s painting “Exotic Jumble” for the performance and who took the orchestra photos. Thanks to Scott Looney who did the recording and mastering. Thanks to Michael Zelner for making copies of the results for each of the players. And thanks to Arjuna who invited the OPEYE ORCHESTRA to play at TUVA Space. —
Henry Kuntz (May 2011)

Recorded Live & Mixed Direct to 2-Track Stereo May 25, 2002 at TUVA Space Berkeley Ca by Scott R. Looney.

C & P 2011 Humming Bird Records

Two Outrageous Sets of World-Expansive Free Improvised Music!

“Along with expanding the range of instruments available for improvisation in a cultural sense, (OPEYE has) been working to expand the formal bounds of improvisation itself. As a group, we have been consciously moving away from what I think of as a lowest common denominator approach to the ways players relate to each other in an improvisational setting. That is, we are not attempting to coalesce musically around some lowest common denominator note, scale, melody, rhythm, or whatever. Rather, we are attempting to bring to collective improvisation the formal complexity of a string quartet, wherein each player’s role is a complete role, perhaps even able to stand alone, yet at the same time absolutely essential to the group music…

“The OPEYE ORCHESTRA is a first experiment to find out how well this approach can work with a larger ensemble. It is, in a sense, a social as well as musical experiment since it explores the maximum freedom that individuals may attain within a group while still maintaining the cohesion of the group.”

– From “The Theoretical Framework for the OPEYE Orchestra” – Henry Kuntz (May 2002)


Free – Download

This download consists of one zip file containing the complete track list in 192kbps MP3 format along with album art in high resolution JPG format. Please click the following link: Opeye Orchestra Live at Tuva Space | FREE DOWNLOAD

Evan Parker and Joel Ryan | Other Planes of Here

Other Planes of Here

Reflections on a Performance by Evan Parker, soprano saxophone, and Joel Ryan, electronics processing, at Mills College, Oakland, California, October 9, 2010

Evan Parker

Joel Ryan

Evan Parker’s longtime association with players of electronics is well known and documented, from his work with the Music Improvisation Company in 1969-70 to his playing with his current Electro Acoustic Ensemble. Yet his one-on-one collaborations with electronics sound processors have been few, with minimal recordings.

The earliest recording, Hall of Mirrors (MM&T 01) with Walter Prati, dates from 1990, while the most recent recordings – Solar Wind (Touch TO 35) with Lawrence Casserley, Dividuality (Maya) with a short duo track with Casserley, and Live at Les Instant Chavires (Leo LR 255) with a long opening track with Joel Ryan – date from 1997, more than a dozen years ago. (1)

So Parker’s appearance at Mills with longtime collaborator Ryan was a rare opportunity to hear him playing in this context.

Evan Parker at St Peters Whistable | Photo by Caroline Forbes

Parker’s solo soprano saxophone music, of course, has likewise been well documented, and if you’ve heard any recent recordings – say Lines Burnt in Light (psi 01.01) from 2001, or Whitstable Solo (psi 10.01) from 2008– you’ll know that his solo music continues to expand in ease of virtuosity and in its astonishing multi-layered complexity. Parker’s single saxophone is in his hands a multiple-line instrument.

So what could possibly be added to Parker’s music by electronic means that is not already there? Certainly not complexity in itself, but perhaps a different kind of complexity, one based on extensions of sonic language unattainable through even the most virtuosic advances in saxophone artistry.

Of the early collaborations, all of which are interesting, Lawrence Casserley’s recording with Evan Parker, Solar Wind, is easily the most rarified and sophisticated. While Parker’s playing is central to the music’s realization, his physical sound is mostly audibly “hidden” in the recorded results. At the same time, it is being bent, stretched, looped, twisted, speeded, slowed, elongated, re-shaped, re-pitched, re-layered, and re-imagined by Casserley.

In a 1997 interview with Martin Davidson (2), Parker relates how he initially turned to free improvisation in an attempt to create a “music of the future” for a friend’s sci-fi film – then brought that “futuristic” impulse into his own playing in present time. Perhaps it is a similar impulse that is driving these types of electronic alliances.

At Mills, the stage was set with Parker, soprano, and stereo microphone on the right; on the left, Ryan behind a table with 2 Apple laptops that sandwiched some discreet electronic gear, all linked together by a maze of wires that flowed off the table onto the floor. The processed sound was sent to giant overhead speakers that were suspended in the air on each side of the performance space.

Joel Ryan | Photo by Caroline Forbes

In program notes for the performance, Ryan explains how he views his role:

“Imagining emusic as the direct manipulation of sound in the present moment. The desire was to learn to play with electronics in a way that could be included in the music of virtuoso acoustic players, in adapting representations of vibration and turbulence to musical acoustics, i.e. getting some air into the model. Mostly this involved a collaboration with a particular soloist to create a virtual instrument that they then both play….It is both a way that an e-player can influence the motions in the air and a way that a musician valving air can induce a music of electrons.”

How did the collaboration work and what did it sound like?

In truth, it began slowly and a little off kilter. Parker’s playing quickly filled the room and took the ear; the processed sound, mostly low blob-like entities, felt muddled and superfluous to the nimble soprano.

But things got better. With Ryan’s coaxing, the sonic balance improved and the music became more varied and interesting. The genies were released from Parker’s horn, and a pair of four and twenty blackbirds flapped furiously out. Large and small playful and mischievous spirits darted in myriad directions throughout the space – taunting, interacting with, and ignoring each other – and little high-pitched sounds danced in my ears, independent of the sounds being produced on stage. At times, if I closed my eyes, I would only “know” where Parker was because I had previously “seen” him there. But his freed saxophone ghosts were flying about, courtesy of Joel Ryan.

In the end, it was a mesmerizing and highly experiential performance rather than one emotionally engaging in any dramatic sense.

Did it reach the heights that Parker and Casserley achieved in 1997? I can’t say it went beyond the sonic language of the earlier music, though the sound was sometimes denser and more layered, but there were certainly moments of brilliance and, without question, of comparable artistry.

Henry Kuntz, October 2010

  • (1) There is also a 2004 release by Joel Ryan Or Air (psi 04.08), on which he creates electronic variations on the music of Evan Parker but without Parker himself being present. I haven’t heard this music.
  • (2) Martin Davidson’s interview with Evan Parker can be accessed on Parker’s page at the European Free Improvisation Home. Please click here… to read the complete interview.

Joel Ryan and Evan Parker from STEIM Amsterdam on Vimeo.

PLEASE NOTE that it is from 2008, so it doesn’t seem like a video of the performance under review…

Fresh Sounds from the Bay

There’s a tremendous amount of musical activity in the San Francisco Bay Area right now, more than one person can keep up with.

On a recent Saturday evening, while Evan Parker appeared with pianist Greg Goodman in Berkeley at the opening of a series of performances celebrating thirty years of Woody Woodman’s Finger Palace, the “XXXth WoodTenniel,” across town in Oakland there was a new presentation of Tom Djll’s “politically expedient musical” Mockracy featuring no less than twenty stellar local improvisers.

On the following evening, while I was joining the trio Wiggwaum for a show at San Francisco’s Hemlock Tavern, Mockracy continued in Oakland, and Gino Robair mounted an encore performance of his opera I, Norton at SF’s Community Music Center. There were also performances at the Musicians Union Hall in San Francisco presented by Rent Romus and Outsound and at Studio 1510 in Oakland.

Two days later, when guests Paul Lytton and Nate Wooley joined Mills composer-in-residence Fred Frith for a collaboration at Oakland’s 21 Grand, the show was followed by an after-hours event at the nearby Uptown Club by the quartet that appears on the CD Jus.

This is all to say that while my intention is to alert you to some of the wonderfully fresh sounds happening in the Bay Area, what I have to share with you is by no means exclusive.

Poor School / Wiggwaum (Killertree Records) is a first release by two distinctive trios in a combination LP and CD. Poor School is Bryan Ramirez – electric guitar, Nathan Hoyme – reeds, John Niekrasz – drums. Wiggwaum is Randy Lee Sutherland – drums, Douglas Katelus – Fender Rhodes electric piano, Loren Means – amplified trombone, flute, and voice. One continuous side of the LP is Poor School, the other Wiggwaum; the enclosed CD features the LP material in digital format along with an additional track by each group.

The playing is high-intensity throughout, though there are fundamental differences in each group’s musical approach. I’ve come to think of their respective approaches as symbolic of something like post-nuclear morning and evening ragas.

Poor School will wake you up and not take you down. Their modal and thickly drone-based song is awash in a sea of harmonics. Their music seems like a throwback at first, but it’s only that there’s a timelessness at the spiritual core of it. Ramirez’s high-strung electric guitar pyrotechnics most often take the lead in the trio’s rock-solid amalgam of ecstatic psychedelic jazz.

Wiggwaum shapes sound inside a nebulous cone of white noise from outer space. Their music might change your evening or your life. While its particles are made up of “real” sounds derived from real instruments, it is pushed to such a level of intensity that only a massive sound entity remains.

Randy Sutherland’s drums loosely thrash, crash, explode, and dryly implode within the sonic mush. From Doug Katelus’ Fender Rhodes come jangly runs of Ra-like “cosmic tones” or warbly layers of static-y stratospheric dis-chords that shatter and whir upon terrestrial re-entry.

At the center of the maelstrom are the distorted voice, feedback flute, and mutant trombone of Loren Means. You might recall Loren’s playing from Henry Kaiser’s Ice Death (Parachute 005). Loren’s new brass sound is like nothing you’ve heard, a muffled foghorn to guide approaching aliens. Combining crescendo-ing and decrescendo-ing globs of sound with Martian voice and Theremin-like feedback, Loren’s playing gives shapeless shape to Wiggwaum’s edgy next-age noise music.

Jus (Balance Point Acoustics) is a quartet with Jacob Lindsay – clarinets, Ava Mendoza – guitar, Damon Smith – ergo string bass and lloop software, Weasel Walter –drums. Walter’s presence on the CD, along with enclosed instruction to play it “at high volume” has one thinking that this might be another high-propulsion free jazz blowout. But Jus offers music of another sort, something unique to itself.

It is music that is continually probing beneath its own surface, extracting unassuming yet purposeful sonic core samples from its oceanic depths. The sounds are low-level, deliberately dynamically uneven, but occasionally something hard is struck, and there are loud explosive bursts and eruptions.

If there is an antecedent for Jus’s musical approach, you might find it on “Translucency” where, at its most active, the music calls to mind that of the Music Improvisation Company of the early 1970s.

Jus undertakes a total group approach to improvisation. Save for Jacob Lindsay’s short Giuffre-like clarinet lead that stands in high relief on “Discrete Flavor Symmetry,” there is little in the way of individual motivic development. Yet the music engages us because despite its lack of linearity, there is held tension in the lack of line itself, in the multiple little dramas that emerge in its intervallic spaces.

The Jon Raskin Quartet (Rastscan) features Liz Albee – trumpet and percussion, George Cremaschi – bass and electronics, Gino Robair – percussion and electronics, Jon Raskin – saxophones. There are twelve pieces of music, several based on specific-to-open graphic scores created by Raskin, others completely improvised.

Of the compositions, Raskin writes: “The scores are an ongoing attempt for the musical ideas and inspirations to be on the page rather than an abstract road map….Each work has a unique set of sounds, strategies and ideas given to the visual elements. Some of the elements in the score are composer defined while others are what I call ‘self composing’ where the musician decides on the material for the performance. The intent is to give shape and consistency of form for the ensemble while leaving open the path for individual language and perspective.”

The musicians are well chosen for that task and for their adeptness at collective improvisation. In fact, there are no real solos in this music, only continually evolving group interplay of the highest order. Individual virtuosity is fundamental to the quartet’s contrapuntal improvisational approach, but it is tempered by musical necessity. What we hear in the music are lines and riffs, weight shifts, and textural openings. Any player may stand out at this moment or that, but the integrity of the music as a whole is what we hear.

I also found myself thinking of certain music of Roscoe Mitchell’s or that of the early Art Ensemble of Chicago while listening to this CD, in the way the music devolves from line to pure sound and back again. It is interesting that in this context Gino Robair’s “deconstructivist” approach to percussion frequently leads directly back to the “little instrument” sounds of Mitchell and the AEC.

There are equally compelling contributions from Jon Raskin himself whose manner of understatement or of tonal pivoting can remind one of Mitchell; from the undersung George Cremaschi whose bold fibrous bass tone holds the music’s firm center; and from Liz Albee whose trumpet first conjures up Don Cherry, then whispers, growls, purrs, or can sound like an aggregate of children’s squeeze toys.

Zen Kaiju is an intriguing new CD featuring Kiku Day – ji-nashi shakuhachi, and Henry Kaiser – electric and acoustic guitars.

When Henry handed me this CD, he told me he thought this was one of his best recordings ever of pure free improvisation.

But what is at the core of free improvisation, and how are we to judge it? After all, free improvisation is only one method among many for creating music. But it is the most open method, one that suggests that while it is possible to play almost anything, what that “anything” is will be determined in the moment of musical transaction. The self that enters into and surrenders to such a methodology will not likely be the same self who comes out of it at the end. For what is built into that open way of creating is an inherent propensity for change, an opportunity on each and every occasion to renew and rediscover the self and the self in relation to others. The idea is not simply that the players should engage as musical chameleons but as full, present, and evolving selves.

That is what Henry Kaiser and Kiku Day do masterfully on Zen Kaiju.

Kiku Day takes that most ancient of Japanese flutes, the shakuhachi, into new dimensions. Mindful of the still center of the instrument, she merges its traditional plaintive call with seeming electronic slivers of high-pitched sound, dynamic whooshes, breathy and growly wisps, mouth noises, strange percussive tongueings and tappings.

Henry Kaiser’s post-Bailey guitar slows down, becomes charged and evocative. He bends and alters his phrases, strums successions of stringy, twangy slack tones, flicks quick starry clusters of notes into incongruous orbit. On electric guitar, he holds in place big chunky motorboat chords; he sustains into infinity loud wavery-to-pure tones, cries, and wails that at times mimic Day’s shakuhachi.

Henry Kaiser and Kiku Day — between them emerge moments of interactive clarity that reveal the essence of their musical personas. Their mastery of free improvisation is revealed.

Henry Kuntz (November 2008)
(Thanks to Martha Winneker for editorial assistance.)