četvrtak, 31. siječnja 2013.

Mico Nonet - The Marmalade Balloon (2007)

Picture of The Marmalade Balloon

Analogni sintesajzeri, violončelo, viola, oboa, francuski rog. Klasičarski minimalizam za skidanje laka s filmske muzike.

streaming ulomaka
Mico Nonet at MySpace

Echoes Interview feature - Mico Nonet

Really excellent debut release by a quintet of young, mostly classically trained players on viola, cello, french horn, oboe and synthesizer. This manages to combine elements of contemporary classical and minimalism with electronic music in a very organic and natural way. It feels completely right and doesn't feel at all forced or like the parts are uncomfortably grafted together. Their blurb says "A minimalist layer of ambient analog synthesizers with cello, viola, French horn and oboe performed by members of The Philadelphia Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic", and while I can't argue with that, it also doesn't adequately convey the quiet beauty and charm of this disc. If you can enjoy elegantly low-key music (think: Harold Budd, Terry Riley, some New Albion releases), then this will (quietly) knock your socks off! - www.waysidemusic.com/

Once all the synths and sequencers have echoed out and it is time to return to Earth, STAR'S END turns to The Marmalade Balloon (36'42"), a smart, artfully constructed EP by Mico Nonet. Played on conventional chamber instruments (viola, cello, oboe, french horn) plus a well-hidden synthesizer, this work combines the idea of ambient music with the sophisticated sensibilities of the classical quartet. The most difficult part of this undertaking was in directing the virtuosic talents of four seasoned orchestra musicians towards a music that achieves a sustained atmosphere - away from the familiar climax and release of their repertoire. The Marmalade Balloon succeeds in maintaining a gradual coalescence throughout. Somber thematic workings move with deliberate slowness as this group carefully strides towards a sense of quiet musical contemplation. Through a unique intuition, the musicians leave enough room not only for one another, but for silence as well. The result is an incredibly beautiful and elegant music, so fragile that at any moment it may dissolve into thin air. - Chuck van Zyl

What happens when members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Richmond Symphony, and Baltimore Symphony combine forces? Mico Nonet. Cello, viola, oboe, and French horn are guided under the hands of producer and synthesizer Joshua Lee Kramer, who shapes the band’s sound into a peaceful accompaniment while adding the slightest touches of ambience.
carrie dennis, viola
carrie is principal viola of the berlin philharmonic. she was previously assistant principal viola of the philadelphia orchestra, and a member of the chamber orchestra of philadelphia. she received both her bachelor of music degree in violin and artist’s diploma in viola from the curtis Institute of music. carrie has participated in the marlboro music festival and toured with musicians from marlboro, and has also appeared at music from angel fire, the moritzburg festival, the tanglewood music festival, the new york string seminar, and the verbier festival where she won the juchum musical award.
efe baltacigil, cello
efe is associate principal cello of the philadelphia orchestra. he received his bachelor’s degree from mimar sinan university conservatory in his native istanbul, turkey, and then received his artist’s diploma at the curtis institute, where he was the recipient of the jacqueline dupree scholarship. since then he has won the 2005 young concert artists international auditions, an avery fisher career grant, and has been awarded the peter jay sharp prize. - www.last.fm/

Mico Nonet is a self-described “ambient chamber” ensemble and their debut release is The Marmalade Balloon, a CD somewhat difficult to slot into a single genre. Essentially, it’s a classical music album featuring chamber music played on viola (Carrie Dennis), cello (Efe Baltacigil), French horn (Paul LaFollette) and oboe (Katherine Needleman). All of these four people play professionally for various orchestras from Berlin to Philadelphia to Baltimore to Richmond, by the way. However, labeling it “classical” doesn’t take into account that, layered amidst the elegant string and wind instruments, are Joshua Lee Kramer’s subtle yet evocative analogue synthesizer textures. You may not always be consciously aware of them (even with attentive headphone listening, Kramer’s washes, pads, and shadings are discrete and under the surface). Yet, however slight the electronics may be, they add a dimension to the music that would otherwise be missing. For many ambient fans, though, The Marmalade Balloon may hew too closely to “long hair” music. That’s a shame because this is a beautiful and deeply moving work, unique without being abstract, frequently suffused with tangible melancholy.
“Rüya” opens the album and here the electronic effects are more pronounced, with ponging-like noises bouncing lazily amidst the cello, French horn and viola, the latter three wending their way somewhat cheerily amidst the synthesizer effects. “Kaika” features oboe prominently at the outset, and the piece has a rural/pastoral feel, with the synth shading being textural in nature, comprised of an occasional analogue-sounding wash in the background. “Maloja Pass” morphs the recording to a more mournful or introspective mood. Cello, viola and oboe are buoyed by soft electronic effects, quiet drones and what sound like tape loops.
Most of the album’s tracks are short (between two and four minutes long, with the exception of the nearly six-minute “Darana.”); in fact, three are under two minutes, including the somber elegiac “The Woolgatherer” and the solemn “Notturno” with its deep bassy synths rumbling underneath viola. “Gloaming” opens in a dark haunting vein with subtly glistening synth tones and bass drone-like washes upon which viola and cello mournfully “sing.” “Paper Sailboat” flirts with a playful mood (but still tinted with shades of grey) as flighty oboe is juxtaposed with soft swirling synths and semi-abstract effects which jump out now and then amidst the oboe’s melody. The title track hews closely to more traditional chamber music, swaying ever so slightly and again shining with a palpable yet gentle pastoral glow, gradually increasing in volume and drama as more instruments come join in the mix.
While there are obvious similarities between Mico Nonet’s music and, for example, Tim Story’s The Perfect Flaw or perhaps Kevin Keller’s Santiago’s Dream, the prominence in both the latter cases of piano as the main instrument and the more overt use of electronics means the similarities are relatively superficial. The Marmalade Balloon is, more than anything else, rooted firmly in chamber music aesthetics yet Kramer infuses enough electronics and synthesizers to differentiate it from a straight-up classical recording (“Hammock” for a good example of this combination of the two elements). More than anything else, what wowed me about this CD from the first playing was not just the emotional power and weight of the melancholic somber music but also that it’s all exercised with such grace and subtlety. This must be credited to Joshua Lee Kramer who is the driving force of Mico Nonet and the producer of this startlingly beautiful recording, although of course the quality of the performances of the four classical musicians can’t be overstated either. The Marmalade Balloon was one of the finest albums released in 2007 and I hope that it won’t be the last we hear from these five talented people. 

Mico Nonet,Maloja Pass / Hammock,UK,Promo,Deleted,7

Maloja Pass / Hammock (2008)  streaming ulomaka

Back in 2007 Mico Nonet released their stunning album Marmalade Balloon. Without exaggerating I can state that this chamber music ensemble is one of the most remarkable modern classical projects around. The instrumentation is (to say the least) unusual: Mico Nonet is a quintet consisting of viola, violoncello, french horn, oboe and synthesizer. Producer Joshua Lee Kramer combines the talent of four outstanding musicians: Carrie Dennis has been principal violist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for two years until she joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic as principal viola in 2008. Efe Baltacigil is associate principal cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Paul Lafollette plays third horn of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and Katherine Needleman is principal oboist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
While the complete Marmalade Balloon album has been released on CD only, the two pieces ‘Maloja Pass’ and ‘Hammock’ also have been released on a clear 7″ vinyl record. Due to the instrumentation the recordings are full of warmth, but also Kramers production (and an outstanding mastering work by Bob Katz) is responsible for the subtle and intimate overall sound. Though I’m not sure whether the pieces are composed in detail or – at least in parts – the result of an ambitious chamber music improvisation, every single arrangement is as organic and dynamic as sophisticated. A polyphonic form can be found in most of their pieces and both the harmonic and rhythmic structures are often interlaced and show an also theoretical background of the musicians. Though it’s not obvious why ‘Maloja Pass’ and ‘Hammock’ made it to the 7″ instead of even more outstanding beauties like ‘Gloaming’, ‘Kaika’ or ‘Rüya’ but it could have been every single piece off the album that had been worth it to find its place on the 7″ record.
There aren’t many chamber music ensembles out there that combine talents like these without losing oneself in virtuosity. Mico Nonet dispense with unnecessary notes and put all their energy in an exquisite interplay which makes their release to a heavily underrated record that deserved much more attention. I personally just hope that they’ll meet again for a sequel of this ambitions and simply wonderful project. Highly recommended! - electroacoustictales.wordpress.com/

15 Questions to Mico Nonet

by  Tobias
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Hi! How are you?
Hello! I am doing well, though it is too cold to catch a fish.
Where are you?
I am in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the USA, land of foolish politicians.
What’s on your schedule right now?
Completing Mico Nonet's second album with an expanded ensemble, an album of duets with members of Mico Nonet, an ambient collaboration with another electronic musician, and a solo album of ambient guitar, electronics, minimalist drums...
What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
It is a time of rapid change, where a diverse multitude of music floats unguided through vast portals. If there is a crisis, it is the low sound quality of the MP3, but this will correct itself as bandwidth and memory capabilities increase. The technological flip side is that musicians have low cost access to hi-resolution 24 bit home recording equipment, and that freedom has led to the release of all kinds of great music that might not otherwise have been heard.
Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
Mico Nonet embraces both the traditions of the analog ambient minimalist pioneers and those of chamber music. There is a growing chamber hybrid movement that bridges classical, electronic and post-rock that Mico Nonet is also a part of, though we didn't realize its size when we started "The Marmalade Balloon".
What, would you say, are the factors of your creativity?
The recording studio has always been my place to experiment, improvise and interact with other musicians. In the studio, sometimes I have a detailed concept, sometimes I just wander and try not to over analyze.
What “inspires” you?
I am inspired by the combination of forms, learning new instruments, interaction, the wilderness...
How would you describe your method of composing?
I don't consider myself a composer in the classical sense. Most people think upon listening to the "The Marmalade Balloon" that it was composed, but it was actually fully improvised, and then chopped into pieces and edited to produce the final result. 11 of the 13 songs started with me improvising a long ambient solo synthesizer/electronic piece on a single stereo track about 7 to 10 minutes long. Then one by one, I had the orchestral members of the group come in to my studio and improvise on top of my electronics. I would edit after each member's session, so the next player could improvise over both my original electronic track, but also over the parts the previous orchestral member(s) had played - this way they had the open space to improvise over just the electronics, and also the chance to lay down some parts along with whatever was already edited. This gave me the ability to cut and paste multi-tracked individual parts in a layered process to create the songs. The second album and duets in progress are being recorded with an entirely different process - group improvisations in a variety of ensemble sizes, no editing.
How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
For me, making sound is composing, as long as I remembered to hit the red button on the recording device. In addition to modular and polyphonic analog synths, some of the electronic sounds on "The Marmalade Balloon" are actually upright piano or Wurlitzer electric piano that I played and recorded and then reversed the recording and slowed it down to half speed, or otherwise manipulated - I do this with synth tracks often too - so the processing of sound is part of my compositional process also.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Not sure I would separate them completely. I lean towards music that is improvised, and performed by the people who originally created the music, over composed music where the performers must interpret another's ideas. I consider composing and improvising different yet related processes, as some composers admit to some element of improvisation in their composing process, and the creative moment is spontaneous to some extent in both methods of making music.
What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?
"New" is something unheard, frontier seeking. In the past few decades, "new" electronic music has sometimes arisen from either technological advances in instruments or recording, or hybridization and deconstruction of musical forms and cultures.
Do you personally enjoy multimedia as an enrichment or do you feel that it is leading away from the essence of what you want to achieve?
Multimedia adds another dimension especially to a live music performance that includes electronics. What intrigues me the most is the potential for visuals to be connected to the music becoming another instrument in the group, used subtly not to overwhelm, but to add another dimension to the ensemble.
What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion?
When the musicians know their music so intimately that they are freed to fully express themselves in every note. The quality of the sound system and acoustics of the space also can greatly add to the experience.
What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Performing is one of life's great joys, playing music that you created with friends, hearing it together with an audience in a great sounding space - a connected experience.
Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
I think artists should make whatever naturally comes out of them - there is room for sociopolitical art, and art that just evokes raw emotion, and everything in between.
How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
The internet is helping non-mainstream music reach a wider audience internationally, but pop music and soul sacrifice seem likely forever intertwined.
You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Chamber hybrids presented in a tour of reverberant mid-sized cathedrals, with multimedia visuals and minimalist ambient lighting.
Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
An expanded Mico Nonet, recorded in Dolby 5.1 surround sound in a giant cathedral improvised with an orchestra sized ensemble, synths being amplified throughout the space for the recording from hundreds of tiny old radio speakers, no two the same, spread out all over the floor. The ensemble's sound shifting from minimalist to enveloping. The release would be on HD-DVD or Blue-ray, high resolution 24 bit 96k surround sound audio, with connected ambient visuals, and live performance video. And also released on vinyl, pressed on 180-gram wax, 45 rpm. No MP3s. - www.tokafi.com/

Picture of Mico Nonet

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