Music Reviews from the Staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House


December 10, 2016
Non-Idiomatic Improvisation of 2016
Despite the occasional derision that our endeavor brings upon us from respectable parties in both the literary and musical worlds, we at the Poison Pie Publishing House continue to insist that our publications are generated through a non-idiomatic improvisational creative process1,2. The principle in-house author, David J. Keffer, studied (and continues to study) the discipline of non-idiomatic improvisation as practiced by musicians of the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century3. He then transferred this practice from music to literature. To our knowledge, Keffer is the only practitioner working in the cultural margin known as a literature of non-idiomatic improvisation. Seemingly inured to barbs and indifferent to a comprehensive absence of critical or popular reception, he remains compelled to employ this process, having generated dozens of novels4, illustrated books5 and prayer books6 for the Poison Pie Publishing House. He remains inspired by the example of those who practiced the art of non-idiomatic improvisation before him. He takes comfort in the words of the experimental American saxophonist, Ornette Coleman: "...I've tried to find a way to avoid feeling guilty for doing something that other people don't do."7

The staff of the Poison Pie Publishing House also believes in an egalitarian relationship between musician and listener or between writer and reader. If the author desires for one hundred people to read her/his books then she/he should first read a hundred books. That this formula cannot possibly apply to authors/musicians who sell a million copies of a book/recording only underscores the unbalanced and non-egalitarian nature of the contemporary book publishing and music production industry. Adopting such a philosophy naturally forces the curious reader/listener to seek out other voices. Those books/records that have already been read/heard a million times have no need of us; their work has already been accomplished. In this ambitious endeavor, we admittedly perform poorly. We accept the pursuit as a goal to which we aspire while conceding a routine failure to achieve it.

With this long-winded and nebulous disclaimer behind us, we present a dozen of our favorite recordings released in 2016!

  • Susan Alcorn - Evening Tales (Mystra Records, 018, April, 2016, United States/Canada, lp,
    "This lp arrived in a cover and sleeve for Kenny Roger's Greatest Hits. Sure the cover had a unique silkscreen painted over the front and back of it but the sleeve inside was pristine, vintage KR. As if that wasn't cool enough the solo pedal steel guitar sent us over the moon."

  • Oren Ambarchi, Keiji Haino & Jim O'Rourke - I wonder if you noticed "I'm Sorry" is such a lovely sound It keeps things from getting worse (Black Truffle Records/medama records, BT021/mr07, June, 2016, Australia/Japan, lpx2,
    "Side A features Haino on bağlama and voice with a rhythm section. Bağlama! Say no more."

  • Harry Bertoia - Sonambient Complete Collection (Important Records, IMPREC 419, 2016 (originally released 1970, 1978), United States, cdx11+book+box,
    "For years we had to be satisfied with a 1978 warped vinyl copy of "Gong Gong/Elemental". In one fell swoop, we have everything! Many delirious days were spent in the company of these eleven discs on repeat."

  • Anthony Braxton - Trillium J Composition No. 380 "The Non-Unconfessionables" (New Braxton House, NBH-906, April 1, 2016, United States, cdx4+dvd+book+box,
    "We continue to experience the wonderful confirmation that we lack the necessary apparatus or attenuation to appreciate the profundity of the Trillium opera cycle!"

  • Peter Brötzmann & Heather Leigh - Ears Are Filled With Wonder (Trost Records, TR 147, 2016, Austria, lp+mp3dl,
    "Leigh on pedal steel guitar provides sometimes delicate and sometimes dynamic accompaniment to Brötzmann's reeds."

  • Mary Halvorson Octet - Away with You (Firehouse 12 Records, FH12-04-01-024, October, 2016, United States, cd,
    "Halvorson expanded her septet with the addition of Susan Alcorn and wrote compositions that allow not only Alcorn but all eight voices to flourish."

  • Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith - A Cosmic Rhythm with each Stroke (ECM Records, ECM 2486, March 11, 2016, Germany, cd,
    "We saw this piano and trumpet duet performed live in 2016! Best concert of the century thus far!"

  • Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble - Moments of Fatherhood (Rogue Art, ROG-0068, 2016, France, cd,
    "In a year when our President-Elect said, African Americans and Hispanics are living in hell. You walk down the street and you get shot (Sept. 26, 2016), we especially need music like this which explicitly celebrates the many positive examples of African American fathers. Prescient."

  • Pauline Oliveros, Roscoe Mitchell, Jon Tilbury & Wadada Leo Smith - Nessuno (i dischi di angelica, IDA 035, 2016, Italy, cd,
    "What can one say? When this music was performed on May 8, 2011, the combined age of these four musicians was 294 and a half years. One hears the passage of three centuries in this piece. Already, only three remain among us."

  • Colin Stetson - Sorrow: A Reimagining Of Gorecki's 3rd Symphony (52Hz Records, 52HZ001LP, 2016, Unknown Country, lpx2+mp3dl,
    "A careful interpretation that caused us to relisten to the original several times then return to this new recording and listen again with renewed ears."

  • Henry Threadgill w/ Ensemble Double Up - Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (PI Recordings, PI64, April, 2016, United States, cd,
    "This work is dedicated to Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris, a favorite of ours, who wrote, The idea that a music's outcome be predetermined is long a dead issue with me."

  • And Also the Trees - Born Into the Waves (No label, AATTLP09, March 18, 2016, United Kingdom, lp,
    "Yes, we know this last album is not a work of non-idiomatic improvisation, but it is so lovely that we included it in our favorites all the same. We accept that non-idiomatic improvisation is not the only mechanism for the creation of beauty. (It's just the one we usually prefer.)"


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