Classical CD Reviews

PAT MUCHMORE: Fracture – “Anti Social Music” – various performers – Innova

There is a message or meaning here somewhere but I don’t get it…

Published on July 19, 2010

PAT MUCHMORE: Fracture – “Anti Social Music” – various performers – Innova

PAT MUCHMORE: Fracture – “Anti Social Music” – Jen Baker (trombone)/Hubert Chen (violin)/Jean Cook (violin)/Leanne Darling (viola)/Loren Dempster (cello)/Peter Hess (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet)/Jeff Hudgins (soprano saxophone)/Andrea LaRose(flute)/Danny Mulligan (electric guitar)/Dan Neustadt (piano)/Franz Nicolay (accordion)/Evan Rapport (alto saxophone)/Maria Sonevytsky (accordion, piano)/Phippa Thompson (viola)/Ken Thomson (baritone saxophone, clarinet, alto saxophone)/Pat Muchmore (cello, electronics, voice)– Innova Recordings 760, CD: 66:51 *:

John Cage once said that if you believe in the concept of chance music, you have to accept the chance that it will not turn out well. Therein lies the first problem with hearing the music of Pat Muchmore. It is not possible, simply from listening, to tell if these pieces are all through composed or if they are all pure improvisation or are they a combination? The central piece(s) on this disc are Muchmore’s “Broken Aphorisms #1-14." Some of the sections or movements of this work sound fully planned; presumably, fully written out. Not being familiar with Muchmore’s music, I say that some of it sounds completely as if it is played spontaneously and some sounds more traditionally planned because there is a traditionally based “sound” that equates itself with “planned” as opposed to chance or improv. I have played enough of each to at least make suppositions.

The sections or movements – except for his “String Quartet no. 2” (as traditionally nomenclatured as it gets!) all bear stylistic indications and/or incomprehensible subtitles. A piece, according to this disc, is marked “perpetuo” or “austere” and may also be marked “epthuedroeks” or even in Arabic. Therein lies the next problem with this disc and, for me, the biggest. There are no liner notes at all. Essential questions such as, “Who is Pat Muchmore?” “Where was he trained?” “What is he trying to achieve or portray with his music?” go completely unanswered for the uninitiated (like myself). After doing an internet search to find Mr. Muchmore’s website, some of those answers can be had there. However, the impression of the CD is that it is intended for the cognizenti and that the website is reflective of the composer, of course, who – it seems – fashions himself an outsider to the world of classical or straight jazz composition and as an “insider” to those who do know and do get it. But if you just pick up the disc as your first exposure, I suspect it helps a great deal to have heard Muchmore and his ensemble live first (actually I think that might be a very envigorating experience! I recall seeing the Glenn Branca ensemble once).

There is no quibble with the recording and certainly not the skill of the performers who can clearly turn out the most violent but dead on multiphonics, ultra-altissimo, overtones, measured feedback, violent but controlled bowings and – occasionally – beautiful jazz flavored melodies. The problem with this release is the lack of listener information. You either instantly “get it” or – well, you do not. John Cage would have accepted the chance that you do not. (There’s no denying it’s anti-social…Ed.]

 — Daniel Coombs




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