Executive Producers: Craig & Diane Martin
Stereophile's Michael Fremer rarely rates a vinyl album with an "11 out of 10," but he did so for Yarlung's earlier Smoke & Mirrors Percussion Ensemble release. Mr. Fremer wrote: "The sonics here are spectacular. These performances were recorded live to tape with no editing by the seven members of Smoke & Mirrors. The recording is superbly transparent and well-captures the hall's natural reverb." Other reviewers offered equally positive comments:
The Absolute Sound's Jim Hannon reflects that this ensemble created "a wide tapestry of rhythms and harmonics skillfully arrayed across a broad and deep soundstage. There's an immediacy, clarity, and transparency to this modern classical percussion recording that seemingly brings the performers to your living room." The ensemble's first percussion LP earned a coveted spot on the TAS Super LP list.
Writing for Mono & Stereo, Carlos Guzman writes "the sound of this production is exquisite. A great ambiance is captured in this tape and the effortless flow of music is graciously submitted with precision and focus. The instrument timbres are accurate and the performance is second to none. The quality achieved by Yarlung's team is excellent, clearly expressed in their recordings."
We hope to make you just as happy with Earth & Wood, offering more tracks from these now legendary recording sessions in Zipper Hall at The Colburn School.
Lou Harrison's magical Canticle No. 3 fills side one. This concerto for ocarina and percussion, written in 1940 and 1941, uses the haunting primitive sound of the ocarina and a steel string guitar which contrast alluringly with Harrison's creative assortment of modern and ancient instruments. Joe Beribak plays ocarina and Derek Tywoniuk plays guitar. The earthen ocarina comes from many musical cultures, some ancient, but in this recording Joe's ocarina is a version of the earthen Maya and Aztec flute.
We experimented with our musicians in many different locations for this recording, since we used one stereo AKG C24 microphone and no mixer for all of our takes on this album. As Joe reminisced, "some instruments (like tom toms and snare drums) were designed for use with a modern orchestra, while other instruments, like the ocarina and teponaztli [a slit drum made from a hollow log], are ethnic instruments designed to be played in intimate settings. So we adjusted our setup to create the balance and tone quality we wanted. We brought the ocarina closer to center, and we actually rotated the toms 90 degrees counter-clockwise in order to balance these two voices properly on the recording. As a result we needed to modify the way we cued each other, since our relative positions were radically different from the way we stand when we perform this piece live. As with everything we did in this Yarlung recording, each challenge gave us a new perspective that enriched the musical experience and made it even more fun."
Side Two contains three pieces for two marimbas. We begin with Steve Reich's classic Nagoya Marimbas, written in 1994 and premiered in December of that year in Shirakawa Hall in Nagoya, Japan. Steve writes that the work is "similar to my pieces from the 1960s and '70s in that there are repeating patterns played on both marimbas, one or more beats out of phase, creating a series of two part unison canons. However, these patterns are more melodically developed, change frequently and each is usually repeated no more than three times, similar to my more recent work. The piece is also considerably more difficult to play than my earlier ones and requires two virtuosic performers." Our two Smoke & Mirrors virtuosi are Joe Beribak and Katy La Favre.
We travel next to South America. Our musicians chose darker mallets to present the world premiere recording of Argentine composer Alejandro Viñao's Book of Grooves, which Smoke & Mirrors Ensemble co-commissioned. Eddie Hong writes: "When given the opportunity to be part of a consortium for a new marimba duet by Alejandro Viñao, Derek and I were ecstatic." Arguably one of the most important composers contributing to the percussion literature today, Viñao writes, "The 'groove' or 'feel' of a piece is a pattern or sequence that repeats periodically in such a way as to create the desire to move, or dance, or to foot-tap in time with the rhythm. A groove always attracts percussionists since it can be such an infectious culprit of rhythmic propulsion." Viñao establishes his groove at the outset of each movement, but then deviates from it by writing odd meters (adding or subtracting parts of beats) and including surprising interplay between the two parts. Our two performers on marimba are Eddie Hong and Derek Twyoniuk.
Yarlung captured these performances with a single AKG C24 stereo microphone in the glorious acoustics of Zipper Hall at The Colburn School. We recorded each piece in its entirety, live to tape with no editing, to create the most lifelike performance possible. Rather than worry about how the ensemble would perform without the benefit of edits to camouflage mistakes, the members of Smoke & Mirrors loved the idea, embracing our concept that this recording represent a live concert experience. To amplify the signal from the C24, we used microphone amplification by Elliot Midwood.
This album proudly bears the seal and endorsement of the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society. President Mike Wechsberg, Chairman Robert Levi and the society's multi-year collaboration with Yarlung have enabled joint concerts and recordings to reach larger audiences; indeed many on Yarlung's technical team and board of directors are members of the Audio Society. Our Yarlung musicians join us in expressing our appreciation.
— Craig Martin
Earth & Wood is both a great sonic 'show off' demo disc and one that's worth frequent spins for the musical choices and the 'seat of the pants' performances. I usually write that percussion records aren't for everyone, but this one just might be.
- 180g Vinyl
- Recorded in Zipper Hall, Los Angeles, June 7-10, 2011 and June 3-5, 2012
- Producer & Recording Engineer: Bob Attiyeh
- Analog Tape Mastering Engineers: Steve Hoffman, Arian Jansen, Bob Attiyeh
- Vinyl Mastering: Bernie Grundman
- Executive Producers: Craig & Diane Martin
- Made in Germany
|Joe Beribak||ocarina, marimba|
|Derek Tywoniuk||guitar, marimba|
|Katalin La Favre||marimba|