There was enough great music in 2008, that I could probably go on for twelve more days.  But all these things are arbitrary in one way or another, and the “12 days” motif seemed amusing enough. Plus I slipped that extra one in there anyway 🙂  I almost had a couple of days with multiple entries, but I pared it down once I decided to write more; it was enough to do as it was.  As I was visiting relatives while I was doing most of this it was hard enough to devote the time and energy as it was.  The lack of my books and recordings was also annoying, though I managed to find enough information online for my purposes.

So a few other great things that I didn’t get to: first and foremost Frédéric Blondy / Thomas Lehn obdo (Another Timbre). This great piano/synth disc was on and off the list the whole time and was until nearly the end a second entry on one of the days. The second great prepared piano work on Another Timbre (after Endspace which made last years list) and before this years Blasen by Sebastian Lexer/Seymour Wright. I love the use of the piano in abstract music and Another Timbre is putting out some the best. Only John Tilbury (on the next Another Timbre release!) is bringing more interesting work to the ivories.  Toshimaru Nakamura Dance Music (Bottrop Boy) is Nakamura’s best solo outing since Side Guitar and probably my favorite solo of his to date. If you can reproduce the extreme low end on this one, watch out! Stéphane Rives Much Remains to be Heard (Al Maslak) is a genuine evolution of his style from his brilliant Fibre and is well worth exploring. My second favorite solo sax record this year.  Finally right on the cusp is David Lacey and Paul Vogel’s The British Isles (Homefront), a mixed release with several incredibly strong pieces but whose centerpiece falls flat to these ears.  David and Paul are outstanding musicians (not to mention great guys with whom I’ve had good times in both Dublin and NYC) and I while I think this album captures some of their greatest music to date I’m certain their best is yet to come.

If I really wanted to go into all of the great composed works I heard
this year (and have yet to hear) another column would be in order, it
really is ridiculous to mix them. Christian Wolff Early Piano Music brilliantly performed by Steffen Schleiermacher (hatART) probably should have been given one of the days, but Wolff’s music, which I absolutely love, is hard to write intelligently about. There is a lot going on under the hood and there is no quicker way to expose
one’s ignorance than a superficial examination of it. I definitely needed my library for this (especially the collection of essays by
Wolff, Cues, that goes into nearly all of his compositions and methods). I’m going to try to write this one up later in the year though.  The Arditti’s disc of John Cage and Jakob Ullmann String Quartets (HR-Musik) would certainly be on that list. While I preferred L’Effaçage the long layered tones of Radu Malfatti’s Düsseldorf Vielfaches (B-Boim Records) was also a record I enjoyed a lot this year and makes for a solid one-two punch from B-Boim. I’ve been listening to a lot more Lachenmann this year after seeing him live and while I’d have to hit the stacks to see which discs were from this year there certainly were one or two that I feel deserved some discussion. This doesn’t even begin to dip into the pre-20th century classical music, of which I’ve bought my fair share of releases this year.

Of course there were the things I didn’t hear that I’ve meant to, the case for everyone for every year. Of things I know I missed there were a couple of new Morton Feldman recordings I must check out (Viola In my Life on ECM, Turfan Fragments and reissue of For Philip Guston on Dog W / A Bone), two new Matchless Recordings (“AMM”+ John Butcher and Eddie Prévost & Seymour Wright) and a solo John Butcher (Resonant Spaces on Confront). It’s possible this could be the year of three (or more!) great sax releases. A slew of intriguing looking releases on Cathnor were released right at the tail end of December that I’m looking forward to checking out. Lastly (from the top of my head list that is) that new hard to get Eliane Radigue disc is one I can’t wait to finally audition.

In closing I don’t think that any backward glance over 2008 would be complete without mentioning John Tilbury’s massive and long awaited magnum opus: Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished (Copula).  While I’m still in the midst of reading it (heavy into Maoism now) there is no doubt in my mind that this is an amazing and thorough work. Tilbury was right there and part of this, which gives him incredible perspective. He doesn’t flinch from pointing out his biases and peccadilloes and clearly delineates when he is editorializing. Assembling twenty-five years of research, interviews, Cardew’s journals, notes and music into this weighty tome was clearly a labor of love done with great skill and taste.  Essential reading for anyone interested in composed or improvised music in the twentieth century.

The Twelve Days of Interesting 2008 Recordings Index:

Day 1
Ami Yoshida/Minoru Sato Composition for voice performer (1997 and 2007)
Day 2John Cage Two2
Day 3Annette Krebs Berlin Electronics
Day 4Toshimaru Nakamura/English One Day
Day 5:  Masahiko Okura/Taku Sugimoto/Taku Unami Chamber Music Concerts Vol. 1
Day 6Annette Krebs/Toshimaru Nakamura SIYU
Day 7Radu Malfatti  L’Effaçage
Day 8Seymour Wright Seymour Wright of Derby
Day 9:   Ryu Hankil/Hong Chulki/Choi Joonyong 5 Modules V
Day 10Choi Joonyong/Hong Chulki/Sachiko M/Otomo Yoshihide Sweet Cuts, Distant Curves
Day 11Mitsuhiro Yoshimura/Masahiko Okura Trio
Day 12Keith Rowe/Taku Unami ErstLive 006 & Keith Rowe ErstLive 007