Stanley Schumacher and the Music Now Ensemble | Way Cool

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Classical: Contemporary Avant Garde: Free Improvisation Moods: Type: Improvisational
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Way Cool

by Stanley Schumacher and the Music Now Ensemble

Improvised Contemporary Art Music
Genre: Classical: Contemporary
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Audio Logo
0:11 $0.99
2. Cognitive Dissonance
4:57 $0.99
3. Linguistic Engineering
2:47 $0.99
4. High Art?
2:44 $0.99
5. Darkness of Error
5:44 $0.99
6. Trombone On the Edge
5:23 $0.99
7. Out Is In
4:41 $0.99
8. Way Cool
6:13 $0.99
9. Back Talk
5:30 $0.99
10. Ambient Event
2:58 $0.99
11. Hearing Disorder
5:16 $0.99
12. Where's The Melody?
3:36 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes

As is apparent from reading the album personnel, this CD features the trombone, or more precisely, two trombones. The trombonists, Stanley Schumacher and Matthias Müller, push the envelope to the maximum, and the result is an eye-opener. They are presented here in a variety of chamber music settings designed to showcase the extensive exploitation of extended techniques for trombone and voice. In fact, the relationship of the trombone to the male voice is one of the most revealing aspects of this album. Being in the same range and possessing a similar timbre, the trombone and male voice both complement and imitate one another beautifully, resulting in a range of expressiveness that is unexpected.

The tracks on Way Cool fall nicely into three categories. The first category includes the instrumental pieces: “Ambient Event,” “Hearing Disorder,” the sinister sounding “Darkness Of Error,” and “Back Talk” with its distortion boxes. Also included in this category is “Trombone On The Edge,” a tour de force for trombone and percussion featuring German musicians Matthias Müller and Christian Marien. The second category showcases pieces featuring the interaction of trombone and voice. If the pieces in the first category demonstrate mastery of the trombone, then the vocalizations in this category demonstrate the trombonist’s indebtedness to singing, for it is often difficult to tell which sounds are being produced by trombone and which by voice as in the aptly named “Linguistic Engineering.” Also included in this category are “Cognitive Dissonance,” “Out Is In,” and the final track with its rhetorical question “Where’s The Melody?”. Finally, in the third category, we have two text-based pieces: “High Art?”, with its parody of foolish criticism of new art music, and “Way Cool,” a morality tale with jazz accompaniment.

Trombones, voice, a parody, a morality tale! Dealing with Stanley Schumacher? EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED!

-----Steven Eversole

MUSIC NOW ENSEMBLE: This ensemble is a collective of improvisers and composers of exceptional musicianship and imagination. The members of the collective perform in various combinations of players in order to offer a kaleidoscope of instrumentations consistent with the philosophy of free improvisation. Stanley Schumacher founded the ensemble in 2003 to present performances in both acoustical and electroacoustical formats and to promote the diversity and spontaneity of contemporary art music.

STANLEY SCHUMACHER: Trombonist, vocalist, and composer Stanley Schumacher is director of the Music Now Ensemble and president of Musikmacher Productions. He has an established resume in improvised music, having performed with Ricardo Arias, Rosi Hertlein, David Hofstra, Evan Lipson, Sabir Mateen, Hans Tammen, Todd Whitman, Nate Wooley, and many others. In addition, Stanley composes contemporary art music. A number of his compositions employ narrative texts, which often exhibit a humorous theatrical element. This humorous theatrical element presents itself on Way Cool in the title track and in Professor Musikmacher’s manic “High Art?”. His improvisation can be heard on previous releases from Musikmacher Productions, most recently on Jive At 5:05 (MM004).

MATTHIAS MÜLLER: A resident of Berlin, Germany, trombonist Matthias Müller is an improviser who performs in a variety of ensembles. For many years he was a member of the Deutsch-französisches Jazzensemble conducted by Albert Mangelsdorff. His CD Bhavan was released on the Jazzhausmusik label in 2004. Matthias has collaborated with many outstanding improvisers including Peter Evans, Nate Wooley, Rudi Mahall, Frank Gratkowski, Tobias Delius, Michael Zerang, Johannes Bauer, and Wilbert de Joode.

EVAN LIPSON: Bassist Evan Lipson performs in a variety of alternative ensembles. His improvisation credentials include performing with Stuart Dempster, Andy Hayleck, Katt Hernandez, Rosi Hertlein, Matthias Kaul, Lukas Ligeti, Toshi Makihara, Sabir Mateen, Tatsuya Nakatani, Pauline Oliveros, Mike Pride, Stanley Schumacher, Birgit Ulher, Nate Wooley, Todd Whitman, and Jack Wright. Evan has received both the Composers Forum SUBITO grant and Meet the Composer’s Creative Connections grant. He studied string bass with Michael Formanek and Robert Kesselman.

CHRISTIAN MARIEN: Berlin based percussionist Christian Marien is a member of numerous ensembles such as Superimpose, The Astronomical Unit, Stereolisa, and Computerband. He has played on CD’s released by Leo Records and Jazzwerkstatt and, in 2007, was featured on a solo CD released on the Schraum label. Having a strong interest in interdisciplinary performance, Christian collaborates not only with improvising musicians but also with multi-media artists (Ritsche and Zast), visual artists (Thomas Bratzke), and dancers (Hans-Werner Klohe).

PROFESSOR MUSIKMACHER: A long-time associate of the State Mental Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Professor Musikmacher performs exclusively with Stanley Schumacher and the Music Now Ensemble, which provides a platform for his “instructive lectures.” He was educated in Berlin at the Moravian Academy and at the St. Ursula School for Delinquent Girls where he completed his theoretical studies. Professor Musikmacher is well known for his essay “Oral Arts and the Negative Space Continuum.” Included in the venerable Journal of Oral Arts, this essay explores the metaphysical relationship of sound and reality. His recent book, Altered States: A Comprehensive Investigation of Reality, published by Didactic Press, has received high critical acclaim.



to write a review

Dominy Clements,

Music making about listening, not ego
This is one of those improviser ensemble releases which could as easily end up in the Jazz review pages as the contemporary ‘classical’ side of the coin, although the information sheet which accompanied my review copy clearly states that this is “Improvised Contemporary Art Music (Classical).” The jazz association comes to a degree from the instrumentation, and anything with a title like “Way Cool” has to accept that their disc may be redirected by inexpert record shop rookies. Stanley Schumacher has also worked with jazz-oriented musicians such as Lukas Ligeti in the past, but the main point to classical music consumers is that this is as much A. Braxton as it is L. Berio…… Looking at the duration of the pieces tamed my initial resistance to this CD, as did Schumacher’s intelligent sense of humour, which is cleverly worked into the music, delivering quite sophisticated self-referential messages. “Cognitive Dissonance” is an intense exploration of the sonorities and interaction of the instruments present, as well as giving us a taste of Prof. Musikmacher’s parlando vocalisations or ‘oral arts’ as they are called here. These sounds are delivered straight or through the tubes of a trombone, mixing the perspectives and semantics of vocal sounds which are suggestive of emotion and mood, and their equally expressive instrumental counterparts. Referring to Berio again, some of the use of vocals here may remind listeners of Cathy Berberian’s remarkable flexibility as a vocal artist as well as a straight singer. Growling is exchanged for lighter noises in the trombone/voice duet which is “Linguistic Engineering,” which includes the first time I’ve heard snoring used as a musical device…… “High Art?” is a crucial track, in which the essence of our experience of this kind of music is confronted by the creator himself. “Where’s the melody?” “This is weird”, “I can’t listen to this”, and a whole shopping list of expected responses are integrated into the track, winning me over at a single stroke. Yes, it can be ‘difficult’ if your references are limited to more conventional traditions, but this takes the kind of theoretical thoughts posed by John Cage and folds them back onto both us and the musicians. Why are they playing like this? “Do they know what they’re doing?” Well, yes they do – it may not be instantly appealing, but it does open doors into areas of expression not covered by 4/4 in G major. As I write, my place of work the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague is involved in a major international ‘improvisatieweek’ which comes with a health warning: “Improvisation may seriously improve your performance.” This is a form of music which is taken very seriously by a wide spectrum of musicians, but I for one am glad to hear Schumacher able to acknowledge with admirable lightness of touch that it can have an aversive effect on many audiences…… Bear with me on this as a general point, but my only doubt about this music is, for want of a better word, its legitimacy in the recorded medium. This works in two extremes. As with many of John Cage’s scores, the improvisational element means that no two performances will ever be the same, so in a sense only the ‘live’ performance is the genuine experience – the music formed before us, shaped by the composer and the musicians, but creating something genuinely unique and hopefully rather special. Play back the recording and it becomes repetition. The other extreme is that these pieces therefore can exist only in the recorded medium, but the question arises: do we want to hear them more than once?..... In the case of “Way Cool” there are enough interesting musical events to make this more than just a souvenir of a well prepared recording session, and let’s be honest, how other than on a recording are we going to deliver this or any other music to an audience wider than a concert venue. I’ve been involved with improviser ensembles myself in the past, and know how highly sensitive the end result depends on a deeply felt synergy between all of the players, and how easily the whole thing can be ruined by a single musician who is on a different wavelength to the rest. The Music Now Ensemble is clearly a bunch of musicians who have a natural feel for each other’s musical and dramatic strengths, and this album can serve as an object lesson to performers keen to explore non-notated musical communication. There is much to be said for the relative compactness and intelligent shaping of the musical statements made here, and I for one am grateful that the music making is less about ego and more about listening and expanding the limitations of the instruments and their interactions……The title track is an excellent little moral story about a “snotty nosed, iPhone-iPod-MP3-playing punk”, proving that irony does exist in the US. There is plenty of contrast between numbers, from the high-octane blast of energy which is “Back Talk,” to the moody atmosphere of “Darkness Of Error” and landscape of “Ambient Event.” Elements of continuity include a ritualistic triangle whose sharp ‘ting’ serves as a kind of dinner gong; stopping or starting certain musical events. I won’t promise that this is an album you will definitely like, but if the intricacies and freedoms of improvisation are aspects of music you feel willing to explore then this is as good a place to start as I could name. Don’t expect to hear any tunes however: indeed, like Wally or Waldo, where is the melody?

Tali Link, KDVS (Davis, CA)

Can’t wait to receive more music
Hey Stanley…..Thank you so much for sending us your cd Way Cool. Its awesome and is being added to the stacks. Can't wait to receive more music.

Steve Siegel, The Morning Call

Schumacher’s Creativity Never Ceases to Amaze
“Way Cool,” Stanley Schumacher and the Music Now Ensemble’s fifth recording, finds this avant-garde ensemble once again balanced precariously on the cutting edge of new art music. And once again, the Bethlehem-based artist has proved that German expressionism and the anarchy of Dadaism are still very much alive and well. . . . . .
This time, Schumacher explores the interaction of the human voice with that most vocal of all instruments, the trombone. Actually, make that two trombones, because joining Schumacher on trombone is Matthias Müller from Berlin, Germany. The ensemble also includes string bassist Evan Lipson and Berlin-based percussionist Christian Marien. Schumacher, with the help of his alter-ego, the mysterious Professor Musikmacher, provides the vocals. . . . . .The disc’s 12 tracks include a mix of instrumental and vocal pieces, although on some tracks it’s a challenge to separate which is which, and that of course is the whole point. Pieces like “Cognitive Dissonance” and “Where’s The Melody?” involve bizarre yet fascinating dialogues between voice and instrument, in a language of snorts, chuckles, and rasps. It all sounds somewhat threatening at first, then surprisingly friendly. . . . . .“Darkness Of Error,” however, is truly frightening, and evokes – at least for me – an eerie landscape of skeletal trees through which a moaning trombone pierces the bone-chilling fog. Providing welcome comic relief is “High Art?,” a clever self-parody of new art music’s narrow-minded critics, with text spoken by Schumacher (or was that Herr Musikmacher?). . . . . .The disc’s title cut is one of its most clever. A classic string-bass vamp accompanies this hilarious, new-age “Alice’s Restaurant” morality tale, told by Schumacher, of a “snotty – nosed, iPhone, iPod-playing punk from Russellville, Arkansas” who gets into a bad way in his valiant quest for coolness. . . . . .“Ambient Event” is an experiment in long, sustaining resonances, sounding like an electronic, cosmic “om,” and “Out Is In,” is another track where voice and trombone meld together in the growls and purrs of contented beasts….. Schumacher’s creativity never ceases to amaze. While at least for me there is a bit too much fuzzbox in the über-distorted “Back Talk,” his deceptively simple compositions warrant multiple hearings.