Stanley Schumacher and the Music Now Ensemble | Experimental Music Lab

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Experimental Music Lab

by Stanley Schumacher and the Music Now Ensemble

Improvised Contemporary Art Music
Genre: Classical: Contemporary
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Audio Logo
0:09 $0.99
2. Bone Moan
4:24 $0.99
3. Power Duo
6:02 $0.99
4. What's in a Name?
5:53 $0.99
5. Dynamic Interface
4:49 $0.99
6. Noir
7:32 $0.99
7. Mouth Sounds
4:32 $0.99
8. B Movie
8:06 $0.99
9. Ear Training
4:32 $0.99
10. Performin' Artiste
3:56 $0.99
11. Machine Language
8:19 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes

Music will never be the same after Professor Musikmacher gets through with it! In his zeal to further musical understanding, he favors us on this CD with a series of “illustrative lectures” about contemporary music wherein the music itself is both the illustration and the lecture. The lectures were created in The Professor’s Experimental Music Lab, using analytical models developed at Berlin’s St. Ursula’s School for Delinquent Girls. One picture, or in this case, one illustration, is worth a thousand words.

After showing us in “Bone Moan” the alchemy of processing old trombones into new trombones, The Professor reminds us in “Power Duo” that we are dealing with texture rather than pitch. The linguistic exercise “What’s In A Name?” illustrates how meaningless genre titles can be transformed into a meaningful text-based piece. In “Dynamic Interface,” old technology meets new technology but not without some trombone angst. After a much-needed respite in “Noir,” The Professor explains in “Mouth Sounds” the necessity of the mouth in successful trombone playing (If The Professor says this statement means something, then it means something.). Next, in “B Movie,” we have an illustrative lecture about contemporary art music’s contribution to popular culture. In “Ear Training,” we are reminded to “open” our ears, and in “Performin’ Artiste,” we learn how Miss Holly forgot her Bible learnin’. Finally, “Machine Language,” which brings this electroacoustical CD to a close, helps us understand technology’s role in the continuing evolution of man.

Admittedly, it can be difficult to understand the relevance of all of this. Nevertheless, careful listening to these “illustrative lectures” coupled with some careful thinking will yield new insights into the communicative power of music. Remember, in this life nothing is free save for the grace of God.

-----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. Stanley also composes contemporary art music. His improvisations and compositions are often characterized by the use of brass instruments and narrative. Experimental Music Lab follows this pattern in its use of two trombones and in the narrative tracks “What’s In A Name?” and “Performin’ Artiste.” His improvisations can be heard on previous releases from Musikmacher Productions, most recently on Way Cool (MM005).

CHRISTOFER VARNER: Munich based trombonist Christofer Varner’s involvement in contemporary classical music began when, as a student, he played in the Ensemble for New Music at the State School for Music in Stuttgart, Germany. This initial interest led Christofer to pursue other areas of contemporary music, including composition, improvisation, and experimentation with live electronic, sampler, and computer music. Trombonist Vinko Globokar sparked Christofer’s interest in improvisation which is now the focus of his musical activity.

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, Pauline Oliveros, Mike Pride, Stanley Schumacher, Nate Wooley, Todd Whitman, and Jack Wright. Evan has received both the American Composers Forum SUBITO grant and Meet the Composer’s Creative Connections grant. He studied string bass with Michael Formanek and Robert Kesselman.

JASON SMELTZER: Jason Smeltzer plays the Theremin, one of the first musical instruments to use electricity and the only instrument played without being touched. The broad range of music he has played includes classical, improvisational, Middle-Eastern dance, nursery rhymes, rhythm and blues, and jazz fusion. He has performed at several venues in Poland and at the Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum. He performs regularly at the Drawing Socials at the AFA Gallery in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

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

Dave Howell, The Morning Call

Weird and Imaginative, with an Underlying Sense of Humor
Schumacher and his “collective of improvisers and composers” take music to its farthest reaches. Their lab produces a mixture that is weird but endearing, strange but melodic, accessible but unique, sometimes jarring and sometimes trancelike, and with an underlying sense of humor. . . . . .On “Bone Moan,” Schumacher and fellow trombonist Christofer Varner compete with each other to see who can get the most unworldly sounds out of their instruments. “Mouth Sounds” and “Ear Training” go further by having them use their mouths as well as their “bones.”. . . . .
“Power Duo” has Evan Lipson on string bass and Jason Smeltzer on theremin creating a mysterious landscape. The theremin, an electronic instrument known for creating eerie sounds in science fiction films, is put to good use here. “Noir” has the whole band creating an ambient vibe. Other tracks are improvisations with the two trombones, bass and theremin. . . . . .
Two of the 11 cuts feature Professor Musikmacher, Schumacher’s alter ego. The Professor is known for an essay exploring the metaphysical relationship of sound and reality, and also for being out of his mind. There may be some who feel this makes him uniquely qualified to appear on this CD, although I am reserving judgment. . . . . .On “What’s In a Name?” the professor chants the names of every type of music you might think of (“industrial…psychedelic…instrumental hip-hop”) while the ensemble improvises an accompaniment. . . . . . The Professor also appears on “Performin’ Artiste,” where he tells the story of Bobbie Jo Cantrell, accompanied by standup bass. Bobbie Jo is a girl without many prospects except for one pair of assets, which the professor describes as “47-24-36.” (“That’s right – 47…24…36”) . . . . . “Machine Language” has Schumacher “talking” through his trombone mouthpiece accompanied by the other three musicians. He is quite expressive, but no translation of his words is available. . . . . . This CD is not for everyone. But if you think that music today is becoming more and more predictable and you are looking for something imaginative, a visit to the Experimental Music Lab could be what you are looking for.

Bernie Koenig, Cadence Magazine

Both A Very Serious Record And A Fun Record
This is both a very serious record and a fun record. The fun part is clear with the opening track which is a yell lasting all of 8 seconds. And in “Name” the ‘professor’ just names every imaginable label put on music while Lipson improvises behind him. As the piece goes on the others join in, clearly having fun. And, of course, the professor is Stanley Schumacher. The point of the piece is to show how meaningless these titles or genres are. “Mouth Sounds” are just that. Musicians just making all kinds of noises, mostly silly ones, with their mouths, one of whom does a great imitation of a trombone. . . . . .And again we have a record that is clearly improvisational, but performed by musicians with classical training and experience. When they get serious about the music, what they play is definitely worth listening to. I especially like the contrast between the trombones and the theremin. At the end of “B Movie” there is a lovely duet between Lipson and Smeltzer. This piece is very atmospheric and could easily work as a score for a B horror movie. And the vocalizations add a bit of camp to the proceedings. . . . . .“Ear Training” is perhaps the most serious piece on the CD. There is some excellent playing by all. And like all improvising musicians, they all know when to play and when not to play. There is some great interplay between the two trombones, between a trombone and bass, and all with theremin. . . . . .“Performin’ Artiste” is a story about an exotic dancer, with great bass accompaniment, very reminiscent of some of the old Mingus pieces with voice, like “The Clown.” While “Machine Language” uses all instruments in interesting ways, supporting Schumacher’s vocalizations, which, at times, reminded me of Clark Terry’s “Mumbles.” . . . . .A strange record to be sure, but it is fun listening to talented musicians having fun.

Dominy Clements,

The Kind Of Music Which Blurs Boundaries
Stanley Schumacher’s Way Cool album (see review), appealed to me for its at times tongue-in-cheek approach to “improvised contemporary art (classical) music.” This is a field which for many listeners is the equivalent of having to listen to pianos being recycled for scrap, but when it comes to any kind of music which is prepared and worked on seriously while projecting a light touch and at times an appealing sense of humour, my antennae become alerted to new possibilities. . . . . .The blurb for this release illustrates its contents so well that I can’t help quoting it: “Music will never be the same after Professor Musikmacher gets through with it! In his zeal to further musical understanding, he favours us on this CD with a series of “illustrative lectures” about contemporary music wherein the music itself is both the illustration and the lecture. The lectures were created in The Professor's Experimental Music Lab, using analytical models developed at Berlin’s St. Ursula’s School for Delinquent Girls. One picture, or in this case, one illustration, is worth a thousand words.”. . . . .The approach is perhaps summed up by the track What’s In A Name?, which spends a large portion of its duration listing categories of music, some of which I can guarantee you will never have heard. I now want to know all about Folktronica and Turntableism, but what indeed, is in a name? For us semi-initiated musos and composers there is no such thing as ‘classical’ music these days – one of the few categories not mentioned in What’s In A Name? you will notice – though Contemporary Classical comes closest. For myself I would tend to categorise music as Good or Bad and, other than a detailed dissertation on the Why when it comes to the Bad, leave it at that. This by the way doesn’t mean ‘what I like’ versus ‘what I don’t like’, though the subjective is always present – you may love what I don’t like, and I can tell you why some of the things I do like are Bad. There is also of course a conceptual field of music making which seems neither to fill Good or Bad categorisation, holding its own under a file heading which might be reduced to ‘Interesting’. The Experimental Music Lab is certainly interesting. . . . . .As with his previous album, Stanley Schumacher’s sonic palette nudges closer to free jazz than some through his use of string bass and horns, though the two trombones of the Music Now Ensemble often lend the quality of conversing human voices. I’m eternally grateful that there is no ego-laden drum playing here, and one of the surprises with this recording is the use of the Theremin, that haunting electronic apparatus played without touching the instrument, its sounds perfect inhabiting the electro-acoustic worlds of these tracks. The booklet notes mention that this is the only instrument played without being touched, but I would pedantically add the human voice to this category. . . . . .This is the kind of music which blurs boundaries. While listening to the quiet subtleties of the central track Noir on priceless open-back headphones a car horn sounded in the street outside my flat, and I had to spool back to make sure it wasn’t part of the piece. Why? because it didn’t belong there. It might have joined in and indeed been welcomed, but this is after all a closed studio world which permits no ‘concrete’ contributions. While I was tickled by the coincidence it also focussed my mind. There are indeed associations conjured by some of these pieces which seem to have more to do with life beyond a recording studio, but these are entirely generated by the musicians. Mouth Sounds at times reminds one of arguments heard behind closed doors, the sentiment of heated words comprehended but their actual content filtered by a barrier and rendered something which can only be interpreted through previous experience. B Movie is also good fun, with added electronics creating a 1950’s film set for our minds while unnamed figures slip in and out of our mental grasp. Like the teacher in the animated Peanuts cartoons, a trombone in your left speaker lays down the law in Ear Training, handing out instruction that the student to our right seems reluctant to follow. . . . . .In the letter which accompanied this CD, Schumacher describes Performin’ Artiste as “a tale about 5 minutes of hope in a life filled with a dismal past and future.” This serves a similar function to High Art? on MM005, forming a character for whom life is four to five against, but in this case creating more of a colourful intermezzo than posing deeper questions. Machine Language finishes the programme, and like the best of these tracks, is filled with quiet suggestiveness rather than the explosive Bone Moan with which the CD proper opens. Where less is happening and silence is permitted to form its own shapes, there is a greater feeling of musicians listening rather than just playing, and the contrast of the Theremin-rich Power Duo also illustrates this nicely. There’s even the suggestion of a melody in this piece – now who’d have thought it …

Cousin Mary, KFJC, Foothills College, California

Very unusual, often funny
Stanley Schumacher’s Music Now Ensemble is an improvisational group that does some interesting experiments on this release. Sounds include trombones in pain, fun with just the mouthpiece, and spoken word. My favorite track is “What’s in a Name?” which is a send up of musical genre buzz words. Very unusual, sometimes annoying, often funny.

Tom Walker, International Trombone Association Journal

Music With An Enormously Diverse Sonic Palette
It is apparent that Schumacher and the Music Now Ensemble approach very seriously the combined arts (performance, composition, improvisation, and all manner of recording and processing technology) involved in creating this very interesting recording. It also appears that the performers are not above burying their collective tongues deeply into their cheeks at times, for instance in tracks like What’s In A Name?, as well as the prominent role assumed by Professor Musikmacher – presumed to be Schumacher’s pseudonym or alter ego. . . . . .Recalling the definition of music as “the organization of sound and silence in time” may be helpful when listening to this music. While many of the sounds are not typical to the instruments being used, the sounds have certainly been highly organized, albeit perhaps at times spontaneously so. And Schumacher has called upon the very traditional method of utilizing programmatic technique to assist the listener in following the music. Schumacher and the Music Now Ensemble are capable musicians and have created music with an enormously diverse sonic palette. The Theremin in particular is used to great effect. For anyone inclined toward experimental music Stanley Schumacher and the Music Now Ensemble are highly recommended.