Ghost Ensemble: Arctic Air presents Pauline Oliveros’s whisper-soft large-ensemble work Arctic Air alongside Wilfrido Terrazas’s Ifigenia en, Ben Richter’s Wind People, the West Coast premiere of James Ilgenfritz’s Apophenia V: Outmoded Large Crumbling Oval Lime-Green Midwestern Plastic-Frame Reading Glasses, and the world premiere of a new work by Marguerite Brown.
In Arctic Air, the fragile and ephemeral intricacies of individual sounds weave together to form a shimmering sonic web that guides listeners’ perception toward concentrated deep listening. Terrazas’s Ifigenia en creates an ecosystem of alternately hyperactive and dissolving “growth modules”, manifested with a malleable temporality that asks the performers to search for “a hidden oral tradition of the piece”. James Ilgenfritz’s Apophenia V challenges the human tendency to perceive patterns in ostensibly unconnected material; Richter’s Wind People, “a massive drone of lapidary detail” (Peter Margasak, Bandcamp Daily), evokes a sense of awesome transcendence and doom as the 10-piece ensemble builds to a crushing climax. Seattle-based composer Marguerite Brown explores new mediums, forms, and performance practices that foster connectivity and encourage a collective freedom of expression.
Ghost Ensemble: Arctic Air features Margaret Lancaster (flute), Breana Gilcher (oboe), Ben Richter (accordion), Chris Nappi (percussion), Lucia Stavros (harp), Cassia Streb (viola), Ashley Walters (cello), James Ilgenfritz (contrabass), Scott Worthington (contrabass), and Carl Bettendorf (conductor).
We Who Walk Again
LP and download available now
“wonderful work … serene, rippling waves … stirring, ominous surges of sound … both exhilarating and a bit scary … thrums, throbs, and glides with surging and ebbing density.” (Margasak, Bandcamp Daily) • “Very fine ensemble playing — excellent listening to one another … cloudy, mysterious and dark … Beckettian in its slow spread … a group to keep an eye on.” (Olewnick, Just Outside) • “Beautifully performed and recorded … keeping you in the present … a body-felt sound mass … a multifaceted texture that evokes the primeval.” (Wilhoite) • “prodigious … considerable dramatic heft … a thrilling listen … well-crafted and eloquent work.” (Carey, Sequenza21)
Ghost Ensemble’s debut album is here! Order now on LP or digital download.
Praise for We Who Walk Again:
“The album includes a rambunctious version of Oliveros’s 1980 text score “Angels & Demons” … an appealingly loose set of overlapping, gently discordant long tones, occasionally ruptured by knotty bass rumbling that slowly intensifies. The general drone is steadily punctured by internal skirmishes between the instruments—sometimes frictive, sometimes piercing. Strings, accordion, and reeds coalesce in wonderfully sour harmonies—a collective move that still allows for each instrumentalist to freely express their individual personalities. The album opens with “60 Degree Mirrors,” a wonderful work by the group’s oboist Sky Macklay that draws inspiration from “geometric-mosaic patterns.” The work toggles between sustained astringent pitches highlighted by serene, rippling waves and stirring, ominous surges of sound. The combined effect delivers a woozy merry-go-round effect, a warped ride both exhilarating and bit scary. The album concludes with “Wind People,” a massive drone of lapidary detail by the group’s accordionist Ben Richter, that thrums, throbs, and glides with surging and ebbing density.”
— Peter Margasak, Best of Bandcamp Contemporary Classical: June 2018 (read more here)
“The Macklay piece, inspired by kaleidoscope patterns, oscillates between brief, rhythmically oriented kernels and somewhat stretched-out sequences, the tones in the latter engagingly sour, especially the multiphonics and microtones from the oboe. There’s a certain wry playfulness to it — at times it reminded me of a calliope — and an interesting mix of modern techniques within a structure that retains an amount of classicalness. It might fit comfortably into a Bang On a Can program, but it’s better than that.
Oliveros’s Angels & Demons is a text score, asking the ensemble to evoke “collective guardian spirits” (angels) and “individual spirits of creative genius” (demons) … Low, growling bass attacks help ground the long, floating lines above; soil and mist. Very fine ensemble playing — excellent listening to one another.
The Richter work occupies Side B. A cloudy, mysterious and dark opening, low rumbles and moans with the odd sharp glint through the shadows. It throbs, pulsates, moves inch by inch, Beckettian in its slow spread. Some wonderful tonalities are generated in the shifting lines of varying lengths, the interplay of those deep tones with the soft plucking of the harp and an occasional hesitant but steady, dull beat of a drum. Matters begin to coalesce toward the end, dense lines forming, surging off into the hazy dark, perhaps offering just a bit more direction than was apparent at the start; not a light at the end of a tunnel, but maybe the faintest of glimmers. A very strong piece, my favorite on this recording.
Very good work all around, certainly a group to keep an eye on.”
— Brian Olewnick, Just Outside (read more here)
“Music composed for a deep listening that fixes you in the present has fascinated me for well over a decade now. As someone who is constantly thinking of the past or the future, I find it incredibly challenging to stay with the present. When I do manage to rise to the challenge I always find it transformative, and I’ve never risen to that challenge without the help of present-focused music. We Who Walk Again by Ghost Ensemble—released on May 18th—is full of such music. Indeed, the ensemble “takes as a common touchstone the Deep Listening practice of Pauline Oliveros,” whose work Angels and Demons is featured. Beautifully performed and recorded, these unique pieces get their full due on this album.
60 Degree Mirrors by Sky Macklay … After an abrupt full-ensemble pulsation, shards of high, biting clusters cut through sparser moments and the occasional swooping scalar motion, evoking the kaleidoscope implied by the title. Towards the middle of the piece these high clusters take over the texture, the piercing sounds demanding your attention without ever moving you forward in time; that is, keeping you in the present. This section transforms into a texture that incorporates lower sounds and a rhythmic lick that recurs unpredictably. The piece ends again in the high register, with slow-moving clusters.
Angels and Demons by Pauline Oliveros … Dyads and intricate, denser chords float in and out of the air against a backdrop of quiet cymbal scraping. Suddenly a growling contrabass line interjects into the gossamer texture, which then begins to swell in volume, growing into a body-felt sound mass. Skittering blocks and a tumbling rhythm give way to breathy grunting and accented harp chords. The sound mass returns, enveloping, pulsing, and eventually dissipating. A frenetic wind line cuts through a low-resonance foundation just before the piece fades to silence.
Wind People by Ben Richter … The piece emerges out of a hushed stasis, the contrabass lines repeating two notes in unpredictable rhythmic patterns amid an almost drone-like sustaining texture. Subtle, deep moaning gestures appear after about 4 minutes, effecting an eventual transformation of the drone-like texture into something more unsettled. The descending gestures persist, seemingly pulling ever-deeper even as the volume subtly increases. Winds and accordion pierce through this around minute 8, but the pull into the deep continues. Three minutes later the piercing sounds return, raising the volume considerably. Deeper and more resonant the piece continues, in a multifaceted texture that evokes the primeval. As the end approaches, the entire ensemble focuses in on one note, swelling loud and soft, before diminishing by nano-decibels over several minutes into silence.”
— Meg Wilhoite, meg’s new music blog (read more here)
“Since its inception Ghost Ensemble has been associated with Oliveros’ work … it is fitting that We Who Walk Again, their debut recording, features the first studio recording of the Oliveros piece Angels and Demons … Starting in the Feldman realm of spare pianissimo fragments, a long range crescendo shapes the piece … enabled by successively more penetrating held pitches, extended techniques, syncopated percussion, and an eventual blossoming of rangy melodic gestures …
The group’s oboist Sky Macklay is also a composer on the rise … Macklay’s 60 Degree Mirrors revels in the extended techniques available to winds. Her command of multiphonics and microtones on the oboe is prodigious … The piece also has spectral roots, with shimmering overtones, particularly “crunchy” upper partials, demonstrating an edgier side of the “deep listening” continuum. 60 Degree Mirrors is not just technically sophisticated; it has considerable dramatic heft and proves to be a thrilling listen.
Ghost Ensemble’s founder, accordionist and composer Ben Richter, provides the recording’s other piece, Wind People … it affords the group the opportunity to stretch out and engage in the shaping of a larger arc. Long glissandos played by bassist James Ilgenfritz provide a particularly resonant touchstone, and similar sliding tones from violist Hannah Levinson and cellist Maria Hadge underscore its structural character. Meanwhile, the winds explore all manner of overtones, sometimes punctuating the proceedings with held pitches appearing in contrast to the yawning slides, at others engaging in pitch bends of their own. Percussionist Chris Nappi provides under-girding drums, subtle yet insistent … Over time, sustain becomes a powerful force traversing all instruments and registers, and sumptuous overtone chords saturate the work. A coda provides a long diminuendo in which overtones fade into thrumming drums, drones, and string glissandos. Wind People is a well-crafted and eloquent work …
Richter says that he sought to “draw a sense of peace and comfort from our smallness, transience, and fragility in the face of an overwhelming immensity, the music mirroring the constant ebb and flow visible when zooming in or out to quantum or geological time.” Amid today’s tumult, drawing peace and comfort from deep listening is a worthy goal, one that Ghost Ensemble appears poised to attain often.”
— Christian Carey, Sequenza21 (read more here)
“Ghost Ensemble do a pretty admirable job … three compositions, two by members of the group and one by famed John Cage contemporary Pauline Oliveros, roar and overtake you … Best of all it all sounds quite fresh … there’s a spark here that seems to have been missing from some of the experimental music I’ve had the at times (dis)pleasure of hearing.”
— Christopher Stigliano, Blog to Comm (read more here)
Ghost Ensemble depends on your support to make this music happen, with a bountiful season in store for the coming year. Ghost Ensemble is still accepting donations toward our 2018 season on Fractured Atlas; contributions for the purposes of Ghost Ensemble are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
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