Praise for We Who Walk Again:
“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)
“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)
“All the members of Ghost Ensemble are creative and remarkable musicians … the ensemble became famous for interesting, evocative and original compositions … full of interesting and colorful timbres, sounds and tones … We Who Walk Again’s three compositions are absolutely different from each other … 60 Degrees Mirrors is very expressive and passionate. Colorful and inventive instrumentation … sharp and aggressive harmony … effective, original, rich and colorful musical language. Virtuosic and rapid passages, impressive and furiously fast solos, dark and heavy tremolos and drum rolls, turbulent and dramatic culminations, aggressive, sharp and harsh solos are gently fused together …
Angels and Demons … vivid and gorgeous solos, colorful and extraordinary sounds, strange timbres … a wide range of different musical expressions and inventive playing techniques … vivacious sound.
Wind People is the opposite … quiet and subtle sound … static and dark tones … melodic and rhythmic intonations are organically and effectively fused together in one place … synthesis between minimalism, post-minimalism, experimental music, academic avant-garde and free improvisation … effective, extraordinary and meditative sound.”
— Avant Scena (read more here)
Concert Reviews & Interviews:
“Ghost Ensemble is full of good musicians and they play with notable intensity … The stimulating pleasure of the concert had a lot to do with quality and their independent attitude.
Gann’s attractive score moves back and forth between an oblique minimalism—shifting chords and an angular, descending harp melody—and a graceful, amiable structure of melody and countermelody … Debating the specific style is an indication of how interesting and enjoyable the music is.
Richter’s Star Maker shared a philosophy with the concert opener—Pauline Oliveros’ The Well and the Gentle—and the work that followed Richter’s, Giacinto Scelsi’s duo for cello and bass, Dharana (the latter given a gripping performance). All these pieces use sound to seek an altered consciousness, from a meditative awareness to a look, perhaps, into a different dimension.
The Well and the Gentle opened the night, and is one of Oliveros’ “Deep Listening” pieces: a structured improvisation that depends on the players following each other’s ideas, giving the mostly long tones the feeling of controlled drifting from one improvised chord to the next … the ensemble produced a consistent full sonority, and it was clear how avidly they were listening to each other.
Scelsi’s piece goes forcefully in the opposite direction, the cello and bass pressing sustained, tight dissonances against each other, trying to crack open the fabric of reality. One simple, and remarkably beautiful technique is the use of long, slow vibrato, the sound waves yawing across a space that sounds like an ego-destroying abyss.
Richter’s work fell in the middle of these sensibilities, waxing and waning in density and volume … There are two musicians who spend most of the piece rubbing stones slowly against pieces of concrete. The gesture is a striking connection to the music of Jürg Frey and the Wandelweiser school, but where that music is quiet, Star Maker is dense and weighty. With the stones, the music sounds like something incomprehensibly massive is passing by, slowly.
Different in style, but equal in quality, were works from Simon Steen-Andersen and Macklay. The latter, 60 Degree Mirrors, pushes complex sounds together—such as multiphonics in oboe and flute—and is more technical than spiritual. It’s no less satisfying, though, with a touch of Ligeti’s “clouds’ quality and a bit of creative unpredictability. Macklay uses disciplined means towards expressive ends
Steen-Andersen’s Study for String Instruments #1 does one thing, and it does it fantastically well. The viola and cello play rising and falling glissandos, together in time, up and down the entire length of a string … The sound and sight of this elide in the uncanny sensation that one is seeing an oscillator’s amplitude and frequency modulate but with entirely different results.
Not a weak link in the bunch … strong music, made with a singular spirit.”
Ghost Ensemble embodies the spirit of rugged independence
— George Grella, New York Classical Review, May 18, 2014
Sound American #7: Deep Listening
Ghost Ensemble in conversation with Nate Wooley, November 16, 2013
The Musical Ecologies Radio Hour
Ghost Ensemble in conversation with Dan Joseph, May 14, 2016
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