… la musique de Brady n’oublie jamais qu’elle est porteuse d’une vraie charge émotionnelle. — ImproJazz, France
… sinuous, rapid-flowing melodic lines, syncopated yet utterly fluid, given precise unison voice by the participating musicians in what can only be described as a form of ritual… — Musicworks, Canada
Unison Rituals is Tim Brady’s second release on Ambiances Magnétiques, and features five highly original chamber works for saxophone and ensemble which point to the increasing trend among new music ensembles to play music coming from a wide range of performance traditions, bridging the gap between musique actuelle and contemporary chamber works. Though Brady is perhaps best known for his virtuoso solo guitar works, as documented on the 2002 Ambiance magnétique release Twenty Quartet Inch Jacks (Am 107), he is also a chamber and orchestral composer of great imagaination and these five compostions show the scope of his musical vision.
The title track is a powerful work for saxophone quartet. Brady’s at times obsessive use of unison melodic material (Unison Rituals) is a central element of this work, given a stunning performance by the Quasar saxophone quartet. The work is also unique in that the quartet actually plays a total of six saxophones during the course of the composition. The opening of the piece uses 2 tenor saxophones, plus alto and baritone, the central section uses the traditional soprano, alto, tenor and baritone, and the ending explores the colour of 2 soprano saxophones playing in unison against the deeper resonances the of alto and baritone.
The next three performance are by Bradyworks, the composer’s own chamber ensemble. Double Helix is a quartet for saxophone (soprano, alto and baritone), combined with piano, percussion and cello and features complex ensemble playing and interlocking rhythmic counterpoint. Two Chords Less Than a Blues features solos for each of the performers on tenor saxophone, piano and percussion. The work’s title refers to the fact that the piece explores two very simple harmonic ideas - a 4-note cluster and the Cminor7 chord - spinning out elaborte textural and melodic ideas from two very primary musical ideas.
Escapement is a quartet with Brady playing scordatura guitar. For this composition, the guitar is tuned to a differnet set of notes than usual, giving the work a distinctive harmonic colour. The final work on the CD is Sound Off, Brady’s 1983 outdoor performance piece for 100 wind instruments and 8 bass drums, done here in a studio version, using multi-track overdubbing to create an ensemble of 45 winds and 3 bass drums. The work moves from complex textures to simple unison drones to jazz-influenced ensemble counterpoint, creating a striking 12 and a half minute CD-version of Brady’s original 45-minute outdoor extravaganza.
CD (AM 110)
- 1Unison Rituals (1991), 12:34saxophone quartet
- 2Double Helix (1994), 13:11piano, percussion, cello and saxophones (soprano, alto, and baritone)
- 3Two Chords Less Than a Blues (1999), 10:21piano, percussion and tenor saxophone
- 4Escapement (1997), 14:56scordatura re-tuned electric guitar (
C-sharp, G-sharp, D, G, C, D), percussion, cello and soprano saxophone
- 5Sound Off (1983), 12:3912 trumpets, 12 trombones, 15 saxophones and 3 bass drums
- Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
- AM 110
- UCC 771028111022
- Total duration: 64:04
- Sympathique case
- 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
- 60 g
On the web
Tim Brady is, in part, a happy accident of geography. There he is up in Montréal, looking down at New York. Why he’s not facing Paris like most other Montréal composers, I can’t tell you, but there he is. He sort of orbits the scene, making contact but keeping his distance. He’s a rare Canadian member of a mostly-American movement some call totalism, which basically means that when minimalism appeared in the 1970s he thought it was a really good starting point but too simplistic. And so minimalism could be called perhaps the canvas over which his music is painted. Tonality is usually in the background, and a consistent texture, and repeated figures that allow the music to cycle in place at times. But since he’s a totalist, the rhythms are much more complex than in minimalism, the harmony takes strange turns, and the form tends to dart off at right angles.
If Brady were only a distant adherent of a New York movement, the matter would be simple. But there’s also something European and maybe even French about his technique, a sensitivity to timbre, fluidity of line, and intricacy of form missing from minimalist-influenced American music. Then too, Brady plays a lot as a solo guitarist with electronics, which is a very New York way to manage your career. But he’s also an excellent and prolific composer of chamber music. His chamber music has the concern for ensemble virtuosity (as opposed to soloistic) so beloved by the totalists — both the title and technique of the saxophone quartet Unison Rituals attest to that. But at the same time, his music has a European-style range, a kind of detailed expressiveness, not found in the music of Downtown Manhattan.
Unlike a lot of recent American music, no Brady piece ever remains what it seems to be in its opening measures. Unison Rituals itself starts out with the kind of fast unison playing inspired in younger composers by minimalist ensemble technique, but its initial energy unexpectedly gives way to something much more thoughtful, culminating in rhytmicized textures that are entirely Brady’s own. Double Helix opens with a deluge of classically postminimalist melody, jazzily syncopated with split-second hocketing effects among the instruments; who would dream that it would lead to an expressive saxophone solo over a series of threatening timpani rolls? Two Chords Less than a Blues (a blues only contains three chords) goes the opposite direction: from hesitant textures and even noise into a rollicking chorus requiring superb ensemble coordination. Escapement makes rare use of Brady’s own mercurial guitar technique in an ensemble context, eventually blending it into a lovely and intricate ensemble fusion. Finally, Sound Off starts from unison brass, ends up dramatically in major-triad triumph, but in between makes a dissonantly deep-set curve that no American piece would have ever attempted.
Which may all be a way of saying that while geography may have made a Tim Brady possible, it can’t entirely account for him. Beyond the influences he shares with his generation, Brady has a tremendous musical energy that pours out in a diversity of forms. His music is complex, but focused; there may be a lot going on, but you’re never left wondering where the main line is, nor in doubt about how the music is evolving. Whether he’s using electronic boxes to turn his hundreds of plucked notes into thousands, or spinning through unison rhythms with a top-notch ensemble, his music surges ahead in a convincingly organic manner, now pausing thoughtfully in a minimalist stasis, then breaking out into the diversity of timbres and textures that serialism made possible. Amid the stylistic pressures and possibilities of the late 20th century, between America and Europe, Tim Brady has not just picked and chosen, but found his own musical center.
Kyle Gann, New York City (New York, USA) [iii-03]
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In the press
Tim Brady, compositeur totaliste a gardé du minimalisme le goût du continu et des boucles obsessionnelles. Mais pour Brady, le répétitif n’est pas une fin en soi. Bien plus extensible qu’il n’y paraît, la musique de Brady n’oublie jamais qu’elle est porteuse d’une vraie charge émotionnelle. Souplesse des compositions, articulations collectives, sensibilité assumée, les partitions de Brady en appellent à la quiétude de l’instant. Importe peu alors, l’orchestration choisie (une pièce pour quatuor à cordes, trois pièces pour sextet, une pièce pour big band) et le contexte défini (l’agressivité de Sound Off, la plus ancienne composition du disque, ou les turbulences contrastées de Two chords less than a blues); quelque chose d’apaisé perce l’écorce d’une musique que l’on devine ouverte aux mondes. Mondes parallèles, mondes fertiles, mondes généreux qui s’entrelacent, s’ébattent et toujours se stimulent. A suivre…
Ce disque constitue une ambitieuse tentative de tisser de nouveaux liens entre le courant des minimalistes améncains et une sensibilité plus apaisée lorgnant du côté d’une épure à la française. C’est le second disque du compositeur et guitariste montréalais pour Ambiances Magnétiques, proposant des pièces - datant pour l’essentiel des années 90 - pour quatuor de saxophones ou ensemble restreint, autour de pianos, violoncelle et percussions… Une musique de chambre accessible et variée, qui peut être qualifiée d’académique par moments, mais dont naturel tout en rondeur laisse percer une grande intégrité. Une des nouvelles orientations de DAME?
Canadian composer/guitarist Tim Brady crosses the genres of electroacoustic composition, dance scores and improv. Based in Montréal, he’s drawn more to New York downtown than French musique concrète tradition, though Music Box Bell Curves on Twenty Quarter Inch Jacks was commissioned by Ina-GRM. That piece and Sauchiehall Street on the same disc use the now traditional if inflexible technology of live performer plus tape. The title track originated as instrumental music theatre for 20 young guitarists, but this is a multitrack studio recording by the composer. Sadly, Brady’s brand of domesticated Jimi Hendrix offers technical mastery without too many fresh ideas. Though there’s a raw energy to the saxophone quartet title track of Unison Rituals, performed by Quasar, this disc of compositions mostly for his ensemble Bradyworks is no more inspiring, and you wonder whether the composer really deserves his academic support network.
Tim Brady is very comfortable in his two hats. On one side of his head sits his electric guitarist fez, emblazoned with colourful emblems showing his affiliation with various rock and jazz schools, and manufacturers of electronica. On the other side perches his composer cap, of a trifle more scholarly cut, you will notice, but worn nonetheless at a rakish angle. The brain inside the head that these hats adorn has been responsible for a sizable number of recordings over the past few years, more or less equally divided between the “composer” and “guitarist” hemispheres. Two recent releases on Ambiances Magnétiques continue this trend.
Unison Rituals brings together five Brady compositions spanning fifteen years. Each work carries Brady’s compositional trademark: sinuous, rapid-flowing melodic lines, syncopated yet utterly fluid, given precise unison voice by the participating musicians in what can only be described as a form of ritual - virtuosic, technically dazzling, and demanding a Zen-like detachment. All but one of these performances are guitar-free.
At the core of the album are the three most recent pieces, all dating from the mid-1990s and all performed by permutations of the Bradyworks ensemble. Double Helix initially bears more than a passing resemblance to Doubling from Brady’s album 10 Collaborations. But where the latter maintained a single and single-minded melodic thread throughout, Double Helix grows a second strand and then lets the two curl sensuously and organically around each other. In Two Chords Less Than a Blues, three musicians -— pianist, percussionist, saxophonist —- circle each other warily like competing wolves, mingling menacing growls with bravura displays of aggression as they stake out their individual sonic turf. Gradually, they learn to co-exist and the tension and energy drain perceptibly away. But before long their insipid alliance crumbles and frenzied animalism returns. Escapement, by way of contrast, is a work on an entirely human scale, where Brady’s own retuned guitar —- in its sole appearance on the album—provides a backbone upon which the other instruments (percussion, cello, soprano saxophone) drape muscles, tendons, thoughts, dreams, emotions. Here, unison is achieved in commonality of spirit and the results are literally ecstatic.
Bracketing this trio of Brady works performances are two older works. Unison Rituals (1991) as rendered by the saxophone quartet, Quasar, is by turns stridently frenzied and delicately reflective. Quasar handles the difficult extremes with aplomb. Less affecting is the concluding Sound Off, a 1983 composition designed, according to the notes, “to be played in an outdoor, urban environment.” The drastically scaled-down version here (thirteen minutes rather than forty-five; forty two musicians rather than 108) is nevertheless hopelessly out-of-scale to the rest of the finely turned album, although the performance, by brass and percussion ensemble Kappa, is committed.
For Twenty Quarter lnch Jacks, Brady reclaims his guitarist hat with a joyful vengeance. (The composer cap is still on his head, but noticeably askew.) The title selection is an eight-movement homage to the six-stringed beast, or rather, twenty of the things (see article Twenty Quarter Inch Jacks in Musicworks 85). Originally composed for and performed by a group of student guitarists, this version has Brady supplying all of the voices himself through the wonders of multi-track recording. His own physical voice provides occasional commentary and intones an alphabetical honour roll of guitar greats. The music pays homage to Steve Reich’s seminal 1987 work, Electric Counterpoint, yet is uniquely and compellingly Brady. Musk Box Bell Curves, (Hello Paris…), and Sauchiehall Street are scored for guitar and tape, and Brady manipulates the elements of each piece into a seamless whole. The former offers moments of transcendental beauty amid studied washes of sonic colour, although I find occasional vocal injections (Hello Paris…) to be intrusive at best. More eloquent is Sauchiehall Street, which captures Brady doing what he does best: creating vivid, imaginative soundscapes into which his own fluent guitarisms blend effortlessly.
Fans of Tim Brady’s guitar work may enjoy Twenty Quarter Inch Jacks, but others might be wise to start with his earlier Justin Time releases Scenarios, Imaginary Guitars, and Strange Attractors.
Premier intérêt de ce disque: le vaste panorama des voies que Tim Brady aime s’approprier. On peut contester certaines avenues, on ne reste que pantois devant la conviction que ce compositeur déploie discrètement à dire ce qui lui est important. Unison Ritual avait séduit en concert; retrouver cette pièce au disque est encore mieux tant la technique d’enregistrement est magnifique. Cette première plage s’avère le temps fort du disque. Il y a là tout ce qu’il faut pour que même ceux qui trouvent la musique contemporaine absconse se dédisent: énergie, mélodie, effets intrigants, tout fait qu’on accroche à la vision de Brady. Dans le reste du programme, on navigue selon ses propres goûts. Il s’y trouve des moments de complaisance désolants comme des éclairs insoupçonnés qui forcent une réflexion sur l’hybridation entre musique populaire et savante, européenne et américaine, québécoise francophone et anglophone. Bref, on tient ici un beau sismographe des tendances qui font telluriquement bouger les créateurs d’ici.
Compositeur et guitariste montréalais croisant les influences américaines et européennes, Tim Brady a déjà enregistré plus d’une dizaine d’albums sur Justin Time et Ambiances Magnétiques. Sur ce nouvel album, il rassemble cinq pièces pour saxophone(s) et ensemble(s) enregistrées entre 1998 et 2001 par Quasar, les Bradyworks et kappa. Loin de l’improvisation, ces pièces offrent un singulier alliage de minimalisme et de virtuosité, nous faisant passer de la musique de chambre au big band à travers une séquence qui introduit parfaitement à l’univers de Brady. Outre d’intéressants dialogues entre le sax et la guitare (Escapement), on peut difficilement interrompre la finale Sound Off, qui, au long de ses 12 courtes minutes, nous plonge dans un magma insolite tenant de la science-fiction et du film noir.
Guitariste et compositeur singulier, Tim Brady en est à sa deuxième apparition sur cette étiquette. Dès la pièce titre Unison Rituals, sa musique s’impose à nous avec puissance. Faisant appel au quatuor de saxophones Quasar, Brady joue sur les timbres pour créer un univers sonore intrigant qui prend constamment l’auditeur en alerte. L’album comprend également trois interprétations de son Bradyworks et Sound Off, œuvre pour cent instruments à vents et huit grosses caisses, interprétée en multipistes par Kappa. Unison Rituals, un album saisissant.
Tim Brady, der, nach einer Reihe von JTR-Releases, mit Unison Rituals (AM 110) nach 20 Quarter Inch Jacks (AM 107, 2002) seine zweite Veröffentlichung auf der Homebase der Musique Actuelle vorlegt, zeigt fur einen Künstler aus Montréal gleich mehrere Abweichungen vom Erwarteten. Nicht nur zeigt sein Kompass nicht nach Paris sondern New York, er stellt hier auch, obwohl selbst ein renommierter Gitarrist, bevoeugt das Saxophon in den Mittelpunkt einer Reihe solider kammermusikalischer Kompositionen. ‘Quasar’ ist der komplex arrangierte Reeds-only Nachfolger seines ‘Quartet 1998’, Sound Off eine per Multitracking durch das 16-köpfige Big Band Kappa realisierte Studioversion eines Monsterwerks für 12 Trompeten, 12 Posaunen, 15 Saxophone und 3 Basstrommeln. Dazwischen erklingen, interpretiert vom Bradyworks Ensemble, Double Helix, ein Quarten fur Soprano-, Alto- & Baritonesaxophone, Piano, Cello und Percussion, Two Chords Less Than a Blues für Tenorsax, Piano und Percussion und Escapement für “Scordatura”-Gitarre, Saxophon, Cello und Percussion. Brady steht mit seinen Arbeiten für den Vollzug eines Crossovers von jazz-rockigen Avant-Sounds in die notierte >New Music< und damit für den Trend zur subventions- und adult-orientierten Verbürgerlichung der einstigen >Lachenden Außenseiter<. Immerhin spuckt bei allem Feinsinn der Sound Off-Brass-Drachen noch soviel Feuer, dass man an ähnlich donnergÖttliche Ansätze von Branca oder an Björkenheims „Apocalypso” erinnert wird.
When you work in the Neo-Classical/Avant-Classical/Contemporary Classical field (or whatever it’s called this week), it’s difficult to find a niche - but even more arduous to dig your way out. Sure, Phillip Glass made a statement with minimalism, and indeed made a career of it, but how difficult would it be for him to sway his audience if he were to veer radically away from his signature sound? Stravinsky, though celebrated for his early ballets and “middle” period, pretty much lost everyone once he turned to atonality and twelve-tone serialism. Tim Brady understands this danger, as his music, for better or worse (I say better), is seldom allied to a particular style or mold; call him a musical chameleon with a talent for creating unique compositions. Though he demonstrates techniques employed by composers who work primarily in the chamber and symphonic realm, he never uses any gimmick long enough for it to become a label.
Unison Rituals is a case in point. The title track explores the deepest reaches of a saxophone quartet (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone with soprano doubling alto and alto doubling on soprano). What begins as a slightly slurred work, reminiscent of Lutoslawski’s Chain 1, slips into a homophony of deep sforzandos in an ostinato, changing textures with every repeat, but coming only in short bursts as the instruments recline into subtle drones and key-clacks. As alluded to in the title, Brady focuses the last few minutes on unison lines for two soprano saxes, creating an energetic ending that’s more explosion than conclusion.
For Double Helix, Brady adds a new dynamic, bringing in skinned and metal percussion, piano and cello, soaring into the realm of Steve Reich and other so-called “downtown” composers. However, Brady is never content with simple repeating phrases; he favors constant tempo shifts, often dropping out the entire ensemble and interjecting dramatic bass drum rolls and rubato cello melodies. Without warning, Brady shifts gears with Two Chords Less Than a Blues, an intimate exploration of color and texture: bowed cymbals, tenor sax trills, deepest piano rumbles and what sounds like a Chinese funeral procession (or James Brown tune) of crash cymbals and bass drum.
Escapement finds Brady performing on his weapon of choice - guitar - though it never sounds guitar-ish, as he either plays trills or percussive runs that double vibes, xylophones and soprano sax. The finale, Sound Off, is a scaled-down interpretation of Brady’s original 45-minute version, first performed in 1983 and scored for 100 wind instruments and eight bass drums. It’s a unique ensemble piece that yields equally distinctive results: long breathy hisses, extensive counterpoint and huge brass blasts, bouncing between Lígeti-esque clusters and jazz-band slinkiness.
Only time will tell if Brady’s eclecticism and his absorption of several traditions will provide him with enough mileage for a decade-spanning career, but he’s doing fine so far. This exciting collection demonstrates the composer’s talent for genre cross-pollination and highlights his ability to pen inventive, engaging works for unusual ensembles. Listeners seeking easily-labeled artists should look elsewhere!
Released only a few months after Twenty Quarter Inch Jacks — Tim Brady’s recording debut for Ambiances Magnétiques, Unison Rituals brings together five pieces for ensembles small and large. While the previous album focused on Brady’s work in the studio (with multitracking and electroacoustics), this one comes back to modern composition. Each piece features the note cycles and complex patterns of displaced accents that give his music such an immediately recognizable sound. Some find in these elements influences from Steve Reich and Philip Glass, which is undeniable, but Brady often steps out of this canvas. Escapement includes a soulful soprano sax solo during a surprisingly melodious bridge section. Two Chords Less Than a Blues moves back and forth between overlapping note cycles from the piano and tenor sax and trashy percussion breaks. But the highlight of the set is Double Helix, for piano, percussion, cello and saxophones. Beginning at dizzying speed, spinning its hermetic cycles like strands of DNA, the piece eventually cools down to leave room for some exquisite interplay between piano and cello and lead into the prettiest coda Brady has written yet. These three pieces are performed by his Bradyworks} ensemble. The album opens on the title sax quartet interpreted by Quasar. Its quirky interlocking lines and hiccuping accents are strongly reminiscent of Rova’s work — so is the quality of Quasar’s delivery. The last piece, Sound Off, was originally written as an outdoor piece for a mass band of 100 saxes, trumpets and trombones plus eight bass drums. This version, lasting only a quarter of the duration of the original, features 42 instruments (the big band Kappa). Brady explores stunning drone and dissonance effects that lead up to an unexpected major chord that is taken apart and sent back to the atonal magma. In short, Unison Rituals is Brady’s most impressive album since Revolutionary Songs in 1996.
If Twenty Quarter-Inch Jacks is a guitarist’s paradise, Unison Rituals is as unique for the fact that Brady plays on just one track. Featuring compositions that date back to 1983, it is a showcase for saxophones as many as 15 Sound Off a chamber music setting. Even so, the sound of Brady’s guitar is everywhere transposed to the organic sound of the Quasar saxophone quartet on the title piece or to the piano/percussion/cello/saxophone lineup of his own Bradyworks ensemble for Double Helix. Even the massed wind instruments of the digitally multiplied Kappa big band, bulked out to the size of a university marching band have a parallel in Brady’s use of layered electric guitars. In both cases, his emphasis is on the manipulation of long, streaming notes and the textural possibilities that mass creates.
The sole guitar feature, the atmospheric Escapement, illustrates what an effective player Brady is in a relatively traditional setting. The interplay between him and cellist Isabelle Bozzini is gorgeous and rich, and defies catogorization as much as any of Brady’s music.
Tim Brady offers to bridge the past and the future through his exciting chamber works for saxophone and ensemble on Unison Ritual. The set of three works leads with two that are tightly constructed and fiercely demonstrated examples of post-classical modernism. The final piece is Sound Off which reconstructs with studio multi-tracking Brady’s 100-wind instrument live outdoor performance…
L’autre enregistrement présente une sélection de cinq compositions écrites entre 1983 et 1999, qui relèvent de la musique de chambre. La pièce éponyme interprétée par Quasar (quatuor de saxophones) est énergique, charpentée. Plus mélodiques apparaissent les trois titres dévolus à l’ensemble de chambre dirigée par Tim Brady (Bradyworks): si Double Helix et même Escapement semblent assez conventionnels, Two Chords Less Than a Blues est plus intéressant, notamment par le jeu des diverses percussions. Plus ambitieuse toutefois, la pièce pour big band (13 cuivres, chacun retraité par superposition de bandes, 3 percussionnistes basses), Sound Off, originellement conçue pour une centaine de cuivres et 8 percussions, alterne de longs passages sous forme de drone et des phrasés plus nettement jazz créant ainsi une œuvre impressionnante, dont la version initiale (45 mn) devait également être spectaculaire.
Unison Rituals is Brady’s second release on Ambiances Magnétiques and number x in a series of releases on Apparition, Justin Time and other labels. Brady is a composer and guitarist from Canada who is lucky to have many of his works available on lp and cd. He composed chamber and orchestal music, plus electroacoustic music. Also he created works for theatre, dance, etc. Since the beginning of the 90s Brady has his own ensemble: Bradyworks. Brady produced several cds with this ensemble. Here on this new cd, they play three of the five compositions. But first things first. The cd opens with Unison Rituals, a strong and powerful piece for saxophone quartet, playing 6 different saxophones. This composition shows Brady’s affinity for minimal music. Parts of this work are very similar to Music in twelve Parts by Philip Glass. But Brady does not straightforward copy this unisonic, melodic and harmonic music. His version of it is full of twists and turns, complex rhythm changes. This makes this work comparable to the work of the long defunct belgian group Maximalist, who also tried to maximile or totalize minimal music. The CD continues with three works Double Helix, Two chords less than a Blues and Escapement that are - as said - performed by the Bradyworks ensemble. Instrumentation differs from piece to piece. We hear piano, percussion, cello, alto, baritone and soprano sax and electric guitar (in Escapement only). The first work is a post-minimal composition using jazzy syncopations. Two chords less than a Blues is a totally different work. With strong percussive parts at the beginning and end. Escapement is the only piece where Brady is also present as a player (on retuned ‘scordatura’ electric guitar). A quiet and lyrical piece. Jazz is not far away here. With solos for guitar and sax. The CD closes with Sound off played by some 100 wind instruments and 8 bass drums. Originally a 45-minute work, it is condensed here in 12 minutes. It is meant to be played outdoor as you can imagine. Starts very silently with unison playing, but gradually moves towards some very dissonant and noisy outbursts. Impressive. Because Brady departs from the (post-)minimal tradition and stays within tonality you might expect he is to be classified with New York down town composers like Michael Gordon and other of his Bang on a Can colleagues. But his work - on this cd - give me the impression that he is much more an ‘european’ composer. This is also often the case with french-speaking composers from Canada. The music has a romantic, lyric feel and mood. But why not say this typifies (some) Canadian composed music.