For 25 year, Tim Brady has been carving a niche for the electric guitar within classical music. — Electronics Musician, USA
The whole adventure seems short, even at 46 minutes. — Exclaim!, Canada
Composer and guitarist Tim Brady releases his most ambitious project ever with his 3rd Ambiances Magnétiques recording, a 46-minute symphony in 5 movements for solo electric guitar, sampler, live electronics and a virtuoso chamber ensemble of 15 musicians. The work was commissioned in 1997 by Canada’s highly acclaimed contemporary music orchestra, the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, and was premiered in Montréal in October 2002, followed by performances in New York and Marseille.
The composition combines all of Brady’s hallmark compositional ideas into a single, rich, complex work of symphonic scope. The electric guitar is a central part of the work, both through Brady’s live performance and through the use of highly processed electric guitar sounds triggered from a keyboard sampler. The orchestral writing varies from delicate, soloistic lines though complex polyrhythmic counterpoint to dense, aggressive rhythmic monoliths, all performed with remarkable precision and consummate musicianship by the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne under conductor Lorraine Vaillancourt.
The work was recorded in 24-bit audio using multitrack techniques in order to give the most detailed possible sound to this vibrant sonic tapestry. The recording reveals a new way to create contemporary chamber music: combining the intensity of performance of 16 players on stage with the almost limitless possibilites of sampling and live signal processing so as to allow the composer and the listener an unparalleled freedom to imagine new forms of muscial expression.
The CD also inculdes a smaller chamber work for piano, guitar and electronics, entitled “Frame 1 — Resonance”, which explores these ideas about new music, guitars and technology on a more intimate scale.
CD (AM 125)
- Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
- AM 125
- UCC 771028112524
- Total duration: 58:14
- Sympathique case
- 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
- 60 g
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For 25 year, Tim Brady has been carving a niche for the electric guitar within classical music. Playing Guitar Symphony #1 (Ambiances Magnetiques, 2004) is Brady’s tenth album. Composed largely on electric guitar, it presents his contemporary classical score in five movements for a 15-piece acoustic chamber orchestra.
Brady and coproducer Morris Apelbaum sought to combine the guitar and orchestra with Brady’s guitar samples and textures. “My music is somewhat unusual in its combinstion of acoustic and clectmnic sound sources,” he says. “I compose on the guitar, on the piano, by singing, writing directly onto score paper, or using a sequencer or multitrack recorder. The choice of composing medium depends on what I’m trying to get at.”
Apelbaum and four assistant engineers recorded the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, conducted by Lorraine Vaillancourt, in Oscar Peterson Concert Hall at Concordia University in Montréal. “We didn’t have to fix the room sound”, Brady says. “The hall is used frequently for recording in Montréal”. Apelbaum recorded the orchestra onto 24 tracks through a number of mic preamps and Apogee AD-16 converters into an Alesis HD24 hard-disk recorder.
The engineers miked each musician individually. “That allowed me to create the final balance in the studio, rather than rely on the conductor’s balance”, Brady says. “Balancing the tone of the electric guitar and sampler with the orchestra was a question of subtle timbral decisions. Even in a live space with no isolation, [multiple mics] give one a lot more control than a stereo pair”. ln addition, the engineers placed each mic 18 to 24 inches from an instrument’s sound source.
Brady brought the orchestra tracks into his personal studio, which indudes a dual-processor Mac G4 running MOTUDigital Performer 3.1 and MOTU2408 audio interface. “I played untreated guitar lines live with the orchestra, and then added the processed stuff later,” he says. “l replaced a few parts with overdubs. Sometimes I didn’t like the mix of the original guitar tone with the ensemble. EQ can do only so much sometimes you have to change pick-ups or even guitars to get the sound that you want.
“All the guitar parts were edited and then reamped in my studio using the speaker simulator on my Koch Twintone tube amp.” Brady says “That added warmth, depth, and subtle tube compression. Tubes offer acoustic attack and decay characteristics, so they blend better with classical instruments.”
Brady recorded and processed guitar samples in his Yamaha A4000 sampler, which he later added to the existing tracks. His TC Electronic Fireworx effects processor also played a key role. “I used just two bands of EQ to bring out the chatacter of an instrument in the mix, Brady says. “With good mics, good preamps, a good room, and great players, you don’t need tons of EQ. I added some reverb and I used DP’s volume curves for subtle volume changes”.
The album concludes with Frame 1—Resonance, Brady’s piece for electric guitar and acoustic piano. “[It features] quite a bit of digital processing, using primarily an old Boss SE-70 effects processor,” Brady says. “The SE-70 has a crude 16-bit sound, but it has some amazing algorithms. The piano plays a dreamlike fantasia part, and the guitar acts like an electroacoustic sustain pedal, taking ideas from the piano and transforming them into an ongoing musical dialogue. I plan on composing more works that I explore the electric guitar in a small, intimate chamber-music context—if all goes according to plan.”
Tim Brady has been following his own path of frenetic post-Frippertronic technique of rapid fire guitar complemented by electronic processing for decades. This is his first symphony, realised by an ensemble of 15 members — and it’s great fun. There are a number of different ways to analyse this disc: judging it on its compositional merit as a symphony, or deconstructing the relentless shifts in tempo and instrumentation. Instead, let’s dumb it down a lot and call it music for a 21st Century car chase. Digital delays augment hocketing instruments produce 16th notes galore that race across the stereo field. This is an expertly realised recording— Steve Reich could only dream of these kinds of possibilities for mixing engineers when he first recorded his intricate percussion pieces. Movements One and Four are the most Shaft-like pieces, albeit with funk replaced by non-stop tension — Brady’s not exactly a swinging player or composer, which is part of his charm. These are wisely balanced by sparer passages as in movement Two , which features some beautifully slow melodic developments. The action is never too far behind, as the sampler solo in movement Three produces a brutish blizzard of guitar snapshots all up and down the keyboard. The whole adventure seems short, even at 46 minutes. Unfortunately, the CD is appended by a more intimate composition for guitar and piano called Frame 1 - Resonance that is a too-minimal, too-long coda in relation to what came before.
Avec Playing Guitar: Symphony # I le compositeur/guitariste canadien signe son 3’enregistrement pour Amblances Magnétiques. La pièce principale, commanditée par le Nouvel Ensemble Modern en 1997, fut présenté au public de Montréal en 2002 et plus récemment à Beauvais et à Marseille (2004). Le présent enregistrement est complété par Frame I-resonance pièce pour guitare, traitements électroniques et piano.
“Je ne l’ai pas fait consciemment, mais cette œuvre-là résume magnifiquement tout mon vocabulaire, aussi bien en tant que guitariste qu’en tant que compositeur” déclarait Tim Brady lors d’un entretien. Playing Guitar: symphony #1, à travers ces cinq mouvements, aborde en effet plusieurs aspects de ses précédents travaux: un intérêt pour l’écriture minimale, sa propension au travail d’expérimentation sonore de la guitare, son goût pour des compositions ambitieuses, ses affinités avec le rock progressif. Le mariage entre les différents univers (le NEM était souvent qualifié comme un ensemble plutôt intégriste dans le domaine des musiques contemporaines) est parfois réussi, en particulier dans le second et le quatrième mouvements. Parfois l’osmose entre les deux sources sonores (l’ensemble et la guitare) se fait grâce aux traitements sonores appliqués à certains instruments et réalisés en studio aprés l’enregistrement en concert. D’autres moments, il y a davantage de juxtapositions, voire de soliloques qui apparaissent plus conventionnels à l’auditeur et alourdissent un projet dense et inspiré.
Frame I-resonance tranche avec la pièce principale. Moins dynamique, elle propose une confrontation quelque peu paresseuse entre un piano qui égrène nonchalamment ses notes dans un environnement de traitements sonores.
Montréal’s Tim Brady is a true mad scientist of guitar sound, placed here on Earth, it seems, to smash the barriers between high and low culture. His wild guitar sounds are daggers in the heart of classical music pretense, and God love him for it. The title of Brady’s latest tells much of the story, as it’s certainly the guitar playing that deserves top billing. Here, the music has a relentless drive to it and, to be honest, it is a bit wearying at times, but at the same time, one has to admire the way that Brady works with Lorraine Vaillancourt’s NEM to bring out their playful side.
While Playing Guitar: Symphony #1 was not conceived as such, and thus lacks much of the cohesiveness you would expect, it is indeed, arguably, a symphony. There are some rough spots, but the overall picture is one of virtuosic performance, risky and thrillingly academic composition, and promising insights into fresh compositional possibilities. Brady’s guitar is intended as the centerpiece and the ensemble’s modifications toward this end are the gimmick, but I found the guitar to be probably the least interesting individual element. As a booster of the other instruments, it does an excellent job. When it’s expected to stand alone, it often fails to grab attention as required. This may be a question of my familiarity with the electric guitar versus the relative unfamiliarity of what I think was Brady’s intended audience — of my power to be underwhelmed by a theoretically overwhelming instrument, versus their palpable fear of it. Really, though, it doesn’t matter; the matter scarcely hinders this excellent music, as long as you don’t think about that particular aspect too hard. (Hint: leave the liner notes in the case where they belong.)
Playing Guitar…’s first movement opens with a wash of guitar noise, displaying the power of the ensemble’s secret weapon and one of Brady’s innovations: a sampler, with elements as simple as single electric guitar tones and as complex as legions of electric guitars making thunderous noise, mapped to its keyboard. This is a powerful muscle, but it’s used sparely, as an accent and underpinning and resonance more than driving force. The tone is set. Like the most intense results of the minimalist movement meeting with traditional compositional ideas, the structures are highly repetitive from second to second, but differ wildly from minute to minute. It feels like the crystalline form of jazz: all the seemingly coincidental brilliance and immediacy of a Coltrane performance without half of the tom-foolery.
The second movement speaks more to the minimalist movement at its more radical stages: a horn drones sadly in the foreground while all manner of ambient strangeness flutters and rumbles behind it. The seeming aimlessness of these moments is counterbalanced perfectly by the intensity with which they are performed — by the tension every second of horn exudes. The ensemble keeps you so tense, you’ll hardly notice that the sound is building, building, building, until suddenly the whole construct is shimmering. Brady’s guitar is shepherding the elements together and the strings are hard to keep up with. For one perfect second, the whole mess comes together — and then, even more suddenly than the moment arrived, it is gone. Only the sampler’s ambient drones and whines remain.
The third movement is an ill-advised sampler solo. It has little form and hardly any reason, accomplishing nothing the other movements won’t do better, but it’s fun to listen to. Thankfully, the fourth movement displays the sort of intensity we expect in the climax of a great, cerebral action film, but with none of the ham-fisted emotional manipulation. It begins as a particularly combustive traditional composition and transforms into the most thrilling moments you’ll hear in the entire symphony, unraveling melodically even as it doubles, triples, quadruples in size. It is spectacular.
This leads to another more traditionally minimalist movement, which takes the elements left over from the previous one and stretches them far past the point of comfort. Again, that remarkable tension. Some of the instruments in the ensemble have been subtly modified with electronic amplification so as to work better with Brady’s guitar, and you’ll hear the most obvious benefit here.
After a wank-fest guitar solo, we come to the closing movement. Nothing about this one stands out in particular, as it is, appropriately, the synthesis of all the best ideas from the previous movements. By now, comparisons to Godspeed You! Black Emperor are inevitable, but even with his minimalist leadings, Brady doesn’t fuck around nearly as much on his way to the official explosion of sound and musical fury. In a perfect world, the record would stop here.
Unfortunately, an additional composition is included as a supplement to the symphony, though it doesn’t come close to matching its luster. “Frame 1 — Resonance” is painfully sophomoric, making heavy-handed use of a hesitant piano layered with electric guitar. The gimmick is that the electric guitar is supposed to behave as a sort of amp for the piano, matching it note for note. This is treated as a profound realization requiring a lot of space and, indeed, nearly thirteen minutes to absorb. When the guitar stops matching the piano and instead attempts desperate new tricks to accent it, the entire exercise becomes pointless and unfathomable, with the already incoherent piano material falling apart almost completely. Even if this was an improvised piece, it wasn’t a success.
Otherwise, though, Playing Guitar… is your opportunity to hear seventeen professionals playing the hell out of a few brilliant pieces and a couple of wanky ones. To not buy it, if you have the money on hand now or any time in the near future, is to deprive yourself of a valuable and singular experience.
The music released through the Ambiances Magnétiques label covers a wide spectrum: extreme noise music by Tétreaul, all kinds of improvised music and jazz, beautiful songs by someone like Letarte, but also modern ‘classical’ music. Both two new cds belong to the last category.
Canadian composer and guitarplayer Brady offers two of his new compositions on his new cd. Playing Guitar: Symphony #1 is a work in 5 movements, two movements being subdivided in two parts. If you aks me what is ‘classical’ about his work then it surely is the symphonic nature of this piece. We hear Tim Brady on electric guitar accompanied by the 15-piece Nouvel Ensemble Moderne. Besides there is an important role for live electronics and sampler played by Brady. Part 1 is a very driven - Louis Andriessen like - piece. The second movement is dense and at a much lower pace. The third movement is more or less completely electronic. Like in movement 1 we hear in the second part of the third movement the complete ensemble playing a very dynamic hammering intersection, that continues in movement 4. The first part of the 5th movement is a beautiful solo piece for Brady on guitar. In the second part the music becomes very complex and culminates in a climax fading out with quiet electronic sounds in the last few seconds. It’s very rich and engaging work. At the core of this recording is the live recording a the piece in june 2003. In the process of mixing and editing guitar and sampler parts were added. The second compositions Frame 1 - Resonance is performed by his ensemble Bradyworks, consisting here only of two players: Pamela Reiner on piano and Tim Brady himself on guitar and treatments. For this composition Brady was inspired by a thought of a friend who imagined a piece for piano and guitar where “the guitar would act like a big, electronic resonator for the piano part, becoming a huge electroacustic sustain pedal”. Again a more than interesting work by Brady.
On Portrait Montréal everything is in four: four compositions from four different composers, played by four musicians, the Quatuor Bozzini. We hear the following works: Pulau Dewata (by Claude Vivier), Quatuor à cordes II (Jean Lesage), Daydream Mechanics V (Michael Oesterle) and A New Song of many faces for in These Times (Malcolm Goldstein). String quartet Quatuor Bozzini plays music from classical and romantic times, but have a great love for modern music. For their debut cd they concentrate on modern music from their hometown Montréal. What strikes me first listening to this cd is the enthousiastic and daring playing by this quartet. Pulau Dewata is played here in an arrangment by Michael Oesterle. It was Vivier’s tribute to balinese music. The post-minimal composition Daydream Mechanics V by Oesterle also is inspired on folk music. Though not asiatic music this time. Now we hear echoes of eastern Europe. Jean Lesage on the other hand stays close to the western classical tradition. He plays with this idiom with great skill and dedication. Malcolm Goldstein is not only a composer but also a well-known improvisor on violin. So it should not wonder that his composition gives room for improvisation. As a result this is the most vivid piece on this cd. First of all this cd introduces us to a great and ‘fresh’ string quartet and secondly it offers a well-balanced portrait of modern composed music from Canada.
Tim Brady a toujours été un cas particulier. Il est ce musicien improbable qui réussit à se tenir en équilibre entre la tradition classique européenne et le jazz. Sa prernière symphonie rend bien compte de cette dualité. Son travail va au-délà d’un ramassis de citatioris, c’est un manifeste pour une coexistence des styles. Brady nous offre sa vision personnelle de ce que devrait être la musique d’aujourd’hui.
Tim Brady nous éblouit de nouveau avec une œuvre magistrale pour guitare électrique, échantillonneur, grand ensemble de chambre et traitement, forçant l’admiration par la diversité des styles musicaux qu’il pratique (musique de chambre, électroacoustique, improvisée ou vocale). Dans cette composition de 46 minutes, son savoir-faire éclate sur ces longues plages où il combine avec aisance différentes couches sonores (électriques acoustiques, et échantillonnage). Son génie réside dans sa capacité à extraire de cette masse sonore des mélodies joyeuses et dramatiques.
Attivissima, la scena canadese testimoniata dalla Ambiances Magnetiques, ci presenta il compositore e chitarrista Tim Brady in un ambizioso lavoro per chitarra elettrica, campionatore e orchestra. Più che un concerto, ci spiega nel libretto, l’attitudine è quella sinfonica, con le varie parti a integrarsi e l’elettronica a fare da volano – sia nel filtraggio degli strumenti acustici, sia nell’uso del campionatore come espansione dell’aspetto chitarristico. Si toccano diverse atmosfere – alcune felicemente allucinatorie, altre leggermente didascaliche–e il lavoro è di ottimo livello. Bello anche il più breve Frame 1.(7+)
Di impronta chiaramente jazzistica è invece Jardin D’Exil dell’Ensemble En Pièces guidato dal sassofonista Philippe Lauzier e dal pianista Alexandre Grogg e splendidamente a suo agio sul filo dell’equilibrio tra struttura e libertà, avvicinandosi a molti spunti del jazz europeo più avanzato.(7)
Doppio – cd audio + cd video–è Atlas Epileptic dell’artista multiforme Pierre-André Arcand, poeta visuale, dj, performer. Il titolo è già fantastico. L’uso di vari espedienti, tra cui il software Macchina Ricordi, la manipolazione di campionamenti di precedenti lavori, il trattamento della voce, rende il disco [e il suo fratello “visuale”] un interessantissimo susseguirsi di esperienze. (8)
Parfois, il faut laisser tomber le masque du critique, soit lorsqu’une réaction viscérale — et donc subjective — s’impose d’elle-même (ça m’est arrivé il y a quelques semaines avec le Requiem de Mozart, dans la magistrale version des Violons du Roy), soit parce qu’à défaut d’outils adéquats pour aborder une œuvre qui existe en marge de nos repères habituels, on serait condamné à dire des conneries.
Depuis un mois, je suis confronté à ce second dilemme, tournant autour de Playing Guitar: Symphony # I (Ambiances Magnétiques/SRI), de Tim Brady, fascinante composition pour guitare électrique et orchestre de chambre (le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, sous la direction de Lorraine Vallancourt).
Un mois que cette œuvre polymorphe me suit, servant de trame sonore à mes errances tororatoises, et la seule analogie qui me soit venue à l’esprit est la suivante: si le génial Bill Trisell, lui-méme guitariste sans frontières, s’était emplayé à réconcilier l’urgence rythmique du Sacre du printemps et la lumineuse transparenœ de La Mer, le tout pour les besoins d’un film de Hitchcock, il aurait peut-être pondu quelque chose qui ressemble à Playing Guitar.
Mais là, on tombe en pleine conjoncture, comme disait l’autre, ce qui ne vaut guère mieux qu’une critique ratée…
Le compositeur et guitariste (électrique!) Tim Brady offre avec cette Symphonie nº 1 une œuvre forte, qui se déploie sans concession et qui offre un bel exemple de ce que l’électricité a à offrir à la musique contemporaine. L’écriture peut rappeler par moments celle des minimalistes américains telle que revisitée par les européens, et le NEM, magnifiquement dirigé par Lorraine Vaillancourt, y est parfaitement à son aise. Pas beaucoup de répit dans cette musique plutôt nerveuse et percussive, mais pas d’ennui non plus. Le disque est complété par Frame 1 – Resonance, une pièce écrite pour un piano (Pamela Reimer) qui «résonne» au travers d’une guitare traitée électroniquement.
Did Tim Brady plan his first three albums for Ambiances Magnétiques as a trilogy? 20 Quarter Inch Jacks featured his studio, sampler/overdub-heavy work; Unison Rituals focused on his “real” compositions for ensembles; and now Playing Guitar: Symphony #1 pairs both directions: a score for real instruments (the musicians of the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, conducted by Lorraine Vaillancourt) and samplers playing back stacks of overdubbed guitars. This 45-minute symphony in five movements represents Brady’s most ambitious recorded work to date. It is also one of the most convincing attempts ever made at integrating the electric guitar to a “classical” music group (and not turning it into one, as with Glenn Branca’s symphonies), in this case a 15-piece contemporary chamber ensemble. One doesn’t detect the slightest distance between guitar and orchestra, both entities talking the same language, which is neither rock nor classical, but Brady’s. And Brady’s language stems from Glass’ velocity, Reich’s sense of interlocking rhythms, Stravinsky’s grandeur, and Goebbels’ cross-stylistic approach — yet it is also more flexible than the first one, less hypnotic than the second, more rapturing than the third and definitely warmer than the latter. The first movement is extremely dense and fast, walking a fine line between complexity and cacophony. It is obviously meant to nail the listener to his or her seat, while offering a lot of melodic and harmonic material to assimilate all at once. Things settle down a bit afterwards, especially in the second and fourth movements. The samplers help blur the distinction between orchestra and guitars, composition and manipulation, performance and treatment. The second half of the last movement lacks panache and brings the piece to a slightly disappointing conclusion, but otherwise this is a very impressive work that manages to shake off the rigidity of (some) contemporary music while heartily embracing the pomposity of the symphonic genre. The stellar recording and lively mix are icing on the cake.
Rounding up the program is Frame 1 - Resonance, a very different 12-minute piece for electric guitar, electronics and piano. More electroacoustics than anything else, the piece sticks to a gloomy atmosphere, hammered piano notes reverberating through large chambers of guitar soundscapes and treated echoes. The piece is interesting in itself, but doesn’t stand comparison to the preceding symphony and, truth be told, Ambiances Magnétiques should have ignored duration issues (46 minutes is still a respectable total duration) and limited the contents of this album to only Playing Guitar: Symphony #1.
Featuring two extraordinary works: Playing Guitar is for electric guitar, sampler, live electronics and large chamber ensemble and Frame 1-Resonance is for electric guitar, electronics and piano. Symphony 1 is actually about “playing guitar” or sampled guitar with the fifteen piece large chamber group utilized here. This is Tim Brady’s 10th CD in print and this just might be his best yet. His symphonic writing is particularly strong, varied and adventurous. What makes this so special is the way his guitar fits perfectly as a part of the ensemble and as a soloist in the center of the action or story. The other thing that works so well here is the way Tim has programmed his sampler and filled it with a variety of strange guitar sounds, which often don’t sound like a guitar, but are used selectively to add sonic spices to his fascinating creation. Fripp fans will certainly be smiling as they listen to the Second Movement with its Frippish guitar solo. This is an absolutely fantastic work that I would hope would be perfect for next year’s Victo Fest. Frame 1-Resonance for piano, guitar and electronics is a more restrained and eerie work, in which the piano is echoed by sinister guitar sounds and weird samples.
- Vincent Bergeron, Critiques de disques, November 7, 2004