rare and forgotten experimental music

Monday, May 3, 2010

Loren Rush - The Contemporary Piano Project Volume 2

There's not a whole lot of info out there on the interwebs about Loren Rush. He came out of the same San Francisco scene in the early 60s as Terry Riley et al., and had a very early free-improvisation group with Riley and Pauline Oliveros in the late 1950s (by the way, if anyone out there has the recordings of this group, I would really really love to hear it). There's a fairly detailed biography, written in 1973, excerpted from Third Ear magazine, over here http://www.o-art.org/history/70%27s/Composers/L.Rush.html, and a couple of radio programs from the 1960s with his music over at archive.org


Otherwise, not much to be found about his work since the release of this here LP, "The Contemporary Piano Project Volume 2". There seems to be a Volume 1 and Volume 3 of this series in existence, featuring works from various composers, but I can't find any real info on those. This LP was released on Serenus Records in 1977.

The four pieces here are quite varied and nifty. Each one is a little over 10 minutes long. First up is "Oh, Susanna", which is built around a quotation from Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro", featuring some atonal, but still rather pretty, variations on that theme. Interesting structure, the theme is quite recognizable and pops up periodically, then slowly moves to being unrecognizable.

Next is "A Little Travelling Music," a really fantastic piece for piano with some computer-synthesized tape. This piece is from 1973, and must be among the first instances of FM synthesis, an early technique which enabled fairly complex sounds to be generated through a relatively simple process. The piano plays a drone in the lower register with some more complex repeated material in the upper parts, and the tape part responds and interacts with the piano very nicely, often melding almost completely.

Side B of the LP is taken up by "soft music, HARD MUSIC," ostensibly one piece but the two movements are about as different as they could possibly be. Both are for three pianos, here all played by Dwight Peltzer and overdubbed.

True to the title, "soft music" is rather gentle, quiet, slow and textural. It's sort of ethereal and meandering as well, in a good way, with no clear themes, and a rather elastic sense of rhythm. Reminds me somewhat of some Morton Feldman stuff, but a good deal more dense than Feldman tends to be.

"HARD MUSIC," on the other hand, is a 12 minute long piano drone in the vein of contemporary works by Charlemagne Palestine and LaMonte Young. The pianist hammers continuously on the same notes throughout the duration of the piece, creating immense clouds of overtones and a really thick drone. Since "HARD MUSIC" is played on three pianos, it's even more intense and heavy than Palestine's Strumming pieces. Amazing, and my personal favorite piece on the LP though really it's all great stuff.

The only other recordings of Rush's work that I've managed to find are a piece from the 1960s, "Nexus 16," on an old Wergo LP with works by John Cage, Robert Moran and Anestis Logothetis, which I might post some time in the future, and a CD called "The Digital Domain: A Demonstration" from 1983, which has the distinction of being the first album ever released solely on CD. "The Digital Domain" has some interesting pieces from a bunch of composers, was compiled and produced by Rush, and has a short droney piece of his for computer-processed trombone and voice. Might post that CD up some time too.. We shall see.