Noise Storm

"Unless played very quietly, analytical thought is thwarted while Merzbow noise occurs, and even at quiet volume, there is still a jaggedness in the cutting, the bursts of sound, the alterations, that hinders the development of analysis," writes Paul Hegarty in his chapter on Merzbow from Noise/Music: A History.

In 1923, Dadaist Kurt Schwitter commenced his decade-long Merzbau project, for which he erected massive, cavernous structures throughout six rooms of his house in Hannover, Germany.  The rooms underwent constant transformation such that yesterday's labyrinths vanished and were distorted as more additions were made, more "junk" collected.

Hegarty compares Merzbow with Schwitter's Merzbau, arguing that both "accumulate to distort," paradoxically realizing formlessness through the excess of form.  Merzbow's magnitude disrupts the harmonious dialogue of faculties required for a smooth and calm aesthetic judgment, pushing out into the darkest corners of the sublime. Further, Merzbow noise exacerbates the already fragile attempt to verbally articulate the meaning(s) of sound.  Merzbow's perpetually shifting, expanding and abrasive sound structures simultaneously challenge tranquility and the elusive quest for permanence while producing a physically-engaging sonic experience like no other.

Merzbow performs with Hungarian drummer Balázs Pándi, with an opening set by Philadelphia-based Buchla Music Easel master Charles Cohen, on Monday, September 27 at International House (3701 Chestnut Street).  Be sure to arrive early, as coffee and vegan food items will be available from Philadelphia's noisiest vegan coffee shop, Grindcore House.


Silent Movies

For his new album, Silent Movies due out on Pi Recordings this month, guitarist Marc Ribot states that he’s exploring “the strange area between language and spatiality that exists partly in between music and visual image, and partly as a common property of both.” While he’s worked on several film scores in the past, such as Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law, this recording is his first intensive investigation of an issue that has fascinated him throughout his long and diverse career.

Ribot’s inspiration for Silent Movies came after a New York Guitar Festival performance in January 2010, for which he presented a live score for Charlie Chaplin’s 1921 silent film, The Kid. Prior to technological developments in the late-1920s, live (and mostly improvised) scores frequently accompanied and enhanced the visual experience of moviegoers. While Ribot is revisiting this fascinating tradition, his objective is to interpret the down-and-out struggles of the Little Tramp and the Kid as a contemporary tale whose social and political message has value to present day audiences. By approaching the film as a living text, Ribot shows the power music has to historically recontextualize images and their meanings.

Marc Ribot will be performing his live score for The Kid at International House Philadelphia (3701 Chestnut Street) on Sunday, September 26 at 8pm. read more

Lower East Side Blues

Whew! We kicked off the first week of the new season with five amazing performances: Jesse Kudler and Ian Fraser’s electronic and laptop minimalism, Fennesz’ profound and thunderous sonics that pushed the International House’s sound system further than we thought possible, Sleepthief’s spiraling improvisations that lingered between delicacy and fever, and a two-night 70th birthday celebration for Dave Burrell with William Parker and Sabir Mateen, who provided a blistering tenor saxophone interpretation of “Happy Birthday” as we brought out Dave’s cake!

Thanks to everyone who joined us for this busy first week!  For those who missed the shows, be sure to check out Nick Millevoi’s All About Jazz review of the Sleepthief performance here and David R. Stampone’s Philadelphia Inquirer review of the Burrell shows here.

After just a few days off we’ll be heading to The Rotunda this Thursday, September 16 at 8pm, for a free performance by The Nu Band. Mark Whitecage, Roy Campbell, Joe Fonda and Lou Grassi have been working as a quartet since 2000, and subsequent years have seen them release 4 albums while keeping up with national and international live dates. Their 2009 Porter Records release, Lower East Side Blues, is a hard-bop romp that showcases the rich influences and talents of these four veteran jazz players. The last time The Nu Band played Philly was at the Plays and Players Club on August 16, 2000, and we’re very excited for this 10 year reunion show! read more

Expansion / Momentum

On September 9 and 10, Ars Nova Workshop will present two back-to-back nights of performances at Philadelphia Art Alliance to celebrate the 70th birthday of legendary jazz pianist Dave Burrell.  For this very special occasion, Philadelphia-based Burrell will be playing with bassist William Parker and native Philadelphian and multi-instrumentalist (saxophones, flute, clarinets) Sabir Mateen.  These three artists have worked together on several occasions, including with Parker's The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield project.

Since he began making music in the 1960s, Burrell has continued to be one of the most significant composers, pianists and jazz innovators, ceaselessly pushing the limits of the jazz category and sharing his love of music with audiences around the world.  He is one of the most celebrated and influential artists of the post-Coltrane free jazz continuum, and has worked with a long list of jazz luminaries including Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Sunny Murray, and Sonny Sharrock.  His singular approach to his instrument, namely the way he radically challenges traditional modes of piano playing and expands the instrument's capacities, has influenced contemporary avant-garde artists across genres and disciplines.  Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, whose debt to Burrell is evident through his aggressive and oftentimes improvisational guitar-playing, once stated on the pages of Grand Royal Magazine that Burrell's Echo is the greatest free jazz record of all time.

Please join us tomorrow and Friday night for these two fantastic performances as we celebrate the life and work of this great artist, especially in a space as intimate as the Philadelphia Art Alliance, which will allow us to deeply experience Burrell's superb musicianship. 


In a 2008 interview following the release of the group’s debut album on Intakt Records, Ingrid Laubrock articulates Sleepthief’s sound: “There's a mysterious, dreamlike feel to some of the music—and also you can be torn right out of it. But in a wholly improvised situation it's not only your own imagination, ears, taste buds and emotions that guide your playing, it's also those of the other musicians.”

Since late 2006, saxophonist Laubrock, pianist Liam Noble, and drummer Tom Rainey have been creating sonically diverse music that emphasizes process and space, shifting seamlessly from delicate, minimal phrases to powerful, chaotic blowouts. While producing dense labyrinths of raw sound that unfold unpredictably like an uncensored dream, the three players oftentimes drift out into their own improvisational spaces. Yet, as Laubrock claims, they manage to maintain a robust collectivity, always concurrently open to each other’s movements and the erratic impulses of the dream. The result is an abundant world of sound that invites the listener to wander and encounter its numerous and colorful pathways.

Sleepthief will be performing at Philadelphia Art Alliance tomorrow night, September 7 at 8pm.

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Super Feedbacker

Austrian electronic music innovator Fennesz will be kicking off Ars Nova Workshop's 2010-2011 season with his first ever Philadelphia performance on September 5, 8pm at the International House (3701 Chestnut Street).  While Fennesz has not released a solo LP since 2008's Black Sea, this has been an incredibly busy year for the artist who the San Francisco Bay Guardian's Erik Morse called "the most extraordinary ambient composer since Brian Eno."

Thus far, 2010 has seen the release of 7 Fennesz collaborations, archival recordings or reissues: 1) Szampler, a cassette that collects samples used in his previous work, 2) In Stereo, a new album by his ongoing project with Jim O'Rourke and Peter Rehberg, Fenn O'Berg, 3) a newly mixed version of 2001's classic Endless Summer album, 4) On's Something That Has Form and Something That Does Not, an album featuring Fennesz' reworked versions of improvised pieces by Sylvain Chauveau and Steven Hess, 5) Knoxville, a live recording with David Daniell and Tony Buck, 6) Quiet Inlet, a collaborative release out on ECM with electro-acoustic improvisers Food, and 7) a remix of Oneohtrix Point Never's "Returnal," which appears as a B-side on an Editions Mego 7".Aside from proving Fennesz' prolificity, these many projects and releases show how dedicated he is to discovering new sounds and exploring the creative possibilities opened up by fresh collaborations with diverse artists.  In preparation for this very rare North American performance - this Philly show is 1 of only 10 US dates - we'd like to share a few interviews and videos (links below).  Enjoy, and we'll see you on Sunday!

Interview: Wall Street Journal, 2009

Interview: Pitchfork, 2009

Video: Fennesz live at V. Sessions, 2008

ANW 2010-2011

Greetings ANW friends!  As you know, we successfully concluded our 10th season and kicked off the summer in July with spectacular performances by Nels Cline Singers and On Fillmore.  While we're sad that another summer is almost gone, we're incredibly excited to announce the many creative music performances planned for our upcoming season!

If you've kept an eye on our website, as well as our Facebook,, Myspace, and Twitter pages, or if you've seen the fantastic ANW 2010-2011 events poster made by Norwegian noise artist Lasse Marhaug (pictured to the right and also viewable here), you'll know that we've been slowly updating the performance schedule over the past two months.  Featuring creative artists representing a wide cross-section of the rich tradition of, and new directions in, experimental and jazz music - from noise to new music, European improvised music to Free Jazz, solo performances to large ensembles, legendary to emerging artists - here is what Ars Nova Workshop has in store this season. read more

The Shape of ANW To Come

As we begin the next ten years of adventurous and exciting programming, Ars Nova Workshop wants to know a little more about you - what you like, what you want to see, and how you want to see it. We have put together a short survey to help us with this goal, and it would mean a lot to us if you could take a few minutes to fill it out.

As a thank you, we are giving away an ANW prize pack featuring a pair of tickets, CDs, and a t-shirt to a winner drawn at random. Just fill in your name and email at the end of the survey if you want to enter - otherwise, this information is optional.

And now, here's the link: read more

The Magic City

The last time we heard from the Sun Ra Arkestra was on May 25th at Johnny Brenda's when Ars Nova Workshop hosted Maestro Marshall Allen's 86th birthday celebration.  Through two high-energy sets that had the audience either dancing feverishly or contemplatively traversing the spaceways, the group demonstrated the unrivalled expertise, joy, and passion that have been the foundation for their musical journeys since Sun Ra founded the Arkestra in the mid-1950s.

At 6PM on Saturday, July 24, the Sun Ra Arkestra will be offering another hometown performance!  This free outdoor concert will be held in University City, on 40th Street between Walnut and Locust Streets, in the green space directly behind the Walnut Street Free Library.  We hope to see you there for this special mid-summer show by Philadelphia's much loved pioneers of jazz and experimental music! 

Solid Sound

On August 13-15, MASS MoCA will be transforming the sleepy Western Massachusetts town of North Adams into a paradise city for fans of critically acclaimed rock band Wilco.  The Wilco Solid Sound Festival - a Wilco-curated 3 day music, art, comedy, and film event - will showcase numerous Wilco side-projects.  In the same spirit, Ars Nova Workshop is pleased to announce that we will present two of these Wilco side-projects here in Philadelphia to conclude what has been an excellent season of events.  This two-part season finale will feature performances by Nels Cline Singers and Glenn Kotche's On Fillmore.

On Wednesday, July 7 The Nels Cline Singers will be performing at Johnny Brenda's, an event that will mark the group's first Philadelphia performance.  Their latest full-length record, Initiate, was released in April of this year, and if you haven't heard it yet, now is the perfect chance to experience some of the new material and witness the world's most dangerous guitar player for yourself.  ANW is also pleased to announce that the trio will be joined by a very special guest for the evening: Cibo Matto-founder and multi-instrumentalist Yuka Honda!  Sharing the bill with The Nels Cline Singers will be Good for Cows - the duo of Xiu Xiu's Ches Smith and Devin Hoff of Nels Cline Singers - and the hypnotic minimalism of Tzadik recording artist and mibra player Richard Crandell.

Then, exactly one week later, on Wednesday, July 14, On Fillmore will be performing at Philadelphia Art Alliance.  Bassist Darin Gray and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche have collaborated with a long list of jazz, experimental, and indie artists, including Jim O'Rourke, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Chris Corsano, Loren Connors, Will Oldham and Kevin Drumm.  Their excellent 3rd LP, Extended Vacation, was released in 2009 and praised by The New York Times and Pitchfork alike for its idiosyncratic genre-bending.  A solo performance by composer and pianist Rachel Grimes, who was called "one of American independent music's few truly inspired technicians" by The Wire, will start the night off.

Please come out and join us for these two very special events.  We'll be celebrating the end of a wonderful season of music and the beginning of an even better one!