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African Math

by Martin Scherzinger

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African musicians have long adapted European instruments (accordions, guitars, keyboards) to great musical effect. In the spirit of this tradition, we too adapt classically European instruments by treating them as if they were African instruments. Piano, Violin and Cello are made to imitate the tactile patterns found on a bow from the Kalahari, or the sticking on a Ugandan xylophone, the fractal harmonies of a Shona mbira, and so on. But instead of adding exotic timbres or percussive textures, we prefer to take another approach to the task of Africanizing sound.

By translating the overtone-rich color of the Mbira to the time-worn blandness of the modern industrial piano (a diatonic inscription device that enjoys a world monopoly), our music directs paradoxical attention to the purely formal play of the original. We encounter african music as syntax. Harmonic sequences possess riddle-like mathematical qualities; recursive forms run in reversible time. (In Madagascar, some say the future emerges in reverse).

The music on this record both embodies the African mathematics that it ventriloquizes and supplies a commentary on it. We filter and recombine typical African aspects of music, including decentralized distribution of parts, interlocking techniques, rhythms to rotate the downbeat by, non-functional harmonic motion, circular temporalities, open formal textures, symmetric and near-symmetric patterning, extremely fast tempi and slow ones. Through these techniques and more, African musical palimpsests emerge that bear uncanny resonances with dance suites of the Italian Renaissance and the music of the Viennese Biedermeier.

-Martin Scherzinger, 2015


released March 10, 2015

Compositions: Martin Scherzinger
Piano: Tom Rosenkranz
Cello: Chris Gross
Violin: Jen Choi
Sound Engineering: Ryan Streber
Design: Wills Glasspiegel
Recorded at Oktaven Audio, Yonkers, NY
© 2015 Martin Scherzinger All Rights Reserved




New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

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