Chas Smith at the Schindler House in 2004 (photo by Cindy Bernard)

An evening of seductive music by four composers associated with the Cold Blue record label: Rick Cox, purveyor of evocative textures that suspend time as they cycle through lush, dense harmonies; Michael Jon Fink, whose delicate celesta music evokes an unusual sense of inevitability; Jim Fox, a composer of quiet chamber works that are elegant and fragile, lovely and dark; Chas Smith, a composer-instrument builder who constructs massive, shimmering musical textures from unlikely sources, including the pedal steel guitar.

 

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Rick CoxRick Cox is a Los Angeles-based composer and multi-instrumentalist whom guitarist/composer and sometimes Cox-collaborator Ry Cooder called “the hidden master of the crepuscular and the diaphanous.” As a featured performer (woodwinds, guitar, and electronics and/or sampler), he can be heard on such popular film scores by Thomas Newman as The Shawshank Redemption, The Horse Whisperer, and American Beauty and on recent recordings by jazz/new-music trumpeter Jon Hassell. He has also collaborated with guitarist/composer Ry Cooder, arranging, composing and performing on the film scores Last Man Standing and Wim Wenders’ End of Violence. Cox’s own scores include Inside Monkey Zetterland and Corrina, Corrina. He often performs in the Los Angeles area with new music, avant-rock, and jazz-oriented ensembles, and he is a member of the improvisation group Tokyo 77 (on the InTone label). His concert pieces, which often employ himself (electric guitar, woodwinds, and/or electronics) in the company of other instrumentalists, have been performed throughout the U.S. and recorded on the Grenadilla, Advance, Raptoria Caam, and Cold Blue labels. According to the British music publication The Wire, “his enveloping harmonies are less innocent than they first appear. Prettiness with a tough core.” Cox was an early explorer/developer, starting in the mid 1970s, of “prepared electric guitar” techniques (like John Cage’s prepared piano, prepared guitar has various objects inserted between and intertwined in the instrument’s strings to produce unusual and uncharacteristic sounds). Il Manifesto (Italy) has written that Cox’s music is “rarefied and a little desolate, very cinemagraphic, often icy, always redolent of the twilight.”

Michael Jon FinkMichael Jon Fink’s instrumental and electronic music has been presented at the Green Umbrella Series of the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, New Music L.A., the Monday Evening Concerts, the SCREAM Festival, the L.A. Fringe Festival, New Music America, Festival Commune di Chiesa, the Martes Musicales, the Marquette Festival of New Music, the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival, Outpost, and other festivals and individual concerts throughout the U.S. and Europe. He has performed and recorded with the new music ensembles Negative Band and Stillife. Recent orchestra works have been commissioned and performed by the Classical Philharmonic, the Symphony of the Canyons, and the Santa Monica Symphony. Fink has also composed incidental music for two plays of William Butler Yeats: The Herne’s Egg and Deirdre, the latter of which was featured at the1996 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Fink’s music has been released on the Cold Blue, Raptoria Caam, Bare Bones, Wiretapper, TrancePort, Contagion, and CRI record labels. The Los Angeles Times has described Fink’s music as “lustrous,” “metaphysically tinged” and “unapologetically tranquil” and likened it to the work of the late composer Morton Feldman. The L.A. Weekly has written that Fink’s music is “of ethereal simplicity . . . he has shaped and refined his spare style greatly – it is distinctly his own.” The All-Music Guide wrote that his keyboard works have “the ethereal feel of Satie and the dreaminess of Debussy.” For many years, Fink has been a member of the composition faculty at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).

JFoxJim Fox’s music has been commissioned and performed by ensembles and soloists throughout the U.S. and presented at the Monday Evening Concerts, New Music America, the Ventura Chamber Music Festival, Real Art Ways, Wires, the SCREAM Festival, the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival, L.A.C.E., and many similar venues and at U.S. universities from coast to coast. He has also scored feature films. His music, which has been described by critics as both “austere” and “sensuous,” has been recorded on the CRI, Advance, Cold Blue, Grenadilla, Raptoria Caam, and Citadel labels and published in such new music anthologies as Soundings and Scores. (Two new recordings of his music, one on the Cold Blue label and one in the Italian label Ants, are scheduled for release in early 2004.) Composer-performer Wadada Leo Smith has noted, “One of the striking qualities of Jim Fox’s compositions is that you can still hear them inside you long after the music is over.” Fox’s recording Last Things was chosen as a Record of the Year (2000) by the Italian music magazine Blow Up and Fanfare magazine described it as “. . . suffused with a beautiful sadness.” The Wire (U.K.) called it an “ethereal experience.” International Record Review (U.K.) wrote of it: “Fox’s music invites one to believe that if the stars, constellations and galaxies emitted sounds, these unearthly harmonics are what one might hear.”

ChasSmithChas Smith is a Los Angeles-based composer, performer, and instrument designer and builder that New Times magazine called “a classic American original.” He’s a maverick composer who, in the spirit of Harry Partch, creates much of his music for his own exotic instruments’ resonators that sprout rods, which are bowed and struck; large, clangorous sculptures of titanium; metal strings strung across multiple resonators; and vibraphone-like arrays of metal plates. His compositions, which display his dualistic fascination with the scientific and the sensual, might owe their split personalities to the diverse collection of composers with whom he studied in the 1970s: Morton Subotnick, Mel Powell, James Tenney, and Harold Budd. As a performer, Smith regularly appears on feature film scores, playing both pedal steel guitar and his personally designed instruments. (He may be heard on such popular film scores as The Shawshank Redemption, The Horse Whisperer, and American Beauty.) Smith has also been featured on recordings by composer Harold Budd and with Rick Cox and film composer Thomas Newman in the improvisation ensemble Tokyo 77 (Intone Records), and on numerous recordings of indigenous country music. Smith has performed his own unique works at various new music festivals and art galleries. His music has been recorded on the Arc Light, Cold Blue, Cantil, MCA, and Straw Dog labels. Smith’s music for both pedal steel guitar and the instruments of his own design is extremely engaging. As one critic wrote: “If the house band on the Titanic sounded this gorgeous when the ship went down, you might have been tempted to stay aboard.” The Wire (U.K.) wrote: “With Smith’s music, the sounds are as compelling as his concepts and instruments.” The San Francisco Guardian wrote: “From his [instrument] creations, as well as his pedal steel guitar, he elicits � sumptuous compositions that range from delicate, lyrical vignettes to grating, sometimes horrific tone poems.” And the Los Angeles Times wrote: “His music is a sound apart.”