Based in the San Francisco Bay Area,
Chris Brown (1953) combines ancient instruments and modern electronics in his
A pianist educated at the western classical music,
and a student of Gordon Mumma and David Rosenboom,
he performs pieces which
mix home-made electronic instruments and ethnic
(Indonesian, Indian, African, Cuban) instruments, and employs the kind of
improvisation typical of free-jazz.
Brown was a member of
Room (with percussionist William Winant, saxophonist Larry Ochs, electronic sound sculptor Scott Gresham-Lancaster), that released
Room (december 1987 - Sound Aspects, 1989) and Hall of Mirrors (may 1991 - Music and Arts, 1992),
of the Glenn Spearman Double Trio, that released
Mystery Project (august 1992 - Black Saint, 1993),
Smokehouse (november 1993 - Black Saint, 1994) and
The Fields (november 1994),
Blues for Falasha (june 1997 - Tzadik, 1999);
of the Hub, an ensemble of computer-based musicians
(John Bischoff, Tim Perkis, Chris Brown, Scot Gresham-Lancaster, Mark Trayle, Phil Stone)
that coined "computer network music" (their computers are connected while they
perform) and that released
Computer Network Music (Artifact, 1989),
Wreckin' Ball (Artifact, 1994) and
Non Stop Flight (Music & Arts, 1998) with the Deep Listening Band;
of the Natto Quartet (Philip Gelb on shakuhachi, Shoko Hikage on koto, Tim Perkis on electronics), that released the improvisations of Headlands (august 2002 - 482 Music, 2003).
of the Fuzzybunny, a trio with Tim Perkis and Scot Gresham-Lancaster that released Fuzzybunny (Sonore, 2001),
Recordings of Brown's installations include:
Snakecharmer (Artifact, 1989),
Lava (Tzadik, 1995) for brass quartet, percussion quartet and four channels of computer music,
Duets (Artifact, 1996),
Waves (Sparkling Beatnik, 1999),
Talking Drum (Sonore, 2001), for networked laptop computers run by software that generates cyclical polyrhythms (first performed in 1996),
Transmission Temescal (Artship, 2002) for 20 boomboxes and clock radios.
Branches (Ecstatic Peace, 2002) contains two pieces
for live electroacoustic instruments and improvisors:
Branches (2001) for piano, percussion, DJ and computer generated grooves ;
Alternating Currents (1983), a triple concerto for home-made electronic percussion instruments, trombone and percussion.
His Eternal Network Music for live synthesis software was performed in 1999.
He has also composed Inventions for "polyrhythm-generating software".
Transmissions for four radio transmitters interacting with an audience equipped with portable radios, debuted in 2002.
Thousand Oaks (june 2004) featured
Philip Gelb on shakuhachi, Shoko Hikage on koto and Tim Perkis on electronics.
Talking Drum (Pogus, 2005) is a
compilation of 27 Brown works, recorded between 1991 and 1999.
(The title is misleading because it only includes brief excerpts from
the namesake installation of "computer network music").
Many sound like tributes to percussion styles
(Rumba Quinto, Mariwo Chant). Others are veritable
cubist ballets (Tennis Court, Invention #5) for the age
Some are wildly disjointed and dissonant
(Invention #3, Invention #1)
and others sound like, basically,
musique concrete for field recordings and found voices
Frogs in Irrigation Canals,
and especially Quiapo Market District).
It is debatable if a series of brief (very brief) excerpts (some lasting
less than one minute) is a good introduction to the artist,
but certainly this compilation covers a lot of ground.
The triple-disc Boundary Layer (Tzadik, 2008) collects the recordings
of the Hub, including unreleased material from 2004 and 2006.
Iconicity (New World, 2011) contains
three pieces for percussion and live
Iceberg, an 18-minute piece composed in 1985, that was already on
Snakecharmer (1989), here performed by
Winant on crotales, glockenspiel, and hi-hat, while Chris Brown is on
computer-controlled analog electronics and digital delay;
the 15-minute Stupa
(2007), featuring the composer on
piano and live computer processing, accompanied by William Winant on
vibraphone ("piano and
vibraphone are treated like the sound of a single gong, and a series of
four octatonic chords whose notes are shared between the instruments
gradually expand into upward sweeping melodies, and the chords are
sampled during the first half of the piece to provide material for
electronic halos, and a drone gradually emerges beneath"); and
a 20-minute track on which the composer, on
live computer processing, plays with the William Winant Percussion
Group: Jordan Glenn, Krystof Golinski, Shayna Dunkelman, and David
Douglas, all on flat-gongs conducted by Winant.
Iconicity contains three pieces for percussion and live electronics:
Iceberg (1985), that was already on
The piano solo Six Primes (New World, 2016) was composed in 2014 for "retuned piano in 13-limit just intonation, performed using the first six prime numbers to govern tuning, harmony, rhythmic subdivisions and form".
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