Arcomusical, led by percussionist/composer/scholar Gregory Beyer, is an ensemble devoted to the promotion of the berimbau, an Afro-Brazilian instrument closely associated with the body game of capoeira. Through Beyer’s stewardship, Arcomusical has carved a unique path commissioning new works for berimbau ensemble and expanding its presence within contemporary concert music. In addition, Arcomusical has established meaningful relationships in Brazil, notably cultivating Arcomusical Brasil, a sister ensemble based in Belo Horizonte. Emigre and Exile includes premiere recordings of music by Matt Ulery (the title track), Alexandre Lunsqui, Jeremy Muller, and Gregory Beyer.
|02||Fios e linhas|
Fios e linhas
|03||Berimbau Duo no. 3, “for Adam and Jess”|
Berimbau Duo no. 3, “for Adam and Jess”
|04||Berimbau Solo no. 4, “Sakura Park”|
Berimbau Solo no. 4, “Sakura Park”
Emigre and ExileMatt Ulery
|05||I. Mother Harp|
I. Mother Harp
|08||IV. Ephemeral Stream|
IV. Ephemeral Stream
|09||V. Heart in Fist|
V. Heart in Fist
|10||VI. The Only Thing You Can Do is Jump|
VI. The Only Thing You Can Do is Jump
Arcomusical, directed by percussionist Gregory Beyer, is an ensemble dedicated to championing the voice of the Afro-Brazilian musical bow, the berimbau. Part of a lineage of related African and diasporic musical bows, the berimbau occupies an essential place in the percussion pantheon, as a connecting link to instrumental traditions of Sub-Saharan Africa, a central component of the immersive martial arts practice of capoeira, and a cultural touchstone for resistance to oppression in the Americas. As Arcomusical has developed, it has expanded its commissioning, performing, and educational activities to include Arcomusical Brasil, a Brazilian sister chapter, cultivating an important connection with practitioners from the instrument’s native home. This release, the group’s third, highlights several new works written for Arcomusical that celebrate its unique versatility in chamber, contemporary, and folkloric contexts. Even when playing the most intricately notated scores, the group’s performances reflect a symbiotic performing style grounded in the instrument’s history.
Opening the collection is Jeremy Muller’s Singularity, a sextet that revels in shifting rhythmic and melodic patterns. The title alludes to multiple meanings – on one hand, it references the relationship between simple, accumulating changes and the implications for the larger systems of which they are a part. On the other hand, Muller evokes the philosophical concept of “The Singularity,” or the moment when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence. The hypnotic figures that are passed through the ensemble conjure the steady, irreversible march of time and its concomitant evolving changes.Read More
Gregory Beyer’s works allow the listener to hear the berimbau in three progressive contexts, first as a member of a mixed percussion ensemble featuring mallet instruments, then in a duo setting, and finally as a solo instrument. Inspired by Berio’s iconic 1973 quartet Linea, Fios e linhas opens with a simple unison motive between vibraphone and berimbau. As the other instruments enter, Beyer plays with expectations and enriches the texture, introducing polyrhythms, syncopation, and passing tones. A middle section features more sustained melodic textures, before the work closes with an infectious groove inspired by the northeast Brazilian style of baião. for Adam and Jess is based on an improvisation Beyer recorded with a student in 2007 and highlights the breadth of invention possible with two berimbaus, facilitated by the instrument’s idiosyncratic set of limitations and capabilities. Sakura Park is an homage to a small park in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York City directly behind the Manhattan School of Music where Beyer studied as a graduate student. The piece is in two sections - the first, in duple meter, is regal and processional, while the second section is in a lilting triple meter. Sakura Park allows us to hear the berimbau in isolation which in turn illuminates how it functions in an ensemble setting.
Matt Ulery’s eclectic six-movement work Emigre & Exile integrates the various roles the berimbau occupies in Arcomusical’s practice into an amalgamated hybrid and is an outgrowth of his own omnivorous musical interests. Joining the ensemble on acoustic bass, Ulery uses intricate hocketing in the ensemble to create rhythmic and melodic mechanisms that truly make the ensemble sound like one hyper-berimbau. A luminous harmonic language pervades the piece, while shifting metrical syntax embeds subtle differences of shading into repeated figures. Ulery’s work transcends aesthetic partisanship, containing elements that will appeal to fans of many different genres.
The album closes with its most experimental music, Alexandre Lunsqui’s sextet Repercussio. Opening with a multi-timbre swell that grows from non-pitched scratching, Lunsqui outlines a chordal texture with insistent repeated notes in ascending intervals. The textural heterogeneity of the opening asserts itself throughout the piece as the music glides seamlessly between pitched and unpitched gestures. A dynamic middle section features a barrage of scrapes and percussive sounds throughout the ensemble that uncannily imitates electronic music with acoustic instruments. After a climactic ensemble passage of alternating triplet figures, Repercussio closes with the most elemental sound a berimbau ensemble makes, several sticks hitting wood, gradually decelerating as if they had been dropped down a flight of stairs.
Arcomusical courageously eschews entrenched boundaries in music. By championing and expanding the repertoire for an instrument most commonly associated with folkloric music, and doing so with a broad aesthetic sensibility, Beyer and Arcomusical assert that all traditions are open to the berimbau and make the berimbau accessible to all audiences. Through its open, humanistic approach, Arcomusical dispenses with false binaries, proving that there is no dissonance between remaining connected to an instrument’s roots while exploring its potential within diverse musical contexts.
– Dan Lippel
Producer: Gregory Beyer
Recording Engineer: Gregory Beyer, tracks 1-10 Dan Nichols, track 1
Tracks 1-10: Recorded on various dates in July, August, September 2020; Arcomusical Studios, DeKalb, IL
Track 7: Recorded May 30 - June 3, 2018; Kiwi Audio, Batavia, IL
Mixing and Mastering: Dan Nichols, Aphorism Studios, aphorismstudios.com
Album artwork: Constance Volk, constancevolk.com
Group photo: Four/Ten Media, fourtenmedia.net
Other photos: Arcomusical, arcomusical.com
Design: Marc Wolf, marcjwolf.com
Arcomusical is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to spread the joy of the Afro-Brazilian berimbau musical bow. Six pillars support this mission: performance, education, composition, publication, research, and community.
Arcomusical has released two albums, MeiaMeia, (2016, Innova Recordings) and Spinning in the Wheel (2019, National Sawdust Tracks). The ensemble has appeared on WNYC, WBEZ, and NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. Arcomusical received a 2016 Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Grant to create the twenty-minute, four- movement Roda with composer Elliot Cole, which the ensemble has performed dozens of times. In 2019 Arcomusical premiered Roda Grande, an orchestral concerto version of the same work, with the Arizona State University Symphony Orchestra. Arcomusical Brasil, a sister ensemble based in Belo Horizonte, released its debut album, Semente (2021, Selo Grão Discos).https://www.arcomusical.com/
Jeremy Muller is active as a percussionist, composer, and multimedia artist. He has performed as a featured soloist at many venues throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia including Transplanted Roots (Australia), International Computer Music Conference, The Banff Centre for the Arts (Canada), MoxSonic, NYC Electroacoustic Music Festival, ZeroSpace (University of Virginia), Northern Illinois University, UNC Pembroke, Balance-Unbalance International Conference, the Musical Instrument Museum, and PASIC. He has given world premieres of works by many composers including Matthew Burtner, Alexandre Lunsqui, and an evening- length tour de force solo work by Stuart Saunders Smith. As a composer, his music has been performed by Arcomusical, Heartland Marimba Quartet, Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble, Crossing 32nd Street, Manuel Rangel, clarinetist Robert Spring, Sam Houston State University, GCC Percussion Ensemble, and many others. Jeremy recently released his debut solo percussion album on Albany records. Some of his research & publications can be found through Bachovich Music Publications & Percussive Notes.
Fulbright Scholar, composer, educator, and “prodigiously talented percussionist” (Chicago Classical Review), Gregory Beyer is a contemporary music specialist who blends the disciplines of orchestral, jazz, and world music into a singular artistic voice. He is the Artistic Director of Arcomusical, a resource dedicated to the Afro-Brazilian berimbau musical bow. Beyer is Associate Professor and Head of Percussion Studies at Northern Illinois University. He is a core member of the Chicago-based new music ensemble, Dal Niente. He spent the 2015-2016 year in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, teaching at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, training capoeira Angola with Contramestra Alcione Oliveira of the Capoeira Angola Dobrada Association, and working with a tremendous group of musicians, Arcomusical Brasil, with whom he traveled to Africa to present and perform at the international Bow Music Conference.
Chicago based bassist/composer and bandleader, Matt Ulery, has developed an instantly recognizable sound. Known for his sweeping lyricism, unconventional phrase structures, expressionistic emotionalism, Ulery’s music, from small, diverse chamber ensembles to full orchestras, is informed by the entire spectrum of jazz, classical, rock, pop, and folk– specifically American, South American, Balkan, and other European folk styles. He has been performing for twenty five years on upright, electric, and brass basses. For over two decades, Ulery has been the leader of his own groups and frequent collaborator. He has produced and released eleven albums of all original music under his name. Ulery holds music degrees from DePaul and Roosevelt University and is in high demand as a bassist in Chicago. As a composer, he has collaborated with diverse ensembles such as Eighth Blackbird, Miami String Quartet, New Millennium Orchestra of Chicago, Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, Axiom Brass, Wild Belle, Guimaraes (Portugal) Jazz Festival, Arcomusical, and the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition. When not touring parts of the U.S. and Europe, Matt is extremely active in the Chicago area music scenes and has performed with his own groups at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, NYC Winter Jazz Festival, Chicago Orchestra Hall, Millennium Park Pritzker Pavilion, Jazz Showcase, Chicago Jazz Festival, Hyde Park Jazz Festival, and countless other fine music listening rooms. Ulery is on faculty at Loyola University Chicago and gives masterclasses and clinics nationwide and beyond.
Every so often an ensemble comes along that is dedicated to some sort of stylistic-meta-acoustical way of playing-listening. Steve Reich's ensembles were/are that, as were some of course that Harry Partch assembled and so also Lou Harrison. Arcomusical is a new ensemble in that general channel of stylistic expression. Their third album is now available, entitled Emigre and Exile (Panoramic Records Pan25).
It is some four composers giving us single movements with one exception, that is Matt Ulery's title work with its six movements. Then there are three pieces by Gregory Beyer, and one apiece by Jeremy Muller and Alexandre Lunsqui.
Each work forwards an instrument not typical of western chamber music, such as the single stringed Brazilian Berimbau, or at times the inclusion of one or more typical western instruments, such as contrabass, vibraphone. for coloration and sometimes played in a non-standard manner for an even more pronounced coloration.. The Berimbau ensembles are inspired, beautifully sonic and a major reason to listen. But also the compositional approaches are all worth your attention over and above the sonic wonder of it as an entirety.
The music pulsates in engaging ways. Everything has a kind of tribal folk-avant forward momentum, an elementally riff-like tonality, with repetition ostinatos not at all formulaic. One hears Asian elements both Southeast and Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, some African momentums and Lou Harrison-esque transformations into a New Music singularity.
I've been an admirer of Matt Ulery's music for some time--I've reviewed a number of his recordings on the blogs over the years (see indexes on this and the Gapplegate Music Blog for those). This music has a departure element that fits in more specially for this ensemble. The other composers too line up the musical language to further flesh out the ethno-lyrical element so pronounced and well done here.
This is not an ordinary sort of album. It is uplifting and unusual. T recommend it if you are wanting something different, something off the well beaten path. Bravo.
— Grego Applegate Edwards, 4.19.2022
A listen spearheaded by the percussionist, composer and scholar Gregory Beyer, this unique effort focuses on the berimbau, an Afro-Brazilian instrument that resembles the body game of capoeira.
Jeremy Muller’s “Singularity” opens the listen with 4 berimbaus played by Beyer, Raychel Taylor, Ethan H. Martin and Elena Ross all flowing together with much warmth and melody, and Beyer’s “Fios e linhas” follows with Beyer handling berimbau, glockenspiel, vibraphone, marimba ganza, caxixi and cymbals with a soothing intimacy that’s quite mesmerizing.
Beyer’s most bare best work, “Berimbau Solo No. 4, ‘Sakura Park’”, is just his lone instrument finding some very meticulous places to reside, while Matt Ulery’s “Emigre And Exlie” recruits 6 berimbaus and Ulery double bass for an extremely pretty and charming album highlight.
“Repercussio”, by Alexandre Lunsqui, finishes the listen, and brings a dreamy quality into the many berimbaus, as their strings are manipulated with a nearly sci-fi quality.
Beyer’s originals are extremely well done, and the contributions certainly impress, too, on this chamber, folkloric, and world music journey that truly is in a league of its own on so many levels.
— Tom Haugen, 7.15.2022