Composer Doug Bielmeier combines disparate styles to find a hybrid that chips away at the edges between genres. Music for Billionaires features five of his experimental ambient electronic works next to chamber works performed by Hypercube and Unheard-of//Ensemble, two dynamic New York based contemporary music groups, exploring subtle questions of equity and access that emerge when music from different scenes exists in close proximity.
|Doug Bielmeier, electronics||5:31|
|02||Corporate Responsibility Pledge|
Corporate Responsibility Pledge
|Unheard-of/Ensemble, Doug Bielmeier, electronics||6:41|
|03||Burning Old Man Summer|
Burning Old Man Summer
|Hypercube, Doug Bielmeier, electronics||5:43|
|Doug Bielmeier, electronics||5:34|
|Doug Bielmeier, electronics||6:15|
|John Dalton, drums, Doug Bielmeier, electronics||5:05|
|07||CRP (West Coast Remix)|
CRP (West Coast Remix)
|Doug Bielmeier, electronics||6:14|
Composer Doug Bielmeier’s fourth full length album places contemporary chamber music in a wider stylistic context that includes ambient and dance electronica. Drawing on his extensive activity as a recording engineer and producer, Music for Billionaires features chamber works performed by Hypercube and Unheard-of//Ensemble, two active New York based contemporary music groups, alongside five experimental electronic pieces. The diversity of styles puts each medium in relief against the other — the timbral vitality and individuated expressive world of mixed ensemble works versus the controlled sculpting that the electronic realm affords creators.
Moreover, Music for Billionaires has an underlying meta-concept embedded within its program. Bielmeier engages with the question of access and equity that surrounds the esoteric world of contemporary composition. By combining two “new music ensemble” works with music that points to a more commercial arena, Bielmeier prompts questions about presenting modern music, context, and access to the avant-garde world for the general public.
Wells, ME opens the collection with a wash of shimmering sounds, as discrete timbres within a sound mass emerge to the fore and recede again.Read More
Corporate Responsibility Pledge, for clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and electronics occupies a Reich-ian space, with repeated, interlocking rhythmic motives that are developed through subtle variation. After a pulsating opening section, Bielmeier thins out the texture to reveal a pacific halo over which the instruments play lyrical swells and wavelike gestures. The opening groove returns to close this suspiciously sunny piece — perhaps the title and Bielmeier’s brief manifesto hint at a satirical angle.
Burning Old Man Summer, for Hypercube (saxophone, electric guitar, piano, and percussion) is next, and is also built around motoric rhythms. An ostinato in the vibraphone serves as the anchor as punctuated accents and scalar figures swirl around the ensemble. Later in the work, Bielmeier briefly removes the electronic environment altogether, revealing the coordinated instrumental interaction alone.
Throwaway Culture returns to the electronics-only format, also constructed of pulse-driven repeated phrases. A synthesized bass line frames these figures over diatonic pedal tones, occasionally accelerating the harmonic rhythm to drive the phrases forward.
Widows Mite layers organ-like sounds in different registers with processed vocal samples. Bielmeier takes great advantage of the mixing tools at his disposal in this work, fading events in and out across the stereo field to create a three dimensional sound experience.
Slowdance84 features searing guitar samples and dramatic cymbal swells that sweep across the sonic landscape. Midway through the track, it settles into a slow post-rock groove, building to a cathartic climax.
The album finishes with a reprise of the Corporate Responsibility Pledge reimagined in an electronics only context on CRP (West Coast Remix). The churning motive from the ensemble version is heard here with a dance track that migrates into aesthetic territory more closely associated with popular music.
Through transformation of source files, deft manipulation of studio techniques, a penchant for anthemic musical materials, and an openness to juxtaposing divergent stylistic approaches, Music for Billionaires is an intriguing hybrid that provokes questions about aesthetic and genre boundaries.
– Dan Lippel
Corporate Responsibility Pledge recorded September 9, 20212 at Oktaven Audio
Burning Old Man Summer recorded June 19, 2021 at Adelphi University Performing Arts Center
Slowdance84 recorded June 5, 2023 at Northeastern University, Music Department Studio
All tracks composed, recorded, and mixed by Doug Bielmeier
Additional recording on Corporate Responsibility Pledge by Ryan Streber (9/19/21)
Additional recording on Burning Old Man Summer by Wei Wang (4/21/22), Skillman Studios
Mastered by Ryan Streber at Oktaven Audio, July 2023
Cover Art: Jessica Brilli
Design: Marc Wolf, marcjwolf.com
Doug Bielmeier, Boston, creates commercial and experimental music tailored for boutique audiences and media. Bielmeier’s genre straddling compositions are performed internationally and in New York City by the Unheard//of Ensemble and the Hypercube Ensemble. His 2021 music release Ambient Works on Albany Records charted #1 on the North American College and Community Radio Chart (NACC) in the Chill Genre (Summer 2021). His music has been broadcast on WMBR (MIT, Cambridge), KALX (Berkley, CA), WUTL (New Orleans, LA), WORT 89.9FM (Madison, Wisconsin) and heard by over 100K listeners on Drone Zone (Somafm). Bielmeier’s music has been described as an extension of Xenakis’s early tape pieces (American Record Guide, 2018) and "Gentle (Cinemusical).” Others explain Bielmeier’s music is “drone work meant to shake you out of your shell of complacency (Midwest Record)” and “hypnotically static yet ever moving within itself (Classical-Modern Music Review).” His discography includes PLAGUE TAPE 2021 (Boston Hassle, 2021), Ambient Works (Albany Records, 2021), Monophonic (SEAMUS, 2020), Beast of Bodmin Moor (Self Released, 2019), Mind & Machine: Organic & Electronic Works, Vol. 1 (Ravello, 2018), and Betty and the Sensory World (Ravello Records, 2017).
Ford Fourqurean (clarinet), Matheus Souza (violin), Iva Casian-Lakoš (cello), and Daniel Anastasio (piano) form the core of Unheard-of//Ensemble, a contemporary chamber ensemble dedicated to connecting new music to communities across the United States through the development and performance of adventurous programs, using technology and interactive multimedia. Unheard-of is committed to the idea that new music belongs in every community, and implements this mission through concerts and educational workshops throughout New York, as well as across the United States through touring. Unheard-of’s scope and impact has grown dramatically since forming in 2014, now a nation-wide community across multiple artistic genres. With an approach that is open and welcoming of all voices, Unheard-of strives to be a vehicle for imaginative voices novel and experienced, experimental and traditional, uncomfortable and accessible.
Hypercube has built a reputation on high-energy performances with impressive execution. The NYC-based quartet embraces the boundaries of chamber music, featuring cutting-edge works for saxophone, guitar, piano and percussion, while spanning electric and acoustic worlds.
Hypercube has appeared as guest artist at Music on the Edge (Pittsburgh), The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, the Charlotte New Music Festival, The Garrick Theatre (Newfoundland), Roulette Intermedium, the Nief-Norf Summer Festival (Knoxville), LPR presents (NYC), and the 40th International Festival of New Music “Manuel Enríquez” (Mexico City). With a national and international touring schedule, 2019 appearances include the Now Hear This Festival and Ritornello Chamber Music Festival (Western Canada). In addition to their performance season, HYPERCUBE participates in residencies at universities and conservatories across the US and Canada working with students at Cincinnati Conservatory, Boston Conservatory, Memorial University (Newfoundland), Duke University, Oberlin Conservatory, Acadia University (Nova Scotia), Wesleyan, and CalArts.
From championing original works such as Louis Andriessen’s Hout, Philippe Hurel’s Localized Corrosion, and Chaya Czernowin’s Sahaf, to commissioning new works by composers Nicholas Deyoe, Farzia Fallah, Eric Wubbels, Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh, Daniel Tacke, Erin Rogers, Amin Sharifi, Nomi Epstein, Christopher Adler, and Juan Trigos, Hypercube has collaborated with composers such as Sam Pluta and Chris Cerrone, to freshly adapt works for the quartet. Hypercube's album, Brain-on-Fire (New Focus Recordings) was released in 2020.
Hypercube is Erin Rogers (saxophones), Jay Sorce (classical & electric guitar), Andrea Lodge (piano & accordion), and Chris Graham (percussion).
John Dalton is a Boston based musician, composer, and educator. As a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, he received a diverse musical education, especially in his studies with Chris Poudrier and Jim Robitaille. while there, he developed fluency in a variety of styles as both an improvising musician and composer. As a performer, John has been featured in a variety of settings, and both a sideman and leader. He was a featured performer at the New Bedford Jazz Festival, and an ensemble member at the Portuguese Music Awards. he has performed at venues such as Fete Music hall, the Zeiterion Theater, and Boston University. He has performed or shared the bill with artists such as Jim Robitaille, Jing Wang, Amanda Monaco, Barry Altschul, Stefano Battaglia, Kaya Meller, Kamil Piotrowicz, Anastassiya Petrova, and royal hartigan. John has also received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for work with his modular ensemble Spheres of Influence. He is a passionate educator, teaching at various studios in the greater Boston area. He is also a published scholar in journals such as The Peer Review. John Also leads the group Spheres of influence. It is a modular ensemble led by drummer John Dalton. It performs original compositions, standards, as well as arrangements of well known repertoire. The group size is flexible, but it most often operates as a trio, quartet, or quintet. The group has played at various concerts and occasions.
I don’t spend much time hanging with billionaires, so I never hear the musical tastes of the ultra-rich. Rather, I stick to my thousandaire buddies, drink cheap beer, and complain about remixes. That may be best for all involved, as this collection of millionaire-themed music is rather… avant-garde.
I begin my journey with Wells, M.E. I’m not sure if that refers to the fancy rich-man’s enclave on the coast of Maine, or… something slightly evil? Help me judge here: the sound is a warbling mix of drones and fade-in rhythms. As I check out the music, I notice the stark mid-century artwork on the cover. It seems our billionaire class drives classic Cadillac cars from the 1960s, parked in one-car and rather plebeian carports, in rather plebeian tract homes. Interesting….
But on to the next track: Corporate Responsibility Pledge. There are no vocals, so it’s hard to say just how responsible anyone is here. But there is fine fiddle work and a tight rhythmic loop, and I do, in fact, feel slightly more responsible. I think I will recycle more, it’s the least I can do. We ARE all about minimalism here. Burning Old Man Summer flies up next. It’s a small, quiet composition with piano, violin, and minimalism. Is a billionaire minimalist? Maybe. Just maybe. Throwaway Culture offers a circus-like feel, you can hear the merry go round with small, repetitive notes that feel urgent but offer no forward momentum. Again, this may well be a quirk of the ultra-wealthy. I’d love to try it, but the IRS may object.
We are now nearly through our financial journey. Widows Mite and Slow Dance 84 wander by, and we prepare to leave the amusement park with the farewell tune CRP (East Coast Mix). I have no idea what that might mean [*note, CRP = Corporate Responsibility Pledge], and I even asked my official live-in Maine guide (aka my wife) if she could decode. No luck there, but it was a nice little trip through Music for Billionaires. Perhaps they DO live differently in the fancy mansions of Down East.
— Carl F. Gauze, 11.04.2023
Another composer/performer with a New Focus Recordings release, Doug Bielmeier (born 1979), also has a strong “the sound’s the thing” orientation. Wells, ME is somewhat similar in its curtain-of-sound approach to the works by Hosokawa and Hennies. Corporate Responsibility Pledge – for electronics plus clarinet, violin, cello and piano – is at the opposite extreme, with an ostinato rhythm and near-constant repetition that make the work seem much longer than its six-and-a-half minutes. Burning Old Man Summer, for saxophone, electric guitar, piano and percussion, goes back to a sonic-focus approach, with occasional accented elements penetrating a generalized wash of sound before subsiding into the background. Throwaway Culture, for electronics, is another for-sound’s-sake piece that swells and diminishes repetitively throughout. Widows Mitemixes electronics with processed vocals to produce a soundscape that fades in and out repeatedly in its bid to immerse listeners in a rather mundane aural experience. Slowdance84 offers an aural world with more drama – still highly repetitive, still with a shimmering curtain of sound as its primary presence, but incorporating occasional bits of guitar and cymbal sounds that momentarily emerge before disappearing. The disc ends with CRP (West Coast Remix), which uses parts of Corporate Responsibility Pledge – including the near-constant repetition – and mixes in bits of a pop-music dance track, producing an uncertain aural environment that is best experienced without analyzing it too closely.
— Mark Estren, 11.09.2023