- 19 November, 2009
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Founded in 1982 as a way to document the McKnight Fellowship winners of the Minnesota Composers Forum, Innova Recordings initially featured mainly the works of Minnesota composers such as Eric Stokes, Libby Larsen, Paul Schoenfield and Steven Paulus. In 1994 the label opened its doors to any artists with a finished master tape that wanted access to an established distribution network, and now, produces and releases up to 25 CDs per year. On November 17, Naxos of America proudly began distribution of the releases of Innova Recordings.
Innova is dedicated to forward-“hearing” work that pushes and challenges the boundaries of contemporary music. The label’s releases are less dictated by record-bin-constraints or typical notions of marketability, but by the integrity of the work, its originality, conceptual richness and technical quality, and the artist’s willingness to support and promote the release. The label attempts to redefine the typical relationship between artist and label. Artist and label work together, taking advantage of each other’s strengths, to provide both the tools of an established record label and the freedom usually associated with self-publishing.
Innova is geared towards work that is unlikely to find a home in the mainstream record industry. The label focuses on world class music—regardless of its genre (or lack of one, even though for convenience we use words like New Classical, Jazz, Experimental, Electronic and World)—that commercial labels overlook. Several projects have brought national attention to the label: Philip Blackburn’s field recordings from Vietnam (Stilling Time) and his archival series of the works of Harry Partch and Henry Brant. Prominent titles also include GVSU’s recording of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, Douglas J Cuomo’s Arjuna’s Dilemma and Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Apti. Other Innova releases have earned awards and nominations for Grammy, Emmy, and Pulitzer prizes, while numerous titles have received wide acclaim and charted significantly.
“The awesome young musicians from the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble have teamed up with some of the most imaginative DJ’s, remixers and composers to realize not only one of the best In C performances ever, but also some ‘alternate universe’ In C’s that got me smiling, beaming and sometimes amazed. A new revelational viewpoint on a piece that has been turned every way but loose over the past 45 years.” – Terry Riley
This new version comes not from loft-based hipsters in New York or California, but via a mostly undergraduate crew from Allendale, Mich. Beyond the geographical surprise, it actually makes sense that a young ensemble has shown a flair for this music. The kids, as itwere, have always been alright with t he minimalists. Pete Townshend was so influenced by Riley’s early synthesizer pieces that he named “Baba O’Riley” in part after the composer. “Black Mozart,” from Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon’s latest record, might just as easily have been dedicated to a minimalist, given its catchy, brief figure that repeats through verse and chorus alike. The members of Grand Valley State’s ensemble play with a confident swing that suggests they understand these links implicitly. It’s also why this new release offers not just their own astute performance but also 18 remixes by a collection of big names, such as DJ Spooky and Pulitzer winner David Lang. – Seth Coulter Walls, Newsweek, October 1, 2009
Hailed as “the story of the year in classical music” by WNYC’s John Shaefer in 2007, Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble’s recording of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians vaulted to number one on the iTunes and Amazon charts and spent eleven weeks on the Billboard charts. As an answer to that recording which garnered 30 positive reviews and a feature article in the New York Times, the GVSU New Music Ensemble decided to tackle the work of another Minimalist icon; Terry Riley’s In C.
With more than twelve mostly outstanding recordings of In C already on the market, the ensemble simply did not want record another interpretation of the piece. Bill Ryan, director of the GVSU New Music Ensemble, had an idea. The open instrumentation, interchangeable parts and overriding philosophy of freedom of In C would be the ideal foundation for remixing. A 2-CD release that would include a full performance of Riley’s In C as it was intended and short remixes of the work using the GVSU recording tracks as its inspiration. On November 17, Innova Recordings will release the product of this inspiration; In C Remixed.
Representing a true cross-section of musical genres, the remixers on In C Remixed bring together the worlds of classical, pop, electronica, jazz, trip-hop, dance, techno, industrial, disco, ambient, and more. With collective accolades including Grammy nominations (Jack Dangers), a Pulitzer Prize (David Lang), an Emmy nomination (Daniel Bernard Roumain-DBR), a Guggenheim Fellowship (Mason Bates), an ASCAP Foundation/Morton Gould Young Composer Award (Dennis DeSantis), a Fulbright Scholarship (Michael Lowenstern) and an Oscar-winning soundtrack (Nico Muhly), their music has been heard in numerous major motion films, on television and radio, and performed at the most notable venues with the top orchestras throughout the world.
Many of the remixers commented about the first time they each encountered Terry Riley’s In C, remarked on the creative processes that they used when they were crafting their remixes, and also gave explanation of the resulting works:
Bints Mix and Foster Grant Mix, Michael Lowenstern
“For me, the flexibility of In C is singularly unique in its ability to alternately live in the background and/or draw in the listener’s focus. I tried to stay true to that sensibility as I organized my thoughts around the two remixes I made for this compilation, and hopefully succeeded in making them a similar type of ‘flexible listening.’”
Counting in C, Jab Abumrad
“First time I heard In C I was a freshman in college, majoring in music composition and completely lost in a wilderness of scary music. Serial, post-war atonality. Our teacher was asking us to compose music that literally hurt (I was told someone in a class a few years ahead of me had actually sawed an old piano in half for a piece). So anyhow, at one of my more despairing moments, I went to the music library, and on recommendation from a friend, checked out In C on vinyl. And when I dropped the needle on the record, I almost wanted to cry. Here was “serious music” that was actually…fun.”
In Sea of C, DJ Spooky
“When you hear the opening lines of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” – you know they heard Riley’s work. When you think of Philip Glass, John Adams, Steve Reich, Pauline Oliveros, Meredith Monk, Harry Partch, Morton Feldman, Lou Harrison and others, you can also connect the dots. In C was the original DNA of many of these composers relationship to repetition. I hope that the listener can hear a mirror reflection in a hip hop take on the same composition. The Futurists always thought the future would be noise. Who would have guessed that their ideas would be usurped by repetition! I hope you enjoy the work.”
Zachary’s Dream, Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR)
“The poet in me, if asked what Zachary’s Dream means, might reply that I wanted this remix to be a soundtrack to the moment when you’re very young, and very tired, and are falling asleep in the backseat of a car or on a train, as you fight to stay awake, if only to listen to the ambient sounds on the radio or the music on your loose fitting headphones, and your siblings conversation, and the anecdotes of your parents mind-numbing, endless quarreling—all of this, a soothing, comforting lullaby for the over-stimulated children we all might be.”
In C (Todd Reynolds Remix), Todd Reynolds
“As I sat down to work on this, it became clear to me just how much of it all was still close to the surface. As the mix developed, I was reminded of the time I spent on that motorbike as the temples, rice terraces, wild dogs, people selling their art, water, forest, all whirred by, natural and man-made beauty unfolding by the second, and I, simply a humble observer. Not surprisingly, it’s much like the first time I played my way through In C, where I discovered that the listening and the watching was as profound a part of the process as the playing. Terry Riley has given us a timeless work which elevates “presence in the moment” to the art form it truly is, and this mix is my humble response to it.”
simple remix, David Lang
“I have always loved In C and over the years have participated in many many performances – as a trombonist, as a percussionist, as a guitarist, and even once (erratically, I am afraid) playing the pulse. I remember my college new music ensemble drinking a bit too much after a concert and singing the whole thing, backstage in an art center in Mendocino California. It is an easy piece to do badly – I also remember one performance in which everyone agreed too much, and the whole performance took on a march-like quality, as we all unwittingly moved in lock-step with each other. In memory of that performance I remixed a section as a kind of slow march, with the studio help of Todd Reynolds and a spectacularly funereal bass drum sample from Paul Coleman.”