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Austrian electronic music innovator Fennesz will be kicking off Ars Nova Workshop's 2010-2011 season with his first ever Philadelphia performance on September 5, 8pm at the International House (3701 Chestnut Street).  While Fennesz has not released a solo LP since 2008's Black Sea, this has been an incredibly busy year for the artist who the San Francisco Bay Guardian's Erik Morse called "the most extraordinary ambient composer since Brian Eno."

Thus far, 2010 has seen the release of 7 Fennesz collaborations, archival recordings or reissues: 1) Szampler, a cassette that collects samples used in his previous work, 2) In Stereo, a new album by his ongoing project with Jim O'Rourke and Peter Rehberg, Fenn O'Berg, 3) a newly mixed version of 2001's classic Endless Summer album, 4) On's Something That Has Form and Something That Does Not, an album featuring Fennesz' reworked versions of improvised pieces by Sylvain Chauveau and Steven Hess, 5) Knoxville, a live recording with David Daniell and Tony Buck, 6) Quiet Inlet, a collaborative release out on ECM with electro-acoustic improvisers Food, and 7) a remix of Oneohtrix Point Never's "Returnal," which appears as a B-side on an Editions Mego 7".Aside from proving Fennesz' prolificity, these many projects and releases show how dedicated he is to discovering new sounds and exploring the creative possibilities opened up by fresh collaborations with diverse artists.  In preparation for this very rare North American performance - this Philly show is 1 of only 10 US dates - we'd like to share a few interviews and videos (links below).  Enjoy, and we'll see you on Sunday!

Interview: Wall Street Journal, 2009

Interview: Pitchfork, 2009

Video: Fennesz live at V. Sessions, 2008

ANW 2010-2011

Greetings ANW friends!  As you know, we successfully concluded our 10th season and kicked off the summer in July with spectacular performances by Nels Cline Singers and On Fillmore.  While we're sad that another summer is almost gone, we're incredibly excited to announce the many creative music performances planned for our upcoming season!

If you've kept an eye on our website, as well as our Facebook,, Myspace, and Twitter pages, or if you've seen the fantastic ANW 2010-2011 events poster made by Norwegian noise artist Lasse Marhaug (pictured to the right and also viewable here), you'll know that we've been slowly updating the performance schedule over the past two months.  Featuring creative artists representing a wide cross-section of the rich tradition of, and new directions in, experimental and jazz music - from noise to new music, European improvised music to Free Jazz, solo performances to large ensembles, legendary to emerging artists - here is what Ars Nova Workshop has in store this season.

As we begin the next ten years of adventurous and exciting programming, Ars Nova Workshop wants to know a little more about you - what you like, what you want to see, and how you want to see it. We have put together a short survey to help us with this goal, and it would mean a lot to us if you could take a few minutes to fill it out.

As a thank you, we are giving away an ANW prize pack featuring a pair of tickets, CDs, and a t-shirt to a winner drawn at random. Just fill in your name and email at the end of the survey if you want to enter - otherwise, this information is optional.

And now, here's the link:

The Magic City

The last time we heard from the Sun Ra Arkestra was on May 25th at Johnny Brenda's when Ars Nova Workshop hosted Maestro Marshall Allen's 86th birthday celebration.  Through two high-energy sets that had the audience either dancing feverishly or contemplatively traversing the spaceways, the group demonstrated the unrivalled expertise, joy, and passion that have been the foundation for their musical journeys since Sun Ra founded the Arkestra in the mid-1950s.

At 6PM on Saturday, July 24, the Sun Ra Arkestra will be offering another hometown performance!  This free outdoor concert will be held in University City, on 40th Street between Walnut and Locust Streets, in the green space directly behind the Walnut Street Free Library.  We hope to see you there for this special mid-summer show by Philadelphia's much loved pioneers of jazz and experimental music! 

Solid Sound

On August 13-15, MASS MoCA will be transforming the sleepy Western Massachusetts town of North Adams into a paradise city for fans of critically acclaimed rock band Wilco.  The Wilco Solid Sound Festival - a Wilco-curated 3 day music, art, comedy, and film event - will showcase numerous Wilco side-projects.  In the same spirit, Ars Nova Workshop is pleased to announce that we will present two of these Wilco side-projects here in Philadelphia to conclude what has been an excellent season of events.  This two-part season finale will feature performances by Nels Cline Singers and Glenn Kotche's On Fillmore.

On Wednesday, July 7 The Nels Cline Singers will be performing at Johnny Brenda's, an event that will mark the group's first Philadelphia performance.  Their latest full-length record, Initiate, was released in April of this year, and if you haven't heard it yet, now is the perfect chance to experience some of the new material and witness the world's most dangerous guitar player for yourself.  ANW is also pleased to announce that the trio will be joined by a very special guest for the evening: Cibo Matto-founder and multi-instrumentalist Yuka Honda!  Sharing the bill with The Nels Cline Singers will be Good for Cows - the duo of Xiu Xiu's Ches Smith and Devin Hoff of Nels Cline Singers - and the hypnotic minimalism of Tzadik recording artist and mibra player Richard Crandell.

Then, exactly one week later, on Wednesday, July 14, On Fillmore will be performing at Philadelphia Art Alliance.  Bassist Darin Gray and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche have collaborated with a long list of jazz, experimental, and indie artists, including Jim O'Rourke, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Chris Corsano, Loren Connors, Will Oldham and Kevin Drumm.  Their excellent 3rd LP, Extended Vacation, was released in 2009 and praised by The New York Times and Pitchfork alike for its idiosyncratic genre-bending.  A solo performance by composer and pianist Rachel Grimes, who was called "one of American independent music's few truly inspired technicians" by The Wire, will start the night off.

Please come out and join us for these two very special events.  We'll be celebrating the end of a wonderful season of music and the beginning of an even better one!

Tim Berne's Return

It's been an excellent time for Tim Berne fans at Ars Nova Workshop this season!  In mid-December of last year we had two back-to-back nights of Tim Berne projects and works as part of our Composer Portrait Series.  On December 11, Berne performed with the Collide Saxophone Quartet, and then led his Big Satan trio of Marc Ducet and Tom Rainey through an amazingly raucous set.  The following night, after a pre-concert discussion with New York Times music writer Nate Chinen and Screwgun Records (the label Berne founded in 1996) artist Steve Byrum, Philly-based pianist Matt Mitchell started the music off with a newly commissioned solo piano composition written by Berne.  The evening was concluded with a spell-binding performance by Berne's new all-star large ensemble, Adobe Probe, which featured Mitchell, Chris Speed, Shane Endsley, Marc Ducet, Michael Formanek, and Dan Weiss.  Then, on April 13 of this year, Berne was back in Philly again for the fantastic debut performance by Matt Mitchell's Central Chain with Oscar Noriega, Mary Halvorson, John Herbert, and Tomas Fujiwara.

Well, it's not over. 

On Thursday, June 24 Tim Berne's Los Totopos, a new touring quartet, will be taking the stage at the Philadelphia Art Alliance.  Always selecting the best and brightest musicians for his ensembles, this time Berne is working with Matt Mitchell, Oscar Noriega, and Ches Smith (who performed with ANW last as Congs for Brums when he opened for the Peter Brötzman-Hamid Drake Duo).  Like all things Berne-related, and as recent reports from Los Totopos' currently underway Invasion Of Privacy Tour suggest, this performance is not to be missed.  Please join us for one of the last shows of the current season and what is sure to be one of the best!

On June 16, composer, musician, producer, visual artist, and educator Bill Dixon died during the night at his home in Bennington, VT. He was 84 years old.

Since his first release in 1962, the Archie Shepp-Bill Dixon Quartet, Dixon has ceaselessly produced challenging, unique, and creative jazz music.  Just like the Earth-shattering low-end blasts of his horn, his compositions and playing have had a massive impact on the trajectory of contemporary experimental music.  He worked with many first generation free jazz artists, including Cecil Taylor, Marzette Watts, Alan Silva, Jacques Coursil, and Jimmy Garrison, and in 1964 he organized the Jazz Composer's Guild and the October Revolution in Jazz, which hosted performances by Taylor, Shepp, Sun Ra Arkestra, Giuseppi Logan, Milford Graves, Rashied Ali, Paul Bley, Ornette Coleman, Andrew Cyrille, and many others.  In addition to his superb musical contributions, Dixon also played a relentless organizational role by bringing experimental jazz to new audiences.  Similarly, as the founder of Bennington College's Black Music Division, for which he was a professor and chair from 1969-1995, Dixon had an equal passion for enlightening students about the rich and frequently neglected musical traditions that were such a deep part of his life, and that he so greatly influenced.

In the past three years, Dixon created some of the most amazing music of his life.  In 2008, both his performance of compositions for large ensemble at the 2007 Vision Festival was released by Aum Fidelity, 17 Musicians In Search Of A Sound: Darfur, and Thrill Jockey released his collaboration with Rob Mazurek's Exploding Star Orchestra, titled Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra.  Both of these recordings showed Dixon at the height of his talents and working with some of the best young musicians currently on the jazz scene.  Then in 2009 came Weight/Counterweight, featuring Dixon alongside Aaron Siegel and Ben Hall, and Tapestries For Small Orchestra.  The latter may very well be remembered as Dixon's greatest achievement as a composer and musician, and it is unfortunate that his death has come at a time when his musical imagination was so limitless.

Ars Nova Workshop is deeply saddened by the loss of Bill Dixon, who was such a monumental force in the world of jazz music.  We are, however, very glad and honored to have had the pleasure to host his first ever Philadelphia performance last December, when he played with Exploding Star Orchestra at International House.   That event will now be remembered as even more of a special occasion.  Our thoughts go out to Dixon's family and friends, and to the entire jazz community.

Odean's List

“Every time I pick up the horn,” saxophonist Odean Pope claimed in a 2001 interview for The Northern Californian Bohemian, “there’s always something that I discover I can do differently if I really seek.”  Born in North Carolina in 1938, Pope relocated to Philadelphia ten years later and began his music career performing with Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and James Brown, frequently at Philadelphia’s Uptown Theater.  In the 1960s, Pope performed with Jimmy McGriff and Max Roach, building a strong relationship with the latter that led to decades of international touring and recording.  In the late-1970s, Pope formed Catalyst, a funk-infused jazz quartet with Philadelphia-based musicians Eddie Green, Sherman Ferguson, and Al Johnson.  While continuing as a soloist with Roach, in the early-1980s Pope began working more as a band leader, most notably with Odean Pope Saxophone Choir and Odean Pope Trio.  Pope continues to compose and perform music animated by the intersections of hard-bop, swing, and free jazz, steadily seeking new musical possibilities and directions.  About his most recent album, Odean’s List, All About Jazz’s Troy Collins wrote that it “is a compelling reminder of Pope’s relevance as a composer and improviser, one whose talent deserves greater recognition.”

On Wednesday, June 9 at 7:30, The Rosenfeld Gallery (113 Arch Street) will be hosting a performance by the Odean Pope Trio, featuring Philadelphia-natives Lee Smith – the father of bassist Christian McBride - on bass and long-time collaborator Craig McIver on drums.  What is sure to be an excellent and intimate evening with some of our city’s finest jazz musicians will also be preceded by a panel discussion entitled “Philadelphia Jazz: Past, Present, and Future” and featuring Pope, Smith, Iver, Jazz Host J. Michael Harrison from WRTI’s The Bridge, and executive director of Ars Nova Workshop, Mark Christman.  General admission for the event is $20, and space is limited to 60 attendees.  In order to attend, please RSVP immediately by emailing

On May 28 at Fleischer/Ollman Gallery, ANW is excited to present the US debut of Koboku Senju.  This cosmopolitan quintet features Norwegian sound-artists Martin Taxt, Elvind Lønning, and Espen Reinersten, along with Japanese experimentalists Tetuzi Akiyama and Toshimaru Nakamura.  Akiyama and Nakamura are both bold contributors to Japan’s vibrant experimental musics tradition - which ranges from the multimedia projects of composer Somei Satoh to free jazz saxophonist Kaoru Abe to the harsh noise of Merzbow - who are at the forefront of the contemporary Onkyo music movement.  Translating in English as “reverberation of sound,” these electroacoustic improvisers emphasize texture over structure, and minimalism and quiet noise in contrast to the maximal abrasiveness that characterized Japan’s 80s noise scene.  

This Tuesday night at Vox Populi Gallery, our friends at Philadelphia Sound Forum are also presenting Toshimaru Nakamura, and the three scheduled sets for the evening are not to be missed.  As if it wasn’t enough that Nakamura will be performing solo on his no-input mixing board, he will also be performing as a duo with Philadelphia-based clarinetist Gene Coleman, and with a quartet comprised of Philadelphia musicians Tim Albro, Ian Fraser, and Jesse Kudler.  These intriguing pairings promise to be daring, touching upon many diverse components of the experimental musics continuum, as Nakamura will be joining forces with several of the finest local sound-artists our music scene has to offer.  Philadelphians are fortunate to have these two challenging events in the same month, and we hope to see you all at both!

Creative Music

On Sunday, May 9, at International House, Karl Berger’s In The Spirit Of Don Cherry will be realizing a critical instance of the radical culture that grounds experimental musics and free jazz. The septet will be treating select works by visionary sound-artist Don Cherry as living texts that necessitate perpetual re-examination and re-interpretation rather than as static, historical documents that are looked back upon, distant and frozen in time.

Cherry’s grand body of work particularly demands such treatment, for his influence on the trajectory of, not just free jazz, but contemporary experimental musics as a whole, is monumental. By integrating seemingly disparate modes of sound, namely merging the North American jazz idiom with European, African, and Asian sound-languages, Cherry practiced a dynamic and new global sonic approach. His influence can be clearly heard across a wide spectrum of challenging contemporary musics, from free folk and free jazz to minimal drone and even various modes of psychedelic rock.

Karl Berger, founder of the Creative Music Studio, continues to embrace a similar cosmopolitan appreciation for seemingly disconnected and unbridgeable sound-worlds as did Cherry. The two worked together extensively beginning in the mid-60s, stretching the jazz category in previously unthinkable and exciting directions. The ensemble Berger has assembled for this special occasion, which features several Cherry collaborators, will re-animate Cherry’s spirit by critically exploring his remarkable catalogue. By treating his works in this way, Berger’s ensemble will open up even more possibilities within them, exemplifying how they speak, not just to the past, but the present and future of experimental musics and free jazz.

From 6-7PM at International House, Berger will also be participating in a public discussion alongside former Cherry collaborators Mark Helias and Peter Apfelbaum, hosted by jazz historian and musician John Szwed. Both are not-to-be-missed events.