"TEN NAMES OF PEACE"...has a most ritualistic vibe with each sound carefully placed in the overall silence. Squeaks, splats, squawks, vocal clicks, honks...
"TENOR OF THE TIMES" (for Four Tenors)…begins again with extended sax sounds: breaths, rasps, static-like, little squeaks, slowly building and becoming more dense as it evolves.
What is AMAZING to me is that Henry is able to layer these strange and unique sounds into something solid that speaks to us like the long lost or buried voices of ghosts. It seems to me that only a handful of saxists have worked exclusively with these extended sounds and usually just for a short period of time. John Zorn's "Classic Guide to Strategy" is a good example of highly focused and unique solo sax (actually just mouthpieces & bird calls) excursions. And that was more than twenty years ago. Nowadays, it is folks like Jack Wright and Bhob Rainey, that have carried on that tradition. Henry Kuntz is amongst the few who can do it right.
(BLG -Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter November 20, 2006)
...carnal, gifted with a sort of sensuality...if you listen to the music relaxed enough, its vortex of energetic bursts will furnish some memorable moment of much needed mental absence.
The suite "Tenor of the Times" (for four multitracked tenor saxes) that completes the CD demonstrates that Kuntz (who, let’s not forget it, has been a mainstay of the radical fringes of avantgarde, also playing in fundamental albums like Henry Kaiser’s “Ice death”) is an intriguing composer, too. (Massimo Ricci, June 2007)
When I first heard about this product, I had something else entirely in mind. I assumed that Henry Kuntz would be infusing his tenor saxophone playing with Balinese scales and rhythms, becoming something of a micro-Gamelan orchestra. But he had another approach up his batik’d sleeve, one that’s a little difficult to convey via only an audio disc: creating music to accompany his own Balinese shadow puppets. If the listener keeps this in mind and reenacts the stories presented in this Wayang Saxophony in his/her imagination, the disc becomes intriguingly rewarding.
The album is presented in two suites, the first of five movements, the second of two, though in each case the transition between sections is seamless. During the great majority of the time, Kuntz is playing breath tones of a slightly vocalized sort. Only rarely do recognizable reed tones surface, often emerging as though for a gulp of air before being swallowed back into the rushing wind. The initial suite, “Ten Names of Peace” supplies this sonic puppetry via solo tenor and, despite the coaxing of the title, it’s rather fun to visualize the shadow figures engaged in mythic combat and mischievousness, taking swats at one another with each whoosh of reedy air. Kuntz overdubs four tenors for the latter piece, “Tenor of the Times”, allowing more discernable saxophonics to filter through (generally very high or very low). As a purely auditory experience, I found this latter portion more effective simply due to the increased sound sources which include a slightly more varied selection of attacks. Again, one can imagine the music being perfectly and unusually suited to the silhouetted actions of mythic entities.
(Brian Olewnick, November 13, 2006)
... these are avant-garde sound experiments, quiet stuff meant to evoke mysticism and stillness. Lots of air blown through the horn, plus some carefully played notes or harmonics. Very different from the normal avant/improv mold. (Craig Matsumoto December 10, 2006)
The saxophone considered both as a resonator and source of sounds - extended mouthpiece clicks, vocal and fricative effects or continuous sounds that hesitate, moving back into the realm of its component elements - is later presented, through overlaying, as a complete polyphonic, seemly conceived in reverse order instrument.
(February 23, 2007)
Kuntz might be classified as one of the onkyo posse: the player of an instrument who approaches his instrument as an object to produce any sound, not necessarily the sound that the instrument is supposed to make...This is a great CD...intense listening...but quite rewarding. (FdW, Week 22, 2007)
The Entire Finger Palace Listening Board had Officially Listened to your Wayang Saxophony (paying particular attention to the “phony”) Shadow Saxophone (paying particular attention to the “shadow”), and has determined that you are now eligible for the final vote, which, should it come out in your favor, which most of Me suspects (paying particular attention to (“suspect”), would allow you to proceed to The Grand Committee Of All Strange & Necessary Objects, Including What You Seem To Be Doing, and, thus, opens you to the possibility of finally getting the recognition so long sought by those of you who understand the MacArthur Genius Award was really supposed to be sent to you but somehow got lost in the mail and was delivered to the wrong address, which is why our DECLARATION OF MUSICAL MAGICIAN OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE and our one cent coinage (somewhere else in the mail) is on its way because: you are one Incredible Nut!
Congratulations, Woody Woodman
Main & Most Important Listener
NOTES TO WAYANG SAXOPHONY SHADOW SAXOPHONE...
"The diaphanous tenor of Wayang Saxophony Shadow Saxophone took flight like a light butterfly free of its silver cocoon. It happened as I prepared for two solo performances that featured the coming out of my Balinese shadow puppets. The puppets were entrusted to me by a homegrown cultural ambassador on the Indonesian island....
TEN NAMES OF PEACE
"The leather puppets, elaborately and colorfully painted but normally only seen as shadows on a white screen, were theatrically presented in open space to relate a Balinese story known as 'Desa Nama Kerta' THE TEN NAMES OF PEACE. The tale is old, but it was recently newly produced in Bali to help relieve people's trauma from the bombings of 2002 and 2005. I felt that an adapted version of the epic might help us to hold the light in our own poisoned spiritual atmosphere, polluted by war, violence, and planetary disasters. The moral import of the story is that one cannot confront violence with more violence. Only by preserving and strengthening the life-giving principles embodied in music, dance and ritual - originally, gifts to humans from the gods - can we hope to restore harmony and balance in the world.
"In performance, the content of the Balinese tale served as thematic material on which to improvise. To align my playing with the character of the story, I felt prompted to take a fresh look at the saxophone. Instead of allowing the instrument - it's nature, it's history, even it's recent "free" history - to determine how I should play it, I decided to let the music-in-process suggest the manner of instrumental usage. This was as much an evolutionary as a conscious decision that came from working over a period of months with the puppets. The harmonics of blown breath emerged; and, from repeatedly vocalizing the story, the voice spontaneously asserted itself as an integral part of the music.
TENOR OF THE TIMES
"The names of the pieces for four tenors are derived from the names of two sets of ancient Javanese gamelan known as 'sekati.' In Yogyakarta, these orchestras play once each year for five days. The music is peculiarly stark and strong, yet sweet. The sounds of the gamelan 'sekati' are said to confer great spiritual power on those who hear them." - Henry Kuntz, June 2006
ADDENDUM TO THE PUBLISHED NOTES...
The breathy sonic palette of “Wayang Saxophony Shadow Saxophone” can be heard as an aural equivalent to the “negative space” of the blank white screen on which dark mythic images of leather puppets appear. The gauzy saxophone timbre alludes to the storied world of the screen, an out-of-ordinary-time micro-cosmos which serves as a thru-dimensional mediation point between known and unknown, seen and unseen, heaven and earth, humans and gods. Sing-song vocalizations suggest the presence of a puppeteer, “The Creator.” Other saxophone and non-saxophone sounds suggest activity and movement over and beneath the wispy surface; certain sounds parallel the rough rhythms beat out by the shadow puppet master on the wooden box in which the wayang figures are stored.
“Ten Names of Peace” is presented as a continuous suite, but it was recorded in two parts: pieces 1-3 were played consecutively, then - after a short break - pieces 4 & 5. -HK, December 2006
has been intimately involved in free jazz and free improvisation for more than 30 years. From 1973 to 1979, he was editor and publisher of the internationally-acclaimed newsletter-review BELLS. He first recorded on tenor saxophone in 1977 on Henry Kaiser's Ice Death. He has played musette and various flutes since 1981, miniature violins since 1983, gamelans and xylophones since1988, and rhaita since1999. On HUMMING BIRD RECORDS, he has released 2 LPs, 16 cassettes, and 6 CDs of solo, group, and multi-tracked free improvisations. In 1986, he formed the "avant-shamanic trance jazz" group Opeye. He has traveled extensively to Mexico, Central and South America, Asia, North Africa, and Indonesia recording, studying, and drawing upon aspects of music, ritual, dance, and performance, from which 5 ethnographic cassettes have been produced. He has performed with Moe Staino's MOE!kestra and has collaborated on various projects with edgy drone master Robert Horton.