Bruce Friedman, Jim McAuley, and Jeff Schwartz Release Tierkreis: Unique Los Angeles Trio Interprets Legendary Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Most Popular Work
In 1974, avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen wrote a series of short melodies based on the signs of the zodiac (“Tierkreis” is German for zodiac). They were originally intended for a set of custom music boxes, so he was limited by the capacity and range of their mechanisms. However, between then and his death in 2007, he created versions of these melodies for performance by instrumentation ranging from solo voice to symphony orchestra and incorporated them into large-scale works including Sirius and the Licht opera series. He also published instructions for performers to create their own versions, and many have done so.
Los Angeles trumpeter Bruce Friedman attended the 2008 Stockhausen Course in Kürten, then organized a tribute concert that fall at Harbor College on a series curated by Grandmothers of Invention drummer Chris Garcia. Among the pieces he prepared was a version of “Tierkreis” with guitarist Jim McAuley. Friedman invited Jeff Schwartz, who he knew as a bassist, to join them. After studying the score and instructions, Schwartz created a realization for trumpet and two guitars, playing the second guitar part himself to help cover the exact notes from Stockhausen’s original because the harmonies were impossible on a single guitar and, since they had been written for music boxes, there was nothing in the bass register. Although all three musicians were experienced in jazz and free improvisation, and Stockhausen’s instructions permit improvisation, they chose to stay with his written parts, focusing on the rare and beautiful sound of post-tonal music played on steel string guitars. Following the tribute concert, they recorded this music in Architecture Studio, the home base of Kronos Quartet sound engineer Scott Fraser, himself a brilliant electric guitarist who performs improvised ambient music with Friedman.
Nate Dorward’s 2006 interview with McAuley in the online magazine Paris Transatlantic <http://www.paristransatlantic.com/magazine/interviews/mcauley.html> is probably the best source on his remarkable life in music. Born in Kansas in 1946, McAuley moved to Los Angeles in the late 1960s when his folk-rock band Mouse signed to Capitol Records. After they broke up, he played on sessions including Frank Sinatra’s Old Blue Eyes is Back, was briefly signed to John Fahey’s Takoma Records, studied and performed with John Carter, taught the cast of A Mighty Wind how to fingerpick, and recorded several albums of improvised music including solo work and collaborations with Nels Cline, Leroy Jenkins, and others, as well as the psychedelic folk project Mc ‘n’ Mac with his partner Mary MacQueen. With Tierkreis, McAuley was very proud of having made what he considered a classical recording and was looking forward to its release when he unexpectedly passed away in August 2021. This album is dedicated to his memory.
CDs are available directly from Friedman and Schwartz and downloads from Minus Zero <https://minuszero.bandcamp.com/>. All proceeds from download sales will go to Planned Parenthood.
Bruce Friedman is a classical and jazz trumpet player. His recordings as a leader, with Scott Fraser, with Motoko Honda, and as a member of Rich West’s band, are on the Pfmentum and AnalogArts labels. https://www.brucefriedmanmusic.com
Jeff Schwartz is a librarian, activist, bassist, and the author of books on free jazz for Routledge (2018) and SUNY Press (forthcoming). https://jeffschwartzmusic.wordpress.com