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Triptych (tautological)

by Kyle Bruckmann

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Since the mid-1990s, Bruckmann has remained doggedly active in multiple overlapping sub-scenes of the New Music underground; his flagship projects have included punk-inflected free jazz (Wrack, Degradient), lowercase/electroacoustic improvisation (EKG, addleds, collaborations with Olivia Block), and the unlikely intersection of prog rock and neo-no wave (Lozenge, Pink Mountain). Thanks to his uncommon distinction as an improvising oboist, he has performed and/or recorded with Creative Music progenitors Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton and George Lewis, and worked extensively as a sideman for bandleaders such as Lisa Mezzacappa, Aaron Novik, Andrew Raffo Dewar and Myra Melford. He also earns his keep as a freelancer in orchestral and chamber music settings; over the past several years, the balance of this work has shifted to a rising profile in contemporary classical music (Splinter Reeds, sfSound, SFCMP), championing compositions by the likes of Sky Macklay, Eric Wubbels, Linda Bouchard, Amadeus Regucera, Paula Matthusen, Maija Hynnnen, Chris Brown, and Du Yun.

The most recent album under his name, Dear Everyone (2017, with Degradient), synthesizes all of these wildly varied strains into a gleefully eccentric maximalism. With Triptych (tautological), he turns his focus inward and expands his scope outward.

These three compositions balance an immersive, patiently evolving soundworld with a harrowing poise and restraint. The aesthetic responds obliquely to the Wandelweiser Collective while evoking the longer shadow of the New York School’s Feldman, Cage and Tudor. With vintage Cold War electronics (featuring UCSC’s E-mu analog synthesizer) deployed in ever-shifting mobile forms, the scores are designed to produce a consistent, replicable overall affect that varies significantly in its particulars from performance to performance.

Bruckmann has often explored the time-honored artistic practice of ekphrasis – most notably with Wrack in 2014’s …Awaits Silent Tristero’s Empire, a rollicking “musical phantasmagoria” in which he transcoded fictional song lyrics from Thomas Pynchon’s first three novels. On Triptych (tautological), the compositions are dedicated to three artists whose works in three media deeply impacted the development of his aesthetics and identity: postmodern American author John Barth, singer and guitarist Blixa Bargeld (of the seminal German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten), and visual artist James Turrell.

Themes he pinpoints as particularly salient in these artists’ work interact and resonate across the album. Authorship is blurred and narrative reliability questioned via droll, darkly humorous self-critique and arch, recursive structures. Performative extremity manifests in the endurance required to play a notoriously finicky wind instrument for so long, and often so quietly. The interaction of the lone performer with the multi-channel electronic diffusion (particularly in live concert settings) emphasizes spatial dislocation and perceptual sleight of hand.

Bruckmann has performed these pieces in numerous festival and recital contexts, with presenters including Non-Event (Boston), ESS Option Series (Chicago), Music of the Americas Concert Series (Albuquerque), Mills College Center for Contemporary Music (Oakland), Red Room/High Zero Foundation (Baltimore), CCRMA (Stanford), Festival of New American Music (Sacramento), and the conference of the International Society for Improvised Music (Château d’Oex, Switzerland).

By releasing recordings of them now in album format, he dreams that their introspection and melancholy can provide some form of solace for those of us sheltered in place – presented, perhaps for the first time in quite a while, with the space to actually sit still and listen.


released June 1, 2020

Supported in part by a Spring 2020 Scholarly/Artistic Activities Grant administered by the Faculty Research Committee, University of the Pacific (Stockton, CA).

Recorded in the UCSC Recital Hall by William Coulter. Mixed and mastered by Myles Boisen, Guerrilla Audio and Headless Buddha Mastering Labs, Oakland CA. Photo: Lenny Gonzalez. Design/layout: BMoen, Etch Image Co. Thanks also to Scott Makson, UCSC Music Department Electronics Technician; Tom Djll; Larry Polansky; and everyone at the Mills College Center for Contemporary Music.


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Kyle Bruckmann Oakland, California

Oakland, CA-based composer/performer Kyle Bruckmann’s work extends from a classical foundation into genre-bending gray areas encompassing free jazz, electronic music and post-punk rock. From 1996-2003, he was a fixture in Chicago’s musical underground; long-term affiliations include the electro-acoustic duo EKG, the art-punk monstrosity Lozenge, and the Creative Music quintet Wrack. ... more

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