"[T]he obligation-the morality, if you wish-of all the arts today is to intensify, alter perceptual awareness and, hence, consciousness. Awareness and consciousness of what? Of the real material world. Of the things we see and hear and taste and touch."
The imaginative and carefully crafted music of Joseph Byrd (b. 1937) assumes an astonishing variety of guises: he was an integral part of the experimental arts scene in New York and Los Angeles in the 1960s and he founded the psychedelic rock band The United States of America, and its successor Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies, to name just the most salient. Byrd's career resists easy categorization because his collective activities encompass a broader sound world than is typically admitted within the confines of a single genre. In this sense, Byrd possesses the spirit of radical exploration that has long characterized composers of the American experimental tradition. He initially moved to New York in 1960 to study with John Cage, but among the most influential of his experiences during this period were his two lessons with Morton Feldman, whose delicately floating music enchanted the young composer. The works on this recording provide a rich musical document of Byrd s activities in New York between 1960 and 1963, when he studied with Feldman, served as an apprentice to Cage, and participated in the Fluxus group. Crafted with technical precision, all of the works were designed to explore the "singularity of sound" that was central to Byrd's lessons with Feldman.
"The works on this vital new CD, handled with verve and commitment by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, convey a sense of a talented young composer turning his formative influences to personal ends." --The New York Times
"This fantastically-performed disc featuring ACME and percussionist Alan Zimmerman reveals Byrd's seemingly unquenchable curiosity and delight in uncharted territory, rarely settling into one aesthetic or approach to composition for very long and always pursuing new ground even as some of his cohorts pursued a narrower range of musical experience, with more single-minded purpose. This disc--the first commercial recording of Byrd's concert music--fills a gaping hole in the recorded history of experimental music and should be one of the most exciting releases of 2013 for anyone interested in experimentalism or the New York scene." --New Music Box
"As his work with 'United States of America' and after demonstrated, Byrd wasn't prepared to take an uncomplaining back seat on the American bus. His journey was not so much and uneventful one as a sequence of minutely observed and poignant non-events, like the photographs of Walker Evans, or Don DeLillo's 'Americana'. It's not pretty music, but these singular sounds are intesely and unfailingly beautiful." --Wire Magazine