review of FUNG SHA NOON CD (2009) on Tzadik:
"Odentity" takes Harry Partch's instruments and composes something new for them. Not surprisingly, the ghost of Partch hovers over the proceedings and the sound of the music reflects this. It is quite fascinating to hear this Partch/not Partch music and it shows you that Partch's ensemble of instruments has plenty of life left in it for those who feel the inspiration.
"Uncle Venus" follows with a strings plus gamelan lineup and an attractive ambiance that makes as much use of the space between sounds as the sounds themselves. The two part "Music for Theremin and Gamelan" takes the timeless qualities of gamelan music and stretches them, modernizes them to suit Simons' concept. The theremin gives the ensemble an eerie lead voice and the violin-viola soundblock effectively provides a third color for the ensemble. It's all an indication of how Simons has internalized musical traditions and made them over to the music in his head.
For the finale, David Simons performs a solo piece for an array of percussion instruments, including the found objects of everyday life: cans, bottles and such.
This may not become a barn-storming blockbuster out there in musical-commerce-land. What it is is ratherremarkable and thoroughly captivating.
Two of the four pieces on this album of music by New York-area composer David Simons use an Indonesian, specifically a Javanese gamelan orchestra, and they draw on the procedures of traditional Indonesian music to a greater extent than some of the recordings of the group involved, New York's Son of Lion Gamelan. Indeed, even the other two pieces, with no gamelan involved, seem to have been shaped by an encounter with gamelan music; the use of interlocking parts to generate a longer cycle marked by a gong or some other large percussion instrument, for example, is a favorite device of the composer. Simons ornaments basic percussion textures with light use of samples and electronics in the later pieces, and he has a nice way of keeping the parts clear in the texture. Perhaps the most interesting piece is the Music for Theremin and Gamelan (tracks 3 and 4), composed in 1998 and 1999 and dedicated to the theremin virtuosa Clara Rockmore, who died before she could hear it. The piece alternates between gamelan sections in which the thermin fits in toward the end, intensifying the texture, and theremin solos, "activating samples by proximity midi-triggering." A bit of explanation of this for the non-technical might have been a help, but the effect can be grasped by anybody; the texture is deepened by another step when this happens.
The final Chain of Incident, from 1993, makes sharp, pristine use of junk percussion, or, as Simons puts it, "debris with personality." The opening work, Odentity, draws less on gamelan than on the music of Harry Partch, whose 43-tones-to-the-octave instrumentarium stimulated the composition of the work and is used in the performance. A successful stretch for John Zorn's Tzadik label, this disc is recommended for fans of contemporary percussion music. The album's title, for no apparently good reason, is a Yiddish-Chinese pun meaning "are you starting in with me already?" in the former and "sudden abundance," "looks good in a monk's robe," or "killer wind" in the latter, at least according to the composer.
for SinCha Hong's "GODOT" at LaMama:"A live soundscape by David Simons, the music and sonic potency that accompanies Hong along this journey,
"The first section is a textural exchange between performer and musician - David Simons artfully composes a live score with strange percussion instruments, some of which he made - such as what sounds like some 19th century Japanese instrument - but actually it's just a piece of styrofoam with rubber bands stretched across it, played with subtlety and ear - one for recycling...very 21st century. Other sounds are produced out of a large array of unexpected instruments by which he creates an Asian-inspired musical atmosphere that weaves right along with the movements of the performer. The coordination between the two is utterly remarkable and fascinating to watch."
...Elodie Lauten, Sequenza 21
"The feeling of well-being is enhanced by the exquisite rustlings of an ethereal percussion score played live by its composer, David Simons." latest known review (of Tzadik CD Prismatic Hearing) : for solo performance at NY Theremin Society:
for Prismatic Hearing CD:
....Jack Anderson, NY Theater WIRE 11/29/08
RYM . . . http://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/david_simons/prismatic_hearing/
online, april 19, 2007
"David Simons is the white wizard of theremin midi triggering. One simply cannot tell how on earth he does it.
With Qi Gong like choreography he generates the most amazing sound and music landscapes that entrance the listeners
and take them on sonic journeys that are beyond words".
Theremin World posting of 4/8/06 concert at Issue Project Room, Brooklyn
"Simons had a sure grasp of his materials and the ends to which they could be put."
"[Dematerialized] very effectively illustrates how orchestral sounds and voices, modulated electronically, can be shaped into a composition that transcends its source materials."
-Brian Marley, The WIRE, April 2005
(for full review)
latest known review (of Tzadik CD Prismatic Hearing) :
for solo performance at NY Theremin Society:
for Prismatic Hearing CD:
for The Birth of George opera CD:
concert at Theater Utan Kayu, Jakarta, January 14, 2000:
"A theremin that sounded like a chorus of wailing alien babies. . .
Simons takes innovation and personalization to an extreme."
"David Simons performed on the Theremin with the
serious mien of someone conducting a seance."
"Most surprising are two contributions from David Simons [on Gamelan Son of Lion CD].
Kebyar Leyak juxtaposes the traditional instruments with processed text and sound,
lending the rather fantastic account a hair-raising touch of realism and immediacy."
"The duo Lisa Karrer and David Simons was joined by Tunnetusuksus, and together they played an unbelieveably exciting and mind bending set"
-Mart Jaanson, Eesti Paevaleht (Estonia) 95
"One of the highlights was the language of frogs (Four Kotekan); with wooden sticks and bamboo mouth instruments they created a croaking tone, slapping their knees and stalking through the delighted audience"
-Mainzer Rhein Zeitung,(Germany) October 95
"David Simons, virtuoso of sampling technology and homemade instruments"
- Kyle Gann, Village Voice Dec. 95
"David Simons score saved the piece."
-Linda Belans, Raleigh NC News and Observer July 91
"The real star here is the score, composed and performed by David Simons."
"Simons music was itself a visual participant."
"David Simons is a one man sound effects department."
"Music that is primitive in the most refined sense of the word." -Lisa Bergmann, Noe Valley Voice 79
"Total concentration is required. Then and only then, when your perceptions co-exist on a similarly high plane, will you begin to understand what is going on here."
****(4 stars) Downbeat Magazine April 76
"Exhilarating crescendos and exquisite timing...carried the listener to mysterious crevices in the mind"
-Cate Miodini, Dance Pages Winter 84
"Mr. Simons music sounded gorgeous... an astonishing rainbow of effects from digital sampling keyboards and blending - with unexpected appropriateness - are Simons collection of exotic acoustical instruments from the East...the sound pictures were fascinating"
"Conceptually the installation is a great intro-duction to some interesting ideas on the durability of myth-making as a human activity."
"Maroney and Simons are heirs to the American pioneers who questioned established practice in music. They bring this circus of noises to the publics attention in improvised form and at high speed."
"A shimmering, foreboding electronic score."
"What gives it coherence is the spare, atmospheric music David Simons devises: plucked or gently struck strings; soothing, dark rumblings; the vibrancy of a jews harp; the eerie whirr of a bullroarer"
Reviews of concert at Theater Utan Kayu, Jakarta, January 14, 2000:
"Before the peak of the program, the musicians presented Virtual Percussion Trio, in which the sound of the Theremin, voice and viola became one kind of contemporary music which was very integrated. The long applause that followed the end of the performance was a clear sign of the enjoyment of the audience. Bravo!"