Featuring the foghorns and other maritime sounds of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and solo improvisations by John Cage, Joseph Celli, Clark Coolidge, Alvin Curran, Jon Gibson, Malcolm Goldstein, Steve Lacy, George Lewis, Pauline Oliveros, and Leo Smith "In the middle 1970s I began to formulate ideas and projects leading to the making of music outside the concert halls-often in large open and naturally beautiful sites. Ports, rivers, lakes, caves, quarries, fields, and woods, always ready sources of my musical inspiration, now became my new music theaters" (Alvin Curran)
Maritime Rites is a series of ten environmental concerts for radio composed by Alvin Curran (b. 1938) in 1985. The programs use specifically recorded natural sounds as musical counterpoint to the soloists whose improvisations are freely restructured and mixed by Curran. Featured here are the foghorns of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. Also included are maritime bells, gongs, whistles and regional bird and animal life. Comments from lighthouse keepers, Coast Guard personnel and other local people are woven impressionistically throughout. Rich in ambient detail, Maritime Rites presents the foghorn as indigenous American "found" music par excellence and the source of one of the most enduring minimal musics around us. The series is also a comprehensive aural documentary of our regional and national maritime heritage including such historical sounds as the Nantucket II Lightship, now out of service and doing service as a museum docked in Boston Harbor. The Lightship's horn is the only one of its kind (and the loudest!) on the East coast and was recorded extensively during an exclusive session ten miles off shore with the special cooperation of the ship's crew. As the foghorn gives way to other electronic navigational aids, this work may serve as a historical document of some of the most beautiful and mysterious sounds of the sea.
As an expression of sonic geography, Maritime Rites brings together different areas of the Seaboard in a single musical moment. The series was expressly conceived for radio, the only medium that can safely accommodate over sixty foghorns at once and bring an entire coastline, seemingly live, into anyone's home! An essential document for anyone interested in sound art.
"Foghorns and other sea sounds are the raw materials of Alvin Curran's sonic explorations on Maritime Rites, produced for ten radio broadcasts in 1985 and issued in 2004 as a double CD by New World Records. In collaboration with John Cage, Pauline Oliveiros, and other adventurous composers and performers, Curran combined recorded sounds from the U.S. East Coast with live improvisations; the programs represent the spontaneous interactions of the musicians with "found" music, and Curran's manipulations of their sounds through aleatoric procedures. That this collection drifts like avant-garde flotsam should come as no surprise, for the project's premise invites randomness, and the mixtures of horns, bells, bird calls, vocalizations, poetic recitations, electronic tones, and instrumental licks resist conventional musical expectations. If these recordings are allowed to wash over the listener as background music, then the cumulative effect is of a dream that is sometimes pleasant but also a little strange and disorienting. But if these sessions are judged with an attentive, critical ear, even accepting Curran's loose scheme, they fail to hold interest for more than a few minutes, and seem rather more about the artists' conceits than the haunting sounds of the seaboard." AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson