Richard Teitelbaum - Asparagus 2xLP


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Label: Black Truffle

Black Truffle is thrilled to announce a major archival release from legendary American composer and live electronics innovator Richard Teitelbaum, centred around his soundtrack for Suzan Pitt's cult 1978 animation Asparagus. Best known to some listeners for introducing Europe to the Moog synthesizer as a founding member of Musica Elettronica Viva in Rome, Teitelbaum's extensive and radically experimental body of work includes collaborative recordings with master improvisers like Anthony Braxton, Andrew Cyrille and George Lewis, intercultural experiments combining electronics with non-Western instruments such as the shakuhachi, works for computer controlled piano, and large-scale multi-media operas.

Recorded at York University, Toronto in 1975-1976, "Asparagus (European Version)" sprawls across both sides of the first LP. Discovered by composer Matt Sargent in Teitelbaum's tape archive, this is a previously unheard major work for Moog modular and Polymoog synthesizers, unique in Teitelbaum's oeuvre for its lushness and gently melodic quality. The music unfolds slowly, submerging lyrical melodies and burbling arpeggios into uneasy, glacially shifting harmonic swells, the luscious texture thickened with subtle changes of modulation and phase, calling up the shifting layers of Costin Miereanu's classic Derives or the kosmische Musik tradition more than any academic synthesizer exercise.

Teitelbaum incorporated much of this material into his soundtrack for Suzan Pitt's Asparagus, which receives its first official release here. Asparagus, famously paired with David Lynch's Eraserhead for a two-year run of midnight screenings at New York's Waverly Theatre, uses hand-drawn and stop animation to unfurl an oneiric succession of images, beginning with a sequence in which the female protagonist defecates two stalks of Asparagus, which multiply and float out of the toilet bowl to form the letters of the title. Teitelbaum's soundtrack interweaves delicate drifting tones from the "European Version" with contributions from Steve Lacy and Steve Potts on saxophones, George Lewis on trombone and Takehisa Kosugi on violin. Edited closely to the film, even without images the soundtrack proposes a surreal journey through floating synth tones, squealing horns, propulsive arpeggios, distant chatter, and an old-timey waltz.

The final side of the set presents a new realisation of Teitelbaum's text score "Threshold Music," performed at a memorial concert at Roulette, New York in 2022 by Leila Bourreuil (cello), Alvin Curran (sampler and objects), Daniel Fishkin (daxophone), Miguel Frasconi (glass objects) and Matt Sargent (lap steel). The piece asks musicians to match their instrumental volume to that of the sounds of the environment in which they play, sometimes with the addition of recorded environmental sounds, reinforcing frequencies they encounter in listening deeply to their surroundings. Here the players use a field recording taken at Teitelbaum's home in Bearsville, New York, their long tones and shimmering, glassy textures delicately emerging from the white noise of the location recording.

Released with the full approval of both Richard Teitelbaum and Suzan Pitt's estates, Asparagus is illustrated with striking images from Pitt's film and accompanied by detailed liner notes by Francis Plagne. These previously unheard pieces shed new light on the work of a key composer in the American experimental tradition, offering up some of Teitelbaum's most beautiful and engaging music.