The experiments of three musicians with different backgrounds who improvise together around continuous sinusoidal waves, between minimal and rock sensibilities.
In the spring of 1999, Charles Curtis, Alan Licht, and Dean Roberts brought an unconventional mix of drone, improvisation, and experimental rock on an eleven-stop tour of Europe. The concept was straightforward, yet novel: each night, they would improvise a single piece while sustained sine waves played for the duration of the concert. May 99
, culled from three shorter pieces recorded for a radio program at Amsterdam's VPRO near the end of the tour, represents an early high watermark in the collision of minimal and rock sensibilities that started to become prevalent in the late 90s and is an ear-opening listen even for those familiar with the musicians' other projects.
combines resonant sine waves in the style of eminent downtown New York composer La Monte Young
's Theater of Eternal Music with scratchings, scrapings, and warblings produced by Licht and Roberts's guitars, Curtis's cello, and a variety of electronics. Just as sine waves hold together these sundry improvisations, a shared tendency toward the minimalistic—Licht's performances with the Blue Humans, collaborations with Loren Connors
, and solo guitar records; Roberts in the band Thela and his solo project White Winged Moth; and Curtis performing with Young and his own Trio—brought together three musicians with very different backgrounds, creating fertile ground on which they generated the album's unclassifiable sounds.
Charles Curtis (born 1960 in Laguna Beach, California) is one of the premiere avant-garde cellists of the modern era. Trained at Juilliard, Curtis was also a pupil both of vocalist Pandit Pran Nath and composer La Monte Young, and he is one of the few musicians to have mastered Young's rigorous practice of just intonation. Curtis has performed and premiered modern classical, minimalist, and chamber music compositions all around the world. Numerous major composers—Young, Alison Knowles
, Alvin Lucier
, Éliane Radigue
, Christian Wolff
, and Tashi Wada among them—have written works specifically for him. Curtis is Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego.
Alan Licht (born 1968) is a writer, musician, and curator based in New York City. He is equally known for his guitar work in the underground rock
bands Run On and Lovechild and in the experimental
groups the Blue Humans and Text of Light. He has released numerous solo guitar albums and duo and trio records of improvised music, collaborating with avant-garde musicians such as Jim O'Rourke
, Loren Mazzacan Connors
, Rudolf Grey, Lee Ranaldo
and Aki Onda.
Licht is a contributing music editor at BOMB
magazine and his essays and reviews have appeared in Artforum
, The Wire
, The Believer
, Sight & Sound
, and many other publications. He is the author of An Emotional Memoir of Martha Quinn
, an extended personal essay about coming of age as a rock fan and musician; Sound Art: Beyond Music, Between Categories
, the first full-length study of sound installations and sound sculpture to appear in English; and Sound Art Revisited
, an updated version of the latter, published in 2020; and he is a coauthor of Will Oldham on Bonnie "Prince" Billy
, a collection of interviews with Will Oldham, and, with Cory Arcangel
and Howie Chen, the concert transcription compilation Title TK 2010–2014
New Zealander Dean Roberts (born 1975 in Auckland) has created celebrated electroacoustic compositions that have brought together currents of avant-folk, rock, and minimalism into a single flowing stream. A pupil of the Scratch Orchestra's Philip Dadson at the University of Auckland, Roberts emerged from the city's experimental music scene as one of two guitarists in the droning improvisational noise-rock band Thela, whose first two records were released by Thurston Moore's label Ecstatic Peace!. In the years since, Roberts performed and recorded solo under the alias White Winged Moth; founded his own label, Formacentric Disk; joined Tower Recordings while living in New York; and taught sound studies, acoustic ecology and intermedia arts in Auckland and Berlin.