"...the real power of the piece comes through the performance itself. It's difficult to describe the effect that is created during a performance but there is a sense of mystery and a tension like nothing else I've experienced in the theater or in music for that matter. This is truly modern theater and I think one of the most successful approaches to music as theater that I've seen (including some great pieces by Berio and of course Stockhausen's MOMENTE)."
- Glenn Branca

"Part magic show, part mixed-media collage, part art-history meditation... "Rotary Notary and His Hot Plate" is a delightful, spinning contraption of a play chock full of wittily surreal images and propelled by Vito Ricci's elegant, snappy electronic score."
- Stephen Holden/The New York Times

"The piece is extremely beautiful. Helena Carratala's gem-colored taffeta gowns and robes are sumptuous, Pat Dignan's light designs repeatedly startling, Richard Curtis' masks and props superbly crafted, and Vito Ricci's music full of arresting mood shifts."
- Laurie Stone/The Village Voice

"...the piece [is] danced to a fine music score written and performed by Vito Ricci."
- Phyllis Goldman/Back Stage


The Awesome Whatever
Red Planet - Mars 2 Earth (CD Review)
Musique D'Ameubiement (CD Review)
Notes on Vito Ricci's Music
KPs and Other Stories
A Trio Forged
Electronic Ebony and Ivory: A New Sound For The Theater
Musicians Dive Into Improvisation and Electronic Songs


Jazz Review. com

Singing lyrics in several languages, as well as wordless vocals that combine World music with Jazz, Lise Vachon adopts a universal spirit for her adventures. Vocalizing with plaintive chants and emotional swells, she interprets feelings instead of stories. Creative and natural, her session comes from traditional music, Opera, New Music, and Jazz. Her curious array of accompanying instruments, in addition to those listed above, include Peter Zummo's all purpose funnel, Vito Ricci's wrench guitar and occasional bass. Vachon's program incorporates the unusual with the expected, as she partners frequently with piano, trombone, and flute. One of her original songs morphs into "A Love Supreme." Several others deliver folk music themes that could easily have originated in any of a dozen different cultures. "Vocalise," her title track, presents the voice as an instrument in several contrasting views. Here, with her most appealing selection, Vachon sings fragments of lyrics in English, scat sings, and chants over an electronically manipulated vocal backdrop. Her entire ensemble joins her on this selection, as she expresses with a highly original performance. Her program covers a lot of territory, but this focal point brings out her best features in a thrilling combination. Vachon has captured the spirit of creative singing and delivers with a wallop." "In her singing Lise Vachon reveals an inventive patchwork of jazz vocal rhythms coupled with world music which is definitely worth checking out." "Every track on this disc celebrates an array of distinct ethno-sounds and blazing instrumental traditions with elements of new music and pop but also contemporary jazz."

Time Out New York, March 1-7, 2007

Lise Vachon vocalizes freely over constantly shifting backgrounds from a band stacked with idiosyncratic sounds- Peter Zummo's growling trombone, Rashied Ali's restless percussion, "Blue" Gene Tyranny's avant-cocktail piano- the results are quite fetching.

Downtown Music Gallery, March 17, 2007
Review by Bruce Lee Gallanter

Featuring Lise Vachon on voice & chekeree, Byard Lancaster on flutes, bass clarinet & sax, Peter Zummo on trombone & didjeridoo, Vito Ricci on wrench guitar, "Blue" Gene Tyranny on piano and Rashied Ali on bata drum & bass kalimba. Just about every week someone hands me a CD to check out from someone I know little or nothing about and it turns out to be a great surprise. This week's prize goes to Quebecoise vocalist, Lise Vachon, who seems to be based here. and is Vito Ricci's partner. I was unfamiliar with Lise before... Vito produced all and co-wrote some of the pieces of this fine disc. Lise is a unique vocalist who has traveled the world and whose voice and style combine different cultures: West African, European, American and Quebecoise, as well as blending traditional jazz, classical, new music and pop influence. She begins with a Senegalese traditional song called "Yama Nekh", which features Lise's charming voice and the lovely, sublime percussion of bass kalimba. "Deep Felt Song" is an enchanting piece for Lise's soothing voice, Peter's moaning trombone, Byard's sly clarinet, Blue Gene's haunting piano, Rashied's skeletal bass kalimba and the eerie drone of Vito's wrench guitar, which is used like a slide. Lise sings in some odd universal language on "No Fits Please", which places her endearing vocalize amongst softly swirling didjeridoo, flute, piano and bata drum. Lise chooses a poem by Yuko Otomo for "Table in the Corner", which is a lovely lullaby with some thoughtful words that will keep you guessing. "Moi" reminds me of a song by Laura Nyro sung in French with some fine trombone and flute soloing. The title track has a few layers of vocal sounds moving around one another, some spoken, some bird-like sounds, a bit of drum machine funkiness and a cool hip-hop sort of groove. The final piece is a traditional song from Quebec called "Marie-Madeleine" featuring just voice and hand percussion and is a perfect conclusion to an unexpected delight.

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It's fitting that Bob Holman's new The Awesome Whatever is the first release on Bowery Records—Holman, a veteran poet and teacher, runs the BPC. (Sheesh, the guy could only get a Sunday-night slot at his own club?) The playful disc shows (for anyone who wasn't around when Holman's last release came out, nine years back) him to be an acolyte of Ken Nordine's word jazz, never missing an opportunity to jump on a word's double or triple meaning and layering his deeply lighthearted musings over Vito Ricci's simple yet clever accompaniment.

"The shape of an audience is an ear. And every ear is unique, just like a fingerprint."

-Bob Holman

There are so many good things to say about this cd I'm not sure where to begin. So, let's begin with The Man, his own self. It's been nearly ten years since the release of his last cd "In With The Out Crowd" which featured back-up from people like Chris Spedding, Wayne Kramer, and Bobby Neuwirth. When asked why the elapsed time, Bob confessed "I'm not a product guy...whether that's a reason or an excuse, I don't know!"

The truth is that Bob is just so damned busy, not just championing and defining Spoken Word here at home, but also in capturing poetry and languages from around the world; especially from spoken languages that are in danger of dying out in the face of Global Gentrification in the video project "The World of Poetry". Recently Bob spent a lot of time in India, recording everything from the Post-Beat Poets of Delhi to the Fishermen Poets of Chennai. For even more about Bob: www.bobholman.com/bio2001.htm Even two years out of date, this resume is what six or seven normal people might hope to accomplish in their lives. Go ahead...I'll wait.

So, back to "The Awesome Whatever " with its rebus cover. The cd opens up with "She Never Phoned Me Back", a lost gem- rediscovered on the internet- that Bob recorded at San Diego's NPR station, KPBS. Bob was in town to read at Quincy Troupe's series at UCSD, and the radiio host threw him a curve: " you talk about orality, so how bout freestyling a poem NOW?" Bob took him up, the engineer cued up a track, and the result, straight off the dome, is the album's first track.

Track 5 "Pasta Mon " is a playful mix of Reggae, Def Jam and Food , with more semolina-specific rhymes set to a loping beat than you thought existed (my one-year old daughter LOVES this song). It's a great example of Bob's ability to whirl pop culture, humor, and chutzpah into a whole and, just when you think this is a lightweight romp, Bob throws a sobering curve ball: "A nickel for a can & a nickel for a bottle/ A trickle down sound from the nickel that bought you/ America the Beautiful in quarantine/ A cardboard mattress and a cardboard dream/ Barbecue trash cans lining the Hudson/ Dogs are howlin as you throw the spuds on/ Pasta Mon's recipes gettin kinda smelly/ Rat ratatouille & vermin vermicelli". If only PBS Kids got political, this would make a great video for them.

Memorials shape the end of the disc, with "For Paul And Everybody Else" written for Paul Gulielmetti, the activist tenant lawyer, seguing into Night of the Living Dead Every Day," in which Bob describes an post-mortem meeting with departed friends Spaulding Gray and Pedro Pietri, who never met in real life. So Bob arranges it in a kind of zombie dream time. Much the same way he chronicles spoken languages around the world, so their words will not be lost, Bob is determined to preserve a conversation between two friends who never met, even if he has to make it up himself. Pedro is also eulogized in "On the Street Named Pedro Pietri". Death of friends is never easy, but Bob won't let them slip away uncelebrated.

The musical elements of this disc are the responsibility of Vito Ricci. Mr. Ricci has scored over fifty productions including concert music, theater, dance, performance, film and video. Here he can go from the sort of low-fi sound of Timbuk Three to the guitar/voice pairings Lenny Kaye would do for Patti Smith to electronics to Captain Beefheart-esque jazz and then on to blues guitar. Never overpowering or intrusive; often dressing amazing things in subtle clothing; always the perfect collaborator. Another notable co-player in this disc is the engineering work of Nik Chinboukas. He apparently rode heard over this "all-live, one-session, no overdubs" session with the skill-consumate; giving the listeners a big, open-space, spontaneous, alive! feel of being in the same room as it's all happening.

This disc is so good, it should become a textbook for poets who want to do this sort of thing. We look forward to Bob's next disc, which should arrive in 2018. It's comforting to think of the Future with Bob Holman in it.

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Cadence, February 2002
Review by Frank Rubolino

Mars 2 Earth is a quartet playing experimental music on [MARS 2 EARTH, RED PLANET, DREAMBOX MEDIA 1053] that is extremely engrossing. Although it is considerably futuristic, it is accessible. Spirited by [Byard] Lancaster on flutes, saxophones and bass clarinet, the band journeys outbound to the eerie music emanating from [Eric] Ross's electronics, [Toshi] Makihara's percussion, and [Vito] Ricci's guitar. They assimilate multiple disciplines in exploring the beautiful zones of outer space. Ross creates an illusionary ambiance when on theremin, an electronic instrument played by moving the hands near its antennas. Ricci adds further mysticism with his spatial guitar improvisations, and Makihara creates multiple illusions with cymbals, gongs and low-toned percussion. The result is an effortlessly gliding spaceship probing the dark and unknown reaches of the universe.

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Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter, February 2001

Cool analog synthesizer drones from Vito Ricci. Overdriven filters fluttering through long drones on three tracks. The fourth track features singer Lise Vachon on Warm Up, a pointillistic landscape. I'm surprised, I've heard Vito play the American Festival of Microtonal Music on wrench guitar and didn't know what to expect. This very happening ambient!

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by Kate Light

Copland upside down with a rose in his teeth? Sliding backwards down a bannister? Wearing patched blue jeans?

Speaking of patches, melodies go by in little patches, suggesting shapes the way clouds suggest shapes...Sometimes one encounters something already in progress--or someone departing midsentence--maybe a dialogue under breath between dancers--or a sideways glance. Does your ear detect an inversion or a reversion, or a revision of something you heard a moment before...? Ricci's pieces are like Rothko paintings--a line in one color, under it a similar vision in another shade...The eerie undersea quality of Still Life for violin and computer tape, with its electronic "bubbles" suggesting ghosts of the violin, or ocean waves that might sweep the violin away, may be unlike anything you've ever heard, defying attempts to place it in any easy category of "new" or downtown music. The solo miniature pieces for piano may bring to mind Debussy Preludes--they say what they want to say, and no more; no matter how brief they may be, they are haunting.

From the players' perspective, Ricci's elusive rhythmic delineations often call on us to search for a constant pulse within ourselves--and stick to it tenaciously, through silences and side-swipings of the beat. Each piece, like a song or aria, has a hidden key to unlock its patterns, and mixed with an oddball sweetness, a sort of power or rebelliousness against its bar-line chains. Used to be Vito would write something like "furiously" under a couple of slow low notes--Go figure--he doesn't do that so much anymore, but mostly lets the music suggest its own emotion. Still he toys intriguingly with expectations--pauses with who-knows-what to come--sudden outbursts--solitary doublestops--quick dips from low to high or vice-versa--repetitions with odd, but intentional, discrepencies, as if someone had looked at things a little askance. Never enough to terrify, just to keep you in suspense--his warmth and understated humor always bring you home.

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The Village Voice, February 1996
Theater Review by Laurie Stone

Mostly known as a composer of moody, elegant, electronic scores, Ricci presents different slices of life Sundays in February. With quiet, stirring directness, he recounts a botched attempt to go AWOL in Mexico and another lifetime spent in a foxhole boiling water for C rations. "Those were the most frightening days of my life. We sat in our holes and watched people get blown up." Tales also fly of changing from gang members to protesters, learning how to talk to smart girls, and meeting Ornette Coleman in a breakfast place and noticing he eats with his left hand. (Coleman says that if he uses his right hand he eats too fast.)

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LGNY Arts, October 29, 1997
by Brian McCormick

An exquisite, vibrant score of jungle and melodic music by Vito Ricci, and live, breathy, beautiful singing by Lise Vachon provided the rich ambience for Forge, a world premiere danced by Neo Labos Artistic Director Michele Elliman and company members Jae Man Joo and Desiree Sanchez. Initiating in structured solos and duets, the dance explored the relationships among three characters, who seemed jealous but eager to please and play off of each other. Always engaging, the dance was most interesting in energetic sections where the trio leaned into and pushed off of each other, and in phrases where they held hands in unusual manners, twisting and trotting about, without wanting to let go. The tension was resolved in the end, with Elliman and Sanchez following as a pair in slow formation off stage.

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Theater Times, January/February 1987
by David Kaufman

...Vito Ricci is another composer who is excited about possibilities computers offer to the musical composer. Ricci, music director and composer-in- residence of Creation Production Company since 1980, purchased his music computer system in April of 1985. The basic components of this "starter" system — a Yamaha CVSM computer with Yamaha DX synthesizer, cost $700. By June, he had composed the music for Matthew Maguire's The Memory Theater of Giulio Camillo, a piece that enjoyed an extended run at La Mama before being installed at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and then landing at the Anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge this past summer.

"I knew such equipment was available ten years ago, but for a ridiculous fee like $300,000. I mean, I also knew it was possible to go to the moon, but I didn't have tickets," muses Vito, who has been a part of the experimental scene since 1970, playing at CBGB's, Pyramid, 8BC, the Ritz, Town Hall, and the Alternative Museum.

For Ricci, working with the computer has transformed the entire composing process. "It allows me to hear the music immediately after writing it. Before, I'd get a concept and then have to hire someone and say, 'Okay, now we're gonna play sad,' or I'd write something out and have them play it. But either way, I used to be more of a 'mood' composer than I am now."

The computer also increases performance possibilities for Ricci. He can experiment with live playing, computer playing, or a combination of the two. The computer also provides improved sound quality in performance. As Ricci describes it: "Before, it was all on tape; it was very, very primitive. I would make very raw tapes that would then be played on cassette tape players in the Theater and the quality would definitely be a problem. The music became less relevant to the production when the sound-to-noise ratio just wasn't that good. But now when it plays back, it plays back live."

In addition to the improved quality of sound, working with the computer facilitates the composing process. "Sometimes," explains Ricci, "I'll just go to my computer and without even thinking about anything, I'll just start banging on the notes and let it go for thirty measures. Then I'll play it back; and out of those thirty measures there may be three notes in sequence that sound good. So I'll take away those thirty measures and retain only those three notes." With his computer, Ricci can hear as many as sixty-four different parts played back simultaneously without even involving anyone else. But this does have a negative side as well: "You become less reliant on somebody else to play your music. It becomes a more isolated experience. You become more like t composer-in-the-attic."

MIDI also allows for the translation of musical input into a notated score. Ricci, who has no academic training as a composer, sees this as a potential boon to his career: "At the moment, you're only considered a composer if you have [a score] on paper. If you have it on tape, unless you're a success, you're not taken seriously."

Ricci also believes the new technology will introduce a welcome egalitarianism into music composition. "To me, the technology makes everybody a composer, no matter who you are — all you have do is buy the equipment. Everybody can do it and everybody can have fun doing it. And I think that is the best part of it. People could always draw — maybe they didn't consider themselves artists, but they could buy a sketch-pad and some pencils. Now people can make music. All you have to do is spend a couple hundred dollars and you're a composer."

Will that diminish what it means to be a composer? Will the technology turn creating music into producing music? The proposition is absurd, Gewandter believes, "You still have to say, 'How do I start.' You still have to have the idea and commit to it. Beyond that, the more flexibility offered by the technology the more choices one has. The machines don't make you a composer. They're not creative. You have to able to control your tools. And that's all they are really, tools... The musician still has to structure the piece, to say, 'Okay, here we have to have it build. this is the shape that the music has to take over time. A computer isn't going to make those choices for you."

Nor will music computers decide for a Theater company whom to commission for a particular work. But the fact that the machinery is now so affordable, and that there are dedicated composers like Gewandter and Ricci who are interested in exploring its creative possibilities in the Theater, suggest that more and more original music may be presented on stages throughout the country in the near future.

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Skyway News, April 9, 1987
by Steve Goldstein

Metaphorically speaking, when musicians jump off the ship of musical structure and fall into the sea of pure improvisation, they generally sink.

Musicians who belly flop generally don't have much of a musical vocabulary to draw from. But the skilled musician who performs the perfect swan dive is one who has worked hard to acquire a large thesaurus of musical resources.

Multi-instrumentalist Vito Ricci and composer/performer Monica Maye are two musicians who've mastered a perfect form of many musical idioms. They've joined forces to present a series of concerts featurõng improvisations and electronic songs.

Maye has been a catalytic force in the Twin Cities' "New Music" scene since 1977. She's the director of Listen, an experimental vocal laboratory. Maye has also premiered three major pieces here: "Twisted Christmas", "Strange Loyalties: Electronic Visions of Five Women's Lives" and "Heart Throbs".

She met the New York City-based Ricci more than a year ago when he composed and performed the music for the Creation Company's "The Memory Theater of Giulio Camillo" on the West Bank.

"We started talking and immediately found a language that amused both of us", Mave said. "I find him easier to work with musically than anyone I've ever been with before. He creates this environment where you're really free to operate."

Guitarist, synthesizer-player, percussionist and vocalist Ricci is the composer-in-residence for the Creation Company. He's performed in many of New York City's alternative music venues such as CBGB's, BBC, Town Hall and the Public Theater.

"I remember him telling me that he thought he was tone deaf when he was growing up because he was asked to match a certain pitch", Maye said. "He heard so many pitches that he'd match a different one."

"After he started working with electronics, when he was able to isolate relatively pure sine tones and deal with harmonics, Ricci realized that he'd actually been hearing the overtone series. So his ear was too good", Maye said.

The differences between Ricci and Maye set up a healthy, creative tension for the two. Though Ricci's known for his theatrical work, he's also what Maye calls a pure musician, one who just wants to play. Maye characterizes herself as an impure musician who is attempting to fuse the visual with the aural.

"I have more of a visual approach to music and Ricci has a more modular or rhythmic approach", Maye said.

Maye tends to see music as shapes and three-dimensional objects rather than as intellectualized notes. She believes that Ricci's concern with the rhythmic and harmonic aspects of the improvised pieces complements her more spacey approach to music.

"Ricci works with patterns a lot," she said. "He'll set up a pattern and I'll break it. Then after a while, I'll start running patteens — it's catching."

"With all of the electronic tools we have we can build on these patterns. But the landscape that I enjoy the best is when Ricci starts playing his guitar with a wrench", Maye said.

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