DAVID BORDEN / MOTHER MALLARD
David Borden • Gabriel Borden • Judy Borsher • Steve Drews • Linda Fisher • Ellen Hargis • Lynn Purse • Les Thimmig

David Borden is one of the foremost exponents of live electronic and minimalist music. He has been active on the new music and contemporary classical scenes for two decades. He first came to attention as the driving force behind Mother Mallard, the world's first all synthesizer ensemble.

 

 

Mother Mallard's official website
Read about Mother Mallard's 40th Anniversary concerts!
Read "Celebrating Springtime with David Borden's "Easter""

SMART HUBRIS



RUNE 3356

David Borden:
"The title SMART HUBRIS (2005) was derived from and is an anagram of Ritsu/Brahms. Violinist Ritsu Katsumata asked me to write a piece for her using the violin part from Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 3 in d minor, Op. 108. Ritsu is primarily a performer on electric violin, so composing this piece for her, accompanied by synthesizers, was a natural choice. Ms. Katsumata was also familiar with my work as a performer with Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Co., my synthesizer ensemble.

Johannes Brahms composed the violin part and I composed everything else. The idea of borrowing material from other composers and adapting it to one’s own use has been a part of music history from the beginning. In Composers at Work by Jessie Ann Owens, composer Heinrich Isaac (C. 1445-1517) is noted for his technical mastery of working with pre- composed melodies by leaving the original untouched while adding florid voices around it. Bach lifted bass lines from Handel (The Goldberg Variations) and transcribed and transformed concertos from Vivaldi. Charlie Parker kept the harmonic content of tunes by composers like Gershwin, Cole Porter and others while supplying new melodies or heads for them which totally transformed their character while giving him the needed harmonic context for improvisation.

K216.01 (2003) is, like much of my work from that era, a polyphonic composite utilizing a melodic part from another composition. In this case, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major. While there are precedents for this kind of work, it has not been in vogue since the 15th century outside of the Baroque Chorale-based pieces. Also, this is a more radical approach since it does not alter the original part in any way. These works receive their inspiration from Buckminster Fuller’s definition of synergy ( . . . behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their parts taken separately) and by the work of painters Chuck Close, Roy Lichtenstein and George Deem. Close starts with a photograph whose content and structure he then transforms into a unique painting. Some of Lichtenstein’s work (like Femme Au Chapeau) is based entirely on paintings from history. George Deem has based many of his paintings on Vermeer’s work. In addition his Art School series quotes various aspects of paintings from many artists throughout history. In all cases this method forces the use of techniques different from those normally at the artist’s command. The results are surprisingly different from the catalysts. I hope this is the case with these musical works as well."
– David Borden, 2021

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CAYUGA NIGHT MUSIC



RUNE 3355

A reissue of Borden's 1993 tribute to Cayuga Lake's awe-inspiring beauty.
Contemporary American classical music blending synth-minimalism and new age ambiance, transcendent vocals and visionary composition.

David Borden:
"I got the idea for these pieces after several years of running at night along the railroad tracks that follow the east shore of Cayuga Lake. I simply walked across the street from where I lived, at 1191 East Shore Drive, and ran north. In less than half a mile I was in deserted, barely accessible terrain. On the west is the lake and West Hill. Directly to the east are sheer, moderately high cliffs which now and then give way to rolling hills, gorges, and a few summer cottages. This was during the 1980s and in the early morning hours there was a sense of isolation and wonder.

My favorite time to run was between 2:00 and 3:00 am; I did it in all seasons and weather conditions. I sense that this ideal state of affairs is ending as the Ithaca-Lansing area is becoming over- developed; more and more docks appear, a marina, and homes closer to the lake’s edge and along the top of the cliffs. Already more than one of my favorite meditation spots has disappeared as trees are cut down and brush is cleared away. It’s fortunate for me that these pieces were composed before my inspirational scenes became too cluttered with man-made objects or disappeared altogether.

THE COMING OF WINTER
Along the lake, winter usually starts during the first week in November. From mid-September through October the inevitable changes take place. Leaves fall, most birds leave, vacationers take their boats out of the water and insects become quiet except for a few crickets that prevail until late October. Finally the smell of wood smoke returns and I can see my breath as I run. The terrain is mine again, as city people lock up their summer cottages. The first snowfall assures me that things will be wonderfully quiet and chilly for months to come.

LAKE ICE
Toward the end of winter, when there is still no plant life except for the pines, and no sounds of insects, large snow-dusted chunks of ice idle in the lake and thousands of smaller chips undulating in the wind-tossed water make a high soft clatter near the shore. Every once in a while I stop running to listen to the ice chips and watch the white rafts float wherever the wind carries them. The starlight, moonlight and distant city light reflected from the clouds combine to give each patch a color profile all its own. Occasionally a Canada goose shouts its approval.

SNOW GORGE WITH FULL MOON
I usually run north for two and one half miles, rest for a short time, or meditate. If I have only rested, I run the return route south for a mile, and then meditate at this small, exquisitely beautiful gorge. Unless it’s the middle of summer, there’s usually a moderate trickle of water flowing down. In winter, a small amount of water is usually flowing under the frozen cascades. From December through March, snow collects on the frozen mantle. Sometime in March, the full moon lines up with the gorge (I have to check the moon rise times) and presents one of the most trance-inducing sights I’ve ever witnessed. When this happens, I don’t meditate, but simply stare for a long time, until the earth’s rotation moves me and the gorge away from the moon; then I continue my run homeward.

FIREFLIES
The third week of June around the summer solstice is the best time to see fireflies on the lake. After running twenty minutes or so, there is a slight curve, then a segment of track about forty yards long; on each side, a border of trees and bushes. I was startled one night to arrive inside this corridor suddenly surrounded by hundreds of fireflies, each pulsing off and on at different rates and intensities. At the end of this segment of track I sat down and watched the light show for about half an hour. I did this every night for a week, then the population of fireflies thinned out and continued to do so for weeks. It became my annual private light show. This piece is dedicated to my late friend, the renowned entomologist and “father of chemical ecology” Tom Eisner.

NORTHERN LIGHTS

Spring and Fall seem to be the best seasons for this phenomenon.
Although these lights in the sky do occur in the Finger Lakes area, they are not a common sight. The first thing I notice is a black, eerie, electric curtain that cloaks the northern end of the lake horizon; midway in the sky above are various colors that reach toward the apex of the sky. The colors vary from electric shades of yellow-green to blue mixed with red. When the curtain begins to dissipate, stars are visible behind transparent windows of color. The border between the black curtain and the colors resembles millions of undulating bristles. It all fades gradually back into the night; some kind of cosmic smoke.

CRICKET DREAMS
Towards the end of fall, most insects fall silent except for the crickets whose numbers keep dwindling until there are only a few left. One year, there was one lone cricket left, making sounds at a particular junction on my jogging trail near Myer’s Point. This was surprising because it was starting to get really cold. Nonetheless, this lone cricket persisted. It wasn’t until the end of the first week in November that the sometimes tentative cricket sounds stopped. This poignant sound has remained with me ever since. I still wonder whether it was the persistence of consciousness or resistance to the coming long winter sleep that kept this life form producing its natural sounds.

MIST VISIONS
One night in late October, the temperature dropped twenty degrees. The moon was almost full and I could see my breath for the first time in months. I decided to take a walk instead of run because my knee was bothering me. The first thing I noticed was how silent it was because the dip in temperature had silenced the insects. Then I saw what seemed like smoke toward the middle of the lake. The cooler air coming in contact with the warmer water was causing condensation, releasing the vapor into the night air. As I continued walking north, the mist continued to rise a little higher with the passing minutes; this appeared to happen only at the lake’s midpoint along a continuous line in a north-south direction. Over a period of an hour the mist changed slowly but dramatically to suggest different ghostly, slowly moving shapes, enhanced by the bright light from the moon. At first it looked like a small amount, then like a grayish-white bank of flames in slow motion. As the flames grew higher, angel-like figures emerged every twenty feet or so, eventually spouting undulating white wings of various sizes. Then, the angels slowly merged into a hazy, semi-transparent tree line on the water. I suppose it stayed like that for hours. I went home to bed with beautiful visions in my head.

FOG, STARS, TRAIN, WEST HILL LIGHTS
During the early morning hours, gazing across the lake, there are countless lights of different colors and intensities; some steady, some flashing. Above all, the lake is always present, reflecting the lights across two miles of water and extending out of sight, northward for forty miles. Sometimes it’s so foggy the lake is barely visible, and there are no lights to be seen, just the fuzzy whites and greys of the fog itself. Once in spring, the fog was very thick, but lifting. It made the lights from the hospital into a hazy, other worldly presence. While I was staring at it, a truck stopped suddenly above me on the slope, and I could hear the driver get out; he didn’t leave until the fog lifted and things looked normal again. Once, on my return trip, running, a bright spiral suddenly unfolded in the sky and dissolved into glowing smoke. It turned out to be a satellite burning ejected fuel before re-entry. On another occasion, over West Hill, an intensely white glowing round object one tenth the size of the moon suddenly appeared out of nowhere and except for a brief rush of air, silently traversed the sky southward surely going thousands of miles an hour before abruptly turning southwest and disappearing over the horizon. The next day’s newspaper reported a meteor instead of a flying saucer. Then there are the shooting stars, the distant street lights, ambulances, cars, buoys, occasional yachts, airplanes, the usual thousands of stars, and the moon throwing a gentle golden spotlight on the lake before the earth’s rotation affects a scene change. Once in a while, the train appears, projecting its bright searchlight into the mix. In this last piece of the series as in the first one, the running is musically audible. Just listen."
– David Borden, Ithaca, NY 1993

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HEAVEN-KEPT SOUL



RUNE 3350

The title Heaven-Kept Soul is an anagram derived from the name Kathleen Supové, the pianist for whom this piece was composed. She is known for her boundary- breaking ways of dissolving the wall between performer and audience.

The piece is patterned structurally on The Goldberg Variations by J. S. Bach. It has thirty variations on a theme stated in the beginning by the piano. The compositional challenge is that starting with "Variation No. 3", every third variation is a canon at a different interval. Most of the variations are composed for synthesizers accompanying an amplified piano; there are a few variations for solo piano. The synthesizer and sampled sounds have been collected on computers, mapped onto keyboards, and played using a USB keyboard controller and laptop with REASON software. Altogether, the piece requires two USB keyboard/ computer performers and one pianist.

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BORDEN ON BORDEN: GABRIEL BORDEN PLAYS DAVID BORDEN



RUNE 3349

"During the summer of 1987 Trudy and I took our son Gabriel to see guitarist David Torn perform in Trumansburg, NY at the Rongovian Embassy, AKA The Rongo. Gabe was eighteen. He had had a few years of piano lessons when he was younger, but had given them up at around age 11.

The next day, after hearing David Torn’s beautiful performance, Gabe bought a Stratocaster, and proceeded to teach himself the guitar. That is to say, he spent eight to twelve hours a day learning the instrument on his own with the help of various guitar method books he bought along the way.

About a year later, he contacted Chris Woitach, a local guitarist who now lives in Washington State, for lessons. He also discussed with me and with Les Thimmig, the woodwind virtuoso and great jazz improviser who was a member of my ensemble Mother Mallard, how best to learn about improvisation. I wasn’t much help, but Les recommended a book by Howard Roberts, the noted jazz guitarist. So Gabe added that to his daily routine or should I say marathon, because, really, from the summer of 1987 until the end of summer 1989 he spent practically all of his waking hours practicing the guitar. Many, many hours were spent methodically upping the tempo of the metronome so that he could play things perfectly at any tempo he chose, no matter how fast or slow. By the end of the summer of 1989 he sounded like a virtuoso. Actually, he WAS one.” – David Borden

"Having heard my father's pieces, especially The Continuing Story of Counterpoint (TCSOC) series, throughout my childhood, as they were being composed and premiered, I had subconsciously begun to develop my own arrangements and interpretations. The process of learning some of the parts and recording and performing them led to the conscious crystallization of these ideas.” – Gabriel Borden

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LIKE A DUCK TO WATER



RUNE 147

Like A Duck To Water was Mother Mallard's 2nd & final release, and was originally released in 1976. The music is a unique and extremely enjoyable blend of space electronics (ala Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze), minimal music (Terry Riley, Philip Glass), and contemporary classical & electronics (Gordon Mumma, John Cage). This album showcases a uniquely American slant on synthesizer music by a band whose pioneering contributions to the genre had been forgotten until now. Includes the original album, 20' of previously unheard bonus material, and bonus CDRom material; a QuickTime video of the band in performance in 1976. With David Borden, Steve Drews & Judy Borsher.

"A marvel of pioneering electronica." - The Wire


Like a Duck to Water press release

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1970-73



RUNE 109

1970-73 collects the first album by Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co. and previously unreleased recordings. MMPMC were also one of the very first [possibly the first] performing synthesizer ensembles, working closely with Robert Moog, whose first factory was nearby. This material pre-dates or is contemporary with the first contributions to the genre and had been forgotten until now. With Steve Drews & Linda Fisher.

1970-1973 press release

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PLACES, TIMES & PEOPLE



RUNE 58

Places, Times & People is a collection of ten medium length, mostly solely keyboard performances. It showcases a broad spectrum of Borden's compositional skills. Compositions on this disc range from piano duets, to electronic soundscapes, to dense, interlocking multi-keyboard works. Places, Times & People contains something for everyone, for all established Borden fans and newcomers alike.

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COUNTERPOINT PARTS 1-4 + 8



RUNE 28

The Continuing Story Of Counterpoint is a remarkable 12 part musical cycle that Borden composed between 1976-87. Lasting 3 hours, Cuneiform has released this seminal work on 3 CDs, each containing 4 parts. The music is a pleasing and highly listenable mixture of classical forms, dense textures, strict counterpoint, and high energy electronics. AUDIO Magazine had this to say about the series: "When released in its entirety, this series may stand as the 'Goldberg Variations' of minimalism, a canon of work that defines a style and an era."

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COUNTERPOINT PARTS 5-8



RUNE 21

The release of The Continuing Story Of Counterpoint, Parts 5-8 caused one reviewer to note that "David Borden's music has always stood alone with its logic of motion, elegance of line and form, and deft use of state of the art technology."

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COUNTERPOINT PARTS 9-12



RUNE 16

David Borden is one of the foremost exponents of live electronic and minimalist music. He has been active on the new music and contemporary classical scenes for two decades. He first came to attention as the driving force behind Mother Mallard, the world's first all synthesizer ensemble.

Buy this album





MEDIA
For press and media: cover art and high resolution images are available below for download (click thumbnail, right-click image and select "Save As.."). Please credit the photographer (when available) and "Courtesy of Cuneiform Records". For more information, click here.


Like A Duck To Water

1970-1973

Places, Times & People

The Continuing Story Of Counterpoint

PRESS RELEASES
Like a Duck to Water press release
1970-1973 press release
Places, Time & People press release
The Continuing Story Of Counterpoint: 1-4+8 press release
The Continuing Story Of Counterpoint: 5-8 press release
The Continuing Story Of Counterpoint: 9-12 press release

CUNEIFORM E-BLASTS
4/2015: Celebrating Springtime with David Borden's "Easter"
6/2011: David Borden / Mother Mallard perform The Continuing Story of Counterpoint @ the Issue Project Room, Brooklyn, NY, 6/29/2011
4/2010: David Borden performs @ the Museum of Making Music
3/2009: Mother Mallard's 40th Anniversary concerts

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