Press

” . . . Waters’ most potent weapon: his genre-defying music.”
A composer’s lifelong quest: Moving the music forward, San Diego Union Tribune, James Chute – Arts Editor

” …The music is intense, crammed with dramatic crescendos followed by abrupt pauses. It’s gorgeous, but un-definable.”
Found Sound, San Diego City Beat, Kinsee Morlan

” One source of Waters’ appeal is the variety of musical textures and instrumental combinations. … This is exciting music.”
Classical Music Review: New Releases, Tony Gualtieri, tonyg@classical-music-review.org

” San Diego-based Joseph Waters’ brief manifesto accompanying this collection of six chamber works for instruments and live electronics, is worth quoting: ‘I am,’ he writes, ‘by necessity a populist composer, committed to the idea that there needs to be a solid connection between artists, who through their explorations inevitably become experts steeped in the history and subtlety of culture, and the everyday world of commercial television, junk food, crass evangelism, as well as practical genius, that comprises the contemporary cultural landscape. It is my self-ordained role, as populist, to attempt to understand this culture, to engage it, and to make love with it.’ Sordid images of fucking Tammi Bakker aside, you might expect from the above that Waters’ music is (yet another) patchwork of crappy jingles and ‘provocative’ soundbites. Far from it: he’s steeped in Western classical music tradition, and … his compositions explicitly reference European models, including Debussy and Messiaen (I’d also add some of the rotting flowers of late Romanticism like early Richard Strauss and early Schoenberg), but the incorporation of live electronics – sampled and treated field recordings, for the most part – transports turn of the (20th) century Paris / Vienna across the other side of the planet and slams it down in today’s sunny Southern California. It’s a curious combination – imagine Fennesz jamming along with Verklaerte Nacht.. wouldn’t that qualify as postmodern? – but Waters somehow manages to bring it off, assisted in no small part by an absolutely superb recording. It’s also, at times, ravishingly beautiful…”
Paris Transatlantic Magazine, Dan Warburton

” For the three years of its existence, NWEAMO has drawn an international field of artists with a powerful concept: that the artificial boundaries between the academic world of avant-garde classical music and earthier electronica are dissolving. As it both celebrates and drives that fusion, NWEAMO has quietly become one of Portland’s most cosmopolitan and innovative cultural events. This year’s edition drew artists from across the United States and from Japan, Korea, Germany and Canada. Some of these disparate tinkerers came from academia, others from the innovative edge of club culture. Others, like I, Robot creator (and MIT faculty member) Chris Csikszentmihalyi, thrust boldly into both realms.”
The Future of What? A brave young music festival strains at the boundary between the conservatory and the dance floor, Zach Dundas, Willamette Week

” He is also a musical poltergeist. He can get inside your head and throw off nocturnes and fugues that are either surreal or that flow like blond hair off the back of a barstool. Plug headphones into Waters’s Powerbook, and Hobbit music slithers out. It is Moby gone over to a dark side, where Yoko Ono is the Dungeon Master and Brian Eno keeps score.”
The San Diego Reader, David Good

” The second half turned darker… [Waters] uses the … sounds of a cello to evoke the ghosts that beset the … dream state. It is both an eery, unsettling work and a tour de force for cello…”
The Oregonian, James McQuillan on Kanashibari

” Waters charts a course between Jazz, Electro and Avant-Garde Music that would sit comfortably within the ebullient pluralism of the Bang-On-A-Can Festival: the style the New York critic Kyle Gann calls Totalism.”
Australasian Computer Music Conference, Melbourne – Lindsay Vickery on Flame Head

” … Waters’ music speaks directly to listeners … stimulating, theatrical, chromatic, often songful, frequently fast and exotically colored.”
The Oregonian, David Stabler

“… you’d think the man had the king’s horses teamed to his chariot, so effortlessly do electronic elements unite with traditional, classical instrumentation.”
Willamette Week, Bill Smith

” Lend an ear to Waters’ When the Clouds So Boldly Painted On The Sky to hear how it is done. The music opens with a hurdy–gurdy mix of scurrying computer generated voices that swirl to a stormy halt as a plaintive koto –– or 13–stringed Japanese harp –– takes over. As the banjo–like koto picks its way on its meditative march, the voices return zipping in and out during the ten-minute work like a kind of mischievous Exorcist–style madness. When the koto chimes its final notes, there is a moment of tonal resolution and apparent victory for the quiet side. Yet in scurries the electronic scramble for a final bit of mischief. Call it a meditation on the clash between East and West, tradition and technology or a more personal statement on keeping to one’s path in a helter–skelter world –– whatever you call it, it’s a working marriage between the two taboo genres. The piece, composed in 1997, has garnered praise worldwide and some 20-plus performances so far from Argentina to China. Other pieces reference sources as dizzyingly varied as Mozart, jazz, Tangerine Dream, Prokofiev, Beat poetry, the paintings of Bosch and Australian Aboriginal song. Yet none of it sounds gratuitously tossed in for cleverness sake. Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos combines wind sextet with vocal quartet in a choral translation of a Yolngu aboriginal text; the string trio Quiet Music-Early Morning shifts from elegy to reverie like dawn’s light through a bedroom window; Drum Ride is a raucous push–me–pull–you between piano and electronics; and The Populist Manifesto sounds like something Schoenberg and Weill might have come up with if staggering around San Francisco’s North Beach on a lost weekend. Such culture clashing is all part of the fun, and though the resultant hybrid may scare some and confuse others, it does so only in concept. Once the guards come down and one listens open-mindedly to this expert marriage between traditional chamber music and computer–generated soundscapes, the overweighing sensuality and emotional freshness of Waters’ creative appetite comes through. Water’s kitchen sink amalgam of influences results in music that is edgily playful and always accessible… he concludes. “If I’m really going to be honest about who I am as a composer –– and you need to be if you’re going to say anything –– I had to admit that I really like the energy of electronic popular music.” If this disc is the result of such a confession, we’re the luckier for it.”
Music Review, Mobile Alabama Harbinger

Reviews & Articles

A composer’s lifelong quest: Moving the music forward — Interview — 2008 (San Diego Union Tribune)

Found Sound (San Diego City Beat) — Review/Preview

Offshore (Paris Transatlantic Magazine) — Review

NWEAMO 2005 (San Diego Union Tribune) — Preview

Performance Review — ElementsNWEAMO 2004 (San Diego Union Tribune) — PreviewCD Review — The HarbingerPerformance Preview — BobNWEAMO 2001(WW) — ReviewNWEAMO 2001(OR) — ReviewNWEAMO 2000 — PreviewNWEAMO 1999 — PreviewEsoterics 2000 — Concert AnnouncementCompact Disc Review — Classical Music OnlineNWEAMO 2009 (San Diego Union Tribune ) — Preview25th Street Bridge Chime Rail — City of San Diego Arts and Culture WebsiteAlternativa Festival Poster — Moscow, Russia — When the Clouds So Boldly Painted On the Sky… — Dmitry Kalinin, KotoNetwork for New Music — 25th Anniversary

“Waters charts a course between jazz, Electro and Avant-Garde Music that would sit comfortably within the ebullient pluralism of the Bang-on-a-can Festival: the style the New York critic Kyle Gann calls Totalism.” Lindsay Vickery on “Flame Head” — Australasian Computer Music Conference, Melbourne

“It’s extremely virtuosic, like the roadrunner on speed. It’s a bit like Bela bartok if he wrote cartoon music.” Jeffrey Payne on “Kali Yuga” — Fear No Music, Portland

“… Waters’ music speaks directly to listeners … stimulating, theatrical, chromatic, often songful, frequently fast and exotically colored.” David Stabler — The Oregonian

“The second half turned darker… [Waters] uses the … sounds of a cello to evoke the ghosts that beset the … dream state. It is both an eery, unsettling work and a tour de force for cello…” James McQuillan on “Kanashibari” — The Oregonian

“… you’d think the man had the king’s horses teamed to his chariot, so effortlessly do electronic elements unite with traditional, classical instrumentation.” Bill Smith — Willamette Week

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