THE FOURTH WORLD QUARTET

Benjamin Miller: alto saxophone, electric guitar, composer

Laurence Miller: bass clarinet, composer


Roger C. Miller: piano, percussion, cornet, composer

Jack Waterstone: alto saxophone, composer

"The resulting series of ... sessions, collected here for the first time, reveal how the amalgam of volatile styles the brothers ingested during their varous sonic encounters fused together and caught fire...Although The Fourth World Quartet was a short-lived project, this remarkable discovery reveals a group who were knocking over some serious creative barriers." – Edwin Pouncey / Jazzwise 

"Amazing early work from the Fourth World Quartet – an obscure new music ensemble from early 70s Michigan – but one whose members would go on to form Mission Of Burma and Destroy All Monsters! Here, the sound is completely different than those later groups – a mix of compositional structure and free improvisation – served up by Roger Miller on piano, Benjamin Miller on guitar and alto, Laurence Miller on bass clarinet, and Jack Waterston on alto – a reed-heavy lineup who make some wonderful soundshapes next to Roger's more dynamic piano!" – Dusty Groove


GRAND BLAND VAPID RAPIDS



RUNE 3360

The Fourth World Quartet formed in February 1975 at Thomas Jefferson College. Roger Miller, the original pianist, left the group in April. By the end of that month, Denman Maroney, who taught composition for the remaining member's – Benjamin and Laurence Miller and Jack Waterstone – suggested joining the band as their new pianist. The members were thrilled.

Denman was an undergraduate student from 1967-71 at Williams College. There he spent time at Bennington, where Bill Dixon and Jimmy Garrison filled his head with Coltrane, Ayler, Coleman, Taylor, etc. From 1972-74, Denman attended Cal. Arts, where Jim Tenney, Mort Subotnick, Lucky Mosco, and Ingram Marshall filled his head with Ives, Joplin, Messiaen, Ligeti, Stockhausen, Varèse, etc.

Thanks to CalArts teacher John Bergamo, Denman got a job teaching at Thomas Jefferson College. There, Denman and choreographer Beverly Brown taught a course called Sound & Movement where this new Fourth World Quartet was collaborating for the class. Both band and dance students worked together, forging ahead with free improvisation on a regular basis. The Fourth World Quartet performed at a TJC Music Performance and a house party in Ann Arbor in April, and again at Grand Valley State College Graduation Picnic in June 1975.

At the end of the school year, Denman was offered the same teaching position at Thomas Jefferson College with less pay and thus he left for NYC. Laurence, Benjamin and Jack continued composing and trying material out with other ensembles that never quite took shape until early 1976 when their efforts dissolved.

Previous aspects of the earlier version of the band (see Cuneiform's “1975”), which included psychedelic guitar, changed when the newly reformed quartet focused further on 20th Century techniques along with Denman's exploration in using advanced polyrhythms.

Here is the quartet's final document: Grand Bland Vapid Rapids.

Denman Maroney: piano, conductor on #1 and #8, composer
Benjamin R. Miller: alto saxophone, electric guitar on #9, composer
Laurence B. Miller: bass clarinette, composer
Jack Waterstone: alto and tenor saxophone, composer

Recorded June 4, 1975 in “The Den” at Thomas Jefferson College, Allendale, Michigan
except 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, & 10 recorded June 5, 1975 at the Grand Valley State College Graduation Picnic.
Recording engineer Rick Scott on a Braun tape recorder.
A big thanks for Dan Gunning in assisting with digitization of master tapes.
Mastered by Ian Beabout, ShedSounds Studio.

Track 1: Bond Voyage Music BMI
Track 2 and 5: Neoteric Music BMI
Track 4: Fun World Music BMI
Track 6 and 9: Jack Waterstone Music BMI
Track 3, 7, 8, 10: Mon$ey Music ASCAP

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1975



RUNE 481

The brothers Miller grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They came of age during the Summer of Love when revolution and the White Panthers were livening up their hometown. They formed their first band together in 1967, covering 13th Floor Elevators and Mothers of Invention. Two years later they were engaged in freeform rock improvisations and started their first all-original rock band Sproton Layer. Their summer 1970 recording, "With Magnetic Fields Disrupted", was released in 2012 on the German label World in Sound. During this time, they would see the MC5 at a free concert in the afternoon, then head over to the University of Michigan New Music department to hear Stockhausen at night. John Sinclair's Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival a couple years later definitely had an impact on their world-view.

In 1975 the three brothers attended Thomas Jefferson College, a small Art School in the middle of Michigan. Benjamin and Laurence had recently absorbed the advanced jazz of Eric Dolphy and Anthony Braxton while at school in Boston, playing in the Nova Mob with Don Davis (later of Microscopic Septet). Roger had maintained an active interest in the music of Bela Bartok and Igor Stravinsky in Ann Arbor.

The Fourth World Quartet, with school-mate Jack Waterstone rounding out the quartet, was born out of this mash-up of free improvisation, classical music and jazz. All members composed, ranging from fully scored pieces to graphic scores or mere verbal instruction. Laurence arranged the Art Ensemble of Chicago's "Tnoona" for the group and Roger arranged the main theme from Igor Stravinsky's mini-opera "Renard the Fox". The boundaries were wide.

Three horns and a piano is already unusual, but add Benjamin's post-psychedelic guitar work and Roger's occasional "wall-of-piano" stylings, and things definitely stepped out of any traditional ensemble setting. Gentle melodies bump up against atonal bebop. Tightly structured forms contrast immediately with open improvisation. Wailing horns blaze over contained piano ostinati.

In a few months the band put together this repertoire, a testament to focus and extreme creative activity. If they only played two shows and lasted only a very short time, the connections into the future were many. Included here are two songs by Roger that would later appear on the first Birdsongs of the Mesozoic record: "The Transformation of Oz" and "Winter's Dream" - the latter name changed to "Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous" by the time it graced Birdsongs' freshman release. Their friend Rick Scott who recorded this session and later became a member of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, used the same Braun 1/2 track that Martin Swope would use for tape loops in Mission of Burma. And if Roger's adaptation of "The Rite of Spring" for Birdsongs was more ambitious than his arrangement of "Renard the Fox", still, here is where that idea began.

By 1977 punk rock had kicked in, and Laurence (guitar) and Benjamin (alto sax) went back to their rock roots and joined the Detroit punk band Destroy All Monsters which included Ron Ashton from the Stooges and Michael Davis from the MC5. In 1979, Roger co-formed Mission of Burma in Boston, which went on to be influential on the indie rock movement.

Give this a listen. Music from a pivotal time period. That expanded not long afterwards.

1975 press release

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MEDIA
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1975

PRESS RELEASES
1975 press release

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