Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company, formed in 1969 by David Borden, was the world's first synthesizer ensemble, predating groups like Tonto's Expanding Head Band and Tangerine Dream.[citation needed] David Borden was in close contact with Dr. Robert Moog and was one of the first musicians to use his Minimoog. After recruiting Steve Drews and Linda Fisher to operate additional synthesizers, the group began playing concerts of minimalist music by Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass. They began recording their first self-titled album in 1970, but it would not be released until 1973 by Earthquack Records. Their second album, Like a Duck to Water, was released in 1976. Borden and Mother Mallard continue performing Borden's recent and older music. See for current Mother Mallard info.

David Borden and Mother Mallard continued performing and releasing albums in the following years, most notably on the Cuneiform record label. Borden adopted new digital synthesizer technology over time, and also incorporated various acoustic woodwind instruments and voices. Borden's most ambitious work, The Continuing Story of Counterpoint Parts 1-12, composed between 1976–1987, was recorded and released on three Cuneiform CDs between 1988-1991. The label also reissued Mother Mallard's first two 1970s recordings on CD.


Current lineup

David Borden founded Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Co. in 1969 with the generous support of Robert Moog. The group became the world’s first synthesizer ensemble. “Mother Mallard turns out some of the best synthesizer music around.” - New York Times. His ‘The Continuing Story of Counterpoint,’ a twelve-part cycle of pieces for synthesizers, acoustic instruments and voice has been called the ‘Goldberg Variations of minimalism.’ Borden’s music is available on the Cuneiform, New World Records, Lameduck and Arbiter labels. His work has been discussed in two recent publications: “America’s Music” by Richard Crawford (W. W. Norton & Company, NY, NY 2001) and “Analog Days” by Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA 2002). His first composition teachers were jazz musicians Jimmy Giuffre and Jaki Byard. He collaborates and performs with his son, Gabriel Borden and stepson, Sam Godin. He resides in Ithaca, NY with his wife, Rebecca Godin. He is the retired founder and Director of the Digital Music Program at Cornell University.

Blaise Bryski is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts. He was a member for three years of the master class of Aube Tzerko. Mr. Bryski performed for many years as an accompanist for the UCLA Department of Music and was a professional pianist in Los Angeles in many styles including rock and jazz. He also performed in such varied venues as the Nakamichi Baroque Festival and the Green Umbrella New Music series. In 2006, Blaise earned his DMA in eighteenth-century performance practice at Cornell University. As a fortepianist, Mr. Bryski’s credits include the Los Angeles Baroque Orchestra Chamber Music series, the New York Concert Singers, and the Aldeburgh Connection/CBC Radio. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his wife, Kristen Sadd.

David Yearsley is active as a performer on organ, clavichord, harpsichord, and fortepiano in North America and Europe. Yearsley was educated at Harvard College and Stanford University, where he received his Ph.D. in Musicology in 1994. That same year he became the only musician in the history of the prestigious Bruges Early Music Festival to win all its major prizes. His organ recordings include: Music of a Father and Son: The Organ Works of Delphin and Nicolaus Adam Strungk heard on the Arp Schnitger organ in Norden, Germany and The Great Contest: Bach, Scarlatti, Handel; and, with Robert Bates, In Dialogue, featuring 17th- and 18th century music arranged for antiphonal organs. His musical partnership with violinist Martin Davids has yielded most recently the CD, All Your Cares Beguile: Songs and Sonatas from Baroque London. Energetically engaged with the historical context for his music making, Mr. Yearsley has written numerous articles on European musical culture in the 17th and 18th centuries, and his work has appeared in leading scholarly journals such as the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Music & Letters, Early Music and Eighteenth-Century Music. His widely-praised book, Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint appeared in 2002 from Cambridge University Press. Mr. Yearsley has been an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Humboldt University in Berlin and a Wenner-Gren Foundation Fellow at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. A member of the pioneering synthesizer trio, Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Company, he is Professor of Music at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, where he lives with his wife, Annette Richards, the Cornell University Organist and Professor of Music, and their two daughters.

Josh Oxford is a performer, composer and arranger in many different styles of music, playing piano, percussion, and synthesizer. Josh graduated with a BM in Percussion Performance from the Ithaca College School of Music in 2007, having played in a wide variety of ensembles. Mr. Oxford is a full time Staff Accompanist at Ithaca College. He has recorded with award winning folk rock musician Michael Mazochi and with Klezmer clarinetist Joel Rubin. He has toured on percussion with Frank Zappa cover band Project/Object and is an avid transcriber and arranger of Zappa’s music. Josh has alsoperformed in and done synthesizer programming for over a dozen musicals in the Central New York area as well as making his music directorial debut in Bat Boy: The Musical in LA at the Hudson Theater. Josh composes and arranges primarily for his ensemble The OXtet, and also writes 12-Tone pop music. He is a collector of vintage keyboards and synthesizers.

Conrad Alexander is currently on the percussion faculty at Mansfield University, Ithaca College and the Brevard Music Center. His teaching experience includes positions at Interlochen Center for the Arts, James Madison University, The University of Virginia, The Odessa/Midland (TX) school system and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. He is a member of the Binghamton Philharmonic, the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra and the Ensemble X New Music Ensemble. He has performed with the New York City Opera Touring Orchestra, the Albany and Harrisburg (PA) Symphonies, as well as the Dallas, Richmond (VA), Greensboro (NC), Knoxville (TN), Oklahoma, and Anchorage Symphonies. In addition to performing and teaching, he is the owner of DAY Percussion Repair, specializing in all facets of percussion instrument repair and unique wooden percussion products. He has recorded for the Sony, Centaur, AmCam, and ProArtes recording labels. Conrad earned the Masters of Music degree, and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music, and the Bachelor of Music degree from Southern Methodist University. His major teachers include John Beck, Doug Howard, Kalman Cherry, John Bannon, Don Liuzzi and Charles Owen. In 2007, Conrad became an honorary member of Kappa Kappa Psi and received Mansfield University’s Bertram Francis Award from Kappa Kappa Psi for outstanding contributions to the MU Band program. He resides in Ithaca, NY with his wife, Paige Morgan.

Gabriel Borden was born in Ithaca, New York in 1968. He began his musical training at the age of four with piano and theory lessons with his mother Trudy Borden. He has also studied music at Oberlin College and the Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood, California, where he completed a one year guitar performance program. Gabriel was part of an earlier incarnation of Mother Mallard from 1989-1991. In 1993, he performed David Borden’s Notes From Vienna as featured soloist with the Cornell Wind Ensemble at Bailey Hall at Cornell University with Mark Scatterday conducting. Gabriel played with his own group, Göiter, from 1994–95, and with the Eczema Quartet in 1996. He graduated from Cornell with a B.A, in physics in 1998. Recently, Gabriel appeared again as a soloist with the Cornell Wind Ensemble, performing Leonard Bernstein’s Slava! in the spring of 2007. He resides in Ithaca with his wife, Caroline and four children.

Discography (Mother Mallard and David Borden)

  • 1973 Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company [Earthquack]
    • 1998 Reissued as 1970-1973 with previously unissued recordings [Cuneiform]
  • 1976 Like A Duck To Water [Earthquack]
    • 1999 Reissued with previously unissued recordsings [Cuneiform]
  • 1981 Music For Amplified Keyboard Instruments [Red]
  • 1983 Anatidae [Cuneiform: LP only]
  • 1988 Migration [Cuneiform: LP only]
  • 1988 The Continuing Story of Counterpoint Parts 9-12 [Cuneiform]
  • 1990 The Continuing Story of Counterpoint Parts 5-8 [Cuneiform]
  • 1990 The Continuing Story of Counterpoint Parts 1-4+8 [Cuneiform]
  • 1992 "Double Portrait" (1987) included in collection U.S. Choice by Double Edge piano duo [CRI]
  • 1995 Cayuga Night Music [Cuneiform]
  • 1995 Places, Times, and People [Cuneiform]
  • 2003 Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co., music by David Borden (previously unissued 1976-77 recordings of "Counterpoint" Parts 1 & 3 and "C-A-G-E" part 3) [Arbiter]
  • 2005 Waterwheel (by Steve Drews) (excerpt: Film by Edin Velez, Music by Mother Mallard) included in collection Ohm+ [DVD, Ellipsis Arts]

Selected Music (Mother Mallard and David Borden)

  • 1959 Dialogues for trombone and trumpet
  • 1967 All-American, Teenage, Lovesongs for wind ensemble and tape, commissioned by Ithaca High School
  • 1970 Cloudscape for Peggy]
  • 1970 Easter for Mother Mallard ensemble]
  • 1972 C-A-G-E, Part I for Mother Mallard ensemble
  • 1974 C-A-G-E, Part II for Mother Mallard ensemble
  • 1975 C-A-G-E, Part II for Mother Mallard ensembleI
  • 1976-1987 The Continuing Story of Counterpoint, Parts 1-12 for Mother Mallard ensemble
  • 1978 Enfield in Summer]
  • 1987 Double Portrait for two pianos
  • 1989 Angels for vocal ensemble and Mother Mallard ensemble
  • 1991 Unjust Malaise (anagram of Julius Eastman
  • 1994 Notes From Vienna for solo electric guitar and wind ensemble (or synthesizers) c
  • 1995 Cayuga Night Music
  • 1995 Infinity Variations for two fortepianos and chamber orchestra
  • 2002 Naked American (anagram of Diane Ackerman)
  • 2003 K216.01a for solo electric violin and synthesizer
  • 2005 A Tin Haiku (anagram of Kia-Hui Tan) n
  • 2007 Heaven-Kept Soul (anagram of Kathleen Supové)
  • 1990-2010 Earth Journeys by David Borden
  • 2007 Tribute to Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn
  • 2009 Viola Farber in Seven Movements
  • 2010 Remembering Jimmy
  • 2010 ESP 9461 NY

See also

External links


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