Artist: Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co.
Album: Mother Mallard's Portable
Masterpiece Co. 1976-77

Label: Arbiter

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co.
In a recent interview, David Borden mused, "It seems so strange to think that synthesizers were once such a rare thing that people would travel miles just to see and hear one." Somehow, we are all children of this time. Nearly all of the music we hear on the STAR'S END radio program and performed live at The Gatherings Concert Series here in Philadelphia can be traced back to its origins in the early days of Robert Moog's synthesizer lab and the arrival there of Borden's performance ensemble, Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co..

In the notes from the concert program for the performances chronicled on the Arbiter Records release Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co. 1976-77, attendees read a dense and nearly inpenetrable description of the ensuing event, "Mr. Borden is concerned with developing a self-regenerative modularly constructed music using rhythmically similar but intervalically diverse contrapuntal repetitive patterns resulting in synergetic constellations that develop both gradually and suddenly in sporadically changing harmonic settings." This style later became known more simply as "minimalism". But, however linked to this movement through friendships with both Steve Reich and Philip Glass since 1970, Borden cites his major influences as: Terry Riley, Robert Moog, Buckminster Fuller and John Cage - who is still a presence in his music via digital sampling and his enduring playful sense of intellectual and spiritual adventure.

Borden's modulatory approach to music was accomplished by focusing on scales, modes and counterpoint rather than gradual harmonic and chordal changes. Borden recalls, "I started these pieces with the intention of controlling large structures by composing not only simultaneous melodies that each had their own personality, but in some cases, simultaneous two-handed keyboard parts that could stand alone as solo parts but when combined with the others, lost their individuality to the whole. This idea came from Buckminster Fuller's definition of synergy: behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of any of its parts taken separately... each performer played two different keyboards all the time, one for each hand." Borden's desire to develop a contrapuntal language resulted in a uniquely open, American synthesizer sound.

The majority of electronic musicians today use the synth in an expressionist/improvisatory/experimental manner, beginning and concluding their realizations on different ground every time. With Mother Mallard, Borden makes music that has been created by an author, composed and with a predetermined direction, clear statement and refined purpose. The group's interest in mass culture along with its whimsical name, distinguishes it from the academic music category - and just about any other.

- Chuck van Zyl/STAR'S END   8 May 2003

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