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Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - (USA)

David Borden (born December 25, 1938 in Boston) is an American composer of minimalist music, an electronic musician and a keyboardist. In 1969, with the support of Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesizer, he founded the world’s first all-synthesizer ensemble in Ithaca, New York.  The first incarnation of the ensemble was called Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company. Using Moog’s MiniMoog prototype and other synthesizers for instrumentation and the Moog factory in Trumansburg for rehearsal space, Borden recruited keyboardist Steve Drews (and soon after, Linda Fischer) and began performing pieces by modern composers such as Robert Ashley, John Cage, Jon Hassell, Daniel Lentz, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich. Soon, however, the ensemble began composing original works for live synth performance. On Easter weekend of April 1970, Borden composed “Easter”, his first tonal pulse-piece for Moog synthesizer. His performance of that piece with Drews at Cornell University two weeks later marked the world’s first-ever live performance with a MiniMoog. In June of that year. Borden and Drews premiered the Mini-Moog in NYC. By 1971, Mother Mallard was performing and recording only works by its composer-performers Borden, Drews, and Fisher.

In 1973 the group released its first LP recording on its own label, Earthquack Records.  Featuring compositions by Borden and Drews, it was enthusiastically received by critics. In 1975 Judy Borsher replaced Linda Fisher, and Mother Mallard released a second LP on Earthquack, called Like a Duck to Water, which was also a critical success. [Cuneiform reissued both of these albums on CD: 1970-1973 in 1999, and Like a Duck to Water in 2001, in addition to releasing two vinyl Mother Mallard recordings: Anatiadae (1986) and Migration (1988).] In 1977 Chip Smith replaced Steve Drews, and this is when the group was entirely directed by David Borden, and played his music exclusively.

Mother Mallard has reformed several times since 1978, and expanded its instrumentation over the years to include acoustic, electric and digital instrumentation in addition to analog synths. The group has performed at most of the avant garde venues in New York City, including the Kitchen, the Knitting Factory, the WBAI Free Music Store, The Alternative Museum, Danceteria, Town Hall and Lincoln Center.  In Europe, MM has performed at the Barbican Center in London, the Portsmouth Festival and The Tivoli Koncertsalen in Copenhagen, Denmark in addition to many universities and festivals in the United States and Canada, cultivating a dedicated following worldwide.

Borden's oeuvre is filled with remarkable compositions, but his masterwork is probablyThe Continuing Story Of Counterpoint, a 12-part musical cycle that is a 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."

Mother Mallard's leader David Borden was the Director of Cornell University's Digital Music Program from 1987 until his retirement c. 2010; he currently serves as Professor Emeritus.  He first came to Ithaca in 1966 on a Ford Foundation Grant as Composer-in-Residence for the Ithaca City School District, and in 1968 he began working at Cornell University as the Composer-Pianist for Dance (Dept. of Athletics). In addition to his work with electronics and the Mother Mallard ensemble, Borden has written music for various chamber and vocal ensembles. He is also an accomplished jazz pianist; his first composition teachers were Jimmy Giuffre and Jaki Byard. Borden, who holds two Masters degrees in Music, was educated at the Eastman School of Music and Harvard University. At Harvard he studied with Leon Kirchner and Randall Thompson, and at Eastman with Bernard Rogers and Howard Hanson. He was also a Fulbright student in Berlin Germany, where he studied at the Hochschule für Musik. His teachers have included Gunther Schuller, Howard Hanson, Wolfgang Fortner, Boris Blacher and Aaron Copeland.   His music has been performed the world over.

Based in Ithaca to the present day, Borden remains active as a composer, and Mother Mallard  

Borden was the Director of the Digital Music Program at Cornell University where he had been teaching since 1968.  Before coming to the Music Department in 1987 he was Composer-Pianist for Dance in the Department of Women's Physical Education (now defunct) and the Department of Athletics.  He earned his undergraduate degree at the Eastman School of Music and holds Masters Degrees in Music from both Eastman and Harvard University.  He first came to Ithaca in 1966 on a Ford Foundation Grant as Composer-in-Residence for the Ithaca City School District. Before this, Borden attended the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, Germany as a Fulbright student. His teachers have been many: Leon Kirchner, Gunther Schuller, Howard Hanson, Bernard Rogers, Wolfgang Fortner, Boris Blacher and Aaron Copeland.  His first composition teachers were jazz musicians: Jimmy Giuffre and Jaki Byard whose influences can still be heard in his music.  His music has been performed the world over.

Currently there are four CDs available of MM from Cuneiform which includes the entire Continuing Story of Counterpoint cycle as well as some of the Birthday Variations.

David Borden is the Director of the Digital Music Program at Cornell University where he has been teaching since 1968.  Before coming to the Music Department in 1987 he was Composer-Pianist for Dance in the Department of Women's Physical Education (now defunct) and the Department of Athletics.  He earned his undergraduate degree at the Eastman School of Music and holds Masters Degrees in Music  from both Eastman and Harvard University.  He first came to Ithaca in 1966 on a Ford Foundation Grant as Composer-in-Residence for the Ithaca City School District.  Before that, he attended the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, Germany as a Fulbright student. His teachers have been many: Leon Kirchner, Gunther Schuller, Howard Hanson, Bernard Rogers, Wolfgang Fortner, Boris Blacher and Aaron Copeland.  His first composition teachers were jazz musicians: Jimmy Giuffre and Jaki Byard whose influences can still be heard in his music.  His music has been performed  the world over.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Ceres Motion (1973) (Excerpt #1)"- Full Length = 14:45

Magical, ethereal music with a decided dream-like quality, regardless of tempo. Deep synthesizer drones provide initial support for crystalline melodic motifs from the RMI electric piano, which gives way to a lively minimalist rhythmic pattern around which the synth keyboards improvise with subtle grace.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Cloudscape For Peggy (1970) (Excerpt #1)"- Full Length = 12:35

Eerie, floating synthesizer drones introduce this piece, which develops into a thoughtful, complex electronic soundscape featuring a number of synthesized textures and timbres in a drifting, arrhythmic musical environment which includes an electronic equivalent of dripping water. Overall, the piece communicates a mysterious but serene ambiance.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Music (1972) (Excerpt #1)"- Full Length = 12:56

After a startling opening sample of a 1950s pop music hit ("put another nickel in") the music charges full speed ahead into an extended up-tempo improvisation for the three keyboards. Lots of interlocking melodic motifs and an overall experimental progressive rock edge, over a pulsing, joyous, mechano-futuristic groove.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Train (1970) (Excerpt #1)"- Full Length = 6:50

Mysterious, with a slightly foreboding edge. Opens with a low, ghostly synth drone leading to high-pitched trills and then the addition of low, ominous sequencer pulses.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Easter (1970) (Excerpt #1)"- Full Length = 19:23

The richness and variety of analog electronic sound on "Easter" – the world's 1st composition to be performed live on the Minimoog – is quite extraordinary. A long, slow-developing piece built around rapid-fire, tuned sequencer pulses from a Moog synthesizer, with pulse tones and timbres undergoing continual evolution throughout the piece. The tuned rhythmic pulse supports a wide variety of melodic patterns and motifs contributed by the other synthesized keyboards.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Cloudscape for Peggy (Excerpt #2)"- Full Length = 12:35

Eerie, floating synthesizer drones introduce this piece, which develops into a thoughtful, complex electronic soundscape featuring a number of synthesized textures and timbres in a drifting, arrhythmic musical environment which includes an electronic equivalent of dripping water. Overall, the piece communicates a mysterious but serene ambiance.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Ceres Motion (Excerpt #2)"- Full Track = 14:45

Magical, ethereal music with a decided dream-like quality, regardless of tempo. Deep synthesizer drones provide initial support for crystalline melodic motifs from the RMI electric piano, which gives way to a lively minimalist rhythmic pattern around which the synth keyboards improvise with subtle grace.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Easter (Excerpt #2)"- Full Length = 19:23

A long, slow-developing piece built around rapid-fire, tuned sequencer pulses from a Moog synthesizer, with pulse tones and timbres undergoing continual evolution throughout the piece. The tuned rhythmic pulse supports a wide variety of melodic patterns and motifs contributed by the other synthesized keyboards. The richness and variety of analog electronic sound displayed on this piece is quite extraordinary.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Oleo Strut (Excerpt #1)"- Full Length = 10:37

Lovely, mellow, minimalist pattern music for three electronic keyboards. The first section lopes along mid-tempo, with just enough counterpoint to keep the mind engaged; the second section eases into a super-mellow, twinkling ambiance, with the Moog synths providing a very credible rendition of a sonorous horn ensemble.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "All Set (Excerpt #1)"- Full Length = 7:26

After a jaunty solo synthesiser opening, a synth bass ostinato is added, along with counterpoint from a third keyboard. A Moog synthesizer provides some effective pitch bending, the electric piano contributes rhythmic, percussive stabs, and with the addition of some electronic chipmunk chatter, the overall effect suggests a chorus of cheerful electronic creatures within a melodious sonic jungle. Highly inventive.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Theme from After the Fall (Excerpt #1)"- Full Length = 4:49

A slow, minimalist synth rhythm anchors a pure, crystalline melody which deepens over the duration of the piece. A lovely, ethereal dreamscape.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Waterwheel (Excerpt #1)"- Full Length = 10:02

Gorgeous, shimmering music that evokes the sonic impression of a waterwheel, with its regular and repetitive motion but also with a playful and random shimmer of cascading water. The opening, jangly, two-note repetitive pattern devolves into a slower motif before hitting overdrive with an extended up-tempo collaboration between three electronic keyboards.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "C-A-G-E Part II (Excerpt #1)"- Full Length = 20:21

A deeply meditative, extended improvisation for three synth keyboards with slowly evolving, interlocking patterns. As a homage to avant garde composer John Cage, the only pitches used in the piece were C, A, G and E - although the result is serene and highly musical and not the least bit "difficult" or academic. In fact, it's a lovely, mesmerizing twenty minutes of mellow bliss.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Downtown (Excerpt #2)"- Full Length = 6:40

A gentle, minimalist improvisation for synth keyboards with an emphasis on bright, lively rhythms and tones.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Harpsichord Truck (Excerpt #1)"- Full Length = 1:29

A short, syncopated ragtime jazz piece for electronic keyboards, which bends genres even further by approximating harpsichord timbres. It's a delightful little vignette that ends all too soon.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "All Set (Excerpt #2)"- full length = 7:26

After a jaunty solo synthesiser opening, a synth bass ostinato is added, along with counterpoint from a third keyboard. A Moog synthesizer provides some effective pitch bending, the electric piano contributes rhythmic, percussive stabs, and with the addition of some electronic chipmunk chatter, the overall effect suggests a chorus of cheerful electronic creatures within a melodious sonic jungle. Highly inventive.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "C-A-G-E Part II (Excerpt #2)"- full length= 20:21

A deeply meditative, extended improvisation for three synth keyboards with slowly evolving, interlocking patterns. As a homage to avant garde composer John Cage, the only pitches used in the piece were C, A, G and E - although the result is serene and highly musical and not the least bit "difficult" or academic. In fact, it's a lovely, mesmerizing twenty minutes of mellow bliss.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "C-A-G-E Part II (Excerpt #3)"- full length= 20:21

A deeply meditative, extended improvisation for three synth keyboards with slowly evolving, interlocking patterns. As a homage to avant garde composer John Cage, the only pitches used in the piece were C, A, G and E - although the result is serene and highly musical and not the least bit "difficult" or academic. In fact, it's a lovely, mesmerizing twenty minutes of mellow bliss.

Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company - "Downtown (Excerpt #1)"-

A gentle, minimalist improvisation for synth keyboards with an emphasis on bright, lively rhythms and tones.