Early Music: Spooky Actions by Bruce Arnold for Muse Eek Publishing Company

Early Music


Bruce Arnold—Electric Processed Guitar

John Gunther—Flute, Soprano Sax, Tenor Sax and Bass Clarinet

Mike Richmond—Bass and Cello

Kirk Driscoll–Drums

Modern interpretations of classic early music

“I’ve often thought of music as a vessel of the human spirit, a message in a bottle that can travel across an ocean of time, and deliver a “note” from Bach, or Charlie Parker.” So writes John Gunther in his essay for this latest excursion by Spooky Actions, the band that has taken on modern interpretations of music as disparate as Native American song and the Canons of Anton Webern.

Raison d’être for Spooky Actions

“Perhaps embedded in the intervals and sequences of the melody and rhythm are the thoughts and emotions of the composers themselves” he continues. Thus he states the raison d’être for Spooky Actions, and its continued mining of diverse repertoire for examination and re-interpretation. (The name Spooky Actions is derived from a comment by Albert Einstein, in which he noted that certain seemingly unrelated objects could nevertheless exert a powerful influence upon each other. He called these relationships “spooky actions.”)

Spooky Actions

Spooky Actions the band, is John Gunther (winds) and Bruce Arnold (electric processed guitar). The two musicians who both teach at New York University met, jammed and felt an immediate musical affinity. When Gunther started bringing in both early and modern classical music to improvise over, they were inspired to start making their own transcriptions, and to create a series of recording projects. Their first release, “Spooky Actions; Music of Anton Webern” was an informed and sensitive inquiry into the muted palette of Webern. Critics wrote:
“….they address Webern’s music on its own terms and shed new light on its strange beauty. (Jazz Times) and “Adapting music of this complexity, written for ensembles of highly different instrumentation, is not the easiest thing in the world to do. Luckily, these players are up to the task.” (Cadence)

Native American Music

Their next project “Songs of the Nations” found them immersing themselves in Native American melodies. Again, their respectful approach produced a memorable CD: “Spooky Actions” made sure that their additions stayed far enough back in the mix that the listener is still wrapped in the Native American experience” (Improvijazznation)

The Band

The group (currently including Kirk Driscoll on drums and percussion, and Mike Richmond on Bass and Cello) now turns its attention to a selection of beautiful Early Music. Arnold’s guitar, processed through the object-oriented computer program SuperCollider, creates an atmospheric and luminous matrix in which Gunther’s playing (soprano and tenor sax, flute and bass clarinet) by turns ruminates and soars. Both Driscoll and Richmond demonstrate what great musical interaction is all about.

The Repertoire

The repertoire covers a wide swath of time, including as it does the “Skolion of Seikilos,” one of the earliest examples of written music, from the 2nd century BC, to the “Canzonet 1,2, & 3” of Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). Other pieces are “De Virginibus O Nobilissima Viriditas” by Hildegard Von Bingen (1098-1179), “Vergine Bella” by Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474), a Gregorian Chant, “Alleluya (Nativitas) by Perotin (c. 1200) and “Ode from the Kanon for Easter Sunday” a Byzantine Chant from the 8th Century AD.

Message in a Bottle

The result is a CD that can comfort, transport and inspire the listener. And while that is not surprising, since this music was originally designed to do exactly that, what is astonishing is that Spooky Actions has done it again–examined the essence of a piece of music, and made it their own, without removing its heart or intent. As Gunther concludes: “We bring them into the present and frame them with our own life experiences. And so we place the message back in the bottle, and cast it back into the deep.”

Excerpts from Early Music:

  • De Virginibus O Nobilissima Viriditas
  • Vergine Bella:
  • Canzonet 1:
  • Canzonet 2:
  • Canzonet 3:
  • Gregorian Chant, Introit, Gaudeamus Omnes:
  • Skolion of Seikilos:
  • Alleluya (Nativitas):
  • Ode from the Kanon for Easter Sunday:

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About Muse Eek

Muse-Eek Publishing Company is a publishing house with a broad focus on music education. Muse-Eek also publishes fine art and poetry books, and has its own record label, Muse-Eek Records. Our online presence, Muse-Eek.com specializes in the publication of music workbooks, video courses and sound and video recordings that teach the foundation of good musicianship through groundbreaking and innovative methods along with traditional methods that have been taught for centuries. These historic methods date back through centuries of great musicians and educators. To see these interesting relationship please see Bruce Arnold's Music Education Genealogy Chart which tells you a lot about the where many of his educational ideas took root and some of the educational pillars that are evident throughout the books you find on this website. The Muse-Eek Records catalogue contains a diverse selection of music much of it by Bruce Arnold in collaboration with some of today's best players in classical, jazz, rock and avant-garde music. These are available in CD, DVD and mp3 formats. We believe in a working relationship with our music education customers; they are free to interact with the author after purchasing a book to help them through any material they don’t understand or which they need further clarification. We also have a member's area which contains a wealth of free information to help a student understand music at a deeper level and access additional files for our books. Many of our books offer cutting edge ideas regarding ear training, guitar technique, rhythm and time. These methods have a proven track record. Our main author Bruce Arnold has taught at some of the most prestigious music schools in the world, including Princeton, Dartmouth, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, The New School and NYU. Along with Mr. Arnold's publications on the Muse-eek.com website he has also written books and appeared in educational DVDs for MelBay and Truefire. Over the years Mr Arnold has used his experiences with his students to develop a program that can elevate a musician's ability to world class caliber. If you have questions about any of our books or recordings please send us an email. Along with general questions about either our record label or our publishing company we also welcome questions to help a student choose the proper materials to reach their goals. We have over 300 products to help you learn any style of music and to develop your musicianship to its peak. We also make recommendations for practice schedules for students who use our methods to get the most out of their study time. This, along with personal interaction with Bruce through email, nurtures the student's ability through a closely monitored situation, ensuring there is no wasted time or misunderstanding.