Jack the Dog
Jack the Dog is an experimental music duo founded in 1994 in Chicago, Illinois by Carrie Biolo (percussion/composer) and Jeffrey Kowalkowski (piano/composer).  Biolo and Kowalkowski have been creating music together for over 2 decades.  The two met in college at DePaul University when Kowalkowski needed a percussionist for a premiere at the Green Mill. Becoming instant contemporaries, Kowalkowski started composing numerous percussion works specifically for Biolo to perform. Over time, Kowalkowski began performing, Biolo started composing and Jack the Dog was formed.  Gradually, the traditional composer-performer relationship blurred and the process of composition and performance became collaborative.

The duo has performed its own collaboratively-composed music in a variety of venues including concert halls, festivals, galleries, and clubs. It has toured Germany twice (1996 and 1998) and has been featured at the Cleveland International Performance Art Festival, In the Eye of the Ear Festival in Chicago, Guest Artists Concert Series at Pittsburgh State University, Landmarks II Festival in Germany, Rhinoceros Theatre Festival and endless others. Jack the Dog has worked with artists from a number of disciplines, including composer/performer Pauline Oliveros, Australian suspension artist Stelarc, and the Chicago-based theater company Curious Theater Branch. Recordings of Jack the Dog can be found on the Uvulittle Records label. 'Jack' was an actual dog who died in 1997.

Missa Canibus (mass of the dogs)
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Missa Canibus uses the traditional form of the Catholic mass, but departs radically into John Cage-inspired chance techniques and draws heavily on the experiences and techniques of Jack the Dog members, Jeff Kowalkowski (keyboards) and Carrie Biolo (vibes).
Missa Canibus
Jack the Dog
July 1999
Uvulittle Records
Carrie Biolo, Percussion
Jeff Kowalkowski, Piano
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“Avant liturgical music for the metadenominational church of the mind. Evokes Tom Waits and Harry Partch, and could very well serve to unite pagans and the orthodox.” – Uvulittle Records
"Much of it features spaced out operations of vibraphone, piano, and organ. There is also a series of short recitations and the use of what sounds like taped material. A remarkable track such as "Responsorial," a duet for vibraphone and acoustic piano, creates a really wonderful mood." - All Music Guidek here to add text.
Missa Canibus is a featured work on Program #96 of Art of the States. Art of the States is an international radio/Internet distribution service that began at WGBH Radio Boston. Click above to access Art of the States and read the history behind Missa Canibus.
“The practice of making new music based on traditional religious forms has a considerable legacy--take Arvo Part's Litany, Cantus, and Psalom, or the vocal pieces for Greek Orthodox communion that John Taverner wrote in the 70s. From a less reverent region of the experimental tradition, Chicago's own Jack the Dog set out in December 1996 to compose a complete Roman Catholic mass. True to its name, the group settled on a canine theme for its religious excursion; the resulting Missa Canibus subverts dogma with dog, emphasizing biblical passages about shaggy beasts. On the responsorial psalm, for instance, words from Psalms 22:17-22--about our fang-toothed friends--are used in the formation of mesostics, a puzzlelike device John Cage frequently used to construct his poetry. The result is a radical condensation of the text--nonsensical, but still somehow relevant. Mixing Cagean conceptualism with religious ceremony is a task for specialists only, and with Carrie Biolo, whose main ax is vibraphone, and Jeffrey Kowalkowski, who primarily mans electric keyboard, Jack the Dog has certainly developed a unique MO since its inception in 1994. The twosome composes collaboratively, often using ironic performance-art tactics, sometimes incorporating taped audio-verite soundscapes, additional tracks of music, or brash sound collages, and performing brisk unison parts consisting of tricky rhythms and coiling lines that hark back as much to Frank Zappa's "serious" music as to the heyday of minimalism. (Last year they put some of this stuff to wax for the first time on Ah. It's Like You're Talking in Your Head and You Just Can't, released by Eighth Day Music.)” - John Corbett, Chicago Reader, April 16, 1998
ah. it's like you're talking in your head and you just can't
"I have witnessed certain simple things with Carrie and Jeff. Like when Carrie looks round-eyed and sharply open at me while telling a story about the dog, or a tire. Or Jeff listening to every syllable in a room full of opinions, absorbed and then uttering a simple cohesion to the discussion.  Just paying attention, that's all.  That simple attention.  Then I hear this and think, "There it is again." That simple attention.  But now out of the everyday world and put into form, music, word.  And also the everyday world put back into that same form."  - Lou Mallozzi, liner notes, 1997.
Carrie Biolo
ah. it's like you're talking in your head and you just can't
Jack the Dog
November 1997
eight day music
CD available Here
Scan 12
Scan 12
Jack the Dog
April 1999
Cd available Here
Conventionally, space of art and space of life are regarded as different.  The work of art occurs in the dimension of “the imaginary.” Life happens in real time and real space.  Traditional conceptions of art support this separation.  Constructivism, Fluxus, Cage, “happenings,” however, emphasize, with different intentions, the realm of “life.” But for historical, social reasons, the separation of those spheres is widely accepted. In this respect, the music of “Jack the Dog” is music of productive ambiguity and constructive interaction.  Ambiguity arises here out of a subtle oscillation between the dimension of the imaginary and the factualness of actual space and time.  The interaction is that of the objects of those spaces or dimensions. thus, the universe of metaphors and poetic allusions of the musical segments, which are organized in accordance to the procedures of traditional musical discourse is interrupted – and many times overlapped – by events happening “in the room,” in the real space where the concrete performers are located, where their concrete bodies are alive.

The dialog between “imaginary” and “real” that occurs in “Jack the Dog” calls our attention to the fact that these two dimensions, which are dissociated by our culture and conventions, are only one in the concrete production of the work of art.  The interplay between the two categories of the conventionally dissociated perception provokes a very dramatic effect in the hands [of the paws?] of “Jack the Dog.”  But there are more things in the Twelve Scans.  The syntactic relations of traditional musical discourse are also altered in the succession of segments, which are produced by conventional, familiar procedures.  Thus, the results are neither familiar nor conventional. The same could be said of the words of those stunning games of polysemic statements uttered by the musicians.

But History is also present here.  Intentionally or not, this music brings to us evocations of Schwitters’ “Poem 25” [from “Die Blume Anne”]. Robert Ashley’s rarified atmospheres, free association-esthetics, and other events that configured a story that we could call “alternative” modernism.  What is important here, however, is that all what we already know is transformed, transmuted in a fantastic new synthesis through the virtuosity of Carrie Biolo and Jeff Kowalkowski.

-Guillermo Gregorio April 1999, Scan 12 Liner notes excerpt