Thursday, 28 May, 2009

Paul Giger & Marie-Louise Dähler - Towards Silence (2007)

Paul Giger’s ECM debut “Chartres”, recorded in 1988, signalled the arrival of a uniquely- gifted violinist with an uncommon sensitivity to sound-in-space, as well as to the musical material. When the Swiss violinist plays ‘the room’ is invited to be an active participant in the process. True of Giger’s outstanding solo albums (“Chartres”, “Schattenwelt”) it is true too of this duo with harpsichordist Marie-Louise Dähler recorded at the mountain monastery of St Gerold in Austria.
As in his previous recordings, this sixth album, recorded at Sankt Gerold Provostry in Austria, is made up of Giger's own compositions and improvisations. But this time there is an admixture of music by Johann Sebastian Bach: the famous 'Aria' that serves as the starting point of the Goldberg Variations, and the four- movement Sonata in F-minor for violin and obligato harpsichord (BWV 1018).
Despite years of cultivating his own music, Giger, who was formerly the leader of the St. Gallen Symphony Orchestra, has not neglected the violin repertoire, as is evident in his lean and agile playing of Bach. Marie-Louise Dähler, a much sought-after soloist and chamber musician and a passionate continuo player who began taking harpsichord lessons from her father as a very young child, is perfectly at home with Bach. Being a thorough bass specialist, she also has a natural penchant for improvisation - a talent that has proved highly productive in her collaboration with Giger. She has expanded this talent into free improvisation, which has in turn left a mark on the compositions. In Towards Silence these two musicians approach each other from different angles, giving rise to a playful and ever-surprising interaction between allegedly opposite styles and sound-worlds.
Since they joined forces to form a duo seven years ago, Giger and Dähler have never ceased to study Bach’s sonatas and frequently include them on their programs. This is fully in keeping with their musical philosophy. 'In a recital one usually knows exactly where to interpolate a movement', Giger explains, 'but on a recording the problem is more complex. In the end we found a solution that practically inverts the sequence of movements in the Bach sonata but allows us to create highly contrasting transitions between our music and Bach.' The album opens with a sharp contrast between an extended free improvisation, recorded in a single take, and Bach's 'Aria'. In contrast, the Vivace from the Bach sonata is followed by Postlude like an angular shadow (track 5), while Prelude blends almost imperceptibly into Bach's Adagio.
Thanks to a wealth of unconventional playing techniques, the two musicians coax a great many unusual sounds from their instruments. In Cemb a quattro the harpsichord is prepared in such a way that each register has a different reservoir of sounds. This has an immediate impact not only on the melody and harmony but on the rhythmic processes as well.
While Marie-Louise Dähler presses the keys, Giger strikes the strings with dulcimer mallets inside the instrument. Another source of unusual timbres is the 'violino d'amore' - Giger's first violin, inherited from his grandfather and rebuilt by Christopher Lee Lüthi so as to combine five specially tuned strings (d-a-d'-a'-d') with six sympathetic strings. Owing to the relations between the upper partials, the notes in certain scales produce distinctive sympathetic vibrations that seem to envelop the instrument in a gentle haze of sound. When plucked, as in Dorian Horizon, the sympathetic strings produce a sound that intermingles mysteriously with that of the harpsichord.
No matter how free and associational these pieces may sound, almost every one is based on a structural idea. In the case of Halfwhole it is the harmonic and melodic potential of a scale consisting of alternating half- and whole-steps. Dorian Horizon, as the title suggests, exploits the horizontal, i.e. melodic aspects of the Dorian mode. And Gliss a uno inscribes an extremely slow descending glissando played on a single string with a constant bowed tremolo. Bombay II is a duo version, newly elaborated in conjunction with Marie-Louise Dähler, of a solo piece that Giger composed in 1970 toward the end of his first trip to India. The solo version can be heard on the CD Schattenwelt.

1. From Silence to Silence
2. Aria from Goldberg Variations (BWV 988)
3. Cemb a quattro
4. Halfwhole
5. Vivace from Sonata V in F Minor for violin & harpsichord (BWV 1018)
6. Dorian Horizon
7. Allegro from Sonata V (BWV 1018)
8. Vertical
9. Gliss a uno
10. Præludium - Adagio from Sonata V (BWV 1018)
11. Bells
12. Bombay II
13. First movement of Sonata V (BWV 1018)

Paul Giger: violin, violino d'amore
Marie-Louise Dähler: harpsichord

All Compositions by Giger/Dähler except 2, 5, 7, 10, 13, by JS Bach
Released by ECM in 2007


Friday, 22 May, 2009

Morton Feldman - For Philip Guston [I-II] (1992)

"This monolithic four-plus hour work, composed very late in Feldman's career, is among his longest; only "String Quartet No. 2" (at six hours) and "For Christian Wolf" (at over three) are in its company. But it is this work, and in particular this performance, that reveals Feldman's particular obsession with discovery. However, his means are far different than most composers, yet not unlike those of the namesake of this piece, Philip Guston, a father of abstract expressionism, to whom Feldman had also dedicated a short piano piece in the 1950s. Feldman's "abstract" music, with its insistence on sparse passages and quiet, was also one of total control. Listening back to a music he had created in which strict adherence to a score was necessary for the players, Feldman found himself, and what he found was known only to him. But listeners are set free to wander these long hours wherever the eyes of the soul may take them. An earlier recording of this piece by Eberhard Blum and company on the Hat Art label was stilted and academic; it came off as if the composer himself was attempting some gargantuan exercise, which didn't ring true when placed against the body of Feldman's work. This version, by members of the wonderful California EAR Unit, is far more relaxed, a necessity given the score's restrictive architecture. Perhaps the most striking thing about this piece is that, in the 104 pages that comprise the score, no two passages bear the same time signature! It doesn't matter whether there is a notated silence, a cluster of short chords on the celeste or piano, or a single note or two spaced within the same measure; each passage, by nature of its place in stretching the notion of time itself, is given an identity so unique that it appears as whole and disappears as fragment when the next passage begins. Proportion is everything in this work, and the players seem to understand this implicitly. Each note is precise in pitch and timbre; each is played without a hint of the enormous tension in the score. At no time is the strident pursuit of the score's demands relaxed. In the last bars, after over four hours of music, the time signatures run 7/4, 6/4, 5/4, 9/8, 11/8, and 13/8, followed by a silent measure (which sounds perfectly welcome as an instrument here) of 2/2, 5/4, 5/4, and 6/4, which moves directly into another silent measure of 2/2, 13/8, 9/8, and 11/8, and the final, disappearing 2/2 (so quiet that it almost wasn't played). Feldman has created an "abstraction of exactitude" in this homage to his friend, which is exactly the manner in which Guston the artist extracted everything from himself. Silence plays its usual pivotal role here, not as ether to emerge from, but as the platform to which all notes are held in the end. They emerge from and add immeasurably to the previous silence, as a meditator's breath disappears into the universal stream of emptiness and becomes one with it.
The sound here is phenomenal, clean and clear throughout.
This is the definitive performance of this work to date and, given its length, will probably be for some time to come." [in ~all music]

Morton Feldman

"The relationship between Feldman and Philip Guston was perhaps the strongest mutual influence in the New York School of Painters and Musicians. Feldman was friends with all the New York School Painters, but with Guston there was a deep aesthetic bond. Guston's love affair with color in his Abstract Expressionist period is similar to Feldman's love of sheer sound...interestingly, both men were criticized for creating works that were "too beautiful" in a time when beauty had become suspect in Art. But later in life, the two men became estranged. Guston returned to figuration in his late, ominous cartoon-like works, and Feldman never quite forgave the betrayal of the Abstract Expressionist ideals by his friend. Though they never officially broke the friendship, the close bonds they had once had cooled.

"painting, smoking, eating" [painting from Philip Guston, 1973] & Philip G. at his atlier

But when Guston died in 1980, the floodgates poured out for Feldman. For Philip Guston, completed in 1984, was one of a series of late works that were tributes to Feldman's friends, both living and dead. For Philip Guston is one of the longest of these works, clocking in at around four hours, depending on tempo chosen. By the time of these late works, Feldman was more interested in "scale" than in form, and For Philip Guston is one of his longest works, topped only by the Second String Quartet. It is scored for one of Feldman's most common instrumental groupings, flute (doubling alto flute) percussion (mostly mallet percussion) and piano (doubling Celeste). The work unfolds in an almost timeless manner. Beginning with a haunting "theme" of four notes, the three instruments circle around each other, floating in and out of tonality, at barely a whisper for the full four hours. Feldman's ear for complex harmony and the unique sounds of his instruments is astounding. And his balance between sound and silence is almost hypnotic.

The ensemble on this disc has an incredible pedigree in this music. Both Blum and Williams played regularly with Feldman as a trio and the work was written for them. There is never a sense of hurry, nor of the incredible concentration that is required to interpret the rhythmic complexities of this work. All three players show a great sense of tonal balance and control, essential for this music, and Vigeland coaxes warmth out of the piano that approaches the unique sound of Feldman himself on piano. The other competing set for this work, The California EAR Unit on New Albion, is also an excellent performance, but to my ear, this Hat Hut recording has the edge, both in performance and in sonics." [in ~amazon customer review]

click on the back cover CD pict for info about the tracks and musicians.

Digital recording 19-21 August 1991, Slee Concert Hall, University of Buffalo, New York.

Released in 1992 by Hat Hut's records : HAT NOW SERIES :

linkCD1 | linkCD2 @320

Wednesday, 20 May, 2009

Jorge Peixinho & Daniel Kientzy - S/T (1996)

Composer, pianist, teacher, conductor, professor, maestro, lecturer, writer, Jorge Peixinho is an essential figure in contemporary music in Portugal of the second half of the 20th century. He was born in Montijo in 1940 (near Lisbon) and studied at the Lisbon Conservatoire, where he completed courses in Piano and Composition. Later, with a Gulbenkian scholarship, he studied in Rome with Boris Porena and Goffredo Petrassi at the Academy of Saint Cecilia, where he received a higher diploma in composition.
He worked with Luigi Nono in Venice and with Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen at the Academy of Music in Basel. He attended the International Summer Course in Darmstadt several times, and took part in the projects of group composition conceived and run by Stockhausen. In addition, he spent a period of research in Ghent (Belgium) and was subsequently invited to write various pieces for the Studio of Electronic Music in Bourges (France).
Peixinho died in 1995 and, despite a prolific and creative career, remains an obscure figure even within specialized music circles in his own country.

1. Concerto para Saxofone Alto e Orquestra [1961]
2. Sax-Blue (saxophones and echo chamber) [1982]
3. Passage Intérieur (saxophones, electric guitar, electric bass, synth, percussion) [1989]
4. Fantasia-Impromptu (alto sax, piano) [1990]

Daniel Kientzy - saxophones
Filarmonica Transilvania, dir. Emil Simon (#1)
Claude Pavy - electric guitar (#3)
Emmanuel Binet - bass (#3)
Laurent Potier - synthesizer (#3)
Vicent Limouzin - percussion (#3)
Mihail Virtosu - piano (#4)

Released by Nova Musica in 1996.


Saturday, 16 May, 2009

Guy Klucevsek & Alan Bern - Accordance (2000)

Now here's an oddity, an album of compositions for and by a pair of accordionists; and, with the exception of a forte-piano here and a bayan or melodica there, accordions are all you hear. Guy Klucevsek is the man who single-handedly brought the accordion into the jazz underground. He is also a composer of note having his works performed by many ensembles around the world, including the Kronos Quartet and the Arditti String Quartet. Alan Bern is well-known as the musical director of Brave Old World, one of the leading klezmer ensembles in the world, and a virtuoso classical and jazz pianist as well as an extraordinary accordionist.

This collection of works, all of which were composed by the two performers, is a compelling entry in the already prestigious Winter & Winter catalogue. The sheer range of musical styles addressed here is handled with grace and aplomb. While these men compose and play with great virtuosity, it's never to reveal their individual skills, but to serve the music they compose.

Whether it's klezmer, gypsy folk music, swinging jazz, classical music, madcap cartoon melodies, or sheer pastoral balladry that explores the tonalities of the instruments employed as "voices" in song, the restraint and elegance are ever present. The emotional quality of many of these pieces is of profound depth and dimension. Nowhere is this more evident than on Alan Bern's 'Starting Over,' a nine-plus minute exploration of melodic invention placed against a mournful harmonic backdrop. Woven together, they create a landscape of tears, not so much from sadness as beauty. The bayan is slipped into the mix about midway through; the accordions sing to each other and colors pour from the sound and engage the listener at heart level. The following track, 'Mr. Glime-Glide,' is by Klucevsek. It's a standard polka in terms of its time signature, but its odd timbres and melody recall something else, from somewhere else. The track's architecture isn't created to move so much from one page of notation to another, as to evoke as wide a range of emotions as possible from the same set of musical parameters. Here folk song, wedding music, and classical music all engage one another in a polka of memory. The nest piece, a stomping classical dance called 'Mug Shots,' is brief but shot through with Wagnerian themes juxtaposed against gypsy melody and Yiddish folk song. In all, there is not a dull note on this fine album. These men, who came together for the first time in order to record, have not only provided us a new manner in which to hear their chosen instruments in a variety of compositional situations, but to experience anew the aesthetic possibilities inherent in first time collaborations". AMG

1. Life, Liberty and the Prosciutto Happiness
2. Angel Blue
3. Social Securities
4. Birthdays
5. Telephones
6. Gunks
7. Bar Talk
8. Starting Over
9. Mr. Glime-Glide
10. Psychotria Nervosa (Wild Coffee)
11. Girl With the Rose Hips
12. Decaffinata
13. Astor Place
14. Scarlatti Fever
15. Hegel's Fantasy
16. Dueling Dovidls
17. Happy

[left channel] Guy Klucevsek: accordion
[right channel] Alan Bern: accordion, fortepiano, melodica

Design by Stephen Byram.
Released by Winter & Winter in 2000.


Tuesday, 12 May, 2009

New Winds - Digging it Harder from Afar (1994)

Digging It Harder From Afar is New Winds' third album, their first for the Disques Victo label. The avant-garde wind trio of Robert Dick (flutes), Ned Rothenberg (saxophones, bass clarinet), and J.D. Parran (clarinets, bass saxophone) recorded this CD one piece at a time from 1989 to 1994. Each member contributed at least one composition (two in the case of Rothenberg); two group improvisations were added.

This album highlights the mastery of each musician and the group's ability to navigate through complex compositions and pockets of improvisation. "Dovetail" stands out because of the then-not-so-common use of samples of the musicians' playing, prepared by Rothenberg and triggered/treated by guest percussionist Gerry Hemingway. The title track, penned by R.Dick and featuring his beautiful Roland Kirk-inspired flute style, opens the program with a kick. The last number also packs a surprise: "St. Louis Thank You Notes" is a spirited and joyfully twisted blues. Following a path similar to Rova, New Winds eschewed the saxophone quartet's more academic tendencies. Digging It Harder From Afar is not as uplifting as its follow-up, Potion, but it still features beautiful and inventive playing. François Couture

1. Digging it Harder from Afar
2- Dovetail
3. The Rising and the Swell
4. Angst in the Rangst
5. Balcascalad
6. St. Louis Thank You Notes

Robert Dick - prepared flute, bass flute in F, alto flute.
JD Parran - clarinet, clarinet in A, alto clarinet, bass saxophone
Ned Rothenberg - alto & soprano sax, bass clarinet
Guest Musician on #3:
Gerry Hemingway - digital sampler [S1000 controlled by a Drumkat using samples created by Rothenberg]

All tracks recorded in 1994 except #6 (1989) & # 5 (1992).
Released by Disques Victo in 1994.


Thursday, 7 May, 2009

Luigi Serafini - Codex Seraphinianus (1976-78)

The Codex Seraphinianus is a book written and illustrated by the Italian artist, architect and industrial designer Luigi Serafini during thirty months, from 1976 to 1978. The book is approximately 360 pages long (depending on edition), and appears to be a visual encyclopedia of an unknown world, written in one of its languages, a perhaps undecipherable alphabetic writing.

The Codex is divided into eleven chapters, partitioned into two sections. The first section appears to describe the natural world, dealing with flora, fauna, and physics. The second deals with the humanities, the various aspects of human life: clothing, history, cuisine, architecture and so on. Each chapter seems to treat a general encyclopedic topic: incredibily strange flora, far-out fauna, bizarre physics and mechanics, biological discharges, technological possibilities, architectural wonders, local funeralogy, scriptural intricacies, eating techniques, and what not. Imagine the Moebius Twins illustrating ethnographic notes by Lewis Carroll, a Jonathan Swift travelogue of Hoffman's Peninsula, or Borges turned Gazetteer.

The writing system (possibly a false one) appears to be modelled on ordinary Western-style writing systems (left-to-right writing in rows; an alphabet with uppercase and lowercase letters, some of which double as numerals) but is much more curvilinear, not unlike cursive Georgian in appearance. Some letters appear only at the beginning or at the end of words, a feature shared with Semitic writing systems. The language of the codex has defied complete analysis by linguists for decades. The number system used for numbering the pages, however, is said to have been cracked (independently) by Allan C. Wechsler and Bulgarian linguist Ivan Derzhanski, among others. It is allegedly a variation of base 21.

Commenting on the Codex, Douglas Hofstadter observed: "Many of the pictures are grotesque and disturbing, but others are extremely beautiful and visionary. The inventiveness that it took to come up with all these conceptions of a hypothetical land is staggering. Some people with whom I have shared this book find it frightening or disturbing in some way. It seems to them to glorify entropy, chaos, and incomprehensibility. There is very little to fasten onto; everything shifts, shimmers, slips. Yet the book has a kind of unearthly beauty and logic to it, qualities pleasing to a different class of people: people who are more at ease with free-wheeling fantasy and, in some sense, craziness. I see some parallels between musical composition and this kind of invention. Both are abstract, both create a mood, both rely largely on style to convey content."

freak-out [358 pages; 150 mb]

Sonny Rollins - East Broadway Run Down (1966)

Sonny Rollins sparring with Freddie Hubbard (title tune only) backed by the reunited Coltrane drum’n’bass section of Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison sounds like an enticing lineup for this May, 1966 session at Van Gelder’s and it is! Jones had left Coltrane earlier that year, as had McCoy Tyner, but Garrison remained, uniting again with Jones to back Rollins in this session recorded around the same time Coltrane’s Live At The Village Vanguard Again! was recorded.

The title tune, filling side one, is a long, rumbling, raucous effort that marches and rumbles along supported much of the way by Garrison’s one note pulse and Jones’s percolating tom rolls and splashy cymbal work. Rollins chews off big hunks of bluesy melody, sometimes sounding like he’s madly leading a cavalry charge and other times (occasionally with the mouthpiece detached!) sounding like squeaky subway wheels negotiating a curve, mostly way behind the beat. He locks up intensely with Hubbard only occasionally, on the piece’s main theme, which the two ride out for tune’s abrupt finale. It’s an oddly (un)structured, yet inviting album side of experimental free jazz that never wears out its welcome and sounds more daring as the years pass.

Side two opens with “Blessing in Disguise,” a tuneful Rollins composition featuring a catchy, riff based on Lionel Hampton’s “Hey Ba Ba Re Bop,” that Rollins burns into your subconscious with juicy, full throated repetitions and a great, loping Garrison solo.

The album concludes with the ballad “We Kiss In A Shadow,” a cover from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I,” that’s taken at a ultra-leisurely pace, with Rollins at first spilling the melody with gorgeous, straight-forward lyricism followed by a deconstructed rendering taken at a languid pace, that flutters and drifts off into the ether, ending both the album and Rollins’ recording career for a full six years.

A short, but important album in the Rollins discography, that has a powerful pull and, thanks to the rhythm section, a swagger and weight that doesn’t quit, even after decades of listening. Michael Fremer, Musicangle

Sonny Rollins - tenor sax
Freddie Hubbard - trumpet (on #1 only)
Jimmy Garrison - bass
Elvin Jones - drums

1. East Broadway Run Down
2. Blessing in Disguise
3. We Kiss in a Shadow

Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder.
Cover painting by Mel Cheren.
Released by Impulse! in 1966.
CD re-issue in 1995.

Dedicated to the memory of Frank Fontana, who first introduced me to this record some 15 years ago.


Monday, 4 May, 2009

Paul Panhuysen - Partitas for Long Strings (1999)

"I must admit that I have very good memories of Panhuysen and the story is nice yet unrelated to this CD. Paul did concerts with his canarie big band: five canaries in cages and the singing and movements were amplified. I attended one such concert and Dutch television was also present (their topic was, I recall, is government money again spend on silly art events?) and I made sure I was interviewed. So I told them it was better than the concert for 48 vacuum cleaners I once saw. My remark made it into the program and for 2 weeks I encountered people saying: you were on TV! Never knew art programs were watched by so many.
However the main part of the work of Paul Panhuysen is dealing with long strings - unamplified and always site specific. He hangs wires in doks, galleries and outside. The strings are then played by hand. The result is simply beautiful: one long tone, resonating and vibrating in air. Like a huge car alarm going off. This CD, the first to document this kind of work (a 3LP from the mid eighties is now sold out), has three extended pieces. The first one is a simple monochrome work, that in all it's static is a moving piece. The second piece is a total contrast: chaotic with random sounds swirling in and out of the mix. A combination of the first and the second part seems to be the result of the third part. Building around a central theme, there are blocks of tones that seems to appear randomly and disappear again. This third piece lacks the chaos of the second and is the best on the CD." Vital Weekly

"Paul Panhuysen's Partitas are an entirely different kettle of fish, although the first piece here bears some striking similarities in sound [with Niblock's Music By]. The strings heard here are gallery installations centering on wires stretched across the space, with or without the addition of resonators and automated exciters. Panhuysen is therefore as much a part of the artworld as of avant garde music, and one could easily suspect this disc of being one of those "documentation" projects which never really sound good unless you know the larger work of which the sound is a part. There's no fear of this here, however, and what these recordings demonstrate is that Panhuysen is at least as much a musician as he is an artist. There are three here, all lengthy (over twenty minutes) examinations of a particular tuning method: unison, equally diminishing and proportional. The unison piece is the one which resonates with Niblock's quartets. It's even more minimal, however; there's almost no perceptible change in the buzz-saw note the strings produce for the entire duration.
As with Niblock, one becomes fascinated by the detail, although here it's more a matter of trying to be sufficiently attentive that any change is audible at all. The experience is one which will be familiar to lovers of so-called "lowercase" music; it won't be to all tastes, but it's an interesting journey. Things take a radically different turn when the strings are tuned in equally diminishing lengths. The intervals between them are intensely dissonant, and they are played much more actively, with notes audibly coming and going and with harmonics creating clouds of ultra-high pitches above the throbbing beat frequencies of the fundamentals. This will be much more approachable for most listeners, and anyone familiar with Ligeti or Penderecki will hear their ancestral voice in this. The sheer texture of the sound here is ravishingly fine-grained and, as with much minimal art, one is drawn to an unaccustomed involvement with the detailed aesthetic surface of the material itself. On a more conventional level, however, this is carefully-played and distinctive music which sucks you in and doesn't let you go.
The third piece, which uses a proportional tuning system, is similar to the second, but there is a distinct differentiation -- and how this is achieved is a mystery -- between extreme dissonances and a rather cool set of semi-consonant intervals. Again it shifts about restlessly, but there is a much greater sense here that the music is anchored. Indeed, this feels like the most "musicanly" of the three pieces here; that's not to be taken evaluatively, of course". Richard Cochrane

1. Partita For 16 Long Strings Of Equal Length
2. Partita For 16 Long Strings Equally Diminishing In Length
3. Partita For 16 Long Strings Proportionally Tuned

Composed, performed and recorded by Paul Panhuysen in 1997.
Released by XI Records in 1999.


Saturday, 2 May, 2009

Bravo Clippings #40

Krent Able enjoys "birdwatching, amateur investigation-interrogation, shouting, sleeping, sleeping whilst shouting, hiding out in disused factories, fine wines, murder". Strangely enough, he claims not to like music that much.
He also writes comic strips for the famous Stool Pigeon newspaper.
He created this in 2009.