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.



rickets said...

great album, thanks for this

Elemento Musical said...
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