Monday, May 25, 2009
Lucio Capece/Julia Eckhardt/Christian Kesten/Radu Malfatti/Toshimaru Nakamura/Taku Sugimoto - Wedding Ceremony (Cathnor)
A live recording, culled from two sets in Belgium, May 2007, and a rewarding and fascinating one.
Five pieces, four of them composed, most of the time freely admitting of the performing space ambiance. Christian Kesten's "zonder titel (schuif en ruis)" consists "simply" of lengthy sustained notes by the sextet tutti placed between extended sections of non-playing. The filled areas are made up of fine burbling with subtle, barely rising pitches. As with many works of this general form, its success relies, for me, on the natural deployment of the sound blocks, how well they "hang" in space. To my ears, this one does the trick and does it very well. It segues into a 20-minute improvisation, I assume from the same set though one of the effects of the ambient sounds throughout is to provide a tissue of sorts between the track. Quietly blistering. Nakamura (I'm guessing) inserts a few awkwardly loopy sounds, though even then if one listens in the context of the whole piece, they're more like brightly colored blips in a somber landscape--interesting to flip back and forth in one's head between the momentary irritation and broader scope. Overall, though, it's a fine and controlled piece; not dissimilar in most respects from other performances by like-minded musicians, but handled with great sensitivity. Much fun attempting, often unsuccessfully, to pick out Kesten. In my limited exposure to his work over the past year, he's become, with Ami Yoshida, my favorite vocalist in the music.
I've also been largely remiss in keeping track of Radu Malfatti's vast output over the last few years, but his composition here, "quartet + 2", seems to fit in comfortably with what I am familiar with, 27 minutes of sounds that seem more respired than played, like the breaths of some sleeping giant. There are enormously low tones in play (Toshi?), the other voices arrayed laminally, sliding in and out of unison, the background noises providing some salt. I do generally find this side of Malfatti's work to be transfixing and am again so impressed here. Hard to imagine tiring of listening to this; gorgeous work.
Listeners who've been unable to abide much of Sugimoto's recent composed music get another to chew on here, version 2.12 of his "doremilogy". A minute of room sound, a single clarinet note, three rising scale notes on the viola, three on clarinet, viola and guitar, five on another combination (I could be getting these wrong but they're additive), a full octave with everyone, etc. The salient aspect of this performance, clocking in at only four + minutes, is the timbral distortion applied to the notes in the scales, kind of like Richter doing a comfy mother and child painting then taking a board to rake the paint across the surface. I rather enjoy it.
This bleeds directly into the final and, arguably, most problematic work, an improvisation conducted by Capece based on his instructions which can be read here. As indicated, it's in two sections of equal length. The first is quite attractive, a succession of soft tones, gentle thwacks and high squeaks, having something of a ritualistic quality; very beautiful. Throughout this portion, Capece had been strolling through the audience, handing out bits of text. At the conclusion of the first section, Capece jarringly takes to the mic and asks the audience to participate (or not) as spelled out in his notes. There follows a couple of minutes of uncomfortable silence before one, then another few audience members recite the lines from Guy Debord, finally one in whispers. The awkward blockiness of this maneuver is, one supposes, an expected outcome, reinforcing perhaps the criticism of "spectacle" in the text. That tension comes through clearly; I imagine it did even more so in situ. Does it, that second section, "sound" great? No. Should the work have been included on an audio CD as opposed to having been simply experienced live? Not sure. I like very much actively involving the audience in unique ways which, I'd have to say, includes asking them to consider reading aesthetically and politically charged statements, as long as they decide whether or not to do so. The psychological pressure that may have been in play does provide tension; whether it's welcome or not or, indeed, verges on the oppressive...that's a question. Ultimately, I'm glad it's here, if only in the interests of fair representation of the musician's activities and range of investigations.
Many ideas packed in, several of them beautifully expressed.