Sunday, August 26, 2012

Arturas Bumšteinas is a young (b. 1982) Lithuanian composer and an extremely active one from what i gather. I'd recently heard and written about a work of his (Three Sixteens on the con-v label) and he kindly sent three discs for further listening and consideration. From what I've heard, his range is pretty wide and, while some aspects give me pause, there's also always something else at play that grabs me.

"Uniforms", on the Polish Bôłt label from 2008 and performed by the Lithuanian State Wind Orchestra, explores various minimalist influences though to my ears, not so much of the first generation but rather of the following, as represented in the work of Carl Stone in the late 80s, early 90s. This is especially the case in the near-title piece, "This Uniform", derived from a 3-second sample of "an unknown jazz song", substantially reconfigured, which recalls works like Stone's "Gadberry's" from his album, "Mom's", though Bumšteinas thickens the mixture with rising string lines (that actually remind me of Tenney's "For Ann, Rising") and other elements. It eventually mutates into something quite his own, however, a keening mass of high tones; very impressive. His compositions are often highly complex in construction, like "Glockenspiel", using sample from same, extracting select tones, amplifying those, accompanying the whole by a kind of Greek chorus of low reeds, all resting on a detuning sine tone, the initially clunky percussive rhythms (minimalist only as, possibly, a distant reference to Louis Andriessen) acquiring an odd clockwork life of their own. Very intriguing piece, this.

There's something difficult to define about the sampler sound itself that occasionally seems anachronistic here; do samplers as such impart a recognizable tinge to their samples? But it's the knotty structures that carry the day here, even if I can't help but hit on (in "Second Sequentina", a piece derived in, um, part from Arvo Pärt samples) tastes of Einstein-era glass and organ swells connoting certain prismatic features of Einsteinian space...

It's a bracing collection, well worth seeking out.


"My Own Private Bayreuth" is the result of a frustrated would-be attendee of the festival of Wagner's music who, having been put on a nine-year waiting list for tickets, decided to, each year, hold his performances of various scores, here assembled from rehearsal performances of an 18-piece ensemble. I'm not nearly knowledgeable enough about Wagner's music to identify most of the sources, not that I imagine it matters. We hear pretty cohesive pieces that float and eddy more than the originals (think of a classic Bryars kind of treatment) with electronics, record skips and extraneous sounds interpolated. The balance between source and modernization can rest uncomfortably. There would be, say woodwind passage of eerie beauty (perhaps several Wagnerian lines overlaid?) but swathed in a kind of baby-cooing that seemed beside the point and bothersome. It's off and on interesting as sound manipulation but, to these ears, unsatisfying in conception. The electronic augmentation seems a bit heavy-handed, more often covering up otherwise intriguing music than expanding on it. I wouldn't mind at all hearing the tapes mixed in a more subtle manner though.


"Voicescapes" (on Semplice; the title sounds better in Lithuanian" "Balsovaizdziai") is a collaboration with saxophonist/clarinetist/pianist Liudas Mockūnas, honoring a prominent figure in Lithuanian turn of the (last) century art, the painter and composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis. Bumšteinas is again using sampled sounds as well as synth, electro-acoustic sounds and violin, building systems that reflect traditional modes of expression--church choirs, for instance--reimagined via slicing and subtle reorientation. Mockūnas seems to command a Braxtonian range of reeds and apparently comes from an avant-jazz tradition but by and large reins himself in to the matters at hand when required, integrating well with the patterns, here lush, there sparse, that Bumšteinas has formulated. Tracks of more composed-sounding material abut seemingly improvised ones, the latter sparse and prickly but perhaps not quite holding their own against the former which are quite solid, forward-moving and richly detailed. Theres a feature for the saxophonist, in which he improvises capably, perhaps out of a kind of Roscoe Mitchell bag, though really sounding pretty much his own man. The music attains an admirable wildness at times, Bumšteinas letting loose on synth, but it's generally pulled back for subtler episodes, again recalling certain choral musics; its a balancing act that works more often than not. He's clearly attempting large things here and, if I think the aims are achieved only about half the time, it's a admirable attempt and he's a composer who bears watching.


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