Sunday, April 22, 2018
On the former, the sextet is joined by Granberg (celesta), Simon Allen (dulcimer and glass harp), Richard Craig (alto flute and electronics), John Lely (electronics) and Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga (zither and electronics). The starting points for each piece are from Johannes Ockeghem's (1410/25 - 1497) 'Déploration sur la mort de Binchois' and William Byrd's (1538 - 1623) 'O Lord, How Vain'. Granberg's piece is cloudy, amorphous. I'm not at all sure how he made use of the source material--perhaps extracting small bits and elaborating on them juxtaposing them--but having spent a few hours listening to versions of both the Ockeghem and the Byrd, I can't say that I hear much reference, direct or otherwise. Which is fine, of course. The floating aspect can work and, for me, it sometimes does here but .more so when there's at least a hint of an anchor, as when, periodically, a deep bass note is struck and slowly repeated, kind of an attenuated continuo where one can imagine a dreamy evocation of one of the earlier works. In these moments, I get a slightly Robert Ashley effect which is very attractive. Over its almost 42 minutes, though, I found my attention wandering. Granberg's music has always been a little difficult for me, for one reason or another--my lack, I'm sure.
The Frey work is very different and is yet another addition to his astonishing canon. It's much more constrained and, in a sense, linear. Single, clear lines from piano, dulcimer and strings perform a calm dance, evoking early music without by any means aping it. There's a somberness befitting Ockeghem's subject, tempered by extreme tenderness. The wonderful sound of sliding stones enters beneath the spare, solitary, grainy lines. As with much of Frey's music, the sounds themselves are transparent and "simple" but their placement and their extraordinarily subtle placement provides endless fascination. When other elements are added, harmonica and clarinet in one section, for instance, there's no feeling of overcrowdedness; they slip into the stream, enriching the sound field but never obscuring their cohorts. There are sudden shifts, as when the ensemble gives way to solo piano about 21 minutes in; one has forgotten how full the music had become. The mix of instruments shifts as the piece progresses (harmonica and flute are introduced), always retaining a strong connection to an ancient sensibility, slowed, parsed, and re-examined. 'Late Silence' fits right in to the recent run of gorgeous music by Frey, utterly enthralling.
A fine set. I'll keep working on Granberg, but in the meantime, must hearing for the Frey.