Saturday, July 14, 2018


Antoine Beuger/Dante Boon/Taylan Susam - beuger.boon.susam (Edition Wandelweiser)

I've had the very good fortune, twice, to attend solo piano recitals by Dante Boon, once several years ago in Amsterdam and more recently in Brooklyn. Each occasion was and extremely special, highly rewarding event, Boon playing works from Wandelweiser composers, transforming the space into a ind of temple. After the Amsterdam concert, I wondered if ever two hours of music had contained so few notes, yet so much beauty.

This recording is very similar to a Boon recital, consisting of a long work from Antoine Beuger, two shorter ones by Boon himself and a piece by Taylan Susam, each just so impressive, so thoughtful, so human. How to describe Beuger's 'pour être seul(e), sans réserve' (2009)? The softest of notes, high on the keyboard, individual, barely struck, more like caressed, open the work, isolated, glimmering. Some eight minutes in, simple chords, slightly bitter, more "aware", occur in sets of three, high-low-high, again hanging in small clusters, their beads reflecting something of the confusion of the earth below. It expands from there, shifting patterns, seemingly based purely on intuition rather than any system, always maintaining that ineffable delicacy that somehow remains grounded in the world. The music returns to single notes, eventually shading somewhat lower, slowly wafting to ground. Such deep, probing work, both in conception and execution.

Boon's 'years, numbers' (2012) uses a set of four tones, structured A-B-B-A where one note is constant, while another is added (or not), the duration of each varied with immense subtlety throughout (and interrupted midway through by a sequence of two-chord patterns). The combination of simplicity and slight variation works wonderfully as do the pitch choices made, imparting a melancholic, perhaps nostalgic air, as if the composer is thinking of a past bittersweet event, playing it back in his head, subjecting it to different possibilities, ways things might have gone. The brief 'nov. (piano)' (2011) contains calm sets of chords, a gentle promenade, ambling downhill, very lovely.

Susam's 'tombeau' (2014) begins with sets of four descending chords and, similar to the first Boon piece, retains the basic chord while augmenting the surrounding tones, then varies that a little, allowing the sounds to blossom like slow motion footage of a blooming flower, the pattern of petals offering regularity while the time sequence of their unfurling flows from regular to slightly less so. The basic downward trajectory is maintained for the most part, as befits a tombeau. Glints of other alternatives appear momentarily before the descent continues, no enhanced with lusher swaddling, some chords so lovely they cause one to shiver. A superb piece.

And a superb album altogether, as rewarding as those recitals I've witnessed. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Edition Wandelweiser

I wanted to also mention three other releases in the current batch from EW, which I just don't have the time to write about at length (apologies!), but which all deserve to be heard:

Marianne Schuppe - nosongs; a set of works for voice and lute (the latter enhanced with uber-bows) that dwell in the territory explored by Morton Feldman in his extraordinary composition, "Only".

Toshi Ichiyanagi - sapporo; The 1963 piece performed here by eleven Seattle-area musicians (including our old buddy Robert J. Kirkpatrick) in 2010. Very quiet and filled with eerie, enchanting glissandi and rousing percussion.

Sergio Merce - three dimensions of the spirit; Further delving into his microtonal saxophone as well as a prepared tenor, all of them probing and fascinating. Some of the most intriguing saxophonics I've heard in years.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018



Johan Lindvall - giraffe (Edition Wandelweiser)

An enchanting set of fourteen pieces for guitar and occasional voice, performed by Fredrik Rasten.

It's always difficult, for me, to write about music "like" this, work that's at once spare, seemingly simple and very affecting. The choices made to arrive at that apparent simplicity are hard to determine, easy to appreciate. Apart from a set of five short works for voice and guitar, utilizing words from Marianne Moore, the music by and large consists of single notes or small, tonal chords suspended in space, allowed to glisten there momentarily, followed by another, forming a thin, transparent sheet which air surrounds and light permeates. Calling it calm or contemplative, while accurate, doesn't do the music justice; as with much of Antoine Beuger's music, there's an intimacy that's almost uncomfortable. One almost feels as though intruding on a private session, though it's plenty warm and welcoming enough to dispel the notion. It's all lovingly played by Rasten, whose approach almost necessarily recalls that of Cristián Alvear; if you've enjoyed the recordings from Alvear, you'll enjoy this.

The song suite stands apart, haunting and riveting. Softly sung, with sparse accompaniment, I was reminded a little bit of David Grubbs with the Gastr del Sol of some 20 years ago, a similar hesitant delicacy. As much as I enjoy the entire release, these five works are my favorite--a wonderful approach to song-form, a direction I'd love to hear pursued.

Very fine work overall, highly recommended.

Edition Wandelweiser

Monday, July 09, 2018


Cyril Bondi/d'Incise - kirari-kirari (Edition Wandelweiser)

Two works, each almost 20 minutes long, co-composed by Bondi and d'Incise (who are often, though not here, known as Diatribes, for a sextet made up of Bondi (vibraphone), d'Incise (metallic objects), Magnus Granberg (piano), Anna Lindal (Baroque violin), Anna-Kaisa Meklin (viola de gamba) and Christoph Schiller (spinet).

Each work is similarly structured: single notes in a regular rhythm, played roughly every four seconds. Some have rapid decays, others linger. They go in and out of strict unison, forming slightly staggered figures which coalesce now and then. Some instruments, I think, disappear for a few measures then resurface. I believe that a single pitch is maintained throughout each work, though there may be minor fluctuations and there are certainly differing techniques employed.

That's it--very little, in a sense, but it kept this listener rapt and enthralled. By isolating each set of tones within that four-second space, they're able to be "examined", sort of rolled around in one's palm, considered in and of themselves and in relation to what preceded and ensued. The combination of these particular instruments is quite...delectable. I sometimes have the impression of a string of beads, not jewels but rougher, only partially polished bits of stone and shell. The mix of contemplativeness and periodicity is very appealing, very thoughtful and thought-provoking. Another fine work from this pair.

Edition Wandelweiser


Tuesday, July 03, 2018



Matt Sargent - Ghost Music (Weighter Recordings) 

'Ghost Music' is a work for solo percussion, lasting about an hour, performed by Bill Solomon. Though not listed on the release or elsewhere that I could find, for the first half of the work, Solomon is playing an instrument that gives forth high, metallic sounds--I take it a celesta or glockenspiel, something in that family. It's largely struck (with what sounds like thin rods or sticks) but there's also sustained tones that sometimes sound bowed.

That first 30-odd minutes is comprised of sets of struck tones, often in small groups, with patterns like 3-3-5-5 or 2-2-6-5, later in short melodic sequences. I've no idea whether it's score or intuitive. The tonality at the start reminds me very much of that used  by Karl Berger (on vibes) on Don Cherry's 'Eternal Rhythm', which I believe was based on Balinese or Javanese intervals. Whatever, it's dreamlike, unearthly and gorgeous, the tones themselves silvery and ephemeral, their lingering hums...well, ghostly. There's something of a Feldmanesque irregularity in play, patterns that seem to form only to dissolve before apprehension. I also get a time-stretch effect; I think I've been listening an hour and it's only 20 minutes. This is a good thing.

About halfway through the work the sound-world shifts rather abruptly, announced by a steady rhythm of slightly deeper-pitched metals augmented by the odd single strike. Whereas earlier, the arrangement of patterns occupied a reasonably defined area, Sargent (or Solomon? not sure how much, if any, leeway is provided) now presents multiple episodes of varied approaches and attacks, often using metals of a less precisely defined pitch, perhaps bells of different types. There's more open space, more tone range, many different attacks in general, though everything remains embedded in that large space of the contemplative and observant. It'd every bit as fascinating as the first half even if (or because) the listener's footing is less assured. 'Ghost Music' closes with a return to the original instrument, now heard in a steady rhythm with accent strikes here and there and ultimately a quicker, lighter beat atop.

A wonderful work and one of the more substantive pieces for solo percussion I've heard in ages.

Prune Bécheau - Stries ton, tripes et poils (Weighter Recordings)

Like the above, also a solo recording, this time on Baroque violin, an instrument which differs from a standard violin in certain ways far over my pay grade to comprehend (but see here to understand more), played by the French violinist Prune Bécheau. Admittedly, coming into this recording (as with many solo ventures on "classic" instruments), I was hoping for any innovation, should it occur, to be more structural than having to do with extended techniques. Well, there's a bit of both here.

There are eight pieces and each demonstrates a different instrumental attack. The first, "introduction", probably carries the greatest allusion to a "traditional" sound, as a kind of melody--very lovely--circles around some grainy overtones. I should mention that the disc's title translates into "tone streaks, guts and hair, so you have a good picture of what's coming. In 'tlelel etl', Bécheau circles, arco, around a high pitch, generating a mosquito-like whine which she rapidly elaborates on within fairly narrow parameters, forming an impressive web that retains a plaintive air. Sometimes, as in "geqze tulilu", she manages to elicit a breathy sound more saxophonic than violin; if heard "blindfolded" I might have guess Michel Doneda. As mentioned earlier, part of me would like to hear this kind of approach used in service of a larger form, a more overall idea, but it's quite impressive on its own. Four shorter pieces investigate overtone manipulation that reminds me of some forms of Central African singing, a jaunty venture on a (near) single tone, a harsher, rubbery melodic line put through the wringer and a finely worried low string summoning images of North Africa. Bécheau concludes with the most complex work, 'zzffk zzffk', a swirling piece with buzzes, clicks, a certain rubbed attack that almost sounds like a chicken cluck and much more. It's an intense work, one I'd love to see performed live. As is, there's an abundance of fine material and deep, concentrated thought on display here. It's my first time hearing her work and eagerly look forward to more.

Weighter Recordings