Thursday, October 04, 2012

Michael Pisaro/Taku Sugimoto - D Minor/B♭ Major (Slub)

The tiny reproduction above, filched from the Japan Improv site (he only one I could locate in lieu of my unconnected scanner) seems to fit somehow. Not that the music here is "small"; it isn't by any means. But there is something pleasantly distant about it; listening, I imagine hearing it form across a good-sized room. Perhaps this is influenced by seeing, just last night as I write this, a performance of Pisaro's "Tombstones" in a Brooklyn church bearing the unlikely moniker, "Our Lady of Lebanon". After the first piece, I moved toward the buildings rear, where the sound seemed a bit richer (I have the feeling that's often the case in vaulted rooms like those of churches) but still very distinct.

In any case, the present work is quite different from the pair's collaboration last year on Erstwhile. Here, the Dog Star Orchestra (seventeen instrumentalists, largely strings and winds, including the composers on guitars) tackle a work in sixteen parts, eight written by each of Pisaro and Sugimoto, independent of one another. The parts, if I understand correctly, are for individual instrumentalists, each of whom is given a "10 minute window in which to play", with a good deal of latitude as to when and, presumably, how they play during that period. How those time frames overlap, I don't know, but overlap they do as the entire work runs 48 minutes.

It's fascinating to listen to the work take form, one imagines at least in part due to the ensemble, at first tentative and awkward, gradually acquiring a notion of the fragile ground that has been laid, then gently building atop it, balancing between "squandering" their allotted time and holding some in abeyance. One can guess which principle was responsible for which set of notes, but that's a rather silly endeavor. Instead, you sit and enjoy the fluctuating combinations, generally soft and often of longish duration, as they slide against one another, bump shoulders, lay atop each other forming prismatic sound-colors, stand aside and allow extrusions of silence. One does actually get something of the sense of Sugimoto of quite a while back, circa "opposite", in the spatial openness combines with the delicate, fairly tonal music. Indeed, there's a section several minutes toward the middle of the composition where there's, apparently, only ambient sound; perhaps one of the pages of the score?

After repeated listens, I find myself quite easily slipping into the sound world here, enjoying both the smoothness and the occasional awkwardness, prizing certain individual sounds (that calliope-like set of tones, I guess computer-generated, Sugimoto's dry, lovely guitar) but becoming more and more able to "stand back" and observe the process as a natural event, with sets of nested events.

A fine piece, well worth searching out.

available from erstdist

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