Thursday, January 09, 2014

Bespoken - Plays Nick Storring and Daniel Brandes (Heavy Fog)

Bespoken is a newly formed new music ensemble from Toronto (see somewhat hazy info here) and Storring a member thereof, playing cello and perhaps other instruments. Their first recording features music by Storring and Wandelweiser-affiliated composer Daniel Brandes.

Storring's "Algre Douce" is in four movements. The first has a lovely, dreamy feel, the melodica, autoharp, piano, violin & cello gliding past each other, the latter pair adding piquancy to the colorful haze. The autoharp stirred memories of Laraaji's late 70s work, the slower sections, but that string line lends a far more melancholy air. The second shifts gears, enjoyably lurching into territory that brings to mind Cage's Sonatas and Interludes but also includes (inadvertently, I imagine) a repeated melodic line that recalls "Isn't She Lovely" (!!). It's very charming and quirky, a kind of clockwork construction. Next is something of a dance between piano/percussion, stepping daintily on tiptoe, and strings looking on sadly and giving soft, plaintive cries. The dance gradually accedes to the violin and cello, creating a descent into a peaceful wistfulness before a beautiful piano denouement. The finale gives knowing, smiling nods to what I think of as Elizabethan music, though I'm sketchy enough on the subject that I may be well off. I found myself thinking of the sly work of John White. It's an extremely warm, engaging set of pictures, sometimes humorous, sometime touching and, despite the references I've made above, very unique sounding.

Brandes' piece, "Intimations of Melody", for violin, cello, piano, e-bowed acoustic guitar and melodica, sits more squarely in the Wandelweiser ethos, a 32-minute work, not overly quiet but subdued, the ensemble tracing grainy but steady lines of varying duration, having the sense of overlapping lines of irregular length and varying intervals. I'mm not sure what options, if any, the performers have in terms of choice of pitch, duration, etc. The dynamic level is fairly consistent and there are no substantial silent sections. I have the mental image of undulating plates having a certain amount of elasticity, like scales, eddying alongside one another, always shifting slightly but conveying a consistent overall form. Maybe it's the presence of the melodica, but I also sometimes find myself thinking of a very slowed down version of a Christian Wolff piece. In any case, it's a fine work, quite immersive, containing patterns aplenty, a nice balance of sweet and sour and is captivating throughout.

Two strong works, then. I'm greatly looking forward to hearing more from both the composers and the ensemble.

Heavy Fog

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