LCollective Mini-Tour

Added on by Douglas Farrand.

Here are a few recollections from travels through Providence and Boston last weekend with LCollective. In Providence we played at 150 Sutton St with Laura Cetilia, and Teodora Stepancic gave a solo concert at the RISD Museum. In Boston we played alongside Ordinary Affects, a Boston-based ensemble, at the MIT Bookstore in Cambridge.

1. I am sitting in the MIT bookshop at the edge of a semi-circle. James Falzone to my left, Luke Martin across the circle from me, Laura Cetilia and Morgan Evans-Weiler in between. I am listening to several low tones in the room. I can tell when Luke is playing but I cannot tell when Luke is not playing.

2. I am slowly walking around a room in the RISD Museum, looking at large portraits of regally painted families, wealthy women standing stoically, pastoral landscapes featuring some sort of communal activity, often by a river. In each painting there is some small section of the canvas containing a glimpse of sky and clouds. Occasional passages of chords-- each chord truncated, leaving a single tone to decay naturally-- sound from the piano in the middle of the room as Teodora Stepancic plays from Andre Cormier's "Zwischen den Wolken."

3. I am playing Laura's trumpet and cello duet during rehearsal. It is early enough that the gallery we are sitting in is still filled with afternoon light. I feel immersed in the sound of the field recording behind me and the compound 5th between low cello and high muted trumpet. I wonder about how Erik Satie's late night walks home would have been different had he lived closer to the sea.

Lucier's "Wind Shadows" at Music for Contemplation

Added on by Douglas Farrand.

(also posted on the Music for Contemplation website here)

I had the pleasure of hearing Craig Shepard perform Wind Shadows, a piece by Alvin Lucier for trombone and sine-tones, at the Music for Contemplation series on April 10th 2015. 

"I wanted to write to say how wonderful it was to hear your performance of Wind Shadows on April 9th.  Very glad I was able to attend. I have been sitting with the sensation that really began immediately and so potently upon hearing the first 'swell' of the sine tones- and continued throughout the piece - of such a deep and mystifying poetics arising from such a basic, elemental, logical construction - such a distinct and clear identity arising immediately and without question from seemingly anonymous materials."

 Alvin Lucier (L) with Craig Shepard. Photo by  Beth O'Brien .

Alvin Lucier (L) with Craig Shepard. Photo by Beth O'Brien.

Montreal: Bozzini Quartet and Wandelweiser Ensemble

Added on by Douglas Farrand.
 driving north, June 14th 2013

driving north, June 14th 2013

The Bozzini quartet and the Wandelweiser composers ensemble perform music by Michael Pisaro, Antoine Beuger, Jürg Frey, and Martin Arnold. June 15th 2013, Montreal. 

First ventures north of the border and an afternoon of three concerts, six pieces of music presented in pairs. A comment or two overheard at the end of the day marveled at the diversity of musics this group of composers produce- a long way from the never-really-accurate stereotype of vast swathes of silence occasionally in the liminal presence of a short, soft tone. To marvel at this diversity, however, is not to say that there wasn't a powerful impact made by the presentation of these pieces. Recalling a comment made by Michael Pisaro in early 2012, that his interest lies in what happens during a piece of music rather than how it begins or ends, each of the 6 pieces alone and in combination with each other offered a startling sense of brightness and assemblage, an opening or lifting of pressures and tensions one may well have never known were there otherwise, a series of impossibly nested universes rent open as an equally impossible, bright, mottled quilt. Each patch a different texture- a different grain- and yet clearly, somehow, each piece fits comfortably next to its neighbours- not even really following an underlying logic or thread- such tried and tested spatial metaphors don't quite speak clearly enough to the sense of belonging together.

asleep river bells chords by Michael Pisaro, a piece for an instrumental quartet with electronic playback, suggested two distinctly different projections moving across one another- a soft, instrumental chain of sustained sonorities, and a chaotic montage of field recordings and sine tones. The instrumentalists made their way through a series of chords over 25 minutes or so- an unfolding sonority increasingly revealed, transforming slightly, imperceptibly, over time, as if a shift in natural light. The carriage of the musicians and the pacing of these chords- such a gentle lifting- drew my attention to the pacing or perhaps scansion of the piece (both seem more appropriate words than 'rhythm'), and to the more gestural nature of the electronics part- a car driving by, panning from hard left to hard right, a bird taking off, the flutter of its wings transforming suddenly and shockingly into a complex upper register tone. The sense of acoustic depth created by these two layers became conceptually dynamic when considered in light of the title of the piece- a consideration of the ways in which the music moved through a series of meditations and investigations on each of the words.

If Pisaro's asleep river bells chords drew the ear outwards along lines and perspectives stretching away from the ensemble, an eminently horizontal music, Antoine Beuger's Méditations poétiques sur "quelque chose d'autre" drew the ear back, each performer a pillar, focused within themselves, mulling over a set of materials, reading, re-reading, playing, whistling, re-whistling. A translucent web of soft melodies and spoken french. In comparison with the recently released recording [1] of the same composition, the ensemble here did not shy away from relatively quick iterations of the notated melodies, rendering them at times as melodic fragments, suggesting perhaps a 'silky' quality, a slithery-ness not present in the recorded version (and a beautiful point of connection with Martin Arnold's piece to be performed later in the evening).

 spoken word's from Frey's "Landschaft mit Wörten"

spoken word's from Frey's "Landschaft mit Wörten"

While Jürg Frey's Landschaft mit Wörten marked a substantial change in sound and behaviour, a strong connection could be made between the words spoken and printed (a single sheet of paper handed out for this concert featuring the list of words used in the tape part printed in the original german and translated into french [2]) and the function of the title in Michael Pisaro's piece. Both pieces quite distinct investigations of the use of words as beacons illuminating a musical environment, even an environment as minimal as the one conjured up here: Radu Malfatti playing very occasionally, one, two or three note patterns on a muted trombone alongside recorded playback of one or two word spoken statements. Strangely enough I found the words functioning as primary material, each utterance like a small keyhole through which one sees an image, hears a sound. Malfatti's soft trombone tones framed this activity, acted as a counterpoint, something to hold onto, like a recurring hum from a radiator under the window from which you are looking out across this terrain.

A mid-afternoon drop in energy made listening to Pisaro's Interference (6) difficult, I felt unable to follow the music on the level of detail that Pisaro's music so often asks of a listener. I do recall a vague sense, again, of panels drifting across each other (text, melodica, viola, sine tones) but without any strong sense of architecture (not surprising) or clarity of function, particularly regarding the spoken words (somewhat more surprising). All of this said- there was an atmosphere that accumulated over the piece's many similar iterations- an accumulation that uncannily identifies the music as written by Michael Pisaro- a simultaneous inclusiveness and resolve of trajectory that has become so familiar from more recent 'sound-chain' pieces (Fields have Ears 6The Middle of Life... [3]). Listening in difficult circumstances, but still undeniably an integral part of the day's quilt.

After a longer break the final concert was, again, a different affair, most immediately due to the obvious change in performance carriage as a result of the different notational and ensemble paradigms employed here. While the ensemble pieces on the two previous concerts featured ad-hoc groupings of members from both ensembles, these final two pieces featured the Bozzini quartet performing as a quartet, with the addition of Jürg Frey on clarinet for Martin Arnold's piece. My recollections of Arnold'sWaltz Organum are those of a particularly wild piece, a baffling two-part structure reminiscent of Walter Zimmermann's music, but perhaps a little darker, a little more neurotic. The twisting melodic lines, inside of which instruments seemed to be trying to hide from one another, formed knots and creases imbued with something more troubling, more critical, than the charming-and-awkward collisions found in some of Zimmermann's material and rhetoric (recalling Parasit/Paraklet [4] in particular).

Jürg Frey's Streichquartett 3 provided a compelling balance to Martin Arnold's piece, its chorale textures following Arnold's knotted polyphony along the same lines as my horizontal/vertical characterisation of the Pisaro and Beuger pieces earlier in the day. This string quartet struck me as a profoundly mature work- both difficult and clear, unforced and thoroughly complex. A slow uneven pulsing of soft chords- dissonances and consonances resolving in unexpected manners, various suspensions lingering, a passage of descending scales reminiscent of (Unbetitelt) Nr. 6, a passage of distant sonorities reminiscent of Streichquartett 2 [5]. An accomplished essay in simultaneous stasis and motion, "path" and "expanse" [6], a thorough folding and re-folding of a radical tonality and noise.




[1] Ensemble Dedalus performing works by Jürg Frey and Antoine Beuger, released on Potlatch records.
[2] English translation (roughly): grey water, pale blue, stone, place, light, wall, air, colourless clouds, breeze, ramblers, two minds, u, s, w, wind, heart, death, fortune, foliage, smile, a long view
[3] Both Fields have Ears 6 and The Middle of Life (die ganze Zeit) released on Gravity Wave records.
[4] A short piece for clarinet and string quartet- information here.
[5] Both of these pieces available on the Bozzini's recording of Frey's previous work for string quartet, released on the Wandelweiser record label. 
[6] "It may easily be that, at the end of a performance of static music that has remained motionless, the listener is in himself no longer where he started out – just as, conversely, directed, mobile music that lays a path need not always take the listener along on a journey." - Jürg Frey, And On It Went

music we'd like to hear 2012 (ii)

Added on by Douglas Farrand.
 Jürg Frey instrumentation

Jürg Frey instrumentation

at the end of a long summer, some collected thoughts on music we'd like to hear 2012 (II)

--

A curious sense of assemblage to both location and music performed- I get the sense that everyone's first music-we'd-like-to-hear experience becomes tightly bound with the memory of St. Annes+Agnes- many moments of collision, coagulation. Coincidence and construction in equal measure. Two narrow and focused sonic landscapes bookending a variety of topologies for which the nets were thrown a little wider.

Pat Allison's Cha-Cha(anoga) - elegant in its almost immediate apparentness - a simple yet vivid introduction to the space as three clicks on various pieces of wood follow each other around the room. And yet despite the relatively narrow pallette of sounds (all wooden clicks, some dull some sharp, varying degrees of resonance) a sense of assemblage retained- scattered objects participating in the construction of an environment, adhering to a normative distribution and interaction- the piece really made by a few special moments- a few orientations that draw the ear- the most striking of which occured at the beginning of the piece, after the composer had initiated the start of the concert with a few regularly spaced solo iterations, a sudden dovetailing as Ben Isaacs, standing a few feet away, entered, followed by someone on the other side of the room. A shockingly rapid expansion of space, suitably striking and strange introduction to the concert.

--

"Kunsu Shim's 'Happy for no reason' could be said to be an archetypal 'edges' work in that it allows freedom, feels open, but also, through its defined parameters, enables a level of group interaction in which no-one dominates and everyone is surprised."


A wonderful construction- in two parts of seemingly equal duration- in both instances (happily, it seemed) failing to live up to the programme note. A sense of discomfort with what I'm assuming are the defined parameters of the first section- a haphazard spattering of single, loud, course sounds- the ensemble completely dominated by the violent kicking around of a metal bucket- a more sustained activity that via its drama and potential hazard to the furniture and floor of the church distracted from any sense of space or musical becoming that might have arisen from the rest of the ensemble. The second half a beautifully thick low register drone from most of the ensemble- it seemed as if it only occupied the lower half of the room, settling on the floor like a thick carpet of moss- while the bucket-abuser took to slowly encircling the audience while unravelling a roll of packing tape- crackling intensely as it came off the roll and was stuck to pillars and pews. A similarly dominant activity that this time did allow for a degree of disinterested listening- a really very delicate division of the space that came to an end as the tape-player arrived back at his point of origin- a sonic and visual tapering.

 page from the score for Taylan Susam's "for maaike schoorel"

page from the score for Taylan Susam's "for maaike schoorel"

Taylan Susam- for maaike schoorel  - sonic material clearly and boldly etched into the silence of the church, a far stretch from maaike schoorel's world of "soft, barely perceptible tones images etc." Left with the sense that the score would be more easily rendered by a smaller ensemble. That said the result here was particularly beautiful - islands of hocketed, melodic activity occasionally connected by a single sustaining (and much quieter) tone (very exciting that this was, at least according to memory, always the same musician)...

Michael Pisaro's fields have ears (4) - an expansive centrepiece - the ensemble alternately sounding and not sounding- sustained or gently iterative sounds- a vast flatness periodically revealed. Little more to say- or remember- other than a sense of the immense complexity arising out of a realisation of this piece with so many performers. A transition (the notion of transition, change) articulated so singularly in the score [in a way, the generative kernel of the piece], but that becomes in no way a belaboured point of the realisation: the many small changes, many small shifts, distracting- providing a mottled surface that allows the piece to unfold just below the limits of conscious perception.

--

The challenges posed by a performance of Manfred Werder's 2008(1) (the "orchestral" score discussed in Tim Parkinson's interview of Werder, available on youtube) seems to lie more in finding an appropriate performance context than the challenges posed to any one musician having to decide what exactly to do. The piece was hurried in and out, it seemed in an attempt to have it occur before the audience had a chance to collect itself post-intermission.

--

Joseph Kudirka's British Creepy Crawlies - a synthesis of sorts of all that had come before. A clarity of construction not far removed from Cha-Cha, a lasting resonance of the joyful crudity that had characterised Happy for no reason, a clustering/phrasing reminiscent of for maaike schoorel, and an expansive treatment of time, a vastness closer to Pisaro's field than Susam's miniatures or Shim's bifurcation.

--

Almost marking a coda of sorts- a complete departure. For Tim Parkinson's songs for many the orchestral instrumental variety and hocketed/dove-tailed textures are dispensed with in favour of two ensembles- one shouting loudly, reminiscent of some of Chris Newman's songs (crude oscillation between two registers), the other striking found percussion instruments to a rhythmic unison, its patterns playful and frequently disrupted as seems characteristic of a lot of Parkinson's percussion/auxhillary oriented music. This stomping and shouting gives way to sustained yelling and found bells before the striking use of a chorus of whistles (deafening) and low drones (string instruments and plastic pipes) from the instrumentalists.

 a page from the score for Jürg Frey's "Un champ de tendresse parsemé d'adieux"

a page from the score for Jürg Frey's "Un champ de tendresse parsemé d'adieux"

A long fade- Jürg Frey's distinctly nocturnal soundscape- Un champ de tendresse parsemé d'adieux- dry leaves and (very) small stones dropped to the floor occasionally. The introduction of quiet, descending whistles after lets say 10 minutes or so- on occasion amassing into haunting, modulated sonorities. Ears lead around the church once again (much more slowly and softly than Allison's Cha-Cha) and then outside to the similar sonic activities of aeroplanes descending towards Heathrow.




July 12th-August 31st.

photographs from the musicwe'd liketohear facebook page