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24 August 2007

Kiya Tabassian playing setar, Pierre-Yves Martel, viola da gamba, and Ziya Tabassian, percussion will be at Le Cagibi café in Montréal on Thursday August 30, 2007.

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22 August 2007

Isaiah Ceccarelli Ensemble (Isaiah Ceccarelli, Jean Derome) will be at the Guelph Jazz festival (Ontario) on Thursday September 6, 2007. The ensemble will give a workshop and a concert. The Damian Nisenson Trio (Pierre Tanguay, Jean Félix Mailloux, Damián Nisenson) will be there 2 days later, on September 8th.

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22 August 2007
By Richard Pinnell in Richard Pinnell Blog (UK), August 22, 2007


“… this album is achingly beautiful and is dripping with the intensity and sensuality created by a group of musicians playing difficult music with great passion…”

I’ve written a little here before about my interest in the music of the Wandelweiser label, and as I’ve played a few of the recent releases over the last few days I thought I’d write a little about some of the more recent releases I’ve managed to pick up. I rarely see reviews of Wandelweiser discs anywhere so over the next couple of weeks I aim to do my little bit to help put that right. Here’s a great one to start with:

  • Jürg FreyString Quartets

Listening to this music today has come almost as a shock to the system after my recent obsession with Shostakovich and Mahler. In the brief sleeve notes to this disc Frey mentions how he was influenced by the painting of Agnes Martin whilst writing his first String Quartet in 1988, which appears here as one of four works recorded by the Bozzini Quartet in 2004. Frey draws a parallel between his music and Martin’s minimal paintings: “clear-cut forms not overgrown with rhetoric and figuration. Instead sensuality, radiance and intensity gripped the entire space”

At first, after the rich, in-your-face emotions of Shostakovich and Mahler this paired back minimal music is hard to come to terms with, but very soon its immense beauty grabs me, almost halting me in my tracks and bringing everything I do down to a slow, quiet pace. That may seem a dramatic statement to make, but when the CD began I was putting away a pile of clean washing, and after a few minutes the clothes were left in a heap in front of the open wardrobe and I sat quietly listening.

Its hard not to mention a similarity with Feldman’s second quartet when considering the first Frey SQ on this disc. The simple structure of the music consists of repeated two note passages that change every thirty seconds or so, mostly bowed softly, with some plucked strings appearing later in the piece. There are subtle changes in the notes played. A cursory listen may suggest the same notes played in a basic pattern over and over, but there is a gentle shift throughout. Here the similarity with Martin’s painting is clear to me, an apparent simplicity containing a deeper intensity and detail revealed slowly over time in a manner not unlike the work of Morton Feldman. The composition has a distinct Feldmanesque feel to it, a sense of gradual movement across the music rather than any more obvious progression. The piece is played slightly quicker than you may expect from Feldman however, and lasts just short of eleven minutes, resulting in a beautiful miniature that I rather wish went on for longer.

The second piece on the disc is named (Unbetitelt) VI (I suspect this translates as Untitled, but Babelfish won’t confirm as such) Written between 1990 and ’91 the music inhabits similar ground, here utilising slowly rising musical figures slowly played in a clean, simple fashion, but again creating the feeling of gradually shifting movement as the ninteen minute piece progresses. Often we only hear a single instrument, and each note is separated cleanly from the next, sometimes with a momentary silence. Only late in the piece does a passage appear where a high note is held for an extended period as other instruments continue below, but there is a real clarity to this music that is maintained throughout. There are a couple of surprises here and there, just before the midway point a violin picks out a few lines of almost inaudibly high sound, yet these frail whispers fit perfectly into the music.

The third and fourth tracks on the CD make up the two parts of a very short work entitled Zwei allerletze Såchelchen (No idea again beyond the “two” at the start, help me out German readers! Tomas?!) The first of the two pieces, Mailied (May song?) is just 47 seconds long. As brief as it is the piece is songlike in its existence, consisting of twenty or so high pitched notes softly overlapping each other in a brief moment of beauty that slips away as fast as it arrived. The second half of the work is half as short again at just 21 seconds. Vorbei, (Past) resembles the opening to a more traditionally notated quartet, Shostakovich naturally comes to my mind, but the tiny piece just ends after ten or eleven elegantly arranged notes, a tiny glimpse of something very beautiful, but the listener is left wondering. Zwei allerletze Såchelchen was written at the same time as (Unbetitelt) VI, in 1990. I cannot help but draw more parallels with Feldman’s experiments with the length of a piece of music, with Frey here distilling great beauty into a tiny opening in time, whilst Feldman’s later works stretched themselves over several hours. Both approaches challenge our established listening conventions. With these brief pieces how is the listener meant to respond? My natural reaction has been to hit the “<” button on the CD player and play each of the pieces over and over, but was this the intended response? Does it matter?

The final piece on the disc is simply entitled String Quartet II and was written the best part of a decade later between 1998 and 2000. At nearly half an hour in length this piece is the longest on the disc, and addresses very different concerns to the earlier works. Here Frey uses extended techniques to create a very quiet, soft, almost noteless grey soundworld within which brief passages of bowed sound exist for two or three seconds, each interspersed with a second or two of silence, but again with the sounds used gradually shifting across time. This is hauntingly beautiful music. The playing resembles an ethereal vocal ensemble more than it does a string quartet. The opening to Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna springs to mind, but even that isn’t so close. You can certainly forget the Feldman comparisons here, this music takes a further step into inaudibility and a leap away from the musicality of the ealier pieces. For me this music moves closer to the Agnes Martin paintings, utilising the faintest of sounds, whispers of immense beauty, changing with every movement of the bow yet structured in a manner that careful listening reveals the natural rhythms of the piece.

One of the most common criticisms made of the Wandelweiser collective of composers is that the music they create lacks humanity, existing as a sterile exercise in mannered austerity. This may be true of some of the work, but this album in particular is achingly beautiful and is dripping with the intensity and sensuality created by a group of musicians playing difficult music with great passion. This music, and the final piece in particular has a cumulative effect on the listener, slowing the senses, heightening the attention, filling the space with the radiance Frey finds surrounding Martin’s painting.

I think you can tell I really liked this release.

blogue@press-3432 press@3432
21 August 2007
By DaveX in Startling Moniker (USA), August 21, 2007


“… acknowledging that no answer may appear, but that the question is worth asking.”

For quite some time now, there has been no shortage of art that has made comment on the increasing speed with which we are collectively bombarded with communication. Really, the issue has been approached from every conceivable angle — from Alvin Toeffler’s predictive Future Shock, to John Cage [and Lejaren Hiller]’s absurdist HPSCHD, to Negativland’s panicked track Quiet Please on Escape from Noise, to Satanicpornocultshop’s revelatory album Anorexia Gas Balloon; which embraced detritus as an aesthetic.

It would also be easy to make the case that nearly the entire noise genre is a composite of reaction to (and acceptance of) this bombardment, at times rendering even Toeffler’s worst scenarios relatively tame.

Unless you’re living under a rock, this isn’t really fresh material. But of course, artists are products of their environment — so the question becomes, “how do I make this new?” A_dontigny, half of morceaux_de_machines and a full fan of the underscore, seems to have found himself in such a position with his first solo album for the No Type label, Geisteswissenschaften. For those who aren’t aware, this mouthful of text is more or less the German translation of “Humanities,” as in the study of, etc…

Much like such studied pursuits, attempting to nail down Geisteswissenschaften is equally futile. A_dontigny flirts at the edge of enough nearly-familiar material and structure to confound any sort of pigeon-holing, meaningful categorization, or understanding. It’s as if he is standing in a secret area of a Venn diagram, particularly in the impressively-crafted tracks featuring composer Paul Dolden. This is intricate music, filled with conflicting patterns which alternate from being ridiculously wrong to being surprisingly right.

I don’t know if it was A_dontigny’s intent to create a document so laced with examples of our futile struggle for understanding in a world fraught with miscommunication, sheer multitudes of perception, and the odd monkeywrench; but nevertheless, that’s what I’m taking away from it. On a more positive note however, I am still heartened to find that where A_dontigny may see the impossibility of ultimate understanding, he is drawn to create regardless.

In the end, this urge may be where the real redemption of Geisteswissenschaften comes about — acknowledging that no answer may appear, but that the question is worth asking.

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19 August 2007
By Claude Gingras in La Presse (Québec), August 19, 2007


“… une héroïque aisance et une alerte musicalité…”

Invitée vendredi soir au petit festival Jusqu’aux oreilles, Lori Freedman a «navigué» avec une héroïque aisance et une alerte musicalité entre quatre modèles différents de clarinettes, pendant une pleine heure, sans pause, seule devant ses feuilles de musique et une cinquantaine de personnes entassées dans le chœur de la cathédrale anglicane.

Elle nous a d’abord présenté la rarissime — et encombrante — clarinette contrebasse, qui possède quatre octaves, des notes parmi les plus profondes de toute l’échelle musicale et des timbres rauques évoquant les rugissements de quelque bête sauvage — autant de caractéristiques réunies dans une pièce de Gérard Grisey se terminant sur des sons mystérieusement espacés et parfois à peine audibles.

La plus familière clarinette basse était illustrée par trois autres compositeurs. De Giacinto Scelsi, une page rapide et plus simple que ce qui précédait. De Georges Aperghis — et bien dans l’esprit de cet homme plein d’imagination —, des attaques violentes, des couacs voulus, des timbres qui suggèrent deux instruments différents, des effets de voix humaine. De Pascal Dusapin, des sons haletants, très aigus puis très graves, qui courent sur tout l’ambitus de l’instrument.

L’absolu contrôle maintenu jusque-là, la Montréalaise l’applique ensuite à la traditionnelle clarinette en si bémol et une autre pièce d’Aperghis, intitulée 280 mesures, où, cette fois, elle doit pousser quelques cris en jouant, produire des multiphoniques, passer instantanément d’une couleur à une autre et exécuter glissandos et sauts périlleux.

Elle termine avec une clarinette en do et une improvisation de six minutes, sorte de brillant résumé de tout ce qu’elle vient de faire.

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15 August 2007

FReC (formed by Nicolas Caloia, Lori Freedman, and Danielle Palardy Roger) with trombonist Scott Thomson will play at Fonderie Darling in Montréal on Thursday August 23, 2007.

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