Christopher Butterfield

Christopher Butterfield: Trip

CQB 1719
2016
CD
1 disc
16.95 CAD -25%

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Radio ›› Christopher Butterfield: Trip
Christopher Butterfield: Trip
Lullaby (1991), 19m00s [excerpt]
CD: Collection QB (2016) CQB 1719
29 August 2017
By Paul Steenhuisen in The WholeNote (Canada), August 29, 2017

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“At times haunting and tense, their sound is also unadorned, unaffected and exquisite.”

For its 23rd CD, Quatour Bozzini has produced a monograph recording with an almost-chronological retrospective of music by Christopher Butterfield. Spanning more than 20 years, it contains three pieces for solo strings and two string quartets. Clinamen (the Latin name Lucretius gave to the unpredictable swerve of atoms), for solo violin (1999), is made up of 80 cards, each containing a short musical phrase, combined according to the free will of the performer. Intentionally inchoate, the piece is bound together most prominently by the honey tone of Clemens Merkel’s playing, and yet, there are whispers of its compositional technique, as though related materials were sketched, bent through historical filters from classical music to modern, and then splayed by means of William S. Burroughs’ cut-up technique.

Fall (2013), written for the full quartet, is the perfect vehicle for the Bozzinis’ signature non-vibrato playing. At times haunting and tense, their sound is also unadorned, unaffected and exquisite. Engaged in material processes of rotation and accumulation, the ensuing tone of the piece is plaintive and distantly evocative of Cage’s String Quartet in Four Parts. The eponymous Trip (meaning possibly all of: excursion, to dance or run lightly, to stumble or fall, to release and raise an anchor, and to hallucinate) is an outlandish journey from a short Scorrevole movement augmented by a random talk radio broadcast, through a moto perpetuo, to a swaying, recapitulatory Scherzo. The last movement, marked Adagio molto, is longer than the preceding movements combined, and sounds not simply slow but like a time-stretched recording, where the smallest, usually ordinary timbral deviation is magnified and burnished, while notes, lines and harmonies are expanded into tranquillizing beauty.

blogue@press-5725 press@5725
28 June 2017
By Brian Olewnick in The Squid’s Ear (USA), June 28, 2017

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“Overall an extremely satisfying release — absorbing music incisively performed by Quatuor Bozzini.”

Butterfield (b. 1952) is a long-time teacher and composer, operating largely in Toronto and Montréal. As a teacher, he has a number of students working in various contemporary areas, including Wandelweiser-influenced, who assign him a great deal of credit for their development.

The Quatuor Bozzini, which also works out of Montréal, presents five of his works ranging in origin from 1991 to 2013: two quartets, a sextet and two solo pieces, all of them bracing and enjoyable. Lullaby (1991) adds an additional viola and cello. It’s a somewhat disorienting lullaby, broken up at times by nightmarish shrieks, but by and large it wafts along with luscious, quavering harmonics, sometimes entering surprising, perhaps dreamlike song formations, reminding this listener of Ben Johnston’s work. Maybe some Tenney as well. Generally, Butterfield’s music, as represented here, often goes off in unexpected, delightful directions where one can hear (or think to hear) this or that reference but still comes away with more of a Butterfield-ness than anything else. Lullaby is an excellent example of this. beach whistle (1993) and Clinamen (1999) are solo works for cello and violin, respectively, the former a sober conversation of sorts between high and low, plucked and bowed, the later portions strangely melancholy and evocative while Clinamen is something of a dance, flitting from one light form to another (it’s constructed from 80 short phrases which the violinist can combine in any sequence he/she chooses).

The final two pieces are for string quartet proper. As per the composer’s notes, fall (2013) is “(b)ased on the chromatic rotation of a four-note row” with a randomized dynamic range. The result is a hymn like structure but, as Butterfield says, “unpredictable ’voice leading’ and a sense of undependable harmony.” One experiences a vivid spatial effect, the louder chards seemingly “nearer” than others, an otherwise self-similar landscape where perceived distance is the sonic qualifier. Additionally, the overall meditative aspect of the music itself permeates this landscape, somber and disquietingly beautiful. Trip (2008) is in four sections, the first three short (each less than 2:30) while the final lasts some 13 1/2 minutes. The three brief movements are brisk and rich (the first incorporating a talk radio capture), rather Neo-Romantic in flavor while the final (marked Adagio molto) is dark, scratchy, agitated and brooding, though not discarding an underlying tonality; I found myself thinking of Arnold Böcklin’s paintings.

Overall an extremely satisfying release — absorbing music incisively performed by Quatuor Bozzini.

blogue@press-5711 press@5711
1 March 2017
By Peter Margasak in Bandcamp daily (USA), March 1, 2017

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“Since forming in 1999, Montréal’s Quatuor Bozzini have steadily ascended to become not only one of the most daring string quartets in Canada, but in the entire world. The consistently bring both an exquisite touch and a refined sensibility to music that demands invisible rigor.”

Since forming in 1999, Montréal’s Quatuor Bozzini have steadily ascended to become not only one of the most daring string quartets in Canada, but in the entire world. The consistently bring both an exquisite touch and a refined sensibility to music that demands invisible rigor. In recent years, they’ve earned acclaim for their peerless readings of music by Swiss Wandelweiser Collective composer Jürg Frey, but they’ve also been key proponents of lesser-known composers from their homeland, including Martin Arnold and Simon Martin.

This new offering focuses on the music of Christopher Butterfield, an influential Canadian figure whose position at the University of Victoria has impacted scores of young composers over the last few decades. His own work isn’t as well known as it should be, but Trip certainly provides a good opportunity to catch up. The five pieces here span over two decades — the two most recent compositions, Trip (2008) and Fall, (2013) were written specifically for Quatuor Bozzini. The earliest piece here, Lullaby, is a piece for string sextet; its tightly-controlled moods are conveyed at a hush except for some bracing, hair-raising interruptions that subside as suddenly as they appear. Over time, Butterfield has embraced chance in his process: the solo violin piece Clinamen, for example, is shaped largely by short phrases printed on eighty cards to be mixed at will by the performer, while the aleatoric nature of the four-movement title piece produces unpredictable harmonies within a relatively fixed structure, changing the nature of the work with every new performance.

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