The title of this three-part work by Hungarian-Canadian composer Gyula Csapó — French and Persian for “Already? Where to?” — seems an appropriate epigraph for someone whose itinerary brought him from Budapest to Saskatchewan, via Paris and Buffalo and points in between.
Csapó completed studies in composition and music theory at the Béla Bartók Conservatory and the List Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest before going to Paris to study computer music and acoustics at IRCAM. In the 1980s, he came to the US to study with Morton Feldman, a composer whose work proved to be a significant influence. In the early 1990s, he moved to Canada and, after a period teaching composition at Princeton University, settled in Saskatoon, where he currently teaches composition and music theory.
In its scale and general profile, Déjà? Kojâ? takes some of Feldman’s approaches to arranging sounds and develops them in a way that is Csapó’s own. The work, composed between 2011 and 2016, is structured as a triptych of three roughly equal lengths. The sounds move slowly, as if there were carried along on tectonic plates approaching, receding, and grinding together in a sometimes overt, sometimes more submerged, dissonant fluctuation. Texture here is architecture, as Csapó layers sound masses into striated blocks whose fault lines divide the higher and lower registers. The differentiation of voices rather than classic counterpoint really does seem to be the structural key to this sometimes darkly opaque work; throughout it, the Quatuor Bozzini maintain a clarity of individual articulation, even in the densest passages.
Bernard Falaise started in groups like Miriodor, Klaxon Gueule, Les Projectionnistes, a.o. He wrote for the Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal (ECM), and other ensembles. Also for exhibitions, television, theatre and dance. As an active improviser he worked with a great variety of musicians for almost 25 years now. He released several solo projects. And his newest release is a next step on his path as a solo player and improviser, exemplifying once again Falaise is a very unique crossing the border-type of musician. Lézardes et zébrures is a fine collection of nine instrumentals. Most pieces start from acoustic guitar played in open tunings in a fingerpicking style. By using a freezer pedal and adding other instruments Falaise creates an inventive musical world. Weird constructions, but accessible and enjoyable at the same time. Combining instruments and sounds of acoustic and electronics origin.
Ida Toninato & Jennifer Thiessen are new to me. Thiessen is a violinist playing viola d’amore and viola on this duo effort. She performs classical and contemporary chamber music, as well as improvised music (Michel F Côté, Antoine Berthiaume, a.o.). With dance ensemble La La La Human Steps, she performed works by Gavin Bryars and Bang on a Can composer David Lang. Toninato is a saxophonist, composer and improviser, also from the Montréal scene, participating in Ensemble SuperMusique and Joker. She plays baritone saxophone on this album. Their duo effort is a work of intimate music focusing on the timbres and sound qualities of their instruments. They create beautiful deep resonating, spatial textures. The music develops slowly in a calm way, giving duration to the created interplay of sounds and timbres. Improvisation plays a big role here, but one could call it contemporary new music as well. They don’t just create a musical effect. But their investigation on sound and timbre is hold together by a strong musical vision. Because of the deep sonorities the music brings you in a reflective and meditative state. A very inspired and moving meeting by these two musicians and their instruments.
The Bozzini Quartet started in 1999 and developed into a very profiled ensemble that concentrates on performing contemporary music. Music from the Montréal-scene on the one hand, but also from other parts of the world. Choosing works by well-known and lesser-known composers: Steve Reich, Howard Skempton, Malcolm Goldstein, John Cage, Claude Vivier, etc. Since 2004 they release most of their programs on their own Ambiances Magnetiques-associated Collection QB-label. This also counts for their latest work: Déjà? Kojâ?, a composition of Gyula Csapó. A release that illustrates that they are not afraid of making daring choice such as choosing for a composition by a less known composer. Listening to this work, it becomes evident they had a good reason for this. A profound and penetrating composition by Gyula Csapó. Csapó is a composer from Hungary where he studied at the Béla Bartók Conservatory and the List Ferenc Academy of Music. Later he studied with Morton Feldman and John Cage. He lives and work in Canada since 1990. Déjà? Kojâ?, composed between 2011 and 2016 is a massive work in three parts. Together taking a bit more than one hour. Throughout Csapó creates dissonant layers of music in this serious and static work. In the second part the music becomes a bit lighter by the use of pizzicato and glissandi. Also he alludes here to a well-known classical composition, that I am unable to identify. Not an easy work, but a very rewarding and satisfying experience, revealing an intriguing beauty for the concentrated listener.
Featuring Jean Derome on alto sax, flutes, keyboards, melodica, percussion, objects and voice and Jaone Hetu on alto sax, melodica, objects & voice. Besides being a married couple, Ms. Hetu and Mr. Derome, have been long involved in running this, the Ambiances Magnetiques label. The couple also work on each others projects and are both members of Ensemble SuperMusique. Un Ideal is the fourth disc by the couple who record under the name, Nous perçons les oreilles, which means ‘We are the ears’. Right from the gitgo, we hear several drones, from saxes, voices and perhaps a sampler, with certain notes or phrases looped or just repeated. Both Joane and Jean play an assortment of small objects, whistles and percussive things, carefully creating a web of enchanting sounds. One of the things that this duo excel is their charming double vocals, singing and talking in twisted harmonies, embracing the joyous innocence of children’s rhyming games. I hear what sounds like a collection of wind-up toys, squeeze objects like dolls, kissy or breath-like sounds… silly and fun to listen to. Although both members of the couple play alto sax and have been involved in extended techniques, this music is more about creating short bits of odd sounds, going the music a delightful tongue-in-cheek quality. Excepté reminds me of a calliope found at a circus with a handful of kids singing along. This is music to make us smile and forget about the evil clowns in the daily news or blues. Some of this actually had me laughing out loud and that my friend is just what the good doctor ordered.
Ensemble SuperMusique (ESM) is an ongoing (since 1998) large with a dozen discs on the great Quebec-based Ambiances Magnetiques label which began in 1984 and soon the celebrate their 35th anniversary. This version of ESM features 13 members from Quebec and Ontario including prominent names like Jean Derome (alto sax & flutes), Joane Hetu (alto sax & voice), Scott Thomson (trombone), Bernard Falaise (electric guitar), Isaiah Ceccarelli & Danielle Palardy Roger (percussion). Each disc by ESM features different musician/composers leading the ensemble. For this disc we have three long works led by Danielle Palardy Roger and Joane Hetu (both co-leaders of ESM) and guest composer/director Lisa Cay Miller. ESM has long worked with the idea of the balance between composed and freely improvised musics. In the liner notes, we get an explanation of the intention for each of the composers. Ms. Roger’s En arrivant par le nuage de Oort is based on a graphic score which represents a journey through space from the Oort Cloud (past Pluto) to the Sun. Our journey begins quietly and is filled with an eerie sense of mystery. The density slowly get thicker throughout, the sounds vibrating, the intensity escalating as we move through space. Ms. Hetu’s Préoccupant, c’est préoccupant deals with the ever-present interference which goes on in our lives. Ms. Hetu provides some minimal seasoning with some consistently weird/hilarious vocal sounds which fit perfectly with the way this piece unfolds, with unexpected bits of interference. Guest composer Lisa Cay Miller’s Water Carrier deals with drinking water quality in Canada, especially the dilemma of the First Nations bad water quality. The score itself involves a checkerboard which prompts the players to switch from notated to freely improvised sections. The music sounds like directed improv, focused and engaging, with selects bursts of activity between obviously written sections. What makes Ensemble SuperMusique special is that each of their dozen discs finds a way of harnessing the many different ways that composers and players utilize the balance between written and unwritten extremes.