For those interested in vocal improvisation, the latest Chorale Joker under Joane Hétu’s direction is an achievement in large scale vocal ensemble work. Like Maggie Nicol’s The Gathering, Hétu has assembled a large colection of 20 improvisers to perform her compositions, as well as works from Jean Derome and Danielle Palardy Roger. The list of performers is impressive, including Derome, Roger, Lori Freedman, François Couture, Diane Labrosse, Alexandre St-Onge, Michel F Côté, Gabriel Dharmoo, etc. The color booklet shows the ensemble, and images from the scores, including gestures used for the conductions. The results are other-worldly, a hybrid of anticipated choral work and something inexplicable. It’s unusual improvised music of the highest order executed by masterful musicians who clearly enjoy the concept, and the concert from which this album is derived.
The Montréal-based Chorale Joker ensemble directed and conducted by Joane Hétu, Danielle Palardy Roger, and Jean Derome, who are also participants, is one of the most unusual and fascinating improvising vocal ensembles active, heard here in a concert coordinated with Productions SuperMusique at Le Vivier, Amphiteatre du Gesu, Montréal in early 2020; indescribably fascinating!
The first listed below is from one of the label founders, flutist and saxophonist Jean Derome. I first came to his work long before Squidco started, fascinated by his duo records with guitarist René Lussier, which pairing was eventually defined as Les Granules. On the first of their albums that I bought was the 1986 LP Soyez vigilants, restez vivants… Volume 1 (AM 005), where Derome is credited with flutes, saxophones, claviers, percussions, voice and invented instruments. It was the inventiveness with which both played that appealed to me, as unusual elements found their way into their improvisations. Now, 45 years later, Derome focuses exclusively on his percussions, voice and invented instruments in a solo Souffles album that showcases his vast collection of instruments, big and small. A photo in the CD edition shows Derome sitting in front of a table with an arsenal of curious devices, four microphones at the ready, and his flute and sax at his side. For me, this is the essence of the man’s work and his insatiable and mischievous nature.
The remarkably creative flutist & saxophonist Jean Derome often incorporates unusual instruments into his improvisations and compositions, including bird calls, harps, kalimbas, sirens, flower plastic wrappings, bells, … on this album Derome focuses on those unique instruments and noise makers through 23 surprising pieces illustrating his incredible collection.
At last, in recent years, sound art pioneer Alvin Lucier can enjoy the deserved privilege of being recognized as a cult figure for a new generation of classical and experimental musicians, spontaneously catalyzed by his intuitions as essential as they are meaningful, aimed at deeply listening to a vast and yet unexplored sound phenomenology.
At the same time, after decades of empirical studies on the properties of the most disparate objects and materials, the interest of the American dean for traditional instrumentation has been emerging with increasing clarity: an aspect emphasized in particular by Black Truffle’s valuable editions — from the live anthology Illuminated by the Moon (2018) to the Works for the Ever Present Orchestra (2020) which he himself founded. In this context is inserted the excellent Quatuor Bozzini’s new album, an ideal excursus into Lucier’s microtonal and “concrete” investigations applied to an ensemble of string instruments only.
Active for over twenty years now, already the Canadian line-up has considerably distinguished itself in the repertoire of the New York school (Cage, Tenney) as well as today’s offshoots variously affiliated with it (Jürg Frey, Linda Catlin Smith, Cassandra Miller), plus an interesting dual Norwegian project by Kim Myhr ( pressing clouds passing crowds, 2018) and Ingar Zach ( floating layer cake, 2019). But it is especially in the frequent confrontation with Lucier’s poetics that the adoption of an approach that transcends the mere reading of a score becomes indispensable: over the five stages of Navigations, unusual and heterodox forms of harmony take shape, in direct dialogue with and nourished by spaces, in a radical return to the essence of sound making.
A phlegmatic, imperceptible digressive motion unfolds in the shifting unison of Disappearances (1994): at first extremely sharp and compact in shaping an apparently flat acoustic surface, with remarkable control the quartet alternately slides through the tiniest intervals of the instruments, producing the illusory beats that occur in the gap between immediately adjacent frequencies; a fleeting sense of void also accompanies the changes in direction of the bows, like subsidences in the fragile weft of a fabric under the effect of a constant tension.
Composed the same year, Unamuno consists of twenty-four reconfigurations of the same four semitones, vocally replicated by their own creators: an element that accentuates the ritualistic, albeit rigorously objectivating character of Lucier’s performative pieces, comparable to the projection of geometric directrices intended to converge and fuse into a lucent synthesis of complementary colors.
The double iteration of Group Tapper (2004) brings us back to the first CD of the recent collection String Noise (2020), occupied by a patient “measurement” of space conducted by following the reverberation of the bow strokes reflected by the bare walls of an art gallery. The interweaving of rhythmic patterns put into action by Bozzini is however much more lively, even nervous, as it exceptionally makes them pass through a sphere of relative naturalistic mimesis: the curved wooden bodies, struck on their every part with the hard ends of the bow handles, cross in fact a range of timbral solutions that seemingly extends from the patter of busy birdies to the ferocious tumult of the (urban) jungle. These are the most markedly theatrical episodes of the program, performed at physical distance while slowly moving, in order to conjugate the sound gestures and the architecture of the concert hall, the fifth “instrument” which, on closer inspection, plays a fundamental role in each phenomenal instance conceived by Lucier.
Lastly comes the title piece Navigations (1991), previously recorded in the studio by the always formidable Arditti Quartet ( Mode, 2003): deliberately played out on the verge of minimum dissonance, the perpetually unstable scenario sustained by the quartet simulates a spiraling descent into the psychoacoustic depths, home to faint hallucinations once again caused by the changes of tempo and microtonal oscillations in constant interrelation. A true paradigm of the quietly sublimating aesthetics of Alvin Lucier, an irreducible master of contemporary experimentation who, thanks to the passion and sensitivity of the Bozzini Quartet, receives here one of the most substantial discographic tributes released in recent times.
We have added 7 items to our shop today:
- Tatouages miroir by Jean-Luc Guionnet, Grand groupe régional d’improvisation libérée (GGRIL)
- Maraîchers by Xavier Charles
- Paysage by Isabelle Clermont
- Double entendre by Geordie Haley, Robin Servant
- Triche by Matthias Müller, Éric Normand, Petr Vrba
- Solo à la décollation by Jean-Luc Guionnet
- Frothing Morse by Audrey Chen, Phil Monton
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Few top tier string quartets have been as devoted to experimental music as the Montréal ensemble Quatuor Bozzini, who routinely bring a stunning rigour to everything they play, whether the radical work of Swiss composer Jürg Frey or key Canadian figures such as Linda Catlin Smith, Cassandra Miller and Martin Arnold. This new album focuses on the music of Alvin Lucier, one of the most enduring and consequential sonic explorers of the last half-century, and the group’s razor-sharp precision and empathy helps bring the gripping psychoacoustics of his research into dynamic relief.
The album is bookended by two conventional yet open-ended string quartets, starting with the 1994 composition Disappearances originally written for Lucier’s students at Wesleyan University, and closing with the 1991 piece Navigations for Strings, previously recorded by Arditti. They feel like companion pieces. The first is built from harmonically rich, unison long tones that seem to float towards eternity, but eventually one musician slowly, almost imperceptibly, raises or lowers their individual pitch, incrementally followed by the others to produce acoustic beating with ever-changing rhythmic patterns, all contained within an immersive sustain. It’s the kind of work that could go on for hours, but this version clocks in at nearly 17 minutes, generating an immersive sonic experience at the heart of Lucier’s ongoing fascination with the science of sound.
In between the group perform two iterations of the 2004 piece Group Tapper, an adaptation of a piece written for violinist Conrad Harris — and recently featured in an hour long workout by his String Noise duo on a Black Truffle album — in which the musicians thwack at the bodies of their instruments with the butt end of a bow. Each one taps out different rhythms, but the real pleasure is observing how the percussive sounds fill the space they’re played in, as the musicians slowly move in the room, perpetually altering the sonic profile. Unamuno was written as a vocal piece, with each singer intoning a single pitch in a four-tone cluster, but the Bozzini’s complement the voice with strings. Lucier is brilliant, but his music always works best when performed by the truly dedicated.
We have added 3 items to our shop today:
- De souffles et de machines III by Quasar
- Brass Knuckle Sandwich by Marilyn Lerner, Nicole Rampersaud
- Commutation by Ensemble SuperMusique (ESM)
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