Tags enters with the tranquil, yet perhaps slightly uneasy droning double stops of bassist Nicolas Caloia and the half-whisper, half-growl of Lori Freedman’s sound poetics. The intro is immediately suggestive of a gradual build, while also operating as a self-contained space between intentions, or even different media for sound-creation. This entire project of Joane Hétu’s “orphaned” compositions (as she puts it in the liner notes), often feels like it operates in various gray zones, or lost in the middle of listener preconceptions and musical conventions. For example, Freedman and Hétu at numerous points are either simultaneously vocalizing while playing, or at least constantly threatening to cross over into the other means of communication at will.
Members of Hétu’s string section commonly opt for a percussive approach to playing arco, which creates a consistent textural effect that beautifully complements the fragmented phrasing of the soloists. These explorations of instrumental function give the music a more nuanced relationship between melodicism, texture and speech than would be otherwise present, creating greater optionality to the realization of Hétu’s compositions. The most impressive aspect of Tags is perhaps how the four tracks feel cut from the same tapestry, despite not having the same personnel, and all of said compositions being unreleased strays. This unexpected uniformity is aided by the prevalent relationship between instrumentation and silence. More specifically, as more instrumentation is added, silent passages are increasingly used as a key aspect of form.
Using no overdubs but minimal looping and timbral effects, the seven selections on Montrealer Bernard Falaise’s solo guitar tour de force are completely improvised, while pivoting to other instrument-reflecting sounds for greater variety. The attraction of G(o) sol(o) is how Falaise – part of local bands such as Quartetski – uses all parts of his instrument to suggest wider textures while creating miniature sonic tales.
Prime instance of this is the extended 320003, where string shakes and slurred fingering means the staccato introduction on flattened strings is succeeded by bell-pealing shakes, double bass-like low-pitched resonations and organ-like tremolo pulses. These sway the exposition forward into a single line to a buzzing conclusion. Slogan, the slightly longer first track, sets the scene, as bobbing fuzztones and high-voltage shakes rumble along before splitting into pressurized sound loops on the bottom and single-string stings on the top. Both tones are audible as they intersect and slide into one another for a percussive climax.
With pointed stops and starts, Falaise uses varied motifs to define the tunes, including string rubs that drone across the sound field for warmer expositions, or pointillist below-the-bridge scratches for tougher interface. Galop does just that as well, with knob-twisting and effects-pedal-pressure launching tones every which way until all subside into a connective drone.
Sol – G in English – is the fifth note of the C Major scale. Yet G(o) sol(o) cannily treats all of the scale’s notes in a unique fashion.
Quatuor Bozzini has energetically championed the newest in classical music since 1999 in their Montréal hometown, on tour and on outstanding albums. Their mission is to cultivate risk-taking music, evident in the creation of an impressive commissioning program of over 400 pieces. Frequent collaborations with other musicians and cross-disciplinary projects have been another career feature. An example of an unusual collaboration, one that I took part in, happened in 2012 with the development of new concert repertoire with Toronto’s Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan, performed live and subsequently released on the album Higgs’ Ocean. The title track, scored for string quartet and gamelan degung, was by prolific mid-career Canadian composer Michael Oesterle.
Oesterle’s mature compositional style balances two late-20th — and early-21st-century streams: American minimalism and European postmodernism. The latter comes through in his exploitation of sonorities, formal, timbral and harmonic sophistication, allusions to historical Euro musics and an identifiable Oesterlean lyricism. This album’s four substantial string quartets offer an appealing balance between musical straightforwardness and complexity. Oesterle often generates drama from the friction between the idiomatic and the completely unexpected.
Daydream Mechanics (2001), which evokes the “awkward adventures of childhood when the backyard seemed as full of disturbing possibilities as any uncharted territory,” offers an example of Oesterle’s use of extra-musical inspiration. On the other hand the composer describes his Three Pieces for String Quartet as “three short pieces [composed with] modules drawn from a system of triangular numerical sequences….” I however hear surprisingly Renaissance — and Baroque — infused character homages to the three animals Oesterle titles each movement after: kingfisher, orangutan and orb weaver.
American-born composer and longtime French resident, Tom Johnson (b.1939), served as The Village Voice’s influential music critic from 1971 to 1983 covering the era’s exciting new classical music scene. The first to apply the term “minimalist music,” Johnson’s personal compositional style leans toward minimalist formalism. Quatuor Bozzini has collected his complete works for string quartet covering four compositions from 1994 to 2009 on this album.
Dwelling on mathematic sequences and permutations of a limited core musical material, in Johnson’s hands the musical whole emerges satisfyingly greater than the sum of its lean components and intellectual procedures. Each relatively brief movement vibrates like a sonic poem. For example, the opening six-note motif of Johnson’s Tilework for String Quartet (2003) is transformed through his exploration of the myriad ways in which lines are “tiled using six-note rhythms,” relying on a computerized list of rhythmic canons. The composer helpfully adds, “Of course, composers, performers, and listeners don’t have to know all of this, just as we don’t need to master counterpoint to appreciate a Bach fugue… [because] music allows us to directly perceive things that we could never grasp intellectually.”
Performed senza vibrato, Quatuor Bozzini renders these scores with virtuoso precision along with warmth and a subtle lyricism, a winning combination I grew to appreciate after repeated listening.
We have added 2 items to our shop today:
Find out more about them today!