Creativity may, as the aphorism says, be 90 percent perspiration and 10 percent inspiration. But finding the proper inspiration can be a challenge in itself. Like a mathematical theorem made up of various formulae, stimulus for music — especially creative music —arrives from anywhere. Consider these discs whose genesis couldn’t be more dissimilar, but whose interpretation is of uniform high quality.
Turning another page in its scorebook filled with the themes of composers from the so-called classical music cannon, Montréal-based Quartetski — now a quintet — Does Bartok, on Mikrikosmos Sz 107 (Ambiances Magnétiques AM 224 CD). It reconfigures to group improvisation piano pieces composed by Hungarian Béla Bartók (1881-1945) to synthesize musical and technical problems. Bartók, who was as attuned to Magyar folk music as his contemporary Arnold Schoenberg was to serialism, could never have imagined Quartetski’s instrumental make-up, unless he was also a futurist. The band is reedist Philippe Lauzier, guitarist Bernard Falaise, violinist Joshua Zubot, drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli and Pierre-Yves Martel, playing electric bass and synthesize. Like films whose interpretation of a literary source is radically different, but representative, Quartetski’s 25-track variant of the œuvre adding jazz, folk, rock and electronic inflections must be judged on its own. One reductionist way to approach this material is to itemize how often and quickly musical currents appear and disappear. For instance take the many transitions which are evident during the sequenced five tracks: En mode mixolydien #48, Unisson divisé #52, Mélodie en dixièmes #56, Majeur et mineur #59, Triolets #75 and Hommage à Robert Schumann #80. Near-Heavy Metal thuds and clangs struggle for space alongside pastoral reed notes and high-European string swells. Later, like a space ship from the future landing in primitive times, contemporary timbres are subsumed beneath electronic loops. Paradoxically, when the themes are more obtuse, a buoyant melody is created where rugged, Eastern European dance inferences mix up with crinkly guitar flanges. Similar schematic diagrams could be constructed for other sequences which append inferences including Hawaiian guitar-styled licks to an electric bass line reminiscent of Stax-Volt. But the key linkage appears among other tracks, Six mélodies à l’unisson, Notes pointées, #7, Mains alternées #10, Mouvement parallèle#11 and Danse hongroise #68 plus Mélodie contre double-cordes #70. Prominent among the calliope-like motifs and synthesizer smears is an arching narrative that by the end adds Prairie hints to the Magyar countryside. Quartetski’s originality is confirmed on the group-composed title track. Like the inevitability of waves hitting and receding from the shore, the performance bonds string sweeps, aviary reed whistles and an electric undertow into tremolo washes. The CD confirms that the quintet can positively transform a revered composer’s supposedly unalterable work.