La presse en parle
Paul Steenhuisen, The WholeNote, 29 août 2017At times haunting and tense, their sound is also unadorned, unaffected and exquisite.
Paul Steenhuisen, The WholeNote, no 7:7, 1 avril 2002… successful confluence of further-reaching, expressive, organic and magnetic, […] playful and exploratory approach to sound.
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.
In the sparse text adorning the inside cover of her new CD, Lee Pui Ming writes “when one is completely present in the moment - playing, or listening - who, then, in that moment, is playing, and who, is listening.” This statement propagates subtle questions of communication, transference, projection, osmosis, intuition, and collectivity, establishing a soundscape-building process inclusive of critical extra-temporal reflection. Not only is she questioning what is happening, but how, and the multifarious contributions of time, moment, and influence. Having lived and studied in then-British Hong Kong, Minnesota, and Washington prior to settling in Toronto, diversity of influence is a key (though jagged and unkempt) factor in her work, revealing the acknowledged involvement with the music of McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Prokofiev, Bartok, and Chinese traditional and pop musics.
Interestingly, the success of the improvisations documented on this recording directly corresponds with Lee’s distance from the piano keyboard (her primary instrument). The most keyboard-centric pieces display rigidity and reliance on perpetual motion that primarily focuses attention onto the permeating square rhythmic grid negatively imprinted with syntheses of Webern, Nancarrow, and Sorabji. With distance from the keyboard, and movement onto the strings and wood of the instrument, using the body and voice as sound sources, comes a liberation of expression. The de-emphasis of pitch allows for the successful confluence of further-reaching, expressive, organic and magnetic, timbre-based gestures that display a playful and exploratory approach to sound. Overall, the weaknesses are mildly diffused by the sensitive ordering of the whole, but not dissolved by the otherwise inventive diversity.
The WholeNote no 10:7, The WholeNote no 8:8