January 4, 2012 – An Exercise In Serialism

What was intended to be a show of contemporary classical ending up having nothing particularly classical about it. Call it an exercise in serialism.

1) Frederic Rzewski – ‘Coming Together’ – Attica / Coming Together / Les Moutons De Panurge – United States – 1974

Two versions of this piece appear below. The second and more recent version was aired on Soundscape. I initially found its narrator more earnest and lyrical and enjoyable to listen to than that of the first version (which was cut to vinyl). However, by the end of the piece, Steve Ben Isreal is in histrionics. Quite moving, despite the poor sound reproduction.

2) ZMF Trio (Jesse Zubot, Jean Martin, Joe Fonda) – ‘Low, Dark & Slow’ – Circle The Path – Canada – 2007

3) Giuliano D’Angiolini – ‘Simmetrie Di Ritorno’- Simmetrie Di Ritorno – Italy – 2010

4) Pauline Oliveros (Adp. & perf. by Manuel Zurria) – ‘Portrait’ – Loops4ever – Italy – 2011

I’ve previously played pieces from Zurria’s album Repeat!, and his newest album follows a similar form. These are not merely covers of serial and minimal music performed on the flute, however (although obviously a flute cover band is a spectacular idea). Zurria deftly adapts some old classics (Terry Riley’s ‘Dorian Reeds’ is recognizable only in structure), while also performing some literal takes on modern pieces. Alan Licht’s ‘New York Minute’ could be swapped with Zurria’s performance without turning many heads, and his recording of William Basinski’s ‘A Movement In Chrome Primitive, Variation 6’ is, like the original, a song to fall asleep to a thousand times over. Each piece is perhaps best consumed on repeat, allowing it to build up and collect in the recesses of your ears.
“Listening in accumulation”.

5) Vehscle – ‘Our Gift Is You I’ – Burrowing Time – Canada – 2009

6) Agostino Di Scipio – ‘Hörbare Ökosysteme, n.3b studie über hintergrundgeraüsche im vokaltrakt’ – Hörbare Ökosysteme – Italy – 2007

A rather interesting, if technocratic, interview with di Scipio is available here. The video is in Italian, but the transcript is in English. Most interesting is his description of an ‘audible ecosystem’ he physically creates, exploring its potential for composition while living and working within it – occasionally for months at a time, as though he were learning a new instrument. Once recreated in the performance space, digital processing is used to ensure that the sounds created (both digital and instrumental) are transformed by the physical dimensions and acoustics of the space itself, and towards a particular aural endpoint – one which is generally unbeknownst to the performers themselves. This produces a structure which gently leads the performers from pure improvisation to an ensemble responsive to each other and the space itself.

The results on this collection are evocative and poignant studies of dynamic range and audio-spatial recognition. Even without the knowledge of his conceptual approach, the aesthetics of the music are fascinating and, at times, beautiful – a characteristic rather rare in contemporary academic music practice, though omnipresent across the Edition RZ catalogue.

7) Burkhard Stangl, Oswald Egger, Dieb 13 – ‘Venusmond Part V’ – Venusmond – Oper Ohne Ort – Austria – 2004

Get the full show here.