January News 2000

Speicher / Tammen / Vorfeld / Wolf: NOTATION DES LOTS
Lori Freedman: HUSKLESS
Noël Akchoté: ALIKE JOSEPH
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Martin Speicher / Hans Tammen / Michael Vorfeld / Georg Wolf

My German is just about up to ordering a beer, so I asked Hans Tammen for some help translating the liner notes. He very kindly provided me with the following:
"These compositions were made after paintings by sculptor/painter Harald Jegodziensky. His paintings are abstract black & white "stain-pictures", made from parts of graphics and photos from Crete. Martin took these and made a notation out of them, as abstract as the original was. Sometimes he used the structures of the painting, sometimes he found a similar idea which he transposed into notation. Anyway, we got a lot of paper... These compositions were made with these musicians in mind. (We've played together for years in many groups). The first step was to play it as it is written (as best you can). We all read music very well, so we had no major problems. The more we played it, the more we were able to depart from the notation. The further you go, the freer you are... This recording was made after some ten rehearsals and concerts, which is (you might say) near the beginning of the process, where you would easy recognize the main ideas in the notes while we're playing. We should have made a recording at the beginning too, to be able to hear the difference.
By the time we recorded the roles were clear: if there it's marked "tacet", I don’t play, if there is a "duo", this duo will play and nobody else. The next step, Martin announced, could be that somebody might join the notated "duo" (or whatever). The step after that might be that you're free to play whenever you want. The last step would be a free improvisation (but keeping the composer´s ideas in mind). This (I think) sounds a little bit like those Cage-pieces where you have some graphics in front of you and you might decide how they affect your playing. The difference would be that after all the previous steps you will never be too far away from the composer's ideas - but anyway you're free in working with it. By the way, this is not the first Erdtöne-project. The first was for Martin & Georg's duo, the second for the 11-piece "Living Sound Orchestra". We're the third and the fourth (so I hear) might be about Harald's trip to New York (I´m curious!)."
These are compositions then, in the sense that there is a score of sorts, a notated element that (more or less) helps define the input of the participating improvisers. As such, as Tammen notes above, the pieces can be rehearsed (as opposed to improv which by definition cannot be planned in advance - Evan Parker once said he was either improvising or thinking about improvising, but not rehearsing..). The sounding result, as one might expect, straddles the rickety old fence between contemporary classical and free improvised music: Speicher's (excellent) clarinet playing recalls Boulez's "Domaines" one minute, Peter Brötzmann the next. Guitarist Tammen is exemplary throughout, Vorfeld's percussion touches are consistently deft, and Georg Wolf's rich arco tone recalls Joëlle Léandre's Scelsi recordings at their best. This album grabs the attention and holds it vice-like for the full duration - and that's rare these days. Going back to that translation problem, Hans Tammen added in his email: "I don't know why, but Martin thought no one outside of Germany would read these notes...". We'll see if we can put a stop to that, Martin. Check it out.

Lori Freedman: HUSKLESS

Evergreen Club

Despite the soft-rock-style cover shot of Lori gazing sheepishly downwards, and the handwritten (on fluo yellow!) track listing which (deliberately?) blurs the distinction between what is improvised and what is composed, "Huskless!" is a tough but highly rewarding and well-recorded album of excellent contemporary clarinet playing. Featured composers include Claudio Ambrosini, Paul Steenhuisen, and Mike Lowenstern (himself a fine clarinettist), and, apart from Ms. Freedman's outstanding virtuosity, special mention should be made of pianist Marilyn Lerner on "eFeFeF". Recommended (but not the cover).
Creating a new repertoire for the gamelan should excite any composer's imagination (even if the gamelan concerned goes by the name of Evergreen Club, which sounds to me like the perfect name for a leisure center for elderly people). James Tenney - who's finally getting song long-overdue recognition - turns in the title track, a sensitive and well-crafted piece for gamelan and prepared piano, and John Cage gave the EC his characteristically empty (and beautiful) "Haikai" as a gift in 1986. Gilles Tremblay's "L'arbre de Borobudur" however tries to go one step beyond by adding other instruments (including harps, and an Ondes Martenot) and inevitably lapses into clichéd exotica.

Noël Akchoté: ALIKE JOSEPH
REC # RRXG2 (7")
Xavier Garcia
REC # RREM (7")
Erik M


I went to see Glenn Branca's band once. When they filed onstage to play, there was an amazing moment when the nine (or ten?) guitarists plugged in, a menacing amp hum punctuated by plops, crackles and fizzes, palpably electric. (Of course, when they all started playing it was apocalyptic, but that's another story..) "Alike Joseph" seems to have captured the essence of that moment and stretched it out to album length. The amp is as much instrument as the guitar, and Akchoté succeeds in creating an aural landscape of static - in both senses of the word - beauty, a territory somewhere between Sonic Youth and Bernhard Gunter. (Great album cover, too.)
Rectangle's ongoing project to recycle, deconstruct and repackage their own back catalogue (inviting turntablists to "perform" with the label's vinyls) continues with two 7" offerings from Erik M and Xavier Garcia. It may be bit of an in-joke for Rectangle aficionados, trying to spot which album is being sampled, scratched or whatever, but for the rest of us it's plunderphonics at its wacky best (and future offerings are to come from Otomo and Matt Wand.. stay tuned!). Erik M is particularly impressive, making me wonder if a rumor I heard that he actually composes his pieces is actually true..
"Orléans", a 10" vinyl (or CD - yes, Quentin Rollet and Noël Akchoté have finally succumbed to digital technology) tribute to Albert Ayler consists of four sax/bass duets, only one of which, "In Hearts Only" (played by Daunik Lazro and Claude Tchamitchian) is by Ayler himself. All the pieces reference his gospel-inflected wailing, though none is particularly earth-shattering (an impression not helped by the rather dry, boxy recording quality).

Copyright 2000 by Paris Transatlantic