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Hommage à moi
Loewenhertz loew 020
Obviously no sufferer from false modesty, Viennese guitarist Burkhard Stangl showcases a cross section of his composition and improvisations from the late 1980s to some of his most recent on this provocatively titled three-CD set. Known for his contributions to flugelhornist Franz Koglmann’s projects, as well as his membership in Polwechsel, efzeg and different New music chamber ensemble, plus for creating the odd film score, Stangl is as versatile as he is prolific. With Stangl’s music ranging across genres, Hommage à moi, presents pieces performed by groups ranging from duos to combos to extended ensembles. Similarly tracks touch on electro-acoustic compositions; notated and improvised music; extended orchestral salutes to English lutenist Robert Dowland (1563-1641) and more contemporary influences and associates; plus miniatures for instruments such as church organ, voice, a recorder trio and vibraphone-guitar and bassoon-flute combinations.
Just as obviously some of the polymath’s creations are more substantial than others. But overall the 25 tracks provide a comprehensive sound-picture of one of the many contemporary musicians who refuse to be shoved into a singular pigeonhole. While there’s much to praise in the almost 3¼-hours of music here, the most affecting tracks seem be those created for diminutive quasi-improvised bands or larger ensembles spurred by soloists such as British saxophonist John Butcher or Austrian trombonist Radu Malfatti,
A solid, linear piece which seems to take its inspiration from the barely there, microtonal vocabulary developed over the years by Malfatti, “Konzert für Posaune und 22 Instrumente”, contrasts flat-line air dynamics and pressurized brass tones with the ensemble’s accelerating and vibrating tutti. Along the way, pyramidal reed trio split tones, heavily strained and vibrated brass tones as well as widely bowed or sul ponticello string settings define the orchestral arrangements. Individual highlights include piano note clusters, near-bottleneck guitar asides and most prominently the featured soloist’s incremental and widely spaced tongue slaps, guffaws, squeaks and hollow-air vibrations, sometimes in orchestral contexts; other time a capella.
Quixotically, “Concert for Saxophone and Quiet Players”, featuring Butcher and a stripped-down ensemble is actually louder than the trombonist’s concerto. On it, extended whorls of sound from the saxophonist, advanced with tongue flutters, reed buzzes and solid drones are contrasted with group work. The “quiet players” contributions include static crackles, dial-twisting quirks and field-recorded bird chirps from the turntablist and electronics manipulators; steady waves of flute flutters; and resonating and fading in-and-out of focus percussion beats. With granular processing and overdubbing, many timbres – including the saxophonist’s – are processed electronically as well as captured live.
Post-modern harmonization of 17th Century vocalization and 21st Century instrumentation, “My Dowland” puts countertenor Jakob Huppmann’s ethereal voice in the midst of romantically harmonized string progressions plus what sounds like sampled textures. Included are aviary chirps which become increasingly agitated as both Huppmann and the string section remain languid and moderato. In contrast metallic, methodical bass and guitar drones intersect with irregular saxophone vibrations, with a final variant extending the vocalized theme with string spiccato and turntable-created friction.
Shoter pieces are equally varied. “Ich weiss nicht, wie man die Liebe macht” for instance, played by trombonist Malfatti, Stangl on guitar and Gunter Schneider on guitar and banjo is a precise balancing act among wavering guffaws, carefully moderated bell-like signal-processed actions and two separate string parts. One plucks repeated and interchangeable patterns while the other stretches the licks ruggedly. Meanwhile “Ronron” with just Stangl and vibraphonist
Berndt Thurner is hyper-jazzy and chromatic. As the mallet man expands the tune lyrically, echoing, amp-distortions are skillfully added from the guitarist. On the other hand Klaus Filip electronic devices and ppooll process wave forms to such an extent on “Noiset No. 1” that when teamed with harsh guitar loops, unaffiliated watery tones turn to outer-space-like buzzes and screeches.
Overall, Hommage à moi makes the case that a composer/instrumentalist who is confident enough to create beguiling studies for three recorders or three a capella voices with the same skill that he brings to create the concentrated tension available from found sounds, electronics and conventional instruments pushed to their limits deserves to be celebrated. Once you hear these CDs, it may be more than the creator celebrating his talents.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: CD 1: 1. Kompositionen für Ensembles Compositions for Ensembles: 1. Concert for Saxophone and Quiet Players (2007) 2. WOLKEN.HEIM breathing/clouds 3. My Dowland 4. Los vestidos blancos de Mérida CD 2: 1. Angels touch 2. Ronron 3. For a Young Trumpet Player /Three Pieces for Organ: 4. Flickering Reticence 5. Madrigal (Gesualdo) 6. Inundation / Nine Miniatures 7. For Ginger 8. Concept piece no.40 9. O.T. 10. There’s a picture 11. Noiset No. 1 12. Schneeflocke 13. Good things come to those who wait 14. En passant 15. Come Heavy Sleep CD 3: 1. Konzert für Posaune und 22 Instrumente /Drei Lieder 2. Das Leben ist schoen 3. Ich weiss nicht, wie man die Liebe macht 4. Niemand hoert auf zu leben 5. Trio Nr. 1 6. Uratru – Neue Musik aus einer versunkenen Welt
Personnel: CD 1: 1. Extended Heritage Ensemble: John Butcher (soprano and tenor saxophones); Angélica Castelló (block flute); dieb13 (turntables, computer and live processing); Eva Reiter (block flute, viola da gamba, small drum); Billy Roisz (electronics, small drum); Burkhard Stangl (guitar, vibes, small drum electronics and field recordings) 2. Angélica Castelló, Eva Reiter, Maja Osojnik (recorders, voices and audio feeds) 3. Add Jakob Huppmann (countertenor) 4. Add Yukari Hagino (C-flutes); Bernadette Zeilinger (alto flute); Gunter Schneider (guitar); Bernd Klug, Olga Schertsova (keyboard); Jakob Schneidewind (bass); Lea Bäumler, Reinhard Glätzle, Bernhard Rehn, Michael Scheed; Silvester Triebnig (percussion); Berndt Thurner: (electric percussion) and Julia Pallanch, Iris Nitzl (voices) CD 2: 1. Electro-acoustic composition 2. Berndt Thurner (vibraphone) 3. Gabriël Scheib-Dumalin (trumpet) 4. Burkhard Stangl (church organ and electronics) 5. Christoph Herndler, Josef Novotny, Burkhard Stangl (church organs played simultaneously) 6. Same as #4 7. Billy Roisz (electronics) 8. Vienna Radio Symphonie Orchestra [from CD] 9. Sound Art 10. Sound Art remix by TV POW 11. Klaus Filip (electronic devices and ppooll) and Stangl (electric guitar) 12. Christof Kurzmann (ppooll) and Stangl (Spanish guitar) 13. Kazu Uchihashi (guitar and electronics) and Stangl (electric guitar) 14. Josef Novotny (zither) and Stangl (piano) 15. Jakob Huppmann (countertenor) CD 3: 1. Ensemble Maxixe: Radu Malfatti (trombone); Rafael Grosch (oboe and English horn); Max Nagl (alto saxophone); Alain Wosniak (clarinet); Angelika Riedl (bassoon); Oskar Aichinger (piano); Gunter Schneider (guitar and banjo); Burkhard Stangl (stringed instruments); Joanna Lewis (violin); Sabrina Briscik (viola); Michael Moser (cello); Werner Dafeldecker (bass) and Charlie Fischer (percussion) 2. 3.4. Sainko Namchylak, Renate Burtscher, Eva Hosemann (voices) and Ensemble Maxixe 5. Radu Malfatti (trombone); Gunter Schneider (guitar and banjo) and Stangl (guitar) 6. Maura St. Mary (flute) and Judith Farmer (bassoon)
December 10, 2011
Polwechsel & John Tilbury
AMM with John Butcher
Matchless MRCD 71
Adding a new element to an established entity even in improvised music can be liberating, upsetting or something in-between. This thesis is demonstrated on these CDs, with, for a variety of factors, varying results.
On Field for instance, where the distinctive pianism of British keyboardist John Tilbury joins the Austrian-German-British Polwechsel quintet, the resulting sound field is enhanced. Trinity on the other hand is more problematic. Here British saxophonist John Butcher – who was a member of Polwechsel when the first CD was recorded – adds his reed style to sounds created by the long-standing AMM duo of Tilbury and percussionist Eddie Prévost. Oddly enough the triangle appears unbalanced not from Butcher’s novel contributions, but from a bewildering reticence on the part of Prévost. This is especially puzzling since the saxophonist and the percussionist recorded a notable disc in 2005.
Inheritors of Vienna’s reductionist musical tradition, plus sonic extensions where instrumentalists expand techniques to achieve the flexibility of electronics without plugging in, Polwechsel’s core duo has been together since 1993. Butcher joined Austrians, cellist Michael Moser and bassist Werner Dafeldecker in 1997, while percussionists Burkhard Beins from Berlin and Austrian Martin Brandlmayr made the band a quintet in 2005. If anyone’s textures could fruitfully expand this recognized sound, than Tilbury is the prime candidate. Long-time interpreter of scores by Cornelius Cardew and Morton Feldman, he has since the 1960s been a fellow traveler to the every-shifting AMM band – which arguably invented British lower case Free Music – and a member of it since 1980.
On Field his interludes or perhaps fantasias, involve sweeping power that builds up to thickening note clusters and patterns which are then interspersed among Butcher’s strained vibrations and angled, sul tasto rubs from Moser and Dafeldecker. Although like most of Polwechsel’s work, the overlay is definitely chiaroscuro, piano arpeggios plus resonating smack and scrapes from the percussionists expose additional polyphonic colors. Antiphonal and melismatic textures also arise from melding of the saxophonist’s burbling breaths and the pianist’s split-second string stops. By the finale of Moser’s “Place/Replace/Represent” simultaneous reverberations from clipped keys, sizzling cymbals and thumping bass drums reach an appropriate interface.
A windstorm of droning textures illuminates the Dafeldecker-composed title track with exposed partials encompassing Butcher’s peeping split tones, Tilbury’s abrasive keyboard thumps and hand-stopped strings plus grating rattles from the percussionists. Angled bow sweeps, reed cries and occasional piano plinks confirm the acoustic properties of the tune. But the concentrated multiphonics also suggests the sort of motor-driven blur the sextet can create eschewing electronics.
If the rhythmic pumps from the dual drummers are understated on this CD, then percussion expansions are reduced to micro-tonality on Trinity. In fact most of the time Butcher’s reed-biting buzzes or bird-like chirps plus Tilbury’s metronomic pounding, are more prominent than Prévost’s stick-on-cymbal slides or affiliated tam-tam-like plinks. Only a few times on “Conduit” and the other tracks are the percussionist’s rattles, rubs, resonation and ruffs as aurally apparent as the others’ timbres. Perhaps some of the slide-whistle-like shrills come from Prévost, but in the main the strident trills and tongue-flutters can be traced back to Butcher.
On a track like “One Tree Hill” Butcher’s twittering corkscrew flutters and wide-bore intense split tones plus Tilbury’s uneven liquid arpeggios and low-pitched pedal-pressured rumbling repeatedly create an airy, near lyrical interpretation. Yet while the saxophonist’s squeezed tones are almost matched by the percussionist’s thin abrasive scratches, only Prévost’s knife-edge-like cymbal scrapes complement the pianist’s unmistakable chording.
A memorable one-off collaboration for an ensemble that now operates without Tilbury – and Butcher – Field suggests a novel expansion to the Polwechsel oeuvre Meanwhile, although the saxophonist’s characteristic improvising introduces another element to the long-time AMM interface, the music on Trinity appears to be unsettlingly reductive this time out.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Trinity: 1. Meantime 2. One Tree Hill 3. Flamsteed 4.Conduit
Personnel: Trinity: John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxophones); John Tilbury (piano) and Eddie Prévost (percussion)
Track Listing: Field: 1. Place/Replace/Represent 2. Field
Personnel: Field: John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxophones); John Tilbury (piano); Michael Moser (cello); Werner Dafeldecker (bass) and Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr (drums and percussion)
February 16, 2010
Archives of the North
By Ken Waxman
Situated even more so than previously within its own unique sound world, the now five-man Polwechsel mixes reductionist techniques and inchoate electronic tinctures with the autonomy of FreeImprov to make its point
On this CD, the Austrian-British band changes direction by adding two percussionists Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr to an aural concept that previously was advanced by Polwechsel founders, Werner Dafeldecker on bass and cellist Michael Moser and given auxiliary tinctures when London-based reedist John Butcher joined the ensemble at the beginning of the century.
True to its initial impulses though, Beins, who has partnered with everyone from British guitarist Keith Rowe to vocalist Phil Minton; and Brandlmayr, who is in the Trapist trio which explores similar territory; arent percussionists in the conventional sense at least if thats measured in beats, flams or paradiddles. Instead both men inject barely pressured, stretched tones from their kits long, hocketing cymbal vibrations, patterning wooden rim shot snaps, drum top scrapes and friction plus chains rattling and the rolling of blunt objects.
Interlocking with these impulses are Butchers distinctive tongue fluttering and stops, singular tone warbling, and multiphonic note expansion. Dafeldecker adds precise arco string movements and more concentrated dense hums, plus occasional, and often seemingly random, pizzicato string strums. Additionally, Mosher outputs electronic impulses from his computer from time-to-time. Yet the crackling reverb and input signal- crossing is introduced with the same lapidary care as the reedist brings to his wind-chime-like trills or the bassist does to his droned undercurrent.
Essentially the concept, like similarly distinctive tone distribution from Englands AMM or Australias The Necks is inimitable improvisation following its own reductionist strictures. This way, the underlying and overlaid pulses are as liable to result from polyphonic interaction among subsets of acoustic instruments as from wave form oscillation produced electronically.
Zart as well as staccato, yet characterized at points with authoritative undulation arising from strummed chords and reed-linked ghost-note obbligatos, the sound appears and vanishes according to its own logic. Of and in itself and apparently timeless, ARCHIVES OF THE NORTH marks a stimulating next step in Polwechsels evolution.
Track Listing: 1. Datum Cut 2. Mirror 3. Core Cut 4. Magnetic North 5. Site and Setting
Personnel: John Butcher (soprano and tenor saxophones); Michael Moser (cello and computer); Werner Dafeldecker (bass); Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr (drums and percussion)
August 14, 2006
CLEMENS GADENSTAETTER/ENSEMBLE NEUE MUSIK-WIEN
As different forms of Western music draw closer together, a hybrid form is beginning to emerge. Melding the instrumental virtuosity and extended techniques developed in jazz with the amplification of themes and purist experimentation of so-called serious music, it often faces derision from followers of both systems.
Neither fish nor fowl, its performance become even more jumbled, when elements of rock are introduced as well. Luckily, Austrian composer Clemens Gadenstaetter manages to resist the siren call of that third conception and has produced two slices of chamber work that could successfully take their places besides similar experiments from the improv side of the fence.
Born in 1966 and thus young enough to have avoided the protracted Third Stream battles of his infancy, Gadenstaetter helped found the Ensemble Neue Musik-Wien with the idea of bringing different arts in contact with one another. To this end he has worked with video artists, dancers, choreographers and authors, although the compositions here, except for some unison, repetitive vocal recitations in German on Variationen und alte themen are strictly musical.
By far the longer --more than 33 minutes -- and more interesting of the pieces, Variationen sets off different tones, shapes and rests from Fuchsbergers trombone against the three strings. Performed in a herky-jerky, stop-and-start fashion, the bones natural slurs and emphasis are used to offset short plucked or bowed patterns from the guitar, cello and double bass, playing either singly or together. The instrumentalists are no genre-jumping novices either. Cellist Michael Moser is also a member of Polwechsel, while all the participants have some knowledge of, if not playing experience in, the cerebral European branch of jazz/improvised music.
While some may point to classical European antecedents, its fairly obvious too that the smears, shakes, lip trills and slides that characterize Fuchsberger part here wouldnt have been possible without the work of such jazz trombonists as Roswell Rudd and George Lewis. Plus the powerful, reverberating string pulls of bassist Michael Seyfried and Moser also owe a lot to the obsessive bass experimentation of jazzers such as William Parker, Barry Guy and Charles Mingus. Using the large fiddles as percussive instruments is certainly more common in improvised than composed music.
This isnt an attempt to claim the composition as a jazz piece, however, but merely to point out that the free music climate engendered by jazz contributed to this compositions creation and the instrumental freedom the musicians have to play it.
Acceptable enough, the string trio, with a completely different cast, sounds more like modern classical music, if that designation still means anything. Rather pretentiously described as an observation of the conditions under which tones are produced on string instruments, it features the violinist, violist and cellist cycling through more than 22 minutes of diverse string experiments. Probably not as atonal as Gadenstaetter imagines, these variations of arco and pizzicato string strokes and pressure at varying speeds singularly or in counterpoint, demonstrate the performers technical abilities. Paradoxically, similar bridge, body and strand sounds have often been actualized by improv-oriented musicians extemporaneously. If there are any criticisms here it would seem to be the composers European tendency to pitch some passages pianissimo or even less audibly and an excess of false codas at the end.
In short Gadenstaetter has created a program of contemplative contemporary chamber music which indeed does refer to other music. One can only hope that he realizes that hes not to first explorer to metaphorically set foot in that space.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Streichtrio II (Friktion) 2.Variationen und alte themen
Personnel: [track 1]: Sophie Schafleitner (violin); Dimitrios Polisoidis (viola); Andreas Lindenbaum (cello); [track 2]: Sebastian Fuchsberger (trombone); Christian Horvath (guitar); Michael Moser (cello); Michael Seyfried (bass)
February 15, 2002