ponedjeljak, 23. prosinca 2013.

Jakob Ullmann - Fremde Zeit Addendum (2013), Voice, Book and Fire 3

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Na vrhovima oblaka.



Fremde Zeit - Addendum' collects four discs, five pieces of engrossingly etheric, liminal composition by Jakob Ullmann (1958), the widely acknowledged master of quiet music and recent cover star of The Wire magazine. For us, as we'd imagine many others, this is a striking first introduction to the devoted German minimalist's very particular body of work. Comprising 4 hours of barely-there strings, percussions, wind instruments and voices prefaced by the instruction "Please choose, for each piece, the volume settings of your sound system so as to just barely mask the ambient sounds in the room", this is music made for concentrated listening, recorded and specifically designed to give listeners "the opportunity to hear more, and better" by the simple but essential notion that "We hear better because we make an effort to hear better." With this is mind, we're invited into a sound world which actively, yet effortlessly and sublimely challenges our perceptions of space and time with a compelling, transcendent effect akin to that of listening to music by, say, Eliane Radigue or Morton Feldman, yet with an alien, detached appeal entirely its own. Due to their extended durations - no piece is shorter than 34 mins, and over an hour at the longest - we form temporal impressions which blur the boundaries between our immediate space and the apparent vastness of the recording, teasing our sixth sense to wander on a knife edge of trepidation and somnolence. Yet, musically, kit covers a far more subtle spectrum of emotions and cabalistic atmospheres casting metaphoric allusions to "…antiquity, to the Middle Ages, to the Baroque, to the 20th Century and to the present" by means of its extreme dilation of spacetime and anticipation, and relegation of distortion or any untempered gestures. Once you've heard this music it should come as little surprise Ullmann studied sacred music in Dresden from 1979-1982 - his music could be the lingering resonance of an Arvo Pärt piece played in a huge cathedral, and it carries the weight of history - spanning over 18 years of work, the results are duly, deeply considered. A revelatory package, whose impact will surely emerge and manifest as slowly, yet powerfully, as the music itself. - boomkat

Jakob Ullmann’s music exists just at the threshold of audibility. I mean this quite literally; this is some of the quietest music I’ve ever heard. This three-disc compendium comprises music written between 1989 and 2007, and the composer’s unity of purpose, in tandem with a strikingly diverse timbral palette, is astonishing.
Ullmann’s long-form compositions emerge and disappear slowly, sometimes with a glacial pace akin to Elianne Radigue’s compositional style. Once in progress, they do not thrive on the vast silences associated with Wandelweiser composers. In fact, there is actually very little silence in play, once the ear adjusts to the extraordinarily low dynamic level (the booklet instructs us to play the music so that it barely masks the sounds in the room.) When acclimation occurs, a rich and varied soundworld swims into focus. The slow transformations might begin with a single sustained pitch, as happens on “Disappearing Musics,” the composition resembling nothing so much as a universe evolving from that long looming note. The repeated piano figures evoke shades of late Morton Feldman, but the reverberant acoustics set every whoosh and cascade in soft focus. More typical of the music presented here is “Composition for String Quartet 2,” from 1999. The first five minutes barely break through the silence when listened to at a normal volume, but a fairly busy world of Webernian pointilisms, Pendereckian rustlings, Ligetian slides and occasional pops exists just below the increasingly transparent room environment. Listen to the single pitch piercing the veil 37 seconds in, which then become common occurrences, or to the luminous cello entrance just after the three-minute mark to hear the timbral variety in constant play. Over the piece’s 47-minute duration, the volume increases at a snail’s pace, while the disparate sounds gradually coalesce into a multi-layered drone of deep beauty.
“PRAHA:celetna-karlova-maiselova,” a vocal work completed in 2007, is the most elusive in the set, its hushed sonorities making the other pieces seem almost cacophonous. Based on a Jorge Louis Borges short story, the plot involves the stopping of time, an apt consideration given the music’s staticity, even in the face of continuously shifting plains of sound.
Ullmann’s compositional language is enigmatic. It is neither tonal nor atonal; long tones vie with briefer utterances and with sounds for which conventional notation will not suffice. He is careful to avoid repeating compositional strategies, making his consistently unique soundworld all the more remarkable. As with the label that has championed his music, Ullmann defies dogma while never completely forsaking tradition. The performances are uniformly excellent, but particularly impressive is the Pellegrini-Quartett’s realization of a mind-bogglingly difficult score. They go a long way toward making the set the revelation it is. - Marc Medwin
Despite the fact that writing about amazing music is such an unalloyed pleasure, there are times—many more times than i would care to admit—when the music skitters away, becoming elusive when confronted by one’s attempts to speak of it. Perhaps there’s no dishonour in being confounded by glory, but the frustration has never been more acute than when trying to write about the music of Jakob Ullmann. Including the outstanding fremde zeit addendum 3CD boxset of his music near the top of my 2012 Best Albums list wasn’t just an act of fitting celebration but also of defeat; the bland paragraph i wrote to accompany its entry came after umpteen doomed attempts at something more substantial earlier in the year. So when the Edition RZ label recently sent me their latest release of his music, fremde zeit addendum 4, it seemed only fitting to try again.For anyone unacquainted with Ullmann’s music, there are equivalent points of entry to be found in any of the releases Edition RZ has put out over the last few years, A Catalogue of Sounds, voice, books and FIRE 3, the aforementioned boxset as well as this new CD. It’s worth mentioning that Edition RZ—one of the most forward-looking of labels in any case—has been essentially a lone advocate where Ullmann is concerned; considering how many of his works remain unperformed & recorded, other labels would be wise, finally, to catch on. For there is something truly extraordinary going on in Jakob Ullmann’s music, music that positions itself in a place that is both minimal & dangerously liminal.
In a rare & fascinating interview in April’s edition of The Wire, Ullmann stated:
[…] you cannot compete with the noise of the world. Impossible. The less loud music is, the better I can hear it. If it becomes loud then you cannot hear so much and you cannot hear for long periods of time.
This is, in essence, both Jakob Ullmann’s manifesto & modus operandi; the result is extended works of acute dynamic restraint, of which solo III für orgel, the sole piece featured on this latest release, is arguably the most extreme example yet recorded. Its 66-minute span comprises various drawn-out drones—in fact, for anyone familiar with organ music the effect is initially akin to that of the dreaded cipher, when a note sounds unbidden by the organist, usually proving difficult to silence. But for Ullmann these extended pitches become deeply etched grooves within the performance space, a kind of simple grain upon & about which utmost delicate moments of tracery are imposed. The most simple of these produce various examples of shimmer, beating with or against the sonic grain, as well as simple chords, usually diads of unfixed temperamental abode. They are also the most obvious, but despite appearances, Ullmann’s is music of considerable inner complexity, & throughout the work he presents numerous instances of more intricate material, rapid slivers of filigree at the threshold of audibility, more-or-less gone before they’ve even had time to register.
This, then, is the darkly inobtrusive language of solo III, yet has reticence ever sounded so forthright? Despite the caveat contained in last year’s boxset, which is clearly of equal relevance here—“Please choose […] the volume settings of your sound system so as to just barely mask the ambient sounds of the room”—solo III seems practically to shout itself aloud, a paradox that validates the above quotation from Ullmann. Indeed, sometimes the juxtapositions of pitch are almost rudely obtrusive, a side-effect of the ear’s acclimation to music of such attenuated capacity & colouration. Unavoidably, solo III presents itself with the solemn intensity of a rite, & the act of listening it requires is about as active as its material is not. But very little music today can leave one feeling so exhausted yet so irrevocably magnified. - 5against4.com/
This addition to the 3-disc set of Ullmann's music previously released by Edition RZ consists of one 66-minute long work, "solo III für Orgel" (1992/1993;2012), performed by Hans-Peter Schulz on the baroque organ in the Abbey at Neresheim. It's amazing. Schulz has penned a fine history and description or the work which all should read.
The constant is that 13-tone row referred to by Schulz, played by not fully depressing the organ keys, doing so just enough to generate a sound, but one that wavers and is quieter than it would be otherwise. On the recording, this low dynamic amplitude registers less as quiet as such, more as distance, at least to these ears. It's a gorgeous, complex sound, at once static and infinitely varying. For the initial ten minutes it occupies the space, at which point we hear the first of several auxiliary sets of sound, a flute-like, even more "distant" flutter of notes, like a bird song. I take it that this is part of the "structural processes" which seem to have been laid over the score in a manner reminiscent of Cage's "Atlas Eclipticalis" (the composition resulted after Ullmann's meeting with Cage and nods to him often). Other sounds appear on occasion, including a relatively loud, deep moan or two; it's like watching a still scene, being always very conscious of the air between your eyes and the solid material, its subtle shimmer, with the odd passing shadow, cloud, bird or insect. Very real, very (I hesitate to use the term) organic and natural.
As ever, I'd dearly love to hear this piece in situ, to experience its physical and corporeal nature as well as the apparent distance of the sound, its disappearance into the ceiling of the abbey. Ullmann has located and elaborated upon such a beautiful "section" of the pipe organ, something that's just inherently wonderful enough on its own, more so when gracefully embedded in a simple but by no means simplistic structure. I'm at something of a loss to say much more except to urge that you give it a listen. Great, great music. - olewnick.blogspot.com/

Voice, Book and Fire 3 


voice, books and fire is the result of my reflections about the relationships between music and language: language as sound and language as text, the numerous relationships between texts of different cultural and religious traditions, between the work of the human spirit in the present and in the past and the questions arising from the problem of understanding these different traditions, languages and texts and representing them in a present, which has lost knowledge about substantial parts, even of its own tradition and history. - www.mimaroglumusicsales.com/

Gatefold slipcase with 8-page booklet and label catalogue. "We would like to point out that this piece is extremely quiet. Please choose the volume setting of your sound system so as to just barely mask the ambient sounds of the room"** Jakob Ullmann: "voice, books and FIRE is the result of my reflections about the relationship between music and language: language as sound and language as text, the numerous relationships between texts of different cultural and religious traditions, between the work of the human spirit in the present and in the past and the questions arising from the problem of understanding these different traditions, languages and texts and representing them in a present, which has lost knowledge about substantial parts, even of its own tradition and history." In Jakob Ullmann's 2nd release through Editions RZ, solemn, practically whispered incantations and creaking extended vocal technique of eight singers play in half-lit, wide open mid-air against the phosphorescing resonance of viola, violoncello, saxophone and flute. Recorded 1st July, in the Abteikirche Neresheim. Recommended - boomkat

A Catalogue Of Sounds

Glossy gatefold slipcase with label catalogue and 12-page booklet. To achieve the original sound quality of this live recording it is suggested to listen to this CD at the lowest possible volume** Quiet music conceptualist and practitioner, Jakob Ullmann's 2nd release and first with Editions RZ was first issued in 2005. It yields a single 73 minute piece written for an ensemble of thirteen solo strings and up to three additional solo parts arranged to explore the filigree infidelities of their range between almost "pure", natural harmonics to diffuse noise at the lowest threshold of perception thanks to masterly feats of restrained technicality and the composer's vision. Of course, this is much more than an exercise in academic or technical exactitude. Ullmann's score elicits the players to play at the edge of their nerves and skill to reaffirm the piece's sureness and manifest the slightest differentiations, sustaining our attention in pensile equilibrium so that the most minor shifts in pace, tone, timbre ensure optimal effect, and live up to the piece's conceptual power. - boomkat

A Catalogue of Sounds für Violine, Viola, Violoncello und Ensemble, 1995-1997

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