četvrtak, 25. prosinca 2014.

Jürg Frey - String Quartets (2006) / Streichquartett (1988)

Predivan dokaz da kamenje ima osjećaje dublje od ljudskih.


“Material can be anonymous. Consider, for example, the middle voices in medieval hymn books: unadorned, not artful, a simple handiwork, a leisurely alternation of single notes. It might be a scale, or, beyond music, the stones of a wall, not artfully stacked, but simply and properly, the formal idea being nothing other than that of a wall.

When I was working on the Streichquartett (1988), I encountered the painting of Agnes Martin. I saw clear-cut forms, not overgrown with rhetoric and figuration. Instead, sensuality, radiance and intensity gripped the entire space.
There was a kind of visibility to her art, which I felt corresponded to the audibility in my music. Audibility: the moment when sound waves move in space and the air touches the body. The eardrum is the sensory connection between the outside and the inside world: we hear the sound and the composition.
Over the years it became more and more clear to me, that there is no anonymous material — each material has its shape, and as soon as it exists in space and time, it carries a distinct handwriting. Anonymous material is rather an idea that brings the work to a point where concentration on what is essential becomes possible, and allows one to feel that he is starting from zero.” —Jürg Frey (English translation: Michael Pisaro)
Listening to this music today has come almost as a shock to the system after my recent obsession with Shostakovich and Mahler. In the brief sleeve notes to this disc Frey mentions how he was influenced by the painting of Agnes Martin whilst writing his first String Quartet in 1988, which appears here as one of four works recorded by the Bozzini Quartet in 2004. Frey draws a parallel between his music and Martin's minimal paintings: "clear-cut forms not overgrown with rhetoric and figuration. Instead sensuality, radiance and intensity gripped the entire space"
At first, after the rich, in-your-face emotions of Shostakovich and Mahler this paired back minimal music is hard to come to terms with, but very soon its immense beauty grabs me, almost halting me in my tracks and bringing everything I do down to a slow, quiet pace. That may seem a dramatic statement to make, but when the CD began I was putting away a pile of clean washing, and after a few minutes the clothes were left in a heap in front of the open wardrobe and I sat quietly listening.
Its hard not to mention a similarity with Feldman's second quartet when considering the first Frey SQ on this disc. The simple structure of the music consists of repeated two note passages that change every thirty seconds or so, mostly bowed softly, with some plucked strings appearing later in the piece. There are subtle changes in the notes played. A cursory listen may suggest the same notes played in a basic pattern over and over, but there is a gentle shift throughout. Here the similarity with Martin's painting is clear to me, an apparent simplicity containing a deeper intensity and detail revealed slowly over time in a manner not unlike the work of Morton Feldman. The composition has a distinct Feldmanesque feel to it, a sense of gradual movement across the music rather than any more obvious progression. The piece is played slightly quicker than you may expect from Feldman however, and lasts just short of eleven minutes, resulting in a beautiful miniature that I rather wish went on for longer.
The second piece on the disc is named (Unbetitelt) VI (I suspect this translates as Untitled, but Babelfish won't confirm as such) Written between 1990 and '91 the music inhabits similar ground, here utilising slowly rising musical figures slowly played in a clean, simple fashion, but again creating the feeling of gradually shifting movement as the ninteen minute piece progresses. Often we only hear a single instrument, and each note is separated cleanly from the next, sometimes with a momentary silence. Only late in the piece does a passage appear where a high note is held for an extended period as other instruments continue below, but there is a real clarity to this music that is maintained throughout. There are a couple of surprises here and there, just before the midway point a violin picks out a few lines of almost inaudibly high sound, yet these frail whispers fit perfectly into the music.
The third and fourth tracks on the CD make up the two parts of a very short work entitled Zwei allerletze Såchelchen (No idea again beyond the "two" at the start, help me out German readers! Tomas?!) The first of the two pieces, Mailied (May song?) is just 47 seconds long. As brief as it is the piece is songlike in its existence, consisting of twenty or so high pitched notes softly overlapping each other in a brief moment of beauty that slips away as fast as it arrived. The second half of the work is half as short again at just 21 seconds. Vorbei, (Past) resembles the opening to a more traditionally notated quartet, Shostakovich naturally comes to my mind, but the tiny piece just ends after ten or eleven elegantly arranged notes, a tiny glimpse of something very beautiful, but the listener is left wondering. Zwei allerletze Såchelchen was written at the same time as (Unbetitelt) VI, in 1990. I cannot help but draw more parallels with Feldman's experiments with the length of a piece of music, with Frey here distilling great beauty into a tiny opening in time, whilst Feldman's later works stretched themselves over several hours. Both approaches challenge our established listening conventions. With these brief pieces how is the listener meant to respond? My natural reaction has been to hit the "<" button on the CD player and play each of the pieces over and over, but was this the intended response? Does it matter?
The final piece on the disc is simply entitled String Quartet II and was written the best part of a decade later between 1998 and 2000. At nearly half an hour in length this piece is the longest on the disc, and addresses very different concerns to the earlier works. Here Frey uses extended techniques to create a very quiet, soft, almost noteless grey soundworld within which brief passages of bowed sound exist for two or three seconds, each interspersed with a second or two of silence, but again with the sounds used gradually shifting across time. This is hauntingly beautiful music. The playing resembles an ethereal vocal ensemble more than it does a string quartet. The opening to Ligeti's Lux Aeterna springs to mind, but even that isn't so close. You can certainly forget the Feldman comparisons here, this music takes a further step into inaudibility and a leap away from the musicality of the ealier pieces. For me this music moves closer to the Agnes Martin paintings, utilising the faintest of sounds, whispers of immense beauty, changing with every movement of the bow yet structured in a manner that careful listening reveals the natural rhythms of the piece.
One of the most common criticisms made of the Wandelweiser collective of composers is that the music they create lacks humanity, existing as a sterile exercise in mannered austerity. This may be true of some of the work, but this album in particular is achingly beautiful and is dripping with the intensity and sensuality created by a group of musicians playing difficult music with great passion. This music, and the final piece in particular has a cumulative effect on the listener, slowing the senses, heightening the attention, filling the space with the radiance Frey finds surrounding Martin's painting.
I think you can tell I really liked this release ;) - Richard Pinnell

Frey’s [Streichquartett], while likewise partaking of a Feldmanesque aura, realizes something more static and compact. Even on repeated hearings the Swiss composer’s work ends abruptly. [(Unbetitelt) VI] contains long solo passages of uneven scales, reminding one of skyward ladders. Its few chordal moments startle. The two Zwei allerletzte Sächelchen are sub-minute phrases. Frey’s hushed [Streichquartett no 2] will take your breath away, notwithstanding a resemblance to one’s final earthly moments. EWR captures a delicate sonority, sounding like quiet humming, muted bowing and hushed sul ponticello tremolando. This otherworldly quartet conjures the a cappella passages of Verdi’s Requiem. - Grant Chu Covell

Jürg Frey was born in 1953 in Aarau, Switzerland. Following his musical education at the Concervatoire de Musique de Genève, he turned to a career as a clarinetist, but his activities as composer soon came to the foreground. Frey developed his own language as a composer and sound artist with the creation of wide, quiet sound spaces. His work is marked by an elementary non-extravagence of sound, a sensibilty for the qualities of the material, and precision of compositional approach. His compositions sometimes bypass instrumentation and duration altogether and touch on aspects of sound art. He has worked with compositional series, as well as with language and text. Some of these activities appear in small editions or as artist's books as individual items and small editions (Edition Howeg, Zurich; weiss kunstbewegung, Berlin; complice, Berlin). His music and recordings are published by Edition Wandelweiser. Frey has been invited to workshops as visiting composer and for composer portraits at the Universität der Künste Berlin, the Universität Dortmund and several times at Northwestern University and CalArts. Some of the other places his work has developed are the concerts at the Kunstraum Düsseldorf, the Wandelweiser-in-Residence-Veranstaltungen in Vienna, the Ny music concerts in Boras (Sweden), the cooperation with Cologne pianist John McAlpine, the Bozzini Quartet (Montréal), QO-2 (Bruxelles), Die Maulwerker, incidental music, as well as the regular stays in Berlin (where during the last years many of his compositions were premiered). Frey is a member of the Wandelweiser Komponisten Ensemble which has presented concerts for more than 15 years in Europe, North America and Japan. Frey also organizes the concert series moments musicaux aarau as a forum for contemporary music.
Excerpts from the music of Jürg Frey

Jürg Frey

One possibility of experiencing time is the path. It is what lies ahead at the start of a performance: the composition develops, takes first one direction then another, perhaps doubles back, sets an accent here and there, focuses on certain sonorities or thematic levels. It unfolds continuously, and the more we hear of the piece, the more of a past the piece acquires. This past lays a path in our memories, we remember it as fragments of a sound edifice we have traversed with our ears, or as something more organically grown, evolving its path in time. The questions arising here are in the nature of: How will the piece go on? Why will it go on? What direction will it take? And at what speed?

Another possibility of experiencing time is expanse. Music consists of sound; unchanging and unchanged, it expands in space. Attention is not trained on the individual event but wanders in space, laying claim to space just as sound does. Composition and space merge, and both are components of a sonic situation without temporal direction, a situation that may even be unbounded and, through its very presence, determined by sound, space and listeners. Memory is shaped less by the individual details than by a situation in which one has spent a certain period of time.
The questions here are: How do boundaries come to be? Where are those boundaries? How do special qualities come to be? Where is the core of the composition, the core that accords the situation its identity and its energy? What gives sonic and compositional texture to the work as a whole?

Let us imagine the composition sketched above: 672 slow quavers, each one notated individually, ranging over staves and pages, played by four performers with eight triangles; then 672 slow quavers, each notated individually, ranging overstaves and pages, played by four performers with eight finger cymbals. Later, for minutes, the sound of cymbals, then tam- tam noises and the soft sounds of bowed stones, metal sheets, and then, after a good half hour, the first rests – and in between, long passages marked by the unvarying sounds of the bass drum, played pianissimo, and later the rustling of leaves, the sound of stones and humming.

I am on the threshold between these two experiential worlds: the world of the path and the world of expanse. But let me make clear that I am not intent on exploring the whole spectrum between processive composing – an activism focused on ceaseless change – and work with static sounds, or on installational thinking. I am not oscillating imaginatively back and forth in the hope of occupying as many compositional positions as possible. On the contrary, I am on the precise threshold where static sonic thinking almost imperceptibly acquires direction, where static, wholly motionless sounds meet the onset of movement and directionality of the sound material. On this threshold – an airy, mobile threshold that is entirely elusive as a place, but occasionally allows music to be experienced as a place – there is still enough scope, uncharted territory and vitality to inspire the compositional process and pose a challenge. Often differing only in nuance, these two fundamentally divergent patterns of compositional behaviour can meet in both consecutiveness and simultaneity. In the process they create the space and perspective necessary for the composition as sonic space to converge into a single situation with the performance venue as performance space.

While the idea of the path is more strongly associated with essentially melodic thinking – even if melodies, of whatever kind, cannot necessarily be heard in the composition –, spatial thinking has more to do with sound or the idea of the monochrome. Melody and the path have a beginning and an end, but sound and space have a timeless presence.
Musical experience shows that the two aspects so cleanly separated here engage complexly with one another: for instance, when a static electronic sound is suddenly perceived as a very high speed, or when a movement progressing evenly, step by step, gradually tends towards an experience of monochromy. That is when the path gradually transforms into space. On the other hand, a sound can tell a story, or – by virtue of very small, initially imperceptible changes – a seemingly static, monochrome sound gradually allows us to recognise that we are suddenly somewhere totally different. That is when sound in time lays a path. So we find ourselves in complex experiential worlds: as a result of a long duration in time, a path, a way, can become an expanse or a space – and conversely, where attention is turned to detail, to small changes, an expanse or space can be experienced as a path, a way.
Combined, the two revolve around the core of the piece: monochromy as a sense of the overall, narration as a way from one thing to the next.

These dual situations present the interpreter with an unaccustomed challenge. When he is confronted with the monochrome existence of sound, it means genuinely vanishing behind the sound and making any hint of theatricality generated by his very presence disappear. This implies, first and foremost, that the sparse, specific material central to this monochrome situation must be left, so to speak, unsullied by the playing. In other words, it must not be given weight and interest through interpretation and the individuality of the reading: that is precisely what these sounds abstain from. Transcending this conventional idea, the interpreter deploys his mastery of the instrument to achieve a virtuosity consisting in producing sounds in such a way that he himself disappears and all that remains is sound in space. Any insecurity, be it instrumental, emotional or physical, immediately shifts the interpreter into the foreground and interferes with the monochrome experience.

This is the basis on which the presence or absence of sound and performer can gain thematic importance. At the same time, it is the point of departure from which sounds set off on their path: the composer’s strategies and attitude towards the material frequently need only a slightly different energy to give direction to sounds, introduce a change or leave one section and arrive at another. The faintest stirring is enough abruptly to banish the monochrome space: the focus is turned on the composition and with that on the presence of the player, who, as interpreter, is communicating this compositional change. Attention shifts from an undirected space-time situation to a directed situation in which sounds begin to wander and subtly radiate a direction that causes the situation to appear in a slightly different light. This may happen in order to truly set off on a path, or perhaps to shift quickly and lightly from one sonic situation to another.
At all times, the interpreter is expected not to want to hold and shape the sounds, but to let go of them as he plays, enabling the inherent qualities of the sounds to become perceptible and experienceable. Time flows through the performer, and he not so much showcases his own presence as he  articulates the presence of the overall space. He reacts with seismographic sensitivity to the slightest change, the subtlest crossing of the threshold between monochromely undirected situations and the shaping of time, which suggests direction and a path.

This is where a composer’s formal interest is kindled – an interest that might be described as the composition breathing between the two states of space and path. What can be said for the interpreter applies at least as much to the composer: he decides about the musical and compositional parameters, he approaches the musical material with meticulous precision and is the inventor of these situations. But they can emerge only if, as a composer, his attitude towards his artistic intentions renders him, so to speak, absent. At the same time,
however, precisely what he considers right for the respective composition is supposed to happen. This is not a paradox, it is the foundation on which this kind of compositional work builds. The result distinguishes itself from a musical experience centred on listening to an object of art and artifice presented at a performance venue, which I observe from outside in a listening mode. Instead, space, sound and listener create a field of tension informed by the various balanced presences, a field that can become an existential experience of physical and mental existence for the listener.

The fragility characteristic of this field of tension derives from the fact that motionlessness and movement, monochromy and narrative are close enough together for them to be able to shift quickly and easily from one to the other. In either state, there is always a sense of the other’s absence: monochromy as the absence of movement and directed material as the absence of monochromy. It is this oscillation that infuses the field of tension with much of its energy and complexity – additionally enhanced if listeners’ experiences are taken into account as well. A monochrome sound world will not always resonate in the listener as a monochrome experience. It may easily be that, at the end of a performance of static music that has remained motionless, the listener is in himself no longer where he started out – just as, conversely, directed, mobile music that lays a path need not always take the listener along on a journey.
Jürg Frey

Jürg Frey

There is a music in which the time-space of sound and the time-space of silence appear in their own particular realms. Even when the sounds are often very soft, the music is not about falling into silence. The sounds are clear, direct and precise. Because they have left musical rhetoric behind, there is instead a sensitivity for the presence of sound and for the physicality of silence. There are long time spans for the presence of sound, and long time spans for the absence of sound. The two together form the "time present" of the piece.
In the silence a space is opened which can only be opened with the disappearance of sound. The silence which is then experienced, derives its power from the absence of the sounds we have just heard. Thus the time-space of silence comes into being, and then comes the physicality of silence.
Permeability, which is the physicality of silence itself, consists of the impossibility of saying anything about its content. Sounds can approach this permeability, but cannot achieve it. Sounds always occur as a formation or a shaping. They come into being by crossing a border which divides them from all others. At this border, everything formed becomes particular. Silence does not know this border. There is no silence through production. Silence is just there, where no sound is.
There are pieces in which the absence of sound has become a fundamental feature. The silence is not uninfluenced by the sounds which were previously heard. These sounds make the silence possible by their ceasing and give it a glimmer of content. As the space of silence stretches itself out, the sounds weaken in our memory. Thus is the long breath between the time of sound and the space of silence created. Silence can also be present in the sounds. In order to have silence in sounds, one must let go of everything which gets in the way of this silence. This sound is a sound without the idea of what it can mean or how it should be used. This sound achieves a hint of permeability, which otherwise belongs only to silence. This sound is the Da-sein (being there) of sound. Its presence and charisma make themselves felt in the composition. Silence requires one decision: sound or no sound. Sound requires a great many more decisions. These shape the sound and give it its quality, feeling and its content. Thus silence, in its comprehensive, monolithic presence always stands as one against an infinite number of sounds or sound forms. Both stamp time and space, in that they come into appearance, in an existential sense. Together they comprise the entire complexity of life.
Jürg Frey, 1998
Translation: Michael Pisaro

Jürg Frey

It has occurred to me that there are two ways of experiencing music. The first way is promoted by a music which draws our attention to individual phrases, details in the instrumentation and in the voice leading, and in the linking of characteristics of successive individual parts. We experience this music as though drawing breath into our body. There are those special, rare moments in which we become surprised by a unique sensation. And then after the concert we have the memory of those happy moments when we became transfixed by the music. Another possibility in listening to music occurs in pieces in which the composer has left behind the development of parts, unified by cause and effect, and replaced this with other, just as complex organizational possibilities. Often this music is completely without individual parts. Or, the formal differences can be very simple, such as those we perceive between sound and silence. When this music has individual sections, they are not developed from one to the next, or linked by contrast - rather, the individual parts appear to be tied to each other by an invisible thread. This means that each idea for a new section must be a new beginning, dialectically unconnected with the previous section. In this case, there are only the sections which occurred to the composer, and these sections bring forth the identity of the piece.
With this music, we do not have a memory of moments of particular intensity after the concert. The situation is not at all shaped by memory. There is indeed the feeling that the music is already gone. At the same time we sense that this music has not left behind the customary impressions. In place of the memory of individual events we sense rather a direct manifestation of life, a richer experience of life. It is not simply an idea; an idea appears to me as a lower category in our consciousness. It is the reality that one is alive that makes us joyful in this moment. It is the feeling that I am here and life is present. This is an unambiguous sensation, but at the same time it is very complex because it is so encompassing.
With a music that we perceive in this way, it becomes clear all at once that something is there: time. It is a music that speaks with itself and is its own audience. In this silent dialogue with itself, the music and the audience are connected. Therefore, it does not remain or turn in its own circle. In this silent dialogue with itself, the music is interwoven with silver threats. And it is with this sense of living that the room, often with a minimum of sound, is completely filled. One of the possibilities with this experience of time is The Expanse. Music stretches into the future and into the past. It allows a plain to appear, spreading out in all directions. The questions are: Where are the boundaries ? What are the boundaries? Another possibility of experiencing time is The Path. With this we have the beginning in front of us, and the longer we stay with the piece, the more it lies behind us. In the moment when the music begins, it is heading for the end. The question here is: What holds the piece to life? Yet another possibility is The Strophe. Now the music repeatedly pulls past us, and we are challenged to deepen our observation, to penetrate the music by listening and to hear similar music always from another angle.

Jürg Frey, 1996
Translation: Michael Pisaro

Nema komentara:

Objavi komentar