Piper (2000) (13:05)
Matt Welch, bagpipe
Fan (2003) (12:05)
Miki Maruta, Ryuko Mizutani, Kayoko Nakagawa, and Yoko Nishi, kotos
947 (2001) (7:40)
Jacqueline Martelle, flute
Silver Streetcar for the Orchestra (1988) (16:36)
Brian Johnson, triangle
Ever Present (2002) (15:27)
Drescher-Okabe-Armbruster Trio: Erik Drescher, flute; Akiko Okabe, piano; Sascha Armbruster, alto saxophone
Alvin Lucier's (b. 1931) works on this CD, for solos and trios, continue to explore his unique sound world, exploration of microtones, and use of unusual instrumentation.
Piper is probably one of the few avant-garde pieces composed for the bagpipe. The piper is asked to walk slowly around the performance space, sounding his instrument as he does so. From time to time he detunes the chanters, creating beating patterns of slightly varying speeds and minor spatial disturbances (imaginary dopplers).
In Fan, 4 koto players play a long series of plucked tones over a 12-minute time span, gradually stepping up to 4 semitones above the starting tone and slowing down to 1 beat every 2, 3, 4, and 5 seconds. As they do so, audible beating at various speeds occurs among the plucked sounds of the instruments.
During the course of 947, 4 pure tones are sounded in all their combinations. As they do so a flutist sustains closely tuned long tones against them, creating audible beats at speeds determined by the distances between her tones and those of the pure waves. The farther apart the faster the beating. At unison no beating occurs. Occasionally the flutist bends her pitches a few cycles per second causing the beating patterns to slow down and speed up.
In Silver Streetcar, the player dampens the triangle with the thumb and forefinger of one hand while tapping the instrument with the other. The performance consists of moving the geographical locations of these two activities and changing the pressure of the fingers on the triangles as well as the speed and loudness of the tapping. During the course of the performance, the acoustic characteristics of the folded metal bar are revealed.
Ever Present is inspired by Robert Irwin's garden at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Tone waves in constant motion sweep up and down as the players sustain long tones across them, creating beating patterns at speeds determined by the closeness of the tunings.
Liner notes by the composer.
Four first recordings.
L'aspetto performativo è il grosso limite dei documenti sonori che si limitano alla registrazione del dato musicale senza considerare quello che si muove attorno al suono. Il compositore americano Alvin Lucier (nome da accostare a quelli di Robert Ashley e Gordon Mumma) attribuisce a molte sue composizioni un senso gestuale con scarni rimandi "concettuali", analogamente a molti suoi conterranei come Laurie Anderson: ciò che si sente (e si vede), è. Il mezzo è il messaggio, anche in musica (o almeno secondo un certo modo di intenderla), anche se il messaggio è davvero essenziale.
In Lucier il dispendio di mezzi è quindi assolutamente minimale e la finalità sembra la ricerca di una consapevolezza del puro suono. I possibili referenti non mancano.
Ampliando con alcune composizioni degli anni duemila (a parte un'eccezione) la produzione forse più nota di Lucier, quella uscita per la nota Lovely Music, questa raccolta dimostra l'assoluta essenzialità dei mezzi messi in campo.
Con Piper si prende ad esempio il bordone armonico di una cornamusa e lo si fa risuonare per un determinato periodo di tempo. L'interprete si muove per una stanza creando un effetto Doppler (reso in verità in modo impercettibile nella registrazione) e altera leggermente i toni del bordone, creando un'accelerazione dei battimenti. In Fan invece il protagonista è il suono di quattro koto giapponesi che vengono intrecciati in un phasing che progressivamente crea urti di semitoni attorno a un unisono abbastanza melenso. 947 prende la sua denominazione dai rapporti intervallari tra una nota fondamentale e la sua nona, quarta e settima. Anche in questo caso lo sviluppo lento e privo di agogica crea una fissità apparentemente immutabile. Con Silver Streetcar for the Orchestra il protagonista è un semplicissimo triangolo che si muove nello spazio, anche in questo caso per creare impercettibili cambiamenti nella grana di un medesimo suono ripetuto. Infine Ever Present, una composizione per piccolo ensemble formato da flauto, sax alto e pianoforte, ispirato dalle forma ovoidale dei vialetti di un giardino. La prospettiva geometrica si rispecchia nei suoni circolari che disegnano un saliscendi di altezze secondo uno schema simmetrico, ovale appunto.
Il mondo di Lucier potrà sembrare anche molto sobrio, ma possiede un'indubbia capacità: quella di farci concentrare sull'elemento primario suono, attraverso fonti molto scarne. Non a caso gli strumenti scelti enfatizzano una qualità timbrica che ricerca il suono più puro: quello dell'onda sinusoidale che in natura invece non esiste. Paradossi della contemporaneità.
--- Michele Coralli, altremusiche.it, February 2008
Sonic Union Arts vet Alvin Lucier articulated an arch, insidious type of confrontation with his most acclaimed piece, "I am Sitting in a Room," which gradually turned a simple, tape-recorded text into jarring abstraction. But, he's also accomplished at straight-up confrontation, as well. Both approaches are well-represented by the five compositions for acoustic instruments collected on Ever Present, each of which examine Lucier's long-held interests in room acoustics and/or the relationships between rhythmic patterns, close tunings and spatial phenomena. Except for "Silver Street Car for the Orchestra" (1988), an in-your-face triangle solo that explores timbre and dynamics, the pieces were composed between 2000 and 2003, which suggest that Lucier's 70s won't be a genteel autumnal decade. "Piper" (2000) is performed by bagpiper Matt Welch, who exploits the acoustics of the performance space by slowly moving through it, building occasionally detuned long tones to create surreal, Doppler-like effects. The remaining pieces are more subtle, but no less radical. Scored for four kotos, "Fan" (2003) uses slowly ascending pitches and decreasing tempi to create mesmerizing shifting rhythmic patterns. "947" (2001), a solo written for flutist Jacqueline Martelle, achieves similar effects through the use of long and bent tones. "Ever Present" (2002) has a sly delicacy, as the long tones produced by saxophonist Armbruster, flutist Erik Drescher and pianist Akiko Okabe hover languorously, resulting in progressively powerful harmonics. It is a stunning, elegant piece of music.
--- Bill Shoemaker, Point of Departure, 2007
Now 76, Alvin Lucier is a survivor of the generation of American experimentalists who followed Cage's example in the 1960s, and in many ways prepared the way for the birth of minimalism a few years later. Lucier's early works explored the sound properties of natural environments, from the alpha rhythms of the human brain to the acoustic resonances of empty spaces, but for the past decade he has been writing for conventional instruments and investigating the possibilities of the "beats" created when two or more closely tuned pitches are sounded together.
In Piper, a bagpipe player wanders around the performance area sounding his instrument and periodically detuning the chanters, creating different patterns of beats. Fan is written for four koto players, who play a long series of plucked notes that gradually rise by semitones and move in and out of phase. Silver Street for Orchestra is in fact a triangle solo in which the minutiae of the instrument's tintinnabulations are picked up by microphones and amplified. It's all rather curious, and not music that you would want to hear more than once.
--- Andrew Clements, The Guardian, Friday June 29, 2007
If I ever "retire" from "journalism" there's nothing I'd like to do more than sit around all day listening to Alvin Lucier albums. And, thankfully, riding the wave of interest generated in his music by EAI heads in search of historical precedents, there are plenty of them to choose from now. This latest, Lucier's second on Mode after 2003's Navigations / Small Waves, is another keeper (dumb thing to say, that - they all are). Bagpipe is an instrument I usually like about as much as pipe organ (not a lot, as a famous magician used to say), but in Matthew Welch's hands it sounds wonderful, upper partials bouncing merrily off the walls for the 13 glorious minutes of Piper. Don't listen on headphones, you'll miss out on a lot of fun; pump it up to Niblock volume and thrill. Fan finds four koto players moving gradually out of phase with each other, pitches moving ever so slowly up a major third, harmonics ringing out, acoustic beats jostling each other in a riot of colour and energy. And the basic idea behind it all is so goddamn straightforward.
As Howard Skempton once said of La Monte Young, there's so much to listen to. Lucier's magic - and I don't use the word lightly - is being able to take the very simplest of ideas and create music of quite extraordinary complexity and acoustic richness. Silver Streetcar for the Orchestra, despite its title, calls for nothing more than a triangle, and the performance consists of merely (merely!) "changing the pressure of the fingers on the triangle as well as the speed and loudness of the tapping." The result is simply astounding. 947 is another of the composer's explorations of the acoustic beats that appear - and disappear - when sustained tones from a live instrument (Jacqueline Martelle's flute) interfere with pure waves. On Ever Present, the waves sweep both upwards and downwards two octaves, as Erik Drescher (flute), Akiko Okabe (piano) and Sascha Armbruster (alto sax) slip their sustained tones in to intersect with their stately curve. The shape of the waves is a precise translation into music of the plan of the oval walkways Robert Irwin created for the garden of the Getty Center in LA. "It was beautiful to watch the people walking through the garden," Lucier notes. "They seemed to be in a special frame of mind, feeling the spaces.." So will you be when you hear this.
--- Dan Warburton, www.paristransatlantic.com/, May 2007
Also by ALVIN LUCIER on Mode Records:
Navigations for Strings; Small Waves (mode 124)
Alvin Lucier profile
© Mode Records