Michael Bonaventure

A third mainstay of a small and distinctive body of musical minimalists and electro-acoustic sound artists in Amsterdam, alongside René Baptist Huysmans and Luiz Henrique Yudo, hails from Scotland by way of London, the composer and organist Michael Bonaventure, who performs regularly in a variety of types of venue on both sides of the Channel, while his own works, with their mix of organ and other instruments, have been premiered by ensembles in several countries.

Generally speaking, they conduce listeners to reflection or dreamy trains of thought, and quite often lead to a meditative mood as well; where a listener will go or be taken while the music lasts, is likely to vary idiosyncratically, and so I shall not presume to draw up any maps thereof: but a few short remarks may nonetheless be ventured on one or two points.

Bonaventure does not hesitate to set the musical venue itself in the forefront of the work (a recollection of the formative acoustic and artistic role played by the cathedrals and churches themselves in the experience of the first organ music, is strong with him), such that the bulk of the building as well as the sum of air within it, are in effect both annexed to or encompassed within the instrument itself. In his hands the organ, pre-eminent amongst musical instruments for the sheer mass of the volume over which it can dispose, is entrusted to compositions within which, their occasional invocations of eeriness notwithstanding, it is as if one were afforded some shelter for the duration – as though one had left a portion of one’s cares in the vestibule in order to enter the rest of this domicile – welcomed by the principle of repetition familiar from minimal music which he has also embraced in his own.

Often, too, the organ’s manifold voices are sounded in order to replicate something like conversation, or more specifically the pivotal moments in the latter: namely, the reciprocal interjections by which a talk is often sustained – not suspended – be they informal, amiable, or intransigent. Whenever the ironic comedy of such interruptions is thus uncovered, the works also evince a serene sense of humor on Bonaventure’s part, one which to be sure is neither raucous nor rorty but rather wry; and it is especially at these moments that the composer invites his audience to smile with him, together in the harmless enjoyment that these foibles into which we all at times fall, have now been re-rendered in lovely music.

Of the shorter pieces which Bonaventure has made available to the public, three recommend themselves here – “Aria,” “Rondeau,” and “Hob” – while from amongst his longer series, the five pieces issued under the title “Dragon” are particularly impressive.