For this evening’s outing, offered is a collection of some pieces of experimental and improvised music for which the instruments are not simply the tools, instead to a large extent constituting what it is actually about.
Beginning with a collective from Brooklyn which furnishes next to no information about itself, Found Sound Nation, there is not a single track but a set of seven which are the results of an outdoors recording session conducted by these musicians when, in the context of a summer festival held at Lincoln Center in July, they set up a booth “to engage passersby and festival musicians in the spontaneous, collaborative production of original music.” Quite matter-of-factly they have entitled it “Lincoln Center Street Studio” and, the stationary setting of their improvisational exercise notwithstanding, the street is in fact its virtual element, for this is a sequence of tracks which, sonically at least, sets off afoot through the city, as one passer-by amidst the multitude.
There are few constants in this succession: during a span of not much more than ten minutes, the pace speeds up and slows down, while now and again the sounds that are heard advance or recede, as the strolling observers or else protagonists of this urban excursion continue on their ways, zig-zagging through the Manhattan grid, and with each turning of a corner they are precipitated into another mood, are entranced by another scene, or perhaps even briefly enter another and quite different world.
(Do we while wandering in the city find sounds such as these – or have they found us?)
An intriguing and eerie sonic collocation has been thought up by the pianist and composer in Arnhem Lennart Siebers, in what is tonight’s second track, the piece “Something Weird or Something Wuh?” In this work for a quartet, Siebers, who seems to have embraced the idea of improvisation as a compositional practice, presumably having sketched out the guidelines for the execution of the whole, himself performs on the piano, and is joined by the violinist Frank Brempel, the violist Anna-Sophie Becker, and the cellist Veit Steinmann.
In its entirety, or at least for the most part, Siebers’ improvisatory composition would work well as the accompaniment to a slower piece of contemporary dance, interspersed as it is with pizzicati and tango bits and the expectant anxiety of what sounds like the opening and closing of doors or shutters mounted on hinges that squeak.
An older work for guitar by the composer Georg Hajdu is the third and final track for tonight. Premiered in 1999 in Tbilisi, it “is an imaginary trip through different musical landscapes,” he avers, and listening to the progression through a number of musical styles and manners of playing the instrument, one is inclined to assent to this description – to agree that what “Re: Guitar” is about, or what it renders into music, is indeed an itinerant inquiry into the variegated echoes of space in the sounds of the regions visited along the way.
However, the title of this piece might also be taken to suggest something else, namely, that here the guitar as an instrument is involved in a trial – made to testify on the stand (though one can only surmise on whose behalf) and then subjected to a few rounds of cross-examination, in which it has not exactly to confirm, but rather, by means of the composure it maintains in the face of this barrage, to convey its own veracity to the court, be it by an occasional high-pitched retort or a deep growl of displeasure, or even, when the professional wrangling is worst, by tapping out on the rostrum its impatience with the proceedings altogether.