Wednesday 21st September

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No work today, and instead I spent a lot of time reading in a windswept garden, which was highly enjoyable, and listening to a lot of old Wandelweiser CDs, enjoying the cumulative sense of calm a great deal. Tonight’s CD is not a Wandelweiser release however, but its a quiet, at least partly composed work for an instrumental duo, so its not a million miles away. The CDr in question is from a duo named Muris, who are Neil Davidson (acoustic guitar) and Liene Rozite (flute). It is titled 10 Pin Boring, contains two pieces, the title work and a second track called Something Else. Although no label is credited on the release’s packaging, its fair to say that it can be at least related to Davidson’s Never Come Ashore project.

So the first piece here, 10 Pin Boring, is a composed work, presumably for a duo, that seems to insist of just the following text;

Write each other questions (9) before playing. Read them. Then, try to answer them by playing. Confer afterwards.

The CD sleeve then lists the two sets of nine questions that the musicians wrote for each other, though who asked which questions to whom is not revealed. The questions include such gems as “How many times will death knock?” , “What’s the best you can do?” “tell us about a time when lunch was really very unsatisfactory” and “(532+29.5÷63) + (8+9+10×8-9-10) =?”. So these questions then have to be translated into music by the musicians as they play. What we hear is a quiet, spacious set of sounds that are all acoustic, ranging from soft flute tones and spiky blasts, the occasional picked guitar note and rubbing, scraping and percussive sounds as objects are dropped onto the guitar. The question then, is can we tell from the music alone that any of these questions are being addressed? does this music sound like a composed work? Is this even a work that could be described as composed? The music is dictated by the answers that the musicians choose, so in many ways the composer(s) are the musicians themselves, with only an overarching structure causing this to be anything other than a pure improvisation. I tried to find links between the music and the questions listed on the sleeve, but, perhaps predictably, I found this an impossible task, and ended up just enjoying the music. 10 Pin Boring then is a really interesting work in that it presents a structure that really makes the musicians approach playing together quite differently, and yet the end results wouldn’t give this away at all. In fact, when the second track here, Something Else begins, which I am guessing is an improvisation, the only real difference is perhaps a very slight quickening of the pace and maybe a more dense layering of sounds. Could I genuinely tell which of the two pieces was composed and which improvised? Yes I could, but maybe only if I was aware that this was the case and I was listening for the differences.

Like Davidson’s String Quartet work, which also involved Rozite, and which I reviewed here, this is an interesting form of composition that seeks to draw out something of the musicians’ personalities and characters, both through how they answer the questions in the music, but also through how they ask them in the first place. This is music that really draws the musicians together in their thought processes as well as through the purely abstract actions involved in making musical sounds. Rarely do I read a score and wish I was a musician involved in making the music, but on this occasion I did, and I found myself wondering which questions I would ask and how they might be responded to. The improvised piece here is equally enjoyable, a light, floaty kind of a work, with Rozite’s flute tending to soar softly above a more gritty undercurrent from Davidson and the distant sounds of the city of Glasgow. Its a pleasing work by some good musicians that know each other well and the sense of comfort that they have together can be heard in the music, which isn’t tense but fits together nicely, a sense of neat construction prevailing over the tussles of more hard fought improvisations. This release is interesting not only for the sounds we hear when we press play however, but for the way the composed track was considered, the thought processes behind it, and how, as a listener I might think differently, or approach the music differently as a result of knowing the questions. More thoughtful, and also musically strong work from this duo then. Order a copy here.

 

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