Sunday, September 14, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: From Feldman to Ayler and Iyer

Morton Feldman: Complete Works for Two Pianos. 2002. Alice Musik Produktion: ALCD 024.

Kristine Scholz: piano
Mats Persson: piano

Vertical Thoughts 1 for Two Pianos (1963)
Intermission 6 for One or Two Pianos (1953)
Projection 3 for Two Pianos (1951)
Two Pieces for Two Pianos (1954)
Piano (Three Hands) (1957)
Intermission 6 for One or Two Pianos (1953)
Piano Four Hands (1958)
Work for Two Pianists (1958)
Ixion - For Two Pianos (1958)
Intermission 6 for One or Two Pianos (1953)
Two Pianos (1957)

It was a fortunate happenstance that brought this CD into my collection. A casual glance that somehow registered "Morton Feldman" in a place I didn't expect to find him. Fitting for a music that stretches the conscious mind into a listening state best described as "Feldman-esque" and filled with unexpected sensory extremes.

Quiet, serene sonic landscapes drawing heavily upon Feldman's affinity for abstract painting. Each gesture reaches the attentive ear with a graceful sense of space, a sense of using slight brush strokes along a canvas marked by silence. Beautifully realized by Scholz and Persson as the effort of playing within a meditation leaves no trace of strain or rushed intention and every indication of understanding these pieces and textures. The tranquility feels natural - this is the challenge posed by extended periods of time within such a narrow dynamic range constructed of such deliberate formal stasis.

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [box set] - disc 8. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.

Interviews with Albert Ayler:
with Birger Jorgensen for "Afterbeat" radio program - December 1964 and November 1966 in Copenhagen, Denmark
with Daniel Caux fo "France Culture" - July 1970 in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France

The music of Albert Ayler was the journey of an artist seeking out that which is honest and that which is creative. That such journeys are routinely viewed with suspicion and hostility is a traditional component of artistic development. In these interviews one can hear the mix of bewilderment and conviction present in the complicated development of one of the great free jazz players of the twentieth century. The conviction that there is no good reason for the misunderstandings that dogged him is particularly touching. The supportive refuge found in Europe balanced against the desire to bring this music "home" to America. The characterization of Cecil Taylor as both "brilliant" and "hard" against his own conception of "smooth" is particularly interesting. There is the desire to reach backward through the decades to this pure creative soul and reassure him that history will be kind to his work. That it will inspire so many. The hostility of its own time belonging to smaller minds incapable of transcendence or forward thinking. The desire to reach back and blunt the frustrations that contributed in no small way to cutting down this voice prematurely. If anything, these recordings manage to reach forward toward understanding for those walking similar paths in our own time.

Vijay Iyer: Reimagining. 2005. Savoy Jazz: SVY 17475.

Vijay Iyer: piano
Rudresh Mahanthappa: also saxophone
Stephan Crump: bass
Marcus Gilmore: drums

It is easy to imagine being absorbed into the same ideas that occupy the mind of Vijay Iyer. The disjointed phrasing of his improvisations in "Revolutions" follows much of my own sense of contour. The re-imagined treatment of John Lennon's "Imagine" applies a different gravity than the original that presents the twin faces of recognizing both the original song and the new sensibility applied toward turning it into a contemporary expression of longing for peace in our time. The shock of realizing that Vijay Iyer was sitting beside me - absorbed in the same colloquium experience as myself at Guelph last week - carries into the many turns toward recognition lurking in the creative expression of Reimagining. An uncommon sound from an instrument Iyer and I share in common. A rewarding music to apply ears toward.

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