AMN Reviews: Dedalus-Antoine Beuger-Jurg Frey

Dedalus-Antoine Beuger-Jurg Frey [Potlatch P113]

The three lengthy pieces presented here were selected from a concert dedicated to work by composers associated with the Wandelweiser group, held in April 2012 at l’Ancienne Brasserie Bouchouie in Paris. The compositions—two by Antoine Beuger and one by Jurg Frey—were realized by the composers (on flute and clarinet, respectively) and Dadelus Ensemble members Didier Aschour (guitar); Cyprien Busolini (viola); Stephane Garin (percussion and vibes) and Theirry Madiot (trombone).

The CD opens with Beuger’s Meditations poetiques sur quelque chose d’autre. Like the other two compositions collected here it features a quiet dynamic and expansive sense of space. The performance is anchored in long-held notes interwoven with a layer of voices, as some of the performers sing slowly and quietly in a chantlike manner. If there were a secular equivalent of sacred polyphony for the 21st century, this is what it would sound like.

The second piece, Frey’s Canones incerti, is constructed out of brief, recurring motifs and long-duration tones. Beginning with Beuger’s flute, the performance unfolds in slow layers of harmonic fluctuation—the sense of a root is strong, but there is a certain ambiguity encoded in the alternation of major and minor thirds throughout. The overlap of guitar and vibes makes for a particularly nice timbral relationship.

The last piece is Beuger’s Lieux de passage, an exceptionally sparse composition built around a slow melody for clarinet. The rest of the ensemble supports this lead voice with occasional interjections of very long tones, often resulting in a subtle tension of suspended harmonies. This is a kind of pointillism in which the points are actually extended lines.

One quality common to these three compositions is the superimposition of almost transparent sheets of sounds. In addition to the ensemble’s sounds there is another layer of sound present in this recording—the layer of ambient sound that occasionally overshadows the music. The sounds of traffic, the audience, miscellaneous environmental noise—all of this comes prominently into the field of hearing. In a sense this makes the recording a kind of field recording of a concert rather than a concert recording per se. Some listeners may find the appearance of these non-musical sounds an intrusion, while others will find it a stimulating demonstration of the relationship of performance to site.