AMN Reviews: Michael Pisaro – Melody, Silence [Potlatch P115]

20282Guitarist/composer Michael Pisaro is a well-known figure associated with the Wandelweiser group, a fluid collective of composers and musicians interested as much in the spaces in between sounds as in the sounds alone. This interest is conveyed not only in the title of this single long work for solo guitar, played by Chilean guitarist Cristián Alvear, but in the structure of the work itself.

Melody—or more frequently, harmony—and silence are the two fundamental states between which the forty-six minute long piece oscillates. The piece is largely a sequence of discrete chords or notes played individually or clustered together in packets of a few, separated by silences. Each chord or tone is allowed to linger and decay at its own rate. Some chords work together like progressions with more or less expected cadences, while others eschew any allusion to resolving, sounding instead like juxtaposed aggregates of tones, some of them combined into dissonances of varying degrees of pungency. At about four minutes in, an unexpected, recurring third element is introduced—a prolonged sine tone (or ebow?) that in its initial occurrence here lasts for nine minutes or so.

Because Melody, Silence is made up of a set of components to be arranged by the performer, the piece as played on this recording is a reflection not only of Alvear’s fine touch, but of his structural choices as well.