AMN Reviews: Pauline Oliveros, Roscoe Mitchell, John Tilbury, Wadada Leo Smith – Nessuno – [i angelica di angelica – IDA035]


“Nessuno” is not the work of any one individual or musical point of view. Each of the musicians on this recording has a unique conception of sound, silence, composition and improvisation. John Tilbury is best known for his peerless interpretations of the piano music of Morton Feldman, John Cage and Cornelius Cardew. Wadada Leo Smith is a trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser that has developed his own systemic music language and was an early member of Chicago’s legendary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Roscoe Mitchell saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser is a founding member of the world renowned Art Ensemble of Chicago and the AACM. His innovation as a solo woodwind performer and his reassertion of the composer into what has traditionally been an improvisational form has placed him at the forefront of contemporary music. Pauline Oliveros composer, improviser and accordionist is a central figure in the development of experimental and post-war electronic music. She is the founder of “Deep Listening” which explores the difference between the involuntary nature of hearing and the voluntary but selective nature of listening.

“Nessuno” is a beautifully recorded performance by four of the most important and distinctive voices in improvised music. In 2011 Pauline Oliveros, Roscoe Mitchell, John Tilbury and Wadada Leo Smith gave three days of concerts at the AngelicA Festival in Bologna Italy. They performed solos, duos and then for the first time ever they performed as a quartet. Given that each of these musicians has been active in the international music community for about half a century it is amazing that they had never performed or recorded together as a quartet. Hats off to AngelicA for bringing them together and for releasing this recording, which contains the entire quartet performance in three parts.

Each of the pieces begins with a deliberate gesture by one or two of the musicians and then develops as it moves through many different textures and sound masses; from calm to intense, from the dense to open, from similar to contrasting registers, from dialogue to silence; always moving between point and counterpoint with one another. Part One is reflective and delicate. It begins with a pulsing single note piano gesture over a wooden flute melody that gets punctuated by vibraphone like sounds from the V accordion. It starts to develop into a Feldman like texture, but is suddenly transformed when the muted trumpet enters with a more chromatic melody. The sounds often seem to fuse and merge and then disappear as new sounds arrive. It is a stunning thirty-minute performance. Part Two is a bit more pointillistic; it begins with the sound of a bell that is met with high-pitched sounds from the saxophone and piano then followed by a trumpet dialogue that launches into a four-way dialogue. The piece continues to develop over the next thirty-nine minutes in which the dialogue transforms into texture or to silence, only to begin anew again till silence finally wins. Part Three is a very interesting almost synopsis of the entire performance squeezed into a five-minute encore.

“Nessuno” is highly recommended. It is just one of many excellent releases from i dischi di angelica which has released thirty-four titles since 1991; all recorded from the highly diverse contemporary music festival AngelicA in Bologna Italy. If you are not familiar with the label or the festival than you may want to pay them a visit.                  

Chris De Chiara