Whether to go long or short—with a composition, an improvisation, or even an entire release—is one of those basic architectural decisions any artist must make. No single way is the right way; it all depends on the music and the creative goals in mind. Two recent releases, each occupying a different end of the gamut, make it clear that one length doesn’t fit all.
Brazilian sound artist Luã Brito’s l’air le feu l’eau et le terre is a set of four electronic pieces that hit the point squarely at the center and then say no more. Each piece was inspired by one of the four classical elements of nature, as hypothesized by the 5th century Greek philosopher Empedocles. Brito evokes each through abstract means, by using a single sound or sound source to allude to a particular quality associated with the element. For earth, Brito employs a recording of the sounds of a hand drum played with irregularly clustered beats. The electronic sounds for air waft and oscillate as if carried along by a current, while the piece dedicated to water seems to reference the cyclical motion of eddies. Fire’s rattling suggests the sound of crackling flames. The length of the pieces ranges from two minutes to three-and-a-half minutes, with no sound wasted. Brito’s is a terse, direct musical rhetoric.
In contrast to Brito’s suite of miniatures, Gelber Flieder’s ölbaumgewächse contains a single, 31-minute-long improvisation recorded live in Paris in December of 2016. Following a sung introduction—a children’s song about a crocodile in the Danube, if my forty-years’-rusty German still serves—the music begins in earnest. The three musicians—Yves Arques on objects and electronics, João Camões on viola, and Luise Volkmann on saxophone—play a mostly densely textured, timbrally intense music that draws liberally on extended technique.