AMN Reviews General Releases Reviews

AMN Reviews: Quatuor Bozzini – Alvin Lucier: Navigations[2021; CQB 2128_NUM]

There have been many technical and technological innovations in music since 1945 but one of the most important aesthetic innovations has been in new ideas that focus on listening. Innovators like Pierre Schaeffer proposed the idea of reduced listening – an attitude in which sound is listened to for its own sake as a sound object, removed from its source. John Cage invited listeners to hear any sound as music. Pauline Oliveros encouraged listeners to actively experience all sounds through a practice she described as “deep listening”. These ideas all contributed to contemporary music’s focus on the experience of sound itself.

Alvin Lucier’s compositions and installations make use of sounds that are often the results of acoustic phenomena. His work focuses our attention and perception on the physical presence of sound interacting within a particular space. Performing Lucier’s compositions requires performers to learn to recognize, activate, play and interact with acoustic phenomena. The Quatuor Bozzini were clearly up for the challenge when they recorded “Alvin Lucier: Navigations”. The album opens with “Disappearances”, a piece that is a single note. That description may sound like it is minimalist to the extreme but to my ears it is a piece rich with development. You hear changes in weight and timbre as each string joins together in unison. The controlled motions of the string’s bows cause phasing and filtering of the sound. The tiny subtle changes in pitch causes beating which reveals pulsating difference tones. Each of these phenomena disappear into one another creating a feeling of movement and making the listener aware of the tiniest changes in pitch and timbre.

The album contains two realizations of “Group Tapper”, a piece that explores room acoustics by having the instrumentalists treat their instruments as percussion. The performers tap on their instruments in various places and reflect the sound coming from their instruments around the room. The recording engineer does a great job of making the room present on this album so that you can really hear how the group’s performance interacts with the room. Placed in between the two realizations of “Group Tapper” is for me the most striking piece on this recording, “Unamuno”.  The piece was inspired by early twentieth century Spanish writer  Miguel de Unamuno and it was originally written for voices. “Unamuno” is based around four pitches that are continuously arranged into different patterns. It has a probing and questioning kind of vibe to it. The Bozzini’s perform the piece with both strings and their voices. The result is absolutely stunning. 

The album finishes with “Navigations for Strings”. At a high level “Navigations for Strings” and “Unamuno” share some of the same types of ingredients. Both pieces are based on four pitches and both make use of slowly changing combinations and difference tones. However, despite these high level similarities the two pieces sound very different.  “Navigations for Strings” is a somewhat dark piece in which continuous changes in microtonality, dynamics and tempo create a sound mass that feels like it is becoming a stasis, but it’s continuous changes never allow it to rest. It is a very haunting piece.

With “Alvin Lucier: Naviagtions” the Quatuor Bozzini have gone well beyond the surface of Lucier’s scores and have totally embraced his challenge to performers to be sonic explorers. “Alvin Lucier: Naviagtions” is a wonderful album with captivating performances of one of the most original and innovative experimental composers of our time.

Highly Recommended!

Chris De Chiara

Artist Profile Performances

The lion in winter still roars but more quietly

Pierre Boulez, a friend of Górecki during the ...
Image via Wikipedia

From, a profile of Pierre Boulez and his upcoming events.

On March 26, the French composer and conductor, one of the most distinguished figures in contemporary music, will turn 85. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with which Boulez has enjoyed an exceptionally cordial relationship that goes back four decades, is celebrating that milestone with a series of concerts and discussions throughout the month that will bring audiences closer to Boulez’s music, as well as give them the chance to hear him conduct new pieces along with classics of the 20th century with which he has long been identified.

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ICE/Xenakis Site and Blog

ICE/Xenakis has launched a new blog and has the following upcoming shows.

Tracing Xenakis
The International Contemporary Ensemble Explores the Work
of a Modern Master via Podcast, Blog and Performance

“…a baptism by noise and fire that awaits every listener” – Steven Schick

Brooklyn, NY– This spring, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) embarks on an exploration of one of the 20th century’s most prodigious creative minds: the maverick composer, architect, and mathematician Iannis Xenakis.

ICE teams up with percussionist Steven Schick for a series of performances of Xenakis’s explosive chamber music in Boston on April 16, at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and in Chicago on June 4, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. In the fall, the Ensemble will bring the show to New York as part of the Composer Portraits Series at Miller Theatre of Columbia University (October 17).

“Despite his undeniable role as a musical giant of the 20th century, performances of Xenakis’ large-scale chamber works are still relatively rare in the US,” says flutist and ICE executive director Claire Chase. “With this project, we have the opportunity to bring this groundbreaking and timeless music to our audiences in Chicago, New York, and Boston. This is music that burns, rocks, grinds, blisters and surges forward with a visceral energy that you don’t normally associate with concert music. It’s a perfect match for Steve Schick, who’s one the most exciting interpreters of our time, and for the boundary-pushing, thrill-seeking young performers of ICE.”

In an effort to ground the experience of this physically charged, other-worldly repertoire for the listener, ICE is also curating a Xenakis-focused blog and podcast.

The Tracing Xenakis podcast, available for download on iTunes or through the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, features musicians of disparate genres, music scholars, aficionados, and Xenakis’ associates. The second podcast, “The Weight of Sound,” is available on April 1 and features ICE saxaphonist and composer David Remnick, Steven Schick, sound artist Francisco López, and Paul A. Miller, better known as DJ Spooky.

The ensemble’s Xenakis-focused blog ( delves into biographical, academic, inferential, and tangential thoughts around Xenakis’ life and work.

“The goal of the blog,” says curator Whit Bernard, “is to become, like the polytope models Xenakis used to compose, a repository of possible impressions–a space to explore. Over time, a picture of Xenakis will emerge that is particular to our ears, our experience, and our time.” To date, contributors have included precussionist Steven Schick, Whit Bernard, DJ Spooky and writer Marc Geelhoed.

The Concerts

Thursday, April 16 at 7:00 p.m.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
For tickets: or 617.278.5156

On the program:

Thursday, June 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
For tickets: or 312.397.4010

On the program:

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Performances Reviews

Review of Sub Rosa Label Performances

Marcel Duchamp
Image via Wikipedia


Since opening last year King’s Place concert hall has provided London concert goers with an impressive array of interesting musical performances and events. The This is Tuesday series of concerts that focuses on an admirably wide range of new music across the spectrum, from the contemporary classical performances of the Elision Ensemble and the events organised by the Society for the Protection of New Music to the improvisation of Leon Michener, has proved a fantastic addition to the city’s cultural life.

Last night a typically versatile evening of music was offered under the banner of this series. Curated by Mikhail Karikis, the experimental vocal artist from Greece, the concert included artists for whom the voice, above all else, is the medium of expression, and experiment. It also focused on artists and archives of the Sub Rosa record label, a Belgian imprint that specialises in experimental composition and experimental artists, sound art, and also holds a store of older material related to early twentieth century modernists and Dadaists such as Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Marcel Duchamp.

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New From Ambiances Magnétiques

Jean Derome performing with Jandek, Loren Robe...
Image via Wikipedia

A few new releases from Ambiances Magnétiques, a French-Canadian label.

Sébastien Cirotteau/Brigitte Lacasse/Catherine S Massicotte/Éric Normand-Face à la Dérive
“During a ten days residence in Rimouski (Québec), the artists made documentary sounds recordings: interviews and soundscapes. They listen to the sounds heard along the St Lawrence River, underwater, and to the voices of peoples living around. Based on a dinamyc use of these recordings, “Face à la dérive” is a cycle of improvised performances using both musical intruments and acousmatic sounds.”

Michel F. Cote/Isaiah Ceccarelli-Vulgarities
“Bored of the future, two drummers meet and ask each other: what can we do when we’re just two drummers? “We can be vulgar” was the answer. They put together a few vague ideas and obsessions. For the sake of amateurism, they added their respective failures. This meeting is the audible result of being overworked. What comes out of it is a sullen form of grace, an elegy for the destruction of things. In short, this CD features the sound of a plethora of objects being struck and stroked.”

Ensemble Super Musique-Y’a du Bruit dans ma Cabane
“Y’a du Bruit dans ma Cabane, Ensemble SuperMusique’s second CD, marks a serious side step from its debut Canevas +, which culled excerpts from concerts presented in Montréal between 1998 and 2004, and featured various facets and line-ups of the group. This brand-new release is the product of a single line-up and features some tasty homogeneity. One really hears a group sound from beginning to end. One can feel the unity of breath, the deep and intense cohesion existing between Jean Derome, Joane Hétu, Diane Labrosse, Danielle Palardy Roger, Pierre Tanguay, and Martin Tétreault. Built from concepts suggested by Derome, Hétu, Labrosse, and Roger, this lively shack full of adventurous sonic outbursts is inhabited by a true family, a team of improvisation champs. A fun shack where sonic brilliance has been enhanced by Paul Dolden’s magic ears.”

Philippe Lauzier/Pierre-Yves Martel/Kim Myhr/Martin Tétreault-Disparition de l’usine éphémère
“Disparition de l’usine éphémère is the first release of a quartet consisting of prominent improvisers from Québec and Norway. The peculiar combination of old and new instruments renders a poetic image of a faded, bygone industrial plant. The quartet works within both narrow and broad acoustic areas: sometimes focusing on a tiny vibration, other times a polyphonic orchestra of pipes, pumps, wheels, objects, bells and motors ring together: a multiplicity of cogwheels spinning in different tempos, all working together to create a large machine of acoustic and electronic sounds.”

Joelle Leandre/Quentin Sirjacq-Out of Nowhere
“If a book is not to be judged by its cover, as the saying goes, here is one recording whose title should not be mistaken as a collection of jazz standards. But all of the music contained in these eleven tracks literally comes from out of nowhere, the result of an impromptu encounter of two like-minded players. By now it may well be unnecessary to introduce Joëlle Léandre, but it’s worth noting here that “Madame Contrebasse” has always thrived in these intimate duo settings, a fact borne out in her considerable discography. Almost 25 years her junior, pianist (and fellow countryman) Quentin Sirjacq heralds from a different generation; yet, improvisation enables the keyboardist to bridge the gap with his former Mills College teacher-mentor and carve out a very personal musical space à deux. Don’t expect them to fall into any of those soloist and accompanist routines, or contests of wits and chops; instead, these collaborations are full of nuance and detail, like chiaroscuro effects floating gracefully over their soundscapes. Primarily introspective, with a couple of more jaunty escapades along the way, the music is warm and inviting, but never does it lapse into a kind of facile easy listening ambiance. Beyond all labels and descriptions, this offering will reach both heart and mind alike.”

Quatuor Bozzini-Arbor Vitae
“The sixth volume of the collection, Arbor Vitæ, pays homage to the Canadian-American composer James Tenney with performances of the complete quartets and quintets. These works were composed over a period of more than 50 years, from the first string quartet, written at 21, to the last, posthumous quartet. Through various acoustic and musical phenomena, Tenney creates broad, open musical spaces, making music that is both rigorous and sensual. We feel privileged and honoured to be associated with these works by one of the most important North American composers of the 20th century.”

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