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2010-03-09

yukoz2010-03-09

[] Michael Pisaro - Harmony Series 11 - 16 (EWR 0710) - Part 1


"Harmony Series 11 - 16" (2004-2006) is a realization of nine pieces from Michael Pisaro's series of 34 pieces, performed by seven musicians including Pisaro. The score to each of the pieces on this CD contains one poem each from six poets including Paul Celan, Robert Lax, Gertrude Stein, Robert Creeley, Wallace Stevens and George Oppen, followed by the composer’s short instructions for the performers. Each piece is divided into several events corresponding to the verse breaks of the poem, sometimes into several groups with small events. Silences are placed in between sections and between groups. The number of performers and the total duration of each piece are set in the score, but pitches and tunings of sounds, the timing of playing sounds and the length of silences are left open for the performers' own decisions. The volume of each sound, set as "very soft, very pure tone”, and the characteristic of each pause, defined as "peaceful and thoughtful silence" (this is only explicitly written once, but seems to be overarching), seem to be crucial factors of the series.

In this series, Pisaro focused on the structure of harmony - especially on how the resonances of harmonic overtones create 'fluctuation', a mysterious subtle wave happening in the course of the music. When one sound is played with other sounds simultaneously, or when one sound disappears from a harmony, how does this appearance or disappearance of the sound affect each other and the harmony? How does the timing of adding sounds and a combination of sounds with different natures (like instruments and electronic sounds) change the influence? This series seems to aim at experimenting and presenting this 'wonder of harmonic overtone' from both mathematical and artistic points through various combinations of musicians’ performances.

The sounds presented here are minimal sounds that have extremely soft and pure quality. The dynamics (or a life) of each poem is expressed in each performer's sounds - like which tone or tuning to choose, what timing to add a sound, how soft and pure the sound should be, and how long a silence should be. In a way, the level of each performer's understanding of the score and the poem is combined with the performer's ability for expressiveness to determine the profoundness of the music. It seems to be highly challenging for performers, but if all the factors work perfectly well together, there is a possibility that some incredible music could be born - when the spirit and the life of each poem are successfully translated into an appropriate series of sounds.

The performances of the nine scores in the "Harmony Series 11 - 16" are beautifully achieved. Subtle fluctuations of sounds that were born from resonances of harmonic overtones give gentle waves to the music, like little stones thrown on the surface of tranquil water, and slightly resonate with the transparent, introspective stillness and the universal beauty of each poem written in the score. The four pieces that Greg Stuart performed alone with plural sounds of percussion instruments especially stand out as amazing. Here, Stuart perfectly embodied the composer’s intention to translate the subtle dynamics of each poem into music. You can almost sense the same visual image that each poem evokes, just from Stuart's percussion sounds.

Extremely soft and pure sounds emphasize subtle changes in the harmony that are born from various resonances of harmonic overtones. They may be hard to perceive but affect the music deeply, and if you listen carefully like looking into a microscope, you can perceive this wondrous phenomenon happening in the microworld of harmony. Combined with the introspective atmosphere each silence brings, these factors give the music a similar tranquility and magical power as the source poems contain, adding a memorable beauty to the whole music. It captures your heart and mind - just like you were wandering into a deep forest alone and looking into a small pool of transparent spring water, in a stillness of elongated time.

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