Archive for the 'contemporary European' Category

Dominique Lawalrée – Vis à Vis

Dominique Lawalrée - Vis à Vis LP front cover
Dominique Lawalrée - Vis à Vis LP back cover
Dominique Lawalrée - Vis à Vis LP side A

Apparently his 5th LP, Dominique Lawalrée‘s “Vis à Vis”, or Face to Face, published in 1979, is entirely played on a Bösendorfer grand piano, but instead of the brick and mortar barrage of fortissimos this kind of instrument is prone to (think Cecil Taylor, for instance), here it is used to enunciate semi-detached, tentative piano chords and to explore different shades of silence, so to speak.  In this respect, Vis à Vis is very close to Spanish composer Federico Mompou‘s piano cycle Musica Callada, or Silent Music (1959-67), itself a cornerstone of European minimalist music. Vis à Vis is a kind of update of Musica Callada, incorporating Lawalrée’s typical Belgian saudade and sublimely nostalgic mood. This music suits rainy days well, I find.

01 Bonjour Chez Vous ! (2:00)
02 Listen To The Quiet Voice (3:58)
03 Lost In Useless Territory (1:18)
04 Remember Those Quiet Evenings (7:04)
05 Personnages (2:55)
06 Morton A Fait Peur A Karlheinz (8:32)
07 Poissons Rouges, La Nuit…  (12:51)

Total time 38:40
LP released by Walrus, ref. WLS 006, Brussels, Belgium, 1979

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Lucien Bertolina – Aller Simple

Lucien Bertolina - Aller Simple LP front cover
Lucien Bertolina - Aller Simple LP spread
Lucien Bertolina - Aller Simple LP side A

French composer Lucien Bertolina, born 1946, was first an improvisor and trombone player before becoming one of the leading figures in electroacoustic music in the South of France when he co-founded the Marseilles electroacoustic music studio, or Groupe de Musique Expérimentale de Marseille, in 1969 with Jacques Diennet, George Boeuf and Michel Redolfi. Other musicians working at the studio have included Patrick Portella and Raphaël de Vivo. Also a film music composer, radiophonic artist and field recordist, Bertolina created an independent local radio in Marseilles named Radio Grenouille with a special focus on radiophonic art and field recordings.

First composed in 1982 for trombone and tape, Aller Simple was transcribed for cello and tape in 1985. The tape part consists of processed synthesizer, musique concrete sounds and found sounds including some conversation and train recordings. The music is a gorgeous, poetical travelogue retaining its mystery and impenetrability  throughout the piece. In Aller Simple, the acoustic instrument runs parallel to the tape and doesn’t interfere or take the lead, while Vorticosamente is more like a cello+electronics dialogue where tape parts underline the acoustic instrument or function as a counterpoint. Some of the tape music consists in pre-recorded cello parts.

01 Aller Simple (17:45)
02 Vorticosamente (15:40)

Norbert Bordetti, cello
Lucien Bertolina, electronics and tape

Total time 33:25
LP released by GMEM, ref. AL02, France, 1985

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Dominique Lawalrée – Clandestin

Dominique Lawalrée - Clandestin LP front cover
Dominique Lawalrée - Clandestin LP back cover
Dominique Lawalrée - Clandestin LP side A

Collecting tracks recorded between 1979 and 1981, Dominique Lawalrée‘s achingly melancholic Clandestin LP, published in 1982, belongs to his more “experimental” period, before he turned to solo piano and church organ – on Lawalrée, see previous post.

In Clandestin, the composer explores the possibilities of various keyboards to channel his deeply nostalgic melodies, including the Wurlitzer and Hohner electric pianos, or the Yamaha CS80 and Roland String synthesizers. The music combines minimal piano playing with these electronic instruments to conjure images of an urban nostalgia infused with the personal feelings and reminiscences of a sorrowful mind. Yet each track is also complemented with either field recordings (the church carillon at end of tr.#1, the street recording on #5), spoken word (the interview on #3 and the poetry reading on #5), or found sounds (the radio report on the death of John Lennon in 1980 on #6). In tr.#5 Millénaire, it takes 5 mins to Lawalrée to muster the words “Bruxelles a eu 1000 ans cet été” (or, Brussels turned 1,000 years old last summer), as the sentence is broken into multiple parts and constantly interrupted by tentative electric piano chords.

One last thing: if you look at the front and back cover images, you’ll realize the composer is sitting almost at the same place as the little girl in the painting, as if he had paused, surrounded by autumn leaves, to listen to the absent music of some vanished musicians. I can’t think of a better metaphor to describe Lawalrée’s “musique en creux” on this extraordinary disc.

01 Rainy Sunday: Dimanche Pluvieux (6:28)
02 Le Secret Blanc (14:28)
03 La Maison Des 5 Éléments (9:34)
04 Please Do Not Disturb (2:10)
05 Millénaire (5:05)
06 Now Peace For Beatle John (2:04)

Total time 40:00
LP released by Walrus, ref. WLS 011, Brussels, Belgium, 1982

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Dominique Lawalrée – Traces

Dominique Lawalrée - Traces LP front cover
Dominique Lawalrée - Traces LP back cover
Dominique Lawalrée - Traces LP side A

Belgian composer, keyboard player and educator Dominique Lawalrée, born in Brussels in 1954, studied music in Namur and began composing in 1973. With a name inspired by his love of The Beatles (I Am the Walrus, 1967), Lawalrée launched Walrus records in 1976 when he was only 22 years-old. Walrus was the vehicle of choice for the release of his own music, though he also published a great 2xLP compilation with Baudouin Oosterlynck, Eric de Visscher and Robert Fesler in 1984 (W.L.S. 012/13). Lawalrée’s music until the mid-1980s is a delightful mix of synthesizer exploration in the vein of Brian Eno and Roedelius, piano minimalism à la Satie, as well as personal ideas in the form of field recordings, sound collages and spoken word – for instance, his 1983 mini-LP Six jours à Barcelone (6 Days in Barcelona) included bird sounds. In the 1980s, Dominique Lawalrée also collaborated with musical ensemble TEMV with a.o. composers Guy de Bièvre, Boudewijn Buckinx, Dieter Kaufmann, Jurgen Rapp or Arsène Souffriau. Electroacoustic music composer Annette Vande Gorne was the sound engineer on several Lawalrée LPs of the 1980s like Taciturne and Litanies du Monde à Venir. At the end of the 1980s, Lawalrée changed the name of Walrus to Music Today, the label through which he releases all his music… today (see website).

Published in 1978, Lawalrée’s 3rd LP Traces – the 4th Walrus release – is an instrumental sound diary of sorts, with tracks relating to personal experiences, memories and anecdotes. Immediately striking is the palpable nostalgia permeating this disc, a trait typical from this composer. The LP is also notable for the variety of techniques and experiments, something which will be less present in later solo piano albums. From the backward running tape and electronic drone of the opener to the noisy sound collage of tr. #5 K7 Music, or the atonality and furious dissonant piano chords of #4 First Meeting, the LP clearly documents early experiments in music making. Some tracks also pay homage to Lawalrée’s major influences, like #07 Hello, You’re The W. inspired by The Beatles, and #8, a Satie homage. The strange wordless singing on #06 Pleine Lune reminds Baudouin Oosterlynck’s own work with disabled people.

01 Post-Scriptum (4:45)
02 Well ! (:32)
03 Waiting For The Bus (3:48)
04 First Meeting … (5:12)
05 K7 Music (6:18)
06 Pleine Lune : Insomnie (2:33)
07 Hello, You’re The W. (5:08)
08 Musique Satieérique (1:46)
09 Et Caetera (1:36)
10 Mouvements III (2:21)
11 Minimum II (2:36)
12 Le Temps Fuit Sans Retour (4:42)
13 For Alexandre (1:31)

Total time 43:00
LP released by Walrus, ref. W.L.S. 004, Brussels, Belgium, 1978

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Partial discography until 1985
(all on Walrus Records):

1976 Infinitudes, W.L.S. 001
1977 Le choix du titre est un faux problème, W.L.S. 003
1978 Traces, W.L.S. 004
1978 Brins d’herbes, W.L.S. 005
1979 Vis-à-vis, W.L.S. 006
1980 Vice-versa, W.L.S. 010
1982 Clandestin, W.L.S. 011
1983 Six jours à Barcelone e.p., ref. S1
1984 Still life, W.L.S. 012/13
1984 Taciturne, W.L.S. 014
1985 Litanies du Monde à Venir, W.L.S. 015

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Gilius van Bergeijk – Over de Dood en de Tijd

Gilius van Bergeijk - Over de Dood en de Tijd LP front cover
Gilius van Bergeijk - Over de Dood en de Tijd LP back cover
Gilius van Bergeijk - Over de Dood en de Tijd LP side 1

Gilius van BergeijkDutch saxophonist, electronic and contemporary music composer Gilius van Bergeijk, born 1946, studied with Kees van Baaren and Dick Raaijmakers. While teaching electronic music at The Hague Royal Conservatory since 1972, he also collaborated with Peter Brötzmann, Willem Breuker and the Instant Composers Pool. See the Wikipedia article for more info. Van Bergeijk’s trademark style of deconstructing pre-existing music and systematic use of a limited number of elements in his compositions is masterfully showcased on this LP, which pairs 2 emblematic works by the composer.

Over de Dood en de Tijd, or On Death and Time, after Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, is an ambitious work in 3 parts. In the 1st, noisy, distorted electronic sounds emulate voices trying to emerge from a chaotic background – this part is reminiscent of Dick Raaijmakers’ own, ultra-radical Ballad ‘Erlkönig’ from 1966. In the 2nd movement, starting around 7:50, contralto Geertje Kuipers and pianist Jan Sprij interpret the Schubert original song, while the composer meticulously edits the tape to alter the pitch of some notes, progressively creating a cyborg version of the song. The effect is subtle but quite unsettling. Actually, Over de Dood… is entirely based on this natural vs. artificial duality, as the 3rd part will again show. In this final section, starting at 20:40, the notes played by church organist Huub ten Hacken trigger crunchy, noisy electronic sounds superimposed over his playing. The electronic filtering is configured so as to completely deface the natural sound, replacing it with ugly, artificial noises Van Bergeijk’ calls “jubilant cracking”, supposed to destroy (musical) Time. All in all, the entire piece is masterfully realized and conceptually powerful.

In 1970, Van Bergeijk was commissioned to write a piece for the newly restored Busy Drone mechanical organ, or De Bezige Bij in Dutch, housed in Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum since 1972. A musical deconstruction of Johan Sebastian Bach’s Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe, BAC was painfully punched on paper rolls by 2 assistants. It is a lively piece, basically emulating the 2 instruments of the original Concerto, while the organ playing is interrupted several times by a jazz drum solo and… castanets! From what I understand, Bach’s original score was submitted to aleatory procedures and parts of the score were scattered over the length of the piece while the square waltz form remained intact, thus creating an effect of familiarity and unfamiliarity at the same time, an aural illusion. It’s not Bach you’re hearing, it’s BAC, as “the last beat of each bar of all three movements was excised and put together in the same order to form a fourth movement” (from liner notes). There’s an analysis of BAC in Dutch on this page. Another short Van Bergeijk composition for the same organ appeared on The Busy Drone compilation LP on BVHaast in 1981. The sound of this organ is not perfect and a few hiccups can be heard on the BVHaast LP, adding to an already very lively and colorful sonority.

  1. Over de Dood en de Tijd (29:41)
    for electronic, voice, piano and organ
  2. BAC (15:25)
    for mechanical organ

Total time 45:06
LP released by Donemus/Composers’ Voice, ref. CV 8203, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1982

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Betsy Jolas – D’un Opéra de Voyage

Betsy Jolas - D'un Opéra de Voyage 7in front cover
Betsy Jolas - D'un Opéra de Voyage 7in back cover
Betsy Jolas - D'un Opéra de Voyage 7in side B

Born in 1926, French contemporary music composer Betsy Jolas was a Domaine Musical associate during the 1960s and her first compositions were interpreted by Boulez’s Orchestre du Domaine Musical – see official website–, yet she remained an independent composer and did not adhere strictly to the Serialist dogma. Recorded in 1969 by the Domaine Musical conducted by Gilbert Amy, this disc was Betsy Jolas’ first record release, published in the highly collectible Impact de la Musique Contemporaine collection of 7inch singles, appearing on Disques Adès between 1969 and 1974 (see gallery and discography here). Adès was Pierre Boulez’s record company during the 1960s and published his Schoenberg Pierrot Lunaire LP in 1962 and the Marteau Sans Maître LP in 1964.

Composed for a small orchestra of 22 instruments, D’un Opéra de Voyage was premiered in 1967 at the Festival de Royan by the Orchestre du Domaine Musical conducted by Michael Gielen. It belongs to a series of orchestral and chamber music works Jolas calls “opera” (also including D’un opéra de Poupée en Sept Musiques and Frauenleben, both 1982) despite the absence of singer. The imaginative instrumentation of D’un Opéra de Voyage recalls the Stravinski of Renard or L’Histoire du Soldat, in part due to the use of isolated percussion and reeds, while hints of Klangfarbenmelodie point to the influence of Webern on mid-century European composers.

D’un Opéra De Voyage (side 1+2) (9:40)

7in single released by Disques Adès, France, between 1969 and 1974

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Jean Françaix – L’Insectarium

Jean Françaix - L'Insectarium 7in front cover
Jean Françaix - L'Insectarium 7in back cover
Jean Françaix - L'Insectarium 7in side 1

Composed in 1953, the short harpsichord cycle L’Insectarium (The Insectarium) by French composer Jean Françaix (1912–1997) was premiered in 1957 by the legendary harpsichord player Wanda Landowska. It is here interpreted by Marga Scheurich, a Johan Sebastian Bach specialist and member of Stuttgarter Collegium Instrumentale, and later Stuttgarter Kammermusikensemble and Stuttgarter Kammerorchester. German label Da Camera (founded 1962) published several harpsichord records with Scheurich in the 1960s, including  Pachelbel’s Hexachordum Apollinis 1699. Scheurich plays a German harpsichord with a specifically German Baroque sonority, not without its own charm, but not the kind of instrument one would expect in French harpsichord music. Anyway, her playing is lively and contrasted, as required by a colorful score inspired by the world of insects, as each part of L’Insectarium is named after, and inspired by, an insect.

01 La Scolopendre | The Scolopendra (1:03)
02 La Coccinelle | The Ladybird (2:46)
03 L’Argyronète | The Water Spider (1:52)
04 Les Talitres | Sand Hoppers (1:52)
05 Le Scarabée | The Stag Beetle (1:47)
06 Les Fourmis | Ants (1:13)

Marga Scheurich, harpsichord

Total time 10:30
7in single released by Da Camera, Germany, between 1962 and 1969

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Josef Matthias Hauer – Das Zwölftonspiel

Josef Matthias Hauer – Das Zwölftonspiel LP front cover
Josef Matthias Hauer – Das Zwölftonspiel LP back cover
Zwölftonschrift
Josef Matthias Hauer – Das Zwölftonspiel LP side 1

Austrian composer Josef Mattias Hauer (1883–1959) claimed to be the inventor of the twelve-tone composition technique in 1919–20, yet he didn’t have the charisma and mentorship that could have brought him the fame of Arnold Schoenberg’s dogma. Hauer’s music is based on a strict, obligatory use of all 12 notes of the chromatic scale and an arithmetical and mystical approach to composing. His interest for color music was inspired by Goethe’s Farbenlehre, and he devised correspondences between certain colors and notes, a system he developed in diagrams and drawings. He wrote for solo instrument, chamber ensemble, orchestra and opera. After 1940, he composed exclusively in the Zwölftonspiele, or Plays on Twelve Tones, technique, creating a great number of, yet unpublished, works, most of them without title except for the date of composition or instrumentation required. This disc features a selection of Zwölftonspiele, mostly played on harpsichord, or Cembalo, by Viktor Sokolowski (1911-82), a student of Hauer.

[Thanks to reader"newname" for his help with this post]

01 Vierklänge 1:08
02 Figuration mit einer Baßstimme 1:33
03 Sechsklänge 1:07
04 Prinzipalstimme mit einer Obligatstimme 1:21
05 Kontinuum 2:10
06 Zwei Stimmen 1:39
07 Vierklänge mit einer Prinzipalstimme 1:12
08 Vierhändiges Spiel 2:01
09 Paraphonie für Bratsche und Cembalo 1:41
10 Zweifach gebrochene Vierklänge des Kontinuums 1:24
11 Zwölftonspiel für Violine und Cembalo 1:22
12 Zwölftonspiel für Flöte und Cembalo 1:53

Total time 39:10
LP released by Philips, Vienna, Austria, 1973

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