Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Mysterious Marina Hardy

The review that has gathered the most responses is my one of Marina Hardy's Pink Violin last January. There was talk that the album was 'constructed' but Marina was adamant in an email to me that she had played and created it all and was offended I had asked her about it.

Since then anonymous has posted about the material being 'stolen'. The most recent points to a  continuing discussion which seems designed to attack Ms Hardy, and which includes a link to a youtube video of a ukelele player who seems to be able to play the same piece as on the Hardy cd.

I am willing to accept that the album is a complex construction - perhaps most if not all plundered from here and there - but I stand by my review that it is a fascinating and exciting album. Its full origin is just a little uncertain! Marina has reappeared on Facebook, so perhaps more will be clarified in the future.

Domenico Sciajno: Sequens

OK - it's been a while and there is a bit to cover sometime over the next weeks: things have been hectic here (new semester, selling our house, buying 20 acres, moving horses..) Last week 4 disks arrived from Bowindo (last seen in 2006) and this one blew me away - a concept plunderphonics album taht works brilliantly. I looked up the score so can explain the basics. What surprises me is that it was constructed/recorded in 1999 and has only now been released.

Here goes: Luciano Berio wrote 15 Sequenzas - solos for a variety of instruments and one vocal. Sciajno got recordings of them (14 from DG and one from BIS) and a recording of a sequenza he wrote. After digitising them he divided them into four groups - a trio, two quartets and a quintet. He then cut the pieces up and interwove them to form group works: for example Parte 1 is a trio of flute, trombone and accordion. Here Sciajno shows his mastery of how to overlap, superimpose and separate the tracks in a counterpoint. The cuts from the tracks have to be played in sequence and all have to be used. What could have been a mishmash of sound becomes a strong modern chamber work through the combination of Berio's original composition and the skill of Sciajno.

However, there is more: he then combines similar instruments (strings, brass, wind) and creates sections which are placed under the groups to create additional depth and atmosphere - 'fragments with similar characteristics have been grouped and superimposed to generate strong sections recognisable from their rhythm and harmony'. Less obvious - once you listen closely you hear them down there.

The work also develops structurally - in each part the number of tracks on the mixer increases as the groups expand and the number of sections grows (2 in Parte 1, 10 in parte 4) [the score includes window-dumps of the structures of each Parte].

To describe the music would be hard - think of modernist solo pieces exploring the dynamics of the instrument in a classical format, rather than say the outerlimits of improv, with the lines coming in and out, forming solos, duets, trios, quartets, in a complex intense but not atonal or extreme, insightful way.

I don't know if anyone else has done similar work, but this collaboration between two composers is astounding - Sciajno has remained completely faithful to Berio's compositions by 'merely' cutting/pasting them (and his own sequence fits) and created a new Berio work which was always there but never drawn out. Perhaps it is the copyright issues that have kept this hidden, but it is a masterwork worth bringing to light.