Somehow the term ‘sound sculpture’ is associated more with the carving of the air by an orchestral conductor as he creates, by these means, the virtual, four dimensional shape of the music that the orchestra must play. It’s a little harder to imagine a modern quartet playing music with a large measure of improvisation as being engaged in ‘sound sculpture’ simply because often the musical ‘shape’ that’s produced is so dynamic it is ever changing and infinitely variable. However, once you’ve embraced this dynamism it might be possible to follow the so-called ‘carving of the air’ of not one, but eight pairs of hands as they bring to the ever-changing oeuvre of Arthur Miller to life.
To enter into the intrigue of Miller’s Tale one must enter into the shrine – the New York of his storied characters – into which the playwright entered almost as if he were party to every element of the dialogue and the narrative in each of his plays. Sylvie Courvoisier, Mark Feldman, Ikue Mori and Evan Parker, each a sound sculptor in his or her own right, enter into the visceral alchemy of these narratives as questioning and trenchant pioneers of spontaneity in improvisation. The task of each of these virtuoso dazzlers could not have been more difficult: to walk the fine line between the finite facets of the spoken word and the infinite aspects of improvised music. However, in the weaving together of an imaginary tapestry of Miller’s work into a more concrete audio-visual of his beloved New York, the musicians have created a series of pieces – each one more magical than the other.
This performance is truly transformational. Each musician, separately and together, manages to strike a winning balance between the highly experimental and the deeply expressive. In each of the nine works on this disc, each score or movement has a title that points the listener in some precise direction, though the results are suffused with vivid surprises. Feldman’s violin is intrepid and brilliant. Sylvie Courvoisier seizes the ear with pointillist discernment to make every note feel like a gleaming gem. The imaginative timbres that dapple the music from Evan Parker’s saxophones are sometimes gritty and pull no punches. And it is the electronic wizardry of Ikue Mori that takes up the instrumental assignment of melding together the interweaving voices of pianist, violinist and saxophonist into a cohesive whole that brings to life Miller’s Tale.
Track List: Death of a Salesman; A View from the Bridge; The American Dream; Up from Paradise; Riding on a Smile and a Shoeshine; Playing for Time; The Reason Why; Nothing’s Planted; A Fountain Pen.
Personnel: Sylvie Courvoisier: piano; Mark Feldman: violin; Evan Parker: soprano and tenor saxophones; Ikue Mori: electronics.
Label: Intakt Records
Release date: June 2016
Running time: 59:36