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Jeux de pistes Ensemble SuperMusique

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There are times after a great concert of new music, when one wonders why this kind of music does not live longer. Rarely performed more than once, very often it sinks quickly into oblivion. The disc you have in your hands attempts to extend the life of four compositions that deserve to be listened to much more than just once. Taking their inspiration from treasure hunts, card games and solitaire, and role-playing games, four veteran composers have created four highly imaginative graphic scores. — Danielle Palardy Roger, Autumn 2016

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Jeux de pistes

Ensemble SuperMusique

John Rea, Jean Derome, Malcolm Goldstein

Notices

Tempest, Jeu de cartes, L’argent, TanGRAM

John Rea’s Tempest was written in the 1960s, when the composer used toplay in an improv group while studying with Ruth Shaw Wylie. Drawn onto two music sheets and scored for an indeterminate quartet and one snare drum,the original composition lasted only two minutes. His score uses drawings andgame instructions that are very precise and evocative. I later adapted the scorefor 20 musicians (four musicians per instrument family and tonal range for a total of 16 musicians, plus two snare drums, a turntable and a synthesizer). In this extended version, the tempest unfolds in a much slower way.

Jeu de cartes was scored by Malcolm Goldstein for 12 improvisers. The score consists of 48 cards divided into four series. The first three series illustrate what has to be played: graphic notations, rhythmic cells, words. The last one determines when each player is asked to play. This very brilliant game piece allows for great flexibility and inventiveness to each player. The version included in this album was played using two decks of cards and features 24 performers, 20 instrumentalists and four vocalists.

Jean Derome’s L’argent is made-up of three parts, each makes reference to one of three different forms of social structure. L’Empereur (0’00) is conducted by a sole conductor (Derome) using an elaborate set of handgestures; L’anarchie (5’44) sees the players fending for themselves, with neither conductor nor instructions; La libre entreprise (8’23) allows everyone to become an entrepreneur by starting his or her own business (i.e. by giving his or her fellow musicians specific instructions to be carried out) and tolerates the simultaneous presence of more than one conductor. Drawing its inspiration from writings about money by Bernard Maris, Georges Bataille and Joseph Beuys, L’argent transforms the orchestra into a microcosm of our society.

TanGRAM is based on the ancient Chinese puzzle of the same name.The objective of the puzzle is to form a specific shape using all of its seven flat pieces (five triangles, a square and a parallelogram). The creation of a score and a “musical figure” using these shapes allowed me to explore indepth what each of the figures could evoke once laid out on a music sheet. I then specified to the musicians the register, the dynamics, the flow of the rhythm, the thickness of the sound mass and the instrumentation. It is a game of transformation that requires patience and strategy. Here, the EnsembleSuperMusique is playing Orion, one of the “musical figures” I created.

[xi-16]

In the Press

  • Marc Medwin, The Squid’s Ear, October 4, 2017
    No sound is left unused, from looped electronics to all combinations of acoustic sonic layering; as with the rest of the discs, the results excite and mesmerize by turn, capturing what was undoubtedly a fiery and introspective performance.
  • Marc Chénard, La Scena Musicale, February 1, 2017
    … quite spare or quite dense…

Review

Marc Medwin, The Squid’s Ear, October 4, 2017

At this point, there is nothing innovative or even novel about the combination of improvisation and composition save the way the symbiotic relationship is achieved. On this score, Ensemble SuperMusique succeeds on all counts. This disc offers up four of what might be described, loosely and inadequately, as graphic scores, though whatever images are involved are not nearly as graphic in detail as the excellent playing and recording.

The oldest entry is John Rea’s Tempest, composed in 1969 and here adapted for a much larger temporal canvas than its original two minutes. Sussurations and long-form semidrone encompass voices and instruments of deliciously indeterminate character, leaving aside the point or two at which identification is readily and vividly apparent. Entering and exiting as the proverbial lamb, everything bubbles and seethes with an energetic undercurrent, planes of sound nearly intersecting as unisons ebb and flow into each other, forming complex but clear sonorities that shake hands before exiting.

The other three scores were composed in the past few years, and easily the most whimsical among them is Malcolm Goldstein. Any fan of Ligeti’s Aventures pieces will absolutely love this realization, such is its cheek and daring. Swoops and glides abound, punctuated by vocal outbursts reminiscent of Phil Minton at his seriocomic best. The occasional unison is fodder both for pause and momentary reflection before the zaniness recurs, turntable often at the ready and a wonderful upward and rapid flick out of focus concluding the proceedings. Danielle Palardy Roger’s TanGRAM is a study in what Jack Kerouac, describing Proust’s Cambre Cathedral, called slow concentric waves. According to shapes based on the ancient Chinese puzzle, we ascend and descend in arcs and lines that creep glacially in and out of cognition as timbres converge and diverge. There are a few similar passages in Tempest, but TanGRAM is pure slow-motion bliss and horror as some percussion rolls a foundation of dread and dynamics slowly increase, eventually leading to fragmentation in the final minutes.

By way of total contrast, Jean Derome’s L’argent roils, beats and explodes with the unbridled passion only an energetic ensemble of improvisers and composers can bring to the table. Huge fits and starts pervade this sectionalized assault on the senses, and, were it not for a first-rate recording, much of its nuance would be lost in the noise. Fortunately, interstitial and timbral delineation is possible, and a few of the episodes are greeted by the whoops and hollers of a particularly appreciative audience. No sound is left unused, from looped electronics to all combinations of acoustic sonic layering; as with the rest of the discs, the results excite and mesmerize by turn, capturing what was undoubtedly a fiery and introspective performance.

No sound is left unused, from looped electronics to all combinations of acoustic sonic layering; as with the rest of the discs, the results excite and mesmerize by turn, capturing what was undoubtedly a fiery and introspective performance.

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