A few short notes, from memory, on the concert this afternoon at Foundation Suisse, in the Universitaire a Paris.
The building is a Le Corbusier, a rather attractive one, and the performance took place in the room pictured above with five members of Ensemble Dedalus (Amélie Berson, flute/Silvia Tarozzi, violin/ Deborah Walker, cello/Thierry Madiot, trombone/Didier Aschour, guitar) situated in front of the large window, playing pieces by Hauk Harder, Pascale Criton and Michael Pisaro, all of which involved microtonal tunings.
Harder's "Der Geschmack von grünen Heringen" began with luscious unison lines between flute and violin, gradually both expanding to other combinations of instruments and staggering their entry slightly, resulting in a kind of hocketing effect. It was very enticing for the first several minutes as one tracked the reformulations, quiet and steady, from group to group within the ensemble. However, the idea was pretty well established four or five minutes in and the final ten or so revealed little more. Criton's composition was much more fascinating throughout. The composer was present and detailed (to the extent I could understand) the tunings involved, having the violin, cello and guitar quickly demonstrate same. The first section involved rapid taps on the string of these three instruments while the flute and trombone played soft, long tones beneath. The second had the strings utilizing circular bowing (or strumming, in the case of the guitar), forming gorgeous, iridescent clusters that skirted standard tonality without treading there. The whole piece floated wonderfully, quiet and shimmering with alien colors.
Before the concert began, there were four Asian students playing frisbee outside the large window. They were asked to move their doings by one of the show organizers, a decision I thought was unfortunate given the likely nature of, at least, the Pisaro work, memories of the guy with the ladder at St. Mark's Church in the Village still in my head. I was greatly heartened therefore when, prior to his piece, Madiot got up and slid open the doorway, allowing the exterior sound world entry. The composition was "chords, partially obscured" (2008), originally scored for clarinet, harmonica, electric guitar, violin and cello (plus electronics), adapted to the instrumentation at hand. As if on cue, just as the quintet was about to begin, an airplane engine's lovely sound filled the sky. The work was incredibly beautiful; the cello played a soft, continuous line while the others played a handful of five or six second single notes, deliciously harmonized, very much like the most wonderfully sonorous breathing you ever heard, at least a couple of times very subtly augmented by electronics, possibly a field recording (maybe more often than I realized). They would played three or four such phrases, then sit silently for 15-20 seconds. Outside, the environment cooperated as perfectly as one could hope. Off to the left, about 30 feet out of view, a ping pong game was occurring, the delicate "pok" of the balls intermingled with triumphant or disappointed cries. The traffic on the other side of the dorm buildings hummed. One bird warbled richly, a cawing crow chasing it away. People walked by, peered in, made barely audible comments. The music accepted it all, breathed calmly, registered its own thoughts.