Listeners of free improvisation are well accustomed to the exploration of silence and subtly resonant gesture in their music, and to some of the compositional lineages which has shaped music once called “reductionist.” Considerable attention has been given, these last few years, to the Wandelweiser collective, whose leading representatives include flautist Antoine Beuger, clarinetist Jürg Frey, and guitarist Michael Pisaro. In their compositions, these musicians have not only been unafraid to explore near total silence and the limits (audible and technical) of their instruments, they have also unreservedly embraced tonality in places and blended idioms (as with the regular use of vocals).
Over two nights at Les Instants Chavires in April 2012, Dedalus finds Beuger and Frey joined by guitarist Didier Aschour, alto violist Cyprien Busolini, percussionist/vibraphonist Stephane Garin, and trombonist Thierry Madiot for three especially resonant performances. Beuger’s “Meditations Poetiques sur Quelque Chose d’Autre” might take the prize for title that best works as an aesthetic credo for these musicians, the whole approach seeming to take that term “autre” and run all the way with it to a music that slips the confines of just about everything. There are, here as elsewhere, multiple sounds that supplement, engage with, and unsettle the scored materials (melodic fragments, textual excerpts): pipe tones, creaking woods, and whispers. There are especially various car horns, but to my ears none of it gets in the way of the expertly controlled horn overtones, Aschour’s subtle guitar, or Garin deft navigation of space, with a rustle here and a thwack there. The entrance of the vibraphone and its melancholy figures gives a strange shape to those long, wafting held tones that suspend across each other in seeming infinity. Frey’s “Canones Incerti” trades in more audibly melodic material, with lovely, pinwheeling single tones pinging around with much space between them. Aschour is especially bright in the tonal thicket, and the piece moves marvelously alongside the vehicles audible outside the club as its intervals seem to chase down some chord progression. On “Lieux de Passages,” we hear a steady gathering cymbal clouds and muted, sculpted sound. Instruments stand out as naked and lyrical, nearly fragile in the sonic midst (though with lush, almost subliminal harmonization too). Things steadily sound as if they become decentered, the music somehow more multiple, with hints that it might burble over even as it returns repeatedly to a lush tonal thickness. It’s fabulous music overall, living in its thick gatherings of oscillations and resonance.