f(l)ute songs (2018) Modern Love (UK)

music by Mary Jane Leach

THE WIRE MAGAZINE

Mary Jane Leach

(f)lute songs

Modern Love DL/LP

A key figure in New York's Downtown scene in the 1970s, Mary Jane Leach's legacy is only - extraordinarily - getting off the ground. This delay in picking up her work borders on the criminal, given Leach's dexterous use of instrument and technology in a composition that explores not only duration but the role of the instrumentalist in performing works that make demands on their physical capacity to play. An associate of Peter Zummo and Arthur Russell, Leach was an active member of the city's DownTown Ensemble, a group of musicians and composers dedicated to promoting new music. Some of her music has been accessible, the notable examples being Celestial Fires (1993) on Phill Niblock's XI label, Ariadne's Lament (1998) and more recently, a small edition of Piepe Dreams, feauturing two of Leach's late 1980s compositions. But as a general rule, Leach has not received the greater exposure her composition deserves.

The flautist Manuel Zurria clearly feels the same way. This album is not the first time that the Italian musician has recorded Leach's work: three of the four pieces on (f)lute songs appear elsewhere on his earlier albums, often framed in contexts sympathetic to Leach's interest in late Renaissance music, on the one hand, and the most contemporary on the other. As the title suggests, (f)lute songs is a collection of flute works; as it also suggests, there is a n interface with an earlier kind of music (two tracks titled for John Dowland make this link explicit); and, a further suggestion, these are songs - so, although the voice is framed in a resolute non-singing (one thinks of the breath needed to play the flute in the first place), the human is very much to the fore here. Leach is a virtuoso of polyphony and Zurria brings out these multiple voices well. Dowland's Tears (2011) for nine flutes, and Semper Dolens, the latter a 2018 composition for one solo and six taped flutes which makes obvious reference to Dowland's early 17th century Semper Dowland, Semper Dolens for viols or lute consort, sit closely together, the interplay of counterpoint and a slow tempo making a the two a stately progress. A hymnal quality attaches to Trio for Duo (1985), for live taped alto flute and voice, and the eight-flute Bruckstuck (1989). Such is the polyphonic quality of all four piece that guessing the exact instrumentation is a process of aural hallucination. That said, these four stately tempoed Leach compositions make for a beguilingmix of themes ancient and modern.

 

Louise Gray

Matéj Kratochvíl, His Voice, 12/3/2018

The history of music is full of forgotten authors and their works, which are picked up from oblivion thanks to the initiative of enthusiasts. This was the case of Julius Eastman, a remarkable phenomenon on New York City's 1970s scene. A significant part of his music has come back to light in recent years, his comrade, vocalist and songwriter Mary Jane Leach. Since the death of Eastman in 1990, she has searched for his lost compositions, and has taken care of his legacy all the time. Paradoxically, her own work was still in the shadows yet, from the long list of compositions, two CDs in the 1990s, one last year and the current title. The flute in the title indicates what the instrument here dominates. We hear it in many layers, all recorded by one interpreter. Manuel Zurria, an Italian flutist standing behind the Alter Ego, took up four of his tracks from 1985 to 2018, from which he recently ordered the latest. The key word here is polyphony, that is, the intertwining of more voices, and the exploration of what happens when you wrap around the layers of the same sound, more densely, freely, rhythmically or almost immobile. To the method of stacking the voices with the help of gradual recording on the tape, Mary Jane Leach got first as an interpreter when she perfected her intonation accuracy. She discovered a creative process for herself, similarly used by composite colleagues, especially minimalist denominations. While Phil Niblock achieves the appearance of almost motionless sounds and Steve Reich, on the contrary, constructs rhythmically precise cutter mechanisms, Leach examines a wide space between the two poles. The oldest of the four songs, Trio for Duo (1985), is the least moving, prenoted and live-playing flute, moving in slow, close-wiping steps to create painfully disagreeable dissonance. The result of the voice of the flute singing through the instrument is also accumulating. Bruckstück (1989) was originally vocal for nine sopranos. Now we hear nine flutes gently pulsing first on one tone and gradually gaining another. Monotony is constantly changing in the sounds of a monochrome but otherwise constantly changing. Two more recent compositions refer to one of Mary Jane Leach's inspirational sources, which is the late Renaissance music, a period in which polyphonic art has reached the peak and has often sounded comparable to 20th century experiments. The plaque's name, which makes the flute a lute, also refers to this chapter of musical history and sets of instruments of the same type, often louten, for which complicated multi-voice forms were intended. Dowland's tears, Dowland's Tears (2011), quote Lachrymae from 1604 from the famous composer John Dowland, and ten flute voices are more airy, lighter temple organs. Here we can watch a brighter melodic line as it emerges from the endless drift of voices and disappears again. Semi Dolens (2018) for six flute and one live act are also signed by Dowland and the Renaissance. John Dowland became famous as a master of melancholy and the author of songs about death, tears and darkness. In its translation into contemporary style and flute accents, it is still a music in which the perception of time can be easily and very pleasantly dissipated. In contrast to her older compositions, Mary Jane Leach moved to greater audience accessibility, but she did not lose anything.

http://www.hisvoice.cz/cz/articles/detail/3849

(f)lute songs

Guy Peters - 28 september 2018

De Amerikaanse componiste en performer Mary Jane Leach heeft in de loop der jaren een sterke reputatie opgebouwd, ondanks het feit dat ze zelf opvallend weinig muziek uitbracht en zelden in deze regionen te horen is. Daar wordt nu verandering in gebracht, want met (f)lute songs verschijnt haar vierde album en zondag zal ze aanwezig zijn wanneer haar werk uitgevoerd wordt in kader van (From) Bach to the Future, de concerteeks van Sound In Motion rond barokmuziek. Leach is een van die artiesten die aankwam in het New York van de jaren zeventig, wat toen net een broeihaard van nieuwe geluiden was. Het was niet enkel John Zorn die er volop experimenteerde, maar ook figuren als Arthur Russell, Peter Zummo, Julius Eastman en Leach zelf. Heel wat figuren uit die scene zouden later nog de krachten bundelen via het Downtown Ensemble. Leach componeerde in de loop der jaren heel wat werken, vooral voor stem, en combineerde die met een fascinatie voor geluid, en meer specifiek de fysieke kwaliteiten ervan, net als hun relatie tot ruimte. Veel van haar muziek klinkt vrij sober en uitgepuurd, maar vergt wel opperste concentratie om het ten volle te appreciëren. Dat Leach weinig albums uitbracht (twee in de jaren negentig, en vorig jaar nog eentje, Pipe Dreams, met werk uit de jaren tachtig) heeft ermee te maken dat ze als componist niet albumgericht werkt, maar ook omdat ze zich ten volle inzet voor de artistieke gemeenschap waar ze deel van uitmaakt. Net zo opvallend is dat ze het nalatenschap van de in 1990 overleden Julius Eastman (een cruciale figuur tussen avant-garde en minimalisme, die ook opviel door z’n grote maatschappelijke betrokkenheid) zo toegewijd beheert en uitdraagt via haar website. Zoals de titel al aangeeft, bevat (f)lute songs werk dat uitgevoerd wordt door fluiten, het eerste instrument dat ze niet zelf bespeelde waar Leach voor schreef. De vier composities dateren uit respectievelijk 1985, 1989, 2011 en 2018, maar vormen een opmerkelijk coherent geheeL Dat ze alle vier uitgevoerd werden door de Italiaanse fluitist Manuel Zurria versterkt die indruk natuurlijk alleen maar. En als het al wat vreemd lijkt dat een concertreeks rond barokmuziek ook een hoofdstuk met een hedendaagse New Yorkse componiste aanbiedt, dan wordt snel duidelijk waarom dat het geval is, want “Dowland’s Tears” is geïnspireerd op de ‘Lachrimae’ van barokcomponist John Dowland, en klinkt, ondanks het feit dat het een werk voor tien fluiten is, ook een beetje alsof je een orgelwerk van Bach hoort (eerder bewerkte Leach ook al cellomuziek van die barokgrootheid). Het is een beklemmend mooi stuk, dat beweegt met een sacrale statigheid. Enigszins verwant is “Semper Dolens”, voor een solofluit die gecombineerd wordt met zes opgenomen fluiten. Dat klinkt erg sober, maar ontplooit net als heel wat andere barokmuziek een intense emotionaliteit en harmonische weelde. En ook hier is het voortdurend de oren spitsen, want je denkt misschien ook orgel, accordeon of klarinet te horen. Die rijkheid zit in opener “Trio For Duo” verstopt in de kleine nuances. Lang aangehouden fluit- én stemgolven met een haast perfect gelijklopend timbre worden op elkaar gelegd, waardoor het enkel de verschuivingen van de ene toon naar de andere zijn die de verschillen en grensvlakken verraden. “Bruckstück”, tenslotte, werd oorspronkelijk geschreven voor acht sopranen, maar wordt ook uitgevoerd op fluiten, wat hier leidt tot een traag verschuivende, maar weldadige polyfonie. Van de vier composities is dit de meest ‘dynamische’ en contrastrijke, maar het effect is net als bij de andere drie eentje van hypnose. (f)lute songs lijkt op papier misschien een vrij nauwe zone af te bakenen, maar het gaat om een release die de eigenheid van Leach mooi in de kijker zet, de link legt met de barokweelde en bovendien erg toegankelijk is, ook voor niet-ingewijden.

Avenir Light una delle font preferite dai designer. Facile da leggere, viene utilizzata per titoli e paragrafi.

MOJO Magazine

BOOMKAT

Four pieces for flute and voice composed between 1985-2018 by Mary Jane Leach, a pivotal part of NYC’s pioneering avant-garde community since the 1970s and an active member of the legendary DownTown Ensemble, working alongside peers including Arthur Russell, Ellen Fullman, Peter Zummo, Philip Corner and Arnold Dreyblatt, as well as devoting years to the preservation of Julius Eastman’s legacy since his death in 1990. Mary Jane's vinyl debut 'Pipe Dreams' arrived last year via the Blume imprint and completely blew us away, and '(f)lute songs’ is only her second vinyl release in over five decades, feeding and expanding our obsession with her work. In the late 1970’s Mary Jane Leach was triggered by an interview she heard with Steve Reich in which he implored artists to figure out ways of becoming more self sufficient when it came to performance rather than relying on traditional group structures. At the time Leach had already began to experiment with recordings she had made of herself performing long sustained tones made on instruments she could play; mostly voice and bass clarinet, and gradually became fascinated by the sound phenomena resulting from layering tones on her multi-track tape machine. Reich’s thoughts, however, made Leach realize that she didn't have to restrict herself to instruments she could play and, in an indirect way, were the foundation for this album. Trio for Duo (1985), was Mary Jane's first attempt at creating work for instruments she couldn't play; revolving around alto flute and voice. She explains "I had noticed that my voice matched the sound of the bottom fifth of the alto flute, and so the voice in this piece is sung to sound as much like an alto flute as possible. There are four parts, but only three play at the same time, one part passing off its last note to the next entering part, weaving a tapestry of matching and contrasting timbres. By using glissandos, more “extra-notated” sounds are created than appear on the page. I originally conceived of it with each part coming from four separate speakers placed in the four corners of a hall, but I realised that it sounds best on tape with a stereo mix.” The result is an incredible, highly engrossing study in phasing, the voice sung to sound as much like an alto flute as possible to the the extent that it becomes almost impossible to discern which parts are which. Bruckstück (1989) was originally written for eight sopranos, but is played on flutes on this recording - using the same pitches, but sounding very different. It was commissioned by the Kulturamt in Köln to coincide with the opening of an exhibition of paintings by Jack Ox that were organised using an analysis of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony. Mary Jane explains "The lowest parts (relatively speaking) represent the string section, using the same basic rhythm as Bruckner’s to set up the tonality throughout the piece. The rest of the voices represent the wind instruments. The piece is polyphonic, with a lot of closely resolving intervals - primarily major and minor seconds. Rather than writing linear melodies for one voice, I wrote melodies that are passed from one voice to another.” Dowland’s Tears (2011) was written for for nine flutes, thinking of it as a recording project and not a concert piece (it now has a “solo” tenth part added), while Semper Dolens (2018) is for solo and six taped flutes, with sustained harmony and dissonance in mind. These recordings feature noted Roman flutist Manuel Zurria, who has worked with some of the most important composers around the world. In 1990 he founded Alter Ego, a leading group for contemporary music in Italy. Numerous composers have written pieces for him, and he has expanded the repertoire even further by re-orchestrating compositions into pieces for multiple flutes, as heard on almost forty albums. If you're interested in sound phenomena or just looking for some of the most beautiful, avant garde music you'll hear this year; we reckon (f)lute songs is a bit of a masterpiece.

Look at Dowland's Tears videoclip