Loops4ever (2011) - MAZAGRAN 2 CD
music by Giacinto Scelsi, Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Lucier, Alvin Curran, John Duncan, Jacob Tv, Eve Beglarian, Clarence Barlow, William Basinski, Frederic Rzewski, Terry Riley
BLOW UP MAGAZINE
MANUEL ZURRIA • Loop4ever • 2CD Mazagran
Raccogliendo attorno ad un proprio progetto materiali musicali, sì tutti d’avanguardia, ma di sostanziale eterogeneità (andiamo da Scelsi a Basinski,da Oliveros a Riley), Zurria si mette là in mezzo con coraggio, tra interpretazione e ri-composizione. Poi, quel suo procedere contattando gli autori per avere un parere sulla versione da lui sviluppata, sembra manifestare non tanto la necessità di un placet quanto un percorso per superare la frammentazione del contemporaneo e ricostruire un nuovo senso di classicità. Il suo lavoro con le tecniche del looping e l’approccio ‘ripetitivo’ immaginatelo in senso ampio e lato. Infatti, a dare unitarietà ad una così corposa raccolta non è la tecnica quanto uno spirito umanista di ricerca che si esprime (ma non si esaurisce) nel colore timbrico particolare del flauto, o nel viraggio dell’elettronica che entra nel tessuto armonico estendendone la dimensione (Dorian Reeds,Terry Riley), con una specie di effetto grandangolo (ad esempio in Variation #6 di Basinski). Il musicista catanese riesce a sussumere sensibilità assai diverse costruendo un paesaggio di diversità dalla grande armonia filosofica. L’elegia di I Will Not BeS ad in This World (Blegarian), sta bene tra i giochi di The Garden of Love e Lipstick (Jacob TV). Alla morbidezza rinascimentale di Madonna and Child (Curran) corrispondono esteticamente le trapananti note acute in Carnival (Duncan). Lo psycho-mandala di Portrait (Oliveiros) si espande naturalmente nella stasi topografica di Almost New York (Lucier). Quelli che vi diamo sono soltanto alcuni spunti di esplorazione. Aggiungiamo solo che‘Loop4ever’ è come una scintilla che fa intuire il nesso tra loop ed infinito. E così, ruotando sull’asse, viene fuori (8).
THE WIRE MAGAZINE
Manuel Zurria: LOOPS4EVER
Mazagran Records 2XCD
"I am not a composer and probably I'm not interested in being a composer", comments flautist Manuel Zurria. But he's made a specialism of collaboration with composers where the division of labour is hard to draw. On LOOPS4EVER, he manipulates compositions for flute that were free in their conception, "personalising them to the extreme with the use of multitrace or electronics", as he says. The results explore the aesthetics of the loop and its antithesis, the drone, in a totally persuasive development of his previous Die Schachtel release from 2008, Repeat! Except for two flute pieces by Scelsi, reworked with a landscape of sounds from the Casa Scelsi in Rome, each piece in the compilation was prepared with the composer's assistance. The two Alvins – Lucier and Curran – offer very diverse contributions. Lucier's "Almost New York" is an austere, acoustically gruelling 24-minute drone-fest with ear-traumatising interference patterns – he's one composer who hasn't mellowed since the 60s. In total contrast are the graceful, lilting loops of Curran's "Madonna And Child", which finally die away in entropic somnolence. Dutch avant pop composer JacobTV (Jacob Ter Veldhuis), the "Jeff Koons of new music" – "I pepper my music with sugar" he comments – contributes two of his exuberant compositions, the first based on a cut-up archive recording of William Blake's poem "The Garden of Love". Other pieces are by Pauline Oliveros, John Duncan, Eve Beglarian, Frederic Rzewski, William Basinski – a luminous "Movement in Chrome Primitive" – Terry Riley and Clarence Barlow.
Un poderoso saggio di "meta-composizione", piuttosto che il canonico focus sul solista o l'esecutore particolarmente dotato. Questa la scommessa - la prima, ci auguriamo, di una lunga serie - della neonata creatura di Riccardo Dillon Wanke, l'etichetta discografica Mazagran. Il primo campione del catalogo è un doppio CD interamente consacrato al flautista extraordinarie Manuel Zurria - uno che certo non si risparmia: Die Schachtel aveva fatto uscire nel 2007 un triplo con importanti pagine del '900 in musica da lui interpretate ed è da poco in circolazione un lavoro a quattro mani con Philip Corner. Perché meta-composizione? Perché Zurria, elettronica e fidatissimo flauto alla mano, re-inventa, nonostante si dica non interessato all'arte della composizione, musiche di Scelsi, Oliveros, Lucier, Curran e Duncan (nel primo disco), Jacob TV, Beglarian, Barlow, Basinski, Rzewski e Riley (nel secondo). Mettendoci del suo - nel senso letterale dell'espressione: ossia da un punto di vista compositivo - e indicando, a partire dalla scelta dei brani eseguiti, tutt'altro che "di rappresentanza", una via maestra che conduce dritta dritta al futuro della "classica contemporanea", se ancora quest'etichetta mantiene un senso. Edizione corredata da un ricco booklet nelle pagine del quale, grazie a interviste agli artisti coinvolti e brevi saggi, si fa il punto sulla situazione. Acquisto obbligato.
Vincenzo Santarcangelo 8/10
There is nothing typical about this 2 disc set. I would submit that when most flutists are putting together a recording project of music for flute and electronics, they would tend to shy away from the majority of the works that Manuel Zurria has so expertly collected and performed. Not only that, Zurria ups the ante by leading off with his own Scelsi-hommage. Casadiscelsi is really a combination of Scelsi’s bass flute work Maknongan and flute work Pwyll with sounds that Zurria himself recorded from Sclesi’s house in Rome. It sets the stage for this whole first disc which is one of luminesce and slow-moving atmospheres. The virtuosity of performance is not one of a million notes per second but one of tone, mood, and environment. Zurria nails it every single time and loops4ever is consistently captivating. In Portrait by Oliveros, Zurria is almost invisible, with the voice taking center stage, yet he could not be removed. Few flutists are brave enough to feature a work like Lucier’s Almost New York for flute and three oscillators, giving up 25 minutes of precious CD space so they can play long tones, but Zurria anchors the first disc around this particular work to great affect. After the Scelsi and the Oliveros, the Lucier is exactly what we want to hear, played in precisely the way we want to hear it. Curran’s Madonna and Child is a relief from the stasis which culminated in the Lucier but still the work floats in a somewhat restless and rocking manner. Zurria’s bass flute tone is sumptuous and once layered upon itself, the lullaby nature of the piece is exponentially amplified. I couldn’t believe my ears with the last work on the disc, The Carnival by John Duncan. A single sustained piccolo pitch (and not the most comfortable one, I should add) is held, Lucier-style, for 17 minutes. There are gradual spectral and timbral changes through the electronics but for the most part, it is a monolith of piercing brightness. Imagine a piccolo arrangement of Lucier’s Silver Streetcar. I don’t mean any of this is a bad way, although some folks will be quick to skip this track. The Carnival is an amazing listen, the perfect tonic/alarm clock to the slumber found in the Curran. Disc two contains works that are more expected of a “flute and electronics” recording. Zurria has packed in more peppy and traditionallytechnical works with the same quality of performance found in disc one. Jacob TV’s works are rhythmic and cool, quirky and spiky with the electronic component coming almost exclusively from voice editing while the flute zips out perky punctuations. I Will Not Be Sad in this World by Eve Begrarian is the perfect palate cleanser, silky smooth and tender with subdued sustained vocal manipulations. Clarence Barlow’s work for piccolo and drone finds the middle ground between Lucier’s work and Berio’s oboe Sequenza. Barlow’s repetitive melodic fragment changes subtly enough to keep me engaged while the drone does what drones do. It was also refreshing to hear a drone in the middle of the flute’s line as opposed to underneath. Once again, Zurria highlights his programming prowess by contrasting the bright sounds of the Barlow with the murky and luxurious sounds of Basinski’s A Movement in Chrome Primitive for bass flute, temple bells, and delays. Rzewski’s Last Judgement uses the bass flute as well but in a more strained and tense register, focusing more on propulsive energy than letting the listener wallow in sound. Either way, Zurria sounds great. Dorian Reeds, originally for soprano sax, gets the final word on the second disc. The overall take on this track uses more reverb than I expected, leaving the different delayed lines a grayish wash instead of dense contrapuntal lines. The notes for the disc consist mainly of the short interviews that Zurria did with each composer and they make for a compelling read. I find the music and the performances speak for themselves, though. This is a terrific disc full of great repertoire and expertly performed.
LOOPS4EVER goes beyond merely reconstructing pieces and awkwardly planting the “Zurria” trademark on top. The double album is part of an extensive research project into repetition in music that has also included the triple CD Repeat! (put out on Die Schactel back in 2008), taking him beyond the loops themselves to peer into the minds of those that use them most notably. The pieces featured were deliberately chosen for their conceptual freedom, and by developing an understanding of the individual processes and intentions that birthed them (including interviews with the artists themselves, transcripts of which are included with the CD), Zurria finds himself able to take the compositional core along a very personal tangent without denting the initial artistic intent. Flutes are the main timbral constant here, and often act as the most explicit tool of Zurria’s personalisation. It’s not often that I’ve heard the instrument’s tone (usually soft and intimate in nature) utilised to provoke such an extensive range of atmospheres and intensities within one album: slinking snake-like through melodies during Sclelsi’s “Casadiscelsi”, screaming in shrill whistles on John Duncan’s “The Carnival”, and fluttering in hyperactive delight across Jacob TV’s “Lipstick”. The sudden transitions between them can often feel rather sudden, but they aptly illustrate the way in which Zurria manages to shed new light onto various creative characteristics of himself. However, the journey feels rather futile when his end results tread far too closely in the footsteps of the originals. In particular, the pieces of Alvin Lucier and Jacob TV do little to contribute to what has already been conveyed so effectively by the composers: the former consists of the same gradually sweeping pure wave oscillators found on Lucier’s version, while both takes on Jacob TV pieces fail to sufficiently expand on the jittery combination of boombox and flute present in the original recordings. It’s here that Loops4ever feels like some sort of indulgent fantasy dress-up box, through which Zurria can step directly into the shoes of his influences rather than carry the pieces into personal places; something that probably appeals to the fanboyism of the artist more so than the ears of his audience. Loops4ever is much more interesting when the likes of Basinski’s “A Movement in Chrome Primitive” are taken from fragments of lo-fi piano into endless cascades of flute harmony, or when Terry Riley’s brash saxophone blasts are swapped for delayed layers of breathy woodwind birdsong. It’s during these pieces that the concept behind the album is most clearly conveyed. It’s not about artistic imitation; it’s about artistic empathy, and Zurria succeeds when he ventures beyond the original incarnations of the pieces themselves to attempt to align himself with the minds that conceived them
Once again, Zurria has produced a masterful and generous overview of minimalist composition and the project that creates hypnotic, atmospheric, creative and often memorable walled noise. But listeners are advised to take his offerings in selective portions as such a large serving of a single lead instrument can turn minimalism into a maximal menu uncomfortable to devour in one sitting, ultimately masking the delicate flavours within
Italian flutist Manuel Zurria’ loops4ever is a double CD of wide-ranging interpretations of modern composers. This release has a definite sense of place (geographically and historically) and Zurria displays a lightness of touch within his interpretations, showing an instinctual understanding of the aesthetic considerations underlying the compositions. Some of these pieces were originally written for the Trombone (Frederic Rzewski’ “Last Judgement’), or are goaded and stuttered along by vocal tics emanating from nervous boom boxes (“The Garden of Love’ and “Lipstick’ by Jacob Ter Veldhuis). Uneasy drones and ear piercing pure waves are held up for comparison against angry piccolos, as on John Duncan and Clarence Barlow’ works, or massaged by a phalanx of flutes, shaping the overwrought textures into a somewhat soporific stasis. The twelve tracks spread across two discs are all intrinsically minimalist in aesthetic and intent, even the hyper-kinetic frictions of Ter Veldhuis, are bolted together from a scarcity of inputs. Manuel Zurria really hits my spiritual soft spot when interpreting the “Holy Minimalists’ like Terry Riley’ “Dorian Reeds’, composed around the same time as “In C’ and the Mogadon-slow vocals (that I assume are reciting the poet Emily Dickinson, as referred to in the liner notes), from Pauline Oliveros’ “Portrait’. Spectrally inhabiting a similar zone to these elder statespersons of the drone and the loop is the warm melancholia of William Basinski’ “Variation#6: A Movement in Chrome Primitive’, complete with Temple Bells and sprinkled with delay. Listening late last night, with a lovely new pair of expensive Germanic headphones, whilst an electrical storm spluttered and thundered overhead, loops4ever made perfect sense in a rarefied window of time. A delightful stillness and introspection akin to meditation. Travelling without moving, Alvin Lucier’ “Almost New York’ unhurriedly wends its way, in thrall only to the composition’s internal machinations and those of a sensitive and technically gifted musician and interpreter.
Look at the video of William Basinski's Variation #6 on Chrome Primitive