Another Timbre TimHarrisonbre
Sleevenotes by Michael Pisaro:
LOST We live near the edge of the desert and not far from the ocean. We lean in one direction or the other. Hiking at the edge of the Mojave one finds austerity: bone dryness, bright light, heat and wind. One hears a high whistle and senses in one’s body the rumbling of the ground. There is an etched horizon at the edge of each open space.
Or we move near the \Pacific. There is mild weather and a light breeze; a comforting and constant noise. We walk on soft sand, as people stroll along the beachside shops and cafes, with music playing in the background. In the sea-perfumed air, there is the fragility of a beautiful moment that could suddenly change.
Between these two borders is a place that somehow contains both: a wasteland and a dreamspace, in addition to being a real city with hard times and seemingly unendin small (almost private) cultures, hidden in plain sight.
I’m writing this in Santa Clarita at the northernmost edge of Los Angeles, about 20 miles from where Terry Jennings was born - in Eagle Rock in 1940. He grew up in the area, and started studying at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and Art (later the California Institute of the Arts) at an early age. He was an elusive figure in the scattered landscape of West Coast experimental music. His presence is still felt here, somehow - ghostly. Although he lived for a while in New York, it’s hard, listening to the pieces collected here, not to relate the music to the landscapes we share.
It is music of simplicity and great mystery. There are bar lines, but nothing feels counted: things happen in moments not measures. There is always time for resonance of the piano. (Is there any player batter at feeling this resonance than John Tilbury?) The sounds drift, suspended in a dense medium of some kind. The shape of a piece emerges gradually, like the hills appearing as the marine layer burns off. Each piece feels like a small event extended in time: “one morning the sun shone just so”, “her voice seemed exactly like this”. The gentle modality of the two later pieces (Winter Sun and Winter Trees) is beautifully offset by the sparse, lean harmonies of the earlier ones (Piano Piece 1958 and For Christine Jennings).
Piano Piece 1960 is something of a special case. This piece (like the String Quartet from the same year) occupies a unique place in the music of the time. The arc towards silence is so profound, that it takes on the character of something more than a pause. It has a being. The notes, even more than in the music of Morton Feldman, are just there to create the silences. There are silences in the sounds too.
Listening again and again to these incredible recordings, I have the unmistakable feeling of coming into contact with something necessary that has been lost. I don’t know what it is - I can just barely make out its form, as if glimpsed once, fleetingly, at the bottom of a canyon. Is I a certain sense of a communal future that was alive to both Jennings and Tilbury when these pieces were written? Where did it go? When will it be back?
DAYLIGHT Nothing seems to be lost in Tilbury and Lexer’s wonderful, original realisation of John Cage’s ‘Electronic Music for Piano’. The score might be sketchy, but the performance is as clear as a bright day in Cage’s Los Angeles. Sounds ad silences appear and disappear like natural facts, without any longing of the one to become the other. To me, the events recorded here are not mysterious, even if I don’t always know who (or what) is making them. They are material and tangible - objects flying through time and space, from any angle or any trajectory. Attentive performances of Cage are usually in contact with the real: with the chaos of the present; with living things that move. It’s an anarchic materialism, and, I think, another world from the romantic immateriality of Jennings.
Sleevenotes by Sebastian Lexer:
John Cage’s ‘Electronic Music for Piano’ is a peculiar composition, the more so as the published score is little more than a list of hand-written notes including reference to the essential source, his earlier composition ‘Music for Piano 4-84’ (1953-56). It seems that the score contains notes he collected for a performance by cage himself and David Tudor in Stockholm, September 2nd 1964, for two pianos and electronics, the paper carrying the letterhead of the Hotel Malmen in Stockholm.
Approaching a realisation one is left only with hints as to what they used - “feedback, changing sounds (microphones, amplifiers, loudspeakers)” - and most crucially, a reference to the use of transcriptions on transparencies from an astronomical atlas. Both techniques had been part of Cage’s and Tudor’s realisations in various pieces, including Tudor’s remarkable realisation of Variations II (1961) from 1967.
John Tilbury and I had developed a version of Electronic Music for Piano in 2002, utilising a computer-based system (which over the years became the piano+) in which parameters of effects and routings were directed by the proximity of a random movement through a digitised star map. His approach felt inappropriate for this recording in which the spirit of Tudor’s approach to piano and electronics is as much a governing factor as the score itself. We wanted to go beyond a realisation that comprised of simply adding electronic effects to the piano.
In this recording John Tilbury’s playing is captured by a series of stationary and movable microphones and pick-ups. Transformations were initiated and directed by a score devised from lines printed on transparencies and star maps. This organic, ‘performed’ version was then subjected to further similar randomised processes and editing to derive the order and time placement of segments, the mixing between tracks, and panning. This enabled us to distance ourselves as much as possible from any aesthetic decision-making.
“I have listened to this album a great deal over the past couple of weeks, initially sitting in awe of it and later spending time really trying to understand it better. It is in many ways a CD in two halves. The first half an hour of the disc consists of five performances by Tilbury of piano works by the American minimalist composer Terry Jennings. There then follows a forty minute recording by both Tilbury and Lexer of John Cage’s Electronic Music for Piano, a work from 1964 that was written for David Tudor. The album can be divided between the two not only simply by composer but also through the very different approach to aesthetics and beauty. In fact, it could almost be said that the two halves sit in complete contrast to each other, almost standing as a neat analogy for some of the main issues tackled by 20th Century composition.
Though the name Terry Jennings has occasionally popped up throughout my reading up on contemporary composition I don’t think I have ever heard any of his music before. So for that reason I am not certain how much of the sheer beauty contained in the five pieces here is to be found in the compositions themselves, and how much comes out through Tilbury’s realisation of them. Certainly it is as if these five miniatures were written for Tilbury. A lazy comparison might be to call them Feldmanseque, and indeed the space that is left within the music, into which notes are allowed to slowly decay does give that impression on surface listening, but in truth these are quite different pieces. While there is a minimal amount of notes dictated and s deathly slow pace abides there are none of the irregular patterns to be found in Feldman’s later work, no sense of gradual change over time. These five pieces, which vary from the two minute longer opener Piano Piece 1958 to the eight minute plus works Winter Sun and For Christine Jennings are each fully rounded, highly romantic distillations of music. They begin, and then progress to an end as complete works, not just studies for something greater that was to follow. Each tells a story of some kind, albeit sometimes a tale told with only the fewest words and singular brush strokes. The final Jennings piece on the album, the startlingly spare Paino Piece, 1960 is particularly remarkable in that the actual number of notes played across the four minutes is reduced to just seventeen. Even here though there is none of the stark emptiness of say a late Taku Sugimoto composition. Even as the piece seems to slip away slowly into silence as the gaps between notes get longer we still feel each note hanging in the air, even after they are no longer audible, and the music holds a deeply emotive power to it throughout.
This music was written for Tilbury’s playing. His incredible touch, the way he holds a key down as his foot works a pedal is somehow (I don’t fully understand how) different to how others seem to do it. The music has Tilbury’s mark all over it. Though if played ot me blind I would never have known the composer I would have been able to identify the pianist after just one note. Tilbury has a wonderful way of making a single piano note seem to have more life than anyone else, more soul if you will. Having watched him play many time down the years it has always been so clear to me how much he feels every note, how the sound from the piano runs through his body long after it has disappeared from the air. So these five pieces, as well written as they are also work as almost the perfect vehicle for Tilbury’s masterful playing, his own touch brought to the music. The sixth piece then sets about as its main purpose to dismantle this sense of sheer beauty, to maybe show the other side of the modern compositional dilemma.
Cage’s Electronic Music for Piano was written in 1964 seemingly specifically for a performance by both the pianist and the composer together in Sweden the same year. If a recording of the performance exists I don’t think I have ever heard it, and I’m not sure that further performances of the somewhat complex work have been attempted all that often since. The “score” apparently consists of just a single page of notes and directions that point the musicians back to a an earlier Cage piece Music for Piano 4-84. It also shows that the original performance used transparencies made from astronomical charts as a way of generating random choices and timings. Lexer and Tilbury have been working through ways of performing this piece for a number of years. Eight years ago they performed a live version that is available to hear at the Interlace site here. This version though merely applied digital effects to the played piano. Considering this approach to be inadequate, the pair developed different ways of working that better capture the spirit and style of Tudor’s approach to performing Cage’s work. At the heart of their realisation however lies an attempt, at various levels to remove aesthetic decision making from the performance. If the Jennings pieces are all about simple, refined beauty and the skill involved in playing them, then the Cage work here is about removing the human touch, dismantling standard ideas of what beauty is in a piano work.
For this performance then, Tilbury “plays” the piano, both at the keys and on the inside, and Lexer randomly places microphones and pick-ups, according to starcharts, within the piano. Some stay static, some are moved as the performance progresses, and their output is then treated via Lexer’s piano+ software in different ways, again randomly selected by the starcharts, but with a starting point perhaps leaning towards sounds and methods more akin to Tudor’s individual approach. So one full recording was made, in one take, described in the liner notes by Lexer as “organic”. Lost Daylight has been worked on by the musicians for at least two years since it was first proposed as a release on the Another Timbre label. Over this time though the duo have wrestled with their thoughts on the music, whether what they were doing was close enough to the original intentions of the score, and whether the ultimate goal of the piece should perhaps be about the complete eradication of aesthetic decision making. So, once a “final” version of the piece existed the pair then subjected it to a further randomised edit of the work, which effectively cut it up into pieces, rearranging it by chance, and treating mastering elements such as crossfade panning in a similar manner. all dictated by the starchart system. What we end up with hints at the piano, suggests the powerful expression of Tilbury’s playing, but essentially dismantles the music into something that feels unfamiliar and thoroughly awkward. it is this final edit, and the impact it has on us as listeners that really makes this music such a wonderful work to me. Everyone with any musical taste adores Tilbury’s approach to the piano. This CD chooses to ignore and subvert it.
What we actually hear then is in part what we might expect, single piano notes, scrapes, bangs and violent crashes inside and outside the piano sometimes treated by Lexer to stretch out sounds into further shapes and textures. The randomised placement of the sounds makes the experience very difficult to follow though. There is no sense of continual structure or development in any traditional manner, just a constant feeling of intense anticipation and expectation. Then when sounds appear they are stunning. They are often quite shocking. The way the work has been cut up leads to several immediate entries from powerful, dramatic sounds, and the way these might suddenly sound much closer, louder, present in the mix because of the randomised mastering throws you completely. The music has an incredible tension to it, even after the twentieth listen through I remain shocked and surprised at points. The sense of intensity is nothing like we are used to hearing in improvised or composed music though. The music does not get the chance to build into anything, its organic feeling has been removed, the human touch if you like has been taken away and we are left instead with these incredibly powerful fragments of music that have been thrown in the air and then carefully stitched back together in whatever order they happened to land. Long silences might be interrupted by a slight whisper, or smashed out of the way by a slammed down piano lid, but trying to make sense of the recording in any traditional manner is fruitless.
The irony in all of this is that Sebastian Lexer is John Tilbury’s preferred sound engineer, and Lexer has spent much of the last year painstakingly remastering recordings of Tilbury playing Feldman, removing outside influences, preserving the emotional power and integrity of the performances. His skills as a mastering engineer of that kind of music are second to none in my opinion, and so much of their work together has been in search of the perfect listening experience, the best way to portray Tilbury’s personal rendition of other people’s music. This Cage work turns that relationship completely inside out. The mastering here has had all sense of listener ease removed. What we hear here is ironically what the stars predicted. It is in fact a brave move for these two fantastic musicians to place their music so much in the hands of chance, but in doing so they have created something that is both beautifully powerful and creatively honest in the same breath.
The absolute jewel in Another Timbre’s crown, this is a wonderful, wonderful CD. As other new CDs have arrived here in their droves Lost Daylight has kept its place in my player and will return frequently. It has been a while since I heard anything so equally beautiful, challenging and stunning at the same time. If this area of music is of any interest to you then this has to be an essential purchase. It even bucks the AT trend by having a nice sleeve design, that also uses the randomised approach to some degree, courtesy of Paul Abbott. Get it before it sells out.” - Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear
“Lost Daylight has been a long time arriving. It has been much trailed, and eagerly anticipated since 2008, as indicated by its low catalogue number, at10. Now released as part of Another Timbre's piano series, alongside at24 and at25, good things are always worth waiting for—and this release proves the truth of that adage. Quite simply, it is a gem.
Although, perhaps, best-known for his long-established membership in AMM and his other improvised work, pianist John Tilbury is just as renowned for his recordings of scores by John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Morton Feldman, Howard Skempton and Christian Wolff. Now Lost Daylight follows in that lineage. It consists of two contrasting halves, featuring five solo piano compositions by the little-recorded Fluxus minimalist Terry Jennings, followed by a forty-minute realization of Cage's Electronic Music for Piano, with Sebastian Lexer on electronics.
Tilbury, along with Cardew, championed Jennings back in the 1960s. The Jennings pieces here, which include his best-known works "Winter Trees" and "Winter Sun," are understated and repetitive, creating a tranquil, meditative mood. The silences between the notes are as important as the notes themselves. To be heard at their best, these pieces rely on delicacy of touch and restrained pacing, both of which Tilbury supplies in abundance. Throughout he sounds totally in the moment, irresistably engaged by the music and his performance. Near-perfect, these readings of Jennings could not be improved.
The long Cage piece dominates the album and contrasts well with the Jennings. Tilbury and Lexer have collaborated for a number of years at Goldsmith College in South London, appearing together at the regular Interlace concert series there and developing approaches to combining piano and electronics. This version of the Cage piece does not simply add electronics to the piano. Instead, Tilbury's playing is picked up by a series of stationary and movable mikes, and transformed electronically (in a very Cage way), using a score devised from lines printed on transparencies and star maps. The recording of the performance is then further transformed and edited in a similar fashion. The end result produces a fine balance between piano and electronics, in terms of playing time and emphasis. It is restrained and full of space, feeling like a co-operative enterprise not a struggle or a battle. Against expectations, the most dramatic episodes come from the piano, with the electronics being relatively subdued. The whole is easy to listen to and reveals new facets with each hearing.
Its release date meant Lost Daylight missed the "best of the noughties" lists, but it is sure to be on similar lists come 2019. A future classic.” - John Eyles, All About Jazz
“Earlier this week I got the four new releases in the “piano series” put out by the label (read a review of all four ). While I am of course interested in listening to the entire series, the long awaited John Tilbury release has gotten almost all of my attention so far. Announced almost at the beginning of the label’s history (it’s AT 10, the most recent is AT 25) it contains recordings of solo piano pieces by the minimalist plus an innovative working of John Cage’s . The Terry Jenning’s pieces are sublime, delicate piano miniatures from 1958-66 that anticipate Feldman’s late piano pieces in their soft, deliberate nature if not their length. Jennings is woefully underrepresented in performance and recordings, I can only think of a few other pieces of his that I’ve heard. Thus it is a wonderful gift to hear some of his piano pieces so perfectly played by Tilbury on this recording. There is sound and silence and a sense of waiting in these pieces; patient and without any anxiety.
It is music of simplicity and great mystery. There are bar lines, but nothing feels counted: things happen in moments and not measures. There is always time for the resonance of the piano. (Is there any player better at feeling this resonance than John Tilbury?) The sounds drift, suspended in a dense medium of some kind. The shape of a piece emerges gradually, like the hills appearing as the marine layer burns off. Each piece feels like a small even extended in time” – Micheal Pisaro from the liner notes to the Jennings pieces.
The bulk of the album is a near forty minute realization of John Cage’s , which was written for David Tudor in 1964 as a set of loose instructions for combing several disparate elements. These elements are instructions for use of parts of Cage’s Music for Piano 4-84, realized using electronic equipment (the score mentions microphones, amplifiers and oscilloscope) and constellations from an astronomical chart. John Tilbury performs this piece as a duo with Sebastian Lexer handling the electronics. Lexer has developed this system he refers to as Piano+ which is basically the piano captured by microphones and manipulated by patches of his own devising. Of course MAX/MSP manipulation of the piano is an academic trope done enough so that even the most varied of patches share a certain amount of familiarity. Lexer’s solo release Dazwischen on the label aptly displays these tropes and the kind of digital excess that MSP can lead to. But in the case of this piece, in I think attempting to capture aspect of Tudor’s electronics, which often used cascading amplification, feedback, phase shifting and other simple and frankly abused electronics, these excesses are mostly avoided. Which isn’t to say there isn’t the occasional bit of cheesily delayed tones, autopanning or video game type of sounds, just never to any sort of excess. Most of the time the sounds seem to be more faint crackles, distorted piano tones, restrained feedback and the like. The piece is remarkable in its spaciousness and subtlety with the most dramatic parts coming from the piano: crashes of the lid or bangs on the body or strings. The setup of the electronics itself as well as the excerpts from Music for Piano and finally the editing of the piece all used overlaid astronomical charts to arrange their construction. This adds additional layers of indeterminacy to the piece and fully succeeds in Lexer’s stated desire to “… go beyond a realisation that comprised of simply adding electronic effects to the piano”. With a piece like this one is always going to be in the shadow of Tudor and I think that Tilbury and Lexer succeeded admirably in creating a realization that is fully their own but acknowledges this influence. Tilbury’s pianism is markedly different from Tudor’s though I’d say they share many a common goal. As an example of how they are different but akin Tudor’s realizations of Feldman’s indeterminate pieces are I think far superior to Tilbury’s but I would definitely rather hear Tilbury handle the late Feldman. The two pianists strengths I think lie in different areas even if their sympathies are closely aligned. Likewise the electronics that Lexer employs, digital simulations of analog effects, are a far cry from the wild, on the edge, virtuoso electronics of Tudor. And he makes no attempt here to cavort in that territory. It is far more restrained and safe then Tudor and yet it nods toward it, acknowledges the sounds if not the application. This makes the piece theirs and it is a remarkable bit of music, something that is simultaneously new and old a piece of music that could really be read as an application of new technology and ideas to older music that is open to such experiments.
The beautiful Jennings pieces and the thoroughly engaging Cage realization make for a varied and fantastic CD. One of the best releases yet on and absolutely well worth picking up.” - Robert Kirkpatrick, A Spiral Cage
“Any new release with John Tilbury is the cause of great anticipation on my part
(not to slight the fine Master Lexer!) but I was especially antsy when I learned
he'd be performing several pieces by Terry Jennings. Like many, perhaps most, I'd
heard a thing or two of his over the years but had certainly read far more about
him than heard his work. Tilbury plays five pieces, written between 1958 and 1966.
They took a while to worm their way into me. Jennings is often cited, with Riley
and Young, as one of the true precursors of minimalism and you can hear that in this
music, though to a far lesser extent than I'd imagined. You perceive more of an antecedent
to work like Young's "The Well-Tuned Piano" than subsequent Riley, much less the
more routine minimalist pantheon. There's little in the way of repetition, though
kernels appear and iterate now and then; I said less of Riley, but in some ways it's
like Riley with a strong enough dose of Feldman to all but obliterate his standard
tropes. They have the appearance of disarming simplicity; it takes a while to hear
all the superfine subtlety with which Jennings (and, one presumes, Tilbury) imbue
the pieces. (another referent that just popped in my head: a hyper-sensitive, ultra-contemplative
Paul Bley). It's very thoughtful, beautiful music, wonderfully realized. Very glad
to have finally heard Tilbury's take.
The Cage work, "Electronic Music for Piano" (1964), exists in another universe, though an equally beguiling one. Tilbury and Lexer (handling the electronics) weave a 40-minute gossamer tapestry that's entirely unpredictable and totally immersive. I don't own another version and am not sure if I've heard it before. I know Stefan Schleiermacher has recorded it on vol. 2 of his MDG series, which I should hear. Apparently the instructions are rather vague, Cage having jotted them down on hotel letterhead, Tudor having first performed it. Whatever the possibilities, here Tilbury and Lexer have opted for a very wide open reading, with great amounts of space, the sounds almost like leaves (or dust motes) irregularly swirling in an eddy from a hidden draft. Every so often there's an upsurge in volume, a clang or loud ringing as though that breeze has succeeded in knocking over some delicately balanced object. But it all occurs at such a "natural" sounding, unhurried pace that one accepts every event as proper. It disappears for a minute or two and you don't quite notice. Clusters form, sometimes mellifluous when clear piano tones contribute, often comprised of rumbling static, each with equal weight, each simply an event in time.
In both cases, this is music I can see returning to many times over the years. Very beautiful, invigorating and deep work.”
- Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
“Four recent CDs on another British label, Another Timbre, provide further material for reflection on the state of piano exploration, from acoustic to electronic, from minimalist to orchestral, with works as strongly distinguished by temperament as methodology.
Consideration of the recordings should probably begin with John Tilbury’s Lost Daylight (AT10), which includes a collaboration with Sebastian Lexer on the music of John Cage. It’s also the earliest music represented here – and the only music that’s through-composed-- with performances of works by Terry Jennings as well as Cage. Jennings is little-known and to my knowledge this is the most extensive collection of recordings of his music extant. Born in California in 1940, he began working in the minimalist terrain of Morton Feldman in the late-50s, further influenced by an association with LaMonte Young. He died in 1981 and he and his works appear rarely. Like Young and fellow California minimalist Terry Riley, Jennings would take up the saxophone and modal improvisation, creating a strong bond between jazz and experimental musical practices. Tilbury’s wondrously even touch and sense of detail realize this music beautifully, opening up all the distances in Jennings’ mid-60s pieces like “Winter Sun” and “Winter Trees,” spaces that exist not only in time but also in the intervals of their modes . “Piano Piece, 1960” is so spare that Tilbury seems to be summoning it up from space itself.
Cage’s “Electronic Music for Piano” is sparser still, with Tilbury and Lexer creating a score out of Cage’s 1964 performance notes and adaptation of the earlier “Music for Piano 4 - 84” (from 1953-56). The two have used transparencies of star maps a la Cage and David Tudor and moveable mikes, with Tilbury’s performance then subjected to further randomizing processes and editing by Lexer. Like any successful “performance” of Cage’s later work, its realization is determined as much by the originality of the performers as by Cage’s own, and Tilbury and Lexer are genuine originals. Strongly associated with the methods of Dazwischen, this also makes a fine introduction to Lexer’s development of the “piano +” concept in which the piano is subject to computer processing, feedback , etc., a process in part shaped by earlier Tilbury/Lexer realizations of the “Electronic Music for Piano.”
- Stuart Broomer, Point of Depoarture
“Lost Daylight begins with John Tilbury’s performance of five pieces by the late American composer Terry Jennings, who was an associate of La Monte Young. Jennings’ music seems to be poised midway between romanticism and minimalism, sparse, lovely, and in love with the piano’s inherent tone. Tilbury uses the instrument’s resonance to fill the spaces between the notes with ineffable, decaying sound. He eloquently poses one of the piano’s problems — it is capable of such great beauty that those who would use it are ultimately used by it. This music is at peace with the piano, and while it may have challenged compositional convention when it first came about, it didn’t challenge the fundamental nature of the instrument. The final track, a nearly 40 minute rendition of John Cage’s Electronic Music For Piano, is the solution that problem. Tilbury and Sebastian Lexner, himself an accomplished pianist but sticking here to electronics, treat the piano, sound, and music as things to be subverted. The score is a set of prescriptions, many of them random — the players must consult a star chart for direction. The piano is whacked, its innards cluttered, its tone electronically altered. They disrupt the old beauty, but can’t help but create something just as compelling to take its place. The duo have added further randomization via post hoc editing, and taken Cage’s engagement with silence one step further by splicing digital silences into the moments of quiet when neither man plays. You could lose yourself for an age in this record.” - Bill Meyer, Signal to Noise
“On this disc John Tilbury plays five pieces by the minimalist composer Terry Jennings, and – together with the electronics of Sebastian Lexer – a composition by John Cage (‘Electronic Music for Piano’).
The Jennings pieces are like a small anthology of works written between the ages of 18 and 26. So these five short sober pieces with their modest means, each a tableau of time and space, encapsulate a period of eight years. As the music drifts across the keyboard, the score demands that the playing be much more measured than usual, as in, for example, the piece Winter Trees. For this reason Tilbury often lets the silences run on, and in so doing his playing always touches the heart.
And then there is ‘Electronic Music for Piano’ by John Cage. The title suggests the composer having a joke with Marcel Duchamp, but a carefully worked and serious joke. Or ‘knowing’ perhaps more than serious. Lexer’s electronic manipulations provide sonic flashes, propositions which in turn are relayed and developed by Tilbury. A fantastic kind of piano music; forty minutes which round off the cd and provide its essence. Lost Daylight is a disc of music for piano which is full of jokes and of seriousness, but which above all is beautiful.” - Héctore Cabrero, Le Son du Grisli
“There’s a heavy rain falling outside my window. The cars that are passing create a dull slush of sound, their tail lights blurring into the gray silt. John Tilbury’s (of AMM) interpretation of Terry Jenning’s pieces for piano is playing, from Lost Daylight on Another Timbre records. It’s not at odds with the natural drama outside, in fact it seems to coexist organically, as though either thing would be incomplete without it. I realize the quaintness of all of this– spare, delicate solo piano playing out to rain, while humdrum thoughts are played out like a rumination on the wheel of life. But I’m also a couple beers in, enjoying a day off, and probably been listening to far too much death metal (although isn’t Impetuous Ritual just fucking great?)
Like Satie or Feldman, Jenning’s pieces seem to bend the time, creating another space, a new continuum. I keep looking up and realizing five minutes have passed as though in one. Each note is placed to chart space, to investigate the room. It’s not necessarily natural music, but the slow, leaf falling in air notes seem to conjure images of the natural, of water and soil, creeping moss and hanging vine. I’m a sucker for the ruminative as much as the visceral kick and punch. I’m a solitary listener mostly. I find the themes and narratives I create for myself when listening to music to be more meaningful than with others usually. It’s not that I create the situations to listen alone, but that most people I know don’t dig Keith Rowe as much as the Animal Collective, or Morbid Angel as much as Wolf Parade. Kevin Drumm doesn’t lend itself to parties, AMM isn’t perfect for the collective smash grab, fuck and fight. Who cares anyway? All interpretation is insular. And as much as we would like to create art and life as having some nature that elevates into a grand universal state, it still falls down to the indvidual, stubborn, limited and fleeting. I’m glad for that. Permanence is overrated. As though if we erect enough lasting monuments that it will convince others that we are still here. Somewhere. And this music seems so impermanent. . . Tilbury spins notes that seem to burn in the air then flicker out, never to repeated again (that is until you play it again). Facilely, I’m reminded those of drunken moments at the piano, when the party is dying down or nearly out and you rest your cheek in one hand and play delicately with the other, lost and tired and sad because you can almost hear those birds singing. Of course on Lost Daylight it’s anything but drunken… infinitely more skilled. Of course. With infinitely more patience and experience and talent. But that goes without saying, doesn’t it?
Jenning’s pieces float and seem to react to one another in interesting ways. It’s five seperate pieces but each seems dependent on the other, as though part of a suite. Tilbury’s playing is humid, laden but not heavy. In fact, one could say his touch is so light and reflective the notes barely stir the air, but once heard they don’t easily leave your consciousness, percolating down to something deeper, more subliminal. I can’t think of anything more stunningly played, more gorgeously felt than the decaying string of notes on the fourth track that cascade and then slow to yet another minimal probing half-melody.
I must be getting sappy. Ah, the last track, by Cage, this time Tilbury is abetted by Sebastian Lexer on electronics (piano+). It’s a skirting, shifting mass compared to the earlier pieces. It coinicides perfectly as the rain has calmed. It’s not as beautiful or ruminative as the Jennings, but impecablely played. Volume masses then fades, radical shifts of tone and timbre sprout than shrink and die. Incredibly dense at moments, then hardly there at others, it reminds me there’s still life to the scrape and tinkle of avant garde piano. I’ve never been hugely into the John Cage, and if I am it’s almost always by Tudor or Tilbury. Lexer’s electronics are layered and thoughtful and really make this whole piece for me. If most of the noise genre would pay as much intimate attention to timbre and placement… well, then, I guess it wouldn’t be real enough or something, not harsh enough for the heads. At around 23:00 minutes in there’s a wonderful sustained tone that is eerily similar to the thunderstorm warning siren I heard earlier, Lexer elongating a tart chord I assume. Tilbury is stoic as always. This is a great disc. Buy it” Tanner Servoss, Aphidhair
at10 lost daylight
1. Terry Jennings Piano Piece 1958 1:57
2. Terry Jennings Winter Sun, 1966 7:17
3. Terry Jennings For Christine Jennings, 1960 8:55
4. Terry Jennings Winter Trees, 1965 8:20
5. Terry Jennings Piano Piece 1960 3:47
6. John Cage Electronic Music for Piano, 1964 39:58
John Tilbury piano
Sebastian Lexer electronics, track 6 only
recorded in London, November 2007 and September 2009
Youtube extract ‘For Christine Jennings’
audio excerpt Cage