Composer Richard Beaudoin continues his deep investigation into the realm of microtiming with his follow up to his Microtimings on New Focus, Digital Memory and the Archive. Featuring music for solo and two celli by Neil Heyde and longtime Arditti Quartet cellist Rohan de Saram, Beaudoin engages in an inquiry about the intrinsic nature of subtle expressive differences, building a rich approach to composition which embeds timings from iconic performances into the fabric of his music.
RIchard Beaudoin continues his in depth investigation into the relationship between the subtleties of timing in performance and expression with Digital Memory and the Archive, his second release on New Focus (a follow up to FCR125 Microtimings). Featuring performances by cellists Neil Heyde and Rohan de Saram, Beaudoin creates works that use precise timings and information from iconic recordings as a source of skeletal information around which to construct new compositions. Beaudoin’s work raises fascinating questions about the nature of interpretation, facsimile, and dialogue with past luminaries. As Neil Heyde elegantly writes of the towering artists whose performances Beaudoin has based these works, “In these pieces they are hardly ghosts at all, but real presences.” In communing with the essential fabric of recordings that have touched so many, Beaudoin brings these great artists with him in the journey of creating new work, keeping their artistry alive.
The album opens with Reproducció, perhaps the most direct resurrection of a legendary recording in the collection. Beaudoin analyzed the timings in Pablo Casals’ recording of the Sarabande from Bach’s D minor Cello Suite BWV1008. The score reflects not just the pitches of the famous movement, but the precise proportional durations of Casals’ rubato. Beaudoin’s approach illuminates the layers of notational specificity – while Bach’s original notation is precise in so many ways, it is also extremely flexible in others. What might it mean to not simply play Bach’s Sarabande, but to play Casals’ performance of Bach’s Sarabande? This is the question at the core of Reproducció.
The other works develop less direct but no less intricate relationships between the original recorded timings and the newly generated notation. Unikat is based on a Martha Argerich recording of E minor Prelude, op. 28/4/ Here, Argerich’s relative dynamics in her performance of the left hand chords is mapped onto the length of variable arpeggios in the cello. The result is a piece that draws our attention to subtle changes in similar arpeggiated figures, and an accumulation of density and energy that mirrors Argerich’s interpretive and expressive arc in her recording. Bacchante uses a recording of Debussy himself playing his “...Danseuses de Delphes” from his Préludes, livre I, from 1913, a work that was itself inspired by a replica of the Acanthus Column in the Louvre. Beaudoin uses a similar notational system to Reproducció here, but adds variable note sizes and alternate beaming to help illuminate the mapping of the different hands of the piano onto the cello line.
Glenn Gould’s 1965 recording of Schoenberg’s Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke is the source for Nachzeichnen/Tracing. Including the creaking sounds of Gould’s chair, this piece, played entirely without the bow in a panoply of colorful effects, captures the expressionist character of Schoenberg’s work and the focused intensity of Gould’s performance.
Beaudoin doesn’t limit himself to historic recordings of the European classical canon, turning his focus to a Thelonius Monk recording of Body and Soul from 1962 for the inspiration for You Know I’m Yours. Zeroing in on Monk’s uncanny ability to establish rhythmic independence between his left and right hands, Beaudoin builds the composite relationship between the two into the solo cello line. The result is a propulsive, fluid, extroverted work that captures Monk’s irrepressible spirit.
The final work on the recording is for two cellos, with Neil Heyde joined by the eminent Rohan de Saram, long time cellist for the Arditti Quartet. Maggie Teyte and Alfred Cortot’s recording of “La chevelure” from Debussy’s Trois Chansons de Bilitis is the model, with one cello mapping onto the vocal line and the other onto the piano. The static from the early recording as well as record skipping make it into Beaudoin’s imaginative transcription.
In a poignant nod to these great artists, Beaudoin closes the recording with Teyte and Cortot’s actual 1936 recording. But our hearing of it has been transformed by the additional layer of interpretation that Beaudoin, Heyde, and de Saram have laid on top of it. Indeed, Beaudoin’s process asks fascinating questions not just about our relationship to iconic recordings, but the phenomenon of interpretation itself, the sustained re-engagement with a work of art that has been passed down. By creating new works through the minute analysis of historic recordings, often using very fine technological tools, Beaudoin actually reconnects us with one of the most fundamental and low tech characteristics of artistic traditions – they are stories passed down from generation to generation, either by oral tradition, or via archival means, to be understood and interpreted in the context of each new era.
- Dan Lippel
released February 3, 2023
Recorded 15–16 November 2021 (tracks 1–5) and 2 December 2021 (tracks 6–7) at Hastoe Village Hall, near Tring, Hertfordshire, UK
New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as
new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers....more
supported by 7 fans who also own “Digital Memory and the Archive”
There is this feeling of a breath that can stop at any moment without knowing when. Everything becomes fragile and uncertain. Very interesting symbiosis between the instruments which seem to be one. Beautifully recorded. sylvain-levier