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J​ü​rg Frey: more or less

by a•pe•ri•od•ic

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Chicago-based performance collective a.pe.ri.od.ic embraces the beauty of uncertainty in this disc of chamber works by Swiss composer Jürg Frey. At once serene and unsettled, the three works for mixed ensemble move meditatively through shifting sonic landscapes. Frey is a long-time member of the Wandelweiser group of composers, inspired by John Cage and devoted to silence as well as sound. Indeterminacy is another preoccupation: the scores in this album at times invite the performers to choose when they enter with individual parts, allowing them to respond to one another in the moment of playing. The weight and quality of each sound event come to the fore in transparent textures. There is a contemplative, searching quality to this music that underscores the philosophy at its core. While "More or less normal" and "Canones incerti" are continuous in sound, enveloping us in shifting and pulsing intervals, "60 Pieces of Sound" asks us to consider blocks of sound in isolation, almost like the sonic equivalent of the pure aesthetic of a Rothko canvas.

"This project began back in 2011, when I met with Jürg Frey in his hometown of Aarau, Switzerland to play for him a live-concert recording of More or less normal from a past a.pe.ri.od.ic concert, and to discuss the ensemble's plan to put out a CD of his works. Over the next year, three compositions- More or less normal, 60 Pieces of Sound, and Canones incerti - were chosen as pieces which best fit a.pe.ri.od.ic's size and instrumentation. Each of these three works creates a space where care and concern for the quality, weight and presence of a sound event dominates. The music captures a unique and unusual blend of beauty, sensitivity, and uncertainty both in performance and listening practices." - Nomi Epstein, Director of a.pe.ri.od.ic

"Both More or less normal and Canones incerti create an unsettled and unsettling frame within which the performers must find their way rhythmically and harmonically through the pieces. The form of More or less normal alters depending on the number of performers involved. Each player begins at a different section and continues through the short sections of the piece, each requiring a different speed of pulsation. A welcomed tension arises between performers with their shifting individual pulsations interacting with and being swayed by those of the other players.

Canones incerti, also for variable instrumentation, offers a unique canonic model which is overlaid with indeterminate structural elements. Players decide individually how often and when they will play their two sections of music. A player cannot predict whether they will find themself playing solo or in the midst of a thick texture of sound.

In 60 Pieces of Sound, sonic events are divided by silence, sharply contrasting the fields of continuous activity found in both Canones and More or less normal. The soprano and bass parts are consistently shadowed by a third part, a chorus of sound, notated on a staff without clef, which can be made up of any one or more players. In some of the pieces, a compromise ensues where the wash of sound (the chorus) eclipses the two voices by content of pitch or pitchless sonic activity. While in other pieces, one or both voices remain in clear focus, the chorus in blurred presence.

Across the three compositions, Frey gives the performers aesthetic impulse and direction coupled with a sense of freedom. Patience for the sonorous outcome is required. The sonic space is left with a fluctuating balance of what might happen (or what the players hope to happen) with the actual realization. Performers must give in to the unknown, knowing their role within the piece is both small and essential."

Nomi Epstein
April 2014 Chicago


released September 5, 2014

Alex Temple, synthesizer, melodica
Ammie Brod, viola
Billie Howard, violin, auxiliary instruments
Eliza Bangert, flute
Jeff Kimmel, bass clarinet
Kenn Kumpf, voice, whistle
Matthew Oliphant, French horn, auxiliary instruments
Nomi Epstein, piano, auxiliary instruments

Recorded at Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago, IL

Alex Inglizian, engineer
Nomi Epstein, executive producer
Kenn Kumpf, assistant producer
Nomi Epstein, recording project coordinator




New Focus Recordings New York, New York

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

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