a.pe.ri.od.ic’s inaugural release “more or less” is a CD of three recent works by the Swiss composer, Jürg Frey. The 10-member mixed ensemble brings out the unique and unusual blend of beauty, sensitivity, and uncertainty found in Frey’s music.
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.icRead More
"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."
April 2014 Chicago
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
Founded in 2010, a•pe•ri•od•ic‘s repertoire explores the indeterminacy of various musical elements including instrumentation, structure, pitch, and/or duration. Drawn to works of sparseness, contemplation, and quietude, this "daring group" (Chicago Reader) has a history of interpreting distinctive pieces using a collaborative rehearsal process, deriving meaning and intention from oblique prose scores with great sensitivity.
Led by Nomi Epstein, the ensemble has commissioned, premiered, and recorded works by composers such as Michael Pisaro, Eva-Maria Houben, Jürg Frey, James Saunders, and Pauline Oliveros. a•pe•ri•od•ic released its debut album, more or less, featuring the music of Jürg Frey in 2014 under New Focus Recordings. The ensemble has received funding from the Swiss Arts Council, the Earle Brown Foundation, the Goethe Institute, and the Foundation of Contemporary Arts. Members of a•pe•ri•od•ic hold graduate degrees in music performance or composition from Chicago-area universities and conservatories, and are featured in other Chicago-based groups including Ensemble Dal Niente and Outer Voices.http://www.aperiodicchicago.com
Led by composer Nomi Epstein, a.pe.ri.od.ic specializes in post-Cage experimental music, favoring works that demand creative input from each performer—including text-based scores where the conceptual framework that the musicians bring to the piece can shape a performance more dramatically than anything else. The group's first commercial recording consists of three works by Swiss composer Jürg Frey, a key figure in the austere Wandelweiser collective. More or Less Normal and Canones Incerti use overlapping tones—some protracted, some terse—to create their lapidary beauty. The third, 60 Pieces of Sound, builds from similar materials (the tones are shorter on average) but separates the collages of sustained notes with frequent silence. - Peter Margasak
The performance group a.pe.ri.od.ic concentrates on post-Cagean notated, experimental music. The opening More or Less Normal by Jurg Frey uses piano, voice, french horn, strings, and winds to create a lasting, shifting soundscape. The performers adhere to their individual speeds and enter with single tones. A naturally occurring pulse emerges and dissolves and beautiful sonorities enter and shatter. The other Frey compositions, Canones Incerti and 60 Pieces of Sound, both clock in at over 25 minutes. Each has simple instructions that allow for performer choice and can lead to drastically different performances. In Canones Incerti the performers decide when to play their two sections of music. Motion is slow and the notes are long. The canonical elements can merge into a wash of sound. a.pe.ri.od.ic’s program is far from busy, 60 Pieces of Sound brackets all sound events with a healthy dose of silence, and it concentrates fully on indeterminacy, but the concepts behind each piece are implemented well. © 2015 Kraig Lamper, American Record Guide March 2015