This ambitious release by Cleveland based saxophone duo Ogni Suono (Noa Even and Phil Pierick) explores new works, all written for the group, that extend the range of their instruments to include singing, speaking, and a beguiling vocabulary of breathing and vocal sounds. Working closely with an elite group of contemporary composers, Ogni Suono joins many other virtuoso wind instrumentalists and ensembles at the vanguard of instrumental and extended technique.
|02||dare-gale, speaks and spells|
dare-gale, speaks and spells
|03||My Manifesto and Me|
My Manifesto and Me
Walking After MidnightDavid Reminick
|05||I. Ghost Story|
I. Ghost Story
|06||II. Ordinary Words|
II. Ordinary Words
This ambitious release by Cleveland based saxophone duo Ogni Suono (Noa Even and Phi Pierick) explores new works, all written for the group, that extend the range of their instruments to include singing, speaking, and a beguiling vocabulary of breathing and vocal sounds. Working closely with an elite group of contemporary composers, Ogni Suono joins many other virtuoso wind instrumentalists and ensembles at the vanguard of instrumental and extended technique. These musicians are crafting a new body of work that embraces once disparate corners of contemporary performance practice — the conventional technical demands of complexity scores; the specialized vocabulary of multiphonics, key clicks, and other percussive techniques, and the performative elements of spoken, sung, and intoned vocal sounds.
Kate Soper’s Aeschylus inspired OTOTOI opens the recording with unstable sonorities passing between the duo - expressions of the character Kassandra from Agamemnon’s unsettling ability to see her dark future. Increasingly urgent multiphonics signal the growth of her unease, as Soper uses the saxophones and the performers’ voices to create dense multiphonics that simulate the dialogue between Kassandra’s inner voices predicting her fate and the horror she feels in the process of realization.
Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins is the muse for Zach Sheets’ dare-gale, speaks and spells. Sheets recorded Even and Pierick reciting two of Hopkins’ poems and used their pacing as a template for the structural evolution of the piece. The two horns often act as one hybrid instrument, alternating articulated pitches in a downward glissandi or filling in notes in an arpeggio. Framing virtuosic bursts of melodic activity are occasional rustling gestures, vocal murmurs, and ritualistic, rhythmic whispers.
Christopher Dietz’ My Manifesto and Me uses a rifleman’s monologue from Stanley Kubrick’s war movie Full Metal Jacket as a template to lampoon narrow minded, tightly constructed viewpoints. Substituting the word “manifesto” for “rifle”, Dietz delivers a send up of the self-importance of the ever so human tendency to see things in unassailable terms, with spoken text interwoven into a barrage of forceful musical gestures in the form of the slap tongues, raw multiphonics, and insistent repeated notes. The recitation goes off the rails on the word “peace”, and the work closes expressing the empty disenchantment left when a fragile worldview is demolished. In our era of social media bluster and polemical invective, Dietz’ work stings in its indictment of our limited discourse.Read More
Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s Chroma actively defies narrative and rhetorical meaning, instead striving to create an ambient texture that patiently explores deeper and deeper levels, calling attention in gentle waves to its own intensely poignant component parts.
Walking After Midnight, by David Reminick, confronts the phenomenon of sleep walking, as relayed to the composer by a close friend. The first movement, “Ghost Story”, opens with angular post-punk hockets as each member of the duo takes turns vocalizing and playing their horn. Reminick’s story is then told in alternation by Even and Pierick, within the context of a off-kilter groove, filled with ghostly scale passages, trills, and evocative unison instrumental and vocal phrases. The second movement, "Ordinary Words", is more subdued, reflecting the shift in the narrative voice from a confused four year old to a concerned father caring for his somnambulist son.
Felipe Lara’s Vocalise II emphasizes the airy quality of the saxophone, opening with a wavelike texture of inhales and exhales through which short saxophone punctuations articulate rhythmic pulses and pave the way for increased melodic activity over a sustained drone. Midway through the work, Lara quotes the medieval French composer Perotin’s famous Viderunt omnes, also an oblique hommage to Pierre Boulez who passed away during the composition of the piece.
Erin Rogers describes her piece Clamor as “circles of instrumental racket, vocal noise, and sounds from somewhere-in-between”. The work is a collage of oversaturation, spoken and played, that lives at the charged intersection of performance art and virtuoso extended technique. A recited “menu” of mainstream American breakfast food interspersed with political buzzwords (“over-easy embryos” and “pain au chocolat pain tolerance”) pushes the work towards an absurdist edge, and in doing so, joins the Dietz in being this album’s two most timely works for the perilously fraught historical moment in which it finds itself.
Formed by American saxophonists Noa Even and Phil Pierick in 2009, Ogni Suono is committed to expanding the repertoire for saxophone duo by collaborating with living composers and offering diverse and adventurous programming to new audiences. Strong advocates of music education, Ogni Suono often pairs performances with master classes, workshops, and outreach programs on a variety of topics.http://www.ognisuono.com
The saxophone is an instrument of the future. Invented much later than the violin, flute, and other instruments, the sax enjoys a refreshing lack of historical baggage, save for certain jazz associations. Noa Even and Phil Pierick of the Cleveland-based saxophone duo Ogni Suono take full advantage of this inherent newness, extending the expressive potential of the saxophone beyond any identifiable confines and exploring the continuum between the instrument and human voice. Released September 7, 2018 on New Focus Recordings, SaxoVoce is Ogni Suono’s second full-length record, presenting a formidable array of new commissions by Kate Soper, Zach Sheets, Chris Fisher-Lochhead, David Reminick, Felipe Lara, Christopher Dietz, and Erin Rogers.
Opening with a muted soundscape of multiphonics and broadening quickly into brash, feedback-heavy tones, Kate Soper’s OTOTOI establishes the outer extremes of the saxophone’s timbral range with remarkable succinctness. Inspired by Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, OTOTOI depicts the torments of Kassandra, cursed to see future events believed by no one. Even and Pierick capture this sense of growing desperation with a well-controlled, gradual crescendo of increasingly-ornamented saxophone utterances, rising to a fever pitch before retreating suddenly into a somber mist.
Zach Sheets’ dare-gale, speaks and spells is the virtuosic high point of the album, running the gamut of extended techniques for both saxophone and voice. Breathy whirs give way to percussive tongue clicks; later in the piece, whistles, hums, and singing mix in intricate choreography. Sheets’ writing gives the impression of a single, sinewy organism, as both instruments interact in tightly-wound arpeggiations and canonic imitations. By contrast, Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s Chroma features two saxophones moving in similar, yet independent paths. Although both instruments engage in the same musical vocabulary of microtones, fluttering tremolos, and faint vocalizations, they trace unhurried circles around each other, colliding like drifting space objects. An intriguing juxtaposition of placid textures with dissonant harmonies, Chroma is SaxoVoce’s most magical and otherworldly moment.
Perhaps the most “traditional” work on SaxoVoce, David Reminick’s two-movement suite Walking After Midnight is nevertheless engaging, evocative, and musically demanding—Reminick asks both musicians to “sing throughout the piece…classical vocal training is not required.” Even and Pierick take on this double-duty task with impressive dedication, alternating quickly between energetically syncopated saxophone playing and highly angular vocal passages. The text poignantly illustrates a parent reacting to their four-year-old’s sleepwalking episode, supplemented wonderfully by musical word-painting: for example, “his tiny snores in time to the lunar tides of his chest” is followed by a peaceful, lopsided rhythm, trailing away into silence.
Like an epic tone-poem, Felipe Lara’s Vocalise II moves with gravitas, its formless beginning building slowly into an F-sharp drone, over which capricious melodic contours swirl. These melodies are more fragmented and oblique than bel canto; vehement inhales and punctuating tongue clicks give the overriding effect of effort, as if the performers are laboring to construct consonant intervals above the drone.
Ogni Suono particularly shines in works containing sociopolitical overtones. In My Manifesto and Me, Christopher Dietz quotes a rhetoric-laden scene from the war movie Full Metal Jacket. At the piece’s outset, Even and Pierick recite a quasi-Pledge-of-Allegiance mantra before blaring through a declamatory saxophone passage. Glassy-eyed phrases like “Without me my manifesto is useless—without my manifesto I am useless” and “No alternatives and no opposition, only compliance” parody the human tendency towards oversimplification, while the ad nauseum repetition of the word “peace” is coupled with a frenetic crescendo suggesting anything but. My Manifesto and Me is saved from a completely literal reading by contrasting moments of soft, hesitating low tones, suggesting a more reflective, critical voice in the melee.
Likewise, Erin Rogers‘ Clamor contains a sobering message beneath its veneer of humorous stream-of-consciousness vocalizations. A concentrated outburst of surreal phrases and exhilarating noise-heavy saxophone techniques, Clamor’s textual gems include “one, two, three, four, five, six, B-FLAT,” “not sure why he drank three cups of milk,” and “I love avocado toast,” to name a few. Towards the end of the piece, however, Even unleashes a stream of word battery in which phrases like “over-easy embryos,” “congressional pork sausage,” “global warming hot cake,” and “farm-to-table legislation” are audible. The use of politically charged words casts a different light on the mayhem—becoming a depiction of present-day political and capitalistic excesses. Roger’s Clamor is a perfect album closer, showcasing the sheer breadth of exploration Ogni Suono is capable of.
SaxoVoce is a tour de force of new possibilities for saxophone and voice, providing a blueprint for the creation of future saxophone duo repertoire. The album’s featured works contain enough formal and stylistic variety to sustain close listening engagement throughout; furthermore, Even and Pierick’s playing highlights a veritable encyclopedia of sound-production techniques spanning the saxophone/voice spectrum. With SaxoVoce, Ogni Suono insists on the saxophone’s versatility, its expressive power and unique voice—suggesting that the sax does not simply belong within the distinguished pantheon of “classical” instruments, but rather may exist somewhere further beyond.
-Daniel Schreiner, 5.17.19, I Care If You Listen
All musical instruments are an extension of the human voice. Even the best keyboard, string, and percussion players know how to create musical lines that breathe. While wind and brass players are keenly aware of how to use air to inflect a myriad of emotions, there is not a lot of music that requires them to incorporate their voices with their instruments. On their new recording, titled SaxoVoce, (to be released on September 7) the inventive saxophone duo Ogni Suono — Noa Even and Phil Pierick — take on the challenge of playing and vocalizing during seven eclectic works. The results are a fascinating blend of catchy technical and rhythmic passages with an array of colorful soundscapes and some intriguing narratives.
You can join Even and Pierick in celebrating their new disc during a free Album Release concert on September 8, at 5:00 pm, at Historic St. John’s in the Hingetown area of Ohio City. The evening will include light refreshments and a discussion about the creation of the album. The event also kicks off the duo’s album release tour which will include stops in Columbus, Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, West Hartford, Somerville, Mass, and Cincinnati. Click here for dates, times, and locations.
The album opens with Kate Soper’s alluring Ototoi (2015) for two tenor saxophones. The composer describes the music as an “onomatopoetic cry of wild distress and is the first utterance out of the mouth of Kassandra in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon.” Beginning with soft longtones, the piece quickly evolves into raw-sounding cries in the wilderness. Although there are no discernable words, Soper creates a frightening world that Even and Pierick portray with aplomb.
Zach Sheets began writing dare-gale, speaks and spells (2016) for soprano and alto saxophone by recording the performers reading two poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Caged Skylark and As Kingfishers Catch Fire. Sheets writes that he “wanted to work with this innovative poetic language as a musical material, filtered through the voices of the performers themselves.” Here the players are brilliant as their tight, downward spiral passages move in and out of percussive sounds and nimbly through technical passages. Their voices, a combination of air and noise, often verge on beat-boxing.
Using the voice to expand on extended techniques also defines Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s Chroma (2017) for two soprano saxophones and Felipe Lara’s Vocalise II (2016) for alto and tenor saxophone.
Christopher Dietz’s My Manifesto and Me (2016) for alto and tenor opens with the players reciting the opening lines of The Rifleman’s Creed: “Please raise your right hand and repeat after me: Before God.” While the composer maintains the creed’s structure throughout the work, he has altered some words and phrases — for example, “my rifle” becomes “my Manifesto.” Dietz inventively interweaves short, rhythmic motives to accent the words of the creed, which Even and Pierick deliver with authority.
The most narrative-driven work on the album is David Reminick’s Walking After Midnight (2017) for alto and baritone instruments. Written in two sections, the piece address the phenomenon of sleepwalking. The text is taken from autobiographical stories of a friend of the composer, the first, “Ghost Story,” is about a four-year old boy’s experiences of sleepwalking, and the Doppelgänger (ghost) whose smile provides comfort and reassurance. Catchy rhythms accompany the words “I am four years old,” “I smile the same smile back at him,” and, “We fly slowly out of the room.” In the second, “Ordinary Words,” the narrator — now an adult — finds himself in the supporting role of protecting his young son through the boy’s own nighttime terror.
Walking After Midnight is a chamber opera with the players doing the double duty of portraying the characters and providing the accompanying musical score. In his performance notes, Reminick states that “both musicians are asked to sing throughout the piece. Classical vocal training is not required, and musicians should feel free to sing in whatever manner feels most comfortable to them, regardless of their level of training.” Taking this to heart, the performers juxtapose Pierick’s well supported, “classical” sounding voice with Even’s breathier, singer-songwriter approach.
Erin Rogers’ humorous Clamor (2016) for two vocalizing saxophonists on soprano instruments lives up to its name. Opening with the shouting of “one, two, three, four, B-flat,” the players launch into the jazzy music while continuing to blurt out frenzied phrases like “help me I’m trapped in the coffee maker,” and “not sure why he drank three cups of milk,” among numerous other Jabberwockian sentences. Clamor is a fun way to conclude the album.
The pairing of the same or two closely related instruments, when done well, can make the claim of being something like the anti-homeopathy of music. Rather than using like to negate like, as is claimed by homeopathic medicine, the successful duet uses like to enhance like. Each amplifies the effect of each while helping focus the ear on subtle gradations of timbre and, by extension, expressive force.
Ogni Suono, the Cleveland, Ohio saxophone duet of Noa Even and Phil Pierick, opened the 2018 Sonic Circuits DC Festival this past September. Their set was a remarkable, precisely played précis of their album SaxoVoce, a collection of new work they commissioned from several contemporary composers. As its title suggests, SaxoVoce is an album of music for saxophones and voices matched and sorted in a variety of ways. On a piece like Christopher Dietz’s My Manifesto and Me (2016), which alternates recitative and instrumental passages, voice and saxophone occupy distinct spheres that dramatize each other by way of contrast. On Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s Chroma (2017) for two soprano saxophones and voice, the instrumental parts—long lines moving past each other in slow glissandi—lie over a substrate of wordless voices hardly distinguishable from the sounds of the instruments. The serene pace of the work belies its on-edge dissonances, afforded by overtones, multiphonics and microtonal collisions. Ogni Suono’s facility with extended techniques is further demonstrated in Vocalise II (2016) by Felipe Lara, which rushes in with the hissing of air notes and is sustained on the drone of a tenor saxophone accompanied by a parallel, hummed line.
-Daniel Barbiero, 10.29.18, Avant Music News
Ogni Suono (Noa Even and Phil Pierick) have created something truly unique with SaxoVoce, a collection of pieces for two saxophones with voice ranging from singing to narration to pitched/non-pitched vocalizations, in addition to a wide range of extended saxophone techniques and timbres. Kate Soper’s OTOTOI presents an engaging exploration of the widest range of the instruments though a relatively limited palette of sonic materials that develop slowly over time. Sheets’ dare-gale, speaks and spells is an impressive composition that’s executed incredibly by Ogni Suono, at times sounding like more than 2 saxophones with the complex contrapuntal framework of notes, noises and vocalizations. Christopher Dietz’s My Manifesto and Me is superficially a humorous reworking of the Rifleman’s Creed from the movie Full Metal Jacket, but with some ring undertones enhanced by the saxophone accompaniment and methods of narration. The text acts as the centerpiece of this composition with the saxophones acting in a supporting role through pointed articulations, frenetic key clicks, and swirling low drones. Dietz’s piece is one that really allows the duo to shine in their ability to not only vocalize, but deliver a powerful text through narration and self-accompaniment. Chris Fisher-Locchead’s Chroma is an interesting exploration of the timbral characteristics of the saxophones and voices through seamless transitions voice to saxophone or both in an extended through-composer formal structure.
Walking After Midnight by David Reminick demonstrates Even’s and Pierick’s singing abilities. Though Reminick specifies that “vocal training is not required,” Even and Pierick bring the same level of craft and execution as they do with all other elements of each piece on the album. Reminick’s creative use of syncopated rhythms, text painting and rapid transitions between singing and playing create a musical and textual narrative that remains consistently engaging throughout both movements.
Felipe Lara’s Vocalise II is an impressive work that presents a barrage of material that coalesces into a single sustained drone. Once the drone arrives the players present melodies and gestures in fragments, noises, inhaling, and other instrumental and vocal noises. Between the fractured melodies and vocalizations moments of consonance and repose begin to appear over the drone in the thicket of disjointed and contrasting materials.
Erin Rogers’ Clamor involves percussive noises and energetic rhythmic counterpoint interspersed between spoken phrases, similar to the Dietz’s piece earlier on the album. The fragmented phrases seem to be nonsense, but there are clear elements of the text relating to modern political concerns and issues surrounding capitalism. Fans of Rogers’ work with thingNY and Popebama will surely be pleased with her contribution to this album, and it acts as the perfect closer to an incredibly ambitious and wonderfully executed album.
-Jon Fielder, 10.15.19, Klang New Music