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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Ellen Arkbro - For Organ And Brass (Subtext, 2017) ****

By Stef

This album has been lying here for too long, and I was fascinated by the sonic architecture created by Swedish composer Ellen Arkbro, and at the same wondering whether its lack of improvisation made it fit to be reviewed on our blog. It is fully composed, but the effect of the historic organ -  specifically tuned in what experts call the "meantone temperament", present in the St Stephen's Church in Tangermünde in Northeastern Germany, and played by Johan Graden - in combination with the brass trio is nothing but amazing. The brass part is performed by a trio consisting of Elena Kakaliagou on horn, Hillary Jeffrey on trombone and Robin Haward on tuba. The effect is mesmerising and relatively unique. “Hidden within the harmonic framework of the Renaissance organ are intervals and chords that are a close resemblance to those found in the modalities of traditional blues music,” explains Arkbro. “The work can be thought of as a very slow and reduced blues music.

The music evolves incredibly slowly indeed, with long sustained notes, repetitive and relatively simple on the surface of it, with the brass keeping the same lines at different intervals. It is neither somber nor joyous, but solemn, with an additional strange contradiction of sounding both intimate and majestic. As a listener you feel very close to what you hear, while the music is at the same time also so much grander.

A special sound that I did not want to withhold you.