Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Magnus Granberg - Come Down to Earth Where Sorrow Dwelleth (Meenna, 2020) ****½

By Stef Gijssels

In Dutch we have the beautiful word 'onthaasten' which means to slow down, literally to 'de-speed', not to be pulled in all directions by obligations, appointments, tasks, chores, commtiments and assignments. It means that you get rid of all external pressure and enjoy the moment. 

You absolutely need that state of mind to fully appreciate Swedish modern composer Magnus Granberg's approach to music. We have reviewed his compositions for his Skogen ensemble before. Now he's treating us to one composition performed by two different ensembles. 

The original piece "Come Down To Earh Where Sorrow Dwelleth", was composed in the spring of 2019 for Ordinary Affects, a Boston-based experimental ensemble, consisting of Morgan Evans-Weiler on violin, Laura Cetilia on cello, Luke Martin on electric guitar and J.P.A. Falzone on vibraphone. 

As it's title suggests, this is not upbeat music. The composition is a calm, slow, carefully paced improvisation around structural and melodic concepts. In a way Granberg's composition creates a sonic space to inhabit. As a listener you do not only listen to it, it surrounds you, it engulfes you, it creates the sonic environment in which you can just 'be'. Little extended sonic elements appear and disappear, like smoke, and little percussive particles drip like rain across the ethereal space. Light and almost intangible patterns appear in slightly shifting forms and the pace is so calm and the sounds so minimal that each tone gets a special weight, almost paradoxically. Needless to say, that all instruments are played with a level of mastery that betrays the instrument's intended sounds. That by itself makes the album worth listening to. 

The original album gives a recording of one of the last performances of the tour, at the Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. 

Granberg was invited at the Ftarri Festival in Japan in November of the same year. He reworked his composition for a Japanese ensemble consisting of Miki Maruta on 20-string koto, Ko Ishikawa on sho, Toshimaru Nakamura on no-input mixing board, and Magnus Granberg himself on prepared piano. The performance is shorter, 52 minutes instead of the original's 75 minutes. 

Both performances are worth listening to, and obviously there are differences, if only by the instrumentation, with possibly a more piercing sound of Nakamura's no-input mixing board somewhere halfway the composition creating a sense of unease instead of calm. 

So take your time, and listen to two different versions of the same composition, relax and enjoy two hours of great music. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp: here and here.


Alexander said...

The Bandcamp links are broken. Here's the one I found:

Richard said...

I think there's something wrong with the band camp links. Here are the right ones:

Stef said...

My mistake. I'll fix it.

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