Monday, December 6, 2021

Magda Mayas + Tina Douglas - Objects of Interest (room40, 2021) ****½

Objects of Interest documents a unique artistic bond between two innovative artists. German, Berlin-based experimental pianist Magda Mayas is known for her elaborate techniques of playing inside the piano with objects as a way to break away from the “burden of the classical music tradition and the piano itself in retrospect”. Australian, Melbourne-based multidisciplinary artist Tina Douglas paints visual scores as a way to challenge the linear linguistic essence of conventional notation, and to introduce to these scores “a whole world of elements of expression or sensibility”. Douglas’ live improvised performances use conductive paintings, a form of the visual score she plays in real-time that incorporate sounds she has gathered and manipulated.

Mayas and Douglas met about ten years ago and immediately have developed a personal and aesthetic friendship. Douglas contributed the artwork for Spill’s (Mayas’ duo with her partner drummer-percussionist Tony Buck, who recorded and mixed Objects of Interest) Fluoresce (Monotype, 2012). Douglas offered Mayas a set of visual scores in February 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, but it took Mayas almost a year before she translated these visual scores into acoustic sounds during January 2021. Mayas layered the detailed scores with different keyboard instruments - the piano, Fender Rhodes, clavinet, and obviously the distinct objects she is using. She has developed specific vocabularies, certain techniques, and timbre to fit the images or ideas the scores evoked.

Objects of Interest is the result of the shared work of Mayas and Douglas and it interrogates the many parallels in their work and realizes beautifully their symbiotic process. Both artists employ distinct objects and tools and have developed close relationships with these. These objects generate certain ideas. Douglas’ scores - presented in a beautiful limited edition book and disc (alongside a conversation between Mayas and Douglas, plus documentation and photographs) - are sculptural and tactile. Mayas’ piano and her objects and preparations inside the piano also felt sculptural and tactile.

Mayas responded to Douglas’ abstract scores by slowing them down in order to expose a certain fragility or imperfection in the thin paper scores transported from Australia to Berlin and to focus on one melody or one chord or one little noise be enough. This kind of minimalist, austere approach explores surprising and always refined, vivid and tangible timbres, vibrations and resonances of the keyboard instruments. Often you may feel that Mayas and Douglas’s nexus of sensory curiosity provided intriguing and sometimes even sensual dreamscapes that transformed these seemingly known instruments into independent sonic entities, with their very own almost transparent shapes and mass, and unexpected forms of beauty.

The last, 17-minute “Intersect”, with its insisting on simple, floating and delicate vibrating sounds of the Rhodes, may capture best the emotional and thoughtful essence of Objects of Interest, lingering in the listener’s mind long after it is over. You may also think of spiritual parallels to Mayas and Douglas’ provocative aesthetics like the Japanese aesthetic concept of wabi-sabi or the Buddhist teaching of the impermanence and suchness of all things. But eventually, Objects of Interest intrigues the mind and soul with its powerful and arresting marriage of images and sounds.

1 comment:

Stef said...

Thanks Eyal for the review. I share your view that this is an exceptionally fascinating and compelling album.

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