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Thursday, July 27, 2023

Yorgos Dimitriadis/ Axel Dörner/ Lori Freedman/ Andrea Parkins/ Christopher Williams - BeingFive (Relative Pitch, 2022)

By Stuart Broomer

Lori Freedman has the dual distinction of being Canada’s most distinguished clarinetist of both the “classical” avant-garde and the worlds of free jazz and free improvisation. Her 2019 solo CD Excess is a riveting program that includes daunting works by Richard Barrett and Brian Ferneyhough, while her improvising skills are evident in numerous associations, including the Queen Mab Trio, with violist Ig Henneman and pianist Marilyn Lerner (Réunion, Microclimat, 2017) and Amber (Amber Clean Feed, 2022), her duo with trombonist Scott Thomson who contributes the liner note to BeingFive.

The music heard on BeingFive came together during a 2022 residency in Berlin and consists of works devised by Freedman for an improvising quintet. The international group that she assembled includes Greek percussionist Yorgis Dimitriadis, German trumpeter Axel Dörner and Americans Andrea Parkins, heard here playing accordion, amplified objects and electronics, and bassist Christopher Williams.

Discussing the pieces, annotator Scott Thomson suggests that the music “reflects, not a desire to execute a conceiver-composer’s will, but a pursuit of collective discovery.” In a sense suspended between composition and improvisation, the formed and the forming, the music is both largely calm in a way that can include rare explosive bursts, meanwhile refusing to stand still in either a textural or formal sense. The opening “Eclipse” begins in the subtlest weave of instrumental voices at chamber music dynamics, then the acoustic instruments are suddenly interrupted by clouds of muffled electronic sound, this description seemingly conditioned by value judgements not to be heard in the sounds themselves or their apparent relations. An expressionist burst of clarinet brings on a sustained tremolo of arco bass, a flutter of accordion, a thin stream of trumpet, then randomized drum strokes. An occasion for introductions, perhaps the true songs of freedom and consciousness are always tuneless. A microtonal wander of clarinet and accordion is interrupted by mildly abrasive electronic noise. At the conclusion of the piece, a very quiet female voice says “… I can’t see anything”. Is this the source of that title, “Eclipse”, or an ironic comment on it? I reverse the CD. I can’t find it. Then the voice seems to appear, but it’s different, different words, further away. I go to the window. The speaker is a neighbor, nearby. BeingFive invites (and strangely rewards) a listening so concentrated it may go beyond merely including the incidental, environmental event, somehow actually to thematize it.

The longest piece, the 15-minute and central “Miniatures”, ironically, is constructed of very short, time-determined pieces, the shortest between 10 and 30 seconds then followed by longer units of between one and three minutes, a strict structural pattern that is improvised in all of its “details” and which results in some of the group’s most intense “moments”.

The final piece, “Freeze” has minimal movement, a near-drone that is compounded of continuous acoustic and electronic elements, individually, gradually, evenly, rising in volume, at one point a complex sound in which the sustained metallic shimmer of cymbals and a constant electronic whistle will become a single sound within a continuum, in part maintained by a continuous low-pitched hum, that seems to maintain a constant collective volume level, that voices rise to sustain, including intermittent hard-to-identify high pitches and an oscillating bass clarinet.

Among the creative ironies to which BeingFive (five pieces by five people) gives rise, its collective spontaneous elaborations on minimal designs invite, whether verbalized or not, the active, even intense, compositional participation of the listener.


Anonymous said...

These reflections on my band BeingFive from Stuart Broomer are wonderfully provocative and much appreciated! I know how difficult it is to write about this music, very few in my opinion do it with such grace and intrigue. There are unfortunately 2 errors of which I have alerted Stuart but to which he is uncertain he can correct himself. Thus: BeingFive was not assembled with Christopher Williams, it was my dream band from the get-go and I went for it alone. The residency actually took place over the course of 3 years, from 2019-2022. We had 3 2-week sessions developing and rehearsing culminating in a concert presented by Berlin’s KontraKlang 2 days after which we went in to the beautiful studio (Boërne) and recorded this album. In May 2023 we made our North American debut at the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville (FIMAV). Many reviews of that landmark concert (at which Broomer was in attendance) can be read here:

Steve Reynolds said...

Excellent yet very demanding listen