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Thursday, October 26, 2023

Mats Gustafsson's Instant Conduction Works

Mats Gustafsson - Hidros 9 Mirrors (Trost, 2023)

Hidros 9 Mirrors is a conducted improvisation work based on graphic scores by Swedish sax player-composer Mats Gustafsson for 25 musicians - two identical 9-piece “mirror” chamber ensembles - The Norwegian NyMusikk Trondheim (including master double bass player Michael F. Duch and organist Daniel Formo) and the Polish Avant Art Ensemble, 4 soloists - trumpeter Anders Nyqvist (on slide and piccolo trumpets), Colin Stetson on amplified bass saxophone, guitarist Hevig Mollestad and tubaist Per-Åke Holmlander, plus Revox tape machines played by Jérôme Noetinger and turntables played by dieb13 (aka Dieter Kovačič) (all soloists worked before with Gustafsson, including dieb13). All are conducted by Gusatfasson himself, using three types of graphic scores and different, instant conducting methods, where predetermined rules will control tempo, dynamics, density and other musical parameters.

This ambitious work is an in-depth exploration and continuation of the previous piece Hidros o.T. (2019), commissioned by NyMusikk Trondheim, and inspired by the mirrored forms and visual structures of Austrian artist Mathias Pöschl. It was commissioned by the Avant Art Foundation and premiered and recorded live at the festival in Warsaw in October 2022. The graphic scores were visible on stage, both for the musicians and the audience.

The atmosphere of this work is both introspective and futurist, investigating and experimenting thoughtfully and slowly with how the sonic palettes of the traditional and acoustic, including the strings players of both ensembles - 4 double basses, 2 cellos, and 2 violins, resonate and interact with the sonic palette of Stestson’s bass saxophone with contact microphone amplifier, Nyqvist’s trumpets, Mollestad electric guitar, Holmlander’s tuba, dieb13’s turntables and Noetinger’s vintage tape machines. Gustafsson called the nine pieces “Mirrors”, “Shadows”, “Echoes” and “Reflection” and these titles capture the dynamics of the enigmatic, subtle interactions and suggest surprising but challenging sonic perspectives and textures that demand repeated listening in order to decipher the multi-layered dynamics.

Mats Gustafsson & Ensemble E - EE Opus One (Trost, 2023)


Gustafsson wanted to combine traditions of contemporary Music, noise, free improvised music, free jazz and other experimental music fields and traditions with the deeper music traditions with the new, seven-piece Ensemble E. EE Opus One is a provocative but profound sonic research of traditional and non-traditional ways of expressing folk music of Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Poland, Ukraine. The Ensemble E was recorded live at the Codes Festival in Lublin, Poland, in May 2022.

This unconventional instrumentation of the ensemble includes Norwegian Hardanger fiddler Helga Myhr, Polish Bilgoraj suka player (a unique fiddle that is played vertically) Sylwia Świątkowska, Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva (who also plays in Fire! Orchestra), Polish vocalist-tubaist Maniucha Bikont, Norwegian organist and prepared piano player Daniel Formo (who also plays in Hidros 9 Mirrors), Swedish prepared piano and clavichord player and percussionist, and Gustafsson who plays on baritone sax, flute and the Swedish fipple flute spilåpipa and conducts the Ensemble E.

Gustafsson explains that by putting all these distant and contrasting elements “next to each other/ on top of each other/ inside of each other”, with no traditional prejudices but with a spirit of sharing, he could offer new musical courses. “This is all about how it is shared. And with whom. And WHO we are”, he concludes. The 48-minute, improvised with instant conduction and graphic score EE Opus One sounds like it visits untimely and imaginative, chartered and unchartered genre-evasive melodic territories that keep melting into each other and drifting apart while balancing between solo expressions and collective interaction. The intense yet poetic EE Opus One suggests a borderless and compassionate global village.