Cyril Bondi – d’incise – Magnus Granberg – Anna Lindal
Cyril Bondi: percussions, harmonica
d’incise: electronic, tuned objects, harmonicas
Magnus Granberg: prepared piano, composition
Anna Lindal: violin
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For the first time available here on vinyl, Magnus Granberg music has gain a good reputation through the years and his excellent serie of publications by the british label Another Timbre and his Skogen group. This time on a small, quartet, formation, Magnus Granberg, on prepared piano, and violinist Anna Lindal are joined by Cyril Bondi and d’incise, from the Diatribes duo and many more, whom where already part of the 10tet recording of « How Deep is the Ocean, How High is the Sky? » in 2015.
« Nattens skogar » is a piece of evoluting materials, fragments, of melodies, of multiple pulses, of tones and soft noises, in a seemingly perfect balance, with this inimitable melancolic touch and sens of endless time we often find in Granberg’s work. It was originally intended for the Swedish ensemble Skogen and its materials are partly derived from two pieces of quite decidedly nocturnal musics, Erik Satie’s nocturnes, and Thelonious Monk’s ”Monk’s Mood”, a composition Magnus had listened quite intensely to for quite some time before writing this piece. It borrows its title, « Nattens skogar”, from the Swedish translation of Djuna Barnes’s novel ”Nightwood” and it is quite obviously a pun, referring to the use of nocturnal musics as a source material for the piece, and to the Skogen ensemble’s name. This version, of the rather open score, was recorded in Stockholm in april 2016.
Recorded in Stockholm, april 5th 2016.
Mixed by d’incise. Mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi.
Cut by Adi Flück/Central dubs.
I’m starting to think of Magnus Granberg’s music the way I think of late Morton Feldman: each one is the same yet each one is different. The restrained but taut atmosphere of extreme focus prevails, over an extended span of time. Other than that, I don’t want to make comparisons. That shared attention to the small details living inside sound comes from a different place. Granberg’s scores, described as “rather open”, seem designed to allow more liberty to the performers than Feldman would permit. This approach needs the tradition of free improvisation that has developed over the last half-century, and skilled, sympathetic performers.
His regular ensemble of players, Skogen, has released several discs on Another Timbre, ranging from a ten-piece electroacoustic ensemble to a quintet. On this new release from Insub, his 2015 ensemble piece Nattens skogar is presented in a version reduced to just four musicians. Again, everything’s the same yet it’s all different. As with other recent works, Nattens skogar (it’s the Swedish translation of Nightwood) draws inspiration and material from pre-existing music; in this case, Erik Satie’s nocturnes and Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Mood”. As before, any resemblance to the source would not be detected by the uninformed listener. The nocturnal theme suits Granberg’s, and his musicians’, palettes of sounds both dark and frail.
In this setting, every sound is set in stark relief. Part of this may be due to the recording, which sounds very close. Background noises, seemingly inadvertent, colour the music, unless it is Cyril Bondi’s percussion. Granberg plays his prepared piano in slow motion, Anna Lindal’s violin merges with harmonicas played by Bondi and d’incise. d’incise adds electronics and ‘tuned objects’ – the buzz and hum of line noise and distortion adds an unnerving edge to the music. Anything that may be construed as a slow, unhurried flow through the fifty minutes or so is upset by subtle but indelible shifts in mood; this may be down to the shadowy presence of Satie. At the beginning, events are punctuated by an ominous knocking; in the latter half of the piece, intrusions such as electric organ or bass drum cast the other instruments in a new light. It strikes me as the clearest expression I’ve yet heard of the aesthetic world Granberg has constructed and might be the best place to start for newcomers. Ensemble Grizzana is premiering a new work by him next month in Huddersfield, which I would like to witness.
One quibble: Insub have released this on vinyl, as so many small, adventurous labels must to make ends meet these days, and as a download. It’s a shame the download version preserves the fadeout and break into two tracks from the vinyl instead of offering an uninterrupted experience. In the pause, you can hear how the ‘silence’ is charged with electrical hum, ambient noise, hiss.
Ben Harper / Boring like a drill
A forest at night is a strange, sometimes unsettling place. Visibility, already limited during the hours of daylight, is reduced to a bare minimum; trees turn to black featureless stone, only the vaguest of outlines apparent. The sound world shifts as the day’s cast of characters give way to the night’s: insects and night predators take the place of more familiar singers in the open air concert hall. Non-human fauna become bolder and more adventurous as the courage of humans fades. In the distance, you may hear a wolf’s howling dialogue with the moon.
When creating an impression of or response to such an environment, listening experience suggests that mimicking its constituent sounds is less important than providing a structure that changes in the same way as the forest at night changes. Such unfoldings are often unfamiliar or even imperceptible to humans. When I first started listening to Magnus Granberg’s “Nattens Skogar” (“Night Forests”), performed here by the composer along with Cyril Bondi, d’incise, and Anna Lindal, my initial impression was of an absence of structure, particularly compared with the returning narrative of Granberg’s “How Deep Is The Ocean, How Wide Is The Sky”. However, I slowly came to realise that the music is indeed carefully structured, but in a way that creates an open space rather than a linear path. The four musicians quietly go about their nightly routine, separately but keenly aware of each other. Meetings and coincidences occur, but the motivations for these are hidden from the sight of the human interloper stumbling through the undergrowth. How much the use of improvisation contributes to this impression is hard for the listener to discern.
Granberg’s music is sometimes described as melancholy. Putting aside recent discoveries regarding the social life of trees, the inner sensations of whom must surely remain inscrutable to humans, a forest at night is neither gloomy nor happy, threatening nor comforting — any emotions present are a result of our projection onto it, rather than emerging from the forest itself, even though it often seems very much otherwise. I tend to hear “Nattens Skogar” in the same way: its intention is not to stir any particular emotional response, but to simply be what it is, however that ends up making the listener feel. The restraint and control shown by the four musicians clearly contributes to this letting the music be itself, with no instances of overplaying or hamming it up. It’s rare that I get to experience the singular pleasures of a forest at night, but “Nattens Skogar”, in its own way, is very effective in facilitating a similar mode of experience.
Nathan Thomas / Fluid Radio