New Ferreyra CD

Beatriz Ferreyra’s latest CD, which contains four pieces dated from 2005 to 2011 (odd years only), is a welcome addition to the composer’s recorded ouevre, a welcome addition to the world of electroacoustic music–to the world of music, generally–and quite possibly a welcome addition to your own collection. It is available, in line with current trends, as both a physical CD and a digital download.

The earliest piece is Dans un point infini. This is the violin piece. (Violinist Veronica Kadlubkiewicz.) Two things strike me about this piece. One is that the raw violin sounds are not altered all that much and then only a few simple things. Two is that this piece is endlessly inventive and really does not sound like any other violin and electronics piece I’ve ever heard–and if one listens to a fair amount of this kind of music, one can’t help but have heard a lot of violin and electronics music.

The piece opens with simple scalar stuff. Up and down; up and down. And not at all jejune, as that description might have fooled you into thinking. Exuberant more like. Supremely confident. As it moves from the single violin to many violins, with the scales crossing and criss-crossing, there are flashes of impossible things–impossible for a live violin, that is–extremes of range and speed.

Soon there are so many lines as to lose their identity as lines, to become a dense chittering. Then back to distinguishable lines. On to more chittering. Some solo violin trilling. And a mix of possible and impossible (unaltered and altered) sounds, some of the latter tiny blips of sound like morse code pulses.

In one really striking section, each line except a low drone is like it’s being played on a turntable whose edge is being lightly touched every now and again to briefly slow it down. Then there’s only the drone and then an even lower drone, from which gradually rise some more sounds that are also bent, this time upwards.

The drone then is bent to something impossibly low, and a murky swarm of violin sounds swells into many, complex but exquisitely etched and distinct lines.

Stunning.

The piece closes with a couple of minutes of almost entirely acoustic sounds, like just a string orchestra playing, with some soloists here and there, and the piece fades into some subtlely gritty sounds.

L’autre rive. The percussion piece. (Percussionist Richard Aratian.) Unlike Dans un point infini, L’autre rive opens with a couple of slow swells of indeterminate noise. A suspended cymbal waxes and wanes until it resolves into some crisp tapping. Then rich and various electroacoustic sounds, which resolve in turn into other distinct percussion sounds, toms, maracas and such. All still in a rich electroacoustic context.

After some vigorous drumming on the bigger toms, maybe even some bass drum (always with lots of electroacoustic noise), there are some swoops of high-pitched harshness which are really quite lovely–metallic and jangly like a slinky–and then back to more of that stunning low drumming. That gets some grit added to it which morphs into an even grittier and higher pitched sound. Then the metal bowls. Thumped, tapped, made to vibrate like a glass harmonica. A really gorgeous bit this.

To the drumming is added an incredible diversity of other sounds–and the drumming itself is not quite so crisp and defined now but part of the rush and swirl. And then as everything gets quite vague, the drumming is suddenly crisp and defined. In fact, that’s a common thread throughout the piece. Vague and crisp–sometimes alternating, sometimes simultaneous.

About three quarters of the way through, a thing that sounds like it may have started out as bowed cymbals but is now quite other is used to make melodic kinds of gestures. The drumming is now with higher drums, small toms and snares, and metallic things. Then the big drums come thundering back for the final push to the end, which involves some sandpaper blocks and a sudden, brief crescendo of wooden rattling.

The sound that opens Un fil invisible is abrupt, made even more so by the first little bit of it having been cut off. After that initial jolt, the piece relaxes into a warm, southern breeze, which starts to sound more and more like a large sheet of metal–the kind that makes wind sounds, of course–and becomes more and more insistent, while the other sounds–furtive, little noises–become larger and less furtive; all of this working up to an abrupt cut off.

After several minutes of sudden little noises and short swoops of sound, some very slowly crescendoing machine-like chattering leads to a section of electric drill-like sounds which whip across the soundstage as if they were race cars, that quick crescendo/descrescendo that racing cars sound like.

Then the low drums start up. Soft. Louder. More insistent, more primitive–turning into higher sounds with eventually resolve into suspended cymbal licks. All over the top of one great, low frequency. As some wooden clatters are added to the mix, the low frequency disappears, and some zipping little buzzing sounds (very like the race car/drill sounds) bring the piece to a quiet close.

In Les larmes de l’inconnu, what was a brief episode or two is in Un fil invisible now the main thing. Even when not in the foreground, those quick crescendo/decrescendo sounds moving across the sound stage are never far absent. Through it all–the low rumbling, the percussion, the bell sounds extended and bent so that they are like ribbons of sound fluttering into the distance–there’s either the sound of cars racing by or the shape of that sound applied to other kinds of sounds.

In a way, Les larmes de l’inconnu is like Dans un point infini–incredible diversity with extremely economical means. A remarkable piece and a remarkable album.

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