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endspace - angharad davies & tisha mukarji


at05          endspace    

Angharad Davies  -  violin

Tisha Mukarji  -  inside piano

total time:  37 : 56

recorded at Goldsmith’s College, London, July 2007

Youtube extract



          “Violinist Angharad Davies has been one of the most consistently interesting improvisers performing regularly on the UK scene over the past few years, although CD releases that do her playing real justice are few and far between.  Likewise Copenhagen based inside-pianist Tisha Mukarji, whose music has always held me captivated in live situations, is previously represented by only a single CD release, the solo D is for  Din on Creative Sources.  So this, their first recording as a duo is a very welcome and extremely  satisfying arrival.   Endspace is an entirely acoustic affair, and it  is impossible to ignore the heritage that goes before such a recording of piano and violin.   At least one of the musicians is classically trained, and both the slow pace of Feldman and the New York School and the grey austerity of the Wandelweiser collective can be heard echoing through these five improvisations.   Indeed, listening to this delicately constructed album you could even be forgiven for  forgetting that it is an album of improvised music.  Its simple, fragile forms put together from only the most essential elements have a sense of precision about them more commonly found in modern composition.  However whilst restrained in its construction Endspace contains very  little silence, gaining its sense of fragility more from the slow pace of the music and its use of decaying sounds than any concept of “reductionism”

              Above all this is a beautiful, enchanting album. Both musicians use preparations to their instruments to create a softened, muted feel to the sounds they make.   Davies’ violin work ranges from small high pitch bowed whispers somehow pulled from the upper register of the strings to dry, rasping sounds as the entire body of the violin is investigated. She often uses a circular bowing technique to create a rhythmic, sustained pattern. Mukarji’s smaller, more percussive sounds often provide counterpoint to these deadened textures, although it frequently becomes difficult to separate the sounds of the two musicians from each other.

               Mukarji works exclusively within the piano, addressing the simply prepared strings and also the body of the instrument with beaters, and what sounds like a bow. She summons up a range of sounds, from the distinctly piano-like chimes that bring the still beauty  of the fourth track to a close to the rasping wooden vibrations that appear elsewhere. The two musicians work superbly together, their patience with the music and impeccable timing combine together with the obvious compatibility of each other’s sounds to create music that is deserving of the listener’s careful attention.  Endspace is quite stunningly gorgeous. A thoroughly engrossing meditation on what can still be achieved with these two most  traditional of instruments, this is chamber-improv of the highest order.”              -   Richard   Pinnell  -  Bagatellen

“For some time, Angharad Davies and Tisha Mukarji have been two of the most  distinctive young improvisers on the UK scene, but they have not been adequately represented on disc.  This release starts to remedy the situation, and so is  particularly  welcome.   The combination of Davies' violin and Mukarij's inside piano - both entirely acoustic, but each with a range of preparations— qualifies as “chamber improv,” but that  term hardly does justice to the vibrancy of the music here.    The music is difficult to pigeonhole; although improvised, it goes beyond the normal borders of improv.   Davies is comfortable producing sustained bowed patterns that give much of the music an underlying rhythmic feel, one that is enhanced by Mukarji's plucked punctuations.   The latter are an object lesson in economy; Mukarji plays  few  notes and none of them is wasted, yet there is an irresistible logic to her playing.   Above all else, the two players are highly compatible and communicate a shared understanding of what  they wish to produce.   The end results have a tranquility and beauty likely to appeal to listeners who would not normally consider improv.    The five pieces here have a combined playing time of under forty minutes.   However, that is a strength more than a weakness. Their quality more than compensates for the quantity.   Such is the sense of completeness provided by the pieces that any more would seem superfluous. This is one of those (rare) albums that when it finishes, one is hard pressed to think what to follow it with.   More often than not, the solution is to simply play it again.   And again.    A delight.   We must hope that this duo records again soon.”                                                                                                    -   John Eyles – All About Jazz

endspace passes seamlessly into the existing another timbre catalogue.  Both the violin and piano strings are brought with great care and artistic assurance into a kind of Beckettian aesthetic of disappearance as applied to the world of sounds.  Slight scrapes interact with knocks on the insides of a vessel.  endspace ii  is articulated with sharp, eager, gnawing tones.  But more often the violin strings are like a squeaking machine, or rasping breathing, a shrill piercing, or the whistling of a toneless recorder.  Mukarji plucks single pizzicato notes, as random as raindrops, yet always played with an inner sense of harmony.  She produces harp-like rippling sounds on the strings or keys, hammering pings, or internal sounds like those you hear when a large clock is opened.  Also tones as though she too is working with a violin bow on the piano wires.  All five pieces define the ‘space’ as something diffuse, as something that might be dissolved even with such delicate handling, grey on grey, white on white – closed space, endspace, dead end, coffin.  The ear senses something indistinct that can only fleetingly be heard.  The sounds illuminate the space briefly and then are extinguished, like flares.  Whether such an insistently delicate music intimates an extraordinary refinement of western culture, or its exhaustion, I don’t know.”       -                                                                                                        -  Rigobert Dittmann – Bad Alchemy

Endspace  showcases Tisha Mukarji’s use of her 19th century Hornung square piano frame rather better than on her inaugural CD, the solo D Is For Din (Creative Sources).  She strums and plucks the piano strings, bows them, brushes and scrapes them with wood and metal, strikes  them with various implements and in the process produces a wide range of engaging sounds.  But whereas D Is For Din  was dense, dark and somewhat abrasive, her duo with Angharad Davies is spacious and light, a music that breathes.  At first Mukarji seemed to be treading in the footsteps of Sophie Agnel and Andrea Neumann, but on Endspace she really comes into her own.   Her techniques aren’t very different from those of Neumann and Agnel, but listen to how she layers sounds of different durations during the first half of “Endspace IV”, and the light and shade she brings to the music throughout the CD, to be convinced of her sterling qualities as an improvisor.     Like Mukarji, Angharad Davies is a player who never raises her voice unnecessarily, who doesn’t fill all of the available space with her sound, who never grandstands.  Everything she does is musical and in the service of the music at hand.  Her years as an orchestral violinist have given her an assured technique, and the sounds she produces on her instrument, no matter how hushed and delicate they are, are confidently made and beautifully controlled.  Her playing on Endspace is mainly textural in nature, using various bowing techniques and materials wedged under the strings to bring out different sonorities.  She tends to work with blocks of short, seemingly repetitious phrases that are in fact constantly, subtly changing.  These Mukarji often embellishes with single plucked or struck notes.  When they engage in mutual textural play, as on“Endspace I” and the midsection of “Endspace II”, the music seems to pause momentarily, shimmering in space.”                   -  Brian Marley - The Wire

“British violinist Angharad Davies and Copenhagen-based inside-the-piano tinkerer Tisha Mukarji create a low-key symphony of excited strings on endspace, a rolling shuffle of reverberant long tones, upper-register screech, and terse plucks and plinks.   The five pieces proceed with a stately continuity, and despite the fact that the music is improvised, it’s  hard not to hear connections to the compositions of the New York school.  The explorations suggest a keen sense of curiosity, but never at the expense of careful articulation.”                                                                         -  Peter Masgarak, Downbeat

“This album shows that modesty can go a long way, for it's nothing less than a 37-minute masterpiece.  States of balance and quietness are preferred by the duo, as both artists' sensitiveness appears aligned with an inner quest for the barest available emission from their tools, in search of the deepest possible attraction to silence. Yet silence it ain't:  there's always a presence from an invisible background, a frail breath or a close-eyed transcendence which shatters the sonic components into smithereens  - without noise.   Something previously unimaginable, apparently  "weak",  but possessing a gradual force expressed through the different parts of the instruments, through percussive caressing, more appreciable bumps and plucks, and almost inaudible suspiria.  Every note seems to materialise from nowhere, letting us glimpse some sort of skeletal harmonic content only to fade to the black of misunderstanding.   There is no way to distinguish a "shape" or a "sequence".   What this couple deals with are sounds that excavate in our consciousness deeply enough to deliver us from the will of analysing them, tranquilised as we are by  knowing that the matter is there even if its substance can't really be determined.   Fireflies in a summer night indeed.  Piano and violin liberated from tonal constrictions once and for all, refreshed gestures, seemingly infinite cycles and self-generated timbral interactions.   A precious record, gifted with inimitable feminine profundity and beauty to spare, which will reveal new layers of charm each time you return to it.”

                                                                                         -     Massimo Ricci  - Touching Extremes

“The line between improvisation and certain forms of composition has often been blurred and hard to define. Are those terms mutually exclusive? It could be argued that improvisation means little without prior knowledge, without elements of the compositional process (shape, form, outcome, etc).   There are examples of improvised music that has such a coherent structure, such a successful musical arc that it extends way beyond the most widely referenced definitions of that term.  If you’re interested in improvised music, contemporary composition, or any music of artistic quality, then buy this recording, live with it & allow it to exist in your listening.

                         Angharad is one of those rare musicians who uses space with an uncanny ease and liquidity that makes it as much a part of her music as the sounds coming from her violin and bow.  In recent years she has become one of the most understated, under-represented  but vital improvisers around.   Tisha’s playing of inside piano / square piano frame has previously been documented on her solo disc ‘D is for din’ and I’d say that listening to the solo disc & then ‘endspace’ would serve as a good example of how highly successful interaction can influence each participant’s individual contribution dramatically.  These two artists have such a lyrical and tangible respect for both the space and interplay between them that  the performance is as precise in its musical success and ability to communicate its creative impulse that it seems destined to become a milestone recording for this area of music.

                       ‘endspace’ is an album that inspires and at the same time pushes the music forward.  Whenever I put this recording into the cd player there's a sense of excitement.  A sense of sheer pleasure - pleasure at the simple act of  listening to music that inspires and creates an engaging musical presence in my living room & a pleasure at listening to music that adds to my daily life in different ways.  At the very core of why I value this music is that it has a positive effect  when I listen to it and I know that it will continue to offer things to me for a long time to come.  It's a recording that will sink in, that extends beyond its surface and that continues to offer new details on each hearing.”        -    Jez riley French

“This was one of the last recordings I heard this year and I was immediately was taken by it.  Three listens on the day I got it  and several more over the next couple days and it made its way onto my list of favourite releases for 2007.  A duo of violin and inside/prepared piano this recording demonstrates that there is plenty of life left in these most traditional of traditional instruments.    The soundscape reminds me a lot of the experimental composers that I have listened so much to of late, Cage and Feldman especially.  At the beginning of the single 38 minute piece Tisha’s piano has that percussive prepared piano sound of Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes and Angharad’s violin often has that flat, dry sound that Feldman often used.   In fact at times the piece feels like an improvised Feldman piece, with the dry scraping violin and delicate plucked piano strings gently floating above. The piece has that feel of suspended time that I so love in Feldmans work.  A nice variety of sounds, great pacing and overall completely fascinating recording.   I’m definitely excited to hear more from these two.”                    -   Robert Kirkpatrick -  A Spiral Cage

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