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michael pisaro fields have ears philip thomas

at37       Michael Pisaro   Fields have Ears

1  fields have ears 1   for piano and tape (2009)              20:05

   Philip Thomas piano

2  fade   for piano solo  (2000)                                     20:16

   Philip Thomas  piano                                              

3  fields have ears 4   for four or more players  (2010)      27:40

   Philip Thomas   piano    Patrick Farmer   natural objects

   Sarah Hughes   zither    Dominic Lash   double bass

   + 10 members of edges ensemble

youtube extract


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“Ah, so beautiful!   A great release.”

“Ah, so beautiful. Three pieces by Pisaro, two more recent works ("fields have ears" 1 & 4) bracketing a decade old composition, very well sequenced here.

"fields have ears 1", for piano (Philip Thomas) and tape is disarmingly simple, its subtlety and depth yielding to this listener only after repeated listens and absorption. There's the tape, very rich (not sure if there's more than one layered in), with bird and insect sounds up top, moving air in the middle and a heady, deep thrum beneath, redolent of distant highways or miles high airplanes. Between these sounds, the piano appears at intervals, the chords fairly bright sometimes, tinged with doubt or melancholy others, spaced irregularly, dabs of relatively vivid color against the complex welter of the soundscape. It's the spacing and shift in dynamics of the piano that's so winning, even heartbreaking at times, very much like a lone hiker's thoughts, questioning and intensely personal, radiated into the forest for lack of someone else to listen.

"fade", for piano (again, Thomas) dates from 2000. The music is a series of single notes, each slice the same note repeated (I think) between five and ten times, generally (not always) fading during the sequence, the notes ranging across the keyboard. At first, each segment floats alone, suspended between ample and varying lengths of silence but soon there's a wave where two or three exist simultaneously, not heard as "chords" (at least by me) but superimposed one-note patterns. That shift of larger forms, which occurs throughout, in a cycle of a few minutes, coexists wonderfully with the jewel-like effect of the individual series. It's very calm, very surface-of-water-like, with slight shimmers that gather in a kind of natural manner, almost random but somehow purposeful. Like something from Feldman's even more serene cousin.

Finally, "fields have ears 4", for four or more players, here by the Edges Ensemble plus Thomas, Patrick Farmer (natural objects), Sarah Hughes (zither) and Dominic Lash (double bass). It's extremely difficult not to envision a door being gently opened and closed, allowing one to momentarily hear this quiet flurry of activity, then not. These small bubbles of sound, emerge and quickly recede, like smoke signals. These musical puffs are delicate, the piano heard among the fluttering instruments in a semi-similar regard as it was in "fields have ears 1", single chords wafting through the lovely fog. Really a stunning piece of work, a new favorite of mine among Pisaro's increasingly impressive recorded catalog. A great release.”                               Brian Olewnick, Just Outside

“It manages the feat of making the large group sound incredibly delicate”

“This was the first disc of the ‘Silence and After’ series to which I listened, and it proved so compelling that I chose not to play any of the others until I’d really dug (into) it, acclimatised myself to it, let it form a part of my listening habits for the next few weeks at least. Perhaps I didn’t pay it as much close attention as I’d convinced myself I had, for I actually still find it quite hard to write about; but perhaps, also, the fact that this music can resist analysis after being lived with for a certain period tells you more than any lengthy critical spiel would have.

In any case, what we have here are three compositions by Pisaro (I’m assuming that the first two, at least, are fully notated, though the final, ensemble piece, would seem to allow more space for a certain amount of improvisation, within certain, fairly strict parameters, especially given that it’s credited as a ‘realisation’ of the original work). ‘Fields Have Ears 1’ is for piano and tape (a fairly sparse field recording which features birds, the occasional distant rumble of a passing plane, and the hiss of the recording device). One might say that the tape functions in much the same way that silence does on the other two pieces – i.e. as the actual substance of much of the piece, often seeming to take precedence over any notes that are played. (I’m reminded of Pisaro’s comments in the liner notes to last year’s Terry Jennings/John Cage release, ‘Lost Daylight’, along the lines that even the sounds in Jennings’ piano pieces have silences in them.) What piano we do hear reminds me, a little, of the way that Jennings’ work emerges from European serialism and the La Monte Young/ Cageian turn to Oriental philosophy with what one might call a softer side – being unafraid to use consonant, ‘pretty’-sounding chords. As I noted in a previous review of the Pisaro/Taku Sugimoto duo album on erstwhile, this is a risky policy to adopt – the shock of the pretty in an avant-garde context can wear off into mere gloopiness if not done exactly right – but the note combinations Pisaro asks for on these works are actually less up-front in their prettiness than Jennings’, particularly given the way that they’re strung out between such long silences.

‘Fade’, a work that is by now ten years old, is more immediately stark: the pianist plays a repeated (pedall’d) note, slowly, before pausing and playing a repetition of a different note, pausing again, playing another note, and so on. There’s a kind of lag here that’s implied in the title – not in the sense of “echoes, dying, dying, dying”, but as something vaguer, a slight blurring at the edges, repetition of the note not so much emphasising it as enclosing it in a kind of haze (a consciousness emerging from the use of delay effects that’s been enabled by electronics). I’d concur with Yuko Zama, who writes that, “in Pisaro’s piano pieces, the composer and performer’s personal voices are not on the centre stage” [1]; but this does not make the piece in any way ‘mechanical’, ‘cold’, ‘impersonal’, etc: rather, we approach an egolessness that is at the heart of much post-AMM ideology, and that has something akin to the communal approach which western classical music forgot about for a couple of centuries, but which the rest of the world managed to retain and partially teach us back once we began to realise our mistake. I’m not saying that Pisaro’s music really has make in common with any of these communal musics – in terms of sound it’s very much part of a particular western lineage (the piano being the ultimate symbol of western classical music, even) – but it does approach similar insights from a different angle, particularly on this disc’s third track.

‘Fields Have Ears 4’, the most recent piece, expands things right out, to include an ensemble of fourteen players (in which Thomas’ piano is the most prominent and recognisable sound), but it manages the feat of making the large group sound incredibly delicate and small. Here we have exhalations, indentations, modifications of silence; slight change, but no ‘development’ as such. And yet something is changed; as the ensemble musically breathe together, as they repeat the process of unison sounds followed by silences, those sounds and those silences start to change, to shift. Whilst one is first conscious of Thomas’ chiming chords – a kind of early signal at the start of the sounding sections – and can just about pick out a clarinet from the quiet cloud of players, one gradually comes to recognise other elements in the texture; in particular, at the prickling edge of stereo picture (preventing things from becoming too smoothly ‘pure’), the rustle/crackle of Patrick Farmer’s natural objects. How a large ensemble controls itself to such quietude is quite astonishing, and lends the piece something which a small group playing at the same level could not have achieved – and something which is more than just a trick or an example of human dexterity.

In both ‘Fade’ and ‘Fields Have Ears 4’, one might visualise the sounds as having physical presence – sculpturally or architecturally, as objects that hang in space – sound as such being material in space. Let’s say, somewhat fancifully, that silence functions like the air between the columns of a colonnade; or perhaps it would be more apposite to reverse the metaphor, so that the sounds are the air, the silences the actual structural that intersects and defines it. Then again, let’s just ditch the analogy altogether, for the relationship between sound and silence is more symbiotic than it allows. Sound modifies silence modifies sound (and the subsequent sound/silence of life after you listen). That’s the great legacy of 4’33”, as explored in Kyle Gann’s recent book ‘No Such Thing as Silence’ – a listening awareness expanded beyond the conventionally musical to include one’s environment as a whole (which is an expansion outward but also an expansion inward, into the ‘minute particulars’ of a particular moment or location or space – “the / flight back/ to where / we are” [2]; “the original experience of now and here and this; […] not […] to look at a different world, but to look at this same world differently.”[3]) Thus Pisaro’s use field recordings – listening back to the world and incorporating it into the music, not so much in a ‘chance’ manner, but with structural intent. If the aim is not to introduce natural sounds for aleatory effect, neither is it to mimetically replicate anything as a kind of hyper-realist version of programme music, a couple of stages beyond Respighi’s or Hovhaness’ decorative incorporation of bird- and whale-song into otherwise fairly conventional orchestral works. [4] In point of fact, the sounds we hear on ‘Fields Have Ears 1’ are not pure field recording – there are a couple of unobtrusive sine tones in there, I believe, though they take up a smaller part of the sonic picture than the tape hiss which is up-front throughout (and yet doesn’t give a lo-fi impression at all, perhaps because Thomas’ piano playing is so lovingly recorded). The danger, nonetheless, is still that one will be tempted to say ‘oh, nice bird song, that’s pretty’ and leave the music on the level of a BBC sounds effects cassette tape with some added piano chords here and there.

Further, one might argue that the use of field recordings is an established technique for Pisaro now, and is perhaps even in danger of becoming a tad hackneyed at times (I wasn’t too keen on the ocean waves that appeared in the third piece of his duo recording with Taku Sugimoto). On the evidence we have here, though, I don’t think that at all; I find it impossible not to admire the care of shaping, refining, honing this aesthetic of silence in a way that extends beyond initial theoretical generalisations and into the fabric of the work’s construction and execution. Perhaps it’s the compositional framework that imposes a necessary rigour on what could become unfocussed, random, or meandering in improv contexts when everyone’s having an off-day – though that said, Sugimoto’s turn to ultra-ultra minimalism in his recent composed work doesn’t, for me, have the same rigour in its translation to disc (live, it may be wonderful, the creation of a specific kind of shared experience). I don’t think I could pin-point exactly why this is, but, somehow, the recordings of Pisaro’s pieces that I’ve heard do work as discs, as albums separated from their live moment of creation; they do still function as compelling experiences.

‘Fields Have Ears,’ then (the album as a whole), possesses a spareness which is not emptiness, and a real clarity – each note is weighted and considered and placed, each pause judged, each element considered. In a way, one can’t distinguish too easily between whole and parts because it’s not developmental (apart from that it occurs in time; as music, it is necessarily linear on the most basic level). Close focus is, then, on the moment, though the music is generous enough to allow for moments of inattention too, occasional drifts in concentration, without severely harming one’s ability to pick up the thread again when one zones back in. That lack of distinction between episodes, that lack of build and climax might seem like mere flatness to some, but it’s actually pretty hard to achieve, especially on a long, large-ensemble piece like ‘Fields Have Ears 4’; a state that cannot be conjured without real dedication, on the part of both composer and performers, to the particular aesthetics which enable and prompt it.”                                                                                            David Grundy, Streams of Expression

“Few pieces that I’ve heard articulate quite such a sense of depth.”

“This is a newish release from Another Timbre. Not a label I knew before now; clicking through their back catalogue that may be because their focus is more improv-based than I’m usually familiar with. But a recent series of discs around the theme ‘Silence and after’, marking the fiftieth anniversary this year of Cage’s Silence, marks a distinct turn towards composed music.

Of course, in the case of Pisaro, ‘composed’ comes with some heavy qualifiers. Michael Pisaro‘s music hails from that hazy boundary between the intended and the serendipitous. Fields have ears 1 for piano and tape (2008), played beautifully by Philip Thomas, at first recalls the final section of Christopher Fox’s More Things in the Air than are Visible: melancholy piano chords float in a haze of ambient, natural sound. In the case of the Pisaro, this sounds like a field recording made in a summer meadow, surrounded by birdsong. The Fox soundtrack (or at least that on Ian Pace’s recording on Metier) is more urban, but at the same more naturalistic: there is pronounced (even enhanced?) mechanical hum and hiss on the Pisaro tape, ironically alerting us to the materiality of every sound we hear. The piano sits somewhere within this soundscape, both artificial and completely natural.

fields have ears 4 (2009), is somehow less present, in spite of its realisation here for a large ensemble of 14 instruments. As a single note on the inlay puts it, it is ‘intended to be very quiet, with the sounding sections being only “slight indentations” in the surrounding silences’. For all that, they are fascinating indentations, like tiny geodes of sound, as though micro-climatic forces had compressed the surrounding air into miniature sonic-crystal formations. A lot of post-Cage, Wandelweiser-related pieces are impressive in their seismography of the sound/silence interface, but few pieces that I’ve heard articulate quite such a sense of depth residing behind those flickering charts.

Between these two related pieces, the earlier fade for piano (2000) is much more austere: a series of tones, each different, seemingly unconnected, repeated at decreasing volumes and allowed to fade into nothing. The whole sequence spans 20 minutes. Here, without a soundtrack and very little else to cling onto, the ear’s attention is turned to the ways in which silences or unintentional ambient noise structure a composed process that is both extremely simple and completely obscure. As the piano tones fade out of earshot – in absolutely predictable fashion – they invite the ear deeper into a quiet world beyond the generative, organising, cultured attack and beyond that still further into the anarchy of silence.”                                        Tim Rutherford-Johnson, The Rambler

“The whole body of the sounds, which resembles the sounds of fields, is so perfectly fused together that it starts to feel as if they have one life.”

“I have been particularly fascinated with piano sounds since I was a young child. However, at the same time, I have always felt some sort of tightness in most of the piano performances I have heard in the past. I did not know why I felt that way until recently, when I realized that what slightly bothered me was something to do with the composer's or the performer's particular color directly attached to the piano sounds. The rather solid and vertical impression of the appearance of a piano sound, and the way it vibrates when resonating, tends to be easily in tune with the composer and the performer's strong statements or artistic vibrations. But of course, a majority of music listeners prefer the opposite way - to appreciate the distinctive colors (or personalities) of the composers and performers in piano pieces as one of the main purposes of their music listening (and perhaps that is supposed to be the common way to listen to music in a conventional sense). But for some reason, I often felt a little uncomfortable with that, regardless of how deeply I was moved by the music.

Michael Pisaro's piano pieces have never made me feel that way. His piano compositions contain a feeling of freedom, and have no particular color of the composer or the performer attached to the sounds. Instead of confining a listener within a small individual universe of the composer or the performer, Pisaro's piano pieces seem to take the listener to another dimension or another space - with some mystic power of induction, beyond the limited space that the solid, vertical texture of the piano sounds generally tend to create. In Pisaro's piano pieces, the composer and performer's personal voices are not on the center stage. Instead, the landscape of the piece that is woven with elastic time and space becomes a leading part, given a new life by means of the performer's piano sounds, and begins to breathe like a vital organism. The landscape becomes music.

Michael Pisaro's 'Fields Have Ears', just released from Another Timbre this November, consists of Pisaro's three compositions, each featuring piano. The first track, 'Fields Have Ears 1', a 20-minute piece composed for piano and tape in 2008, consisting of a piano, field recordings, sine tones and noises. The piece starts with Pisaro's field recordings of some peaceful nature scene with chirps of birds, distant low-key sounds of a landscape, muffled noises of airplanes over the clouds, with quiet hiss noises from tape underneath. In the midst of this calm, horizontal soundscape, Philip Thomas plays piano tones one by one, slowly forming a lyrical melody like gently dropping watercolors in tranquil water - with thoughtfulness for leaving each color as pure as possible without causing a chaotic cloud. While containing a firm core in each note, Thomas' piano sounds are never too hard nor too soft, and seem to be blended into the field recordings with remarkable naturalness like a wind, as if they are gradually stretching the landscape to many directions. When the piano stops and a silence prevails in the middle of the piece, the sounds of the fields - the rhythmical chirps of the bird and the continuous low-key sounds of the distant landscape - start to feel as if they have imperceptibly become crucial parts of the music. The quiet piano sounds and their long resonances, combined with the ample time of contemplative silences, seem to affect how the flow of time is perceived and impart an infinite profoundness to the music.

Thomas' piano playing seems to have a silent power to draw a listener into the landscape of the music before he/she knows. Breathing together with the landscape, his pure, delicate piano tones gradually penetrate deep into the listener's mind, without impetuousness to cut through the landscape with a sharp edge, or forcefulness to try to move the music forward. While listening to his piano amongst the field recording sounds, I found myself being deeply involved in the soundscape that was woven with somehow unrealistic senses of time and space. The stillness of the power in this piece makes an impressive contrast with the dynamic power in Pisaro's 'July Mountain' in which the thick layers of various soundscapes intertwined with percussion sounds grab the listener into the music instantly and intensely, while both of the pieces involved similar field recording sounds.

The second track 'Fade' is a 20-minute piece composed for solo piano in 2000. This is a very simple piece, in which Philip Thomas plays a single piano tone several times with a lengthy silence in between. The volume of the piano tones slowly diminishes over the course of each sequence. The pattern of the sequence is repeated with different pitches and a different number of keystrokes each time, followed by a silence of different length. Sometimes, the single tone is layered with another tone during the sequence. In spite of this simple structure in which just single piano tones and silences are repeated alternately, there is a strong, silent magnetic power, pulling the listener gradually into the music. The way each piano tone fades, one after another, while overlapping its long resonance subtly toward the fade-out ending of each sequence, creates a surreal sense of a changing distance as if the landscape I am watching in front of me is slowly receding.

The silence between each sequence of piano sounds seems to contain some sort of extraordinary pureness of the air - which evokes in me the solemn clean air after hearing the midnight temple bells on New Year's Eve in Japan. In the depth of the contemplative silence, time feels stopped momentarily. As time goes by while the piano tones are played repeatedly, the memories of the previous piano tones are gradually piling up in my brain, just like snowflakes pile up slowly, making each silence feel even thicker.

The third track 'Fields Have Ears 4' was composed in 2009 originally for four performers but realized by an ensemble of 14 performers in this piece, including Philip Thomas (piano), Patrick Farmer (natural objects), Sarah Hughes (zither) and Dominic Lash (double bass). The ensemble starts to play after 30 seconds of silence, making various sounds and noises for 40 seconds, and then pauses for 20 seconds. After the pause, another sequence is repeated with a slightly different combination of musicians for a different duration, followed with a different length of pause. This sequence is repeated 17 times in 27 minutes in the whole piece, with the duration of each sequence ranging from 5 to 150 seconds, and the duration of each pause ranging from 5 to 60 seconds.

Even though there are 14 instruments and tools involved in this piece - piano, natural objects, zither, double bass, laptop, conical blow horn, slide whistle, spring drum, trumpet, cymbal, melodica, cello, frog guero and clarinet, the resulting sounds from the whole ensemble are incredibly delicate and quiet. Even when a different combination of the musicians starts to play, the tone and the volume of the whole sounds are consistently sustained at the same level - with the obscurity of a hidden stream of underground water, containing complex subtle nuances from different instruments at the same time. The mystic atmosphere of the soundscape reminds me of Robert Ashley's 'Automatic Writing' where reality and unreality seem to cross over. The whole body of the sounds, which resembles the sounds of fields, is so perfectly fused together that it starts to feel as if they have one life. With great subtlety and discreetness, the ensemble's sounds gradually seem to become transparent like the wind or the subtle moves of air, which emphasizes the intense presence of each silence. The surreal feel of inversion between sounds and silences - as if the sky and the ground were flipped - is an impressive characteristic of this piece.

As the CD title seems to hint, the landscapes (field recordings and silences) in these three pieces seem to be given life like a living organism, while the performers stay behind the landscapes as if they became parts of the scenes. Not like conventional pieces in which the performer takes the main role and the landscape becomes a background, the boundary between two distinct positions - performers and the landscape - becomes vague in these pieces, and sometimes their positions are flipped. It is very interesting to observe how all the elements - performed sounds, silences, field recording sounds, and hiss noises from tape - start to form one landscape where every element is equally present to breathe together. Philip Thomas' and the ensemble's performances on this CD are both brilliant. They have succeeded in expressing the elastic feel of time and space and mystic nuances of Pisaro's compositions with extremely delicate touches and thoughtfully restrained expressions that have never gone too far. The careful work in sound engineering by the label owner Simon Reynell is remarkable, too - it brings out the simple beauty of each piece in a natural manner. This is a CD that may not leave you with a vivid impact during the first listen, but will pull you into the music as you listen to it repeatedly – gradually seeping into your subconsciousness with a silent, strong magnetism.”                Yuko Zama, View from Elsewhere

“A la fin de l'année dernière, Another Timbre publiait cinq disques concentrés sur l'utilisation du silence, en hommage à John Cage (Dying Sun de Looper, chroniqué ici, fait d'ailleurs partie de cette série). On comprend donc la publication de ce compositeur membre du Wandelweiser, proche de Jürg Frey et spécialiste de Christian Wolff et John Cage. Ce disque regroupe trois compositions de Pisaro, Fields have ears 1 (2010) pour piano (interprété par Philip Thomas) et bandes, Fade (2000) pour piano, et enfin, Fields have ears 4 (2009) pour 4 instruments ou plus (14 sur cette version). Sur ces trois pièces, la présence et l'importance du silence sont vertigineuses et envoutantes, tout en remettant l'essence de la musique en question.

Sur Fields have ears 1, il y a tout d'abord la présence des bandes magnétiques composées d'enregistrements en plaine nature: grenouilles, oiseaux, feuilles, vents, etc... Puis à cette polyphonie spontanée et naturelle se surajoute le piano délicat et profond de Philip Thomas. D'ailleurs, s'agit-il vraiment d'une superposition ou bien plutôt d'une opposition ou d'une confrontation? Car à travers l'assemblage de ces drones et de ces field-recordings à la partition pour piano, de nombreuses oppositions surgissent et se révèlent: l'opposition entre le bruit et la musique bien sûr, et donc entre nature et culture, mais aussi, par extension, les oppositions entre ville et campagne et entre travail intellectuel et travail manuel. La position de Pisaro semble être plutôt neutre et naïve, au sens où elle est absente de préjugés et d'a priori, car Fields have ears 1 tente de (ré-)concilier ces dualismes sans qu'aucun des termes ne s'affirme avec supériorité. Ne sachant pas trop comment décrire l'environnement des bandes, je dirais simplement que l'ambiance est assez proches d'un parc urbain ou d'une forêt près d'une ville, avec ses espèces regroupées par peur de l'environnement citadin. Quant au piano, il joue une longue mélodie distillée parcimonieusement, chaque cellule n'étant composée que de deux ou trois notes ou accords au maximum. Ces phrases révèlent également une opposition entre l'écriture horizontale de type mélodique et apaisante, et l'écriture verticale formée d'accords souvent tendus et dissonants.

Fade, la seconde pièce, a toute sa place dans cette série en hommage à Cage, étant donné la prépondérance du silence. Pour le coup, une nouvelle opposition surgit (même si elle était latente sur la première piste), celle entre le silence et le son, les deux termes apparemment irréconciliables, musicalement et physiquement. La fortune de Pisaro est d'arriver à placer ces deux termes sur un pied d'égalité sans se laisser effrayer par leur opposition frontale. Dans cette étrange sculpture sonore, la musique surgit du silence par attaque brutale puis laisse apparaître de longs silences, et nous ne savons plus qui du silence ou du son permet l'apparition de son opposé-contradictoire. Généralement, chaque note jouée entre les silences est plusieurs fois répétée à intervalles réguliers avec des attaques de plus en plus faibles, la disparition de la note laisse alors apercevoir le spectre harmonique avant que le silence ne surgisse. C'est comme si Pisaro, en plus d'interroger les conditions d'apparition du son à travers la sculpture du silence, questionnait aussi la nature ou l'essence du son à travers ce traitement du timbre qui n'est pas sans rappeler les expériences de Grisey et de l'école spectrale.

Quant à Fields have ears 4, elle est construite sur un schéma similaire: de longues plages de silence succédant à des nappes sonores. Mais si la structure formelle est proche, les modes de jeux ainsi que l'instrumentation (piano, cithare, violoncelle, clarinette, mélodica, ordinateur, objets divers, etc.) diffèrent largement, ainsi donc que l'approche même du phénomène sonore construit sur le son plus que sur la note ici. Je dis "nappes sonores" car, hormis les interventions du piano et de quelques autres, les sons sont souvent de nature indéterminée (souffles, frottements, drones, etc.). L'approche est devenue plus timbrale que spectrale et par cette voie, Pisaro semble vouloir nous dire que le silence est nécessaire et essentiel non seulement à la musique, mais également à la perception et à l'audition de chaque son, aussi quelconque et indéterminé soit-il. L'atmosphère et l'ambiance sont aussi étranges et singulières que sur les deux autres pièces puisque Pisaro cultive l'art de faire parler le rien et de matérialiser le néant à travers une spatialisation atemporelle du silence et une sculpture du vide.

Outre le phénomène d'attraction de ces pièces surnaturelles car atemporelles (caractéristiques d'ailleurs assez proches des musiques rituelles qui nous submergent d'émotions similaires), l'intérêt de ces trois pièces réside aussi dans le questionnement existentiel sur l'essence de la musique et du son en général (notamment les liens entre le silence, le bruit, les notes, la nature et la culture, etc.) comme dans les réponses apportées à ces interrogations (la réciprocité du son et du silence, ce dernier étant essentiel au premier; l'intégration de la musique dans le phénomène son/bruit, etc.). Quand bien même ces trois pièces paraissent austères au premier abord, dès que l'attraction fait son effet, on se laisse facilement (magiquement?) submerger par cet univers mythique et singulier plein de questionnements sur le temps et la musique. Trois œuvres "musicogoniques" sur l'apparition mythologique du phénomène sonore musical.”                                         Julien Héraud, Improv Sphere

“Tre stycken av den amerikanske tonsättaren Michael Pisaro (född 1961) tolkade av pianisten Philip Thomas. ”Fields have ears 4” genomförs dock av fjorton spelare. Tolkningarna ingår i bolagets hyllning till John Cages "Silence"; och visst går det tala om post-Cage i detta fallet, det är långa effektiva pauser.

Jag antecknar: Avvaktande lugna, klanger, intervall, enstaka toner prövas och får sväva och klinga ut. Avstånden mellan den ljudande musiken är avgörande. Thomas hanterar detta mycket bra. Jag lyssnar med spänning…

Hunnen så långt i recensionen börjar jag vackla. Vad är jag med om?

En avslappnande musik som drar sig diskret undan och lämnar mig ifred. Inget stör, där är bara tillräcklig stimulans för att jag ska domna bort. Ett tag känner jag mig som hypnotiserad: ”Andas lugnt, slappna av, tänk…” Nej, tänk inte alls, tänker jag!

Jag fortsätter fundera på vad jag ska skriva. De tre styckena har olika karaktär. ”Fields have ears 1” innehåller Thomas knappa milda pianospel blandat med bandinspelning som liknar en ljudtapet av diskreta naturljud. Oerhört stämningsfullt, pianospelet flyter in i de realistiska ljuden och smyger ut. ”Fade” låter mig följa hur ett par välskulpterade men minimala klanger går in och ut i långa pauser. Och om jag trodde att de fjorton aktörerna i ”Fields have ears 4” skulle innebära litet mer röj och skavande täthet misstog jag mig grovt. På låg nivå blandas små ljud, Thomas piano dyker upp regelbundet med ödesmättade klanger, återigen så där vackra som ett perfekt anslag kan skapa. Ljuvligt, höll jag på att skriva. Den slide whistle, den trumpet, den melodika och alla andra instrument som anges märks mycket diskret om alls. Less is more, som Mies van der Rohe sade, eller om det var Count Basie.

Så drabbas jag igen av tvivel på vad jag upplever. Medger att jag gillar organisationen, njuter av disciplinen, återhållsamheten, den förfinade blandningen av ljud. Men just den där förfiningen känns ett ögonblick som pessimism. Musik kan inte vara mer än så här, vill inte mer. Gränsen till dekoration och ambient är vag. En fond. Men, tänker jag så på musik? Saknar ett ögonblick det ruffiga i ganska enkel impro. Ångrar mig, nej, det är för lätt. Också ruffigheten är en konvention. Drar fram Ingmar Glanzelius ”Om jazz bland annat” ur bokhyllan och läser vad han skrev om Archie Shepp: ”Då har jag funnit att bland annat Archie Shepps musik passar ovanligt bra som schablon för vad jag tycker är ett bra samhälle. Vilket inte hindrar att jag ofta njuter mer av Bill Evans.”

Är det så? Jo, kanske jag gillar en massa impro och annat löst för att jag föredrar denna antihierariska hållning på samma vis som jag irriteras då den går in för mycket schabloner och självupprepningar. Går det att tillämpa på Pisaros musik? Nja, för om jag inte visste att det var skrivet kunde faktiskt en del vara resultatet av dagens low dynamic-reduktionistiska impro, för här är spelare så väl slipade i samspel att de kan lyssna, pausera, komponera och göra stora former medan de agerar.

Jag blir inte klok på skillnaden, sjunker åter in i Pisaros hypnotiska minimala upprepningar för att i nästa stund finna dem tråkiga. Jag vill ha mer slump, en musik som inte är alldeles genomskinlig utan ger mig motstånd. Och tänker nostalgiskt på den dag då jag lyssnade på hela LaMonte Youngs ”The Well Tuned Piano” eller såg en enda film av Warhol i sex timmar!

Snacka om motstånd.

Åter till recensionen då. Philip Thomas förvaltar med virtuos briljans det knappa tonspråket som är Michael Pisaros särmärke.”

Thomas Millroth, Sound of Music