Totally mysterious to this purple prose etcher until this morning, the sounds imagined by Nikolaus Gerszewski possess the qualities typical of those produced by time-honoured composers, despite the fact that he started his music-writing activity – as an autodidact – only in 2003, after having worked as a visual artist and writer in previous years. The impulse for this new expressive method, influenced both by the aforesaid experiences and the studying of opuses by John Cage, Cornelius Cardew and Christian Wolff, came in the exact moment in which Gerszewski concentrated on the theory of “ordinary music”, the term implying a continuation of the non-representational features of figurative art in the sonic realm and the participation of trained and untrained musicians to the execution of materials mainly built on the superimposition of “layers, surfaces and objects”, thus privileging the spatial dimension as opposed to the temporal.
The scores are in essence diagrams in which the performers are instructed about what to do, without excessive concern for practice-related aspects – indeed, this piece was not rehearsed at all before its premiere, at Lisbon’s Goethe Institut in the February of 2008. The severe focus and committed empathy shown by the quartet – the composer on violin, Ernesto Rodrigues on viola and metronome, Guilherme Rodrigues on cello and Hernâni Faustino on double bass – makes for over 38 minutes of superbly synchronized improvisation, completely devoid of axioms and clichés yet somehow affirmative in regard to a logical chain of events and ideal meshing of the instrumental tints. Call-and-response phrases are interchanged with instinctively well-placed successions of awe-inspiring glissandos, percussive knocks and scraped tremolos blending in far-from-comfortable counterpoints that, however, emphasize the aura of wholeness that surrounds the players.
The depth of this respect, for the partners and the underlying concept alike, is such that there’s not a note or gesture that appears inconsiderate or, worse, selfish. In virtue of the basic premises, what ‘s heard in this album definitely borders on the extraordinary, Gerszewski’s essential notion notwithstanding.