Another Timbre

Six pieces for piano. Five were penned by Terry Jennings and performed by Tilbury alone, the sixth is a version of John Cage’s “Electronic Music For Piano” where the manual effort is enhanced – and even mangled – by Lexer’s electronics.

I must admit of not being extremely familiar with Jennings’ artistic production, yet this does not prevent yours truly from appreciating the pensive temperament of these laconic sketches, which recall Morton Feldman’s style quite closely, maybe with slight allusions to La Monte Young’s well tuned mists. The allure lies entirely in the superimposed echoes of the upper partials; as Michael Pisaro rightly says in the liners, “there is always time for the resonance of the piano”. Here the horned character residing in a callous reviewer starts spitting out malicious queries. Would this material be deemed as ordinary, hadn’t Tilbury’s proverbial sensibility been involved? Why should music that is curiously (and, needless to say, coincidentally) akin to certain figurations leisurely improvised as a youngster by your very commentator be considered top-rank art? Why didn’t the same adolescent think of publishing those meditations, preferring instead to leave them fading to a grey oblivion? In a word, the performer seems to be the entity that sheds the magic powder needed to elevate intuitions that may sound pretty normal otherwise, though emotionally attractive to a degree.

An interesting paragraph in Pisaro’s writing underlines three important points/questions regarding “something necessary that has been lost” evoked by Jennings’ chords, and expressed as follows: “I don’t know what is it”, “Where did it go?”, “When will we get it back?”. My polite attempts to answer: 1) Purity, of the juvenile kind (see above); 2) Gurgling down the drain, replaced by the practically unavoidable human quest for recognition and funds or – in absence thereof – acceptance in an established circle; 3) Never, but a responsive individual’s remote memory can help retrieving that feeling through the assimilation of sympathetic vibrational phenomena, possibly delivered from philosophies and schools of thought. Zen, someone said. Let me silently chuckle, for not even Cage knew what that was, green tea and tofu notwithstanding. Since we’re on the subject: many people are really persuaded that it all begins from that sort of diet, or by staring at a fixed point while fantasizing about sounds they can’t hear explained by absurd graphics. Life’s second act flies inexorably for the unfortunates who reach the halfway marker without having a clue of what they’re going to do as adults.

As far as the aforementioned Cage’s opus is concerned, this particular rendition was devised by following a course of action that involves a system of “stationary and movable microphones”, set to record gestures influenced by “lines printed on transparencies and star maps”. The outcome was additionally reworked and edited – according to random processes – by the computerized management. As it frequently happens with the revered theorist’s work, the interest elicited by reading the procedures exceeds the actual worth of the end result in terms of compositional significance. In truth, several moments exist in which we were forced to raise the aerials to seize that “something in between” the notes, and a good number of lopsided halos born from the studio treatment are veritably stunning. However, the relative inconsistency of the consecutiveness places a considerable quantity of remarkable incidents into a somewhat hit-and-miss patchwork where the rare splendor of a harmonic aura is often wracked by the intrusion of inconsequential events, which was probably Cage’s “intention”. The whole – unsurprisingly – includes the obligatory stretches of silence. Perhaps I’m not sufficiently enlightened to perceive a higher value in this conception. This aside, it is still a prominent episode.

Perfectly aware that the upcoming conclusion could appear ironic after the preceding considerations, it is also true that translating an admittedly coldhearted analysis as gratuitous polemics would constitute an unnecessary amplification of rationality. To erase any residual doubt: Lost Daylight is an absorbing record, comprising both flashes of insightful grace and technical flexibility. It deserves your utmost attention. Some conjectural underpinnings might be subjects for further debate, but sizeable portions of magnetism are unquestionably present.

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