Two Different Faces Of John Berndt

JOHN BERNDT – New Logic For Old Saxophones

A 1933 Buescher soprano and a 1935 Conn alto are the illustrious reeds through which John Berndt shows us his attempts to create a “new logic”. Being too ignorant about the history of the saxophone (though I do cuddle several darling blowers), the lone question that enters the mind when approaching albums for single instruments is “does it have musical significance?”. Indeed this CD’s fifteen tracks mean a lot, juxtaposing principles of purity – which should always be associated to the finest brands of improvisation – and sheer enjoyableness of the acoustic results. A piece like “Melancholy At The Base Of The Volcano” – dedicated to another outstanding reedist, my compatriot Gianni Gebbia – possesses conciseness and perspicuity, transcending definitions of “beauty” and “impact” while imposing a quiet authority without the need of bionic squeals and cluck-and-spit trickery. On the other hand, the “rhino-in-love” grunts of “A Material Answer” are nice to hear. Berndt is not afraid to attend the unconstitutional quarters of free playing closer to the area’s reputed protagonists. Still, as shown in segments such as “We Are Not Ourselves”, “All The Forgotten Conversations” and “Specifics”, he’s quite proficient in mingling diverse influences in a jargon that comprises decipherable melodies and related misdemeanours, maintaining a firm clutch on our focus throughout the program’s 55 minutes. (Creative Sources)

JOHN BERNDT – The Private Language Problem (New Electro-Acoustic Compositions, 2001-2007)

This had been laying on my desk for a long time and, despite frequent mea culpa and “too-many-records” disclaimers I really feel to be in the dead wrong when overlooking releases where intellectual solidity equals the curiosity elicited by the sonic content. Luckily, fascinating art has no expiry date. Released in 2008, The Private Language Problem symbolizes the composer’s intention of “exercising freedom of thought” via his investigations, which – he stresses – do not have links to what contemporary culture defines as meaningful (a principle that your pet commentator fervently encourages to apply in every minute of life). Berndt principally concentrates on materials disclosing unsuspected acoustic properties; once finely tuned, the constituents generate music recurrently connected with the exploration of altered states, possibly not induced by drugs. A major case in point for this type of research is “Enough Pain”, just over two minutes constructed upon the mangled remainders of erstwhile “regular” chords. The immediately succeeding “Sound Of Madness” employs the polyphonic feedback generated by a mere keyboard, a growingly wild tapestry of interlocking resonant filters whose musicality attracts since the first instants. The central triptych is closed by the disaggregated aura of “For Lois Vierk”, installation material originally designed to be listened on a triangular speaker panning system through which on-site audiences heard the sounds spinning around them at different speeds and directions. “Dragon Paths” – performed on a dome-shaped stainless steel instrument with spheres containing bells – is quite reminiscent of Z’EV. All of the above exemplifies, yet again, the practical impossibility of classifying the multiform intuitions of this unsung artist, who may be – as told by Michael Anton Parker’s excellent liners – “vulnerable to the standard criticism levelled against the non-specialist”, but produces consistently challenging and definitely valuable resounding matters. (Sort Of)

Posted in Uncategorized