BOB OSTERTAG – A Book Of Hours

Self Release

Theo Bleckmann, Shelley Hirsch, Phil Minton: voices; Roscoe Mitchell: sax, voice.

The 50 minutes of A Book Of Hours originate from all kinds of phonemic formation metamorphosed into a tightly organized composition, likely to keep the listener watchful and blessed at all times. The vocalists enter the scene one after another, each with their own identifiable traits; they were recorded separately, without any knowledge of what a given performer had done or was doing in the meantime. The recognition is immediate: Bleckmann with his finest Meredith Monk-ish scents, Minton scan-disking the organs of speech straight away, Hirsch fluttering and shrieking beyond the possibilities of a regular woman’s frightened disruption. Mitchell’s role is remarkably important, background insufflations and retailored reed emissions and noises acting as contrastive matter where necessary.

Along the way, we run into parts constructed upon two or more “lines of conduct” intertwining all over weird counterpoints. The mild touch of reverberation applied by Ostertag lets us envisage this peculiar ritual occurring in a forlorn church. The separate head trips fuse as a single entity; strategically implemented morphing processes – by means of tone merging, pitch transposition or heaven knows what – generate a unique flux where the “who’s this?” question becomes just digressive. Inside the music’s fiber, a universe of unthinkable occurrences. From the the 22nd minute on the piece truly takes off towards the highs of uncommonness, a circular loop paralleling the scenario to that of a séance as we get lost in abnormal currents of hisses, drones and incomprehensible chants ending with a mix of throat singing and purer pitches. A deeply affecting moment that reminded us to exercise thorough mental isolation as a defense mechanism.

The endmost subdivisions are veritable sonic depictions of a still unachievable, yet totally human “cyclical endlessness”. First, Hirsch’s long-winded blatherophony is seamed ad infinitum to underscore the others’ improvisations and Mitchell’s equally unbounded blazing figurations. Then, the final section presents us with an elegiac melody – again, by Mitchell – sealing a huff-and-puff quick-paced 4/4 where a male voice (Bleckmann’s?) is exploited as an anthropoid drum machine as Hirsch utters and howls, intermittently accompanied by what I perceive as sequenced saxophone harmonics. However, there are so many minimal components in there that a mere description results in pitiable inadequateness. As always, one should say.

An acoustically glorious gem that can be purchased for a tiny price as per Ostertag’s renowned policy of spreading (he charges very little or nothing at all for the downloads, for his income mostly comes from concerts and commissions). Talk about setting standards, both artistic and behavioral.

Posted in Uncategorized