reviews

Volkskrant, August 24, by Biëlla Luttmer: a 5 star review about the CD Enclosures of Peter Adriaansz (Ergodos) with Trio Scordatura’s recording of Enclosures.

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Hoogtepunt van de avond was de sublieme uitvoering van ‘Enclosures’ door Scordatura, een werk [van Peter Adriaansz] uit 2008 voor keyboard, stem en altviool. Zinderende muziek vol bezwerende klankzwevingen, rondtollende drones en microtonale verschuivingen, geaccentueerd door altvioliste Elisabeth Smalt en stemacrobate Alfrun Schmid. Onaardse muziek die de tijd even laat stollen. De oorspronkelijke keyboard-partij van ensemble-oprichter Bob Gilmore wordt nu kundig ingevuld door Reinier van Houdt. Musicoloog en muziekliefhebber Bob Gilmore (overleden in 2015) blijkt een grote inspiratiebron voor Adriaansz, en heeft hem in vroeg stadium op een aantal invloedrijke componisten (zoals Peter Garland) gewezen. Adriaansz’ cd ‘Enclosures’ is dan ook vanzelfsprekend opgedragen aan zijn vriend Bob Gilmore.

Mark van der Voort, Concertzender Crosslinks (26 juni 2016)

– Voices also featured in Anton Lukoszevieze’s Skrydis (Flight), another stand-alone work occupying a whole concert by the wonderful Trio Scordatura led by Bob Gilmore. As might be expected with this group, microtonality played a large part in Lukoszevieze’s score, as well as bold questioning of just what opera might be and how best to combine video and music. (‘I don’t think opera exists’, stated Lukoszevieze in a stimulating and combative pre-concert talk). Lukoszevieze described its content as, ‘like a photograph album’ with ‘no development of ideas; just the thing itself’. Based around the idea of flight, it took its references from Emily Dickinson, Joseph Beuys and many other disparate elements – their only relationship being that they all interest the composer. I look forward to exploring more of Lukoszevieze’s work.
– Peter Reynolds, TEMPO 268 (April 2014)

– Moderne Klassik in Köln: Key Works of New Music
Friday 08.02.2013 19:30, JESUITENKIRCHE SANKT PETER
In a classical concert, if only 5% of the audience are over 60 years old that is something special!
This “Key Works of New Music” concert was rather special. Both the playing – Trio Scordatura, featuring especially the voice of Alfrun Schmid with the exquisite accompaniment of the viola by Elisabeth Smalt – and musically – which was very challenging, but the ears were never caused pain but always urged to listen carefully – as well as by the fact that THREE of the composers (Harald Muenz, Scott Mc Laughlin and Marc Sabat) were present. What a concert!
Also excellent were the comments by Bob Gilmore, the third in the covenant of Trio Scordatura, which explained the text inspirations (for example the words of Gertrude Stein “it was a way a day, this made some sum” [in Muenz’s stein-sum]), as well as the profound thoughts of the composers that he – with [a few] exceptions – all knows personally.
Especially, too, that after the concert as an encore a work of early music was played: Nicola Vicentino’s Musica Prisca Caput from 1555.
As if five stars for the concert weren’t enough, the artists even went to see their audience in the pub afterwards.
– AltDummHaesslich blog (February 2013)

– Spectral music and matters pertaining to tuning dominated the first two concerts [of the 2008 TRANSIT Festival] with a particularly stimulating performance by the Amsterdam-based ensemble Trio Scordatura.
– Peter Reynolds, TEMPO (Spring 2009)

– My limited musical vocabulary and lack of any real understanding of what alternate tunings and Microtonality amount to in practice mean that I can only say so much about the Trio Scordatura concert. What I can say is that they were for me the find of the festival, playing the kind of music you get when the avant-garde gets it right. What they played sounded like nothing else I have ever heard, but it still sounded like music, albeit of a most unusual kind.
“inuit panda scarlet carwash” blog (May 2009)

– Multiple tunings and microtonality were to the fore in Friday’s concert by the Dutch-based group Trio Scordatura – Bob Gilmore (keyboard), Elisabeth Smalt (viola) and Alfrun Schmid (voice). They played some of the most engaging music of these concerts, and produced some of the most polished persuasive playing. The singing had pinpoint accuracy of pitch, and that was all the more striking when one realised, in a beautiful performance of Partch’s Lyrics by Li Po (1930-33), that Schmid was equally capable when singing with or without vibrato. It was apt that the oldest piece of the festival should be by Partch, for he was a pioneer in definition busting. The instruments heard included the Adapted Viola, an extra-rich and versatile invention of that composer. It appeared in this concert’s festival commission, Judith Ring’s hush, where it subtly discoursed with pre-recorded electronics. Other pieces included the meticulously microtonal Enclosures (2008) by Peter Adriaansz, Radulescu’s astonishing display of spectral techniques, Intimate Rituals XI (2003 – I’d travel to hear the other 10!), and Alvin Lucier’s I remember (1997).
– Martin Adams, Irish Times (April 28 2009)

– Another highlight this month was the 57th Karnatic Lab concert. Four different groups played on this eclectic concert, and the one I fell for instantly was Trio Scordatura. Their oddball stage presence could be best described as charmingly relaxed. Each piece flowed into the next in a brilliant and all-too uncommon example of musical synergy. The upbeat performance of this quirky trio was a delightful close to the show.
– Guy Livingston, Paris Transatlantic Review (May 2007)

– Trio Scordatura played some of the most engaging music of these concerts, and produced some of the most polished, persuasive playing.
– Martin Adams, Irish Times (April 28 2009)

In Dutch:

De ongewone tonen van Trio Scordatura

– Je kunt het repertoire van Trio Scordatura gerust ongebruikelijk noemen. Het drietal speelt muziek die zich grotendeels buiten de tonen van de piano beweegt. Opgekomen in de eerste helft van de vorige eeuw is dit genre bekend geworden als microtonale muziek. “Een misleidende benaming”, oordeelt Bob Gilmore, oprichter van het trio en biograaf van de grote pionier van het genre: Harry Partch. “Sowieso zijn de toonafstanden meestal helemaal niet microscopisch klein”, betoogt hij. “Daarbij wekt die term de suggestie dat het om iets heel nieuws gaat. En ook dat is gewoon niet waar. In de ontwikkeling van de westerse muziek hebben mensen uiteenlopende stemmingen gebruikt. Pas in de negentiende eeuw zijn de tonen zoals ze op de moderne piano te vinden zijn, vastgelegd als standaard. Nu worden ze gezien als iets dat door hogere machten bepaald is. Wij willen laten horen dat er veel meer mogelijkheden zijn.” Door het gebruik van afwijkende tonen kunnen samenklanken een heel ander karakter krijgen dan waar het publiek aan gewend is, daar is Gilmore zich terdege van bewust. “Het is net als met alle muziek”, stelt hij. “De kwaliteit van de muziek zelf, daar draait het om. We willen bij het publiek belangstelling wekken voor die ongewone klanken. Dat kan het beste door mooie muziek te spelen. En dan nog zullen er mensen zijn die er de schoonheid van zien, en mensen die dat niet doen. De theorie achter de noten heeft daar geen enkele invloed op.” Het is niet algemeen bekend dat in Nederland een traditie van microtonale muziek bestaat. In de zeventiende eeuw kwam wiskundige Christiaan Huygens met een indeling van het octaaf in 31 tonen. Adriaan Fokker, een neef van de vliegtuigbouwer, ontwierp na de Tweede Wereldoorlog een orgel waarop je die tonen kon spelen. Maar pas de laatste jaren begint de belangstelling voor deze muziek weer te groeien, ook bij componisten.
– René van Peer, Brabants Dagblad, zaterdag 14 februari 2009

– Another highlight this month was the 57th(!) Karnatic Lab concert, on April 10th. Four different groups played on this eclectic concert, and the one I fell for instantly was Trio Scordatura. Their oddball stage presence could be best described as charmingly relaxed. Scordatura excels in microtonal music; Elisabeth Smalt wielded two violas, one conventional, but often de-tuned (actually re-tuned to different scales, to be precise), the other a replica of a Harry Partch Adapted Viola with a longer neck marked in non-European increments. Alfrun Schmid provided ethereal/eerie vocals, and Bob Gilmore (Partch biographer, fervent microtonalist and occasional contributor to PT – see his fine interview in April with Phill Niblock) crafted the programming and added backup on synth. Each piece flowed into the next in a brilliant and all-too-uncommon example of musical synergy. Alvin Lucier’s amplified Voice was almost painfully strident, and I cowered in my seat as Schmid shifted her pitch between two sine waves. The resulting beats as she modulated her voice were absolutely mesmerizing. James Tenney’s Harmonium #1 seemed to depart from the same thematic material, but for trio. Horatiu Radulescu’s  Intimate Rituals XI is the 11th in a series of pieces derived from two “sound icons”, i.e. pianos in alternate tuning, turned on their sides, and strummed. The minuscule Badcuyp is far too small a venue for even one grand piano, so this was played on tape, while Smalt’s viola (also retuned) created a tight dialog with the electronic background. The program, evolving rapidly now, after 17 minutes of the almost static Radulescu, moved to François-Bernard Mâche’s Kubatum, a supposedly ancient love song… it was the perfect lead-in to A History of Cowboys, by Paul Swoger-Ruston, three songs to texts by those original horsemen of American solitude, [Whitman] and Bukowski. The upbeat performance of this quirky trio was a delightful close to their show.
– Paris Transatlantic magazine, May 2007

Trio Scordatura played a concert in exquisitely accurate just intonation.
– SEAMUS [Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States] Newsletter, April 2007

– When Crash Ensemble, with guests Susan Stenger (flute and guitar) and Trio Scordatura (voice, viola and keyboard), took over Temple Bar Gallery for just short of two-and-a-half hours, the four floors of space were infused with heavy sound and unceasing video. Phill Niblock was in town. This New York-based composer and film-maker, now 74, has created his musical niche in the compiling of drone-like pieces. The drones are not single lines, but, typically, 20- to 30-minute skeins in which the individual strands are created from recordings of actual instruments. Niblock strings them together – originally on tape, now on computer – in ways that are at once seamless and always shifting in internal alignment. He likes things to be loud, so that the low-level acoustic and psychoacoustic outcomes of the interactions between musical pitches can become more pronounced. There are no shocks or distractions from percussive attacks or other radical short-term shifts in dynamic. It’s a steady-state kind of music in which the loudness is like a visual close-up, uncovering features of the sound that might otherwise pass unnoticed. It’s also a transformative music. Just as after a certain amount of physical pressure you no longer sense shape but feel weight, or after a certain hotness in food no longer get flavour but just sense burning, after a certain amount of Niblock the perspective shifts. Whatever is constant can yield in prominence to whatever is changing; the detail attracts the attention in spite of the massiveness that threatens to obscure it. Sometimes the effect of the droning was simply too powerful. The sense of sonic immersion resulted in a kind of congealing. Niblock may use acoustic instruments as raw material (and he loves adding more for live performances, as well as silent movies that are like footage without commentary from the National Geographic Channel), but some of his moments of turbine-like oppressiveness left one thinking only of the possibility of an off button. What’s certain, however, is that he genuinely offers a concentrated kind of experience not readily available elsewhere.
– Irish Times, April 26 2008

Ergodos Festival, Dublin

– Multiple tunings and microtonality were to the fore in Friday’sconcert by the Dutch-based group Trio Scordatura – Bob Gilmore (keyboard), Elisabeth Smalt (viola) and Alfrun Schmid (voice). They played some of the most engaging music of these concerts, and produced some of the most polished persuasive playing. The singing had pinpoint accuracy of pitch, and that was all the more striking when one realised, in a beautiful performance of Partch’s Lyrics by Li Po (1930-33), that Schmid was equally capable when singing with or without vibrato. It was apt that the oldest piece of the festival should be by Partch, for he was a pioneer in definition busting. The instruments heard included the Adapted Viola, an extra-rich and versatile invention of that composer. It appeared in this concert’s festival commission, Judith Ring’s . . . hush, where it subtly discoursed with pre-recorded electronics. Other pieces included the meticulously microtonal Enclosures (2008) by Peter Adriaansz, Radulescu’s astonishing display of spectral techniques, Intimate Rituals XI (2003 – I’d travel to hear the other 10!), and Alvin Lucier’s I remember (1997).

The last concert was held in St Bartholomew’s Church, Clyde Road, and was devoted to the late James Tenney’s In a large, open space (1994). This work can last almost any length of time – 70 minutes on this occasion. The 11 players were positioned in different parts of the building, and they played precisely defined, sustained pitches so that, as you walk around the building (and that was expected) the mingling of fundamentals and overtones changes. Love it or hate it, it does what it aims to do – give the audience members liberty to create their own aural experience. That’s where Tenney proved to be among the handful who have the edge over many others. This kind of music represents what may be some of the most important musical experiments of our times; and who knows where it will lead? But for the present, it seems clear that the most persuasive work comes from those who do one or two things with extreme concentration, who know not to clutter the ear, and who also know that in music the best intellectual concepts are often the simplest – concepts that don’t need much explanation via programme notes that, all too often, are much ado about a little. What matters most is how the music sounds.
-Martin Adams, Irish Times, April 28 2009

Again in the Unitarian Church

Trio Scordatura formed itself to explore the world of unconventional tunings. It comprises Bob Gilmore on keyboards together with Elisabeth Smalt on viola and Alfrun Schmid on voice. Gilmore was giving a talk earlier in the day on microtonality in music. I skipped that on the basis that it would probably just go over my silly non-PhD-in-music head, but I kind of regretted my decision when I heard Gilmore’s introductions to the various places his trio played. I am still not sure I would have understood fully what he was saying, but he has such a pleasant speaking voice that it would all have been delightful. He also looked the part. From the first piece (Conturador, by Flor Hartigan) you could tell this was going to be a bit special. As well as singing in a most unusual manner, Schmid was slowly twirling a pair of shaker devices that looked oddly like an opium poppy. The sound was as odd as the visual effect.

My limited musical vocabulary and lack of any real understanding of what alternate tunings and microtonality amount to in practice mean that I can only say so much about the Trio Scordatura concert. What I can say is that they were for me the find of the festival, playing the kind of music you get when the avant-garde gets it right. What they played sounded like nothing else I have ever heard, but it still sounded like music, albeit of a most unusual kind. One fascinating piece (composed by Horatiu Radulescu, a man sometimes lumped in with composers of “spectral music”) featured Smalt playing an oddly tuned viola over a recording of others playing two grand pianos – grand pianos that had been tipped on their side and were being played by having threads rubbed against their inner strings. I would love to go to a concert where someone could do this for real. I Remember was another piece, by some Alvin Lucifer fellow, saw Trio Scordatura joined by Garret Sholdice and Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, with the whole lot of them intoning wordlessly into jugs and then individually breaking off to say something they remembered. Sadly, no one remembered dancing in stilettos in the snow. The other pieces were Enclosures by Peter Adriaansz (the trio playing to a programmed accompaniment of computer generated musical tones; spooky), Harmonium #1 by James Tenney (the trio playing over recordings of themselves playing, with the long sustained vocal notes and the ebb and flow of the viola being the most striking features), some Chinese poems set to music by Harry Partch (apparently very hard to sing; they certainly sounded strange enough, and interestingly this was the only vocal piece that featured lyrics) with accompaniment on prepared viola (a strange instrument of Mr Partch’s devising), and …hush  by Judith Ring (more prepared viola, playing over samples of prepared viola). The last piece was by Al Margolis, who also records and performs as If, Bwana. From Gilmore’s description, this Margolis fellow seems to be a bit of a roffler, and this piece was here to present the fun side of progressive approaches to tuning and tonality.

The trio played over a really bizarre musical backing. My one big regret with this concert was that the trio did not have their debut album with them for sale. Apparently it was meant to be ready but certain unfortunate events prevented its appearance. “inuit panda scarlet carwash”,
– inuitbikini.blogspot.com, May 16 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Amsterdam-based ensemble performing music using new tuning systems and microtonality

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