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The California Ear Unit Performs Louis Andriessen
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Classical
  •  Track Listings (4) - Disc #1

Zilver by The California Ear Unit Performs Louis Andriessen


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Zilver by The California Ear Unit Performs Louis Andriessen

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Not so laid back minimalism from fine,cool Cal Ear Unit
scarecrow | Chicago, Illinois United States | 05/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Louis Andriessen is a facinating minimalist, although he probably wouldn't like that label. He really isn't a minimalist more a colourist. You will not find linear-like rhythmic propulsion ad nauseum as you might find in Phil Glass,Steve Reich and John Adams, the three High Buddhas of the language.Instead Andriessen is nourished by Jazz,and the timbral language of the post-Webern avant-garde, where the others Glass and Reich were enamored over the mysteries and modes of the East studying with mentor virtuosi there. Andriessen studied with Luciano Berio keeping this horizon well in the forefront of his creativity and cultural values of European post-war expression. You can call him an activist composer in many respects, he got swept into the Anti-War Times,even collectivizing his compositions,collaborating with other Dutch composers on a single work, Reconstructie,an opera, (1968-1969).Also however he founded practical musical groups with a collective-democratic-like base. Many of his fellow musicians thought all this was condescending at times, the more academic strains on the Dutch scene, and they were right to a degree.But he progressed however well beyond the self-indulgent politics of the Sixties,transcending these social-politico experiments in music. His De Staat,an oratorio-like work,based on Plato revelaed great sophistication in dealing with text and the voice,something he learned from Berio. This proved successful and was a widely played work which helped put his name on the map. His minimalism however remains the focus of his aesthetic as well as direct accessible communication.This aesthtic is one more of density,and points of timbral association, dealing with blocks, chunks, and handfulls of sound,usually associating similar or identical sonoric families, like vibraphone and flute(metal),or woodblocks and marimba (wood).His rhythms are direct, and ponderous,usually very simple. Zilver (Dutch for silver) exhibits a coldness based on a determinate form from Bach's choral variations. Here a long melody gets tossed around the ensemble transforming the timbre,usually a scale descending. Andriessen likes to gaze at his sounds,taking time, allowing us to absorb them as well.Nothing is rushed, and the coldness of the sound, almost impersonal contributes to the listening expereience, it is more an engaged sound as a result. It was hard to shut Zilver off once on , as monotonous as sometimes this music can get. Still you stick with it and the sounds become poetic friends. The gestures here are severe,ringing sonorities,relentless,passive yet bold and authoritative,like a strong geometric shape that doesn't compromise its linear integrity,like a triangle,or parallelogram.In contrast Disco(no reference here to the dance,sorry),is more spiky,and warm,friendlier actually with the violin showing off,nasel thinness is proclaimed, very beautiful. My favorite here however is a solo for harpischord Overture to Orpheus, the microphone is placed well near the strings, so the percussive after shocks become part of the music, intended or not. The result is gentle,disarming and beautiful almost harp or zither like. Worker's Union by contrast is again severe and is from 1975, and a collective experiment, a leftover I suspect, and is simply a rhythm to be played very loudly by any instruments, chords do appear at the end.But the musicians here all play together,like one ugly monolith force coming toward you,like a demonstration or rally.This is politics as a one-dimensional etude.Politics is much more a complex affair than this. The Ear Unit here take things quite seriously however,with ugly cello sounds, and electric menacing keyboard, but you really don't need to. This was one of the first works Andriessen wrote for the group he founded, De Volharding in Amsterdam. The California people here have played all over the world and are well versed in jumping aesthetics between musical languages from Carter to Torke,yet keeping magnificently a focus.They make a good synergistic match with Andriessen creativity."