This release comes from independent Canadian label Ambiances
Magnétiques, established in 1984 to "offer you a large
breadth of audacious & avant-garde musics". Bréviaire
d'Epuisements is certainly avant-garde; to the average listener,
the more pertinent question will be not whether this counts
as "audacious", but whether it is actually music.
Canadian percussionist-composer Isaiah Ceccarelli's name is
probably unknown to most, but this is in fact the fifth CD by
Ambiances Magnétiques on which his music has appeared, all in
the last five years. As a performer he also appeared in Quartetski,
the jazz ensemble of Pierre-Yves Martel - viola da gambist on
this disc. This was on a 2007 CD ominously entitled 'Quartetski
Does Prokofiev' (AM 171). The great Russian composer's Visions
Fugitives op.22 are there "re-envisioned" in a
way which, according to the label's blurb, "remained faithful
to the spirit of the Russian composer, imagining how Prokofiev
would have orchestrated the Visions had he adapted them
to a modern jazz ensemble." Fortunately there is none of
that kind of thing on this disc. Although Ceccarelli is better
known in Canada as a jazz drummer, there is very little emphasis
on rhythm in Bréviaire d'Epuisements. In fact, it sometimes
sounds improvised or aleatoric. Far more attention is given
by Ceccarelli to textural detail.
However, it must be said that the four percussion 'Solos' that
serve as interludes between the eight songs do sound like electronic
experimentations, although they have in fact been produced acoustically
by Ceccarelli, using bowed-cymbal-type techniques - or what
sounds like a cymbal being machine-lathed! The effect, if musical
at all, is akin at times to a metallic didgeridoo. For long-in-the-tooth
listeners it will bring back school-day memories of fingernails
being scraped down blackboards. About halfway through the work,
there is also a purely instrumental Intermède ('Interlude')
for two bass clarinets, but this is considerably easier on the
ears, both instruments fluttering away in a fairly mild-mannered
way well within their range.
The 'Solos' do in any case provide a sudden, stark contrast
to the voices. The songs are settings of French poems by Marie
Deschênes, about whom the CD reveals nothing, although Google
yields up her poetry website.
The songs are more traditionally musical, though still a long
way from lieder or opera. All but one are for both female voices
together, and all but one accompanied, quite discreetly and
delicately, by at least one bass clarinet, but usually by two
and by the viola da gamba. The singing is gentle, ethereal,
almost parlando at times.
There is no indication given as to what the title, literally
'Breviary of Depletions', might signify. There is nothing in
the music or poetry that especially brings to mind either prayer
or exhaustion. Aside from the metal-churning 'Solos', the overall
effect of the work is soothing, but not in a numinous sense.
The CD comes in a cardboard wallet without plastic tray - the
disc simply slides into a pocket without further protection.
The track-listing is printed straight onto the card. Song texts,
in French only, and recording details are supplied on a thin
sheet of paper which goes in the pocket with the disc. The CD
appears to be available only from Ambiances Magnétiques' Canadian
distribution site, Actuellecd.com.
The price quoted at the time of writing was around a rather
pricy £13, though this included shipping.
Well-performed, as far as can be told, in sum this release is
not without its attractions, but these are highly idiosyncratic
and only really recommendable to those with plenty of cash to
spare and a strong urge for avant-garde joyriding.
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