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Lars GRAUGAARD (b.1957)
Venus for solo violin and double bass, electronics and orchestra (2013) [16:35]
Book of Throws for ensemble and improvising piano soloist (2013) [13:28]
Layers of Earth for oboe, interactive computer and 15 percussion players (2011-12) [16:01]
Three Places for ensemble (2011) [12:47]
Patti Kilroy (violin); Ian Shafer (oboe); Patrick Swoboda (double bass)
NYU Contemporary Music Ensemble
NYU Percussion Ensemble
NYU Symphony Orchestra/Jens Georg Bachmann; Jonathan Haas
rec. 2011-13, New York
DACAPO SACD 6.220628 [59:00]

Dacapo have for years curated The National Music Anthology of Denmark all the way back to the era of the long player, if not longer. The key word is 'anthology', for this disc accommodates one of the furthermost stylistic reaches.

Lars Graugaard, known in one of his avatars, as 'Lars from Mars' is a flautist by training but also a practitioner of techniques that mate computers and music. He has a degree in interactive music from Oxford Brookes University and has engineered software that translates emotional states into musical notation. Mind you, it is not every score of his in which the results also involve computer-assisted sound.

All four scores here were written for New York University Steinhardt in which Grausgaard holds a senior academic position. All four scores find their true North in the avant-garde although they are by no means sterile. One can imagine Scriabin with his colour organ — the colour pantone represented the particular musical notes — understanding Graugaard's urge to link emotional states with music scores; another gulf seemingly bridged.

The sounds made by Venus move slowly from a threatening mist stirred by bass-heavy growls and grunts into aggression. There are moments of repose — never stasis — evolving at 12:06 into what 'feels like' a maelstrom of butterfly wings. This curves down into a sad glimmer and a haunting evocation of distant whale-song. All credit to Patti Kilroy (violin) and Patrick Swoboda (double bass) for maintaining their considerable musicality through a very complex if airy score. The Book of Throws is more intimate. Its fractured magic is perceived through the piano's shards of dissonance and minute fragments of romantic melody. At 9:40 there are several pages of progressive jazz. The consolidating under-croft of this structure owes a debt to The Rite of Spring. The music ends low key in a swirl and trickle of keyboard activity. Layers of Earth seems bound up in far eastern mysticism with gamelan sounds, woodwind ululation, shamanistic drum-strokes and the decay of bell and gong impacts. Ian Shafer's oboe speaks - and dances - for humanity. The unhurried lamenting of the oboe becomes increasingly plaintive. The role of the interactive computer in this score seems modestly unassertive although its still small voice can certainly be heard as the score closes. Three Places, as we are told in composer Alejandro Guarello’s liner essay, relates to “locations on the emotional palette” and is in one track. The music is laid out aurally with stark clarity - no smear, no fog. Much of it feels like one of Constant Lambert's more 'exotic' scores (e.g.The Piano Concerto) but extruded through some cabalistic 'difference engine'. Its components include a glum priestly dance and elements of ticking and chafing that sound as if they are created with laths of soft balsa and ratchet-clicking oak.

Superbly done but for avant-garde savants only.

Rob Barnett



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