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Fritz HAUSER (b. 1953)
Fritz Hauser (percussion)
rec. Casa delle Masche, Piedmont, Italy, date not given
HAT[NOW]ART 216 [60:41]

The Swiss composer Fritz Hauser is a percussionist of unusual originality. The very title of this CD – Laboratorio – has its origins in exploration, discovery, evolution and creation itself so it should come as no surprise that Hauser’s music is an experiment in sound, space, acoustics and spatial dimensions. It is, as Hauser suggests, the building of music into something distinctly architectural; it’s in some ways closer to installation art than music which will, I think, involve a bit of leap for some listeners. This is, however, a work for solo percussion and in that sense it differs from the only other piece of his I’m very familiar with his vast Solo Drumming. There are similarities in the two works, but also striking differences: the shocking intensity, suggestive of the instruments about to destruct under the pressure in Drumming is less obvious in Laboratorio, but the technical skill, and the sound that is generated, is of a similar nature. These are works that rely on an incredible dynamic range; where space seems infinite, where sounds echo and reverberate within the proportions of a much larger acoustic than seems possible.

It’s certainly true to say that this is much more progressive music than say Reich’s Drumming. Laboratorio is perhaps more urban as music. I found myself liking some parts of it more than others: ‘Tre’, which is sustained throughout its span by a fading in-and-out tam-tam pulses and reverberates memorably. It’s strikingly different from ‘Due’, which with its multi-layered blocks of sound, creates a variable sonic world by melding multi-track recordings of instruments that bend together to give the illusion of being from a single source when they couldn’t possibly have been generated from one. ‘Quatro’ with its spontaneous rhythms almost sounds like percussive polyphony. And when you hear a cymbal, or even a bass drum, in Laboratorio it’s not just the instrument and its timbre that catches the ear but the concept that percussion is entirely spatial as a sound form: A cymbal floats and hangs in space, and yet as music it crosses borders until it’s physically brought to a standstill.

How listeners will respond to this disc will largely depend on how receptive they are to investigating the idea that music is relative to something else – in this case, the concept of sound as architecture and the wider culture surrounding it of territory, urban life and concrete space. It’s experimental, of course, but works as music on at least two distinct levels. It can be seen in a purely sonic form as music that has a direct link to pieces like Stockhausen’s embryonic 1959 work, Zyklus, or his even earlier piece from 1952, Schlagtrio. But where Laboratorio expands on what Stockhausen only briefly acknowledged in his earliest works for percussion is the constellation of sound in space. There is much that is abstract here, but there is also much that is just inspired by the sense of acoustics and architecture itself. The extent to which a twenty-first century work like Laboratorio differs from fourteenth century music in a Gothic cathedral seems rather minimal to me.

Marc Bridle


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