Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Mark Hannesson is an Associate Professor at the University of Alberta where he teaches courses in Composition, Music Technology and Experimental Improvisation. He is also a composer and sound artist, writing instrumental, electronic and mixed works, as well as being active as a performer of live electronic music. Hannesson is a well-established member of the Wandelweiser Collective, his first album release on Edition Wandelweiser having been 2016's Angels on which pianist Roger Admiral performed two Hannesson compositions, "The Angel's Game" and "Memory Sustained". The two-disc album Music for Guitar is his second Wandelweiser release (with two more not far behind). The Wandelweiser catalogue lists fifteen Hannesson scores, dating from 2013 to 2018, only three of which are described as "for guitar"; Music for Guitar features all three of those pieces, recorded in the studio in August 2018, in Saint Petersburg, performed solo by Russian guitarist Denis Sorokin.
Straight from the start of the opening track, the nineteen-minute "Each Thing", it is self-evident why Hannesson was attracted to Wandelweiser and vice versa. That track comprises clusters of three, four or five notes being sounded close to each other, some together, some overlapping, and then slowly fading away together, the next cluster not being played until the preceding one has completely faded to silence; in some cases, this means there is a gap of thirty seconds or more between clusters. The result is that every note can be savoured in its entirety, beginning, middle and end. As on other Wandelweiser recordings, the silences here are not gratuitous but are included for a good reason, to hear the full decay. The piece develops subtly as it progresses but throughout it remains soothing, calming and relaxing.
The transition into the second piece, the twenty-six minute "If I Appear Comfortable", is practically seamless as its structure is not radically different from that of the opener. The two work well together as back-to-back companions. Moving on to the album's second disc involves a dramatic change of mood and landscape as its sole track, the forty-and-a-half minute "Triste" (just too long to squeeze onto the first disc) is played on electric guitar rather than the acoustic used on disc one. Of course, the use of an electric also means that notes can be treated and sustained so that they do not sound as natural as those on disc one. There are silences between the notes played on the piece but they are far shorter than those on disc one as electric notes do not decay in the same manner as acoustic ones; consequently, disc two contains more actual music than disc one but it would be inaccurate to describe it as soothing, calming or relaxing. Discs one and two of this album seem likely to appeal to quite different audiences; that does not mean one is better than the other, just that they are radically different. Both are fascinating, though.
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