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Sonic experiments and solo improvisations on tenor and soprano with 2 pieces using amplified feedback, and 1 piece dedicated to Derek Bailey.

Butcher, John
The Geometry of Sentiment

Butcher, John: The Geometry of Sentiment (Emanem)
Label: Emanem    
Released in: Great Britain    

"I do not know who was first to comment on the extent to which Butcher's acoustic preoccupations produce results that seem electronic, or whether it preceded his interest in electronic feedback and amplified saxophone. It's a resemblance that seems to go to the mystery and heart of his music and what I read as concerns with process, time, place and causality - feedback, yes, but feed-forward, too, as if what we have heard is somehow produced by what will come later, as if we ultimately await causality.

In John Butcher's practice there is clearly a concern with place - each location duly noted - just as there is a concern with variety - the alterations brought about by a series of performance spaces. His solo CDs are characteristically a selection of live recordings from varied sites - there is no special consistency of the auditory situation. The individual take is privileged, but the notion of a changing space (changing space) seems paramount too. A notion of sound reproduction as electronically conditioned is also paramount, thus the measured proximity to the microphone and the way in which it recasts the horn's harmonic profile. Perhaps it is the way in which the electronic magnifies the behaviour of acoustic space at the same time that it makes it invisible.

In Butcher's hands the saxophone's existence as a column of air, as a vibrating reed, as a system of keys and pads, becomes central, suggesting the saxophone as mechanism and intermediary, a kind of delicate and complex scientific instrument of measurement whether meant for the laboratory or, more likely, the voyage (saxophone and astrolabe made of the same metal). There is a photograph of John Butcher in a windy spot in Scotland holding his saxophone aloft and allowing the wind itself to play the saxophone, but the saxophone is also amplified and he appears to be playing the keys. This simultaneous space constructed of the acoustic and the electronic seems germane to where we place the Butcher performance, in which the recording itself involves averaging, chance or even transformative occurrences. It is as if the contours of the site of realization disappear into the work and the listener disappears into it as well.

In the present sequence there's a back-and-forth movement that suggests a stepped pyramid, the music beginning and ending in the lower voice of the tenor saxophone and in the most spectacular of spaces, then ascending through pitch to the soprano and to the quotidian worlds of London, Paris and electricity before descending on another side.

The opening and closing environments are so startling as to overdetermine the site of production, places so strange that they transcend our usual notions of environment, extending the notion of collaboration. The pieces join and extend a certain tradition of environmental saxophone music, primarily Swiss, that includes Werner Ludi's recordings inside the vast Lucendro dam and September Wind's recordings in an empty water cistern above Zurich.

The first two tracks were recorded in the Oya Stone Museum, an enormous geometrical space created by the mining of oya stone. The gallery is thus a space inside an absolute mass, enjoying, like natural caves, its own micro-climate. In the First Zizoku the space seems to harmonise and orchestrate Butcher's long tones. Then, playing oscillating arpeggio-like figures against (and with) the vast rock walls in the Second Zizoku, he builds a counter-wall of sound, playing with chromatic shifts to heighten the reverberations. There is a sense in which the sound is itself a living entity and that it draws that life from the stone as well as the human agency.

One of the unusual aspects of Butcher's use of electronic feedback is the extent to which it creates another series of illusion. Rather than sounding specifically electronic, it will suggest other instruments, often a kind of underwater muffling. The soprano of A short time to sing is to some degree percussive. There is as much sonic alteration in the acoustic But more so with its introductory motivic development in which a secondary line is suggested by slightly muffled microtones (the mutation of multiphonics). It eventually reaches an expressive peak in which the abrasive grit of the sound is seemingly dialed in and out (displacing, misplacing or even replacing the usual notion of what is giving expression to whom). That traditional pattern of development is also true of the early-going linear segment of Action Theory Blues (in which a glissando suggests the clarinets of the 1920s), while there is a moment in Soft Logic in which a sound in the environment appears to trigger an alarm in the saxophone.

The concluding performance takes place in the gasometer in Oberhausen, Germany, an enormous near-cylindrical form (it has 24 sides) constructed in 1929 to hold the gas needed by nearby manufacturers. A parody of a canister, the world's ultimate pressurized can, it is 117 metres high with a diameter of 68 metres. Rebuilt in 1949 after war-time damage, it was employed as a storage facility for coke gas until it was retired in 1989. Eventually renovated as an exhibition space, the gasometer has an extraordinary 8-time echo. We might be invited, I think, to view this as purely acoustic space (or carrier frequency) but it is a special kind of industrial archaeology, a work of menacing scale and once perfectly toxic environment (the gasometer is a kind of Forbidden Planet) that has been reclaimed as a vertical theme park, a self-declared 'industrial cathedral'. Butcher's performance here exploits the gasometer's resonance for a work of solemnity and majesty, triggering a space in which each minutia of sound is magnified into a cataclysm. Each sonic gesture appears to be a very precise measurement, as if Butcher is surveying its time (the echo, history) as well as its singular space. How odd, too, that a gas chamber should sound electric."-Stuart Broomer, from the liner notes

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Related Categories of Interest:

EMANEM & psi
Improvised Music
European Improv, Free Jazz & Related
Electro-Acoustic Improv
John Butcher
September 2007
London & UK Free Improvisation Scene
Free Improvisation
Recordings by or featuring Reed & Wind Players

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Price: $18.95
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Shipping Weight: 5.00 units

Quantity in Basket: None

Product Information:

UPC: 5030243414222

Label: Emanem
Catalog ID: 4142
Squidco Product Code: 8792

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2007
Country: Great Britain
Packaging: Jewel Tray
Digital recordings: 1 & 2 Tochigi, Utsunomiya (Oya Stone Museum) by Misumi San - 2004 November 7 / 3 & 6 London (LMC at Candid Arts) by David Reid - 2006 May 28 / 4 Paris, Montreuil (Les Instants Chavirés) by Ètienne Foyer - 2006 November 10 / 5 London (Red Rose Club) by Tim Fletcher - 2006 October 26 / 7 Oberhausen (Gazometer) by Mikkel Meyer - 2006 September 29


John Butcher-tenor or soprano saxophone (amplified/feedback on 3 & 6)

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Track Listing:

1. First Zizoku 8:00

2. Second Zizoku 11:06

3. A Short Time To Sing 5:58

4. But More So (For Derek Bailey) 7:02

5. Action Theory Blues 12:42

6. Soft Logic 4:56

7. TrÄGerfrequenz 9:08

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