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The unusual cello duo format is explored by Mitzlaff and Mira in these experimental contemporary improvisations using acoustics and techniques mimicking live electronics to create a uniquely informed music.

Mitzlaff / Mira

Mitzlaff / Mira: cellos (Creative Sources)
Label: Creative Sources    
Released in: Portugal    

structure similar to the Offenbach's options for those scores. This is how experimental contemporary music pays tribute to past achievements. Sure you'll still find here the "classical" factor, but "Cellos" is an entirely improvised, post avant-garde and exploratory set of cello duos, incorporating elements that go from jazz (Mira tunes his instrument in fourths, like if it was a double bass, following the proceedings of the jazz cellist Oscar Pettiford) to "live" electronics, sometimes mimetizing acoustically the sound world of synthesists and laptop experimentalists.

But there's much more to say about this surprising and extraordinary record assembling a German musician living in Portugal for 12 years now and a Portuguese-born Renaissance man dividing his time between music, architecture and painting. Beginning with the fact that each improvisation has a particular concept behind it, presented by the title; and the titles aware us of a transposition to music of formulae coming from the visual arts. "Visual music" is the name used to refer the influence of music in painting, sculpture, cinema, video and computer art since Kandinsky and Norman McLaren, but even if what we have here is the reversed situation, the designation is fully applyable. And that because it corresponds to the same equation: the search for synesthesia, began by Scriabin with his "tastiera per luce". If the plastic artists of the last century were trying to inscribe the notion of time in their works, present musicians like Mitzlaff and Mira deal with space. We can even say that the Einstein's Relativity Theory is being fulfilled in the domains of art, the "space-time continuum" getting finally global covering. In his book "Digital Harmony" (1980), John Whitney writes about a "new kind of composer: one with the ability to conceive ideas both musically and visually". In this case, the particularity is that we have two instant-composers, musicians composing in the exact moment of the performance, committed to the "here and now" of the creative act.

Some of the situations approached are ambiguous, in the sense that they have several, but complementary in some way, interpretations depending on the perspective. "Shape", the first track of the album, alludes directly to architectural and sculptural considerations, but in Portuguese the word "figura" (which we can literally, but not very correctly, translate to English as "figure") has other meanings. We might think they're referring to the "musical figure", a short succession of notes and their possible variations, but if there's indeed a simple and basic motif, what is really in question is the unity of the form. And this takes us to the definition of figurativism, since the focus is on an object. The implications are of great interest, considering that music is not a representational art. "Inversion" suggests a visual movement and more than adopting music processes through inverted intervals and consonant or dissonant weird counterpoints, it warns us for the rhetorical dimension of the interactive discourse developed by the two players, presenting it as a parallel to human verbal language. "Tripartition" mentions the thesis in music semiology by Jean Molino and Jean-Jacques Nattiez, which divides the musical phenomenon in three vectors: the music "producer", the "text" (the music itself), and the "receiver" (the listener). Simultaneously, it's the equivalent of the tryptic opuses in history, from Hieronimus Bosch to Francis Bacon.

"Discontinuity" sums up the performing philosophy adopted by Ulrich Mitzlaff and Miguel Mira. The non-linear structure cuts with the cause and effect relationships specific to time, enabling to play with spatial categories. In this improvisation we find the second great musical reference of "Cellos", Morton Feldman (from Mitzlaff's input), but also another extra-musical source of inspiration: the "jump drive" principle (warp flights, teleportation) in science fiction (coming from Mira, a comics fan and collector). In one way or another, the intention is to break with the understanding of music as a narrative (like the conventional literary and cinematic ones), with its rigidly implied "time-scheme". One of Feldman's main characteristics is the non-chronological organization of sounds and the refusal to restrict it in a closed syntax and in a phrasing construction, distancing him from the type of uses common, for instance, in jazz and improvised music. The recorded piece is fragmentary and unstable, dismantling any perceptions of past, present and future. "Asymmetry" is the logic next step, and again we are in plastic arts territory. And in architecture: through the 20th century, and until now, it's believed that "only a bad architect relies on symmetry". Science is the basis: in biology, chemistry, physics, thermodynamics, astronomy, and so on, there's innumerable examples of non-symmetric systems.

Then we hear "Abstract", the closing track. Being music abstract by definition, that factor gained more evidence under the guiding of the visual avant-garde tendencies from Dada to Fluxus. Curiously enough, abstractionism always had a strong empathy with geometry, the mathematics of objects, and in music truth is abstraction tends also to be geometric. Mitzlaff and Mira close the circle, arriving at the start, putting side by side the metaphor of a real, natural, object ("Shape") and the metaphor of an "inner", imagined, object ("Abstract"). In the art of sounds there's no substantial differences between the two exercises - it's simply two aspects of the same reasoning. In doing so, they design for this album an "open-ended" symmetry by asymmetric means, and that is brilliant. Few times improvisation had such a conceptual relevance. Offenbach would be puzzled with "Cellos", as I did and certainly will you."-Rui Eduardo Paes

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Creative Sources

Improvised Music
European Improv, Free Jazz & Related
Stringed Instruments
Free Improvisation
Duo Recordings

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Product Information:

Label: Creative Sources
Catalog ID: cs174
Squidco Product Code: 12907

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2010
Country: Portugal
Packaging: Jewel Tray
Recorded by Miguel Mira in June 2009 at Casal da Granja-Varzea de Sintra, Portugal. Mixed and Mastered by Emidio Buchinho in July 2009.


Ulrich Mitzlaff-cello

Miguel Mira-cello

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Track Listing:

1. shape 1:21

2. Inversion 8:32

3. tripartition 1st part 5:58

4. tripartition 2nd part 8:54

5. tripartition 3rd part 3:22

6. discontinuity 4:22

7. asymmetry 9:21

8. abstract 8:24

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