It would be erroneous to suggest that Wandelweiser and its aesthetic, now well-documented, dealt only with the approach to silence so often associated with it. The more I hear from the label and associated artists, Wandelweiser is about delving into the tissues connecting sound and silence as they form the living organisms, in constant development, that we call music. As represented by this hour-long piece, Sivan Silver-Swartz does not so much bridge those gaps as eradicate their associated boundaries by allowing passage inside a sound, a sonority in flux and at rest. Who knows, finally, how to distinguish those states moment to moment?
The quintet of musicians consists of violinist Nigel Deane, violists Patrick Behnke and Tanner Pfeiffer and cellists Tal Katz and Julius Tedaldi. Even this delineation is false, as very little here resembles anything like the traditional hierarchies associated with the string quintet. It would be easy to simply state that they explore a single sonority, something approaching a minor chord with microtonal inflections, but that would be a cop-out. Is it actually two chromatically adjacent sonorities? Silver-Swartz has composed music of simultaneous intentionality and unintentionality, and the quintet responds with a stunning array of timbral and tonal suggestion. It is impossible to offer a verbal precis of even the journey through chordal manifestation, not to mention equally important elements such as articulation, decay and stereo placement that define the listening experience. Even to suggest that repetition abounds throughout says nothing. From 0:12 of the single hour-long track, interruptions enhance and impede progress as the whole concept of musical flow is turned on its head. A cello, a viola, a violin, each playing a single but absolutely essential tone, leads one chordal manifestation to the next. One of my favorites is a viola tone at 16:05, off in the right channel. It's a kind of bridge and resolution combined, and it sums up, in microcosm, the way the piece functions.
As with many Wandelweiser recordings, the acoustic is dry without causing fatigue. The slow arcs and points undulate and prod with a calm at the center, rendering the whole suspiciously close to silence. This is the ultimate magic Silver-Swartz makes, this blending to the point of obscurity of concepts that seemed familiar. His music works in the background as well as it stands up to the most intense listening, and this alone sets it apart from so much cheap imitation aimed at mass consumption. Both music and musicianship are impeccable.
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