The Squid's Ear Magazine

Fox, Christopher: Hieroglyphs (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

Three works from English composer Christopher Fox performed by the five-member Ensemble SEV, with two renderings of his work "This is the Wind" along with three duos, each combining two of a set of six "Paralogos", a solo work for violin--"Planes and Folds"--and the title piece "Hieroglyph" about decoding the incomprehensibility of unfamiliar music.

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Christopher Fox-composer

Ensemble SEV-ensemble

Jonathan Chazan-tenor saxophone

Dennis Sobolev-electric guitar

Dan Weinstein-cello

Ido Akov-piano

Yael Barolsky-violin

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UPC: 752156103028

Label: ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd
Catalog ID: ezz-thetics 1030
Squidco Product Code: 31593

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: Switzerland
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at the Israel Conservatory of Music, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on August 29th, and September 2nd, 2021, by Yaron Aldema.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Hieroglyph is a word that history has gradually prised away from its linguistic roots as the Greek term for sacred carvings. Over time it came to be associated principally with the enigmatic symbols found in Egyptian burial sites and because these symbols resisted translation for so many centuries the word hieroglyph became a synonym for incomprehensibility. It was the discovery of an artefact - the so-called 'Rosetta Stone', containing both hieroglyphs and parallel texts in other scripts - that in the early 19th century made translation possible: understand one text and the decoding could begin. Perhaps we follow a similar path when we listen to unfamiliar music. But what are the parallel texts: titles, other music that sounds similar, or a text like this?

The title track on this album is an attempt to make music out of this journey to understanding. Hieroglyph begins with a single plucked note on the cello, insistently repeated. Gradually it starts to gather resonance from the body of the instrument and the other strings and out of that resonance grows a sense of the identity of the cello, or at least the identity of the cello in this music. As the music evolves it becomes, phrase by phrase, section by section, less exploratory, more solid. At least this is how it seems to me. I wrote Hieroglyph in the summer of 2020 for Dan Weinstein; if I knew more about it I would say so.

The two works entitled This is the wind, both for an ensemble of three instruments, are easier to introduce. The first was written in 2017 and 2018 for the Fidelio Trio who premiered it in London in the 2018 Spitalfields Music Festival. In his 1984 poem 'Wind' James Fenton writes that 'great crowds are fleeing... down through the beautiful catastrophe of wind' and in This is the wind each movement imagines a different sort of wind, a different sort of catastrophe. 'Shamal' is a hot, dusty north-westerly wind that blows across Iran (originally this movement was to be premiered in Teheran) in June and July. In 'Interference' Debussy's prelude 'Le vent dans la plaine' becomes a series of glitches, like a digital file that is being corrupted as it is transmitted. 'Mouth' is based on the melody of a Welsh folk-song and takes its title from a line in R.S. Thomas's poem 'Depopulation of the Hills', in which he describes the harsh living conditions of Welsh hill farmers : 'the hole under the door was a mouth through which the rough wind spoke.' In 'Idaho' we hear the wind blowing across the plains, through the telegraph wires, the sound of LaMonte Young's childhood, inspiration for a radically reduced music.

In 2019 Dan Weinstein asked if I would make a version of This is the wind for a new trio in which he would be joined by tenor saxophone and electric guitar. As I reworked 'Shamal' I realised that the sonic possibilities of the ensemble were taking me in new directions. 'Chaff' returns to the imagery of James Fenton's poem - 'like chaff we were borne in the wind' - the instruments scattering grains of sound. 'Palmyra' reflects on the destruction of that ancient city by the Roman Empire in 273 and its further partial destruction by ISIS in 2015. The music is a sort of archaeology, as if fragments of Thomas Tallis's 16th century settings of the Book of Lamentions, in which the prophet Jeremiah mourned the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, had been recovered from the ground. Over and over again the saxophone, guitar and cello piece together these shards of Tallis's music, trying to make them into a coherent form.

The title of Planes and folds suggests a different relationship between music and earth: not the recovery of shards from the ground but the tectonic processes through which that ground itself was formed. It is also a nod of gratitude in the direction of the conductor and improviser Ilan Volkov, for whose Tectonics festival I wrote the orchestral piece Topophony.In 2017 Ilan directed the Tel Aviv premiere of the chamber orchestra version of Topophony and it was through that performance that I was introduced to Yael Barolsky and Dan Weinstein, the musicians whose playing has inspired so much of the music of this album.

Planes and folds was written in 2018 for Yael and in it her violin traces a trajectory across the range of the instrument, her playing triggering sine-tones that measure the same acoustic space according to Pythagorean principles: music as a confrontation between the human and the abstract.

In between these longer works are three duos, each combining two of a set of six Paralogos. These scores were written at the beginning of 2021 and are intended to be used as commentaries on other music, either by me or by other musicians, and either simultaneously with that music or, as here, separately. But how can music 'comment' on other music? What is being created by such a commentary: a translation, a summary, or another musical hieroglyph?"-Christopher Fox, October 2021

Artist Biographies

"Christopher Fox (born 1955 in York) is an English composer.

He studied at the universities of Liverpool, Southampton and York, where his teachers included Hugh Wood and Jonathan Harvey. He received a PhD in composition from the University of York in 1984. From 1984 to 1994 he was a member of the composition staff at the Darmstadt New Music Summer School. He is currently Professor in Music at Brunel University, a post he took up in 2006. His music is widely performed, broadcast and recorded. He is also a prolific writer on music. In addition to concert works, Fox has collaborated with artists on gallery works, and with the poet Ian Duhig on a "musical box".

An important aspect of Fox's music is its stylistic breadth-whilst his principal considerations may seem to be with systems music and adopting a systematic approach, his music also serves a political function, is deeply rooted in the post-war Darmstadt traditions of applying psychological and intellectual models to the structure and content of music and at the same time exists in a world of diverse musical attitudes, including references to the popular arts, to historical music and to cross-cultural music. The stylistic range of his works is very aurally apparent and includes complex microtonal chamber works, large-scale modernist ensemble pieces, tape cut-up collages and minimalistic pieces for guitars and saxophones.

His writings on music have also been published widely, in the journals Contact (of which he was an editor), Contemporary Music Review, Musical Times and Tempo, and deal principally with new music, in particular experimental, minimalist and complex tendencies in American and European music. He was co-editor of Von Kranichstein zur Gegenwart (1996, DACO Verlag, Stuttgart), a history of 50 years of the Darmstadt Ferienkurse, and of Uncommon Ground: The Music of Michael Finnissy (1998, Ashgate Press, Aldershot)."

-Wikipedia (

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"Jonathan Chazan is a contemporary saxophones player, arranger, improviser and a devoted performer of contemporary and ancient music. By performing both pieces originally written for the saxophone and self arranged pieces from different epochs, styles and instruments, he produces original solo recitals, while regularly commissioning, co-working and premiering new pieces by many prominent Israeli composers, ever exploring, expanding and reinventing the "old" and "new" repertoire. Jonathan played with most of Israeli leading ensembles, and orchestras, as a soloist with Rishon-Letzion Symphonic Orchestra, conducting Dan Etinger, and with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra (conducting Zubin Metha) and he is also a founding member of the Tel-Aviv saxophone quartet. Master of pedagogy (Tel-Aviv university), Bachelor (Lausanne conservatoire), academy's high school graduate with honorary, AICF scholarship of extinct excellency, and 1st place winner of the contemporary music competition of the Tel-Aviv university. Jonathan believes that the musician is an essential part of its community, thus, he is considerably invested in educational activities through music, in workshops, masterclasses and as a member of the Israeli conservatory of music, Tel-Aviv."

-Ensemble SEV (

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"Dennis Sobolev is a guitarist, composer, and improviser whose primary interest is contemporary music. As an improviser, he developed his own playing style, in which he incorporates idioms borrowed from jazz and rock music, as well as extended techniques often associated with contemporary classical and experimental music. He is a member of various improvising ensembles and collaborates for many years with leading musicians on the scene. As a performer of contemporary classical music, he took part in various festivals, such as Tzlil Meudkan, Tectonics, Darmstadt Summer Course for New Music and others, collaborated with various ensembles as well as composers such as Chaya Czernowin, Clinton McCallum, Stefan Prins, Lois Vierk, Andreas Staffel, Amnon Wolman, Alexandra Filonenko and others."

-Ensemble SEV (

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"Dan Weinstein is a virtuoso and versatile cellist, teacher and lecturer, focusing mainly on contemporary, avant-garde and experimental music. As a cello player his repertoire is dedicated to exploring new ways of interpretation of contemporary music as a platform for modern and updated art form. Enthusiastic about the intersection between traditional and contemporary instrumental practices, close and open forms, improvisation and written music, Dan has inspired composers and instrumentalists alike for collaborative work as solo and chamber musician. Dan regularly performs as soloist and with several contemporary music ensembles and is He is a senior lecturer in the new-music department of Naggar Multidisciplinary School of Art and Society, Musrara in Jerusalem. Dan is co-founder of the advanced program studies of experimental music and sound art and conducting a open-social-orchestra ("Scratch Orchestra") in the Israeli Center of Digital art."

-Ensemble SEV (

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"Ido Akov (1993) received his B.Mus in piano performance from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, studying with Ron Regev and Allan Sternfeld.As a pianist Ido has won prizes in the Bay Area Chopin and Fremont Symphony competitions in the United States, and in the "Piano Forever", "Haim Kalmi" and "Young Artist" competitions in Israel, and subsequently Ido performed with the Fremont symphony orchestra, Lancaster orchestra, Ashdod symphony orchestra, IBA orchestra, as well as with the Thelma Yellin orchestra, Rishon leZion symphony orchestra, Israeli Chamber orchestra, and with members of the Israeli Philharmonic.Ido has played recitals and chamber music across the world, in venues ranging from the Hong Kong academy for performing arts to the National Library of Georgia in Tbilisi.

Ido is a four year America-Israel Cultural Foundation scholarship recipient (in piano as well as double bass), and has also participated in the past in the Jerusalem Music center's program for excellence in piano. Through this program he was invited to play in master classes for Murray Perahia, Andras Schiff, Richard Goode, Stefan Kovacevich and many others.Ido is active as a performer of contemporary music: having taken part in ensemble Meitar's Tedarim project, and is currently pianist for the Israel Contemporary Players.

Ido is also a composer, and his works have been performed by the ensembles Musica Nova, Modalius, Meitar, the Great Gehenna choir, the Ashkelon Andalusian orchestra, and the Kiryat Ono conservatory concert band.As an accordionist Ido has played in theatre productions such as "Ritza" by the Ruth Kanner theatre company (with music composed by Avshalom Ariel), as well as in various indie and popular-music groups.

Ido is also a singer in the Great Gehenna Choir- an experimental group which acts as a musical co-operative, with all music performed written by members of the choir.Ido teaches piano at the Kiryat Ono Conservatory."

-Ensemble 21 (

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Yael Barolsky-Violin

"Born in Tel Aviv, performs regularly with leading musicians from Israel and abroad in chamber music concerts, is a member of the Israel Contemporary Players and was guest artist in numerous festivals including Rolandseck - Festival, Kfar Blum Music Festival, Tectonics Festival and Lucerne Festival.

Yael has performed as a soloist with conductors Pierre Boulez, Ilan Volkov, Marcello Panni. She has performed with Ensemble intercontemporain and Ensemble musikFabrik, with the Maria Kong dance company and video artists. Yael is the artist director of the chamber music series "CameriNegev" and the "Crater players" in Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev desert.In 2015 she released her solo cd album "Meanderings" which has received enthusiastic."

-Ensemble 21 (

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Track Listing:

1. Shamal 4:32

2. Interference 3:11

3. Mouth 4:21

4. Idaho 5:04

5. Paralogos (a) + (y) 4:15

6. Planes And Folds 13:22

7. Paralogos (c) + (x) 4:14

8. Hieroglyph 18:03

9. Paralogos (b) + (z) 4:26

10. Shamal 5:22

11. Chaff 3:24

12. Palmyra 8:43

Related Categories of Interest:

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Compositional Forms
Large Ensembles
Duo Recordings
Solo Artist Recordings
Stringed Instruments
New in Compositional Music
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