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Frey, Jurg + Apartment House: Borderland Melodies (Another Timbre)

Three chamber works in single and multiple movements by minimalist composer Jurg Frey, exploring time & duration, form & shape and a balance of material, performed by a core quartet from the UK ensemble Apartment House, orchestrated for clarinet and bass clarinet, violin and cello, the final work adding piano, viola and percussion in a septet reworking of a 2014 composition.

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Raymond Brien-bass clarinet

Anton Lukoszevieze-cello

Heather Roche-clarinet

Jurg Frey-composer

Mira Benjamin-violin

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Label: Another Timbre
Catalog ID: at200
Squidco Product Code: 32720

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: UK
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at Goldsmith's Music Studio, in London, England, on July 16th and 17th, 2022, by Simon Reynell.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

Another Timbre Interview with Jürg Frey

This CD was planned a long time ago, but then delayed by the Covid pandemic. What was the thinking behind the album, and how did that change?

The original idea had been for a CD of pieces that use both clarinet and bass clarinet, which would have given me the opportunity to play alongside Heather Roche, Apartment House's regular clarinetist. However, the pandemic intervened and limited my activities as a player. Then I was seriously ill for a few weeks at the beginning of the year, and had to think fundamentally about my future activities as a player. As a result, I decided to stop playing the clarinet, so the original idea behind the album was changed.

But in terms of the pieces on the CD, there was a positive side to the delays. The repeated postponements gave me the opportunity to play through the new piece I'd composed for the recording session, "L'état de simplicité", again and again for myself. Through this extra time, I discovered ways to make things clearer, to go forward step by step, and to bring the pieces to a point I hadn't expected before.

As you've been playing, and teaching, clarinet for decades, does it feel strange to stop playing the instrument?

No, it's not strange. Having spent more than 50 years of my life with the clarinet, it is now a unique experience to have some time ahead of me in which the clarinet no longer plays a role. There are no regrets. I have played so much, classical and new repertoire, the clarinet has opened many, many doors for me to people and musicians, to hearts of friends, and to different kinds of music. It is a wonderful past. And now this completely unexpected and new experience that arises when you no longer do something and leave something behind that shaped your life before. I am glad that I can have this experience.

Do you also think about retiring from composition?

No, stopping composing was never an option. As a clarinet player, I can always be replaced, as this recording now proves most beautifully. But as a composer, only I can write my own pieces. I don't think you can replace me. J

And as long as I feel I have something to say and as long as I find or invent reasons to write new pieces, I will continue.

And I still love to work with musicians and ensembles, to be part in the process of rehearsals and preparing concerts with my music. This will go on, and I'm very happy about that.

Tell us about the pieces on the new CD. Firstly 'Borderland Melodies': the title references landscape, which is something that seems to underlie a lot of your music. Why and how do you work with a sense of landscape?

I'd like to say something about this reference to landscape because, yes, it is an important factor underlying my music. But to avoid any misunderstanding: it is never about programmatic music. It is never about the illustration of any landscape. The relation to landscape is a conceptual underground. Both composition and landscape have these elements in common: time/duration, form/shape and material.

The concept of "landscape" opens up very different perceptions. It can be a wild landscape, an empty landscape, a landscape developed over a thousand years. Or just a taste of landscape, in the evening light. Or a landscape slightly or strongly shaped by people. Or an industrial landscape. A view over hundreds of miles, or a small field in the backyard. And the surface of a landscape is a wide range of sensibilities: stones, rocks, woods, grass, sand - colorful or monochrome. And then there are all the artificially designed landscapes: gardens, places of contemplation, and an image of the human imagination. Japanese gardens are an articulation of philosophy and history. The austere and symmetric form of French Baroque gardens make them beautiful to walk in, but is also the image of a monarchical social structure. English gardens that suggest natural growth, but behind which lies a subtle design plan. And not to forget, many, many private gardens, maybe on a balcony, or simply small place next to a road junction, to create a little world, or to let it be and leave the garden to itself.

I can relate many of these thoughts to my music. But you mustn't think of it as a working principle. It is not the basis of my work. The basis is always in the musical thinking and the compositional craft. But occasionally the idea of a garden or landscape flashes up, and sometimes helps me to find a way out of a stuck corner in the compositional process. I find the idea of landscape and garden inspiring. And both landscape and composition have in common that they are about time, with things or sounds in it. When a piece is finished, I can find traces of these common ideas again, and that sometimes can influence the title of the piece.

Secondly the new piece, 'L'état de simplicité'. What does the title - and the movement titles - refer to? Generally you write single movement pieces, but this has four distinct - and distinctly different - movements. Is there a reason for this?

The title sounds a bit like the title of a treatise, or a collection of essays. That's very different from a long single movement piece. It's a challenge to work with long durations, with different energies, movements and standstills, balances of material, and to form everything into a great whole. These work processes are not easy to survey because they relate to long durations in the piece. It's complex; it's about construction and intuition, you have to focus on details, but at the same time you need to be all over the piece.

Recently I wrote two pieces, each of which is an hour long and has individual movements. The 4th String Quartet has five movements, and Les signes passagers for pianoforte has seven movements. There is also a sequence here, but it is divided into single movements, like one chapter after another, and you can sometimes wait a while. But taken as a whole, there is a clear sequence and a formal direction. But with L'état de simplicité things are different. There are four individual movements, each dealing with a separate theme, resulting in the distinct differences you mention.

'A treatise at the edge of the sense' is the title of the first piece. Why that?

À la limite du sens is a little essay in sound about musical meaning. In the background is the personal experience that structural logic does not necessarily make musical sense. It is difficult to say whether there is such a thing as "logic" in music at all, but "illogical" things can sound most fascinating in music. There is a fine line between whether something sounds like it makes sense or not. And simply making sense is nothing either. When I compose, I often operate on the edge of sense. Or in other words, I work in an area that seems meaningless to me, and gradually and I make sense of it little by little. In the end, when we hear the piece, we accept what we hear. And yet we can hear how the music balances on a fine line that keeps the edge of the sense, the question of "why?", perceptible and present.

The second movement is called toucher l'air....

Yes, the title describes the situation when a player plays a note and makes the air vibrate. He touches the air. It takes very little to touch the air. So it is also a general description of the musical situation. And the French word air has another meaning: melody. There is a slight appearance of the idea of melody in the piece.

And what are the 'neutral zones'?

In the last piece I refer to a term I have occasionally come across in the novels of Patrick Modiano: Les zones neutres. In his books, such spaces appear. A street, not empty, not busy, maybe a neighbourhood shop or a disused car repair shop, a few trees, an almost empty pavement... everything is balanced so that it falls into a state that is nothing special. But when we are in such a neutral zone, we notice something unique to that zone that is not easily forgotten.

And it's the same with this piece: cello pizzicato, somewhere between scales and melodies, not chaotic and also not very pronounced. The other instruments sometimes play chords, nothing special, just chords. But again it is this paradox: once you have heard the piece, you don't easily forget it and you will recognise it on another encounter. This is the characteristic of a neutral piece.

Finally 'Movement, Ground, Fragility', which I understand is a re-working of a slightly older piece for new instrumentation. In what context was the piece first written, and how has it changed?

I wrote the piece in 2014 for a concert in Minneapolis. It was a weekend Wandelweiser festival organized by Jesse Goin. For our recording, I adapted the instrumentation to the musicians of Apartment House. The electric guitar was transformed into a cello part, and the melodica/harmonica part is now viola.

Does the title "Movement, Ground, Fragility" again refer to an idea of landscape?

At the very most a glimmer of it. The piece begins with a strict structure of viola and percussion, something like a ground, to form an architecture. Individual tones and dyads appear, of varying size and colors, unsystematically. The two forces, a clear structure, and sounds that simply happen, unfold their effectiveness. And then follows a short section in the low register. After the recording, Anton Lukoszevieze said about this part of the piece: "I never have played such a slow Blues before". The second half of the piece is more left to itself. The surface of the music can't be precisely controlled by the players; melodic fragments and different tempos appear. Sometimes the sounds are notated in the form of lists, and sounds from this list come to the surface by chance. At the core there is a potential of music that unfolds, but on the surface everything is left to itself to some extent. And yes, it is true that sometimes something like that can happen in a garden.

Artist Biographies

Raymond Brien is a clarinetist, Composer and Artistic Director of the Thinking Minds Project.

-Facebook (

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"Cellist Anton Lukoszevieze (born 1965 in the UK) is one of the most diverse performers of his generation and is notable for his performances of avant-garde, experimental and improvised music. Anton has given many performances at numerous international festivals throughout Europe and the USA (Maerzmusik, Donaueschingen, Wien Modern, GAS, Transart, Ultima, etc.etc.). He has also made frequent programmes and broadcasts for BBC Radio 3, Danish Radio, SR2, Sweden, Deutschland Rundfunk, WDR, Germany and ORT, Austria. Deutschlandfunk, Berlin produced a radio portrait of him in September, 2003. Anton has also performed concerti with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the 2001 Aldeburgh festival and the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra. He has collaborated with many composers and performers including David Behrman, Alvin Lucier, Amnon Wolman, Pierre Strauch, Rytis Mazulis, Karlheinz Essl, Helmut Oehring, Christopher Fox, Philip Corner, Alvin Curran, Phill Niblock and Laurence Crane, He is unique in the UK through his use of the curved bow (BACH-Bogen), which he is using to develop new repertoire for the cello. From 2005-7 he was New Music Fellow at Kings College, Cambridge and Kettles Yard Gallery. Anton is the subject of four films (FoxFire Eins) by the renowned artist-filmmaker Jayne Parker. A new film Trilogy with compositions by Sylvano Bussotti, George Aperghis and Laurence Crane premieres at The London Film Festival, October 2008. In November will premiere a new hour long work by Christopher Fox for cello and the vocal ensemble Exaudi commissioned by the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and will also present new solo works for cello and live electronics. Anton is also active as an artist, his work has been shown in Holland (Lux Nijmegen), CAC, Vilnius, Duisburg (EarPort), Austria, (Sammlung Essl), Wien Modern, The Slade School of Art, Kettles Yard Gallery, Cambridge Film Festival and Rational Rec. London. His work has been published in Musiktexte, Cologne, design Magazine and the book SoundVisions (Pfau-Verlag, Saarbrucken, 2005). Anton Lukoszevieze is founder and director of the ensemble Apartment House, a member of the radical noise group Zeitkratzer and recently made his contemporary dance debut with the Vincent Dance Company in Broken Chords, Dusseldorf."

-Kalvos Damian (

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"Born in Canada, clarinetist Heather Roche trained in England, lived in Germany for 7 years and now lives in London.

She has performed at some of the major European festivals, including musikFest (Berlin), BachFest (Leipzig), Musica Nova (Helsinki), Acht Brücken (Cologne), the International Computer Music Conference (Huddersfield, Ljubljana), the Dias de Música Electroacústica (Seia, Portugal) and the Agora Festival (Ircam, Paris). She has also performed solo programmes at the Zagreb Music Biennale, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the New York Electroacoustic Symposium, at CIRMMT (Montreal), Unerhörte Musik (Berlin), Eavesdropping (London), and with the Birmingham Electroacoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST).

She has performed with ensembles and orchestras including Musik Fabrik (Cologne), the WDR Orchestra (Cologne), mimitabu (Gothenburg), the London Symphony Orchestra (London), ensemble Garage (Cologne), ensemble interface (Berlin), the Riot Ensemble (London), the Alisios Camerata (Zagreb), and ensemble proton (Bern). She also plays across the UK in a trio with Carla Rees (flutes) and Xenia Pestova (piano) and in 2015 formed an duo with the accordionist Eva Zöllner, with whom she has played across Germany, the UK and in Portugal. She is a founding member of hand werk, a 6-person chamber music ensemble based in Cologne, and worked with the group from 2010-2017.

She has solo CDs out on the HCR/NMC and Métier labels. Please see the Discography for further details.

In 2014 she was awarded a DIVA (Danish International Visiting Artists Fellowship), and lived in Copenhagen for two months.

Since 2016 she has acted as the Reviews Editor for TEMPO, a quarterly journal for contemporary music published by Cambridge University Press.

Her website is host to one of the most widely read new music blogs on the Internet. In 2017 it had 75,000 hits from around the world. She successfully crowdfunded in 2014 in order to host her first composition competition. Six young composers were chosen out of 270 applicants to write new pieces, which were premiered in 2016.

She is a fervent advocate of collaboration, and her PhD research at the University of Huddersfield (under the supervision of Dr. Philip Thomas) explored the nature of dialogue within performer-composer relationships. She has given workshops in instrumental technique and/or iPad use in performance all over Europe, for example in London, Munich and Copenhagen.

Heather completed her Masters of Music (Orchestral Training) in 2006 at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, studying under Joy Farrall and Laurent Ben Slimane, in addition to conducting with Sian Edwards. Following her degree she completed residencies with the International Ensemble Modern Academy, at IMPULS in Graz and with ensemble recherche in Freiburg, the Darmstadt Summer Courses 2008 and 2010 and the International Ensemble Modern Academy in Innsbruck, Austria. She has performed in masterclasses with Michael Collins, Ernesto Molinari and Shizuyo Oka, to name a few. She completed her BMus in 2005 at the University of Victoria, Canada, studying under Patricia Kostek."

-Heather Roche Website (

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"Jürg Frey was born in 1953 in Aarau, Switzerland. Following his musical education at the Concervatoire de Musique de Genève, he turned to a career as a clarinetist, but his activities as composer soon came to the foreground. Frey developed his own language as a composer and sound artist with the creation of wide, quiet sound spaces. His work is marked by an elementary non-extravagence of sound, a sensibilty for the qualities of the material, and precision of compositional approach. His compositions sometimes bypass instrumentation and duration altogether and touch on aspects of sound art. He has worked with compositional series, as well as with language and text. Some of these activities appear in small editions or as artist's books as individual items and small editions (Edition Howeg, Zurich; weiss kunstbewegung, Berlin; complice, Berlin). His music and recordings are published by Edition Wandelweiser. Frey has been invited to workshops as visiting composer and for composer portraits at the Universität der Künste Berlin, the Universität Dortmund and several times at Northwestern University and CalArts. Some of the other places his work has developed are the concerts at the Kunstraum Düsseldorf, the Wandelweiser-in-Residence-Veranstaltungen in Vienna, the Ny music concerts in Boras (Sweden), the cooperation with Cologne pianist John McAlpine, the Bozzini Quartet (Montréal), QO-2 (Bruxelles), Die Maulwerker, incidental music, as well as the regular stays in Berlin (where during the last years many of his compositions were premiered). Frey is a member of the Wandelweiser Komponisten Ensemble which has presented concerts for more than 15 years in Europe, North America and Japan. Frey also organizes the concert series moments musicaux aarau as a forum for contemporary music."

-Other Minds (

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"Mira Benjamin is a Canadian violinist, researcher and new-music instigator.

She performs new and experimental music, with a special interest in microtonality & tuning practice. She actively commissions music from composers at all stages of their careers, and develops each new work through multiple performances. Current collaborations include new works by Anna Höstman, Scott McLaughlin, Amber Priestley, Taylor Brook and James Weeks.

Since 2011, Mira has co-directed NU:NORD - a project-based music and performance network which instigates artistic exchanges and encourages community building between music creators from Canada, Norway & the UK. To date NU:NORD has engaged 79 artists and commissioned 62 new works. Through this initiative, Mira hopes to offer a foundation from which Canadian artists can reach out to artistic communities overseas, and provide a conduit through which UK & Norwegian artists can access Canada's rich art culture.

Originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, Mira lived for ten years in Montréal, where she was a member of Quatuor Bozzini. Since 2014 she has resided in London (UK), where she regularly performs with ensembles such as Apartment House, Decibel, and the London Contemporary Orchestra Soloists, and is currently the Duncan Druce Scholar in Music Performance at the University of Huddersfield.

Mira is the recipient of the 2016 Virginia Parker Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts. The prize is awarded annually to a Canadian musician in recognition of their contribution to the artistic life in Canada and internationally."

-St. Martin in the Field Website (

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Track Listing:

1. Borderland Memories 18:22

2. L'Etat De Simplicite I 8:13

3. L'Etat De Simplicite II 3:59

4. L'Etat De Simplicite III 3:50

5. L'Etat De Simplicite IV 5:27

6. Movement, Ground, Fragility 31:43

Related Categories of Interest:

Compositional Forms
European Improvisation, Composition and Experimental Forms
London & UK Improv & Related Scenes
Quartet Recordings
Recordings by or featuring Reed & Wind Players
Stringed Instruments
Ambient & Minimal Music
New in Compositional Music
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