Antichamber Music [The Bridge #10]
Or “Improvisations for an Imaginary quartet”
Claudia Solal (voice), Katherine Young (bassoon, effects),
Tomeka Reid (cello) & Benoît Delbecq (piano)
It is on the roads of Europe, as he was wandering with his wife Nora between Dublin, Paris, Zurich, Trieste, Pola, and Rome, while within him was brewing what would laer become his major and monstrous work, Ulysses, that James Joyce incidentally composed those 36 “youth poems”, as they are called with too much modesty. They were then gathered, in 1907, but in a different layout than that imagined by the author, under the title Chamber Music. We know that several of poems of this collection – that seems to follow the shadow and the prey of a love accomplished and unaccomplished, taking shape and losing shape, whose distillation brings it from the spiritual stage to the carnal stage and finally to the fraternal stage – already inspired Luciano Berio in 1953. But this is certainly the first time that all the parts are taken in to account, in one order or another, that they are destined to be told, sung, chanted, even kept quiet, and leave to improvised music the full freedom of form and content, in view, from in view, en abîme.
Is there any better common ground, to say the truth, for a French-American quartet that will first perform in Chicago, than texts written in English, not by an American but by a roving European (an Irish, inevitably)? Is there a better common language that one able to switch from a language to another, from written English to the French translation, just as musicians translate their relationships to one another, and to things? From one to another, something happens which transforms the words’ closed chamber music to an antichamber music open to the winds of sounds and words, subtitled Improvisations for an Imaginary Quartet by its instigator, singer Claudia Solal. “The first intent of this project, in my mind, was to associate voices, timbres, that would seize an imaginary score suggested by the poem collection’s central thread. At first, I had a strong desire for cello, and thought about Tomeka Reid, whom I didn’t know (we’ve since met for an improvised session in Paris). Then the clarinet slowly transformed into a bassoon, and Katie Young became the evident choice. Moreover, I’ve long wanted to offer (since the early days of Kartet, over 20 years ago!) Benoît Delbecq such an opportunity to perform. My initial idea was for the piano to not only be harmonic, but also textural, or percussive, thanks to Benoît’s possible preparations; and although I favored an acoustic sound, I also imagine the possibility of electrically treating the bassoon… But it’s above all else up to everyone to offer their story, so that every instrument becomes a full fledged song, is at once a soloist, an initiator or a follower, dependent or solitary according to moment and the action…”
Adept of the prepared piano and electronic effects, Benoît Delbecq has been ceaselessly crossing the jazzistic field in all its width: from the Alan Silva’s improbable Institute for Artistic and Cultural Perception to his own untamable collective, Hask, from consorting with Steve Lacy or Waldron to studying under Steve Coleman or Muhal Richard Abrams, until the research he led with the ensembles Kartet, Thôt, The Recyclers, or Silencers. In 2010, his album “The Sixth Jump” was listed in the top ten jazz albums of the year by The New York Times. After spending many years in the shadow of Nicole Mitchell, Dee Alexander, or Mike Reed, the silken cellist Tomeka Reid has just released her first album as a leader, thus joining Katie Young – who among other works recorded and album of solo bassoon, which she manipulates, modifies, magnifies – in the ranks of emancipated women who demystify and mystify anew, heeding only their desire alone, the most sanctified instruments. It is predicted that the quartet will split into sub-ensembles (different solos, duos, trios) to play all possible densities, all the transparencies as well, just like the mobile, versatile, and metamorphic pieces of a poem collection or a timbre chessboard. The rest, all the rest, is unpredictable.