Bryn HarrisonTime Becoming

Records 02.05.2021

The two works by Bryn Harrison performed on this disc are articulated as a true musical essay on memory and perception. This English composer, born in 1969, has drawn on the sources of philosophy and psychology, as well as on his peers, to patiently shape the theoretical and aesthetic inspiration behind his obsessive repetitive writing. The listener who immerses himself in it must accept in advance to experiment the borders of his perception and to rub up against the sound materialization of the question of difference and similarity. He does not emerge unscathed.

André Boucourechliev gave this clear, brilliant and clinical definition of music: "[...] a system of differences that structures time under the category of sound"(Le Langage musical, 1993). Repetitions in Extended Time (2008) and How Things Come Together (2019) offer us a dazzling demonstration of this. However, the structuring of these two works, played respectively by the ensembles that created them, Plus-Minus directed by Mark Knoop and the Ensemble Contrechampsunder the baton of Vimbayi Kaziboni, questions the functioning of our memory and transforms our usual perception of time, rendered here perpetually cyclical, without beginning or end. Even though the lines, harmonies, combinations and colours are often strictly identical on the score, we never hear the same thing. The inspiring image is that of a river flowing or the continuous flow of a waterfall. Harrison refers to Heraclitus' assertion that "one never bathes in the same river twice. So while Plus-Minus repeats the same formula over forty minutes through five continuously slowing sections, our ears are constantly being given new sensations, and we feel as if we've "traveled a very long way without having traveled very far," with the same elements: a circular continuum built around the harmonic clouds of a piano and two electronic keyboards; the rhythmic instability of a bass clarinet and electric guitar; and the uneven glissandos and trills of strings. This extreme music proves to be infinitely rich despite the drastic economy of its basic material.

Bryn Harrison - Time Becoming from Neu Records on Vimeo.

How Things Come Together seems even more varied, yet the constituent elements are again extremely small. Bryn Harrison plays with moments of suspension or disintegration, with highlights of certain families and associations of timbres from the twenty-three instruments, and with new perspectives on the materials. Repetition is omnipresent, but is confronted with certain sounds that are sometimes momentarily frozen in time. As the composer explains in the very rich booklet that accompanies the CD, the foundation of his artistic approach came from a seminal experience: the composition of Piano Set, six miniatures for piano (2005), strictly identical, but which gave the audience the impression of having heard six different pieces, both because we ourselves are transformed by repetition, and because our sound memory is never infallible, but also because a musician cannot repeat strictly the same thing without slight variations. Immersing himself in the reading of phenomenology, going through Hume, Husserl, Bergson, Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze, the composer has never ceased to dig into this vein while nourishing his inspiration from the experiences of listening to Feldman, Cage, Messiaen and so many others. Sixty years after the first American experiments, he proves that the world of repetitive music is still a crucible of inventiveness and one of the most important sources of musical creation today.

Album here: Time becoming, Neu Records

Bryn Harrison's sound atmospheres, perfectly served by an exceptional 3D sound recording, trademark of the Barcelona-based label Neu Records, are indeed far from the limpid consonances of Riley, Reich or Glass. They are based on sound aggregates that are often dense, troubled and grating, which amplify the radicality and the strength of the sound experience. Finally, let's underline that the presentation of the record on the label's website is very well done and even accompanied by the original scores.

Guillaume Kosmicki

Recorded in Zaragoza, Spain, in 2019 with Plus-Minus Ensemble and Ensemble Contrechamps, produced by Santi Barguño, Neu Records


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