Un Ensemble & Jean-Luc Guionnet — Points sans Surface
(Circum-Disc LX 012, 2018, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2019-04-07
Sometimes promos come to me that are pretty far out there, so far in fact that regardless of how many times I listen to them, I’ll probably never catch the wavelength, and Points sans Surface is certainly one of those. The composer is Jean-Luc Guionnet, who our readers have heard from before, most recently with his 2016 Quelque Chose au Milieu with the ensemble Bi-Ki?, but this one is a very different animal, scored for the 29 musicians of Un Ensemble playing just about every instrument imaginable, plus spoken vocals, including all kinds of horns, saxes, bass clarinet, contrabasses, violins, cellos, flute, electronics, drums, percussion, even electric guitar and more. This is really a small orchestra, sounding like they are performing some kind of random improvisation most of the time, sometimes so quiet that the result is barely audible, then one of the voices will speak some nonsense and a few instruments come to life all of a sudden. The loud sounds (percussion, horns, etc.) and quieter sounds (all strings and some of the quieter woodwinds and such) seem to be tied together with the quiet electronic sounds that pretty much permeate the entire piece at various levels. There are tracks, so to speak, but these just seem like random divisions in the program that occur prior to some ‘event’ like a spoken part, otherwise one can consider this to be one long continuous 65-minute piece. What’s happening here might make a lot more sense when experienced live in a three-dimensional acoustic space, but coming out of the speakers of my cheap stereo I find myself just scratching my head in wonderment and occasionally experiencing the jarring feeling the low pitched instruments and drums occasionally shaking the room. Still, it is possible to like and enjoy something that one doesn’t fully understand, and that’s sort of where I am with this.
Related artist(s): Jean-Luc Guionnet
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