FAME Review: Various Artists - Sonograms
Various Artists - Sonograms


Various Artists

Labor Records - LAB 7090

Available from Labor Records.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

I vividly remember, as a senior in high school, the Seminar teacher and I anticipating a class field trip to LACMA (the Los Angeles County Art Museum) because they had Paul Klee's Twittering Machine, and he and I were devotees of Klee and Miro. We journeyed to the giant establishment, and there it was. I was transfixed, so was he, but, minutes later, a grin stole across my face. "It's beautiful and sacred," I said, " so let's steal it!". He busted up. Thus, imagine the very pleasant surprise when I espied the four reproductions of Klee's work in the 16-page liner to this anthology of works executed by Angela Tosheva, Benedikta Bonitz, and several accompanist others. The paintings presaged the musical pensees and kaleidoscopes by the anthology's very major neoclassical composers, but the Klee pieces were specifically chosen by Walter Steffens for a quartet of musical interpretations given here. Nonethless, that offbeat beauty of Klee's, Miro's, even Kenneth Patchen's, and a whole dimension of others beyond them is indicative of what's going on in Sonograms. Be prepared, listener, for engaging works that will challenge your notions of propriety and expand the borders of what you once might've thought to be the last word on sonic art elsewhere.

Iannis Xenakis is a regrettably underlauded genius, and his phantasmagorias are equatable to anyone's: Sun Ra's, Cecil Taylor's, Corea's and Jarrett's at their most unhinged, etc. In covering the 11-minute Evryali, Tosheva reminds very much of a prized but obscure solo piano release in my collection, Esfoma by Gregory Mills of The Exiles. Xenakis, Mills, and Tosheva understand the wild cyclonic grandeur of the piano in its most abandoned mode and clearly apprehended the vistas it can generate, familiar and alien (Cage of course turned that into reductio ad absurdem and accomplished the exact same effect, bless his zen heart). Bonitz then glides into the mix and turns things around, bringing the skyblown back down to the realm anciens but with markedly uncatalogued nuances and devices, at one point layering seven simul-synched recorders in Arvo Part's Arbos along with three triangles. Quite frequently, her technique harks back to the shakuhachi, in no small part helped by the unorthodox structures of the songs and her willingness to extend the instrument's range while wielding tenor, sopranino, and alto versions of the instrument.

The recorder's a very old instrument, much neglected in the modern world, but Bonitz's use of it would warm the heart of that revered elder renegade, Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377) even in his grave. Stravinsky, Messiaen, and Stockhausen, on the other hand would be Tosheva's admirers, and thus one can discern where the contrasts in this disc are both striking and highly gratifying, as much as conterminous should one care to examine the matter just in terms of excellences. When Tosheva starts banging away at Minchev's Sonograms, I have to stop whatever else I'm doing and just listen, even when the tempest recedes into an introspection just as quietly compelling. There are so many twists and turns throughout the collection that you'll never get all there is in Sonograms just on the initial listen…and that's cause for private celebration.

Track List:

  • Gheorghi Arnaoudov - Thyepolia
  • Pawei Szymański - Two studies for Piano
  • Walter Steffens - Ecstasy for String Quartet
  • Arvo Part - Arbos
  • Iannis Xenakis - Evryali
  • Walter Steffens - Four Watercolors after Paul Klee
  • Georgi Minchev - Sonogram
  • Arvo Pärt - Pari Intervallo

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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