Yo, I'm bookending these two EPs in one review as each is a bit more than five minutes apiece and philosophically follow their raison d'etre as objets d'art; that is, both Sechs Kleine Klavierstucke and Acuarelas Junto al Rio Inmovil are very short collectives of solo piano miniatures; thus, we have miniatures within miniatures. The former set was composed over 100 years ago, the latter are only 8 annums old (Schoenberg wrote his in 1911, Solare in 2007). In release in almost amoebic sonic sizes, there's a grinning fitness present, and the two presentations, as sparse as each one is, are discernably differentiated, one from the other; thus, the listener receives the interesting insight that form does not, though science likes to aver axiomatically otherwise, always follow function. This is a good thing—perhaps not in automobiles but most definitely in art and thought.
The Schoenberg works are set in what I prefer to call the 'incidentalist' mode: intrusions, top-layerings, splashes, or just pure castings of sonic materials which most often do not match tonally and/or timbrically to the underlying piece, when such is present, yet work to expand imagery and soundfield regardless. In isolation, as here, they are the imagery in toto. Schoenberg was one of the first to use the technique, though I'm not sure one could say he invented it, as, in the East, we can find the application in many classical and folk musics well before Arnold was a gleam in his mother's eye, indeed much before the West itself had any least clue such devices were possible (back then, sophistication was had in The Inquisition and Romanic killing tools).
I arrogate that the esteemed and untellably influential giant Schoenberg may well have been contemplating and parsing gagaku or similar musics (Noh, gamelon, etc.?) when he came up with the elementality of the usage he devised and imparted. In the West, this early 20th century phenomenon shattered the demesnes of classicalist formalisms, and if the reader prefers to include Stravinsky as contemporarily adjacent in intent, I'll certainly not argue the matter. As might be expected, both Arnie and Iggy received equal amounts of lavish praise (well deserved) and extraordinary vituperation (completely undeserved but, hey, it came from critics; go figger) in reward. Please note that as all those crits are now ashes and completely forgotten, the sources of their vexation have become two of the most profound influences in modern music. God may not exist, but justice occasionally does.
John Cage, one of Schoenberg's students, and others followed behind but the process is far from over. I doubt it will shock anyone to find the practice of incidentalism today is most located in - aside from many neoclassical ventures - soundtracks, a good deal of the headier jazz exercises, and a quite decent amount of progrock. I'd go so far as say Kevin Kastning is the most unusual recent practitioner in his compelling work bridging all spheres of intellectual musics in fashions synthesizing far-reaching possibilities in incidentalism, formalism, coherent abstraction, and modes for which names have yet to be concocted. Though Kastning's pieces are much more expansive than what's heard in the Solare collections, they're just as imbued with many many fragment flavorings and what might be termed as 'soni-onomatopoetics-concrete'. Refer to my several FAME reviews for the whys and wherefores.
Juan María Solare, however, has isolated the narrower confines of the modus, as Schoenberg did (Cage was and still is the reductioniste totale), as a complete technique in and of itself. This forms the true experience for the listener, receiving the Nth-degree sonatinas in almost olfactory metaphorics. Olfactory? Yes, because the indited snatches of vistas and isolated images operate in precisely the same fashion a passing scent will, conjuring rich or sparse pictures not contained in what's actually explainable purely by the physically mundane event: the workaday stimulation of nerves in one's biological apparatus. More appositely, music, done correctly—and not, as Solare humorously points out, in the oeuvres of Madonna, Lady Gaga, and so on (feel free to add in Barry Manilow and Yanni to even up the sexes)—stimulates so much more than just the tympanic membrane or the loins, no?
Personal receptions of the use of this style can be either deeply involving or utilized as fragmented background ambientalism. The former opens up the just cited intriguing cerebro-tympano-olfactory event while the latter acts as bird song, or the passing of cars and zephyrs, or the crash of a falling vase, or any of a number of short-lived happenstances tantalizingly fleeting. This is most seen in the sextet of Schoenberg pieces. For similar experiences, should one not be already inducted into this highly rewarding niche, I'd of course recommend Cage's still unmatched piano ditties, Alain Kremski's compositions for bells and gongs, and a number of similar efforts. Time-lengths don't truly matter in the longer opuses of those latter maestros but only the corresponding seriality of passing flashing imageries oft bright, sharp, and resonant.
The collection of Solare inventions are, as he himself says, a good deal more culturally influenced, reflecting latinate scenarios within structurally non-sectarian architecture. This expands Schoenberg's work, bends it in a left turn towards particularized articulation, lessens the distance between the shock of the still-new and the comfort of recognition, yet remains true to coinciding artistic desires. In essence, Mr. Solare's labors faithfully adhere to what Arnold called 'developing variation' in its widest sense. That is, the composer-player is following upon foundation affects while pushing at the borders of extrapolative effect, such as was seen in top drawer late period aestheticians: Glenn Gould, Theodor Adorno, Carl Dahlhaus, Artur Schnabel, etc.
I'll recommend the consumer listen to the Schoenberg CD first—and I really shouldn't use the term 'CD', as the offered musics are strictly downloadable only, standing as still-advancing artistic placements within a still-advancing electronic environment. This disc will act as a preface of shock and intrigue before proceeding to the Solare disc as solace, medicine, and a more charitable immersion. Keep in mind, though, that Juan María is executing both performances. The latter will also more contrastily demonstrate how, once again, function and form can be quite differentiated between disparate hands as both composers endeavor to isolate discernable aspects in more minutely apprehendable packets.
Mr. Solare has performed throughout the world, received nearly a dozen awards, and does not just perform the work he undertakes but also lives within it. When you order these releases, you might want to as well request a transmission, if it's possible, of the promo literatures sent to critics, as the printed word reveals the man's sense of humor, commentaries, and POV.
Lastly, when you, o peruser of music critiques, exclaim "Good God, Tucker, all that for just 11 minutes worth of music?!?!?!", you'll better understand why I answer in a terse, jocund, and emphatic "Yes!" I take my opportunities where I find them, and I usually only find them in work such as this. Think of this essay as a material continuation of my last year's lengthy peroration upon Ancient Future's Yearning for the Wind (here), the only single I've ever reviewed in 30 years of goading the public to wake the hell up and utilize art as the most expedient tool of evolution lest we turn into a globe chockful of George Bush Jrs., Benjamin Netanyahu's, and Maggie Thatchers (shudder!).
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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