Michael Zev Gordon
John Luther Adams
New album released 6th April, on LCMS
Call your CD Floating, Drifting and numerous reference points will be invoked, from the opening line of The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows to that state of weightless grace we have all experienced, where the pressures of the world are at their furthest remove.
For the past twelve years, The Louth Contemporary Music Society have been seeking out such moments of weightless grace in 20th and 21st Century music, and with Floating, Drifting they bring together five transcendent luminous works that, through the remarkable piano playing of Ian Pace, achieve a strange, heightened beauty, precise and pristine in their execution, bright and alive at their heart.
Recorded over three days, in the June of 2017, at St Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda, Floating, Drifting is an album structured as a dream-journey, a body floating down a river, that begins, with György Ligeti’s early 1950s composition, Musica Ricercata: Number 7: that first cold plunge into bright water, light and sparkling on the surface, dark, fast and roiling underneath.
Under a minute long, Michael Zev Gordon’s 2003 miniature, Crystal Clear, might represent a brief moment of realisation and calm, a fleeting clarity, before another long, ever-changing, spectral journey begins, in the form of John Luther Adams’ incredible 2010 work, Four Thousand Holes.
Titled after another Beatles song, A Day In The Life, Adams’ piece inhabits a strange place, somewhere between constant wheeling change, and Zen-like serenity. Working with percussionist Simon Limbrick, Pace immerses us into a world of strong rise and falling musical currents where, and our mind play tricks on us, picking out imaginary traces of bright possible melodies, like flashes of sunlight glimpsed from the complex swirling depths.
With its wry, tonal allusions to Brahms’ Op. 117 and Schubert’s Op. 142, Luciano Berio’s 1969 composition, Wasserklavier is exactly that sunlight, first glimpsed in the Adams piece, now glinting on the surface of the water. The waters have become calmer but there remains something incomplete, unresolved in Berio’s piece, as if to imply that this calmness is deceptive. We still have far to go. And there is a current deeper down.
That final journey comes with Michael Pisaro’s 2001 composition, Floating Drifting. Exactly 30 minutes in duration (a stopwatch is suggested), and recorded in one take, with silences, it is a piece to be played very softly, the sound present, but just barely. Like John Luther Adams’ Four Thousand Holes, it is also a piece that plays tricks on the listener’s ears, it’s silences, repetitions, and decaying notes suggesting other fragile presences within the floating world.
In Pisaro’s notes on how Floating, Drifting should be played he suggests the pianist approach it “with the fragile character of a nearly invisible ship (perhaps made of glass), drifting on a calm sea.”
For us, and for Ian Pace, it suggest the possible end of an incredible journey, yet also something delicate, elusive, unresolved; at rest, yet still moving. Two decisions suggest themselves: stay here in this new calm, floating world, or jump in and start the journey again.
This video/audio project is supported as part of Creative Ireland Louth 2017-2022