Gavin Bryars created his Chambre d'écoute (The Listening Room) based on the acoustics of various rooms in Château d'Oiron, a sixteenth century castle in the Loire Valley that's now used as a museum dedicated to contemporary art. Its eight movements are atmospheric soundscapes that use percussion, clarinets (particularly bass clarinet), electronics, and the members of the local town band to evoke the character of the chosen spaces: courtyard, spiral stairwell, ballroom, kitchen, gallery, and so on. Bryars wrote, "The music was not designed to be interesting in itself but rather to animate the spaces in which the music was played," but the music is in fact very interesting and makes a strong impact even when heard in isolation from the spaces for which it was intended. Two of the movements feature traditional pieces played by La fanfare d'Oiron, the village band, whose artless performances have a rustic poignancy that's worlds apart from the new music scene. In this setting, its contribution heightens the sense of mystery and otherness that Bryars establishes so skillfully in each of the movements. The atmosphere is haunted, but not sinister; Bryars creates a sense of the supernatural (particularly in movement six, "Cuisine," for three percussionists) that's practically palpable. The recording of each movement was tailored to the acoustical characteristics of each room and effectively captures the diversity of the settings. Chambre d'écoute is one of Bryars' most inventive and memorable "experimental" works and should be of strong interest to fans of new music.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|A Listening Room ("Chambre d'écoute")|