Barbara Romen

Disordered Systems

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Barbara Romen and Gunter Schneider's CD Disordered Systems consists of two half-hour-long works of very different natures. First is Helmut Lachenmann's "Salut Für Caudwell," a piece for two acoustic guitars with speaking. It has been recorded a few times before (on Classic World and Col Legno CDs, among others), but the Romen/Schneider interpretation presents its own special charm. Since the piece relies more on the understanding of the use of extended techniques and the acoustic properties of the instrument than on virtuosity, the two experimentalists tap better into the essence of the work, which is to understand, de-program, and reinvent guitar clichés. The work is austere, but not as cold or provocative as what Lachenmann is best known for. The very simple motifs at the beginning slowly transform into unorthodox sounds (glissandi on the strings, playing below the bridge, creative tapping on the frame), only to let a flamenco flavor arise from them toward the end. The second work featured on this disc is a composition by the two guitarists -- or, more accurately, a sound installation. "Disordered Systems" features 13 prepared guitars set on stands that allow them to vibrate freely. Rods of various lengths and widths are inserted between the strings and the fretboard and set into motion. Physical and acoustic oscillations keep the soundscape changing, as do the decisions of the artists, who are moving and triggering rods during the whole duration of the piece. After "Salut Fuer Caudwell," "Disordered Systems" sounds just too simple to really strike the imagination, especially since the idea has been used for quite some time by avant-garde guitarists. As with all Durian CDs released after 2001, this one comes in a round plastic case without a booklet, but liner notes are available on the label's website.