Brett Larner / Burkhand Stangl / Taku Sugimoto

Compositions for Guitars

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The title of this album tells it the way it is: compositions for guitars by Brett Larner, Taku Sugimoto, and Burkhard Stangl, three exponents of a new form of avant-garde music often associated with ideas of microscopic sounds, silence, and highly restrained gestures. Here, they all toy with the idea of obliterating the identity of the performer. Larner's "m-7/21-1" is the most puzzling piece of the set. Its score (reproduced in the booklet along with Sugimoto's "Hum" and Stangl's "tuning_no_1") calls for 21 steel-string acoustic guitars "without amplification, overdubs, effects, or other electronic processing," performed by a selection of West Coast guitarists. The piece consists of a 21-minute high-pitched drone. Despite the fact that the score indicates many changes between pitches and various groupings of guitarists, the music remains highly static (except for a drop in volume at seven minutes sharp). "Hum" is a lot less eventful, but its score is easier to understand. Seven guitarists (Tetuzi Akiyama, Oren Ambarchi, Toshimaru Nakamura, Otomo Yoshihide, Keith Rowe, Burkhard Stangl, and Sugimoto himself -- the closest you'll get to an all-star avant guitar band at the turn of the millennium) are instructed to let their electric instruments hum -- the score specifies "Don't touch strings. Don't make feedback." All they can do in the course of 15 minutes is change the position of their pickup selector three times. The result is of course extremely Spartan, but mildly involving if in the right frame of mind. But the treat, the real surprise on this album is Stangl's three-part "tuning" suite. Stangl, an accomplished steel-string and classical guitar player, plays a tune while detuning the instrument. In "tuning_no_1" he simply plays an open-string chord while turning the tuning keys following a score for four guitars. In the second piece an assistant detunes the guitar while he plays a lovely folk tune. It's a piece from the 17th century in the third millennium.

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