European Chaos String Quintet


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This is chamber music for those who believe the form is dead. On Linien, trombonist Johannes Bauer joins the European Chaos String Quintet; he adds exponentially to the already multi-valent confluence of sounds, textures, colors, shapes, and tones. Linien has four movements; all of its titles are in Russian so it is impossible for an English-speaking writer like myself to decipher them. But that doesn't prevent me from being able to take in and appreciate the music. As opposed to traditional chamber music in the European tradition, there is no leader, and the musicians change chair regularly. They are allowed to play their instruments in any manner they wish since this is a free improvisation setting, and they are encouraged to do whatever else they need to do to make the piece happen (snort, giggle, yell, etc.). All of this said, the word "chaos" in the group's name is multi-dimensional, if not misleading. This is free all right, this work that emerges from nothing: no preconceived notion of any kind, but it does follow an evolutionary principle more or less once things have commenced. Single tones emerge, formless and searching, and are joined by a second and third and so on. All are looking, floating these gorgeous tones out there singly and not intersecting with one another. Slowly they come together and the music becomes corporeal. It gels without forming itself into anything. Long-bowed phrases that evoke bits and pieces of the classical canon are met with pizzicato lines and plucked tones or the bleat of a trombone; harmonies shift and become undone in the blink of an eye or over the course of a movement and are placed with subtle changes in timbre and spatial considerations. In short, this is like no string music you've ever encountered before; it is challenging to be sure, but it is also stirring and accessible and full of a kind of blind order that evokes flashes of the universe itself going about its business, doing its work. This is an amazing sophomore issue.

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