Commissioned by the city of Mannheim (Germany) for its 400th anniversary, UTP was co-composed by Carsten Nicolai (aka Alva Noto) and Ryuichi Sakamoto. The work, whose title is deducted from the word "utopia," is scored for electronics, piano, and chamber ensemble, the latter being Ensemble Modern. It consists in extremely slow-paced tableaux of stretched out octaves and skeletal motives, a Butoh-like performance. The piece is solemn and entrancing, like Morton Feldman's music -- more elegant, perhaps. It marks a new step in the evolution of Nicolai and Sakamoto's music, together and apart, as neither of them had yet concocted something this sparse, this naked. Their previous collaborations could have been filed under "ambient music," but UTP belongs in the contemporary classical bin. This is a CD+DVD set. The CD includes a concert stereo version of the 75-minute work. The DVD has the same performance in 5.1 surround sound, shot with a single camera embracing the whole stage -- you won't see much of the musicians (then again, the stage is dark and not much is happening), but you get a great look at the big (really big!) screen in the back, where minimalistic yet beautiful "interference patterns"-like video art unfolds throughout the performance, minutely choreographed to the music. The DVD also includes a 40-minute "making of" that adds close-up shots of the musicians, an interview with the video artists, and an inside look at the dealings between composers and performers.
AllMusic Review by François Couture
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2