Dusted Reviews

Christian Wolff - 10 Exercises

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Christian Wolff

Album: 10 Exercises

Label: New World

Review date: Feb. 5, 2007

Christian Wolff is mentioned often in the light - or shadow - of his association with John Cage. Considered apart from any artistic movements or the influences past masters, however, Wolff‘s music reveals a quiet resonance and an intimate, often playful spaciousness all its own.

The 10 Exercises are pieces written for unspecified instrumentation, and the score leaves room for the player’s interpretation. Each ensemble member can choose to play as much or as little of what’s written as he or she wishes. This makes for some fascinating studies in unison, and in adherence and departure between voices within a whole.

There is no doubt that this process is enhanced by the caliber of the musicians - including the composer himself - within the various ensembles recorded here: Each player is also a composer, bringing sharp ears and sensitive response, along with considerable instrumental skills. To enrich the context further, the sessions, recorded in a castle in the Umbrian countryside, were obviously both collegial and colloquial, and that friendly, relaxed-yet-aware interplay adds magic to these pieces.

"Exercise 7," for example, catches the ear with a somber, elegiac melody for a jazz -like assembly featuring Larry Polansky’s slightly-distorted yet well-articulated electric guitar and shimmering mandolin. "Exercise 10" offers the engaging paradox of staggered, ragged unisons, with the warm tones of Garrett List’s trombone and Michael Riessler’s bass clarinet often in the foreground. "Exercise 8," a duet for Frederic Rzewski’s piano and Robyn Schulkowsky’s vibraphone, is Feldmanesque in its sense of line, silence, breath, and spaciousness, but it also offers a strong essaying of the respect for individuality of timbral and rhythmic expression within a group context that makes the best of Wolff’s work unique.

Wolff has chosen a poem by John Ashbery as a printed text in the CD booklet, and two lines describe quite eloquently the compositional/ improvisational/ collaborative energy at work in Wolff’s compositions:

“In violating that space in such a way
As to leave it intact…”

It’s a quietly radical concept - the seeming paradox that, upon closer consideration, offers at least one possibility for not just music, but perhaps much of human interaction as well.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

Read More

View all articles by Kevin Macneil Brown

Find out more about New World

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.