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Tetuzi Akiyama and Jozef van Wissem - Hymn for a Fallen Angel

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Artist: Tetuzi Akiyama and Jozef van Wissem

Album: Hymn for a Fallen Angel

Label: Incunabulum

Review date: Feb. 7, 2008

Hymn for a Fallen Angel is the second collaboration between guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama and Baroque lutist Jozef van Wissem. Like much of van Wissem's work, the record was made by melding original composition and improvisation while borrowing from other sources. In his solo work, van Wissem adopts classical lute pieces by rearrangement, reversal and highlighting. Here, Akiyama recorded guitar on GarageBand and sent files to van Wissem, who played over the tracks while looking at the wave files, but without listening. This resulted in pieces made of spare clumpings of notes; the sparseness of playing and its unpredictability demand one's whole attention.

Through Akiyama's boogie style and van Wissem's palindromic compositions, each artist has experimented with styles that maintain a consistent level of intensity. This is a hallmark of their collaboration as well – tunes are repeated throughout sections such as "Silver Angels Across the Way and Golden Demons that None Can Stay," but melody does not unfold during the piece, nor does tempo or ferocity change. Even noise music tends to have a pulsating rhythm and uses changes in intensity as structure. Here, Akiyama and van Wissem maintain a degree of flatness that disturbs in its own harmonious, tuneful way.

The later sections of Hymn for a Fallen Angel, like "Southern Cross," are melodious and a bit more dense, allowing us to drink in more of these two performance masters. Yet, lute and guitar are woven together so thoroughly that differentiating between them is difficult. Each musician plays with glissando and twang; where one plays a mantra, the other adds accents.

One can easily imagine cartoon note waves floating by while listening to Hymn for a Fallen Angel, or a desire to plot it on a chart and decode the mechanism of its construction. The work is mathematical in a way, in its approximation of random timing. To play this in unison without visual cues would be nearly impossible, and this visual element carries through to the listener, substituting a sense of space for a typical compositional timeline.

By Josie Clowney

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