Janek Schaefer – Extended Play

extended Play

At first listen, the ‘post-classical’ music on Janek Schaefer’s new CD “Extended Play (Triptych For The Child Survivors Of War And Conflict)” resembles the quiet peacefulness of the compositions of Arvo Pärt – especially in the beautiful 24 minute piece “acoustic ensemble”.
But there are some disturbing details: most artist would go a long way to avoid the vinyl crackle-and-pops for a CD release like this. The parts of the acoustic ensemble piece are also represented as solo piano, cello and violin piece, which contain some  stops and re-starts breaking the flow of the composition quite unexpected.
Janek Shaefer is, after all, not primarily know as a post-classical composer but as a ‘turntablist‘….

The installation picture on the cover explains the performance we hear:

All parts of Extended Play were recorded to a vinyl record which is played through a beautiful old-fashioned record-player.

Extended Play

For the performance, nine of these players are all playing the solo parts of this composition at different speeds (33, 45, 78). And to add some extra randomness, the record player is equipped with a movement detector which makes it stop playing for five seconds when someone walks by too close. (On the CD, you can hear this in the solo parts, but it’s avoided in the ensemble recording). Thus, a performance of this composition will vary in length and the instrument’s interplay is becoming generative in a way Brian Eno would probably be very proud of.

The performance details are impressing (here’s a nice video about it), but on the CD, you’ll have to do without complexities like that.
As interesting as the solo pieces (and the polish radio tune from which the composition arrangement originated) are, it’s the ensemble recording that is most impressive.
As said, it’s a composition in class and ‘feel’of Arvo Pärt, with many emotional, melancholic chords.

So there’s two entirely different levels that make “Extended Play” as impressing as it is: first, the performance details and construction of the nine interplaying record-players, and second, the powerful composition that’s recorded on this CD.
This virtual acoustic ensemble really deserved to be covered by a real live ensemble, and I guess it probably will.

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  1. Peter

    I agree that I don’t think a recording could do justice to a beautiful conceptual installation like this. I would love to have seen it like you did.
    Still this recording is beautiful in it’s own right. It stands firm even without any knowledge of the installation. (Though the listener will probably wonder why the music stops and starts sometimes 🙂 )

  2. Paul

    I saw the installation in Huddersfield and it was very engrossing. Like a fair few other people I stayed in it for a long time. Whether a recording can do it justice is a moot point, but perhaps the only alternative is one’s own memory/imagination.

  3. maeda

    i remember contemplating about buying this piece, and finally decided not to, but those previews of yours sound really nice – maybe they should release it on vinyl too?