CHRISTINA VANTZOU, MICHAEL HARRISON & JOHN ALSO BENNETT –
CHRISTINA VANTZOU, MICHAEL HARRISON & JOHN ALSO BENNETT
Christina Vantzou, Michael Harrison, and John Also Bennett collaborate on this ‘suite of raga-inspired compositions and improvisations […] centered around a devotion to just intonation tuning, deep listening, and resonant spaces.’
Vantzou is the sound director on this project (and adds the occasional tape loops and field recordings), Bennett and Harrison perform on just intonation piano (the main instrument on these pieces) and modular synth (creating the accompanying drones).
Michael Harrison was a protégé of La Monte Young (and tuned his piano) and a disciple of Pandit Pran Nath, which may indicate what music can be expected here.
The piano clearly takes the center stage; the combination with the modular drone indeed feels like a raga – with the same calming effect. The just intonation tuning of the instrument is what gives these ragas their extra dimension. For the ‘uninitiated listener’, without knowledge of this matter, this almost mathematical approach to tuning may sometimes sound like some notes are clashing in an ‘unnatural’ way. This feels somewhat uncomfortable but at the samte time also refreshing.
More informed musicologists will probably be fascinated by the examples of Harrison’s tuning provided with the notes, such as this ‘modified revelation tuning’ as used in Sirens (which, by the way, is one of the more electronic-sounding tracks where the piano is strictly used as the sound source):
Let me be clear: I reckon myself to the former, the ‘uninitiated listener’. I do not understand the complexities behind just intonation, and I have no idea what this modified revelation tuning scheme can tell me.
But I dó know what my ears tell me: this is a fascinating pleasure to listen to and explore again and again!
Christina Vantzou, Michael Harrison & John Also Bennett is released as double (45 rpm) vinyl via Séance Center. Both the vinyl edition and the digital download can be ordered via Bandcamp.
MICHAEL BEGG – MOONLIGHT AND SENTIMENT
I have not encountered many albums that are promoted with a text like this:
‘This is not a crafted record. The quality is often very poor and the resolution is seldom realised. The melodic lines drift into sentimentality and the production lacks focus and rigour.’
When you are familiar with the previous work of Michael Begg, you’ll probably know that it can’t be this bad. But indeed: the musical atmosphere dóes reflect the image on the cover, which one could call somewhat ‘sentimental’. But it’s the kind of sentimentality I love to listen to. It is, in Michael‘s words, ‘the authentic sound of moonlight suicides, Christmas midnights and a representation of a certain kind of recovered memory that ruins your sleep.’
Moonlight And Sentiment emerged more or less by accident when Begg was trying to realize something else – something ‘that refused to play’. He feels that it was something he had little control over, but the result ‘seems to speak more truly to my private clear-night-sky self than any contrived contribution I may otherwise have forced upon you.’