The drowned words of Simon Steen-Andersen, played by Francesco Palmieri on #neuguitars #blog #conceptualguitar
Stop everyone, let’s rewind the tape. We are in 2020 when this excellent cd “Drownwords Simon Steen-Andersen Complete Works for Guitar” is released for Contrastes Records, a British record company belonging to Universal Music Group, dedicated to offering specialized recordings in classical guitar music and in its interrelation with contemporary composers, flamenco, jazz, dance, theater, cinema and photography. This cd comes out thanks to the brilliant work done by the Italian guitarist Francesco Palmieri, who collects all the guitar production of the composer Simon Steen-Andersen, a production of which you can find the scores on his website.
Simon Steen-Andersen (1976) is a Danish composer, performer and creator of installations based in Berlin, who works in that subtle and nuanced environment that arises between the uncertain boundaries between instrumental music, electronic, video and performance, in contexts that they range from symphony orchestra and chamber music (with and without multimedia) to set-ups, solo performances and installations. The works of the last decade focus on the integration of concrete elements in music, on the emphasis on the physical and choreographic aspects of the instrumental performance. His works often include amplified acoustic instruments in combination with samplers, videos, simple everyday objects or homemade constructions.
The pieces presented here are:
1 in-side-out-side-in … (2001) For guitar
2 Within Amongst (2005) ° ‘Anti-kadenza’ for extremely amplified guitar
3 – 4 Beloved Brother (2008) ° Two movements from J. S. Bach’s Capriccio in Bb arranged for ‘backside’ guitar – Arioso – Lamento
5 Drownwords (2003, rev. 2019) ° For guitar and performer
6 Study for String Instrument #2 (2009) For e-guitar and whammy pedal
7 Next to Beside Besides #8+13 (2003/06/08) ° For two e-guitars
8 Amid (2004) ° For flute, clarinet, piano, guitar, percussion, violin and cello
and they see the presence of Francesco Palmieri both with classical and electric guitar, both in solo role and with Brian Archinal, and with Ensemble VERTIGO der Hochschule der Künste Bern, directed by Lennart Dohms.
These are musics with a very high contemporary rate, complex research works that are very demanding for the performers, who investigate the relationships between sound, music and image. They are complex prototypes, works of elaborate sound design, whose listening also recalls the vision of the videos made during their recordings. Listening to these music led me to reflect on the roles that composer and interpreter find themselves playing in today’s society. Both find themselves at an existential crossroads. In the case of the composer, if in the past his doubts turned to a false misunderstanding given by the contrast between improvisation and alea, now he has to choose between an acceleration of a post-human role and a slowdown veered to the neoclassical past. In the first case he has to agree to get out of a single role to adopt many. A composer, yes, but also a musician, sound artist, multimedia creative. A full acceptance / integration of this society. In the second he turns to a post-idealized past, because he doesn’t like the present, going through the recovery of a romantic role. In the first, art as a generator of new realities, of multiple overlapping narratives. In the second the ebb to a single narrative.
Even the interpreter today runs into similar neuroses, but from another point of view. Specialize in a specific repertoire? Opening up to new forms of personal improvisation? Expanding one’s repertoire to forms of the past, risking interpretations contextualized to society and the world in which we live? Ultimately: take risks or stabilize? Constantly changing its role or becoming fossilized? Liquid or solid state?
Simon Steen-Andersen’s music seems to me to go in this direction. They express a conceptual complexity that is in line both with the world we are living in and with the new forms of society. They are very interesting shapes, border shapes. Sounds, silences, echoes, a composer and interpreter’s sensitivity filtered through the guitar instrument. Music that emerges through ancient and new technologies. A pity that cultural studies have never approached contemporary music: this album shows how contemporary, experimental music and the guitar can function as a transit territory within and beyond the confines of an increasingly closed and hostile world. We turn to sounds on the assumption that there can be no immobility in them; sound is the perception of an oscillation and therefore of a movement, it is a molecular vibration that propagates through space and time. Without movement, there is simply no sound. Listening to new sounds and sound machines helps us to create folds, openings and interruptions in the incessant and continuous flow of Western modernity that we are experiencing, to give us a reterritorialized geography in which the distinctions between inside and outside, center and periphery, and the same conceptual boundaries of the world seem to lose consistency. We must begin to examine contemporary experimental music under different meanings, both as a musical genre and also as a formal process, identifying new spaces within both musical composition and improvisation, in order to identify a conceptual attitude aimed at guiding and stimulate critical thinking. I believe that “Drownwords Simon Steen-Andersen Complete Works for Guitar” goes in this direction.