From the WeNeedNoSwords blog: "The 40-minute piece was created by the Swiss composer d'incise at the request of its performer, Cristián Alvear, despite the former having never played the guitar..."
This is not an unusual approach for a composer; they tend to write for everything, grilling performers about pedal positions, range etc. to create something playable (though often challenging) for a performer. This work, however, is successful in not displaying an intimate knowledge of the guitar that would come from careful conversations with an exclusively Classical performer and/or study of orchestration, tuning, capabilities of the six-stringed instrument.
And that's what makes Appalachian Anatolia (14th Century) so remarkable.
Okay, there was some discussion between the two which lead d'incise (née Laurent Peter) to organize and to "...simplify the instrument, to bring it down to my electroacoustic level of understanding." The result is a capricious exploration of timbre with very few guitarisms involved.
The work begins in a much insulated, claustrophobic tonal circle of placid harmonics. I like to call this type of art "Wind Chime Music"; it's as if a cooling breeze is effortlessly creating a pattern-less sound sculpture — one that you could listen to all day — with very little means. It is delicate, free of time constraints, innocent yet evocative and unconcerned with reaching an end.
Elegantly, the palette expands, as the piece incorporates more harmonic material across the fret board. Near eighteen minutes, the guitarist settles in on a repeated semi-stifled pluck. The listener feels the fingers striking the wood and the ghostly, shimmering tremolo hovering with each knock and microtonal relationship of close intervals. The minimalism here makes you lean in more as each isolated sonic element grabs your attention.
After pausing, the mute comes off for the remaining six minutes, strings buzzing as a hammered dulcimer. The visual image the music invokes is roots spreading across soil, or cellular fission, or crickets chirping in a field — or maybe my brain is plagued with this type of microscopic, time-elapsed visage from watching Microcosmos too many times. And as care-free as it began, so ends Appalachian Anatolia (14th Century) in a gentle waft across the horizon.
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