Marc Sabat: Les Duresses
Care of Editions

Issued on the small Berlin-based Care of Editions label, Les Duresses is as much a recording of Morton Feldman's or Andrew McIntosh's music as Marc Sabat's. Recorded in a renaissance church outside of Berlin in two sessions a year apart (2012 and 2013), the album features McIntosh's rendering of Sabat's work-in-progress Les Duresses (a book of music in Just Intonation), with McIntosh, a composer himself as well as violinist, violist, baroque violinist, and Formalist Quartet member, joined on the two-violin part of the piece by Sabat himself. The Canadian-born and currently Berlin-based Sabat (b. 1965) derives inspiration for his electroacoustic work from Just Intonation, American folk, and experimental musics.

The release also features McIntosh's recording of Feldman's unfinished Composition (1984) for solo violin, albeit in an edition by Sabat where the ambiguous original notation has been systematized into a “just” microtonal logic. Incidentally, there's a strong rationale for combining the two works on the album: the first two solo pieces in Les Duresses were composed in response to the Feldman solo.

The album opens with “Intonation after MF1” and “Intonation after MF2,” each of which uses as a point of departure a pair of tuned dyads from the Feldman composition. The music swoops and dives in hypnotic fashion, its keening, strings-only presentation bolstering its plaintive effect. “Intonation after MF2” in particular unfolds at a slow and steady pace, with the multi-toned bowing presented as regulated repetitions and the harmonic transitions accounting for the music's melodic character. Given the faster tempo with which it's executed, the brief, side-closing “Two Commas” provides a study in contrast to what's come before.

Side B's “Duas Quintas Composition” exudes a comparatively reflective quality, and deviates from a strict rhythmic design for one more fluid, even dream-like. Bowed tones multiply and overlap, their movements as natural as flowing water, and the music swells and decompresses with dramatic purpose. With such a modicum of sounds presented, the music encourages the listener to enter its stark, clandestine world. As has been stated at textura in other contexts, no one should be scared off by the Just Intonation aspect of the project: though harmonically the intervals might sound unusual to ears accustomed to conventional pitches, whatever resistance one might have is quickly broken down by the pure musicality of the presentation.

November 2014