Swedish composer Ellen Arkbro’s time studying with La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela at their New York Dream House is self-evident on her follow-up to 2017’s For Organ And Brass. CHORDS consists of two pieces, one for organ and one for guitar, both utilising the just intonation microtonal methodology which Young has espoused for the majority of his sixty-odd year career.
‘CHORDS for organ’ was recorded at Malmö’s Art Deco St. John’s Church on its early twentieth century organ, following its original realisation in Stockholm. The 15-minute piece consists of a series of long, held tones and a number of carefully-deployed harmonic additions that subtly alter the dynamic propensities of the organ tones, the intersections gently pulsing phasing like a soft breeze through the wood-clad nave of the church. Initially harsh and grating, as the piece concludes you find yourself experiencing a sort of meditative transcendence, the brusque edges of the organ turning into something altogether more enlightened.
Its companion piece, ‘CHORDS for guitar’ blends Arkbro’s playing with the addition of digital synthesis. The piece is resented as a sequence of constantly-evolving patterns, where the resonances between the metallic-sounding strings are not unlike whole, vast universes of intricate sound.
CHORDS by Ellen Arkbro is released by Subtext Recordings on June 7 2019. Arkbro will perform CHORDS at the church of St. Giles-without-Cripplegate within London’s Barbican Centre on June 22 2019. Tickets are available from barbican.org.uk
Words: Mat Smith
(c) 2019 Further.