VERYAN WESTON

DIFFERENT TESSELLATIONS

EMANEM 5015

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LEO SVIRSKY piano

TESSELLATIONS I:
1 - scales 1–6 - 7:35
2 - scales 6–14 - 12:35
3 - scales 14–22 - 11:29
4 - scales 23–27 - 8:12

Digital recording made in London (Vortex)
by Martin Davidson - 2010 September 3

 

THE VOCIFEROUS CHOIR:
ANUSH APOYAN voice
IRIS EDERER voice
ANNETTE GIESRIEGL voice
DOROTHEA JABUREK voice
SOFIJA KNEZEVIC voice
SIRUAN KÜNG voice
FRANZ SCHMUCK voice (& nose flute on 9)
PATRIK THURNER voice
VERYAN WESTON voice (& nose flute on 9)

TESSELLATIONS II:
5 - First Part – Scales 42–48 - 8:53
6 - First Interlude – Scales 49–11 - 3:24
7 - Second Part – Scales 12–19 - 12:42
8 - Second Interlude – Scales 19–32 - 2:20
9 - Third Part – Scales 33–41 - 8:43

Digital studio recording made near London
by Steve Lowe - 2010 September 6

 

Total time 76:07

All previously unissued

 

Excerpts from sleeve notes:

The recordings for this CD were both made in 2010 as part of a three-gig English project.

Leo Svirsky is a pianist, composer and improviser, currently studying composition at the Royal Conservatory of Den Haag (The Hague), Holland. He was aged 21 at the time of this recording. He has performed in concerts and participated in master classes all over the world and won first prize at the Isabel Scionti Piano Competition, the Arthur Fraser Concerto Competition. Most recently he was the recipient of the Labberté-Hoedemaker prize at the Peter the Great Festival. At the age of 17 he performed Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto with the South Carolina Philharmonic. Later in that year he performed Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 with the Bratislava Philharmonic, improvising atonal cadenzas. Leo has also played in various experimental and improvising ensembles, including Baby Killer Estelle for whom he wrote much of the music. He has appeared with (among others) Marshall Allen, Elliot Levin, Yedo Gibson, Anne LaBerge, Agusti Fernandez and Michael Moore.

Tessellations I explores the possibilities of improvising with a pre-established form as a soloist and was conceived for acoustic piano. The composer recorded a version in 2003 on a Luthéal piano in Brussels (released as Emanem 4095). Only the first half of the 2010 version by Leo Svirsky is included here because of CD durational limitations. His interpretation of the piece is very much his own and so he becomes co-composer.

The Vociferous Choir first performed in the Styrian region of Austria in early 2010, premiering Tessellations II which had been commissioned by GamsBART JAZZ 2010. The singers are as follows:
Anush Apoyan. Performance and broadcasts in Armenia, first prizes in composition and voice.
Iris Ederer. Jazz Masters at Kunstuniversität, Graz. Organised and conducted the Chorfestival in Graz and Weiz, May 2010.
Annette Giesriegl. Specialist in extended vocal techniques, comprehensive working knowledge of South Indian singing.
Dorothea Jaburek. Trained in classical violin, has performed jazz in America and won 'Best Austrian newcomer' 2006.
Sofija Knezevic. Already considerable success and experience in European youth music projects and worked with many established jazz musicians in the USA.
Siruan Küng. Community artist in hospitals with various bands. Specialist skills - beatboxing, jazz and world singing.
Franz Schmuck. Research in African and Balinese percussion and research in Siberian singing and Swiss yodelling.
Patrik Thurner. Studied Music Education in Voice and Instruments. Choir-leader and conductor, having studied composition, arranging and jazz theory at Kunstuniversität, Graz.
Veryan Weston. Got to know the choir through working with Annette Giesriegl.

Tessellations II explores the possibilities of improvising with the same pre-established form as Tessellations I in a group situation. The organisation of the piece, with its use of cycles and loops, was inspired by working with Trevor Watts' Moiré Music in the 1980's. Composed for The Vociferous Choir, it is a mix of lines and layers that can be found in the polyphony of Renaissance contrapuntalists and the Pygmies of Central West Africa. There is no text or narrative, so the piece transcends any national border or literal meaning.

 

Excerpts from reviews:

"A few years ago, pianist Veryan Weston released TESSELLATIONS FOR LUTHÉAL PIANO (Emanem 4095), an improvisation canvas made of 52 pentatonic scales organised in half-tone increments. DIFFERENT TESSELLATIONS features two more takes on this work: first a highly personal interpretation by young flamboyant pianist Leo Svirsky, then a radically different approach from The Vociferous Choir that turns Tessellations into a cross between Terry Riley and Manhattan Transfer. Surprising and different."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - MONSIEUR DÉLIRE 2011

"The materials for Tessellations developed over a long period of time in Weston's music, but he first began recording it around 2000. In 2003 he recorded TESSELLATIONS FOR LUTHÉAL PIANO at the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels. Released on Emanem 4095, the CD documents the remarkable character of the instrument as well as the piece, Weston exploring the Luthéal piano's organ-like stops for harpsichord and harp-like sounds.

Weston has continued to explore the materials and this year Emanem has released a remarkable continuation of the process, DIFFERENT TESSELLATIONS. It contains part of a performance of the piece - now Tessellations I - by the young pianist Leo Svirsky, offering a different perspective on the piano piece; it also includes a new transformation of the piece - Tessellations II - performed by a group of nine singers, including Weston, called the Vociferous Choir. The new incarnation resonates not just with the previous piece but also with Weston's long interest in vocal music (notably with Phil Minton whether in duo, quartet or the band Four Walls) and his interest in non-standard pitches (previously explored in depth in his recordings with Jon Rose on TEMPERAMENT [Emanem 4207]). On the one hand, Tessellations II expands the scat vocal group to a staggering nine voices, but it also expands the tonal range of Tessellations, taking in the microtonal practices of Africa, South Indian and Siberian singing as well as beat-boxing. The vocal piece is consistently wordless, emphasizing the expansive, pan-cultural nature of its content. Whether it's Svirsky's reinterpretation of the piano piece or the choir version, Tessellations is a piece and an improvisatory practice that can reach across generations and across cultures."

STUART BROOMER - POINT OF DEPARTURE 2011 - also includes an interview with Veryan Weston

"This release is something very uncommon. Veryan Weston is obviously a very accomplished improviser and piano player but here he presents two extended compositions, and he doesn't even play the piano in here as he invites another piano player to perform one of those, while the other one is executed by an a capella choir with Veryan among them. The Tessalations are both based on a progression of 52 pentatonic scales, with one note going up by one step with each progression. Sounds quite fascinating and, also, bit scary - as it could easily turn out to be an intellectual and overtly academic research more than a music work. So I have to admit I had my doubts when approaching this CD but they were quickly solved.

Tesselations I is performed by Leo Svirsky, a piano player with classical education and an impressive resumé, only 21 (!) at the time of this performance, active also in the field of alternative music and improvisation. The extended performance relies heavily on fast arpeggios, repetitive lines that grow from the exploration of the scales.

The shimmering changes could bring to mind serial music of Phillip Glass or Steve Reich but the tempos tend to be much faster than what you'll find in their compositions. Some of the passages are light and charmingly beautiful, soft and dreamingly surreal, mesmerizing, ephemeral, some are thunderous and the sheer virtuosity of this performance (the tempo control, the dynamics changes, the lightness of the touch and natural flow despite the sudden twists in the narration, often going back and forth between impressionistic lightness and dramatic intensity) is really striking and quite overwhelming. There's something hypnotic in a way the scales are built into the lines, the lines get deconstructed to leave space for the new scale, progression in continuous process.

My favourite part is in track 2 when the left hand states the bass line like it was a boogie-woogie piano (although with no syncopation, very rhythmical) and right hand just flies through the keys. It's some of the most impressive solo piano playing I've heard in a while, in fact it's not only it is impressive playing (which is good) but also very beautiful music (which is better).

Tesselations II shares the same form but is completely different in mood from the piano piece. The composition is divided into three parts (with two shorter interludes between them). The main pieces usually are centred around clear bass line harmony and interchangeable motifs above it. At the top of it you have solo and duet improvisations. You can fear the presence of the vocal extended techniques but actually it's all pretty accessible - the bass lines provide the groove, the improvisations are wild and adventurous but also entertaining.

Grooves and melodies intertwine together, creating colourful and multilayered whole. The overall mood is quite joyful indeed, a bit tribal (especially since the improvisations call upon various folk cultures) and I'm even reminded at times of such artists as Ladysmith Black Mambazo or Bobby McFerrin. This is fun music really; you start to hum along with those guys while they change the melodic layers in this kind of a musical, vocal kaleidoscope. This is extremely eclectic, you'll hear African chants, doo-wop, scat solo, rich classical or jazz harmonies right next to some throat singing or beat-box. This music dances and it does so in a very unpredictable but oh so charming way that makes it even more infectious. Inspiring, very original and a lot of fun (and the choral shout at the end puts the exclamation point on this statement).

Two extremely different performances that share the same form. Two distinctly great musical pieces. One of the most appreciated musical surprises that came my way this year. A brilliant album which I cannot recommend highly enough."

BARTEK ADAMCZAK - JAZZ ALCHEMIST 2011

"In the realm of tessellations (the juxtaposition of elements into a coherent pattern) the only ones that could match DIFFERENT TESSELLATIONS (composed by Veryan Weston and recorded here by prodigiously talented pianist Leo Svirsky and the Vociferous Choir) in terms of intrigue and seduction is Maurits C. Escher's Circle Limit III. The Escher is visual art at its finest, a tantalising woodcut standing in all its maddening glory, against all other two- and three-dimensional art. But even this barely compares to Weston's musical vision, which bristles with flowing genius, and is so seductive and singularly mindboggling.

Svirsky excels on Tessellations I and the Vociferous Choir, an outstanding a capella ensemble, brings Tessellations II to life. It would be fair to assume that Weston's definitive version recorded in 2003 should have stood alone, but DIFFERENT TESSELLATIONS is a fortuitous phenomenon in that the first part of its scales, Tessellations I, is delivered by a young pianistic genius, while Tessellations II is an eerily beautiful interpretation that emerges as an extraordinarily successful vocal experiment.

Tessellations I is based on a series of 52 pentatonic scales, upon each of which the pianist extrapolates, imbuing the music with a wonderful floating quality. Notes ascend and descend, shooting sideways, forwards and backwards as surprising phrases and lines that eventually form, not by planned design, but in a magnificent design nevertheless, as sublimely glacial cubist architecture. Although the third dimension is not the performer's personality, it remains a very personable characterisation of the ghostly figure that roams the composition's realm. The variations multiply in space and time, also giving rise to a shimmering fourth dimension that is, in fact, the memory of the sound left behind after all is played and done. This is the pure sound in tones imagined by the composer, and has a glorious echo in the aftermath of the final note of the final scale of Tessellations I.

Tessellations II is dramatically different. Seemingly guided by the spirit of its composer - who is also present to vocalise his improvisations with the a capella ensemble - this set of tessellations also explores the possibilities of improvising upon pre-established form, as with Tessellations I. However, this series presents the prospect of ending up ad infinitum simply because the extrapolations are made by a group of human voices. Although no overtones are simultaneously sung, as in Tuvan and Mugami scales, the very fact that multiple voices are heard creates its own sense of overtones and expands the palette of sound with marvellous abandon. The way this piece has been organised - using loops and cycles of sound - harks back to the polyphony of Renaissance contrapuntalists and the Pygmies of West Africa.

There is nothing like this music, in recent memory - not, in fact, since Bach wrote his Goldberg Variations."

RAUL D'GAMA ROSE - ALLABOUTJAZZ 2011

"Pianist-composer Veryan Weston has a history in British creative music going back over four decades, cutting across some of the music's most significant periods and in cooperation with the country's improvisational architects. It's too simple to call Weston an improvising pianist, though that is part of what he does as an artist. Over the last thirty years - and especially during the most recent decade - he has been researching and constructing a musical system around the idea of geometric tessellation, or 'visual interlocking symmetries… transferred to the audible world of pitches, rhythm and counterpoint' derived from pentatonic scales.

DIFFERENT TESSELLATIONS is the latest iteration of the plot, consisting of the first half of Tessellations 1 for solo piano and the entirety of Tessellations 2 for a nine-piece choir. The piano Tessellations are performed by the American Leo Svirsky, which is an interesting and important separation from having Weston perform the works himself as he has done in the past. Though Tessellations does give room for improvisation and is designed around giving the 'spirit and feel of jazz', it's sometimes quite difficult to separate the improvising composer from the concept of improvising. In other words, one might try to maintain the thought of Weston as quite strictly a player when performing his own written work instead of an interpreter of something more grand. One could compare the pianism to Canadian composer-pianist Lubomyr Melnyk's continuous music in parts, as well as the ceaseless flow of Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt, though Weston has built into it sections of boogie-woogie, dense overlapping interval leaps and cluster-like patterns, cascading pointillism rolling into driving swells and ricochets. As a piano solo, the work is both open and self-contained, expounding on reflective multipart cells but recalling enough of the history and presence of piano music from improvised and notated sources to revel in expansiveness - that one could insert into its patterns Brahms, Taylor, and Ammons.

The choral work is of a related character but altogether the results are quite different - for example, the ear doesn't necessarily gravitate towards the 'Africanized tone row' aspect of the pianistic Tessellations, instead compartmentalising the music into a Western sensibility. As Tessellations 2 is performed by the Vociferous Choir (including the composer himself) one hears the multilayered rhythms of African pygmy music set against throat-sung drones and lilting chords that slide between major and minor. Trevor Watts' fascination with African musics might be the jumping-off point for the choral work, a modernist, exuberant improvisational pluralism that delves into uptempo beatboxing and a capella Afro-pop minimalism on the lengthy third movement. As with a lot of modern vocal music, the tendency is to extrapolate the human voice onto certain instrumentation and the Vociferous Choir is no exception - low, swirling bass, chattering cornet, trombone multiphonics, sawing violin and dry, choppy alto are brought into orchestral play against cracking rhythms and brassy swagger. Both readings of Tessellations are structurally a lot to digest, but that process is made easier by the fact that this is extraordinarily bright and rather accessible (heavens!) music, swinging and joyous. Adjectives such as these are rarely intoned to describe contemporary British improvisation, but that just goes to show how little of these artists' work gets an ear properly turned in its direction."

CLIFFORD ALLEN - NI KANTU 2011

 

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