sin asunto |cs187








































Décembre 2008, à Zurich, club Moods : le son d’Ayler « with strings » dans la tête, Kahn (percussions amplifiées) regroupe Vincent Millioud (violon), Bo Wiget (violoncelle) et Christian Weber (une des plus belles contrebasses d’aujourd’hui), avec le projet de se frayer un chemin depuis les grandes profondeurs, tressant sonorités acoustiques & électroniques, vers la surface. Tirant toute sa puissance d’une véritable infusion étirée – par bourdons et planés – dans la durée, la musique atteint, au milieu de la pièce, un plateau à partir duquel se mettent en mouvement, lentement d’abord, les pales de Kahn ; la tension s’accroît (heureusement sans atteindre au caractère martial de l’Helikopter-quartett de Stockhausen) et l’expérience d’audition acquiert, comme dans une aspiration, une passionnante dimension physique. Remarquable. Guillaume Tarche (Le Son du Grisli)

Ahh... the arrival of a new batch of CDs from Portuguese label Creative Sources always holds many promises. For example, this new opus from percussionist Jason Kahn. This is a graphic score (as was Timelines) composed to bring together Kahn’s amplified resonating percussion and the strings of Vincent Millioud (violin), Bo Wiget (cello) and Christian Weber (doublebass). 60 minutes flat, graphic blocks of activity sliced into near-perfect 5-minute chunks defining simple interactions. The art of the musicians consist in making us forget this underlying structure, and they can say mission accomplished. Still, Sin Asunto remains a work based on limited (as in minimalistic) ideas and makes for an arid listen. But the hide-and-seek between Kahn’s resonances and the strings’ stretched out and scrached out sounds is captivating. François Couture (Monsieur Délire)

Many reviewers mistakenly think that graphical score is just an almost unuseful and somewhat provocative act of oddness or a disrespectful corruption of standard musical notation. The last example of such a different graphical representation I introduced on this web pages was the one Blixa Bargeld made while relistening to the sound sculputers by Alva Noto on the occasion of their appreciated collaboration (ANBB); the one by Jason Kahn is remarkably different not only because his ensemble of musicians, met in Seul in 2006, doesn't use both electronic devices and human voices, but also as it's not properly a graphical visualization inspired by sound stimulation, but it's definitively a real score! If you'll have a look on it, you will notice it could remind both some similitudes with the cycle of water - waves of different length, drizzle, raindrops, concentrical cicles close to the ones you'll notice on a liquid surface when throwing some object into it, snow crystals and so on among the symbols on this diagram for each musician - and a sort of stratification akin to the one of the atmosphere, following a sort of timeline - the horizontal axis of this diagram has been divided into 5-minutes long time intervals and you could follow the composition on this bizarre libretto! -. And even if this "organic" piece, composed for a concert series at the Moods club in Zurich, has been entitled Sin Asunto (with no subject!), both the mentioned remarks sound coherent and symbiotical to the artistic purpose of the composer, intended to "create an atmosphere akin to one pushing up to the surface from the very great depths of a vast and dark body of water, rising to the light streaming down from above with both a sense of urgency and resignation". It's really amazing the way the tunes resurface from the evoked depths and they way eack musician - Vincent Millioud on violin, Bo Wiget on cello, Christian Weber on contrabass and Jason itself on amplified percussion, mentioned following the altimetric order on the graphical score! - follows these "atmospheric" punctuation with ease, showing their fluency in the most intruiguing and unruled language humankind knows. It's music! Vito Camarretta (Chain DLK)

Inspired by Kahn’s love for Albert Ayler’s work with strings, Sin Asunto (“No Subject”) is a composition scored for bass, violin and cello – respectively handled by Christian Weber, Vincent Millioud and Bo Wiget – in combination with the composer’s amplified percussion. The graphic score, a fascinating part of which is observable in the CD’s inside leaflet, tries to make the joint resonance of the latter source and the string trio produce a “blur” of the distinction between electronic and acoustic nuances. It takes a special breed of artist – ears attuned not only to a specific music, but to The Vibration – to render such a piece in the correct manner. Needless to say, the result of this set reflects all of the above.

A rare happening when a similar performance is attempted is the ability to observe the player’s individual personalities remaining in evidence despite the respect of the overall conception. In this circumstance we can tell designs and gestures apart, study the interconnection of two or more pitches, enjoy the oscillations and the measured parabolas depicted by the arcos or receive the whole as a sturdy bulk of actions, the inherent compositeness of its tissue notwithstanding. The participants, while scrupulously following instructions, also introduce elements of delicate percussiveness and gentle abrasiveness, halfway through EAI’s quieter fringes and a “quoted-by-just-everybody” luminary whose first name is Helmut. The silence filtering from these tiny cracks in the electroacoustic fabric is an important factor to consider, breaking in a way the psychological flux caused by the previous permutations of frequencies. However, the sensation remains one of activity and movement, not contemplation. The musicians are constantly raising the aerials to the reciprocal suggestions; the attentive care for this aspect of the rendition is clearly discernible throughout the album, especially in the central section.

When the genuine pitches resurrect their authority, conductive of a sense of mental wavering given by the uncertain definition in terms of “tonality” – the real secret behind the best works in this field – this reviewer felt like having been ready for this evolution of the fundamental matter since the beginning. Noise and drones mix, this time without giving the chance of choosing a side. The uneasiness is palpable, the players trying to contrast damaging intrusions with the force of reiterative signals. The intensity becomes almost overwhelming around the 36th minute, a fierce battle throwing the listener within a tense suspension until the booming qualities of Weber’s contrabass and a deep pulse – presumably generated by Kahn – affirm a predominance upon the rest in a contagious crescendo. As the noisy components cease to be, a postlude of sorts – riveting growl and incisive short figurations gradually turning into dissonant luminosity with a measure of angst – leads towards the conclusion of one of Kahn’s finest ever efforts, which would be quite interesting to hear expanded for a large ensemble. Massimo Ricci (Touching Extremes)

The development of Jason Kahn’s work says quite a lot about the trajectory of experimental music since the mid ‘80s. A member of the SST band Universal Congress Of, his early work signified the move towards freedom that took place in forward-thinking punk circles in the late ‘80s. Following Kahn’s move to Germany, his interests went both towards the work of improvisers and composers like Conrad Bauer and Arnold Dreyblatt and also towards the rapidly evolving experimental music scene in Japan, in collaborations with Taku Sugimoto and Toshimaru Nakamura (whose move from playing guitar to no-input mixing board took place during the first years of their collaborations). By the late ‘90s Kahn’s own work had moved from that of a drummer to that of a sound artist who works with percussion, samplers and modular synthesizers.
In recent years Kahn has been experimenting with graphical notation and Sin Asunto documents a performance of a graphic score written for Christian Weber (bass), Bo Wiget (cello) and Vincent Millioud (violin). The precisely-timed 60-minute performance brings to the listener an alien sound world of exquisitely placed microscopic sound objects. Kahn directly calls attention to the precedent of Albert Ayler’s work with strings (the Impulse Live at the Village Vanguard release comes to mind) and this highlights the significance of Kahn’s genesis towards his current methodologies. Drawn initially from punk rock towards the work of improvisers like Ayler, Kahn’s work underscores the relationship between ‘60s innovators and the more subtle approach to generating intensity that has become so ubiquitous in recent years.
Appearing at Issue Project Room last month as part of the Unsound Festival, Kahn emphatically forwards a much less subtle image of his sound experiments. In the trio MKM with Günter Müller and Norbert Möslang, sounds swirled and grinded and tumbled around the expansive room, reverberating off the high ceilings. Having previously toured Japan, Europe and the Americas, MKM has a profound synergy to their methods of interaction. What was a nice treat for the night, then, was to hear each member in a more extemporaneous duo with another guest. One could hardly imagine three more diverse sets of electronic improvised music than Muller’s restrained duo with Taylor Deupree, Kahn’s intense but focused duo with Richard Kammerman and Möslang’s caterwauling duo with Gang Gang Dance vocalist Lizzi Bougatsos. Unsound and Issue Project Room ran with the opportunity to present MKM and turned it into an evening-length thesis on the art of collaboration. Wilbur MacKenzie (The New York City Jazz Record)

Along with peers such as Tomas Korber, Steinbrüchel and Günter Müller, Jason Kahn has crafted a unique, evolving precedent in the electroacoustic world. He proceeds as an extension of Tudor and Feldman's sentient approach to hands-on staging of both sides of the EA card; that is, you can't tell where the manipulation begins or the human analog element ends. Solo recorded output during the past decade (i.e. Sihl, Fields, For Nam June Paik, and Vanishing Point) reflects this, and the results sound as subtly nuanced tweaks within soundscapes and manufactured environments — synthetic field recordings, if you will.

Placing Kahn's singular voice in a group setting is also an interesting event, as he is a sensitive side-man, often content to cautiously shimmer in the backdrop or act as an effects pedal for other performers (who usually bring their own host of electronics). Sin Asunto is curious because the trio Kahn wrote for — violinist Vincent Millioud, cellist Bo Wiget and Christian Weber on contrabass — is asked to work strictly acoustic. The experiment here is, as Kahn describes, "...blurring the lines between electronic timbres (primarily feedback) and the extended acoustic lines of the strings". (Kahn names Albert Ayler as an inspiration for this idea; and you can sense echoes of Ayler's openness, then intense textural overload, from his "Oh! Love of Life" where washes of rolling cymbals and piano runs flirt while sax burns a hole through the middle.)

One of Kahn's trademark stark, grid-based graphical scores guides Weber to begin. He interprets the thick noodle-like waves with a feint monotone bow stroke. Just as you're about to exhale, he stunts the sound, pauses, and releases a single pluck one half step up (C# to D). It's simple, but a warm, harmonically rich bubble that resonates around the stage, establishing an aesthetic theme to support Kahn's loose directive for the next sixty minutes. First Millioud joins, then Wiget (both are instructed to follow an augmented version of the shape assigned to Weber), winding with languidly dipping microtonal purrs around the bassist's now steady ostinato of the aforementioned pitch set; Kahn's entrance at five minutes serves as lower register glue between the widening intervals; the string players settle on a busy unison, and Kahn dials in at either the third of the chord or a frequency just "off" enough to create harmonic and structural tension.

Each chunk of the score represents a different flavor, though almost all end up (duh) idiomatic to what string players do best: lyricism — and it is lovely, expressive, directionally atypical. However, the most exciting moments occur when "noise" distinguishes itself from the "musical" passages. At the tail end of Kahn's lingering bass (near nineteen minutes), Weber and Millioud begin a ten-minute duet of scratches, mutes, scribbles, squiggles and every post-Crumb extension imaginable; hanging a distinction of color in this manner reminds me of T?ru Takemitsu's November Steps (for shakuhachi, biwa and Western orchestra) where the Eastern duo is almost exclusively sonically isolated from the rest of the orchestra.

In Spanish, the words means "without subject", a title Kahn chose to explain how Sin Asunto explores "emptiness and how we find our way through this to something new". He should stop being so modest and add some subjects — and verbs and adjectives — to that sentence. Maybe, "Four masters, each bringing their respective genius to a Zürich stage, realize an incredible piece of music about emptiness and how we find our way through this to something fantastic." Dave Madden (The Squid's Ear)