Hannis Brown is the assistant producer for Q2 Music, WQXR’s online web stream for contemporary classical (or “new”) music.
Valgeir Sigurðsson's 'Architecture of Loss'
Q2 Music Album of the Week for September 24, 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012
The founder of the Icelandic label Bedroom Community, composer and producer Valgeir Sigurðsson has always thrived at the blurred crossroads of the synthetic and the organic, traditional composition and production-as-sound-art. He's scored and engineered music for film and television (he engineered the Academy Award nominated Björk/Thom Yorke duet I’ve Seen It All, from Lars Von Trier’s acclaimed Dancer in the Dark), composed for Chiara string quartet and collaborated with a varied spectrum of artists including Björk, Damon Albarn and Nico Muhly.
This diversity of influences, media and collaborations shows strongly on Sigurðsson’s latest release, "Architecture of Loss."
Originally conceived as an accompaniment to choreographer Stephen Petronio’s ballet of the same name, the album is at once cinematic and intimate, alternating moments of textural ambiance and intense lyricism. This versatility is particularly impressive given the somewhat limited sonic palate, built almost entirely around the sounds of violist (and Q2 Music host) Nadia Sirota, composer/pianist Nico Muhly, Pakistani multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily and Valgeir’s own keyboards and spooked electronics.
For the most part, the music is informed by a chilling sense of space. From the full minute of subharmonic bass hum that opens the record to the deft, sustained chords that bring it to a close, the music traverses pensive piano ruminations, glitchy electronics that sound antiphonally between the speakers and raspy viola lines that move from lyrical romanticism to harsh sul ponticello distortions—sometimes within a single composition. Between Monuments, for example, snowballs from as a tranquil viola and piano meditation to an intense storm of tribal percussion and grating overtones. On Plain Song, Sirota’s viola sings with a folk-like sensibility over a blur of tremolo piano figures. Reversed Erase devolves from a music box-like dance of prepared piano to explosions of distorted drum crashes.
Petronio’s stage work was inspired by the cycle of formation and disintegration and Sigurðsson’s music never loses sight of that sense of duality. The album seemingly charts the emergence of a being (or perhaps civilization itself) from a void of nothingness through moments of intense trial and turbulation to a collapse back to innocence before an ultimate return to the ether. Even divorced from its visual accompaniment, Sigurðsson's "Architecture of Loss" offers a powerful and philosophically driven narrative at once sublime and disconcerting.
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