Forty Days and Forty Nights

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Ian Vine is a classical composer with many commissions and performances of his orchestral works, by the LSO, the London Sinfonietta, the BBC symphony, and others. But he’s also not afraid to pick up an electric guitar nor to expose his work on the Soundcloud platform, an arena often associated with rock and pop music. It’s the electric guitar – or several guitars – we hear on Forty Objects / Forty-Five Objects (IAN VINE IV1501), both of which have been conceived as large-scale guitar orchestra works. Until such time as a guitar orchestra is forthcoming to perform it, Vine has seen fit to record all the parts himself on this record, “tracking each guitar part individually in real time”, as he describes what I can only assume was a lengthy and painstaking process, considering there are 40 electric guitars on the first piece and 45 on the second. That’s one weekend he won’t see again!

Both pieces are scored, and every one of the guitar parts follows its own individual pattern of notes, yet you wouldn’t know it from hearing the works, which produce spectral drones in a smoothly integrated whole of shimmering layers. “Subtle variances in timbre, pitch and timing,” are what interest this studious and meticulous fellow. As for me, the only time I’ve even encountered a “guitar orchestra” is through the works of Glenn Branca, and while he could also compose unsettling and disturbing dissonant drone pieces, he also liked to rock it up large (producing a memorable image of him shaking his funky ass while conducting at the Royal festival Hall in the late 1980s) and experiment with painful, angular tones.

Vine has a completely different vision of the possibilities of a guitar orchestra, as reflected in these stable, healing, meditative tones. It’s quite unlike anything you might associate with “minimalism”, and while at first hearing you think he might just as well have attained the same results by overdubbing two harmoniums or electronic organs, in fact there is a lot of detail and richness at work here, and his hours of hard toil and craft have resulted in a payoff of near-immaculate production. From 28 April 2015.

Score extract from "Forty Objects"
Score extract from “Forty Objects”

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