Bird Song Identification

A new CD from the Swiss group Insub Meta Orchestra, playing a composition by Magnus Granberg. The Orchestra seem to be continuing their program of performing composed or semi-composed works, as last noted on their 2018 LP Choices / Melodies. For that one, the nominal leaders of the group – percussionist Cyril Bondi and laptopper d’incise – wrote the rules-based score for what was, to me, quite perplexing and severe music. However, I admired the focus and concentration of the orchestra players who were able to apply themselves to such a challenging task.

On today’s record, Als Alle Vögel Sangen Mein Sehnen Und Verlangen (INSUB.RECORDS insub.rec.cd05), the composer is Magnus Granberg. This Swedish fellow was last heard by us with Nattens Skogar, the 2017 album which was also released by Insub Records and featured the playing of Bondi and d’incise along with violinist Anna Lindal and Granberg’s own prepared piano. I feel now disadvantaged for not hearing more of this man’s many records for Another Timbre, but a pattern of sorts is beginning to emerge for me. Like Nattens, the Als Alle Vögel Sangen record is quiet, slow-moving, and understated, but each note is laid down with a remarkable kind of certainty, as though assured of its place in the world. I say this in spite of the fact that the piece is also quite porous, nebulous even – if conventional 19th century music notation has the deathly precision of an ordnance survey map, then Granberg’s music is something much more indefinable, like perhaps using psychics and mind-readers to trace the course of a bank of fog through the woods. Perhaps they could carry glow-worms in jars to help them on their quest.

The Nattens record was derived – probably at several stages of remove – from pieces of music by Erik Satie and Thelonious Monk, while Als Alle Vögel Sangen doesn’t cite any particular source. However, the critic John Eyles thinks there may be a Schumann connection here, as he can trace the line to a text from the song cycle Dictherliebe. I suppose we could also comment on the large number of players here, lots of strings, woodwinds and percussion, and even a viola da gamba, a musical saw, and a harmonium. Yet the piece never gets especially loud. It’s small and intimate, as though only four players were playing at any one time. Again I tilt the bow-tie of respect to the Orchestra, who are able to exhibit considerable restraint and coolness as they try their utmost to honour the composer’s intentions.

Lastly, I will pay tribute to the inscrutability of Magnus Granberg. I find this music has an opaqueness that makes it hard to penetrate, despite its apparent fragility on the surface. Yet I am intrigued; and the music is imbued with his personality, it is not cold or distant. This was released along with another record by the Orchestra, composed by Michael Pisaro, to be reviewed in due course. I regard them as sister releases as they both have similar cover art too. Very good. From 19th November 2019.