Andrius Arutiunian, Seven Common Ways of Disappearing, Switzerland, Hallow Ground, HG2304 limited edition vinyl LP (2023)
Intriguingly the work on this album – the first for Armenian-Lithuanian pianist / composer Andrius Artiunian – is based on the ideas and the philosophy of Armenian-born Greek-Russian mystic / philosopher / teacher / composer George Gurdjieff (born circa 1866 – 1877, died 1949). Written for two musicians, a retuned piano and analogue electronics, the composition’s score was developed by Arutiunian using the enneagram, a model for ordering the world and human personality originally introduced by Gurdjieff to generate sacred dances (known as Gurdjieff movements) that represented cosmic truths that audiences could watch and learn from. Arutiunian translates these movements and dances into gestures and tones generated by two musicians at a piano tuned to Gurdjieff’s specifications.
The album is split into two tracks “Forwards” and “Backwards”, respectively being the score performed forwards and the score then performed backwards. The “Forwards” track is a most uncommon creature, delicate in tone, light in style, and altogether confounding in its performance. It’s very much like jewels cast upon an ocean current, buoyed up and down by waves, continuously tinkling away, while a distant blurry drone buzzes in the background. There can be an insistent, urgent quality in the music, as if it’s actually some sort of communication medium through which aliens from afar are trying to warn humanity of some catastrophe soon to hit Earth. There appears to be no obvious melody or structure to the ebb and flow of the tinkling music, and this forces listeners to pay very close attention to it. Soft droning noise textures behind the piano help give the music a sense of direction and a focus for audiences.
“Backwards” appears a darker and more atmospheric work redolent of the wide open desert under a setting sun. The piano trills away in light notes while a deeper tune plays on the keys. Like the first track, the work appears to have no really definite melodies but instead features bleepy-bloopy blocks of piano tones while a drone buzzes away behind the music and a piano melody loop repeats itself over and over.
A minimalist approach to the music’s generation results in a fairly sparse style with clean pure-toned dollops of tone from the piano, contrasting strongly with the blurry, buzzy notes from outside the recording studio. The repetition can be maddening for some listeners and perhaps both tracks could have been edited for length, though I suppose that would result in a work completely at odds with the intentions behind it. The second track does have its moments where the sounds of the piano and keyboard electronics instruments complement each other well. The recording can be very monotonous and repetitive in parts but this very repetition along with the piano’s pure tones proves to be very hypnotic as well.