An Evening Such As This

Modern chamber music from the Swedish composer Magnus Granberg on Night will Fade and Fall Apart (THANATOSIS PRODUKTION THT15). It’s presented here across two discs – firstly the entire ensemble piece, then five individual parts from the work restated for the individual instruments, various forms of strings and percussion, either as solo or duo performances. It’s a recent commission from the Thanatosis Produktion label and written especially for the Tya Ensemble.

Granberg is one of those composers who operates at the intersection of composition and improvisation, which is probably why his work appears to Cyril Bondi and the Insub Meta Orchestra (see Als Alle Vögel Sangen Mein Sehnen Und Verlangen), or solo records by Anna Lindal who played on the Nattens Skogar record. The music does indeed exhibit some of the qualities we might associate with recent strains of minimal and reduced playing, and on the long ensemble piece the playing is restrained, respectful, and informed by an inner sense of stillness; the six players, including guitarist Finn Loxbo and violinist Josefin Runsteen, perform with grace and deliberation. We’re not here to try and prise apart such a delicate work to examine its internal workings, but I think it’s mostly been realised by the use of guidelines, written instructions to the players on how to organise the seven discrete blocks of musical information provided to them by Marcus Granberg. It seems his starting point was two popular songs – or at any rate, a very selective interpretation and re-use of these songs, and elements derived from them. One of them was a 1940s jazz standard by Victor Young and Ned Washington, which even I have heard of; the other one was much more obscure, written by a French medieval musician from the 14th century named Solage, whose work appeared in the Chantilly Codex.

It’s impressive enough that Granberg is so well-informed about these two extremes of musical endeavour, but it’s equally clever what he’s done with the musical information; he takes harmonic elements from one song, and rhythmic elements from another, and distils them into the building blocks to be played by the Tya Ensemble. I can just about grasp what this approach might entail, and it evidently does inform the way the music works; more than once we can discern a phenomenon like two or more rowboats pulling in different directions on the gently lapping shores of a lake. The method is demonstrated further on the second disk, where through the solo and duo pieces we can see how efficiently Granberg is able to re-use and recast his materials, or as he puts it “organised and presented in a multitude of different ways”. This isn’t to say the parts are all signs of equal value; rather it’s an exciting way of exploring new possibilities in musical arrangement. I think David Sylvian, who wrote the liner notes, may be on to something when he suggests that Granberg is capable of “gently undermining the pre-determined elements of composition”. Sylvian also reminds us about the general nature of the music here, with terms such as “melancholic”, “interior life of the individual”, and “meditative haunting stillness”. From 27th July 2022.

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