TTW#89 – Mark Fell – Focal Music #3, #4, #5a, #5b
Cassette only – limited edition of 150 copies
SOLD OUT AT SOURCE
Featuring Laura Cannell, Sandro Mussida and Aby Vulliamy.
A1: Focal Music #4 with Aby Vulliamy, Viola, Leeds 2015, 11:14
A2: Focal Music #3 with Laura Cannell, Overbowed Violin, Newcastle 2015, 20:41
B1: Focal Music #5a with Sandro Mussida, Piano, Karlsruhe 2016, 15:32
B2: Focal Music #5b with Sandro Mussida, Piano, Karlsruhe 2016, 15:20
Mark Fell writes: “The series of works on this cassette began in 2011 when I attended a workshop/residency programme led by the British sound artist, composer and performer Jan Hendrickse. During a workshop session I played a pattern generating system via headphones to a drummer, Patrik Jarlestam, who played a single snare drum. The basic premise of the work was that the performer should follow the pattern as accurately as possible, and to see what happened at the moments when the pattern changed – i.e. to foreground the performers attempts to follow the pattern and their ability to cope with the subtle yet unusual changes.
The pattern itself consists of a single percussive sound. The timing of the sound is determined by a list of five values ranging from one to 11 that represent timing intervals. These values are stepped through one at a time and multiplied by a base value, typically 80 milliseconds, to give the following possible timing intervals: 80, 160, 240, 320, 400, 480, 560, 640, 720, 800 and 880 milliseconds. A typical pattern might consist of something like 240, 240, 480, 320 and 320 which makes a total loop length of 1.6 seconds. If a single value is changed, for example element one becomes 560, the overall loop length extends to 1.92 seconds.
Although the patterns are relatively simple, and as a listener one can assimilate their form quite easily, it can be quite difficult to play along to them especially at those moments of change. So the piece can be thought of as a kind of intervention into the musical training and embedded musical vocabularies that the performer brings to the work. The point of the piece is not a perfect recital, but the difficulties that the performer encounters and the musical moments that these difficulties produce.
Unfortunately I believe there is no recording of Jarlestam’s first performance of this piece – “Focal Music #1”. The piece was performed a second time by Okkyung Lee during her residency at Café Oto, London 2015. “Focal Music #3” was performed with Laura Cannell at Baltic 39 (Newcastle, 2015) for Broken Telephone, an event which formed part of Peter J. Evans’ exhibition Across Islands, Divides. “Focal Music #4” was performed with Aby Vulliamy at The Leeds Library (Leeds, 2015) at Peter Gidal/Mark Fell: Film/Sound organised by Pavilion and curated by Will Rose. “Focal Music #5a” and “Focal Music #5b” were recorded with Sandro Mussida at Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (Karlsruhe, 2016) in the Kubus studio. The piece, performed on piano, takes two forms: the first based upon a six note pitch set of which any two notes are played at the same time; the second is formed of 5 discreet layers each with a single note. These were played in isolation following the same guide pattern and then later overlaid to form a single pseudo chord.” – Mark Fell, South Yorkshire, 4th May 2016
Recording Information: Focal Music #3 and #4 were recorded with DPA 4060 microphone string mount, DPA 4060 microphone boundary mount and Zoom H4N portable recorder. Focal Music #5a was recorded with Schoeps MSTC 6 ORTF microphone, Millennia pre-amplifier and RME digital to analogue conversion. Focal Music #5b was recorded with 2 Neumann KM184 microphones in bass/mid configuration, Millennia pre-amplifier and RME digital to analogue conversion. ZKM recording engineer Anton Kossjanenko. Tracks mastered for this release by Phil Julian.
The Tapeworm present four recordings of Mark Fell’s Focal Music, wherein Mark plays a pattern generating system thru headphones to Laura Cannell (Violin), Sandro Mussida (Piano) and Aby Vulliamy (Viola), respectively, who play along in real time, with results documenting their attempts to negotiate the pattern’s subtle and unusual changes.
Focal Music stems from a workshop in which Mark participated, led by British sound artist, composer and performer Jan Hendrickse, where Mark played the pattern generating system to drummer Patrik Jarlestam, who followed the pattern on a single snare drum.
We won’t go into the detail of the values set for those patterns, but they basically get quite tricky to play along with, especially when the timing intervals change, pushing the player to draw on their own musical training and sonic vocabulary to fill those quantum shifts, not in the pursuit of a “perfect recital”, but, rather to illustrate the difference between rigid systems, received knowledge and human nature.
Ostensibly, aesthetically, the pieces may bear no resemblance to Fell’s signature electronic palette or the rhythmic resolution of his dancefloor-oriented releases. However, thru the players’ attempts to keep in sync with Fell’s favoured, unconventional meters, and the array of strange timbral quirks that their efforts throw up, it’s possible to detect Fell’s conceptual input in each performance’s stringency and minimalist tension, and in the way in which they unflinchingly highlight what lies between illusion and reality, and the way we mis/interpret that space between.
The Tapeworm enlist Mark Fell for what is sure to become a jewel in their expanding discography, Focal Music #3, #4, #5a, #5b is (what from listening we imagine to be) SND UKG style rhythmic sketches fed through headphones to musicians Laura Cannell (Violin), Sandro Mussida (Piano) and Aby Vulliamy (Viola) who play along in real-time.
Much like his Object Relations 7" from last year, Focal Music is almost like Mark Fell Unplugged. Whilst it's not his original music coming out of the deck, the sharp of hearing of you will instantly recognise the tonal design as something only Fell could muster.
It realises for a transfixing listen that moves between a huge array of emotions, from Aby Vulliamy's Viola and Laura Cannell's Overbowed Violin with its eyes down melancholy seeping through the edges, to Sandro Mussida's strict Piano notes sharply reigning down like Eno's Thursday Afternoon experiencing a heavy Thunderstorm.
Rhythmically pleasing in all the right places.