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Phillip Jeck and Jacob Kierkegaard’s two sets at Ausland over the weekend showed how careful attention to texture and timing can yield great results. Working with a set of turntables and assorted electronics, they contructed hour-long pieces that focused on slowly evolving, highly layered soundfields. Following the Dave Edmunds principle that nothing works unless it is run at precisely the right tempo, the interlocking segments of the set were all paced perfectly, none overstaying their welcome or coming in too short. Even with the proliferation of electronic tools for use in live performance nowadays it is rare to hear them used so organically and with such complete assurance.

A few weeks earlier, Olaf Rupp‘s hour-long performance at NBI was a revealtory and hypnotising affair. Playing a nylon-string acoustic guitar he produced dense and overlapping sheets of sound and noise that were only occasionally interrupted by a few fragments of notes that might, under other circumstances, pass for melodies. Sounding completely fresh and without any electronic processing whatsoever he managed to give every laptop jockey in town a run for their money.

Not to be outdone in the amazing feats of acoustic sound category, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin’s performance of Awet Terterjan‘s Symphony Number 5 was a densely-packed slow release of thunderous musical energy. The piece has one of the widest dynamic ranges I have heard, ranging from long, barely audible drones to full-on, 110+ db crescendoes complete with a set of church bells brought in for the occasion. Featuring soloist Gaguik Muradjan on the Kamantcha (an oud-like string instrument), the orchestra delivered the thick and glassy harmonies in a way that allowed detailed listening but never fully exhaled, the tension in the piece always driving if forward. Though the performance was recorded by DeutschlandRadio Berlin for broadcast later this month, I doubt that a really good recording of the piece can ever be made; it is too much about the space of the performance and all that energy being expended at once. Terterjan’s music is gradually being performed more often, don’t miss a chance to hear it live if you can.

- Ed Osborn [Monday, April 7th, 2003]

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