Luis Tabuenca and Devika Wickremesinghe’s New York performance/world premiere of Ellen C. Covito’s works, has been featured in the book “Ellen C. Covito: Works After Weather.”
Luis Tabuenca: Volavérunt
As a performer and composer, Spanish percussionist Luis Tabuenca focuses on the contemporary and experimental, blurring distinctions between improvised and composed music. He has studied in esteemed modern ensembles such as the Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Ensemble Recherche and he has written music for solo percussion, contemporary dance, documentaries and visual artists.
Volavérunt is based on the Spanish artist Francisco Goya’s print series “Los Caprichos,” created in 1797 and ’98. Goya used these prints to condemn the universal follies and foolishness in Spanish society, referring to the predominance of superstition, the ignorance and inabilities of various members of the ruling class, and the decline of rationality. Some of the prints even have anticlerical themes.
Each of the nine pieces is based on one of Goya’s prints, and each offers a different spirit and compositional strategy. In some of the pieces Tabuenca emphasized completely defined elements, while on others he left decisions to the musicians, enabling them to influence outcomes with their own individual language.
Tabuenca succeeded in beautifully balancing the composed and improvised elements. Eva Lootz’s suggestive vocals on “Tántalo,” charge the piece with mysterious tension. The wild, playful solo vocals and cello improvisations of Zulaima Boheto on “Chitón” are simply inspiring. Tabuenca’s quiet, meditative solo vibes on “Correción” and the nervous percussion work on “Autorretrato” are masterful pieces that juggle between thoughtful composed elements, subtle sonic searches and creative, intuitive, improvised freedom full of nuanced drama, arresting tension and vibrant colors. The whole ensemble turns the title piece into quiet, resonating sound poem that lingers in mind long after its end.
Highly original, unique work.
Matt Schulz, The Squid’s Ear, 14-05-2012
The progenitors of forward thinking sound have always looked to their surroundings, natural or man-made, for inspiration and new ways to express themselves. Bird song inspired the likes of Messiaen and Dolphy, the industrial revolution informed the compositions of Varese and the riotous clang of Neubauten, and still a further example can be heard in the electromagnetic data recorded by NASA space probes, ultimately comprising the “Music of the Spheres” anthology. In short-simply paying attention to your aural surroundings can reveal avant garde music of the highest order. The daily collision of sound objects, voices, and nature itself easily resembles a sort of musique concrete if your ears are tuned to it.
So what happens when master percussionist Luis Tabuenca and co-conspirator Wade Matthews adorn similarly found sounds, collected in the Aragon region of Southern Spain, with an arsenal of percussion and sound processing? The results are a marvelous re-appropriating of disembodied noise environments every bit as varied as Aragon itself — an area that claims arid river basins and permafrost alike as its terrestrial makeup. Deep bass drones, clattering sounds, speech, sprinkler systems (?) and more take on new sonic meanings, giving birth to music that recalls everything from La Monte Young to Black Dice. The duo have created a lovingly artful snapshot of this region of Tabuenca’s youth by re-arranging the aural landscape into new sonic terrains that buzz, howl, and chatter, in hopes of preserving memories of a less polluted past.
Field recordings often reveal their true depth in the present listening environment — your car, the train, your living room, or another locale. We don’t always realize the role context plays in hearing music. Remove the original spacial context from the sound source and suddenly it becomes something wholly other. After all, what is music anyway? A series of harmonies, melodic movement, lyrics? Or is it something more intangible and abstract? The resulting conjured emotions are the real gauge of quality.Aragon Punto Cero, perhaps more so than other proper “music”, tells many stories, and sounds thrillingly imaginative. Highly recommended.
Dan Warburton, The WIRE, #337 (March 2012, p.70)
“In making these portraits of places in Aragón,” writes Madrid base American composer and improviser Wade Matthews of this project with local percussionist Luis Tabuenca and ethnomusicologist Ana Maria Alarcón-Jiménez, “we did not set out to derive the sounds from the place, but rather to built the place with the sounds it embodies and others we were making as we listened.” There are no pictures of the local inhabitants, human, amphibian, or insect; nor is this straightforward ‘cinema for the ear’, as the complexity of Matthews’s digital synthesis often transforms his raw field recordings beyond recognition and Tabuenca’s colourful percussion further breaks down any sense of traditional narrative. The reference, then, is not photography, but painting. Both musicians openly acknowledge the influence of the cubist notion of collage, and each of these resulting eight tableaux is intricate and involving, beautifully paced and immaculately sequenced.
James Wyness – 09.03.2012
There’s a lot that one could write about an album like this, primarily because the artists are very clear on their intentions and I’m in the privileged position of knowing what these intentions are. Related to this of course, is the thorny issue of whether the album achieves what it sets out to achieve.
Something I often forget to do in reviews is to let the reader know in general terms what to expect. In playing this cd for the first time I expected to hear some ‘nice’ field recordings, perhaps typical of Aragon or at least leading me to believe they were typical of Aragon, along with some ‘musicalising’of the sound world (there is indeed percussion and digital synthesis at play) generated by these field recordings.
This expectation, playing on the notion that somehow a landscape will print itself as sound directly to tape, is played upon by a host of artists or more accurately by the labels that represent the artists. For example we might have Scandinavian artists whose work, because of the stark beauty of the Nordic terrain, the topography or even the light, must surely in turn somehow convey that same sense of stark beauty as the landscape portrayed in the images. This sonic art version of judging the book by its cover is a trend in the ascendancy.
Despite there are being no images or image filled booklets with the cd, I still expected to hear Aragon. Which I didn’t. Instead I was treated an engaging and fairly original twist on the whole notion of representing what is unique about place or places by means of sound. A twist in which the artists are in a sense trying to have their cake and eat it vis-à-vis the field recordings, on the one hand letting some of the representational aspects of the recordings unfold, yet holding back enough by means of abstracting from the recordings and having them function as strands in a tightly spun musical fabric.
I know from correspondence that the artists were influenced by specific historical practices in the visual arts. I won’t go into detail here, but it’s important to acknowledge that they are in the business of making ‘a series of sound portraits, not supposedly objective depictions of the sonic characteristics of given locations’. Furthermore ‘the field recordings were fundamental, but they were important as sound sources, not as determinants in the structure, or even the nature, of each location’s sonic narrative’. This is interesting, the use of the word ‘narrative’, because my reading of many of the individual works is that they did indeed offer a narrative, in the sense of telling me something about the various locations, commented upon by music from the pair, almost like a form of abstract musical theatre or theatrical storytelling with musical accompaniment. Of course that’s the problem with making art – you never can tell what people will make of your work, can you?
So after all that I’m happy to say that broadly speaking and quite consistently throughout the work, the artists’ intentions were well met.
As for the sound world of Punto Cero Aragón, well, it’s an eclectic world, at the same time exciting, dynamic and unpredictable in matters of timbre, sound sources, density and texture. We have instrumental, electronic and environmental sound, dialogue and other vocal snippets in all manner of juxtapositions and layers. There are passages of great virtuosity in the percussion, balanced by passages of admirable restraint. If I were to draw any direct correspondences between the sound world created by the artists, which of course has some of them in it, and the location, I’d say that we are given here an enthusiastic picture of Aragón, full of vitality, variety and great beauty.
What I would like to do if I had more time and space would be to take a range of work like this, where field recordings are used in innovative ways, and to investigate some of the intentions behind the works, looking less at aesthetic issues (for example in relation to this album I know from a knowledge of previous works that Matthews is clever enough a musician to have figured out what ‘works’ and what doesn’t) and perhaps more at the relationships between the following elements and at the notion of agency in relation to each individually: the index (artwork) and what or where it points to; the artists(s); the prototype, in this case aspects of the soundscape of Aragon; the recipient or patient, most often the listener. This terminology – indexes, prototypes and so on – isn’t my own. I’ve taken from Alfred Gell, whose work Art and Agency, an Anthropological Theory, is, or should be, essential reading for anyone who works with or has interests in field recording contextualised as ‘art’ and who wants to move on from purely (and largely what we might call Western) aesthetic views of contemporary art.
There is a profound difference between this kind of work and work using similar resources which aligns itself, consciously though seldom acknowledged as such, with the tradition of the avant-garde (yes, there is such a thing). Here the work is ‘about’ many things at once. I say this in the firm knowledge that everything which takes place in the context of social interaction (such as contemporary art) is always about more than just itself. But this is admittedly a large topic outside the scope of this little review. Too often in the avant-garde, the work is ‘about’ very little except the artist and their career, which on reflection is much more an attribute of the arrière-garde.
Finally, this work gets better the more you listen, a rare treat in itself.
Aurelio Cianciotta – Neural 42
In the form of a reflection on emotional, psychological and physiological involvements with the words “home” and “territory”, the sounds that underlie this project include words, narrated stories, cracklings, shouts, croaks of frogs, whirlpools and winces of the most variegated kinds. Field recordings, percussion, raw and polished electronic elaborations – these are some of the sounds populating “Punto Cero Aragón”. A sort of restless setting has been formed; the result of a many-sided and experimental approach with abundant ambient influences. The entire project has been coordinated by the ethnomusicologist Ana Maria Jimenez-Alarcón and funded by the Aragona region, part of the Spanish Pyrenees, a land of great contrasts and magnificent landscapes. The corresponding auditory world is equally rich, with a very broad palette of frequencies and coordinates. Insects, swishes, barely recognizable sounds, and dark, dynamic textures have been interwoven in a very original and sensitive way – the result of the mastery of Luis Tabuenca: drummer, improviser and all-round performer, who here integrates effectively with the electronic modulations of Wade Matthews, a sound artist who has rethought his routes and musical languages and is a fine exponent of real-time creation. The more dilated and insisted moments – the notes broken by long silences – are followed by broad and harmonious resonances, characteristic in their timbre and structure, happily averse to every normal custom and harmonic scale.
Julien Héraud – 05.01.2012
Coordonné par l’ethnomusicologue Ana Maria Alarcón-Jiménez et financé par le gouvernement d’Aragón (je le signale car l’Etat ne s’investit que trop rarement dans de vraies entreprises artistiques), le duo Luis Tabuenca (percussions) et Wade Matthews (field-recordings et synthèse digitale) tente de retranscrire l’atmosphère sonore de l’Aragón, communauté pyrénéenne du nord de l’Espagne. Tabuenca a quitté l’Espagne depuis quelques années, mais Wade Matthews y est installé depuis 1989. La retranscription est donc étrange, il s’agit d’enregistrements faits par un immigré de longue date, retravaillés en collaboration avec un percussionniste émigré. Nostalgie de l’un, émerveillement naïf de l’autre. Les émotions avec lesquelles sont travaillés ces divers sons s’entremêlent sans cesse dans des entrecroisements complexes: tandis que l’un pointe la densité des phénomènes sonores naturels, l’autre explore la rythmicité du castillan, si une atmosphère festive voit le jour, elle peut vite être contrebalancée par une ambiance sombre et inquiétante.
Au niveau sonore, nous avons un peu de tout: des insectes, des bruissements, vagues, eau, des sons difficilement reconnaissables, des bribes de conversation, des bandes accélérées et modifiées analogiquement, des percussions pulsées, frottées, rythmiques ou lisses. Le duo Tabuenca/Matthews a misé sur la diversité et la variété des sources sonores pour certainement mieux déployer la richesse de l’univers aragonais. Wade Matthews est assez connu pour l’originalité de ses timbres et de ses méthodes qu’il ne souhaite pas dévoiler; et quant à Luis Tabuenca, c’est la première fois que j’entends ce jeune percussionniste, mais autant dire que j’attends ses prochains enregistrements avec impatience. En tout cas, le dialogue entre les deux musiciens est serré, l’entente est très sensible et une certaine passion commune pour l’Aragón semble réunir musicalement les deux artistes que l’on peine souvent à distinguer dans ce jeu de sonorités évocatrices et poétiques qui s’imbriquent avec précision, délicatesse et poésie. Un dialogue dense, plein d’attention à l’autre et aux sons (tant à leur texture qu’à leur signification), et surtout très riche, à l’image de l’univers aragonais retranscrit. Entre musique électronique, ambiant, musique concrète et électroacoustique, huit pièces enregistrées dans divers endroits et retravaillées de manières toutes aussi diverses, huit pièces riches d’émotions variées, de timbres, de dynamiques et de textures aussi diverses que l’Aragón peut en offrir. Recommandé!
Coordinado por la etnomusicóloga Ana María Alarcón-Jiménez y financiado por el gobierno de Aragón (lo señalo porque el Estado invierte con demasiado poca frecuencia en auténticas empresas artísticas), el dúo de Luis Tabuenca (percusión) y Wade Matthews (grabaciones de campo y síntesis digital) busca retranscribir el atmósfera sonora de Aragón, comunidad pirineo del norte de España. Tabuenca ha estado fuera de España desde hace unos años pero Wade Matthews lleva instalado allí desde 1989. La retranscripción es, pues, extraña, ya que se trata de grabaciones hechas por un inmigrante de larga estancia retrabajadas en colaboración con un percusionista emigrado. Nostalia de uno y fascinación inocente del otro. Las emociones con las cuales han elaboradas estos sonidos diversos se entremezclan incesantemente para formar tejidos complejos : mientras que uno subraya la densidad de los fenómenos sonoros naturales, el otro explora la naturaleza rítmica del castellano, y si un atmosfera festivo ve la luz, puede ser rápidamente contrarrestado por un ambiente sombrío e inquietante.
Al nivel sonoro, tenemos un poco de todo: insectos, murmullos, olas, agua—sonidos difíciles de reconocer, fragmentos de conversaciones, cintas aceleradas y modificadas analogicamente, percusiones pulsadas, frotadas, rítmicas o no. El duo Tabuenca/Matthews ha apostado por la diversidad y la varided de las fuentes sonoras certeramente para mejor desplegar la riqueza del universo aragonés. Wade Matthews es bastante conocido por la orginalidad de sus timbres y de sus métodos, que no desea revelar. En cuanto a Luis Tabuenca, es la primera vez que oigo este joven percusionista pero debo decir que espero impaciente sus próximas grabaciones. En todo caso, el diálogo entre los dos músicos es estrecho, su entendimiento es muy sensible y una cierta pasión compartida por Aragón parece unir musicalmente a los dos artistas que a menudo cuesta distinguir, el uno del otro, en este juego de sonoridades evocativas y poéticas que se imbrican con precisión, delicadez y poesía. Un diálogo denso, lleno de atención al otro y a los sonidos (tanto sus texturas como sus significados), y sobre todo, muy rica, a imagen del universo aragonés retranscrito. Entre música electrónica, ambient, música concreta y electroacústica, ocho piezas grabadas en distintos lugares y retrabajadas e maneras igualmente distintos, ocho piecas ricas en emociones variadas, timbres, dinámicas y texturas tan diversas como puede ofrecer Aragón. ¡Recomendado!
Coordinated by ethnomusicologist Ana María Alarcón-Jiménez and financed by the government of Aragon (I mention this because the State only very rarely invests in truly artistic undertakings), the duo of Luis Tabuenca (percussion) and Wade Matthews (field-recordings and digital synthesis) seeks to retranscribe the sonic atmosphere of Aragón, a Pyrenees community in northern Spain. Tabuenca was outside Spain for a few years, but Wade Matthews settled there in 1989. The retranscription is thus strange, consisting of recordings made by a long-time immigrant and reworked in collaboration with an emmigrant percussionist. So, the nostalgia of one and the naive wonder of the other. The emotions with whch these diverse sounds are crafted are continually intermingled with complex intertwinings, and, while one emphasizes the density of natural sound phenomena, the other explores the rhythmic nature of Castillian, so that, while a festive mood can emerge, it can just as quickly be overturned by a somber and disquieting atmosphere.
In terms of sound, there’s a little of everthing: insects, rustling, waves, water and sounds difficult to recognize, bits of converstaion, tape speeded up and modified analogically, pulsed, rubbed, rhythmic or non-rhythmic percussion. The Tabuenca/Matthews duo has drawn on the diversity and variety of sound sources—certainly the best way to unfold the richness of the Aragonese universe. Wade Matthews is well-known for the originality of his timbres and for his methods, which he prefers not to reveal; as for Luis Tabuenca, this is the first time I’ve heard this young percussionist, but I must say that I am eager to hear his coming recordings. At any rate, the dialog between these two musicians is tight. Their understanding is very sensitive and a certain shared passion for Aragon seems to musically join these two artists that are sometimes difficult to tell apart in the play of evocative and poetic sonorities interwoven with precision, delicacy and poetry. A dense dialog filled with attention for each other and for the sounds (both their textures and their meanings), and most of all, very rich, in the image of the retranscribed world of Aragon. Between electronic music, ambient, musique concrète and electro-acoustics, eight pieces recorded in different places and reworked in just as many ways, eight pieces rich in varied emotions, timbres, dynamics and textures as diverse as Aragon can offer. Recommended!
Guillaume Belhomme / Le son du grisli – Jan.2012
Punto Cero Aragón raconte à force de field recordings, de percussions et d’un peu d’électronique, l’Aragon dont Luis Tabuenca est originaire. S’il œuvre sous le regard de l’ethnomusicologue Ana Maria Alcaron-Jimenez, le duo que fle percussionniste forme ici avec Wade Matthews construit un disque qui perd au gré des secondes de sa substance documentaire.
Après un concert d’aigus, une faune enregistrée se fait entendre. Ce seront ensuite des bavardages, des martèlements d’artisans, des rumeurs aragonaises, qui installeront leur réalité dans un décor d’inserts électroniques et de percussions parallèles. Ainsi l’Aragon peint par Matthews et Tabuencan’existe pas : mais il est la substance de ces plateaux contrastés aujourd’hui consignés sur disque. Les reliefs de la province changeront désormais au gré de ces constructions expérimentales, morceaux d’ambient ou d’electronica dérangée que le duo a rêvé pour elle.
Punto Cero Aragón cuenta, a base de grabaciones de campo, percusion y un poco de electrónica, el Aragón del que es originario Luis Tabuenca. Si bien trabaja bajo la mirada de etnomusicóloga Ana María Alarcón-Jiménez, el dúo que este percusionista forma aquí con Wade Matthews construye un disco que pierde por segundos su sustancia documental.
Tras un concierto de agudos, una fauna grabada se hace escuchar. Luego vienen conversaciones, al martilleo de artesanos, rumores aragoneses que instalarán su realidad en un decorado de inserciones electrónicas y percusiones paralelas. Así, el Aragón pintado por Matthews y Tabuenca no existe en la realidad, pero es la sustancia de las pistas contrastadas que consituyen el disco. La topología de la provincia cambia a medida que se despliegan las construcciones experimentales, trozos de ambient o electrónica perturbada que el dúo ha soñado para ella.
Using Field recordings, percussion and a little bit of electronics, Punto Cero Aragón speaks of Luis Tabuenca’s native Aragon. Working under the gaze of ethnomusicologist Ana María Alarcón-Jiménez, the percussionist’s duo with Wade Matthews constructs a disc that loses its documentary substance by the second.
After a concert of high frequencies, recorded fauna makes its appearance. This is followed by conversations, craftsmen hammering, echos of Aragon that bring their reality to a backdrop of electronic inserts and parallel percussion. Thus, the Aragon painted by Matthews and Tabuenca doesn’t really exist: but it is the substance of these contrasting tracks now out on CD. The topology of the province change continually with the unfolding of the experimental constructions, bits of ambient or deranged electronica the duo dreams up for it.