Based around his experiences performing archaeological research, where he was taken by the faint sounds of the city amidst the more sonically-static environment of his work at Domus Tiberiana in the Palatin, an oasis-like location in the centre of Rome, Swiss bassist/composer Daniel Studer developed Ianus
, a series of avant-garde pieces that combine new music composition with a creative music improvisational sensibility. The result is a work that challenges the senses, but is not the least bit successful in conveying, with its limited musical palette, the idea that past and present can and do commingle in a more timeless space.
With an unusual ensemble that consists of voice, clarinet, trombone, cello and double-bass, Studer's five extended pieces and two short fragments unfortunately come across as far too contrived and even worse, far too serious to be taken as more than sheer self-indulgence. With nothing of particular interest harmonically or rhythmically, one has to rely on the ambience that such work creates, and in this case it is that of generalized chaos, with little focus. And while music can certainly be used to convey disorder, the music presented here does little to draw even the most ambitious listener into its aural landscape.
The most successful pieces are, in fact, the two short fragments, in which one can hear, amidst a more spatial ambience, the sounds of the city in the far-off distance. Perhaps if Studer had expanded more on the success of these two miniatures, he might have been on to something.
Still, despite the worth of these two more introspective pieces, Ianus is, for the most part, completely incapable of even the most rudimentary revelation. It exemplifies the worst in "art music": music that starts nowhere, goes little further, yet seems so filled with implied self-worth and severity that one keeps waiting for something important to happen. Sadly, it never does.