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Veryan Weston / Leo Svirsky / The Vociferous Choir: Different Tessellations

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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In the realm of tessellations—the juxtaposition of elements into a coherent pattern—the only ones that could match Different Tessellations in terms of intrigue and seduction—composed by Veryan Weston and recorded here by prodigiously talented pianist Leo Svirsky and the Vociferous Choir—is Maurits C. Escher's Circle Limit III. The Escher is visual art at its finest, a tantalizing woodcut standing in all its maddening glory, against all other two- and three-dimensional art. But even this barely compares to Weston's musical vision, which bristles with flowing genius, and is so seductive and singularly mindboggling.

Svirsky excels on "Tessellations I" and the Vociferous Choir, an outstanding a capella ensemble, brings "Tessellations II" to life. It would be fair to assume that Weston's definitive version recorded in 2003 (Emanem) should have stood alone, but Different Tessellations is a fortuitous phenomenon in that the first part of its scales, "Tessellations I," is delivered by a young pianistic genius, while "Tessellations II" is an eerily beautiful interpretation that emerges as an extraordinarily successful vocal experiment.

Different Tessellations is based on a series of 52 pentatonic scales, upon each of which the pianist (as co-composer in "Tessellations I") extrapolates, imbuing the music with a wonderful floating quality. Notes ascend and descend, shooting sideways, forwards and backwards as surprising phrases and lines that eventually form—not by planned design, but in a magnificent design nevertheless, as sublimely glacial cubist architecture. Although the third dimension is not the performer's personality, it remains a very personable characterization of the ghostly figure that roams the composition's realm. The variations multiply in space and time, also giving rise to a shimmering fourth dimension that is, in fact, the memory of the sound left behind after all is played and done. This is the pure sound in tones imagined by the composer, and has a glorious echo in the aftermath of the final note of the final scale of "Tessellations I."

"Tessellations II" is dramatically different. Seemingly guided by the spirit of its composer—who is also present to vocalize his improvisations with the a capella ensemble—this set of tessellations also explores the possibilities of improvising upon pre-established form, as with "Tessellations I." However, this series presents the prospect of ending up ad infinitum simply because the extrapolations are made by a group of human voices. Although no overtones are simultaneously sung, as in Tuvan and mugami scales, the very fact that multiple voices are heard creates its own sense of overtones and expands the palette of sound with marvelous abandon. The way this piece has been organized—using loops and cycles of sound—harks back to the polyphony of Renaissance contrapuntalists and, says its composer, the Pygmies of West Africa.

There is nothing like this music, in recent memory—not, in fact, since Bach wrote his "Goldberg Variations."

Track Listing: Tessellations I: Scales 1-6; Scales 6-14; Scales 14-22; Scales 23-27; Tessellations II: First Part: Scales 42-48; First Interlude: Scales 49-11; Second Part: Scales 12-19; Second Interlude: Scales 19-32; Third Part: Scales 33-41.

Personnel: Leo Svirsky: piano (1-4); Vociferous Choir (5-9): Franz Schmuck: voice (5-9), nose flute (9); Patrick Thurner: voice (5-9); Sofia Knezevic: voice (5-9); Annette Giesriegl; voice (5-9); Anoush Apoyan: voice (5-9); Siruan Küng: voice (5-9), beat-box (7); Iris Ederer: voice (5-9); Dorothea Jaburek: voice: (5-9); Veryan Weston: voice (5-9), nose flute (9).

Title: Different Tessellations | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Emanem


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