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Ellen Burr: Duos

Nic Jones By

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The pleasing paradox at the heart of this music is one which encompasses warm-hearted austerity, but if this is a music of moods it's a damn sight more than mood music. Ellen Burr's conception of flute playing takes in extended technique and the vocalising perhaps most readily associated with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, although the degree of similarity between them is negligible.

This is most evident on the two solo pieces that effectively bookend the disc, where any reservations the listener might have regarding solo flute playing are overcome by Burr's grasp of dynamics and her willingness to explore the full potential of her instrument.

In the duo with drummer Jeanette Kangas the distinction between composition and improvisation is blurred to the point of irrelevance, and the degree of interaction between them is all the more effective for their awareness of the value of silence as a tool for musical impetus. In terms of comparison, their work calls to mind that of Roscoe Mitchell, though with significant reservations to take into account those fundamental differences of approach.

Perhaps inevitably the duos with bassoon and clarinet call to mind the formal aspects of the Western Classical tradition, but the paradox referred to at the head of this review ensures that the resulting music has its own identity.

By the same token the use of "prepared bass" in one duo calls to mind John Cage's preparation of the piano, especially in view of the fact that the preparatory process results in a similar extension of the instrument's dynamic and timbral range.

Ultimately Ellen Burr's music comes across as that of a restless and questing spirit in the best sense of the notion. The thought of more of it on disc is nothing but an enticing one, and the sooner it comes the better.


Track Listing: Ball Of Yarn; Canons-Cards-Canon I; Permutations

Personnel: Ellen Burr: C flute, alto flute; Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon; Andrew Pask: clarinet; Steuart Liebig: prepared bass; Jeanette Kangas: drums, percussion.

Title: Duos | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: pfMentum


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