Benjamin Dwyer / Pete Gomes / Helen Kindred: KnowingUnknowing

John Eyles By

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The Dublin-based label Farpoint Recordings always takes great pride in its releases, lavishing time and love on their artwork, packaging, documentation and quality control. Never has that been truer than on KnowingUnknowing by guitarist-composer-writer Benjamin Dwyer, dancer Helen Kindred and film-maker Pete Gomes. In addition to its impressive artwork by graphic designer Nathan Somers, the sleeve also contains a thirteen-page academic paper by Dwyer as well as two pages each from Kindred and Gomes, all three being linked academically to Middlesex University London. While these writings are certainly enlightening about the work, some music enthusiasts may find slightly more documentation here than they are used to.

However, inside the sleeve there are also two discs, a seventy-five-minute CD of Dwyer acoustic guitar performances of seven pieces by other composers and three by himself, and a twenty-eight-minute monochrome DVD of Kindred dancing to an improvised Dwyer performance of his "KnowingUnknowing" composition, filmed by Gomes; an excerpt from the film can be seen in the YouTube clip below.

Altogether, the CD tracks and DVD show Dwyer to be an outstanding and inventive guitarist; whether playing another composer's score, improvising on another's piece or on his own, his fluid playing breathes life into his instrument so it produces a full rich sound which makes the music come alive and sing. Dwyer's occasional use of preparations and extended playing techniques, exemplified on the clip, are integrated with his conventional playing so they never feel like bolt-ons but a natural part of the whole. It is not difficult to hear why renowned bassist Barry Guy recruited Dwyer to his large international ensemble Blue Shroud Band, with whom he has recorded three albums.

The combination of Dwyer's music and Kindred's dance, both improvised, is firmly in the tradition of such innovative work as that by British guitarist Derek Bailey and Japanese dancer Min Tanaka in 1993 (which is still viewable on YouTube). However, in terms of combining music with dance, Dwyer and Kindred are undoubtedly at the cutting edge; the three-part "KnowingUnknowing," which they began developing in 2016, is a quantum leap up from anything that Bailey and Tanaka produced or envisaged.

Particularly fascinating is the enthralling nine-minute opening piece on the DVD, in which Dwyer and Kindred both perform blindfolded, thus underlining how in touch he is with his guitar, and she with her body and the performance space. Throughout, he is clearly mindful of her, as he noticeably ensures there is some form of pulse present in his guitar playing. Together, Dwyer and Kindred make the combination of music and dance seem unavoidably obvious, as each enhances the other in a perfect symbiosis. After repeatedly enjoying the contents of both discs here, only one reaction is possible: More soon, please!

Track Listing

Security Blanket; Anois’s Aris; Enharmonic Harmonics; Sonata a niente; Non in Fietta; Thirteen Little Things That Touch The Heart; Pre-Prelude for Morton Feldman (1226-1978); KnowingUnknowing I; KnowingUnknowing II; KnowingUnknowing III.


Benjamin Dwyer: guitar, prepared guitar, composer (8-10); David Fennessy: composer (1); Peter Moran: composer (2-3); Judith Ring: joint composer (3); Paul Hayes: composer (4-7).

Additional information

Title: KnowingUnknowing | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Farpoint Recordings




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