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Andrea Neumann: Pappelallee 5

John Eyles By

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On the surface, the recording of this half-hour long piece by Andrea Neumann on inside piano should have been easy. Had it been recorded in a recording studio, it would have been and the end result would be very different to what's presented here. Instead of a studio, Neumann opted to work on it in her apartment and to integrate the sounds of the building into her composition. As she lives in a block mostly occupied by musicians (with the CD title possibly her address) with neighbors including Tony Buck and Axel Dorner, there is no shortage of sounds leaking in from the adjoining apartments.

The inside piano piece itself is meticulously constructed, utilizing an extensive range of inside techniques that include: striking single sustained notes that ring out bell-like tones, striking the piano frame which causes many notes to resonate simultaneously and exciting the wire-wound stings lengthwise to create a dramatic percussive effect. Neumann also employs electronic tones to complement those from the piano.

To capture the sounds from surrounding apartments (which include snatches of piano, flute, guitar and trumpet plus—apparently—a CD by the F-ck Buttons ( an experimental noise duo from the UK ), Neumann had to set a high recording level, resulting in considerable levels of hiss at certain points. The whole piece is very episodic, punctuated by prolonged periods of silence which generate tension. Ultimately, the piece sounds more like an electronic score than a piano piece.

Overall, this is an intriguing work that provides a fascinating listening experience and stands up well to repeated listening. It also raises interesting questions about the contrasts between real and recorded silence and about the role that background noise now plays in all of our lives. For those reasons, composer John Cage would doubtless have relished it.


Track Listing: Pappelallee 5.

Personnel: Andrea Neumann: inside piano, mixing desk.

Title: Pappelallee 5 | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Absinth


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