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Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard: Sikorsky

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Sikorsky is an ambitious and highly original orchestral piece for 18 musicians—8 clarinets, 4 drum kits, 4 double basses, trumpet and the alto sax of its composer and arranger, Danish, Copenhagen-based Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard. As on his previous release Vesper (2012), Løkkegaard is fascinated with the sound of clarinets and the sound of a closely-voiced clarinet ensemble plays a major role on his fifth release.

The title of the 30-minute composition is associated with the sound of the Sikorsky helicopter taking off. Key elements in its arrangements are interference and transformation. The interferences appear throughout the composition when the clarinet ensemble voices melt into another tone and a new, third tone appears, experienced immediately almost as having a physical bodily impact. The transformations are attempts to trick the audial senses. Løkkegaard wanted to manipulate the listener's perception of sound, and asked the musicians to suggest sounds that push the sonic envelopes of their instruments. In doing so bowing of a cymbal can sound as a deep-toned double bass, the bowing on the upper part of a double bass strings can sound as the low register of the clarinet, and breathing through the clarinet mouthpiece can sound as a whispering trumpet.

The orchestra—comprised by some of the best, young Danish improvisers—executes Løkkegaard's composition with great focus to detail and commanding discipline. This profound, meditative journey into the essence of music making transcends conventional definitions of genres and form. It is close in its spirit to such contemporary composer's works as György Ligeti's orchestral explorations of micropolyphonic textures ("Atmosphères," for example, known for its part in the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey), than to avant-garde forms of improvisation.

The slow, minimalist process of producing sound and shaping it, including the investigation of its timbre, resonance and colors offer a new way to experience music. Music as a basic and simple transformation of delicate, almost transparent fragments of sound, interacting, interfering and transforming into new sounds, with minor dramatic peaks. Sikorsky suggests an uncompromising tone poem that translates dream-state images, almost psychedelic ones, into nuanced sounds. Sounds that becomes substantive entities, that engulf the listener, challenging with a new mode of listening, in new dimensions of time and space. Moreover, the orchestra is not attached to any of these sounds, only to the process of creating and mutating these sounds.

Yet the unique effect of this highly original sonic experience lingers on. Highly recommended. As a bonus the score and graphical roadmap is included in the sleeve.

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