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Gustavo Aguilar: unsettled on an old sense of place

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The title is nearly perfect; this music is truly unsettled on—really—any place or sense of it. You can't nail it down other than as a series of sound portraits about the relationship between composer and listener. It does invoke a sense of somewhere that feels familiar and very new at the same time.

Aguilar hails from Brownsville, Texas, and one might find something of the kind of Texas/Mexican colors of the composer's background, but you won't be there for long because the music is a reflection on change and impermanence. It's that old Eric Dolphy talk about the fact that once the music is out it's gone. Aguilar has composed these six pieces, but it feels as if they're being born every second. "Xochicalco is dedicated to the Mexican composer Julio Estrada, whose music finds new forms in Aztec culture and language; Aguilar has also found "the new out of a sense of spontaneous creation. He uses live electronics and also plays the flute and the teponaztl, a type of slit drum used in central Mexico by the Aztecs and related cultures. It's about memories and places but it's also about something more abstract.

Much of this music is about the transformation of particulars into less identifiable quantities and then back into something large and expansive—like our planet. Steve Reich, Giacinto Scelsi and other cultural personalities like the poet Wendell Berry are the sources of Aguilar's transformations, and every moment is rich with the wonder of creation. It's as if the real world were being seen through the lens of science fiction with the goal of deepening an understanding of our own being. Annotator Steven Schick sums it up perfectly when, in speaking of "Dirac's Theory says, "This is playing at its very best—a 'what-would happen-if' approach—that you wish would go on forever.

Track Listing: Xochicalco (fore Julian); Contrafactum for Scelsi; RoCoMaYoHa; Dirac's Theory; Suprachiasmatic Nuclei; Wendell's History.

Personnel: Gustavo Aguilar: teponaztli, flute, live electronics, plucked dulcimer, whistles, electric guitar, percussion, solo snare drums, glockenspiel; Phil Curtis: live processing; Nina Eidsheim: voice; Anne LeBaron: prepared harp; Mary Oliver: viola; Alan Lechusza: woodwinds; Steven Schich: voice.

Title: Unsettled On An Old Sense Of Place | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Henceforth Records

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