EIVIND BUENE: Into the Void – Poing/The Norwegian Wind Ensemble/Christian Eggen – LAWO W LWC1068, 57:56 [Distr. by Allegro] (2/10/15) **1/2:
I have heard some of the music of Norwegian Eivind Buene before and, honestly, I respect and admire his creativity but his music makes for hard listening. It reminds me a bit of some of the very open-ended improvisatory structures that used to come out in the late ‘60s with music by Stockhausen or Mauricio Kagel and so forth.
This work, Into the Void, is, essentially, an hour-long improvisation for a ‘solo’ ensemble with and within a larger ensemble. The solo ensemble, “Poing,” consists of saxophone(s), accordion, double bass and drums. Buene explains that he has been friends with this very talented group for many years and they have collaborated before and he jokes a bit in the booklet notes that he, Eivind, has been ‘kicked out’ of a few groups for not being a very good player. Nonetheless, Poing and the Norwegian Winds are very talented people and the composer clearly has a vision of what improvisatory music could or should be.
The “score” to Into the Void is not a fully-notated document but is rather a text that describes (in his words) “the progression of interaction between soloists and ensemble.” The score is divided into six “chapters” wherein some actual notations are used as ‘footnotes’ to the text and Buene explains that one of his essential questions in writing this work was “What will happen if…” In this case, he elaborates to say that the main two “what ifs” are ‘what would a group of musicians do with what are primarily written instructions?’ and ‘what would happen if the composer gives the performers broad license to improvise freely in real time?’
To me, the second question answers the first and is somewhat predictable. Any absence of traditional and rigid notation will always lead to improvisation of some sort and improvisation is always in the control of those doing it. So, fortunately, the members of Poing – in particular – do lay down some really nice “hard core” jazz moments as in the third Chapter. The Norwegian Wind Ensemble provides what is mostly a backdrop for the proceedings. In between the truly abstract moments are some wildly free jazz moments such as these.
Like all music of this type, what occurs is unique to the moment, although in recording there were apparently a few renditions or “takes” over a few days in the studio. I have heard Eivind’s Possible Cities and Essential Landscapes and his style of a sort of planned chaos continues with Into the Void. I cannot truthfully say I dislike it; in part because I have heard a lot of music in this vein. I do think it is important for me to admit, though, that this is a hard listen. It is not the kind of thing I would put on to just listen to, casually.
If one is not used to a fairly radical vision with some sounds that are a bit iconoclastic; this is probably not for you. I have been consistently impressed with the sound quality that comes from the engineers at LAWO.