GIACINTO SCELSI: Canti del Capricorno – Michiko Hirayama, voice/ Ulrich Krieger, saxophone/ Matthias Bauer, bass/ Jurgen Grozinger, percussion/ Roland Neffe, percussion – Wergo 6686, 58:12 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *:
This release is for uber-modern music specialists only. I can think of little attraction it will have for anyone else. Giacinto Scelsi (1905-88) was among the super-modernists who actually thought of himself as a “medium for the flow of sound”; perhaps emphasis is due on “sound” as opposed to “music”. This is not music in the normal sense, and these 20 “songs” have no texts at all, only lines of vocal expression of all types. The notes say it best: “Primal screams, courtly cooing, a gurgling and wheezing, ecstatic stammering, enticingly beautiful tone. Expressions of pain and pleasure. Microtonal fields of timbre and vexations. An endless search for in-between worlds. Listening one’s way into the soul.” Sounds like an afternoon at a local shopping mall to me, and the hyperbole found in the notes will not, I suspect, correspond to the reality of the listening experience.
Don’t get me wrong—for those really into the avant-garde scene (and you know who you are) this release might prove to have seminal value. It’s the first time this piece has been recorded complete (it enjoyed partial status back in the eighties on a recording that was highly regarded) and the main performer, Michiko Hirayama, knows Scelsi since 1957, has the original score to the work, and gives a definitive performance. Her voice, as the notes admit, is really shaky—she was 82 when this was recorded. The notes also state that the piece doesn’t need the type of sterling vocalizations that we are normally accustomed too, and I believe that as well, though I found an hour of this hard to take on any number of levels. Nonetheless the recording is very good and Scelsi fans should be pleased—all others should walk to the other side of the road. There are other and better ways to explore the avant-garde.
Mid-century performances, Eduard Erdmann, piano