CD review: Michael Pisaro’s Sometimes

First published in the Guardian on 27 April, 2017

Michael Pisaro: Sometimes
colectivo maDam (Wandelweiser)

Wandelweiser music feels extra appealing at the moment. Maybe the grace and quiet, honest fragility is a tonic against shouty geopolitical absolutism. American composer Michael Pisaro pinpoints his encounter with Wandelweiser stylistic brethren in the early 1990s as the most decisive moment in his career (“this literally saved years of my compositional life”). The way Kunsu Shim, Antoine Beuger and Jürg Frey were thinking about silence and subtle gradation was right up his street and he joined their gentle ranks. A piece like Sometimes — first of his 34-part Harmony Series — is typical of Pisaro’s intensely unhurried, quizzical house style. The score specifies only the durations and pauses between notes, so a lot of detail comes down to the performers. Here the vocalist and three electronic musicians of colectivo maDam pose warm-hued intervals like open questions. Pisaro says he hears the piece as “a (very long) song”, which makes the deep silences work like very long pauses for thought.