AN 2 9880 Orbis


They spoke about it

Album information

Orbis. Is there a more perfect shape than a circle?

The title of Valérie Milot’s seventh CD is both a nod to the circle of valued musical colleagues she has worked with over the years and a reference to the loop as a musical concept, a seemingly simple melodic or rhythmical motif that serves as both framework and source of inspiration. The disc features six complementary approaches, from John Cage’s ethereal In a Landscape to Frank Zappa’s turbulent G-Spot Tornado, not to mention the premiere of Antoine Bareil’s Castille 1382, written especially for Milot. The recording also marks her 30th birthday, which she celebrates here with some long-standing musical partners and dear friends.

Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich began his career as an avant-gardist (he notably honed his craft in Rome with Luciano Berio) before adopting a more introverted and consciously melodic and subtle approach. Written at the request of Erica Goodman, who premiered the work at Toronto’s New Music Concerts series in 1981, El Dorado evokes the mythical city with gold-paved streets and conjures up numerous lively images. “The harp has this soft, contemplative side that transports you into dreamland”, explains Mozetich.

To convey the instrument’s special, fluid colour, he was guided by the idea of perpetual, organic motion, employing a minimalist language that plays off the opposition and complementarity between soloist and orchestra. “Colours appear and disappear in the fabric of the piece.” Some might be surprised to find a Gentle Giant song on this disc. Active primarily in the 1970s, this British progressive rock group of multi instrumentalists was known for its experimental approach and for borrowing from the classical and medieval repertoire. References to early music abound in the joyful and festive As Old as You’re Young, arranged here by Antoine Bareil and Milot for harp, violin, double bass, marimba, and percussion.

The joy of the musicians’ friendship comes through clearly. Castille 1382 refers to the year that Eleanor of Aragon, Queen of Castile, died. The work is inspired by Jacob de Senleches’s La harpe de mélodie, a virelai in the sophisticated and complex 14th-century style called ars subtilior, in which the score is often integrated into a drawing (a harp in this case). Antoine Bareil nevertheless wished to go beyond a mere pastiche. The harp’s entrance in the first section is almost mystical, with an effect that recall Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabulation. The theme is then heard in its original rhythm, borne by a more romantic harmonization. The voice offers the most faithful quote of the melody, with the harp in canon. The impressionistic character of the last section allows the coloratura to pour forth at last, supported by melodic loops.

Written in 1948 for harp or piano for a 15 x 15 measure choreography by Louise Lippold, In a Landscape is one of John Cage’s most atmospheric works. In a meditative aesthetic that recalls Erik Satie, Cage plays with the resonance and constant oscillation between two keys (B and G). Having integrated both the rhythmic complexity of African percussion and the texture superposition of the Balinese gamelan into his style, Steve Reich is an emblematic figure of American minimalism. A commission by the Brooklyn Academy of Music for jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, Reich’s 1987 work Electric Counterpoint for solo guitar (acoustic or electric), 12 guitars, and two bass guitars is in three movements (fast — slow — fast), to be played without pause. To give this classic work a fresh feel, Valérie Milot recorded all the parts herself, showcasing the distinctive colours of the harp’s different registers and its exceptional resonance.

The CD concludes with the unbridled energy of Frank Zappa’s G-Spot Tornado. Written originally for the Synclavier DMS, Zappa thought it was impossible to play by humans. “Anything you make up, can be played or typed by the machine,” explains Zappa in The Real FZ. “One of the things I’m using it for, is the creation of complex rhythms, that I can have executed accurately by different groups of instruments. With the Synclavier you can have every imaginable group of instruments play the most complex passages because the little fellows inside will always play it with a millisecond precision degree.” Of course Man (and Woman) was eventually able to equal machine; the work was recorded by Ensemble Modern on its album The Yellow Shark and later played by many symphony orchestras. The version here is an arrangement for five instruments.

© Lucie Renaud
Translated by Peter Christensen

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Valérie Milot
Les Violons du Roy
AN 2 9880 Orbis
Steve Reich

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