Music: Various Artists – Scelsi EP

from The Quietus
Various Artists – Scelsi EP
(SN Variations)

Although largely unknown until the eighties, Italian composer Giancinto Scelsi pioneered new compositional techniques throughout the fifties and sixties informed by both post-serial musics and Buddhism, encouraging microtonal transitions to come to the fore. This switch in focus from musical patterns to “pure sound” is a similar realm to that later explored by Hennix, and is celebrated on this diverse, vibrant EP from SN Variations.

The ‘Duo For Violin And Cello’ of its A side was composed by Scelsi in 1965 and here is played, masterfully and tenderly, by Aisha Orazbayeva and Lucy Railton. With only two sound sources (and often just the one note!) Scelsi’s score conjures up brooding waves from scintillating subtleties.

Unpredictably the second side starts with a field recording of insects rather than avant orchestrals. Compressed from a recent installation piece, Chris Watson’s ‘Invertebrate Harmonics’ transposes Scelsi’s instrumentally-invoked ‘pure sound’ into the natural world where a swarm of vibrating insects in Borneo produce an astonishing, almost musical mass of mesmerically shifting microtones.

The disk ends with another Chris Watson recording, but, unusually for him, one that includes both a human and a musical instrument. Based on a traditional Buddhist piece, it has Joe Browning on Japanese flute meditatively returning SN Variations’ Scelsi survey full circle to one of the composer’s original sources of inspiration.



One response to “Music: Various Artists – Scelsi EP

  1. Konchog Norbu

    Dear BAN,
    This is fantastic, thank you. I wrote about Scelsi a couple of years ago for (what’s now) Lion’s Roar:

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