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January 9th, 2013


Fred Frith - Screen/Dry Stone I/Dry Stone II

Plenty of composers have used graphical scores to denote their music. It's something I've always been rather wary of: it's one thing to represent a musical idea by a triangle and a squiggly line, but in asking someone to play that for you, where's the artistic intent? What, as the composer, have you actually done? I have no problem with different notation systems being used as a springboard for improvisation, it's just that the process usually lacks the coherent vision necessary to be called composition.

Fred Frith may have found a way around this problem. His 1999 album Stone, Brick, Glass, Wood, Wire uses as its scores photographs of these objects. They were projected on a screen, a timeline was superimposed, and Frith gave his ensemble fairly strict instructions on how individual graphic elements were to be interpreted. The result is music that, with the correct rubrics, could actually be used to reconstruct the textures of the original images.

Screen/Dry Stone I/Dry Stone II is a terrific recording, featuring players such as Han Bennink, Ikue Mori and Zeena Parkins. It was recorded live at the Time Festival in Ghent, in 1994. The sounds are fantastic, and by applying rigour to his structure, Frith has given his musicians the necessary space to make these shapes something worth hearing.

Fred Frith - Screen/Dry Stone I/Dry Stone II
(alternate download)