Thursday, December 1, 2011

Zoltán Jeney - Arupa / Fantasia Su Una Nota (Hungaroton, 1987)

Zoltán Jeney is one of the many innovative composers affiliated with Budapest's New Music Studio, a highly versatile camp whose activities run the gamut from percussion pieces and chamber ensembles to various electro-acoustic excursions. Jeney's works are fascinating both for his ear for unusual instrument combinations and for his unorthodox methods of composing. Often he leaves the manner in which the composition unfolds somewhat open-ended, allowing the performers to progress as they see fit. The two side-long pieces that comprise this album exemplify Jeney's range of ideas and methods.

Jeney wrote Arupa (1981) for six to eight ship-bells, a single drum, and a sustained pitch, which here is provided by an electric organ. The drum establishes a steady tempo, which it maintains for the duration of the piece. On the ninth beat, the bells and organ enter. Jeney has devised several rhythmic formulas with varying meters for seven of the the bells, with the eighth bell serving to inform the others of the change in meter. At the start, they play in unison, but after the eighth measure, the players successively advance to the next rhythmic formula, which they will play anywhere from four to eight times. Though the process is somewhat similar to Terry Riley's In C, the use of the bells sounded in constant, rich tone leaves a much different impression. When the rhythmic bells reach the final cell, the instructive bell gives a signal and the piece ends.

Fantasia Su Una Nota (1984) is a study in contrasting ensembles. Jeney wrote the piece for two groups: the first, a group of 5 to 24 players all wielding instruments "whose sound can be influenced after is has begun to sound (e.g. strings, woodwind, brasses, etc.)"; five members constitute the second group, each playing plucked instruments or tuned percussion. Again, a continuous electronic tone resonates throughout. The first group plays only C#, working its way through twenty-four units each a minute in duration. At the beginning of each minute, a bell also tuned to C# sounds. The second group is allowed quite a bit more freedom, working through a series of twenty-seven chords, from which the five players choose one elemental note. They may improvise freely and there is no pressure for them to play on beat. Even with this looseness, the piece unfolds slowly as the second group's contribution floats against the C# soundings of the first.

Arupa / Fantasia Su Una Nota
& in .flac: 1 & 2