Spheres of Resonance: the music of Ludger Brümmer

Each piece of Ludger Brümmer’s has its own individual soundworld, each as fascinating as the last

Spheres of Resonance: the music of Ludger Brümmer

First of all, this is exciting, visceral music. For all its background in spatial sound, physical modeling and granular synthesis, Ludger Brünner’s music speaks directly to the listener.

New sounds and new architectures are both explored on this fabulous twoder. The first piece, Cellularium, exemplified Brümmer’s soundworld perfectly; and while the compact disc is sound-only, here is a viceo fo the piece that shows how colour becomes anotehr layer of experience in live performance, enabled by the artists rosalie (forename only, lower case) and her installation CHROMA_LUX (NB the YouTube link in the booklet is toa video that is no longer available):

The piece uses different sound-models of a string made using Genesis software (ACROE, Grenoble). The sounds were then transposed and reverberated, resulting in a sort of extra-terrestrial beauty. Lovers of Stockhausen’s electronic music will enjoy this - it's like a super-charged, highly expanded version of the early pieces such as the two Electronic Studies. One does feel this is on an extended canvas: it is certainly beauty of a rarefied kind.

That sense of rarefied beauty is extended in Gesualdo, its material taken from that composer’s Canzon francese del Principe (played here by the amazing Elisabeth Chojnacka):

Brümmer’s score deconstructs the original; put another way, and to use an analogy from sculpture, the composer uses Gesualdo’s piece “like a block of marble to create a new work with hammer and chisel” (from the booklet notres). Thus, the process of granular synthesis here creates something entirely new form Gesualdo’s original by splitting “sound particles” and rearranging them according to algorithms might sound mathematical, but the result is entirely musical - one might therefore link Brümmer’s methodologies, albeit using a broad brush, to those of Iannis Xenakis.  And like Xenakis, Brümmer sometime sworks wiht juxtaposed panels of sound (although teh actual sounds of each composer’s vocablary is different).

The piece Carlo also takes Gesualdo as a starting point, here his remarkably chromatic and harmonically explorative Beltà, poi che t’assenti, (from that composer's sixth book of madrigals):

... and a piece also taken by Stravinsky, in his late Momentum pro Gesualdo di Venosa of  1960:

Brümmer’s deconstruction is exactly that - as the booklet notes are quite rightly at pains to point out, this is not postmodernism, it is the morphing of an original into a wholly new context. The result is momentous, like a slow opening out. Birtwistle would have approved - the piece is almost ritualistic in nature (at least, to my ears).

It is Ravel - the second movement of Gaspard de la nuit (Le Gibet) - that form the basis for Lizard Point. Specifically the third and fourth bars. Here’s Ravel’s original, courtesy of one Martha Argerich, and below is Brümmer’s piece:

One can perhaps hear echoes of the Ravel in the repeated hammerings; also at one point we appear to hear distant bells. As Brümmer puts it,

The aim of the piece was to explor the interaction of sound and structure and to take it to extremes (coplxity vs. simplicity) in order to create tension.

The result is simply spellbinding, as you can tell from te track above. Each piece of Ludger Brümmer’s has its own individual soundworld, each as fascinating as the last; Lizard Point strikes me as the most beautiful soundscape here.

Chromatically tuned glasses are the basis for the instrument a glass harp - or Glasharfe, the title of the next piece, and the one which opens the second disc. The sound of struck glass changes from percussive to definable tone during a sounding,, which makes them particularly fascinating for electronic composers. There is also the highly identifiable sound of glass breaking A piano and a celesta is also heard (which have a glassy sound, at least to the composer). Using a 192 kHz process meant that processed sounds can be transposed without any loss of harmonics (which give any sound its characteristic timbre). This is effectively a meditation on a sound-source and does seem to exude that very meditative quality - untill, that is, a rather breathless passage sounding every inch like a modern, electronic imitation of a steam train. You can see  from that it is difficult to describe - but it is unforgettable! ... as are the chthonic, resonant interruptions to the ongoing ticker-tape sounds ... A crescendo is not unlike that of a plane appraching take-off. Glasharfe is an incredibly wide-ranging piece, far more than its title, or a technical explanation of how the soiunds are made, implies.

This release take sits name from the next piece, Spheres of Resonanance, which only uses “resonance phenomena” which are generated va computer. As the coipmoser pits it, “Spheres of Resonance attempts to use aesthetic qualities of physical moderls to create poetic music”. This last is important, as there is a kind of poetry in this music, a music which demands so much of the listener. Suble “micro-inflections” that could only come about via computer are a core aspect of this remarkable, mesmerising 25-minute piece. Sudden sonic arrivals seem to usher in a new section, much as gongs would in an Eastern ritual, and tehr eis indeed something ritualistic about this piece.

By far the shortest piece on the disc (just over 5 minutes), Gestalt is basedon a combination os sounding “gestalts”. The impression is of an ensemble performing, but it is all electronic; at certain points is sounds as if the composer is taking a sound and holding it up tot he light, so to examine it from all angles (or at least, a variety of angles).

The 42-channel piece Falling was written for the Beethoven year (2020) and, rather than having a person or an organisation as dedicatee, it is dedicated to Beethoven’s Große Fuge, Op. 133. Some of Beethoven's chords are reversed, and counterpoint with themselves over three layers of sound as the withdraw towards infinity, like, the copmoser suggests, how time behaves in teh proxmity of a black hole. It is typical of Brümmer that he takes Beethoven for such a long walk that although the purest substance of Op. 133 remains unchanged, the musical surface renders it unrecognisable. At one point it sounds a little as if a helicopter is coming into focus (inevitably invoking Stockhausen!), but for me it is the carefully-controlled aggregation of sounds that is so impressive. Another link to Stockhausen might the importance of breathing, which we seem to hear/experience at one point; but I would posit that the sense of peace projected later in the work is beyond most of Stockhausen's output:

There is no doubting that Ludger Brümmer has an individual voice, and that he has much to say. A follow-up album, Sonic Patterns, also on Wergo, was released on March 17.