Stefan Thut - about (CD)
Swiss composer/cellist Stefan Thut composed 'about' for the ensemble of six musicians for Ryoko Akama's project on her Ame concert series in 2017. It was performed by Ryoko Akama, Stephen Chase, Eleanor Cully, Patrick Farmer, Lo Wie, and Stefan Thut at Phipps Hall, University of Huddersfield on September 30, 2017. Design and photography by Yuko Zama. 4-panel gatefold wallet.
1. about (2017) 58::44
(released October 10, 2018)
Ryoko Akama - electronics
Stephen Chase - guitar
Eleanor Cully - piano
Patrick Farmer - metal percussion
lo wie - tingsha
Stefan Thut - cello
composition by Stefan Thut
project initiated by Ryoko Akama
recorded by Simon Reynell at Phipps Hall,
University of Huddersfield on September 30, 2017
mixed and premastered by Simon Reynell and Stefan Thut
mastered by Taku Unami
design and photography by Yuko Zama
text by Stefan Thut
produced by Yuko Zama
thanks to: University of Huddersfield and ame
p+c 2018 elsewhere music
Stefan Thut composed about in 2017 for a sextet as a part of the first concert series of the art and music project ame, commissioned by Ryoko Akama, a UK-based sound artist/composer/performer and a co-curator of ame. Akama gathered four fellow musicians who were empathetic with Thut's aesthetics to perform and record the piece. The ensemble consisted of Akama (electronics), Stephen Chase (guitar), Eleanor Cully (piano), Patrick Farmer (metal percussion), lo wie (tingsha), and Thut (cello), who have diverse backgrounds in music, poetry and literature, and comprised a multilingual group.
Thut integrated both musical elements and non-musical elements in his piece 'about'. His score instructs three performers to make percussive, ringing, and electronic sounds while three other performers play short high register pitches on their musical instruments according to written scores, particularly paying attention to the decay of sound in the subsequent silence. It also instructs parallel activities in between playing the sounds; walking around the space, and uttering monosyllabic words quietly in their own languages. (The title 'about' derived from a sentence 'walking about'.)
By going back and forth between these two activities - one with playing the sounds as a group, and the other with individual activities of their own - standing up, making a few steps, and saying a word, the ensemble created a unique openness in the music while each keeping their own contemplative individual experience as a component. Through this piece, Thut also demonstrated the idea that "something vanishing creates a state of pure attentiveness", letting the performers and the listeners experience how the short sounds like hit, plucked, ringing or bowed sounds attribute a meaning to the silences before and after. These silences are soon getting replaced by something else - by the sounds from before, by the sounds in expectation, or by thoughts.
John Eyles, All About Jazz
It is very fitting that a recording by the Swiss cellist and composer Stefan Thut completes this second batch of releases from Elsewhere, as many of the words already used to describe the fledgling label and its music are just as appropriate to Thut's works—ambiguous, innovative, meditative, open, restrained, subtle... to name but a few.
All of which is eloquently illustrated by the music on About, which amounts to the hour-long title track; composed in 2017, it was performed by a sextet of Thut himself on cello, with electronicist Ryoko Akama and four others chosen by him, and recorded at the University of Huddersfield in September 2017. In typical fashion, Thut's composition does not just require the sextet to play their instruments; his score instructs three performers to make percussive, ringing, and electronic sounds while three others play short high-register pitches on their musical instruments according to written scores, paying particular attention to the decay of sound in the subsequent silence. It also includes activities in between playing the sounds, such as walking about (hence the title "About") the space, and uttering monosyllabic words quietly in their own languages. Put all of that together, and the resulting piece fits the list of adjectives above, and sits well alongside the albums from Frey and de Asis.
Yes, five releases in, Elsewhere is already establishing its own distinctive sound and style (compare these three album covers for evidence) and looks set to go from strength to strength. (12/7/2018)
Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
A piece realized and recorded live in Huddersfield by a sextet consisting of Ryoko Akama (electronics), Stephen Chase (guitar), Eleanor Cully (piano), Patrick Farmer (metal percussion), lo wie (tingsha--small Tibetan cymbals) and Thut (cello).
In his notes printed on the inner sleeve, Thut writes, "while being together they enjoyed leaving time and space for each other". I haven't seen the score, but I'm guessing there may have been text instructions to that effect, or at least including that kind of consideration as a means of operating. The sounds throughout the work, which lasts almost an hour, tend toward the soft and percussive, beginning with a clear, crystalline bell strike (the tingsha, perhaps) and continuing with single plucks of the cello and guitar, strikings of piano keys (fairly high in the register) and discreet electronics. More often than not, they don't overlap each other, leaving plenty of space, although the silences, while common, don't last much more than 10-15 seconds. One of the intriguing things about the music is how relatively evenly spread the sounds are--thin but always within range, as though small items had wafted down from some height but managed to arrange themselves with only the barest of overlaying, something landing in all areas but leaving much ground uncovered. Some delicate clatter emerges, now and then a woman's quiet voice, here and there, a man's. The basic character is maintained throughout, "steady-state" in a sense, very much like observing a natural phenomenon--leaves falling comes to mind. Oddly meditative.
There's not too much more to say. 'about' is entrancing, lovingly performed. I've listened to it a number of times and will be drawn back again--a perceptive, human work. (11/13/2018)
Darren McClure, Toneshift.net
About was written by Stefan Thut for a sextet for a concert series commissioned by Ryoko Akama. Herself and Thut were joined by four other musicians, incorporating cello, electronics, guitar, piano, tingsha and metal percussion. This releases features the biggest cast of players in this set of three Elsewhere CDs, but sonically it is by far the most minimal.
After a minute and a half of silence, the first sound in the hour long piece appears with the ringing of a bell. From this point, the other sounds emerge slowly, the chasms of silence between them being longer than the expressed sounds themselves. The performance also included a lot of physical movement by the performers, as they paced around the space, playing notes in different areas. In fact, the title About refers to “walking about”.
As with all these Elsewhere releases, there is a Zen-like focus on the details within the silence. Thus displays this notion in his idea that, as he says, “something vanishing creates a state of pure attentiveness”. This extends to the performers being aware of the decay of sound as it fades into yet another pool of quietness. There may be a lack of sound in these quiet parts, but they are full of expectation. (10/23/2018)
Roger Batty, Musique Machine
About is a just shy of hour-long example of extremely sparse, pattern-based, but very subtle altering modern composition from German composer, improviser & Cellists Stefan Thut. This is the fifth release on up & coming American modern composition label Elsewhere Music- and it’s presented as a CD in a gatefold sleeve.
Thut has been writing his own composition since around the early 2000’s- with his works performed in Russia, the Netherlands, Japan, and Germany. He’s released works on labels such as Edition Wandelweiser, Intonema, and Moving Furniture Records- and has thus far put out around twenty full-length releases.
The piece here features six players in all- we have Ryoko Akama - electronics, Stephen Chase - Guitar, Eleanor Cully - Piano, Patrick Farmer - Metal Percussion, Lo Wie - Tingsha, and Stefan on Cello. Despite this fair collection of player, the composition is extremely pared back, sparse & reduced in its feel. The piece is built around a series of plucks, saws, twangs, and simmers- which are fed out in a decidedly spaced & controlled manner- mostly the instrumental tones are often played on their own, with the next tone appearing as the first had faded. Though at times it feels like it’s going to suddenly pick up in both depth & pace- aside from a few subtle diversions it’s all kept extremely pared back.
There is really no melody to talk of here, though the whole thing has a rewarding even flow to proceedings. I can imagine this must have been very hard to play- as each tone is often very compacted & controlled- through from time-to-time there are subtle flourishers of off tones. I’ll have to admit initially plays through of this left me somewhat unimpressed, due to the extremely narrow range of tones here- but I persevered, and have come to find it rewarding in it’s stark & narrow unfold- with even more plays offering up new subtle details. (3/14/2019)