(released January 12, 2013)
The Middle Of Life (Die Ganze Zeit) (2011/2012)
Michael Pisaro: composition, recording, piano, electronics, mixing, mastering
Oswald Egger: poetry, reading
Julia Holter: voice, composition
speakers (in order of first appearance):
Taku Sugimoto (Japanese and English)
Kristin Haraldsdottir (Icelandic and English)
Kunsu Shim (Korean)
Graham Lambkin (English)
Didier Aschour (French)
Lucie Vitkova (Czech and English)
Julia Holter (English)
illustrations by Oswald Egger
design by Yuko Zama
NOTES ON RECORDING
The speakers are reading translations of the first sentence from Oswald Egger’s Diskrete Stetigkeit, Poesie und Mathematik (edition unseld, Suhrkamp Verlag, 2008): “Mitten im Leben fand ich mich wieder wie in einem Wald (ohne Weg).” Snippets of a home recording by Graham Lambkin are heard throughout this section.
Oswald Egger was recorded on 16 July 2012 in the fields outside of his residence in Hombroich, Germany. He is reading passages selected by Pisaro from Die ganze Zeit (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2010). The illustrations by Oswald Egger also come from this text.
Two field recordings made in Neufelden, Austria during the second year of flussaufwärtstreiben are used. The first, fading in at around 6’00”, was recorded on 2 July 2012, on the banks of the Grosse Mühl river near a small rapids. The second, fading in from about 24’20” was recorded on 4 July 2012, about 500 meters further down the river. Antoine Beuger was playing the flute. An excerpt of Michael Pisaro’s Ascending Series (5.2), performed by the Dog Star Orchestra, is heard intermittently throughout this section.
An excerpt from Julia Holter’s For One or More Voices for piano (performed by Michael Pisaro), is heard from 42’22” until the end, and is used with permission of the author.
"I will be posting translations of all the texts Oswald Egger reads in The Middle of Life (Die ganze Zeit). But as that might take a while to complete, I thought I would provide one from the first passage heard in the piece, just to give some idea of what it's like. This comes from Egger's 2010 book Die ganze Zeit:
Wie geht es mir? Halte ich inne und schaue nach innen? Sage ich »gut«? Oder: »es geht«? Und bin umgänglich oder imstande, umgehend zu sein, unumgänglich soundso, so geht es und soundso nicht, mir nicht, dir nicht, ich habe keinen Umgang, mehr geht ja nicht, weil nichts mehr geht. Rien du rien. Ist keinen Umgang haben unumgänglich? Ich habe keine Zeit dafür, und ich nehme mir nicht die Zeit dazu. Ich kann sagen, was ich will, solang ich denke, daß ich spreche, genügt es.
Die Innenwände der »Gänze« bilden gleichsam eine Menge von Landschaftsskizzen, deren verwickelte Aventüren aus einem Guß entstanden sein wollen. Die gleichen Areale, oder beinahe die gleichen, sind stets von neuen und aus verschiedenen Richtungen her angepaßt, wie angegossen, immer neue Bilder entwerfend, für deren Grund plus Figuren große, durch Singen und Stimme zerspringende Steinchen verwendet werden, worin arealflächige Fenster und Felder, in welche die das Muster zusammenbildenden Kieselstücke exakt verkittet in Vertiefungen und caréts eingebeetet scheinten, hineingepuzzelt oszillieren: die ganze Zeit ist eigentlich nur eine Inkrustation bunter Steine, aber mehr als arktisches Trikot als ein trojanisches passim-passepartout.
How am I? Shall I pause and look inward? Do I say “good”? Or: “it’s going fine”? And am social or capable of circulation, unsociable thisandthat, it’s like so and not like soandso, not for me, not for you, I have no contact, it doesn’t work for me, because nothing works. Rien du rien. Is it anti-social to have no contact? I have no time for that, and don't make the time for it, I can say whatever I want, it's enough, so long as I think that I speak.
The inner walls of the “whole” form at once a set of landscape sketches whose intricate adventures must have come from a cast. The same areas, or almost the same, are constantly adapted from new and various directions, poured into a mold, always new images outlined, for their ground plus figures, large, to be utilized with the help of singing and voice shattering stones, where area surface windows and fields, in which those that form the pattern pebble pieces puttied exact depressions and carets appeared embedded, puzzle-piece oscillating: the whole time is really only an incrustation of colored stones, but more like an arctic jersey than a Trojan passim-passepartout." (Michael Pisaro)
Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
One of the defining characteristics of Pisaro's music, I find, is that his generally lengthy works really need to be heard/experienced as an entirety, which requires the listener to stand back a bit and to retain memory of a great deal of information and its interrelatedness. Happily, the elements themselves are, in a sense, "simple", easily graspable on their own, making their subsequent conceptual reintegration not quite as daunting as it would be otherwise--but still something of a feat. Listening for the first time to a work like "the middle of life (die ganze zeit)", which has as its central focus lines from that text by Oswald Egger, read by him and others, but interpolated with all manner of sources, including field recordings and music from Julia Holter, one may have the sensation of a string of loosely related vignettes, soft and lovely in and of themselves. The tough part is mentally calibrating all of these episodes into a whole, which whole (in my head, anyway) isn't a terribly graspable object either, more a nodal kind of thing itself, like a relief map indicating irregularly spaced disturbances but all lying within the same substrate.
So you have an opening sine tone, then another, than a very deep one. You hear wind, then Eggers reading his text. Other readers follow at odd intervals, in various settings, in English and not: Taku Sugimoto, Kristin Haraldsdottir, Kunsu Shim, Graham Lambkin, Didier Aschour, Lucie Vitkova and Holter. After the initial text, there's some extremely lovely, spare piano, over which the speakers cycle, their words buffeted by the sounds of the forest referred to in the first line which is itself, I think, from Dante (not sure of the connection): "In the middle of life, I found myself in a forest with no path." (wiki gives the line as: "At the midpoint of the journey of life, I found myself in a dark forest, for the clear path was lost.") There ensues a series of gentle shifts, almost like overlapping film slides, at first very much occupied with that outdoors environment, the odd recitation emerging. An ultra-soft flute is heard accompanied by a faint voice, both combing to sound like a ghostly madrigal, underlaid by sine tones high and deep. That episode ends, about 19 minutes in, introducing a brief pure single-note guitar/sine sequence. Egger reappears, reading various texts, in German, selected by Pisaro, amidst a more urban soundscape laced with sine-age which gradually accumulates into a richer, even dramatic organ-like set of tones. There's distant flute playing from Antoine Beuger that seeps in now and again as well, a wonderful sound, as well as, apparently, an excerpt from Pisaro's "Ascending Series (5.2), though it's beyond my powers of observation to isolate it.
Some 39 minutes in, Holter appears, singing wordlessly, plaintively (again recalling, to these ears, medieval music), soon double-tracked; very unexpected and moving. After a few minutes, Pisaro appears on piano, playing Holter's "For One or More Voices", anther gorgeous/spare piece of music, over which Egger is heard once again, cosseted by recordings evoking the sea, birds, wind, concluding as gently as it had begun. You're left at a different point, though it's hard to discern exactly why it's different.
Endlessly fascinating, resisting easy interpretation.