Michael Pisaro - Nature Denatured and Found Again (5CD)
The five discs come in an oversized box with cover art by Marcus Kaiser and Yuko Zama. The box set also includes a 24-page full-color booklet containing additional photos by Joachim Eckl, Marcus Kaiser, Emmanuelle Waeckerle, and Michael Pisaro, and liner notes by Michael Pisaro and Joachim Eckl.
DISC 1: Fissures in Green (2011)
1. Rain at the Station (12:12)
2. Still Life with Cicadas, Waterfall and Radu (12:12)
3. Silent Prayer (12:12)
4. Langhalsen (12:12)
DISC 2: Pathsplitter (Yellow-Red) (2012)
1. Canon a2 (12:12)
2. Canon a3 (12:12)
3. Canon a4 (12:12)
4. Canon a5 (12:12)
DISC 3: Landscape in Black and Grey (2013)
1. The Chords of the Grosse Mühl (12:12)
2. Six-Part Panorama (12:12)
3. Building A World (12:12)
4. The Disappearance of a World (12:12)
DISC 4: White Light Under the Door (2014)
1. Electricity (12:12)
2. Heat (12:12)
3. Light (12:12)
4. Gas (12:12)
DISC 5: Hellgrün (Small New World) (2015)
1. Malachite (12:12)
2. Bird Warnings (12:12)
3. The River is a Green Brown God (12:12)
4. Emerald Twilight (12:12)
Each disc has four 12-minute tracks, each of which is followed by 12 seconds of silence.
The total duration of each disc is 48’48”.
(released February 7, 2019)
Antoine Beuger (flute)
Jürg Frey (clarinet)
Marcus Kaiser (cello)
Radu Malfatti (trombone)
André Möller (electric guitar)
Kathryn Gleasman Pisaro (oboe/english horn)
composition, field recording, sine tones, noise, mixing, mastering by Michael Pisaro
based on the ‘flussaufwärtstreiben’ project
created by Joachim Eckl, Marcus Kaiser and Michael Pisaro
Flussaufwärtstreiben installation conceived and realized by Joachim Eckl, Marcus Kaiser and Michael Pisaro (2011-2015) and produced by heim.art.
melodic fragments embedded within the installation are drawn from Antoine Beuger’s melody collection “auch da.”
booklet cover photo (The Grosse Mühl upstream from The Station) by Michael Pisaro
booklet inside photos from flussaufwärtstreiben by Joachim Eckl, Michael Pisaro and Emmanuelle Waeckerle
score excerpts from asleep, people, water, instruments by Michael Pisaro
booklet text by Joachim Eckl and Michael Pisaro
thanks to Jarrod Fowler and Amber Wolfe
paper folder cover photos by Marcus Kaiser (1, 2, 3, 5) and Emmanuelle Waeckerle (4)
paper folder inside photos by Michael Pisaro
booklet/paper folder/disc design by Yuko Zama
box cover photos by Marcus Kaiser (pipeline), Joachim Eckl (landscape), Emmanuelle Waeckerle (back)
box cover design by Marcus Kaiser and Yuko Zama
box set produced by Yuko Zama and Jon Abbey
P+C 2019 gravity wave
In early 2019, Gravity Wave released a 5CD box set titled 'Nature Denatured and Found Again' (GW 016-020).
The piece is derived from field recordings made along the Grosse Mühl River, Neufelden, Austria, from 2011 to 2015 (during the flussaufwärts project created by Joachim Eckl, Marcus Kaiser and Michael Pisaro). Alongside the recordings of the river as it flows down from Neufelden to the Danube, are performances by Antoine Beuger, Jürg Frey, Marcus Kaiser, Radu Malfatti, André Möller, and Kathryn Pisaro. Pisaro has been working on the piece since 2011 and we are very happy to have it finally see the light of day.
Bill Meyer, Dusted
Let’s start small; Nature Denatured and Found Again is a document of five summers well spent. In the summer of 2011 Michael Pisaro, an American composer, educator, and musician associated with the Wandelweiser composers collective, traveled to Neufelden, Austria to join artist Joachim Eckl at a former storehouse called Die Station (The Station). It is situated near the Grosse Mühl, a small river that empties into the Danube. Decorated with items culled from movie sets and an old Hilton hotel, it houses some of Eckl’s work and provides living and studio space for visiting artists, who mix with each other and townspeople in encounters intended to realize Joseph Beuys’ concept of “social sculpture” (in a nutshell, the idea that people gathering together can collectively change society through art).
Pisaro first came with the intention to participate in a two-year project during which people would congregate for soundwalks up and downstream from The Station. In addition to taking in the sounds of the river and surrounding forest, participants would stop at shelters and listen to musicians perform 12-minute concerts, some of which featured music that had been composed at The Station. Afterwards the participants would listen to field recordings made during the soundwalks, and then return for another day of walks and sounds, including new ones generated by Pisaro, with these memories in mind. Talk about your antidotes to the hectic pace and distraction of post-internet and cell phone life!
Initially things went well, but then they got complicated. The first two years yielded such profound experiences that Eckl invited Pisaro and others to continue the project, but this was easier said than done. In 2013, a scaled-down version involving walks and field recordings, but no performers or listening shelters, took place. There was no gathering in 2014, and the following year Pisaro, Eckl and a few others did the final walk in a single day. Another year passed before Pisaro finally sat down to deal with the collected material. Art is shaped by the events around it, and Pisaro set to work on Nature Denatured and Found Again on the cusp of Donald Trump’s ascension. Imagine immersing yourself in the work of people bent upon bolstering humanity’s respect for nature when your own president seeks to empower the obtuse but well-financed forces of climate change denial. Since Pisaro lives in California, the time that he worked on this project coincided with the scourge of wildfires raging unchecked in neighborhoods near his own. When an artist’s extraordinary personal experience occurs amidst growing ghastliness, they can either ignore the world around them or deal with it in some way. Pisaro doesn’t deliver a screed against natural destruction, but the respectful way he treats natural sounds in his work and presents them as creative material on a par with man-made sound lets you know what side he’s on.
Nature Denatured and Found Again comprises five CDs, one for every year from 2011-2015. They are broken down into four 12 minute-long tracks. If you have five playback systems on hand, you could play the discs together for a concentrated Nature Denatured experience; here’s hoping that someone somewhere puts together an installation that funs all five discs on shuffle play until all the possible combinations have run out. Pisaro assembled each disc from material relevant to a particular year, but no disc is a straightforward document of its time. Fissures in Green (2011) includes recordings of the musicians and the environment arranged so that they invite a listener to steep in the beauty of woodwinds and water and to consider the similarity between electronically filtered noise and natural sounds, but also periodically jolts you out of reverie and into the moment by intentionally fragmenting said material. Pathsplitter (Yellow Red) (2012) takes inspiration from the experience of hearing and seeing things over and over by processing them with a readymade musical form. A canon is a composition in which a complex musical piece is created by layering different instruments or singers performing the same part at different pitches. For this disc, Pisaro has fashioned one from Jürg Frey’s clarinet, his own white noise and sine tones, and collected environmental sounds.
On Landscape in Black and Grey (2013), Pisaro works exclusively with the sounds he recorded along the Grosse Mühl. Sometimes straight, sometimes edited, sometimes electronically filtered and reassembled, the environment is everything. But for White Light Under the Door (2014), the year that Pisaro didn’t make it to Austria, he works with remembered sound in a room. Specifically he uses electronic tones inspired by the 50-hertz hum of the European electrical grid, layered into sine-tone structures. Since such tones change depending on the shape of the room and the way you orient your ears to them, this is the album’s most personal communication of the box; it’s Pisaro signaling you, from his room to yours.
Hellgrün (Small New World) (2015) confronts the fact of change, and the fact that nature does not remain static while we regard it. The piece’s raw material includes recordings from the project’s earlier years played aloud in The Station’s performance space in 2015, bursts of birdsong, and the sounds of the river recorded at different times. Pisaro shapes, isolates, and recombines these sounds, and honors nature by giving the album’s last word to cicadas, birds and flowing water. This natural music invites us to consider the possibility of its absence. What if all this is gone, and people can’t hear it anymore? Or if mankind figures out too late that its demise is a likely consequence of waging war on nature, will people no longer be around to hear what the world sounds like?
Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
Generally speaking it's tough enough, for me, to begin to attempt to encapsulate in words a "standard" recording from Michael Pisaro, much less something like this one, a five-disc re-imagining and restructuring of a five-year long, extremely complex project. First, the basics:
In 2011, Pisaro was invited by Joachim Eckl to design a project to take place in Neufelden, Austria, a charming looking village bordered by the Große Mühl River. He chose to organize two-hour walks along the river that would occur each weekday at 3PM. During the course of their walk, participants would encounter six bench/shelters in which a musician would be dwelling. They would stop and listen for 12 minutes, then continue on, hopefully incorporating the surrounding sounds into those produced by the musicians. The players were: Antoine Beuger (flute), Jürg Frey (clarinet), Marcus Kaiser (cello), Radu Malfatti (trombone), André Möller (electric guitar), Kathryn Gleasman Pisaro (oboe, english horn). I pause to mention that, when I become king, each town in my domain will be required to have Radu Malfatti sitting on a bench, playing, for a certain amount of time per day. Of course, as is generally the case with Pisaro's music, it was more complicated than that, with differing situations taking place each day, but all of this is covered in the extensive notes. Pisaro staged this event once a year for five years, 2011 - 2015. Well, almost, but more on that later.
For this release, Pisaro has, for the most part, taken material from each year and reworked it into a kind of simulacrum of the original experience, sourced from there, conveying something of the original feeling, but resulting in an entirely new and vast work. Each disc is 48-minutes long, divided into four 12-minute tracks (if one possesses five CD-players, you could play them simultaneously). Each "year" comes with a score or site photo, a recording date breakdown and a listing of which musician(s) is/are heard on which track.
2011 begins with rain. Other sounds overlap (traffic, etc.) but essentially it's rain, threaded through with discreet sine tones. The sound isn't steady but rather comes and goes in irregular segments and contains varied intensities and fluctuations. The raindrops often have the character of small electrical explosions. The second track is titled, 'Still Life with Cicadas, Waterfall and Radu'. As with the prior cut, Pisaro doesn't simply overlay the collected sound but sculpts them, interpolating sine tones, breaking the sounds into chunks, some overlapping, some finding themselves "alone", dream-like in an unsettling (but very satisfying) way. Again, this oversimplifies things. I'll quote from Pisaro;'s notes just this once (similar ones are provided for each track), to give the reader at least a glimpse of what's going on:
This piece is based on four recordings on the banks of the Große Mühl close to The Station, from four days of the installation in 2011. The grasses hosted many cicadas, including the Cicadetta petryl heard here. (On the second day I played the recording from the first day back, and one could hear the cicadas tune and time their song to the volley of cicada singing emanating from the speakers.) There are many splits, cuts, and repetitions in the piece, along with various frequency shelves, to reveal the anatomy of the many-layered situation.
Next is a gorgeous section featuring Beuger's flute, a very "natural" sounding stretch, though it too has been augmented and adjusted and begins to fragment some five minutes in. Here, as elsewhere, Pisaro manages to convey more than the imitation of having been there--there's a psychological representation of one of many possible reactions one may have had, in a very human way of paying attention, being distracted, shifting one's focus, etc. Very difficult to describe but marvelous to experience once one submits to the procedure. The final track on Disc One, 'Langhalsen' is a different creature again, beginning with very up front electronic bleeps and burbles, segueing to an interplay between Kaiser's cello, a waterfall and overhead airplanes. The shifts here are more drastic, falling into unexpected mini-worlds, including a chilly one, like an old cistern, with Frey's clarinet seeking to provide some warmth, ultimately returning to the surface (birds and children heard, and oboe).
Attempting to describe each disc would be pointless, so just some things that stood out: Frey's clarinet, playing a single tone, turned into a canon and weaving through a waterfall; the sumptuous sine tones ending 2.3; the incredible, unaugmented but amazingly teased apart and reconstructed natural sounds that make up the third disc, 'landscape in black and grey'; Disc Four's imagined year [the event was unable to be held that year, so Pisaro re-imagined the situation with sine tones], layered with an extraordinary range of sines and noise; the unexpected and glorious bursts of melody (and birdsong) that emerge in the final disc, especially Gleasman Pisaro's ravishing oboe.
So much material, so dense, so intricately and airily constructed--a work that will repay listen upon listen for a long time to come.