I follow an experimental music blog on blogspot called Caliper Music. As I was searching for a recording to write about, I came across this really interesting piece called For Massas by Viegas Pellerin Corda Orrù (João Pedro Viegas, Guy-Frank Pellerin, Silvia Corda, and Adriano Orrù). The artists who created this piece are all trained jazz musicians with an interest in radical idea of free improvisation. Free improvisation is a musical technique in which the musician, or in this case musicians, improvise with no rules or logical precedent. Some people refer to free improvisation as a genre, but there is no logical technical music connection between any one piece. But it is arguable that the musical process constitutes the genre. I believe that it is a musical school like modernism or “post-modernism” in that the way you think about it connects the ideas. But it is also hard to classify recent experimental music because we lack the understanding of historical context that we use to classify music of the past.
For Massas was dedicated to the friend and supporter of the collaborators Paulo Albano, nicknamed Massas, who died shortly after the recording of the improvisational session. Conceived using this technique of free improvisation, For Massas was recorded live at Livraria Ler Devagar (in Lisbon, Portugal) on May 14th, 2015. I believe the location is a bookstore and experimental music space for artists in the area. Released on Pan y Rosas on May 2nd, the recording features João Pedro Viegas on bass clarinet, Guy-Frank Pellerin on soprano and tenor sax, Silvia Corda on piano, and Adriano Orrù on the double bass. The four tracks on the recording are La prima frase (the first sentance), notre réponse (our response), Massas diz mais Música (Massas says more music) and Encore. In the recording you can hear how the instrumentalists use a combination of traditional and extended performance techniques. This is especially apparent in Silvia Corda contribution on piano. You can hear her play traditionally but also pluck and scratch the strings on the inside of the piano, and strike the wooden part of the piano for a percussive effect. Adriano Orrù uses his instrument similarly, running his nails up and down the strings and using the body to create new percussive sounds. Also, he often uses the Bartók pizz technique as well as the slapping strings technique commonly used in Jazz and blues music. The woodwinds use some experimental performance techniques as well, but are limited in comparison. I really enjoyed when Pellerin slowed his breath enough on the tenor sax and created a vibrato with his reed.
The artist start off kind of slowly, as if they are trying to get a feel for the direction of the where the improvisation was going. Similar to when we tried the indeterminate singing pieces in class. But after about a minute they became a more cohesive unit. You can tell the instrumentalists are really listening to each other by their use of dynamics, empty space and layering. Certain parts of the music have more color while others feature a single instrument. This is similar to Jazz styles where some instruments will stop playing while one takes a solo. The result is this really interesting atonal piece, that juxtaposes space with sound and chaos. Music like this is really interesting to me because of how unique it is to that certain point in time. It evokes a visceral reaction, and forces me to really think introspectively. I think that is the point of it, there is no theme or motiff to hold onto for reference. It displaces and isolates the listener, partially because its not “enjoyable” in the traditional sense but also because there isn’t a single thread that can be followed. This isn’t the kind of music you can get lost in, or analyze. It isn’t for everyone, but I was drawn to it for some reason. Whether it was because I needed something new to hear, or because I needed something that made me think about myself, I am glad I found it. If you enjoy finding new music I suggest following Caliper Music if you aren’t already. I will definitely be looking out for these artists (short bios in hyperlink) in the future and you should too!
Also here is a link to the recording on the blog if you would prefer not to download a zip file: http://calipermusic.blogspot.com/2017/05/viegas-pellerin-corda-orru-for-massas.html