Calum Storrie / Steve Beresford – Nine Day Score
Cafe Oto /TakuRoku. Download. Album review by Geoff Winston)
It can be challenging to figure out the relationship between a graphic score and the sounds and music to which it give rise, and Nine Day Score is no exception.I therefore decided to chat to Calum Storrie, who created it, and also to Steve Beresford, who responded to the nine pages of the score over a period of eight weeks with each piece taking roughly a week.
The nine double-page sections of the score, each completed by Storrie within a day, combine collage and drawing applied to a blank music manuscript book. These are numbered with bold, stencilled numerals and incorporate geometric shapes, film stills from an annual, fragments from an old score, some diagrams, rubber stamps and short texts. He was intrigued by the idea of ‘visual composition’ and how it would correlate to ‘composition in terms of a musical score’ – ‘how the visual might become musical’.
The outcome is a set of carefully crafted solo piano recordings, reflective, meditative, de-accelerated, echoing something of the moods of these times. Nine variations on an improvised theme – ‘instantaneous Realisations’ as he calls them, a word borrowed from Cardew and Cage.
Imagine yourself in Beresford’s front room. In its bay window is his vintage East German, ‘Stasi’ piano, as he calls it, with its ‘nice music stand’, on which he placed each of Storrie’s scores, one at a time, left there ‘for days’, glancing at them, scanning them occasionally until the muse struck. He recorded his playing on an iPhone which also picked up other faintly audible sounds – the pressing down of the pedals and sounds of his playing actions, discreetly adding a sense of Beresford’s presence.
The piano is the sole instrument used for these pieces. ‘For this project he eschewed electronics or the activation of wind-up toys and the like. ‘Electronics are always a faff,’ he explained, whereas he could set up the piano ‘in a minute’. ‘The piano is always there, the only instrument that is immediately available to me.’ Most of the pieces were recorded in one take. ‘A couple ended up with take two in the same session.’
Beresford had been working with Christian Marclay responding to Marclay’s photos of closed shops and doors, capturing his short piano pieces on his iPhone, so this is, to some degree, an extension of this way of working.
As for the interpretation, a graphic score is a catalyst, and for Beresford ‘much of it is subconscious’. He wasn’t able to say exactly how he’d responded to the visual elements. ‘As soon as I’ve done it, I’ve forgotten about it.’ Page 1 includes a photo of Ida Lupino which led Beresford to reference Paul Bley’s Ida Lupino, composed by Carla Bley, from his 1965 album Closer.
Storrie was touched that Beresford agreed to tackle these scores and persevered with them so that when he’d arrived at Page 6 (Beresford sent him each one as soon as they were recorded) ‘it seemed to become a coherent piece of work’. He had initially expected that it would be ‘noisier’, given some of the imagery and texts in the scores, but was very pleased with the resulting piano pieces.
As with Jack de Johnette’s solo piano album, Return (REVIEWED HERE), this is a recording where the listener can closely follow the musician’s trains of thought. Nine Day Score offers insight in to the the ways in which Beresford thinks about sound and musical structure as he constructs these delicate statements.
Rounding off our conversation, Beresford said that it is ‘significant that I adore Saul Steinberg’s work – a touchstone for me as an artist’, shedding light on the elusive links between the visual and the musical in the graphic score.
The recording of Nine Day Score is available as a download with the score as a PDF on Cafe Oto’s TakuRoku imprint HERE.
During January 2021, all of the income from purchases of Cafe Oto’s TakuRoku downloads will go to the artists.
Categories: Download review