Ennio Mazzon

Mixtape #51 : Silence (Requiem)

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November is a somewhat sombre month, and not only because the days are getting a lot colder and darker here in the UK. This year’s remembrance ceremonies have had extra potency due to the centenary of the end of the First World War, so i’ve taken this as my cue for the next 5:4 mixtape. It’s titled ‘Silence (Requiem)’, though i should stress that i haven’t created it as a commemoration, homage or tribute to anyone or anything specific – i’ve simply curated music that exists in an interesting and thoughtful relationship with silence.

In some cases this takes the form of busy lowercase chatter (Bernhard Günter, John Wall, Tomas Phillips & Luigi Turra, Shinkei, Ennio Mazzon, Christopher McFall), a few tracks are creatively ‘silent’, presented as ostensibly passive field recordings (Unknown Artist, Christoph Limbach, British Library, Dallas Simpson), and there are various examples of restrained or compressed music, containing a sense of pent-up energy (Ben Frost, Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto, Desist, Jason Lescalleet, Supersilent, Need Thomas Windham, Secret Chiefs 3, Andrew Liles, Ryoji Ikeda). Most of the tracks, though, are gentle, ruminative and/or meditative music, most of which treats silence as an omnipresence into which its material is carefully placed (Gareth Davis & Frances-Marie Uitti, James Weeks, Brian Eno, The Hafler Trio, The Denisovans, Ouvrage Fermont, Jakob Ullmann, Haruo Okada & Fabio Perletta, Burkhard Schlothauer, Kenneth Kirschner, Jürg Frey, Eva-Maria Houben).

Interspersed at half-hourly intervals are four short excerpts from choral works that either reference the dead or are otherwise laments. Ricky Ian Gordon‘s Water Music: A Requiem is a work, according to the composer, “not only for the dead, but for what seemed like a sort of death in me”. Galina Grigorjeva‘s setting of Joseph Brodsky’s The Butterfly (review) is an exquisitely tender articulation of life’s frailty and ephemerality. Bernat VivancosRequiem (review) avoids the traditional Latin text in favour of a more personal philosophical and poetic reflection on death. To end the mixtape, following two minutes of quasi-silence by irr. app. (ext.), i’ve turned to Alfred Schnittke and the haunting wordless piece that ends his Psalms of Repentance.

In all, two hours of near-noiseless contemplative quietude; i recommend close listening in a darkened space, and as there are no sudden loud outbursts feel free to crank up the volume as much as desired. Here’s the tracklisting in full, together with links to obtain the music. As usual, the mixtape can be downloaded or streamed via MixCloud. Read more

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Mixtape #31 : Autumn

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For the latest 5:4 mixtape, i’ve opted to explore music associated in some way with this time of year. Autumn is arguably the most poignant of the seasons, the ostentatious eruption of its gorgeous colours militated against by the pointed melancholy of its inevitable transition into the wastelands of winter. My infinitely greater namesake, the poet E. E. Cummings, often indignantly pitted the season against his beloved, despite its beauty:

cruelly,love
walk the autumn long;
the last flower in whose hair,
thy lips are cold with songs

for which is first to wither, to pass?
shallowness of sunlight
falls and,cruelly,
across the grass
Comes the
moon

Composers are no less affected by autumn, and the choices in this mixtape testify to the conflict it brings about. Something of its sheer loveliness can be heard in the still profundity of Celer, Brian Eno, Gunner Møller Pedersen (whose massive 6-hour A Sound Year is well worth exploring) and Darren Harper, as well as in the transfixed ecstatic overload of Belong. Autumn’s raw physicality finds expression through the exploration of field recordings in tracks by Manrico Montero, Scott Taylor, Steve Roden & Machinefabriek and Ennio Mazzon. The flipside of this can be heard in heartfelt ballads; i’ve included four hugely contrasting incarnations of the finest of them all, Joseph Kosma’s Autumn Leaves, by Mantovani, Emmy Rossum, Coldcut and The Flashbulb. Its melancholic lyricism is taken to the apogee of expressive force by Richard Strauss, saturated with an escapist surge by Andre Kostelanetz, and given a playful tilt by both Kalevi Aho (whose theremin sounds strikingly like a human voice) and Max Richter‘s subtle reworking of Vivaldi, rhythms made irregular and harmonies enriched with more romantic flavours. The seriousness of the season receives fittingly wistful treatment from Tor Lundvall and Wendy Carlos, while Takemitsu‘s engagement is almost shockingly aggressive. The inclusion of tracks by EL Heath and Kenneth Kirschner are (im)pertinent red herrings, both simply composed during this time of year but, wittingly or otherwise, fitting well into its general tone.

A little over two hours of autumnal bliss and brooding; here’s the tracklisting in full: Read more

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