Skogen – Ist gefallen in den Schnee: Music with the lightest touch.

I recently got my copy of this album – as usual behind everyone else – and have pretty much been playing it ever since.

The group Skogen revolves around a central premise of free improv within the bounds of a directional piece. The group’s members and its size fluctuate according to the artistic direction of Magnus Granberg.  At this time the group carried nine muscians  seven of them Swedish and two of them (Toshimau Nakaumra playing no-input mixer and Angharad Davies playing violin) guest musicians visiting the country. The Swedish line up were, Anna Lindal, (violin) Leo Svensson Sander, (cello) John Eriksson, (vibraphone and crotales) Erik Carlsson, (selected percussion) Henrik Olsson, (bowls and glasses) Petter Wastberg (objects, contact mics and mixing board) and Granberg himself playing piano. There is a wonderful interview regarding this composition with Granberg on the Another Timbre website from which I was able to gain direction for the review.  However I did not read it until after I had listened to the beautiful disc many times.  This made for an interesting (and far too rare) opportunity to compare my own philosophical journey inspired by the music with that of the composer / performer.   Granberg states that the score uses two points of source material; a couple of Schubert’s songs, which he has somehow used to drive the rhythmic sections of the composition, and a jazz melody, from which he has derived the tonal parts.

Here is the You Tube Extract Another Timbre now make possible.

The first thing to say is that the music is very lovely to listen to. It is imbued with a classical music “vibe” – so strong is this connection that I thought at first listen It was a classical album. The free jazz influence comes in through the abstraction of the raw electronics that (according to the interview) are not as strongly scored as the other instruments, giving way to a free flow within an organisational structure that very strongly reminded me at times of clockwork. The title loosely translated means “is fallen in the snow” and comes from Schubert. I also had a strong sense of cultural heritage imbibed within the piece. It does sound like falling snow – not Japanese snow – but that delicate ancient northern European snow that softly engulfs, colonizes and defines everything in those northern countries.

In terms of the philosophical relationship, seeing as I am deeply engaged with isomorphism and parallel structures in my examination of this music at the moment, I found this beautiful disc fell directly into that virtual environment confidently. While reading the interview I was struck with the importance of so many parallel systems being played out in this piece that are observable within the piece itself. The relationship between Schubert and the baggage of what we call “classical” music against jazz and the “free” nature of its border(less)s. Granberg makes the political connection here between wealth and poverty and sees himself as separated from the Classical and needing to  – well invite it in rather than co-opt it in any way.  The piece is a study in his relationship with that complexity.  the jazz is like a kind of permission, providing a overaching structural permission for Granberg (the poor boy) to do what he wants with Schubert (the rich boy).

Within the piece itself is the communication outside of structure taking place between the musicians and the music itself. In the subterranean environment of the sounds (belly deep) the various instruments whose parallelism and inter-translatability are, moment after moment, invoked, invariable arise out of the opposition outlined above and other oppositions whose expression is “difference”  as in “in-difference and “articulation” within the bounds of noise / silence. Moment by moment this is what the score is about in its mini fluctuations, and its pervasive dialogue, moving from oblivion to sense and meaning and gradation taking each instrument, each musician, each sound and standing it outside of the very structure that encases it. This is achieved by the gentle movements of the musicians as they get deeper and more relentlessly into their instruments and each their own “freedoms” within the structures imposed by Schubert, Jazz, and Granberg himself.

We are hearing his bloods rush here.

It is similarity that will provide the way for difference, or as Badiou would put it, it is the event occurring within the situation. The repetition provides for the refusal of the repetition.

All the depth aside (and how can one EVER cast the depth aside?) this disc is a beautiful listening experience, and an exciting journey intro the creative world of some of the finest artists alive today.