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Guillermo Gregorio: Coplanar / Madi Ensemble


Release Date: 10/25/2005 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80639   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Guillermo Gregorio
Performer:  John CorbettJim BakerGuillermo GregorioFred Lonberg-Holm,   ... 
Conductor:  Guillermo Gregorio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  MADI Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews





Guillermo Gregorio (b. 1941) is an Argentinean composer who?s now lived over a decade in the US, and is closely associated with the Chicago avant-garde. By that, I mean a very fertile scene that mixes degrees of improvisation with ?fixed? musical materials. Gregorio is an excellent clarinetist, and has led various ensembles in the States and in Europe. This release brings together a series of pieces under the omnibus title of ?Coplanar.? The term relates to a postwar Argentinean visual arts movement, which combines the non-referential forms of abstraction with the ?reality? of the canvas as a concrete and sculptural object. (An example is on the front of the album, Read more where a white solid has been fragmented into a series of shards.) This concept has obviously resonated with Gregorio (who is very knowledgeable about contemporary art and its aesthetics), and has led him to create a series of similarly open compositional forms. He clearly states that in only one piece on the collection is the music actually improvised; otherwise, everyone is working off his scores.


That?s true, but there?s ambiguity in the details. Gregorio?s music aims to cover a spectrum of approaches to notation, and the different responses such differences evoke. Thanks to the fact that the disc?s producer is Fanfare? s own Art Lange, I?ve been able to obtain the scores for most of the music in this collection. In general, the scores tend to consist of modules arranged like a mobile or constellation; one assumes that there is some spontaneous choice in the routes players may take through them. Further, some modules are largely graphic, leading to indeterminacy; others are very precise; yet others define one aspect and leave another open (fixed pitch and loose rhythm, for example).


In this approach, Gregorio seems very much in the spirit of the experimentalism of the New York School of Cage, Feldman, Brown, and Wolff. The overall sound of the music is also similar to that model: largely atonal, rhythmically aperiodic, focused on the uniqueness of particular sounds and gestures. It?s also spiritually tied to the adventure of free jazz, even if the sound world tends to be more restrained. It interests me that this sonic approach has survived, even thrived, in the experimental community that embraces some degree of choice, while an almost identical incarnation associated with modernist/serialist practice has been roundly rejected by both listeners and most musicians. If there is an answer for this seeming paradox, it may lie in the fact that when this atonal (or highly chromatic) language is employed with open forms and notations, its very harmonic complexity becomes a metaphor for freedom. But when placed into extremely strict compositional structures, the same sorts of gestures become metaphors for near-stifling control. This isn?t so much a judgment as an observation.


Overall, Gregorio does a good job of walking this tightrope, landing on the side of freedom. There are striking moments throughout; a few follow. Coplanar 3 for piano and strings includes an interlude of great serenity, where it appears that elbows are placed on the piano strings to create sustained ethereal sounds. White Coplanar includes a part for ?cracklebox,? a small electronic instrument that allows the player to create real-time shapings of noise. Construction with Coplanar includes a suddenly swinging moment for accordion, a wisp of the composer?s earlier musical heritage. And Swiss Coplanar has a vocal part that is part surrealist rap, part modernist Sprechstimme.


If I have any criticism of this music, it?s that I find it somewhat homogenous rhythmically. Most pieces are strings of events, admittedly now and then overlaid in a ?planar? way, but rarely do I feel an underlying momentum or flow. This primarily gestural quality makes longer works (such as the opening Coplanar 1+2 ) feel longer than they actually are, and tends to work against listening to several works in a row. In this sense, the best strategy for appreciating the virtues of this music is to listen to one at a time, closely?(maybe even one a day!). This way brings out their subtleties and intimacies, and makes one most aware of the intense communication the players are experiencing.


The performances are all extremely intense and thoughtful. The recorded sound is unusual; it?s rather dry and closely miked. One has the sense of being in someone?s music room, or very close to the players in a club setting (but without the ambient noise). In this era of spacious, sensuous sound, it?s initially jarring, but I frankly like it for its difference, and it seems suited to the music?s aesthetic.


Interestingly enough, two other recordings I?ve encountered make a better impression of and argument for Gregorio?s work, both on hat(now)ART ( Degrees of Iconicity, 134, and Faktura , 146). In each case (especially the latter), I find more variety of rhythmic approaches, of structure vs. openness, and of color and texture. They also feature the composer, and highlight his performing virtuosity even more than the New World disc. So for those who want to investigate his music, I think these might be an even better place to start.


FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

1. Coplanar: Coplanar 1 + 2 by Guillermo Gregorio
Performer:  John Corbett (Guitar), Jim Baker (ARP Synthesizer)
Conductor:  Guillermo Gregorio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  MADI Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 12/08/2002 
Venue:  AirWave Recording Studios, Chicago, IL 
Length: 16 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: USA (2001 - 2002). 
2. Coplanar: Coplanar 4 by Guillermo Gregorio
Performer:  Guillermo Gregorio (Clarinet), Fred Lonberg-Holm (Cello), Marc Unternährer (Tuba),
Kyle Bruckmann (Oboe)
Conductor:  Guillermo Gregorio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  MADI Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 05/15/2002 
Venue:  AirWave Recording Studios, Chicago, IL 
Length: 5 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: USA (2001 - 2002). 
3. Coplanar: Coplanar 3 by Guillermo Gregorio
Performer:  Jen Clare Paulsen (Viola), Michael Cameron (Double Bass), Jim Baker (Piano),
Steffen Schleiermacher (Piano), Fred Lonberg-Holm (Cello)
Conductor:  Guillermo Gregorio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  MADI Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 10/20/2001 
Venue:  AirWave Recording Studios, Chicago, IL 
Length: 7 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: USA (2001 - 2002). 
4. Coplanar: White Coplanar by Guillermo Gregorio
Performer:  Guillermo Gregorio (Clarinet), Jen Clare Paulsen (Viola), Warren Po (Synthesizer)
Conductor:  Guillermo Gregorio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  MADI Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 12/08/2002 
Venue:  AirWave Recording Studios, Chicago, IL 
Length: 6 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: USA (2001 - 2002). 
5. Coplanar: Construction with Coplanar by Guillermo Gregorio
Performer:  Guillermo Gregorio (Alto Saxophone), John Corbett (Guitar), Guillermo Gregorio (Clarinet),
Kyle Bruckmann (Oboe), Kyle Bruckmann (Accordion), Fred Lonberg-Holm (Cello),
Marc Unternährer (Tuba)
Conductor:  Guillermo Gregorio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  MADI Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 05/15/2002 
Venue:  AirWave Recording Studios, Chicago, IL 
Length: 11 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: USA (2001 - 2002). 
6. Coplanar: Swiss Coplanar by Guillermo Gregorio
Performer:  Jim Baker (Piano), Marc Unternährer (Tuba), Jennifer Walshe (Voice)
Conductor:  Guillermo Gregorio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  MADI Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 05/15/2002 
Venue:  AirWave Recording Studios, Chicago, IL 
Length: 8 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: USA (2001 - 2002). 
7. Coplanar: Coplanar 5 by Guillermo Gregorio
Performer:  Aram Shelton (E Flat Clarinet), Ken Vandermark (Bass Clarinet), Jim Baker (Piano),
Michael Cameron (Double Bass), Fred Lonberg-Holm (Cello), Jen Clare Paulsen (Viola),
John Corbett (Guitar)
Conductor:  Guillermo Gregorio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  MADI Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 12/08/2002 
Venue:  AirWave Recording Studios, Chicago, IL 
Length: 13 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Notes: Ken Vandermark performs his own cadenzas.
Composition written: USA (2001 - 2002). 
8. Coplanar: Madi Piece by Guillermo Gregorio
Performer:  Jen Clare Paulsen (Viola), John Corbett (Guitar), Fred Lonberg-Holm (Cello),
Michael Cameron (Double Bass)
Conductor:  Guillermo Gregorio
Orchestra/Ensemble:  MADI Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 10/20/2001 
Venue:  AirWave Recording Studios, Chicago, IL 
Length: 6 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: USA (2001 - 2002). 

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