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Ed Bennett: Dzama Stories

Bennett / Decibel Ensemble
Release Date: 08/09/2011 
Label:  Quartz Records   Catalog #: 2082   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ed Bennett
Performer:  Paul Dunmall
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Decibel (Ensemble)
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BENNETT Dzama Stories 1,3,4. I Need This 2,4 1 Paul Dunmall (sax); 2 Suzanne Purkis (voc); 3 Decibel; 4 electronics QUARTZ 2082 (59:43)

Dzama Stories (2009) is described as Read more “Music for amplified ensemble, electronics, and improviser” which immediately raises the questions: What is the improviser playing? Could the music be for any melody instrument? Why is the soloist last in the list—is he the least important? How is the improvisation determined—is it completely free-form, does it relate to anything anyone else is playing? Turns out this is the result of a collaboration very much tailored by the Irish composer Ed Bennett for Paul Dunmall, the saxophone soloist. It sounds as if most of it is mapped out in advance, so the improvised nature of the performance is really highly conventional for all that it is presented as a radical work. Cast in four parts, loud and heavy, then slow and sparse, both times two, there are also a slow, quiet introduction and an interlude after part II. The whole thing runs three quarters of an hour. Part I (titled Vagabonds and Blood from the Earth ) is just relentlessly loud while part III ( You Gotta Make Room for the New Ones ), which is reminiscent of the Steve Martland of Drill , has more variety and more rhythmic interest, with a contrasting middle section in the slow and sparse style. Parts II and IV verge on the etiolated.

Part IV ( Fades Away ) includes the pre-recorded voice of a hypnotist, which made me wonder about the possibility of CDs having embedded subconscious suggestions designed to make reviewers like the recording. Didn’t work in this case. I did not warm to this when I first heard it. A few playings on and I am not warming to it slightly less, partly because I am a sucker for the saxophone and Dunmall’s style, but the thinness of the material, at whatever the dynamic level it is played, cannot be gainsaid. Decibel, a 10-strong ensemble founded by Ed Bennett, most of the time appears only to provide a texture from which the saxophone can elaborate. The electronics provide a further layer of texture. And one shouldn’t blame the composer for the notes that appear in the CD booklet. They take tendentiousness to a new level (or layer): “like all great music it exists on many layers.” The recording is immediate and in your face, as you would expect (hope) for music of this nature and of an amplified ensemble.

I Need This (2001) for amplified female voice and electronics is “a theatrical work in which the main character is obsessed with something.” The composer asks that the soloist should “enter into their chosen obsessive state for the duration of the piece.” It isn’t revealed what Suzanne Purkis is obsessed with, so we may only guess. My guess is that it is with singing the same interval of a third over and over, and rather tedious it becomes. The electronic track is, however, endlessly imaginative and engaging and, had the “live” vocal part been more integrated with it, or more varied, we might have an interesting piece along the lines of Berio’s Visage . As in that work, the solo voice is eventually multitracked and presumably prerecorded in performance, so one wonders how performable I Need This , like Dzama Stories , is without the protagonists who appear on this disc. A disc to explore, nevertheless, and the cautious can sample a YouTube video of excerpts from this music.

FANFARE: Jeremy Marchant
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Works on This Recording

Dzama Stories, for amplified ensemble, electronics & improviser by Ed Bennett
Performer:  Paul Dunmall (Saxophone)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Decibel (Ensemble)
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Birmingham Conservatoire 
Length: 44 Minutes 55 Secs. 
I Need this, for amplified female voice & electronics by Ed Bennett
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Decibel (Ensemble)
Written: 2001 
Date of Recording: 05/2001 
Venue:  North Down College 
Length: 14 Minutes 3 Secs. 

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