released October 24, 2016
“Orienting Response was written specifically for Cristian Alvear at his request. In writing the piece I wanted to see if I could create the same kind of focus and intensity I have created with percussion instruments using an instrument (the nylon stringed guitar) that is naturally not well-equipped to produce the type of timbres or high dynamic levels that I have worked with up to this point.”
The score Orienting Response (2015-16), written by Sarah Hennies specifically for Chilean guitarist Cristian Alvear, is composed of six parts with short instructions describing some unusual techniques, such as:
Play as accurately and consistently as possible but with the assumption that “mistakes” are inevitable.
Allow “mistakes” to occur, do not attempt to correct them.
All sounds should ring freely (as long as is possible) unless otherwise indicated.
All timings and tempi are approximate and flexible.
Sarah Hennies, one of the most compelling young American composers, works on the narrow edge between contemporary composing, solo percussion creation and a virtuous improvisation in projects as Meridian and Obody. In Orienting Response she keeps on observing and exploring even more deeply various percussive acoustic phenomenas, which are on this record, hidden inside of classical guitar body.
Cristian Alvear is, unlike delicate interpretations of compositions by Jürg Frey, Radu Malfatti, Michael Pisaro or Antoine Beuger, filling the quiet contemplative gaps with repetitive fields which direct the attention to the sound itself and to the concentrated interplay of subtle changes and mistakes. Alvear explores the possibilities of the guitar in a very immersing way, full of natural resonances, drones, deep listening details and a faith in a different guitar sonicity.
Mappa presents a neverending cassette loop, a radical approach to reductive repetition, created out of minimal material with maximal precision, modesty, and canniness.
design and handwork: Zoltán Czakó, Jakub and Anna Juhás
released by mappa as MAP04
For those who are curious, there is an interesting recent podcast from Paul Margree of We Need No Swords blog featuring Cristián Alvear, where Alvear goes into a little detail about working with Sarah Hennies on Orientating Response for guitar. Margree’s comment “Cristián really is at the cutting edge of what’s happening in contemporary composition” says it all. Sarah Hennies is no slouch either; she has recently been developing a compositional role within a broader artistic practice. A particularly good piece is documented here… Paul Khimasia Morgan (The Sound Projector)
A carefully sculpted world of tone, expanded rhythm, and space, this is easily one of the best records I’ve heard all year. Like it’s creator, it is deeply generous, and creatively ambitious. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s out today via Mappa – housed in an incredible wooden box. You can pick it up from them directly, and listen to the album’s stunning entirely below… Bradford Bailey (The Hum)
Christian Alvear is completely immersed in the composer’s instructions, but does not forget the sound of the instrument, which is extremely important for the artist. The smallest nuances of his games give the listener a rich material for reflection or simply the pleasure of music: choose what you need… Ilia Belorukov (syg.ma)
This is certainly not easy listening music, and I can easily imagine some people would be annoyed by it but this is the kind of music that demands a different mind set when listening to it, one that perhaps requires a more Zen-like approach to listening to music. I thought this was all quite fascinating music, both from a meditative point of view, as well as a more ‘objective’ music-lover position… Frans de Waard (Vital Weekly)
As the composer herself says, “Orienting Response was written specifically for Cristian Alvear at his request. In writing the piece I wanted to see if I could create the same kind of focus and intensity I have created with percussion instruments using an instrument (the nylon stringed guitar) that is naturally not well-equipped to produce the type of timbres or high dynamic levels that I have worked with up to this point…” James Wyness
This, finally, is what gives Orienting Response its strange power. That something so finely calibrated can weave a beautiful (albeit sometimes undetectable) inconsistency into its DNA gives it an almost glorious fallibility. In reality, there are no mistakes here, despite Hennies’ instructions. Just a series of wondrous moments… Paul Margree (wee need no swords)
Each of the six sections specifies a rigorous playing technique: “Play as accurately and consistently as possible but with the assumption that “mistakes” are inevitable.” Alvear’s eminently well-suited for this challenge; it makes the Frey and d’incise seem fanciful… Ben Harper (Boring Like A Drill)
A low-pitched, minor-key pattern sounds somehow slower than a higher-pitched major-key one, for example. Sometimes Alvear skips a silent beat or fluffs a note, but as per the composer’s instructions all of these ‘mistakes’ are left in rather than being edited out, underlining the intense concentration and precision required to perform the piece… Nathan Thomas (Fluid Radio)
Le temps, l’espace, ainsi que l’instrument sont comme effacés, dilués, et noyés dans la structure qui les porte, avec très peu de moyens. Il ne s’agit plus de jouer de la guitare, sur telle durée, de telle manière. Il s’agit de produire des séquences sonores uniques qui créent comme des bulles de son enrichies. Des sonorités éclatées, riches, denses, et profondes, à partir de moyens réduits, sont au service d’une structure simple et minimale qui éclate le temps et brouille les frontières spatiales à travers ces sonorités géniales… Julien Héraud (improv sphere)
Yet through each repeat, I start to develop an increasingly vivid impression of the original command, as Alvear’s imperfect execution forms a tighter and tighter circle around Hennies’ spotless conceptual premise. Gradually, patiently, effortlessly, the law of averages brings composer and player into line… Jack Chuter (ATTN:Magazine)
Deux pièces en participation écrite accompagnée de quelques directives aux parties très distinctes, mais qui pour elles deux favorisent l’écoute, l’attention. Recherche de la pureté de la note, prise environnementale (en une journée) que l’on peut entendre aussi chez Manuel Adnot, et jeu avec le silence, sont les caractéristiques principales de cette cassette emboitée dans un coffret en bois en série limitée. Une belle démarche, de belles sonorités, de beaux espaces. Plutôt réussi pour ma part, vous l’aurez compris… Cyrille Lanoe (Revue et Corrigee)