CD review: Cem Güney: five compositions (Wandelweiser)

Cem Güney: five compositions

Antoine Beuger, Germaine Sijstermans, Tobias Liebezeit, Burkhard Schlothauer, Lydia Haurenherm, Marcus Kaiser


I have to admit, I know almost nothing about Cem Güney. He was born inTurkey in 1973, he is a trumpet player with a background in jazz and improvisation, and he studied at the College of San Mateo in California. This recording of Five Compositions was funded through CD pre-orders through Edition Wandelweiser Records; the music on it was described by Antoine Beuger at the time as “very personal and beautiful, yet still unheard”. That was enough for me, at least, to chip in.

I also know almost nothing about how these pieces have been put together. They’re written for a sextet of flute, clarinet, percussion (quiet, white-noisy/rattley-type things), violin, viola and cello. They each follow a similar pattern, presenting a solitary idea – a chord, an instrumental texture – that alternates with short silences and gradually evolves with each return. The first, two and three, is almost like breathing. The sounds themselves are beautifully and carefully devised, particularly the gently descending peals in mulberry grove, but it is impossible to inuit how much is specified (and in what manner) and how much is realised by the players. For the most part the musicians are playing as an ensemble, more or less coordinated and to more or less the same rhythm. (The playing, incidentally, is utterly gorgeous, limpid, rich, but impressing itself on the recording space just enough.) Some stretches are conceivably Christian Wolff-ish; others, such as the relatively elaborately structured hive mind, are presumably written out in some detail. My guess is that quite a lot is worked out in this way.

But that is not the point; the fact that you can’t quite tell is. In my last Wandelweiser review I suggested that something that connects Wandelweiser releases is “more or less shared concerns about the relationship of sound (material) to context”. Refining that a little in reference to this disc, I would say that it also has something to do with the search for edges, the exact point where one thing shades into another. The line between design and happy accident is one element that drives Güney’s music. It’s not the only line either – these pieces are also sensitive to the divides between harmony and dissonance, tone and noise, stasis and rhythm, sound and silence, music and its surroundings. The last of the five, inner voice, for düsseldorf, was composed for this recording and pushes out of the mould just slightly with the introduction of a voice, reading fragments from poems by Gonca Özmen. And the music, too, just loosens off a little, with the instruments starting to pull apart from one another.


2 thoughts on “CD review: Cem Güney: five compositions (Wandelweiser)

  1. You forgot to mention that “mulberry grove” contains the same intervals, organized in the same linear sequence, as “Fix You” by Coldplay.

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