The place could be an empty room; a quiet street corner; a fountain or waterfall; a huge echoey space. The sounds: reverberant cracks, lush organ drone, quiet whoosh of distant traffic, tapping and banging, whistles and squeaks, accordion chords, low, rough gurgling, high-pitched whining, fast chirruping, guitar and clarinet notes, footsteps and voices, ringing like an old telephone, ringing like a fire alarm. The durations: from three seconds to around 12 minutes. The volume: mostly quiet, with some crescendos and diminuendos, and some bolder amplitudes here and there.
The structure of Ryoko Akama’s “places and pages”, consisting as it does of a large number of mostly short, seemingly unrelated pieces, suggests a collection of scribbled notes and brief jottings accumulated over time. An interview with the composer on the Another Timbre label website sets the record straight: the text scores behind each piece were each carefully developed and thought through with performance in mind. Reassembled here are the crew who performed Taku Sugimoto’s ‘mada’ so beautifully — Akama, Cristián Alvear, d’incise, and Cyril Bondi — with the addition of Christian Müller and Stefan Thut. Together they perform the pieces with the sort of balance between sensitive openness and calm precision I’ve come to expect from these musicians.
I did feel that this two-disc collection could’ve been edited down to one CD without losing the overall concept — this is something worth thinking about in these days when many potential listeners are rich in music but comparably poor in time, especially when many of the pieces follow the collections-of-sounds-interspersed-by-silence pattern that by now feels very familiar. But there is some wonderful music here: at the moment I’m especially taken by the unhurried two-note pattern of ‘places and pages 11’, the rough minor-key tonality of ‘places and pages 24’, and the rushing of water and distant voices of ‘places and pages 32’. Play the album through, make an hour-long playlist of your favourites, and enjoy; or put on shuffle and listen for as long as you have time.