The roots of Swiss composer, performer, and improviser Cyril Bondi are in percussion, but his work in recent years, particularly through his collaborations with fellow countryman d’incise, has embraced a much wider scope. This version of his piece ‘euhesma’ features indian harmonium, melodica, harmonica, pitch pipes, and electric organ. In many experimental music scores, sounds are represented by rectangular blocks indicating the duration for which they should be sustained, but in my imagination the score for ‘euhesma’ looks less like a series of blocks and more like a mountain range, starting out as a child’s drawing of simple outlines and quickly becoming much more detailed and complex.
The instruments chosen by Bondi and d’incise for this recording don’t offer a great range of timbral colours, but contours and shading are effectively delineated through changes in pitch, harmony, volume, and what I like to think of more generally as the intensity or energy of how a sound is performed. Sometimes undulating gently, sometimes rising majestically in steep and jagged peaks, the music effectively evokes the full gamut of mountainous terrains. There are deep canyons here too, not of silence but of pitch; when silence or very low volume is used, I perceive flatness rather than the abyss.
Like all metaphors, the mountain image eventually breaks down, failing to capture all the nuances of what in the end is simply and specifically music. Some ideas, such as the repeated flaring of notes in the manner of a pulsing lighthouse, seem to recur several times; the mood at the end of the piece, with its minor-key pacing, is perhaps a little dark or sombre. Despite having a number of very experienced and gifted composers on its roster, Edition Wandelweiser is doing a great job of presenting recordings of work by younger emerging talent, of which “euhesma” is a fine example. Anyone interested in the possible paths experimental music may take in the future should keep an ear out for this label and for innovative and subtle artists such as Bondi.