The Ensemble Intercontemporain performs four visionary works by Alberto Posadas (b. 1967) on this new Kairos disc. Francois-Xavier Roth is the conductor of the first three pieces, which are acoustic, while the title track is electroacoustic and has no conductor. One of the more amazing things about this music is that it *all* sounds electroacoustic! Posadas makes heavy use of long tones and trilling to create vibrations with an acoustic ensemble that sound electronic. I had to consult the liner notes repeatedly before I was convinced that the first three pieces are strictly acoustic.
Some of the dates of composition given on the disc are wrong, as it turns out -- "Cripsis" (2001 -- 11'36) for an ensemble of 15, is the earliest, the breakthrough that led to the others. (That it came first is indicated by the text of the notes by Jose L. Besada, and the date comes from the IRCAM website. The disc gives the date of 2007.) Posadas's music is an excellent, creative branching on the tree growing from Xenakis and Francisco Guerrero (1951-1997), Posadas's teacher before Guerrero's premature death. "Cripsis" was the result of a search for "a practical compromise between Xenakis-like formalism and Spectralist-like sonic meditation." This combination produces music that sounds like it is composed of vibrations rather than discrete notes, an effect that transforms acoustic instrumental ensembles into what sound like electronic waves. Impressive in its own right, this piece paved the way for even more powerful works in subsequent years.
"Nebmaat" (2003 -- 15'35) is written for a quintet of violin, viola, cello, clarinet, and soprano sax, and is inspired by the Bent Pyramid of Sneferu in Dahshur, which contains a secret labyrinth. Says Besada: "The chronometric architecture of the work bends the secret corridors of the pyramid by transposing its physical disposition into a recursive weaving of temporal sections, as a web-like hypermatrix of points in time which gestures consist in a never-ending process of crossings and side-by-side development." The use of the smaller quintet provides a welcome textural contrast in the flow of the disc.
The album leads with "Oscuro abismo de llanto y de ternura (Dark abyss of tears and tenderness)" (2005 -- 19'51) for an ensemble of 29, which opens with dramatic percussion. Commissioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain, "Oscuro abismo" is a denunciation of the violence committed against children in war zones, particularly in the Iraq of 2003-2005. It is hard to believe that this is not an electroacoustic work. Contrabass, tuba, bass clarinets, bassoons, trombone and cellos generate a "dark abyss" of sound indeed, the vibrations of the lower regions, the demonic realms...
Finally, "Glossopeia" (2009 -- 19'07) is written for a quartet of viola, cello, bass clarinet, and percussion, with electronics. This is the third part of a larger multimedia work for three dancers, video and music. Posadas used mathematical models developed to describe the growth of plant tissues in "Glossopeia," creating a rhizomatic network of sound. In this case, the impression that more sound is being generated than four instruments are capable of is finally accurate.
This is visionary music, a most welcome extension of the work of Iannis Xenakis and Francisco Guerrero. Alberto Posadas has emerged as one of the most striking, accomplished, and promising of younger composers!
By all means you should hear this new disc along with his recent Liturgia Fractal string quartet cycle (see my review).