Anthony Pateras | Collected Works Vol. II (2005-2018)
The pure musical relationship between Anthony Pateras and me has always been somewhat incomplete. Despite having listened to some of his albums as an improviser and some of his piano works such as Errors of the Human Body and Ataxia where he plays trio with Sean Baxter and David Brown, I had never got the chance of seeing him playing live or got in depth with his most diverse compositional works.
Still, everything I’ve listened to from him has been so inspiring that I had told myself many times to go down that alley and enlarge the scope of knowledge of his work. Finally, this boxset comes as an epiphany, gathering a huge collection of different compositional perspective and angles offering a pretty broad idea of his imagery and, for those who like to experience a process, a nice excursus over the development of his ideas and complexity.
But to clear some mental space in what is going to be a long review, I need to say that I will talk about the different discs as separated instances, as each of them is underlining a precise aspect of the composer’s work, and I will try to be strict with direct references at the single pieces, in order to save some space for his overall gestalt idea of the whole boxset.
Disc 1 – Solo & electronics [A]
In this first CD Pateras explores the interaction between the physical possibility of different instruments to produce endless tones and the electroacoustic live processing that happens in real time. For many instruments, in fact, it’s practically not possible to produce notes without an envelope, a sequence of Attack-Sustain-Decay. Pateras is aware of this and exploits the physiological internal variations in the form of beatings, timbric and tonal differences operated by the energy output of the performer, to establish a dialogue with the electroacoustic chain.
Here tape fluttering and time differences, delay, panning algorithms become the counterpoint elements that as in a slow, textural canon dwell in and intertwine a correlation with the physical space of the performance. All four pieces here are iconic of this way of working, but the process gives the most solid results when working with string instruments as it happens in A happy sacrifice and Down To Dust.
Disc 2 – Improvising Ensemble [A]
“I think that’s a good idea. And once you have a good idea, you can play it for ages.”
That’s how Anthony Pateras concludes the text he writes about Decay of Logic, a piece he composed for 10 musicians installed in a circle with as many loudspeakers, each facing the musician on the other end of the diameter and projecting his sound. In fact, his ideas about long tones subjected to microscopic time delays and the timbric differences between the acoustic and the electronic sound that also appeared in the compositions of his first disc, are retrieved and orchestrated for bigger ensembles.
While As long as breathe or bow deals with such concepts in a pretty linear way, using instruments that due to their physical qualities can play “as long as breathe or bow”, faring towards a crescendo with brass acid bursts and string cries, The Decay of Logic tosses into the mix some percussive elements that help construct a more materialistic setting for the composition, grounding it to the floor. This Klangfarbenmelodie of orchestrated chords does not mean to be anything revolutionary, but it is especially well crafted and sounds as immersive and meditative as it could ever be.
Disc 3 – Trios
In his trios Pateras shows the more broken aspects of his music, dealing with instruments such as vibraphones (problematic indeed, and for me the perfect materialisation of all my nightmares at once, as well as the absolute only reason why I never attempted a career as a classical percussionist), guitars and prepared pianos. Infinite Variations on Collapsed Time is a vexatious yet beautiful piece where a sense of despair and frustration follows along the whole composition. It reminded me of a dream I once had: I am walking the narrow street close to my house in Napoli, when a guy I barely knew, but had mocked me once on my way back to school, starts to push me and to make a fool of me. I then try to hit back, to punch him but my arms wouldn’t move, my hands so heavy that I could barely lift them and all my attempts fall short. I woke up soaked in sweat and with a sense of injustice and turmoil uncomfortably crawling up under the surface of my skin.
To maybe help Mr. Pateras understanding whether Three Mirrors is the best or the worst thing he has ever done – he asks for it in his booklet – my humble and personal opinion is that it might not be the worst, but definitely not the best either.
Disc 4 – Solo and Electronics [B]
In this CD it feels like Pateras establishes a relationship with the classics and tries to kill his masters. Tam Tam and electronics, as in Stockhausen but without microphones, composing in Luc Ferrari’s studio choosing the only instrument that doesn’t sound like him, exploring the potential of the voice in relation with electronics. The results are very heterogeneous in terms of structures and sonic results, yet compared to Disc 1 here Pateras is dealing more with the use of synthesizers, rather than tape machines, introducing a logic of addiction rather than transformation.A reality in which everything is substitution really needs a couple of dedicated lines as this attempt to create a static dimension, flayed of whatever vestige of gesture, hits the most delightful sweet spot of dramatic non-evolution. Here we don’t withstand a statue, we perceive a living body who is abandoning life to become a crystallization itself, as in icon of eternity. This piece of fluctuating melancholy is an impossible photograph of a kyu-do shot where each single part of the complex and utterly precise movement is present at the same time, a representation of a moment that lasts forever.
Disc 5 – Improvising Ensembles [B]
Once again in this speculative, very well structured, listening experience, this CD acts as an evolution in terms of the size of Disc 4 – solo and electronics [B] and is contrasted to improvising ensembles [A]. Here as a recurring feature in all the pieces, we find hetero-rhythmical structures and clusters of impulses that form big unrecognisable, yet charming, sound nebulae who play with density and steer suddenly as flocks of particles following some twisted Boyd’s algorithm. All the pieces here, especially Artifacts of Translation, are very physical and muscular, but are still somehow coated with a layer of intangibility that make them appear as well-crafted illusions, mirages of the actual world with all its physical laws and behaviours.
The rhythm plays a fundamental role, as in the second movement of Fragments, Splinters & Shards, the speed and the turbulence of the many beatings responding to each other and coming from all possible directions feel like a body hitting the atmosphere while falling free, crushed by the pressure and disintegrating during the precipitation.
Altogether this boxset offers a pretty complete view over Pateras works with ensemble, solo and electronics and provide a perception of an artists in constant evolution, exploring all aspects of his own creativity, seeking for the unknown and not trying to utterly repeat his success. Of course not every piece will be a masterpiece neither it needs to be, as the process and investigation of both the self and the music result in a much more interesting practice both for the artist and for the audience.
I now wish to put my hands on the Collected Works Vol I as soon as possible.