Herbstsonne by David Jackman

David Jackman Herbstsonne
Die Stadt (CD)

The new music involves a lot of repetition; more accurately, near-repetition. It is a quality which I find most elegant. In the visual arts, such formal arrangement would be greeted without a murmur but in music it does seem to cause people some problems; problems which I am afraid I have no interest in solving. That sonic architecture is the piece, every time, and is also the reason why I can use many of the sounds again and again. However, despite the tight palette and the even tighter structures, the pieces have proved very hard to get into their final shape. What looks so easy has been, in fact, the opposite”.

These words by David Jackman are not from last week. They were pronounced in 2007, after Organum’s milestone Amen – second chapter of a trilogy also including Sanctus and Omega – had been dismissed as “pompous” and “limp” in The Wire. But Jackman has never been interested in ineffective changes; the “let’s mess things up a bit” attitude typical of many of today’s artists does not belong to his DNA. In fact, he kept using the same constituents for two additional Organum items, 2010’s Sorow and 2018’s Raven. All of the above represents essential listening for anybody who realises that drones are strictly connected with our innermost recollecting abilities, the data transmission occurring by sheer vibrational momentum rather than mnemonic/intellectual effort. Jackman’s music causes the air’s molecules to shift in a special way, which is going to remain totally obscure to the superficial observer.

What brings Jackman to decide if a given release must be credited to himself – as in this case – or Organum is beyond my knowledge; however, it’s not important in terms of absorption of the message. Herbstsonne (“Autumn Sun”) is scored for tanpura, piano, organ and bells. You guessed it: these are some of the colors used in the aforementioned albums, though their implementation over the course of this 47-minute piece is evidently different. Aside from the acoustic rectitude emerging from Jackman’s instrumental deployment, stark contrasts exist between the hypnotic qualities of the tanpura/organ mix, the sparse tolling of the bells and the abrupt chords hammering at one’s focus: imagine reality trying to restate its authority on the wish of keeping sufferance at a safe distance. 

The reiterative structure alters the perception of time while strengthening the belief in unfathomable resonance as the lone principle of eternal transformation. Amidst anthropocentrically illogical theories – conceived by little men to exercise the concept of a “creating entity”, a carpet to sweep the dust of human stupidity beneath – trusting an omni-comprehensive drone to improve one’s extracorporeal characteristics appears too much to ask at this moment.   

Jackman doesn’t care. A man of rare and precious statements, he declared in 1988 that the music of Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham appealed to him (lest you forget, for decades he has been considered a primary exponent of the avant-noise movement). Although the more recent output doesn’t show any trace in that regard, that interest is not surprising. Very few individuals are capable of discerning the harmonic core of a massive clangor, or a motorcycle’s engine; helpful upper partials come to those born in certain perceptive conditions. When a musician manages to distil them from what others would describe as insufferable racket, the expectations are high for those findings to evolve into a kind of peaceful stasis that can still kick someone’s ass. Herbstsonne does exactly that, its sounds eliciting at once non-ritualistic spirituality, unselfish realism, and the consciousness of the afterlife as a necessary growth. 

As the matter is recycled, “next life” delusions continue to fuel hopeless existences. Meanwhile, the container of everything reverberates ad infinitum.

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