PARA

Paraphon
Freifeld Tontraeger #025

Udo Schindler/Ingrid Schmoliner

Blaublatt

Creative Sources CS 387 CD

Even with musicians involved who hail from elsewhere, could these CDs be any more Austrian? Not only are three of the four players Vienna residents, but on both Blaublatt and Paraphon a different participant lets loose with some Alpine semi-yodelling. Plainly though, examining the program and the musicians involved, the Austria typified as the land of Mozart and The Sound of Music isn’t germane here. Instead the discs are in the exploratory tradition that stretches from Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern through the Reform Art Unit and the Klingt.org experimenters.

A concert recording from Kralling, Germany Blaublatt is a sympathetic, nine-track timbral exploration between Vienna-based Ingrid Schmoliner using (prepared) pianist and voice and local multi-instrumentalist Udo Schindler, who has interacted with an orchestra’s worth of players on the unconventional music scene. Recorded a couple of years later at Ulrichsberg’s Kaleidophon festival, Paraphon features Schmoliner is part of the PARA trio along with bassist Thomas Stempkowski and Greek-born French horn player Elena Kakaliagou, who vocalizes at point during the trio’s seven track performance.

Confining himself to clarinet and bass clarinet on Blaublatt, Schindler is his usual canny self, digging tones from deep within his horns’ body tubes, reeds and keys. Exhaling, his puffs-to-squalls can range from sweet and measured to shrilling multiphonics. From her seat, Schmoliner spends as much time stopping and strumming the piano strings as working out intricate patterns on the keyboard. Her dynamic exposition on “Munda Warum Immer” for instance involves sprightly lyre-plucking matched up with bottom slurs from the bass clarinet that when exposed to piano cadenzas become more expressively multi-faceted. Plus a tune such as “Munda Inner Halb” contrasts linear clarinet gusts with mallet string popping and piano wood knocking with hints of throat singing.

As elaborations of other tunes range from ambulatory to deliberate and feature timbres that can be brazen and staccato or cackling and splintered, the two reach a profound climax on “Halbhalt” and “Gehtiere”, the concert’s penultimate and final tracks. Even more atonal than previously, the reedist’s low-pitched gurgles are uplifted from among harpsichord-like string echoes to intense, moderato lines that squeal defiance to Schmoliner’s high-frequency patterning. Fading into “Gehtiere”, the pianist’s wordless Alpine yodels are met with mountain-goat-like snorts than cries from Schindler’s horn until these broken chord textures actual meld as connective warbles.

Less combative, although as musically rewarding, the Ulrichsberg performance presents a fully integrated five-year-old trio’s third recording. From the first track on its Kakaliagou’s alp-horn-like timbres and vocalizing which suggestion the trio’s affiliation with this sort of mountain music. Probably gibberish rather than being clichéd “Greek”, the hornist’s verbalization that end in conspiratorial whispers make a proper human contrast to the slaps and buzzes from both the bass strings and items jangling on inner piano strings.

As the pseudo-chanting continues throughout the set, its integration within the polyphonic sound architectures becomes as fundamental as a door in a building. The recitation, for instance, doesn’t preclude a multi-part improvisation that reaches a crescendo on “Ítane Miá Forá” uniting Stempkowski’s floating bass line, Schmoliner’s note clusters and wiggling French horn baying from Kakaliagou. Even without voice interjections, but with French horn breaths on “Matrjoschka”, the bassist’s most upfront continuous plucks and string thwacks, with the percussive sound of balls jumping on inner piano strings confirm the trio’s close cooperation.

As the concluding “Glut” is introduced with a horn riff that sounds like “Taps”, the set of triple overtones settles into full-bodies musical story telling which is almost straight-ahead. Finally, the string plucks, keyboard smacks and metallic French horn output gradually fade into an artful summation.

The discs offer more proof that without invoking nationalist folklore, and despite a right-wing federal government, that notable exploratory Austrian sounds are still being produced.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Blaublatt: 1. Rote Kafer 2. Munda Warum Immer 3. Munda_Einundeins 4. Munda Inner Halb 5. Munda_Ichsagedir 6. Halbhalt 7. Gehtiere

Personnel: Blaublatt: Udo Schindler (clarinet bass clarinet) and Ingrid Schmoliner (prepared piano and voice)

Track Listing: Paraphon: 1. Karpaten 2. Kanís Den Íxere Pou Pái 3. Aupa 4. Ifeéstio 5. Ítane Miá Forá 6. Matrjoschka 7. Glut

Personnel: Paraphon: Elena Kakaliagou (French horn); Ingrid Schmoliner (prepared piano) and Thomas Stempkowski (bass)