Erwan Keravec

Buda Musique cd 860368

By Ken Waxman

Having unshackled Breton bagpipes from its role in traditional music by creating settings for choreographers and dancers, improvising alongside free player and interpreting notated sounds Erwan Keravec takes the next step and commissions works for solo bagpipe from modern composers. This eponymously titled CD preserves his newest iterations as the French squeeze box innovator premiers dedicated originals from German composer Heiner Goebbels (“N°20/58”); French composer Eliane Radigue (“OCCAM OCEAN OCCAM XXVII”); and recasts for bagpipes American composer Philip Glass’ piano continuum “Two Pages”.

Goebbels’ piece is the most challenging since it was recorded outdoors with Keravec’s stridently pitched drones and eerie chanter whistles sharing space with, and reacting to, aleatoric insertions of pouring rain and thunder claps. As focused bagpipe variations trill, the percussive external forces are solidly subsumed by Keravec’s shaking drone. Bagpipe buzzing is omnipresent on Radigue’s extended composition as well since the initial crackling textures are soon replaced by a sturdy drone which undulates without pause until a brief final transformation into a more dissonant motif. Unsurprisingly as well, Glass’ repetitive theme is craftily adapted to bagpipes with Keravec skillfully using the properties of the instrument’s airtight bag to continuously echo the note pattern. Eventually by also emphasizing the bottom drone, he enlivens the initial theme with fiddle-like sweeps, adding kinetics to minimalism.

Creating a unique and compelling solo recital, the bagpiper confirms the 21st Century shibboleth that any instrument can actually perform any type of music.

—For The Whole Note March 2021