Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / José Oliveira

October 28, 2002


Creative Sources CS 001


Sudden Music

Creative sources CS 002



Creative Sources CS 005

Conceivably it’s because of his location, off the beaten jazz track in Lisbon, but Portuguese violinist Ernesto Rodrigues and his associates are creating original, non-idiomatic music with few outside references.

Definitely European of course, and closely attuned to those German, Austrian and British experimenters who deal as much with so-called silences as so-called noise, Rodrigues’ discs appear on his own Creative Sources label. The sounds here also take something from his personal passions — free jazz and post-serialism — as well as his earlier experiences playing Portuguese pop and rock music. With a slightly different cast of characters, each of these CDs reflects a different approach.

On site, his most valuable aide-de-camp is percussionist — and sometimes inside- piano and guitar player — José Oliveira, who has also recorded with sound poet Américo Rodrigues. Non-traditional — especially if Elvin Jones, Sunny Murray or even Tony Oxley are your standards — he knows about the proper uses of tumult and discord, and what the French call bruitage or controlled sound effects. But he can also remain nearly soundless for a while and uncouple parts of his kit for individual investigation.

Pointedly dedicated to the late British drummer and organizer John Stevens, but inspired by Viennese atonalist Anton Webern, MULTIPLES is made up of a series of 28 (!) miniatures ranging in length from a brief 49 second to a maximum of 2 minutes and 42 seconds. Hanging together in such a way that each subsequent track is an exercise in pointillism, what’s offered a non-linear elaboration of what has comes before. In the package, printed in the liner is a quote from German sculptor/installation artist Joseph Beuys: “The idea of multiples is the distribution of ideas”.

Ideas are certainly distributed, as are musical parts, with Rodrigues playing an Evan Parker-influenced soprano saxophone as well as violin and viola and Oliveira strumming and picking an acoustic guitar, as well as working his percussive noise magic. Third partner here is cellist Guilherme Rodrigues — relationship to E. Rodrigues unknown — whose string conception and techniques comfortably mesh with the smaller stringed instruments.

While at times the result is amorphous enough to equate to the sort of hushed contemporary BritImprov practiced by the likes of violinist Phil Durrant, guitarist John Russell and cellist Mark Wastell, there are still enough abrasive fiddle strokes, bow attacks on the front of the strings and percussion detonations plus bell ringing and mini-foghorn blasts to assert individuality.

More microtonal, SUDDEN MUSIC unrolls in an antithetical fashion, with the musicians working out on only four extended improvisations during the more than 70 minutes of the disc. Your CD player may think there are more tracks however. With frequent drawn out silences interrupting the sounds, not unlike the way Austria’s Polwechsel work, this disc presents anything but “sudden music”. Here electric guitarist António Chaparreiro joins Rodrigues, again on violin and viola, and Oliveira, who appends his inside piano talents to drum pulsations.

Somehow the hum, hiss and static of quasi-electronics is apparent as is the scratch and pull of viola strings, speedy fiddle runs and the occasional protracted guitar pluck. At times the percussionist seems to be whispering into the piano innards in a growling Captain Hook-like voice, before battering on the sides produces audible cracks and buzzes. Very occasionally the sound of a real piano key being manipulated is heard, though Oliveira seems to revel in creating metallic bangs with his percussion or descending thumps that become more distant as they’re sounded. Brush strokes and metal bar strokes sometimes appear as well.

All and all, FICTA appear to be the most impressive session. Also the most recent, though ironically recorded only 10 days after the proceeding CD, it swells (sic) the group to quartet size. Allowing for polytonality as well as dissonance, the new recruit is experimental Argentinean pianist Gabriel Paiuk, though don’t expect any rococo tango variations from him. Rodrigues is back on violin and viola, Oliveira limits himself to percussion, while cellist Guilherme Rodrigues reappears, bringing along a pocket trumpet that is mostly unidentifiable and usually inaudible.

Performed in a trebly higher pitch than on the others discs, the session is divided among six movements, each entitled “Nihil” plus a number. All appear to reflect the booklet quote from Russian/American poet Joseph Brodsky: “If you were a bird I’d cut a record and listen all night to your high-pitched trill”. The title is also supposed to reflect Musica Ficta, a pre-16th century musical practice of allowing performers to embellish the score with their own ornamentation — a primitive form of improvisation. Perhaps that’s why there are passages here that can be definitely attributed to the violin (or viola) and piano.

Still this introduction of full arpeggios and cadences doesn’t mean that quartet combinations don’t create some entirely new sounds. For instance, at one point, a single piano note is sounded over and over on top of a wave of percussive static that then gives way to the shaking of a bell tree and echoing drum beats. Elsewhere Oliveira has a chance to sound his selected and unselected uncoupled cymbals and produce a rubato, but foreshortened shuffle beat. Meanwhile Paiuk treats his keyboard as another percussive device, smashing hard onto the keys, stretching the strings and clanking and crashing inside and out. Occasionally too, there is an impressive multi-tonal sweep of violin or viola strings, but here, as on the other discs, Rodrigues make it clear that his vision is more than anything a group conception.

Right now, the arguably best known international exponent of Portuguese experimental improved music is violinist Carlos Zingaro. Yet with these discs and others, it would seem that Rodrigues, another cerebral string master deserves attention as well. These CDs are well worth anyone’s time. Just turn your player’s volume knob up to catch all the nuances here.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Multiples: 1. 1/28 2. 2/28 3. 3/28 4. 4/28 5. 5/28 6. 6/28 7. 7/28 8. 8/28 9. 9/28 10. 10/28 11. 11/28 12. 12/28 13. 13/28 14. 14/28 15. 15/28 16. 16/28 17. 17/28 18. 18/28 19. 19/28 20. 20/28 21. 21/28 22. 22/28 23. 23/28 24. 24/28 25. 25/28 26. 26/28 27.27/28 28. 28/28

Personnel: Multiples: Ernesto Rodrigues (violin, viola and soprano saxophone); Guilherme Rodrigues (cello); José Oliveira (percussion, acoustic guitar)

Track Listing: Sudden: 1. Round angles and sharp lines 2. Something is going to happen 3. Lateral thinking 4. Landscape with persons and furniture

Personnel: Sudden: Ernesto Rodrigues (violin, viola); António Chaparreiro (electric guitar); José Oliveira (percussion, inside piano)

Track Listing: Ficta: 1. Nihil 00.01 2. Nihil 00.02 3. Nihil 00.03 4. Nihil 00.04 5. Nihil 00.05 6. Nihil 00.06

Personnel: Ficta: Ernesto Rodrigues (violin, viola); Guilherme Rodrigues, (cello, pocket trumpet); Gabriel Paiuk (piano); José Oliveira (percussion)