REVIEWS: metier msv 28532   TIDE

Tide is a beguiling and impressively conceived and performed collection that testifies to the continuing vitality of the experimental project – considered in its broadest possible sense as a configuration of art and underground music striving at silence, freedom and exploratory simplicity.

The title piece is typical, in drawing on indeterminate principles of assemblage (cyclical loops within and across parts) in a context of composed silence, durational play and collaged, oblique repetition. The piece is actually three solo pieces: one for clarinet and electronics, the second for cello, and the third for oboe d'amore, which can be overlaid as the performers see fit. The composite version of the work narrates a series of comings together and fadings away. The clarinet slowly amasses a viscous, glowing throb of tones barely heard but stacked in canon. Christopher Redgate's wheedling oboe jolts in the middle section, striking the listener out of a trance. Anton Lukoszevieze's quiet cello, played with a modified bow that allows the sounding of all four strings at once, dominates the final nine minutes with its clotted but distant painted chords, the oboe now silent and the clarinet petering to retreat, the effort to find new truths and revelations suspended or displaced for now.

The second disc of Tide comprises the solo versions of the composite title work. As a piece of programming this is an effective conceit; hearing the solo parts now seemingly out of context presents them in a completely new light, pock-marked by the ghosts and sonic spectres of other hearings. Redgate's Burnham Air is just as fleet and severe as in the earlier version, though if anything its precipitate rising scales and the lengthened, oscillating tones that see-saw with those scales suggest an even greater degree of dramatic intensity than before, where they were at least heard as dialogue and not pleading monologue. Lukoszevieze's Tide sounds with much more detail and clarity in its solo version, revealing another deliberate cyclical structure of a steady rise and then reverse fall, a sonic tiding that rhymes with the translucent wabi-sabi tides of Andrew Sparling's clarinet in his solo Sky.
Stephen Graham

Topical nominations from readers for challenging music to populate [a new chart for challenging music] are welcome. My own suggestion is Tide , a double CD of music by James Weeks. Cageian connections abound on this new release: the performing ensemble Apartment House, which was founded by cellist and inter-disciplinary artist Anton Lukoszevieze, takes its name from Cage's composition Apartment House 1776 , composer James Weeks featured here previously directing vocal ensemble Exaudi's performance of John Cage's Song Books at Aldeburgh, and the work uses the curved cello bow that Cage specified for his 1991 compositions ONE8 and 108 . Tide is three solo pieces, for cello with the curved Bach bow that sounds all four strings simultaneously, for clarinet with electronic sound delay creating a canon effect, and for oboe d'amore. The three pieces can be played separately or as a trio, and the Metier double CD offers both versions. When performed together, as they are on disc one, Cageian controlled chance comes into play, with the points of entry being left to the chance decision of the musicians, but with the shape of the three discrete musical strands controlled by the score.

Leading pioneer in brain plasticity research Michael Merzenich explains that "When culture drives changes in the ways that we engage our brains, it creates different brains". If I was controller of BBC Radio 3 - one can but dream - I would order the thirty-one minute composite version of James Weeks' Tide to be played in its entirety on the station's Breakfast programme every day for a week as an antidote to the neurofissilty inducing dumb-downedness that currently prevails there.

James Weeks has made his name as artistic director and conductor of EXAUDI, the British vocal ensemble that relishes taking a warble on the wild side: Finnissy, Fox, Cage, Sciarrino, Xenakis. And Weeks' own music clearly resonates in empathy with the composers he likes to programme.

Tide is a composite composition incorporating three solo instrumental pieces – Burnham Air for oboe d'amore, Tide for cello, Sky for clarinet and electronics – their structures interlaced, as Weeks writes, so that the “components are not so much simultaneous as coexistent”. The gradually unfolding canonic energy fields of the clarinet piece anchors everything else; cello and oboe d'amore are directed to enter when they like, and composed beginnings triggers a structural labyrinth that is predetermined by chance, or a higher intelligence, or some benign, mysterious meeting between the two.
Philip Clark

There's obviously something procedural going on in this music, probably more than two or three things at once, but I'm buggered if I can tell you what they are.

Although only 30 minutes long,  TIDE  is split over two discs. That's because it sort of exists in two separate versions: one as a trio for oboe d'amore, clarinet and cello ( TIDE proper); and secondly as three separate solos,  Burnham Air for oboe d'amore,  Tide  for cello, and  Sky for clarinet and electronics. Disc B contains the three solos, disc A the composite trio. The piece is composed as series of waves, of dynamic, of pitch, of rhythm, of tessitura, of density, and so on. There is a sense that loops are being used, but at a level of interlocking complexity that is hard to make out. Waves of one sort or another overlap, producing cascading effects of beating patterns and interferences. If that makes it sound like Lucier, it's not really; for all its superficial simplicity this isn't music that is easily summarised.

I'm a contrarian, so I listened to disc B first.  Burnham Air has a Finnissy-like quality about it, the hard-edges of the English pastoral; Birtwistle even, buried. Some of that is the flinty sound of the oboe d'amore, but that's not the only factor in play – Weeks's sequences of trills, arpeggios and runs (versions of each other viewed through different telescopes), following each other in a manner that sounds both mechanical and organic, achieve a kind of permanent impermanence, like clouds or sea, central London architecture, or the industrial North.

(When I profiled James's music on these pages a couple of years ago, I claimed that he had a particularly English voice, and I haven't changed my mind on that.)

Many of the qualities of Burnham Air are carried over into the other two solo pieces. Sky overlays a slowly drifting clarinet line with six recordings of itself, until a single melody becomes a waft of sine-tone like sounds. Tide for solo cello mediates, as Evan Johnson's typically elegant liner notes describe, ‘between the swelling placidity of Sky and the penetrating insistence of Burnham Air ‘. That is, it has the slow motion, but adds the abrasive timbre of a curved bow playing across four strings simultaneously. There are dimensions and dimensions here: not only the frequency of the waves, the speed of their component particles, their amplitude and their resolution (from glissando to arpeggio), but also the overtone spectrum of each sound, bright and focused for the oboe d'amore, broad and multi-coloured for the cello. The more one listens, the more one is impressed at how much variety Weeks has built in to what began as such simple inspiration.

When I listened to all three together, the musical mechanics became both more delineated and more obscure. The sense of interlocking waves – accidental, since the three parts aren't coordinated in performance – strengthens, but at the same time the mystery of what is actually going on just gets deeper. Something that should surely by now have become familiar is lit in entirely new ways.

TIDE was released in May, and my copy has been sat on my desk since then. I listened to it then, but it seemed entirely unsuited to what turned out to be a long, hot summer. Now, as we turn definitely to autumn, its tone and construction seem right for the changing of a season.
Tim Rutherford-Johnson
(editor of new Oxford Dictionary of Music,

James Weeks's TIDE , is actually a melding together of three works, a ‘composite' composition. These are Burnham Air for solo oboe d'amore, Tide (lower case) for solo cello and Sky for solo clarinet. These are presented apart on the second disc in the collection, together – not exactly at the same time since they are all different lengths – on the first.

Heard alone, Sky is a work of transcendental calm, the clarinet playing in lugubrious long counterpoints with a six-track recording of itself. The slightest event takes on enormous significance, the sound of the player's breath, the beating sounds created by detuning. Burnham Air, by contrast, is a plaintive work of curling scales and arpeggios, key-rattles and wailing detuning. It works its way into a strangely passive but extremely unsettling frenzy. Tide sits in between the feverish machinations of Burnham Air and the cosmic breadth of Sky . It is, perhaps, the least interesting of the three when played alone; the ceaseless glissandi and droning feel a little unvaried.

The gradual unfolding of these three planes in the composite work TIDE feels almost mystical in its inevitability, the whole becoming greater than the already substantial sum of its parts. Especially striking, when the planes start to interact, are the spectral effects created by the shifts in tuning. It feels like Weeks is playing with the waveform essence of music, manipulating things at their very root. The result is music that feels original but in some way also primeval. There is a lot going on, and I can't pretend to understand it all, let alone describe it in words. I recommend taking half an hour to make up your own mind, especially if you have Spotify, where Métier release all their recordings.
Christian Morris