TOM JOHNSON – Symmetries

(Karnatic Lab)

“Symmetries” is a cycle of 49 short pieces for four-hand piano, here played by Amsterdam-based Dante Oei and Samuel Vriezen, that translates into music a series of “visual arrangements” (check the CD leaflet) originated at the beginning of the 80′s with Stephen Dydo’s music typewriter. As Johnson correctly points out in the liners, there are a few differences in the visual and aural perceptions, in that “sometimes rhythms were much easier to hear than to see”. What transpires to these ears is an intriguing, almost perplexing study on tangential resonance, as the cross-pollination of simultaneous figurations, parallel inversions and at times unpredictable correlations remain as “Johnson” as ever, geometries in the rarefied air of an inflexible logic. Yet there are at least three resemblances that I came across in my mind during the playback, their names being Satie, Feldman and Stravinsky. Don’t ask me why, it’s just how these fascinating counterpoints behave, like if those artists’ spirit had silently guided the composer’s hands while he was typing the notes on paper, spraying the mathematic aspect of “Symmetries” with a luminescent powder, an aura of past remembrance that gives this work an additional dose of charm, transforming it in one of the best things that Johnson has ever published. It’s that good.


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