FRANK DENYER – Music For Shakuhachi

(Another Timbre)

Only in recent times the name of this English maverick is receiving a well deserved wider attention. Born in 1943, currently a Professor of Composition at the Dartington College of Arts in Devon, Frank Denyer – who has been into deepening the sonic structures of non-Western materials for many years – uses both regular instruments and modified media to create music whose character is largely microtonal. This CD presents four pieces for shakuhachi – solo and with percussion – masterfully interpreted by Yoshikazu Iwamoto, an artistic collaborator and friend of Denyer since 1974. Percussions, when present, are played by the creator himself and Paul Hiley. A major point of interest for the composer (whose love for the shakuhachi was sparkled, as a student, by a Goro Yamaguchi LP on Nonesuch) resided in finding new solutions and alternative approaches to the “melodic obsession” that he developed in the 70s. Denyer mostly focuses on micro-pitch control, highlighting a performer’s ability of rendering the “subtle nuances” that his imagination envisions in single-line melodies, something this instrument lends itself perfectly to. Iwamoto was able to get into the flesh of Denyer’s scores, infusing them with passion, impressive technical wizardry and rigour. What transpires avoids sterile reproduction and insignificant bows to Japanese traditions and rituals, despite obvious hints to that kind of expression. On the contrary, this music makes great use of silence and space as foundations of a virtuosity that explicates through incredibly precise designs and extremely complex evolutions happening amidst continuous variations of intensity and dynamics. The worn out concept of “total command” definitely applies to the performer’s style, the over 70 minutes elapsing in thorough aural gratification. For an (almost) mono-timbral collection, a noteworthy result.


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