An Laurence is a Chinese-Quebecer guitarist and artist well-versed in the world of experimental and avant-garde music. Almost Touching presents works for guitar, voice, and electronics, not always all three at the same time, by contemporary composers, many of them Canadian. A Serenata for solo guitar by Sofia Gubaidulina, written in 1969, is considered a traditional classic in this program. That gives you an idea! We are somewhere between Berio, Jerusalem in My Heart, spoken word, indie rock, and John Cage.
Amy Brandon’s Artificial Light is a delicate piece, a diaphanous veil made of a delicate cushion of electronic sounds over which the guitar strings out notes that settle on the ethereal soundscape. Kim Farris-Manning’s Almost Touching (asymptote) unfolds a text by Joël Pourbaix with diaprous colors and effects. The piece begins with a minute of barely audible sighs that give way, after a sudden strong inspiration, to the text itself accompanied by An Laurence’s Webernian guitar. The music becomes more expressive for a short time near the middle of the work, but the whole remains restrained. The effect is that of a waking dream, surreal.
Elischa Kaminer’s Chants d’amour is almost a work for solo voice, so minimal is the instrumentation. An Laurence recites the texts in a relatively monotone voice (was that the intention?) for an effect of almost emotional detachment. Shelley Marwood’s Reconciling Duality is a study in tremolos. They are used in a thousand ways: from the most untimely attacks to barely whispered touches. A whole dialectic unfolds in this way, from the most scattered evocations to dense and agitated contractions. In concert, the effect must be impressive.
Arthur Keegan-Bole’s Nocturne, for guitar and electronics, offers the soloist the role of Ariadne’s thread in the labyrinth of electronic textures that go from sampled strings to the sound signal of Greenwich Time in a dreamlike march that seems to take place in an exoplanetary landscape.
Sofia Gubaidulina’s Serenata completes this fascinating journey in a way that could not be more acoustic and traditional, frankly soothing and reassuring, so exceptional and out of the ordinary was the journey to which we were just invited.
Here is music that you won’t hear from most of the broadcasters, and that will certainly not be talked about in the usual media, almost all of them in fact. And yet, we should, because it is of great importance in today’s music landscape.