Music for Two Organs & Two Bass Clarinets
Thanos Chrysakis, Chris Cundy, Peer Schlechta, Ove Volquartz
Duration 53.52 | Released March 2018
Thanos Chrysakis Chamber Organ
Chris Cundy Bass Clarinet | Contra Bass Clarinet
Peer Schlechta Organ
Ove Volquartz Bass Clarinet | Contra Alto Clarinet
Recorded at Neustädter Kirche — Hofgeismar
on the 21st of April 2017.
About the Artists
Thanos Chrysakis’ output consists of composition, performance, and installation. He was born in Athens in 1971. After residing in the UK between 1998–2014 he moved in 2015 to Belarus.
With several albums to his name his work has appeared in festivals and events in many countries, including CYNETart Festival, Festspielhaus Hellerau – Dresden, Diapason Gallery – New York, XXII “Sound Ways” International New Music Festival – St Petersburg, Spektrum – Berlin, Artus Contemporary Arts Studio – Budapest, CRUCE Gallery – Madrid, Fylkingen – Stockholm, Relative (Cross) Hearings festival – Budapest, ZEPPELIN festival – Barcelona, Festival Futura 2013 – Crest-Drôme, XIII Festival Internacional de Música Nueva – Monterrey, Areté Gallery – Brooklyn-New York, Nádor Terem – Budapest, Konserthuset, Grünewaldsalen – Stockholm, Utzon Centre – Aalborg, Oosterkerk – Amsterdam, Störung festival – Barcelona, Fabricca del Vapore – Milan, Center for New Music – San Francisco, Västerås Konstmuseum –Västerås, BMIC Cutting Edge concert series - The Warehouse – London.
His music has been frequently aired by BBC Radio 3, RAI Radio 3, RTP Antena 2, RTV España Radio 3, RTÉ Lyric FM, Polskie Radio, RTS — Radio Belgrade 3, and Sveriges Radio P2 among other radio-stations.
His work was amongst the selected works at the International Competition de Musique et d'Art Sonore Electroacoustiques de Bourges 2005, in the category œuvre d'art sonore électroacoustique, while received an honorary mention in 2006 at the 7th International Electroacoustic Competition Musica Viva in Lisbon.
“swirling around the songs was bass clarinet player Chris Cundy, like a birdsong interrupting an argument” - Los Angeles Times
Playing bass clarinet and rarified woodwind instruments Chris Cundy is a composer and performer with a practice rooted in experimental and improvised settings. His work also crosses over into popular music and he has worked with a variety of songwriters and groups including Timber Timbre, Cold Specks (aka Ladan Hussein), Thor & Friends, Baby Dee & Little Annie, and Guillemots.
Growing up in the Medway towns Chris became friends with artist and punk musician Billy Childish who introduced him to the exploits of homemade music-making at an early age. This led to a lasting DIY attitude and by the time he was 12 Chris had already started out as a street performer and busker. After hearing Eric Dolphy's music he took up the bass clarinet. He remains self-taught.
Also a visual artist, Chris studied painting at Cheltenham where he discovered a synergy between drawing practices and improvised music. This led to self-developed playing techniques using multi-phonics, circular breathing, exploring micro tonality and generally speaking a more tactile approach to the instrument. Chris also performs contemporary classical music and has premiered works by Greek composer Thanos Chrysakis. He performs as a soloist and as a member of The Set Ensemble.
He is also involved with theatre music, and recently contributed to an original soundtrack for Florian Zeller's stage play The Mother starring Gina McKee. Chris has performed at Shakespeare's Globe and toured with circus companies NoFit State, and Imagineer.
One off sessions have seen Chris performing alongside Moby, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Lol Coxhill, Vieux Farka Touré, Fatoumata Diawara, Alexander Hawkins, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Lisa Hannigan.
He has released three solo albums, Gustav Lost in 2016 (FMR Records), The Disruptive Forest in 2017 (Confront), and the mini-album Crude Attempt in 2020 (Pressing Records). A further album of acoustic bass clarinet compositions is expected in 2021 titled Of All The Common Flowers.
Peer Schlechta is an organ and bell expert and regularly plays concerts as performer and improviser.
He studied organ with Hans-Ola Ericsson, Bernhard Haas and Jean Guillou and has performed on historic instruments in several provinces thoughout Europe.
Further studies in musicology and German philology completed his education.
He works for the Protestant Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck. His research is focused on the history and instruments of the organ builders Kohlen-Heeren-Kuhlmann-Euler from Gottsbüren and Hofgeismar. He is also interested in the development of keyboard instruments especially in the field of organ construction.
Since 2006, Peer Schlechta has been a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association for Organ Documentation (IAOD) while since 2013 serves as its Chairman.
Musician, improviser and composer in the fields of jazz and improvised music since the 70’s. He originates from the German free jazz scene but developed and involved into the more open field of improvised music. The treatment of musical timbre and of advanced techniques on low and very low clarinets, have become the distinguishing features of his playing. He has worked with (free) jazz and improvising musicians like Cecil Taylor, Roscoe Mitchell, Peter Kowald, Gunter Hampel, Barre Phillips, Sabu Toyozumi, Perry Robinson, Peeter Uuskyla, Gianni Mimmo, Gianni Lenoci. On the other hand he works with pipe organ player Peer Schlechta and contemporary composers like Daniel Ott. In addition he has worked through out the years in collaborative projects with dancers like Tadashi Endo, painters, poets and film makers. Volquartz has played at many festivals like Moers, Leipzig, Leverkusen among many others. In concert tours he went as far as to Africa where he worked with drummer Kojo Samuels in Liberia. He has recorded with Annexus Quam, Gunter Hampel, TAG Trio, Second Exit, Reciprocal Uncles, Yoko Miura and Cecil Taylor among others. As a musicologist he has worked about flow experiences in improvisation.
Julian Cowley — The Wire 413 — July 2018
In April 2017 a church in Hofgeismar, Germany, provided the appropriately resonant venue for this highly focussed exploration of acoustic mass, blending of timbre, and harmonuc density in space. Organists Chrysakis and Schlechta supply most of the weight and regulate texture; Cundy and Volquartz are agile, eloquent, and melodically supple on clarinet, primarily the bass variety. All five movements seem to be improvised, but within parameters that extent beyond coherently achieved form into shared understanding and a firm sense of purpose among the four musicians.
Orynx— Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg — 08.05.2018
Voici un enregistrement vraiment peu commun. Deux organistes, Thanos Chrysakis (orgue positif) et Peer Schlecta (orgue d’église) et deux clarinettistes basses, Chris Cundy (cl. basse et contrebasse) et Ove Volquartz (cl.basse et contralto) dans l’espace acoustique de la Neustädter Kirche d’Hofgeismar. Les caractéristiques acoustiques de l’espace résonnant de l’église faite sans doute de pierre, marbre ou brique, la hauteur des voûtes confèrent à la musique une sonorité très particulière, assez éloignée des standards de qualité des meilleurs studios et salles de conférences. Les fréquences naturelles de l’endroit font donc partie intégrante de la musique pour le meilleur et pour le pire. Morceaux I II III IV et V répartis sur 53 minutes. Je fais remarquer que la dénomination « orgue positif » signifie orgue portable qu’on dépose sur le sol. Il s’agit d’un orgue de dimension nettement plus réduite que les impressionnants orgues d’église. Les deux organistes composent instantanément une symbiose sonore de leurs tuyaux respectifs qui se conjuguent mutuellement dans une masse fluctuante, faite de strates / drones qui gonflent, ondulent, et soulèvent les souffles des deux clarinettistes. Ove et Chris ont un plaisir fou à faire vibrer aches et colonnes d’air ainsi que le registre grave et le pavillon recourbé de leurs clarinettes basses respectives avec un sens de la dynamique tout à fait adapté à cet environnement hors-norme. On navigue dans l’univers des musiques expérimentales faite de drones empilées, répétitives, saturées. Un travail exacerbé sur la densité, la vibration de l’air, la lenteur, l’épaisseur, les textures. Un lyrisme à la fois angoissé et reposant vient poindre dans le n° IV ainsi qu’une recherche formelle qui détourne les flots imposants vers des harmoniques tracées à gros traits s’élevant au-dessus des coups de pattes d’ours pressant les claviers. En écoutant au casque, on obtient l’impression que le mixage pousse les sons au maximum décibélique. Dans le n°V, les volutes des clarinettes basses rejoignent celles de l’église laissant les souffles de l’orgue en tapisser la superficie. Une incursion gargantuesque dans les extrêmes de la musique improvisée expérimentale.
A truly uncommon recording: two organists, Thanos Chrysakis (positive organ) and Peer Schlecta (pipe organ), and two bass clarinetists, Chris Cundy (bass and contrabass clarinets) and Ove Volquartz (bass and contralto clarinets), in the acoustic space of Hofgeismar's Neustädter Kirche. The acoustic characteristics of this resonant church almost certainly made of stone, marble or brick, and the height of its vaults envelop the music in a very particular sonority that differs considerably for the quality standards of the best studios and auditoriums. For better or worse, its natural frequencies are thus part and parcel of the music—53 minutes divided into Parts I, II, III, IV and V. I should mention that the term “positive organ” refers to a portable organ that sits on the floor, a considerably smaller instrument that the impressive pipe organs permanently installed in churches. The two organists immediately generate a sonic symbiosis with their respective pipes to create a fluctuating mass of layers/drones that swell, undulate and unleash the two clarinetists’ sounds. Ove and Chris take mad pleasure in the vibrations of their reeds and air columns, as well as the lower register and curved bells of their respective bass clarinets, with a sense of dynamics perfectly adapted to these exceptional surroundings. We are thus launched into a universe of experimental music made of stacked, repetitive and saturated drones, a complex exploration of density, vibrating air, unhurried density and textures. A simultaneously anguished and restful lyricism emerges in Part IV, along with a formal exploration that redirects the imposing waves to form loosely drawn harmonics that rise above the mauled keyboard clusters. Headphone listening leaves us with the impression that the mixing has pushed the sounds to their maximum level of decibles. In Part V, the bass clarinet bells join the church vaults, allowing the organs to take the foreground: a gargantuan incursion into the extremes of experimental improvised music.
[translated by Wade Matthews]
Dusted — Marc Medwin — 20.04.2018
This is one for headphone listening. Organists Thanos Chrysakis and Peer Schlechta, in collaboration with clarinetists Chris Cundy and Ove Volquartz, have created an album of morphing space and shifting textural planes. The album’s opening and closing moments are magical, as a landscape haunted by nearly recognizable shades unfolds in reverb-drenched murk. The opening of the fifth section dwells in similar half-light; organ and clarinet tones almost match, floating around each other in rhythms too wet to grasp. The recording itself is a study in contrast pitting a dead-center clarinet against one off to the side, living in a semi-spectral world where pitch relations are as fluid as pulse and meter. Each instrument has a shadow self that headphone listening renders apparent. If the motivic material itself is slightly lacking in contrast, volume, register and timbre make up for that. Chamber organ and clarinet both add layers of percussion against the lines interwoven by the other two instruments. The music justifies the label’s name. [AT : This album was recorded at Neustädter Kirche a church in Hofgeismar, Germany]
Eyal Hareuveni - The Free Jazz Blog - 11.08.20
This five-piece piece begins as a slow, vibrant, breathy and quiet lyrical drone but soon fills the whole space with its dense, guttural, resonant vibrations. These vibrations become more urgent and fierce in the second part, but occasionally let some brief lyrical and playful veins to surface beyond the dense wall of deep tones. The third part shifts into a more fragile, chamber interplay and intensifies the lyrical, melodic veins with remarkable poetic playing by Cundy and Volquartz, both continue with their lyrical, contemplative throughout the fourth part, contrasting the restless, sudden interventions of the organists Chrysakis and Schlechta. It ends with a short, melodic piece that, again, enjoys the resonant qualities of the Neustädter Kirche.
Todd McComb — Jazz Thoughts — 14.05.2018
The latest release from Thanos Chrysakis has the rather self-explanatory title Music for Two Organs & Two Bass Clarinets, and was recorded last April in a church in Germany. Although the differences in the instruments aren't explained, Chrysakis is credited with chamber organ, so presumably a portable, while Peer Schlechta is credited simply with "organ," and so presumably the church organ. Their sounds blend rather seamlessly much of the time, and together, form a rich harmonic backdrop for the five improvised tracks. The project might thus be compared to e.g. Tuning Out (& other projects by Veryon Weston), also recorded with church organs, but in that case emphasizing hybrid tunings arising from "in between" stop positions & interrogated by flexible string instruments (which also turn to dodecaphony at times). However, Music for Two Organs & Two Bass Clarinets is actually rather conventional in its frequently lyrical clarinet parts, such that an initial sea of darkness & dissonance comes to be dominated by melodic elements: The organs move progressively into the (conceptual) background as the album proceeds, yielding the foreground to Chris Cundy (who has recorded with Chrysakis & elsewhere previously, including with more extended technique than here) & Ove Volquartz (with whom I was not previously familiar, although I see now that he has recorded with Udo Schindler) on bass clarinets. There is thus a sort of romantic quality that emerges, if not a traditional jazziness — in this case, evincing a more rhetorical modern lyricism (say, of the 1980s). The resulting combination actually seems as though it might be enjoyed by a more mainstream audience, provided it can navigate the initial sense of disorientation & novelty: Indeed, some textures might even be said to evoke c.1970 heavy metal, if obliquely (by way of an ice cream truck?). These more conventional melodic concerns (albeit quasi-fugal at times via the organ backdrop) are in contrast, then, not only with Tuning Out, but with e.g. Phase/transitions — a project Chrysakis must know, and which actually shares a more consistent timbral affinity (via its accordion, computer, and soprano sax combo), but which also indulges a much wider pallette of sonic inspirations & invocations. (The latter is indeed much more of a sphinx, given its length & variety of approaches, such as incorporating an electronic cellist over an internet connection & employing a computer intelligence as another improviser.) So whereas Music for Two Organs & Two Bass Clarinets didn't involve a more adventurous interrogation of perception & normality, as I associate with Chrysakis in such projects as Carved Water, it's still a particular interrogation of its texture-world, and rather enjoyable in its own almost straightforward manner.
Robert Muis — Gonzo Circus #146 — 20.02.2020
De ene keer presenteert Chrysakis ons een album vol kleine elektronische composities, een andere keer komt hij met een geïmproviseerde elektroakoestische set. Daarbij is er geen vast gezelschap. Verrassing is dus te verwachten en die ligt ditmaal allereerst in de ongebruikelijke instrumentkeuze: twee orgels, twee klarinetten.
Thanos Chrysakis speelt een orgel dat hij zelf meebracht naar de Neustädterkirche in het Duitse Hofgeismar, Peer Schlechta speelt het kerkorgel, Chris Cundy en Ove Volquartz brachten hun basklarinetten mee. Het gezelschap maakt dankbaar gebruik van de akoestiek van de kerk.
De klarinettisten zijn –zeker in de eerste composities– meest op de voorgrond, waarbij bijvoorbeeld de een lyrisch (maar vrij) speelt, terwijl de ander abstracter en afgemetener speelt, stijgend en dalend langs de toonladders, gromt, trilt en soms schril krijst.
Daarbij behouden de blazers overigens een relatieve rust; jazzy kan het soms worden, freakerig wordt het nooit. Halverwege improvisatie ‘III’ klinken de blazers bijna zoekend en contemplatief; de kalmte ontwikkelt zich daar bijna naar etherisch. Ze leunen tegen een achtergrond van gestapelde, dichte drones en op andere momenten minimale repetitieve patronen van de twee orgels.
Die komen bij tijden wat meer naar voren, zoals in ‘IV’, waar de lamenterende klarinetlijnen worden begeleid door korte stoten van het orgel. Chrysakis en Schlechta weten van meet af aan elkaar te vinden in een fijn en naadloos samenspel.
Bij tijden naderen ook de klarinet- en orgelklanken elkaar dicht, wat leidt tot meeslepend luistermateriaal. Het spel van de klarinettisten klinkt vertrouwd, maar hun aftasten van klankkleuren en texturen is zeker aangenaam; het is de bijdrage van de organisten die een bijzonderheid verschaft aan dit album.