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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Joana Sa's Striking New Music from Portugal: "Through This Looking Glass" CD/DVD

Before I received the CD/DVD Through This Looking Glass (blinker, Marke fur Rezentes) I did not know of the music of Joana Sa. Now that I have listened repeatedly and watched the accompanying DVD, I feel that I surely do. She hails from Portugal, performs the entire piece live for this production, and leaves no small impression. The piece was conceived and written for prepared piano, toy piano, electronics (mostly live), props (mechanical toys for the most part) and a mobile.

The tripartite influences of John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen and George Crumb make themselves felt as precursors throughout. You have ambiance, sound-painting and an exotic component in the work as a whole that all the above have something to do with, though she remains totally herself to my mind.

The release includes a CD version of the audio and a DVD film (directed by Daniel Neves) of Ms. Sa's performance. This is late high modernism at its best. The film heightens the performative aspects of the piece with a black and white clarity that gives you insight into the work and Ms. Sa's refreshingly poetic approach. You watch as she manipulates the piano with dexterity and confidence. There are the prepared piano passages, the playing inside the piano with bow hair, mallets, sticks, hands, inserted objects. There is Joana sounding the grand piano from underneath. There are the mechanical toys, the mobile. There is the sheer viceral aspect of performance.

It is a work of great charm. It is sound poetry. It is one of the most successful and attractive high modern keyboard works that I've heard in years. Joana Sa must be appreciated if you want to know where modernism has gone. It's here. Find out more by clicking on the Joanna Sa link on the right. Click on the Trem Azul link on that site to order a copy. Highly recommended.

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