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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Joana Sá, Elogio da Desordem (In Praise of Disorder)

This columnist has had the pleasure of covering the music of Joana Sá before. Today, another: Elogio da Desordem (In Praise of Disorder) (Shhpuma 006). It is subtitled "Interior monologue for semi-prepared piano, bells, sirens, voices and...". And that it is. Ms. Sá is a growingly important presence on the Portuguese avant landscape. She makes music that has the momentum and spontaneity of improvised new music, yet there is a composed structural element that continually frames the music and evokes interrelated sound worlds that work together to inscribe a particular poetic state onto the moment.

It is especially true of the suite of movements contained in the present recording. Through use of a piano whose strings have been prepared with various objects within a particular range of notes, through the use of sirens and bells that punctuate the affect of certain passages with the sound of a symbolic sort of alarum, through various amplified noises ("noise boxes") (which come off as electronics, as that they are), through bowing and other unusual ways of sounding the piano and the appearance of a toy piano and a harmonium at times, through periodic recitation (by Rosinda Costa) of texts by Goncalo M. Tavares, a set of special moods are created, filled with vivid sound color and pianistic avant-virtuosity.

Joana's music has a flow to it that after hearing a few times seems unique but somehow appropriate. The music has a natural quality that is ultra-modernistic nonetheless. What strikes me in her music, especially here, is the mastery of avant techniques harnessed to a sureness of purpose that brings together aspects of the classical avant and the free-improvisatory schools. All clearly and movingly holds together as compositional.

I am especially impressed with how this music after several hearings continually stimulates the hearer's imagination with a master sound-painter's expert touch and larger vision. Nothing sounds random and yet there is continuous sound-invention without much at all in the way of repetition.

In Praise of Disorder has a monumental elocutionary eloquence to it that puts it on rarified turf. Anyone with an interest in the avant garde today should listen closely.

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