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Thursday, February 11, 2021

Juan J.G. Escudero, Shapes of Inner Timespaces


From living composer Juan J.G. Escudero comes a rather remarkable album of electroacoustic works under the title Shapes of Inner Timespaces (Neuma 134). All told there are eight works included here, four free-standing and another four grouped under the "Shapes of Inner Timespaces" title theme.

What first strikes one on listening is how gorgeous the sounds are. They are transformational and flowing, waterlogged wet and sometimes metallically plated for an ever evolving beauty, often pitched yet highly charged with atmosphere and vividly colored. It has the motional flow of Stockhausen's "Kontakt" yet very much on its own terms.

The liners from the album document the composer's sure sense of a mathematical  unfolding. The complexities of Escudero's descriptions defy easy summary. Yet they are well worth reading for insights into his working methods. So for example the first work, "Variations on the Bird and the Snow" (2014) takes life with an initial improvisatory recording and subsequent development via "geometric and algebraic processes,"  for the sound analogy to tiling. 

It is a kind of "random tiling ensemble," a "branched surface" imagined as a colored pattern, "where the cells with the same shape, color and orientation correspond to the same tile in a cellular complex." One hopes for insight as one listens and there is plenty to contemplate whether it all becomes clear or remains shrouded in mystery. The point is the experience, and it is a rich one as far as I am concerned.

What's nice is that, e.g., like Xenakis, the post-intuitional complexities that result are the reward for the deep structural transformations the sounds are subjected to. And that is true of each one of the pieces.

Living with this album for a week only confirms my first impression--that this is some of the finest electroacoustic music I have heard in a long time and that it makes me want to hear more! That's the kind of listening experience I hope for every time I listen to new New Music, but of course it can only be completely true of relatively few albums over time. This is one! Listen to it, do.

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