The Irritable Hedgehog label is an anomaly oft devoted to the more intelligently mystical peripheries of music, thus you're not going to find its releases flanking Lady Gaga, Madonna, or the umpteen millionth new "discovery" (read: formerly label-suppressed release) of the deceased Freddie Mercury/Queen trove. Probably no issuance on the 'Hog imprint will prove that more than this one, Jurg Frey's Piano Music, so let me warn the reader that, though the polar opposite of, say, a Coltrane or Braxton release, Piano is challenging and demands not only patience but a zen frame of mind wherein one lets go of the processing aspect of listening and just surrenders to what's there. I've no doubt New Age-inistas like John Diliberto are going to exclaim "But…but…this is what Steven Halpern does!", though nothing could be further from the truth.
R. Andrew Lee, Hedgehog's mainstay, is a radar for nuance, a pianist who has explored, and is still exploring, the instrument's non-catalogue possibilities well beyond classicalist conventions and post-modernist clichés. What Frey has done, though, is staticize music to show that it never staticizes, that it in fact cannot be static (except of course through mechanical parrots like drum machines and syntheseizers)…but from a completely different mode than, say, Steve Reich has done with his gloriously dense furniture music, especially Music for 18 Musicians and the like. In this, inadvertence emerges from the shadows. Reich played with harmonics, frequencies, shifts, etc. while Frey transferred all that into the human hand. Lee completely gets it, and thus the player's autonomic nervous system and his practiced controls are explored and variations and deviations normally very subtle become quite apparent if, as Pauline Oliveiros would aver, you're listening deeply.
Don't read too much into the matter when I say Lee's take on Frey's compositions are akin to Jurgen Fremy's re-do of Cage in Sonatas & Interludes for Prepared Piano, an obscure Etcetera disc highly esteemed by Cage aficionados, because the crux of the inference lies in the spectrum of the unexpected that must arise when attempting consonance with previous expositions. The important aspect lies in how Fremy thought and acted, and likewise Lee, not in the decidedly more abrupt Cage compositions as versus Frey's. Bang on a Can tackled the same sort of matter with awesome results when they re-did Brian Eno's entire Music for Airports (an astounding release almost complete unknown in the listening and critical communities, I'm sorry to say). I won't go into the technical matters discussed extensively in the liner notes to Piano Music, which are fascinating, constituting a seminar in outside aesthetics, but suffice it to say that the quietude cohering the playing, the negative spaces between the human presence, is as important as what's intoned. Thus, as writer William Robin suggests, the best course might well be to "sit down with a good set of headphones and maybe a glass of whiskey and puzzle at the roar of nothing". I can only add that you might want to also score your home's environment by letting the disc run as you go about your day; how it transforms spaces may well surprise you.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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