Music for amplified ensemble, electronics and improviser
Dzama Stories is a collaboration between the Irish composer Ed Bennett and the legendary British saxophonist Paul Dunmall. Featuring an ensemble of ten exceptional performers, Ed Bennett's composition draws influence from the work of the Canadian artist Marcel Dzama. Through the combination of pre-composed and freely improvised sounds, Bennett and Dunmall have created a work of huge energy which spans from the wildly rhythmic, noisy and chaotic to music of great subtlety and quiet reflection.
1. Dzama Stories (i) Introduction
2. Dzama Stories (ii) Part I - Vagabonds and Blood from the Earth
3. Dzama Stories (iii) Part II - After the Flood. Before the Fire
4. Dzama Storis (iv) Interlude
5. Dzama Stories (v) Part III - You Gotta Make Room for the New Ones
6. Dzama Stories (vi) Part IV - Fades Away
7. I Need This
Some thoughts on Dzama Stories by Brian Irvine
So I said to Ed: “leave it with me for a day or two, I should be able to knock out a few words for you…. no problem!” It's been about three weeks now. Granted I didn't have access to the CD for the first few days (my own fault) but that's not really why it has taken me so long to write these relatively few words. The real reason, frankly, is because this is not easy music to write about.
It is elusive music. Music that grows from the cracks in the usual categories. Music that questions. As the first few elongated notes stretch out of my speakers I feel a kind of fear (and I'm a big lad who doesn't scare easily!). Lured into an addictive, unsettling and mesmerizing world I feel as if I am being secretly hypnotized.
Ed's radical shifts of gear from the austere, contemplative landscapes to the ruthless driving thoroughfare of riffs and rhythms are a recipe for disorientation. But this feels like music that you need to submit to. It is music where disorientation and the unexpected are fundamental to the thrill of the listening experience.
Paul Dunmall's virtuosic exploration in and out of the caverns, nooks and freeways of Ed's architecture is like watching the journey of one man's quest through the impossible. A gripping expedition through a series of threatening, heart stopping, soul searching adventures. At times it feels like Paul is being pursued by some sort of amorphous monster machine that can change shape in a moment like a giant devious Barbapapa. At others he is a single warrior in combat against a terminator monstrosity.
It is a journey, across abstract lands: a huge hallucination of beautifully contorted landscapes. Furthermore like emerging from the ghost train at Barry's amusements: a disturbing mix of anxiety and an overriding compulsion to do it all again. But that was just the first listen. So I dived in again. But this time I was confronted by quite a different dimension. One that had gone beyond the austerity and was now wooing me, tempting me with an ironic gentleness. An avalanche that in turn morphed into a militant square dance, though still industrial, this time resembled more that of Wile E. Coyote and an erratic clunking Acme Road Runner catching
contraption. The whole conflict charade finally counseled with an appropriate stress related therapy session in the form of one, enormous, Alice through the looking glass – esque eyeball. The resultant state more out of breath intoxication, more bewitching humour.
Later as I drove around in my car I kept replaying the music in my head and found myself actually breaking into a wry smile. Such was the pattern that went on for the next few days. Each listen conjuring up a new unpredictable and captivating story. And so I started to get to grips with the mysterious power and beauty of this music.
Like all great music it exists on many layers. Loosely relating to Marcel Dzama's imagined worlds, Ed and Paul have succeeded in making something that even in its recorded form seems to create a new experience of emotion with every listen. Even now, after I have listened to this recording maybe a dozen times, I am still curious, still beguiled by its content and shape, still surprised.
This is labyrinth music, full of undiscovered rooms that shift with the light. The essence of paradox. Existing throughout not only within the combination of written and freely improvised sounds but also in the texture, the landscape, the pace, the dynamics and as for the all seeing eyeball … if ever there was a more disturbing relaxation tape made, let's hope it has been locked in a strong lead box and buried somewhere deep in an unknown desert, accessible only by a secret combination of stories, maps and dreams.
Brian Irvine, August 2010
I Need This (2001) for amplified female voice and electronics
We are all obsessed with something and sometimes this becomes an addiction (music, coffee, alcohol, food, drugs, exercise, TV, internet, chocolate etc). I Need This is a theatrical work in which the main character is obsessed with something. The performer should enter into their chosen obsessive state for the duration of the piece.