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Liquen Records releases “7 works for chamber music and ensemble”, by the young Spanish composer Joan Gómez Alemany.

The Spanish record label Liquen Records has recently released a new album of works by the young composer Joan Gómez Alemany (Valencia, 1990), entitled 7 works for chamber music and ensemble. These are pieces composed between 2016 and 2020, the result of commissions and residencies in various countries, which made it possible for them to be recorded live by instrumental ensembles of great international prestige. In chronological order: La religión del sonido [The Religion of Sound] (2016), was recorded by the Schallfeld Ensemble, conducted by Leonhard Garms; String Quartet No. 1 (átanoSonata) and Lo duro y lo blando [The Hard and the Soft] (2017), performed, respectively, by the Arditti Quartet and the Ensemble Multilatérale, conducted by Léo Warynski; 4 disparates de Goya [4 Goya’s Follies] (2018), by the BCN 216 quartet, conducted by Francesc Prat; eros-tans-tngi-ugog-celö-esel and TV (Television) = TN (TransNational) = TNT (TurnerNetworkTelevision) (TriNitroToulene) (2019), performed, respectively, by the Schallfeld Ensemble and Container Ensemble, and Una tierra fragmentada [A fragmented land] (2020), by the Shifter Ensemble.

La religión del sonido was written for bass flute, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone, violin, cello, double bass, percussion and piano and was recorded live on 17 February 2017 at the Impuls Festival in Graz, Austria. It is a piece that, as the composer himself explains in the libretto -written by Paco Yañez- that accompanies the disc, shows influences “ranging from Arabic to Japanese music, passing through Tibetan, as well as the reformulation of the same in the work of composers like Giacinto Scelsi or John Cage […] formed by sound blocks built in a geometric style, with a rigorous, non-intuitive construction prevailing”.

The piece for string quartet String Quartet No. 1 (atanoSonata) was recorded by the prestigious Arditti Quartet (formation founded by the English violinist Irvine Arditti in 1974) on 7 October 2020 also in Graz, in the former Horsemen’s Barracks of the Austrian city, incorporated in 2007 to the University of Music and Performing Arts of Graz. It is a reinvention of the sonata by reformulating the instrumental timbre in the manner of Helmut Lachenmann, a composer who has defined his compositional style as “instrumental concrete music”.

Lo duro y lo blando was recorded on 16 July 2017 in the church of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption in the town of Saint-Martin-Vésubie, on the French Côte d’Azur. It is a piece for bass clarinet, harp, cello and double bass, with influences from French composers Mark Andre, Yann Robin and the saturationist composer Raphaël Cendo. Gómez Alemany explains that the contrast between hard and soft sounds implies “the use of percussive, precise, marked sounds (such as pizzicati and slaps) as opposed to rough, extended, fragile and shifting sounds (such as scratches, tremolos or tuneless air)”.

4 Disparates de Goya is a piece for bass clarinet, cello, percussion and piano, which was recorded on 15 May 2018 at the Fundació Phonos in Barcelona. The recording featured an electronic device that amplified each of the instruments and provided pre-recorded sounds that were spatialised around the audience through four loudspeakers. In the libretto, Paco Yañez explains that the work is directly inspired by Francisco de Goya’s engravings known as Disparates or Proverbios, specifically four of these engravings, numbers 7, 9, 15 and 18, which correspond to Disparate matrimonial, Disparate general, Disparate claro and Disparate fúnebre. The Goyaesque atmosphere becomes “a music that amalgamates a whole underworld between the oneiric and that dream of reason which, as Goya himself stated in the series of Los caprichos, produces monsters; here, authentic poetic screams”. An absolutely sinister and radical sounding piece.

eros-tans-tngi-ugog-celö-esel, performed by the Schallfeld Ensemble on 18 September 2020 in the baroque hall of the Graz priests’ seminary as part of the Impuls Festival, is a piece for flute, clarinet, piano, violin and cello that takes its title from a text by the Austrian writer and musician Thomas Antonic (founder in 2009 of the transnational and interdisciplinary art collective William S. Burroughs Hurts), in which musical and noisy syllabics follow one another, superimposing noisy layers in which “the five music stands function as a meta-instrument […] which gives the score that intense sensation of a living, crackling entity, a musical organism proliferating in different directions”.

Although it is not the last work, chronologically, the disc ends with TV (Television) = TN (TransNacional) = TNT (TurnerNetworkTelevision) (TriNitroToulene), a piece that aims to become a critique against “the (in)communication media and their processes of domination on a planetary scale”. In fact, the first sounds heard in the piece imitate those of television without a broadcast signal: the purest and most primordial white noise, as Gómez Alemany explains in the libretto: “one day the TV signal was interfered with and I decided to record the distortions caused by this interference (not caused by me, but by the TV itself and its defects: a metaphor in itself of the rubbish that TV broadcasts). I limited myself to recording it and then editing it. Therefore, I conceive this material, in a certain way, as a ready-made (in the sense of Marcel Duchamp), my contact with the material being from a distanced position. I recorded around four hours on different channels and with it I constructed a proem of what was broadcast (in the style of zapping) to reflect the usual TV programming”. The piece was commissioned by the Institut Valencià de Cultura for the Ensems Festival (where it was recorded on 6 May 2019, at the Palau de la Música in Valencia) in collaboration with the Mixtur Festival, and Gómez Alemany wrote a score for an amplified instrumental septet of alto saxophone, electric guitar, violin, cello and three percussionists, accompanied by electronics and video.

Chronologically, the last piece is Una tierra fragmentada, composed for four electric guitars, with altered tunings and attentive, as Paco Yañez explains, “to microtonality and the internal vibration of sound on each string, so that the influence of composers such as Giacinto Scelsi, José María Sánchez-Verdú or Pierluigi Billone can be perceived in its staves”. The work is an extension of a previous piece (Un fragmento de tierra [a fragment of land], composed in 2017, for four acoustic guitars). This new one, for electric guitars, was recorded in the studio on 30 July 2021, as its premiere in Bern, scheduled for 16 December 2020, had to be cancelled due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Although, due to its author’s formal training, the album belongs to the avant-garde of contemporary classical music, its sonority could also be included, without any doubt, in the fields of what in the field of rock music has been known since the 1980s as “industrial music”, or a new genre that emerged in the 1990s known as “japanoise”, the Japanese side (the dominant one) of the worldwide noise music trends that emerged from 1990 onwards.