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Eli Keszler - Catching Net

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Artist: Eli Keszler

Album: Catching Net

Label: Pan

Review date: Nov. 21, 2012

According to Eli Keszler, the way he makes his music is the least interesting aspect of his work. His audience might disagree; seeing what unleashes his complex sonance patterns sounds pretty interesting to me. When Keszler constructs sound, it’s an architectural work, including not just instruments and performers, but the way intonation fills and co-opts a vertical space. Everything is part of the sound, except, ironically, Keszler himself. The sonority is part of a continuum, a previously existing entity he merely brings to our notice. As if to underline this point, criticism doesn’t affect him. He claims it is like reading the critique of a mathematical formula.

In removing himself from the work (his words), he opens up a spatial enormity that presents itself as a listening opportunity on a grand scale. It may seem ambiguous to say a sound is “huge,” until you hear the recordings of Keszler’s latest offering. Catching Net is a collection of selected installations and compositions Keszler has created during the last two years, a giant double disc of various modifications of a single idea. For example, the “Cold Pin” tracks derived from an installation with piano wires interfused at one point into the dome of the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts that rose over 25 feet, sometimes performing with an ensemble, sometimes without. The “Collecting Basin” is a giant of an installation set up at the McNeil Street Pumping Station during the MSPS new music festival in 2011. All the works are visual, too, and this disc pays homage to the images through beautiful photographs and images taken from each exhibition. However, Catching Net allows for the opening up of the sound as its own experience, building on the visual only in its influence upon the performance. In this way, Keszler here expands, or stretches, the work, bringing the listening experience to the fore and sublimating the observed.

The order of the works replaces some of the removed structure of the imposing visuals. By starting with the energetic drumming and frenzied compositional pieces from the “Cold Pin,” Keszler offers up some solid ground on which to start the journey. By the time we reach the third recording, the Boston ensemble has drifted up in the mix, and Keszler’s drums and enormous strings take on an almost muted underplaying effect, though you can hear the latter as he thumbs out his own unrelenting forward march.

The second disc is another affair all together. “Catching Net” is a recording made in the Bell Street Chapel, the droning depth of the installation offset by the aching slides of the orchestral strings. The sound remains consistently huge (there’s that word again), Keszler using his compositions to fill space and time. The sound swirls and rises as if surging geyser-like, fluid and pouring in its energy. The second track is the fourth “Cold Pin” installation from the cyclorama, which becomes a dominating drone as everything else is stripped away. The micro-controlled motors punch and strike at the strings as the dome envelops and accents the reverb. The variety of tone is thrilling here, while the environment curls around the sound with enormous intangible arms. The set up is perfect for the final piece, “Collecting Basin,” from the enormous space at the McNeil pumping station. If the dome appeared to crowd around and cover the sound, the station opens up and welcomes it, expanding in order to allow for the grunt, growl and moan of the strings. You’ve never heard piano wire moan like this, a chest-heaving pant of a sound, like a factory-as-monster come to life. The journey on this two-part ride is not always an easy one, but your best bet is to sit back and let the piano wire take you where it needs to go.

By Lisa Thatcher

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