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Deep Listening From Perennially Adventurous Pianist Satoko Fujii

Late in life, pianist Satoko Fujii‘s grandmother lost her hearing. Yet she maintained that after becoming deaf, she heard sounds of incredible beauty in her head. Fujii’s new solo album Stone – which hasn’t hit the web yet – is an attempt to evoke such a world. Her raison d’etre, throughout a wildly prolific career, has been “to play music that nobody has ever heard before.” This is definitely that: it’s one of her most strangely entertaining albums.

The opening track, Obsius comes across as rapt, still, minimalist phrases in a thunderstorm. That’s because Fujii, one of the most adventurous extended-technique pianists on the planet, is brushing and probably smacking the low strings to get that cumulo-nimbus ambience. The effect is striking, to say the least.

All but two of the numbers here are improvised; in keeping with the album title, most of the tracks reference a specific layer beneath the earth’s surface. The album’s longest and most atmospheric segment, Trachyte, has long, keening tones punctuated by the occasional pluck inside the piano: Fujii is probably getting all that resonance by bowing the high strings, essentially, using a piece of wire wrapped around them.

Fujii can be very funny: Biotite has a spot-on facsimile of a ringtone, a warpily serviceable analogue for a zither-like instrument such as the Korean gayageum, and a rodent gnawing away at something, or so it would seem. She puts aside the strange sonics for the attractively allusive miniature River Flow, then goes back under the hood for Shale, an eerily chiming, microtonal prepared piano piece.

Phonolite is a Pauline Oliveros-esque exploration of piano-body resonance. To Fujii, Lava seems to issue in waves from a deep, dark place – and then spills over into ornate neoromanticism. Icy Wood is just the opposite, spare and disquietingly bell-like.

With Fujii’s picks and scrapes resonating inside the piano, Piemontite Schist also reflects a hard surface. A buzzing motor and insectile swarming inside the piano give way to some deliciously dark chromatics in Chlorite, while Basalt is a rather coy good cop-bad cop tableau.

You think Sandstone would be portrayed by high harmonics falling away? Check! Marble echoes upward from the lows; Fujii returns to spare drops amid stormy turbulence in Ice Waterfall. She concludes with her composition Eternity, essentially a synopsis of much of this utterly psychedelic album.

May 23, 2019 - Posted by | avant garde music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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