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Barbara Buchholz - Moonstruck

By Jan Bang

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Composed by Jan Bang, Barbara Buchholz, Tilmann Dehnhard, Ulrike Haage, Jan Krause, Henry Purcell (1659-1695), Thomas Weber, and Alejandro Govea Zappino. Recording mediums. CD. Duration 46' 9''. MDS (Music Distribution Services) #INT 34022. Published by MDS (Music Distribution Services) (M7.INT-34022).

Item Number: M7.INT-34022

Barbara Buchholz has managed to produce a unique album in which you sometimes even forget you are listening to a theremin. She paints an image of an ocean of sounds in which you can drift around forever. You see the stylistic banks, but you will never reach them. The current of this music follows its very own laws, which have not been recorded in any musical atlas or illustrated reference book. Barbara Buchholz has done an inestimable service to the theremin with the unambitious simplicity of her aesthetic. That alone would make this CD a milestone, even if it did not also offer such wonderful music.The theremin is enjoying growing popularity, and Berlin-based Barbara Buchholz is one of the world's top virtuosos of this instrument: the magic kit that came to us from Russia at the beginning of the previous century. It is the only instrument that is played without being touched and the grandfather of all electronic instruments. It is the tremulous-sounding superweapon featured on the soundtracks of countless horror films. On her internationally celebrated debut album, Russia with Love, Barbara Buchholz took stock of this unusual instrument's capabilities. On her new CD, Moonstruck, she places it in an entirely new context.On her first CD, Barbara Buchholz presented her instrument; on the new one, the theremin is presenting Barbara Buchholz. It is no longer about the history and present day of the theremin but rather about its possibilities. A master student of Lydia Kavina, grandniece of the inventor of the theremin, Lev Termen, Buchholz is returning to her own roots. The goal is to free the theremin of its overloading of exotic associations, to strip it of nostalgic cliches, and to view it as an organic component among the available modern instruments. On Moonstruck, the theremin is not omnipresent in the foreground but rather fulfills a variety of very different functions. Sometimes it is employed as a solo instrument; elsewhere it adds a few timbres; and still elsewhere it provides a fundament of sound for a piece. Barbara Buchholz enables her instrument to achieve normality. Her theremin is 'just' a theremin.The sound language she has chosen for this historical step is, not coincidentally, anchored in Norwegian music. She almost merges into a unity with the trumpeter Arve Henriksen. Her vibrato-less playing seems to be linked with the trumpeter's sound without any welding joints. 'What impresses me about Arve Henriksen,' says Barbara Buchholz, 'is this trumpet sound that does not even sound like a trumpet but recalls instead a sakuhachi flute. He was preoccupied with a long time with the sound of the latter and transferred its subtleties to the trumpet as a way to find an outlet for his inner voice. I too allow myself to be inspired by other instruments, like horn or flute, and come up with sounds that are rather unusual for the theremin. For example, the vibrato-less entry of the theremin. In the pieces with Arve, I could try out how similar the trumpet and theremin could sound, and whether there can even be pieces in which they fuse.'Another important source of inspiration and one of the components of the album's sound was Susanna & The Magical Orchestra, who are also from Norway. 'I met Susanna & the Magical Orchestra in 2006 at the Moers Festival. I was very touched to hear how the band made silence visible. They enjoy the silence so completely that sometimes you hold your breath and think the music is standing still. Reflecting on silence was a core idea that carried me through the whole production. Dealing with silence rather than dealing with sound.'But the Berliner does not just play with Norwegians. The Kammerflimmer Kollektief fascinates her for its 'contrast of improvised noise, beautiful melodies, and electronic ambient influences. It is a very lyrical music, which is optimally suited to theremin. It reminds me of the figures of Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely. Those colorful, happy figures and the rusty, wobbly, squeaking equipment that breaks up that beauty. Both together they produce the perfect work of art. I hear this fissure in the Kammerflimmer Kollektief too. It inspires me to ignore questions of style and instead to bring together what doesn't seem to belong together.'Ulrike Haage is familiar from the Rainbirds, the band Stein she founded with Phil Minton and FM Einheit, and from other projects and countless radio plays. The piece 'Evocation' was created with her; it 'is really about how the morning sun gradually sends its rays through the clouds and asserts itself. Her emphatic rhythm is accompanied by this totally delicate theremin, as fragile as the rays that shine through.' Other guests included the Norwegian keyboarder Jan Bang, the Berlin saxophonist Tilmann Dehnhart, bassist and programmer Jan Krause, and the Uruguayan composer Alejandro Govea Zappino, whom she met through MySpace. They have all not simply left their own timbres on the CD but fundamentally influenced the shape of the music. Barbara Buchholz does more than simply create a new sound context for her instrument; she also achieves a kind of unconventional collective network in which the theremin can be continuously redefined.The musical statements on the disk range from sacred-sounding music by way of ambient music to electronic music. For all the differences among the individual pieces, a boreal arc connects them. The selection of her collaborators was anything but arbitrary nor was it due to a momentary whim. According to Barbara Buchholz, all of the musicians share a combination of abstract and emotional sound. Another bond among the pieces is the protagonist's composure. Never before has the theremin gotten by with such as small dose of pathos as it has on this CD.

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