TAYLOR, HOLLIS: Absolute bird (double CD and 44pp Book).
This is an extraordinary and important work, breathtaking in itís apparent simplicity but raised on a lifetime of study, thought and contrariness. All 41 tracks are, in one way or another, built around transcriptions or recordings of the pied butcherbird (an endlessly creative singer) Ė mining every variation; so there is constant variety - not only in musical but timbral content, each composition pairing a bird, or other environmental sounds with - usually, there are exceptions - a single instrument: recorder, soprano, bass and contrabass recorders, violin, vibraphone, bassoon, viola, flute, cello, bass clarinet, vocal ensemble, bass or string quartet Ė all seamlessly linked. Like Berioís cadenzas, virtuosic and extended techniques are standard, and long stretches of each CD side are programmed for continuous and highly contrasted listening. Next level up: most tracks are situated in an environment of natural sound Ė soundscapes, other critters of one sort or another and occasionally human activities or hardware - not in a wilful but a musical way; by which I mean they are accounted for or responded to, or seem to have a right to be there. This is a point-to-point rather than teleological listening experience, in which time is marked by phrases and events, and moves continuously forward. So, what exactly are we listening to? Itís clearly music, bearing all the hallmarks - but itís also birdsong and weíre culturally not sure if thatís music or not; then there are the categorically non-musical sounds that play a central and continuous role. On first listening, tracks 11-19 - an island of pieces for violin (played by Hollis) and field recordings, seem to clarify a broad template for the collection as a whole. In other words, it takes a while just to absorb how to listen to this music - and that, in my experience, is a mark of greatness. The recording quality is excellent, the performers, human and otherwise, virtuosic (without making a fuss about it) and the sweep quietly vast. Both CDs come in the inner covers of a very strong and substantial hard-cover book containing 48 full-colour pages of notes, reflections, explanations and photographs. Highly Recommended.