I got this release as part of a pack celebrating the 10th release by mappa editions sold through their bandcamp page; you made a group purchase of all the 10 releases for a discount price.
Cristián Alvear was not a strange name, I had previously heard of him through his connection to the Wandelweiser Group.
As for Sarah Hennies, I was completely unaware of the composer’s output (I found it to be quite engaging, but more on that topic later).
It took me a few days to reach Orienting Response, and give it a proper listen, with good headphones or speakers. Given the amount of releases I had just gotten, I started listening to the ones from musicians I didn’t know at first, then progressed onto more familiar grounds.
The physical edition is a lovely cassette in a wooden box, yet I was not fortunate to get one, as they were sold out.
More of their work can be found in Cristián Alvear’s bandcamp or Sarah Hennies bandcamp.
According to the release page, Hennies approach to the composition was the following:
I don’t listen to this recording often; it probably is one of the most difficult ones in my discographic library, if not the most.
For me it is a late spring or summer record, so that I can play it in the stereo with nice speakers, go outside to relax, drink some proper tea (and if appropriate light up a cuban).
Doing so I can use the time to unwind, and let myself drift between the sounds of my surroundings, usually birds in the trees nearby, and the piece. Somewhat like an ebb and flow, where for a while the birds take over, then they are subdued by the guitar.
When listening, and after knowing Hennies often composes for percussion instruments, it all becomes quite clear and how idiosyncratic Orienting Response is.
The piece is a percussive crescendo, until about the 30 minute mark, where we have a sudden decrease in intensity and tempo.
At first Alvear uses the guitar body as an instrument, moving into the use of single notes, progressing into chords. When in the chords part, the intensity and tempo increase, as stated before until a stop. As the end approaches, the piece is again less intense and Alvear starts to shift away from the strings, and interpolates between the higher pitched strings and what I assume is the part of the arm that connects the strings to the tuning devices at the head. The finale is a mix of tones and silence, and Alvear turns to the guitar body again.
Cristián Alvear live performance
Friday, May 31st 2019 I managed to see Cristián Alvear perform live, with percussionist Seijiro Murayama as part of Serralves em Festa.
About 9 o’clock I arrived at the museum and headed towards the villa, as the performance would be taking place there. When I was about to get in, the people from the organisation stopped us, saying the space is at capacity. Luckily, people started complaining, and we were allowed to enter, as long as we remained at the back of the room and did not get to the front, in order to give the performers some space.
Given that the performers have a difficult to grasp body of work some young people gave up and left, giving us more space to get comfortable and enjoy the sounds and the room. This is the main room of the villa, with huge windows showing the garden.
I couldn’t have asked for more.