Simon Cummings’s “間 (ma)” reviewed by Vital Weekly

The only time before the name Simon Cummings was mentioned in Vital Weekly was when a CD by Kenneth Kirschner was reviewed in these pages (Vital Weekly 989), for which Cummings wrote a text. He studied composition, conducting and organ and later on also at Sonology in The Hague and his focus is upon “gradual processes of transformation”. This new release has a Japanese character/word as title, which is pronounced as ‘ma’ and difficult to translate. “The concept it embodies is a spatial one, specifically the gap between two discrete structural parts or elements, with associated connotations of an interval or pause”, plus a bit more which I must admit flew right over my head.

The music was recorded during a dark period in Cummings life and he was fixed on silence and to that he made recordings “during the traditional Anglican service of Evensong”, and removed everything from the recordings, except silences that occur here and there, and thus it captured echoes, resonances and ambience. Everyone who has ever been to a church service (and I recommend anyone to do at least once in a lifetime to visit a service, preferably with singing and all that) has an idea of how that sounds. Cummings takes these sounds into the world of digital processing, and it has to do with the negative space; the music is full of anger, he says. It’s not something I would have extracted from this music should I just hear this music by itself. I would probably think of this more like computer-controlled processes of snippets of near silent recordings, which they are, but not in terms of anger or negativity. It sets me as a listener free from the way it inspired Cummings to compose these works and I can take a much different approach, and that is that I think this is a work of great beauty. The music is part quiet and majestic, slow and minimal and has occasional bursts of loudness, of a massive eruption occasionally and controlled streams of molten lava; it is not necessarily all very quiet and microsounding around here. The cover indicates various pieces on this cassette, but I enjoyed it mostly as a one piece per side kind of thing; like a solid long collage of various electronic soundscapes cut together. (FdW)

via Vital Weekly