“Positions” reviewed by Vital Weekly

The press release for this is very lengthy, even when it doubles with information to be found on the cover of the CD. There is also some information on the composer, but it leaves out what I know him best for. I am sure for him that’s ancient (or perhaps irrelevant) history, but maybe it is for readers a few lines to connect. Martijn Tellinga I know best from the time we spend in an office together, working for Staalplaat, and him presenting lots of music he created as Boca Raton, one of which I even released. Tellinga also had his own label, Stichting Mixer, which acted as a publishing house for cross-over between beat oriented music and musique concrete. Tellinga later on went to the Institute for Sonology in The Hague and established himself as a serious composer of new music, dividing time between Amsterdam and Beijing. His current work, and I didn’t hear any of his work since ten years or so, is all about composing and performing ‘musical proposals and acoustical situations’, ‘rendering an on-going meditation on the rudimentary condition of the sonic arts’. It is ‘drawn from a reduced formalist-seeming vocabulary’ but his ‘scores are often open-ended, simple rule-based system providing performers with a template for listening, acting and interacting’. The five long pieces that we find on ‘Positions’ certainly could all be linked back to all of this. There is for instance ‘Truth, Exercise For A Listener’, which can only be recorded with a handheld device, so the engineer is part of the execution of the piece (and thus sounds sometimes far away). ‘Positions, For Those Involved’ is a piece for audience making sounds for themselves, and there are no musicians. That’s the kind of music one can expect here. The press text mentions some notes by Michael Pisaro and although it’s not mentioned, maybe Tellinga feels these days connected to the Wandelweiser group of composers? His music would certainly fit in that with these more silent composers. Tellinga’s pieces are part minimal, such as ‘Three Modulators, For Trombones’, which employs slow moving, long sustaining trombone sounds, such like ‘Branching Into Others, For A Large Instrumental Field’, which is for more instruments and who location is wide apart in an auditorium. These pieces I really enjoyed; it reminded me of Phill Niblock. The other pieces worked less for me. The absence of music and everything being in favour of an idea rather than music is nice, certainly when it’s presented in the context of a live ‘concert’, however broad that might be in this case; it’s perhaps too much John Cage, Fluxus and ‘happenings’ to me. I know that sound may equal music, but I rather sit down and be enchanted by musicians doing whatever is possible with sound. (FdW)