DUO Christine Sehnaoui / Magda Mayas (piano).
Label : Olof Bright
Catalog : OBCD 28
Released : March 2010
Recorded and Mastered by Tony Buck in April 2009 in Berlin.
- THE WATCHFUL EAR by RICHARD PINNEL
The disc in question then is a new release on the Olof Bright label by Christine Abdelnour Sehnaoui and Magda Mayas named Teeming, a great straight-up hour of sensitive, fluid
improvisation split into three tracks. Sehnaoui is an alto saxophonist, and Mayas a pianist, and after a few moments of listening here this should be obvious to most, but still the depth of
sounds and the speed in which they are switched between on this release is partly what makes Teeming such an enjoyable listen. There is so much going on here, and it keeps changing and
moving on as quickly as you can listen. The interaction between the two players is really wonderful to delve into, one minute full of inside piano scrapes and chimes combining with soft warm sax
tones, the next thunderous deep piano notes mixed with angry noteless fluttering with so much in between. Mayas in particular sounds really versatile here, as if she knows every inch of her
instrument inside out and can find a certain sound in a flash when it is needed. The three pieces were recorded at the infamous Pappelallee 5 residence in Berlin, I am guessing with Mayas’ own
piano, so explaining the familiarity with the full range of sounds. This is not to suggest that Sehnaoui is in anyway in the shadows on this release, her playing suggests a bold confidence here
that only comes from years of working with one instrument.
The third track here, the excellently titled twenty-one minute piece I could only watch it happen begins in a manner quite unlike anything I have heard on this kind of record before, an immediate
collapsing of odd small sounds from both players on top of each other, little gasps, dull metallic chimes, wooden sounding thuds- the sensation being of a myriad of different small heavy items
all falling down a set of wooden stairs at once. This only lasts a moment or so, but sets up the mood for the piece, a jerky, bouncy avalanche of sounds, all in tune with one another but rushing
past the ear for several minutes until things calm a little. This is busy, full-on improv, but there is so much variety in the sounds, so much evidence of two sets of ears listening intently and
responding accordingly that this doesn’t matter. Both musicians have a wide enough palette of sounds to keep things from becoming repetitive, and there is enough surprise and invention in the
music to keep me engaged completely, the music doesn’t ever sound date or generic.
Teeming is a great title for the album. There is so much going on here, and there really is a sensation of being caught in a flood of sounds, crashes, bells, whistles and scrapes all rushing past
either side of your head but the streams crossing and folding along the way, tying up in knots only to unravel themselves a few moments later. This is a great CD for putting on in a darkened room
and just listening into, following the different sounds, trying to second guess where each musician might be going, getting thrown off the scent and pushed away somewhere you weren’t expecting.
This is a really great CD for close, engaged listening. Its not one that you can let just float past in the background, it pulls you in, hurls you about and drops you out the other end. This is
just really great improvised music that makes the most of the sonic possibilities of two simple acoustic instruments. Two musicians that sound immediately in tune with one another and able to
converse, wrestle and argue with each other through the music. One for improv fans old and new, those that like the rough and tumble as well as those that prefer texture and colour. Great disc !
pairing of alto saxophonist Christine Abdelnour Sehnaoui and pianist Magda Mayas is very welcome as, separately, they've been responsible for two of 2010's finer releases – Sehnaoui's
Ichnites (Potlatch) with Pascal Battus, and Mayas's Another Timbre solo Heartland. With Battus, the saxophonist adopted a range of embouchures and restrained blowing techniques
to generate an impressive spectrum of sounds from her horn. Her subtle approach revealed the means of production of the sounds, emphasising the sound of tonguing and breath, and the end results
were textbook lowercase. In contrast, Mayas produces sounds with a wider dynamic range, playing the whole piano, inside and out, including dramatic percussive effects from banging and scraping
the frame of the instrument and the strings. Both women have styles that are idiosyncratic and distinctive, their sounds eloquently conveying the physicality of what they do – listening to their
music conjures up images of them playing it.
Across the three extended improvisations of Teeming, the pair interact to create complex yet coherent soundscapes, within which it is usually possible
to disentangle individual contributions. Mayas is noticeably the driving force, the more dominant player, and her garrulous approach has a clear effect on Sehnaoui. Drawn away from the laminal
approach she adopted on Ichnites, she readily and rapidly responds to the stimuli sent out by Mayas, who clearly relishes the call-and-response approach to improvising. At times here the
two are so locked into each other that is unclear who's calling and who's responding. As a thrilling back-and-forth synthesis of instruments, Teeming is well named.–JE
by Bill Meyer
It might seem rude or irrelevant to bring up the marital status of a musician before the music they play, but bear with me. The name that self-trained alto saxophonist Christine Abdelnour
Sehnaoui goes by on this CD is a transitional one. Previously she’d recorded simply as Christine Sehnaoui, and a month after recording this session in April 2009 she made Ichnites, her first under the name Christine Sehnaoui Abdelnour. Formerly married to guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui, she’s also decisively
branched out beyond the circle of Lebanese musicians with whom she made her first albums to play with a diverse array of European improvisers, including guitarist Andy Moor, electronic instrument
inventor Michael Waisvisz, and Walkman motor vandal Pascal Battus. What Abdelnour Sehnaoui shares with them is a highly
unsentimental approach to her instrument; like them, she is more interested in what she can make it do next than what it’s already done.
Although Berliner Magda Mayas plays the piano, which is about as burdened with history as an instrument can get, she fits well in such company. She’s busted whatever boundaries her classical
training might have impelled her to inhabit in order to get at the piano’s essentials. Under her hands, it is a
big box, a span of wires, a toppled harp, and every once in a while a keyboard instrument. Abdelnour Sehnaoui is even less likely to sound conventional; the forays into multiphonics that are her
closest venture into recognizable saxophone language still count as extended technique. Like John Butcher or Mats Gustafsson, she has a flexible and confident command of a wealth of whistles,
buzzes, pops and whirs that will likely banish all thoughts of Johnny Hodges or Ornette Coleman from your brain.
And like Mayas on piano, she gets to the saxophone’s essentials. But even more important, she and Mayas have the sort of rapport that is necessary for music made on the fly to take wings. No
matter how unusual each player’s sounds may be, they sound like just the right thing in each other’s presence.
From the blog Perfection of perplexion
“The Lebanese saxophone player Christina Sehnaoui inhabits the inherent blank spot of contemporary music (which still remains to be defined through differential categories of institutional versus
non-institutional levels), since their respective background – Mayas having obtained a certain level of institutional education and Sehnaoui being a autodidact – evades the aforementioned
distinction. The improvisatory gap thus inhabited by the duet gives rise to a contemporary milieu of today’s creative work in the arena of creative music(s), which uses subtle eavesdropping and
attentive gestures in order to subject personal experience to the sound, thus guiding the sound articulation into an exploratory harmony of expanded playing techniques. The latter subsequently
meld together with different aesthetics and blurred traditions, openly flirting with the inheritance of prepared piano in the contemporary classical music of the former century, on the one hand,
and electronic music, on the other. The duet fluidly brings together intensity and inventiveness, sharpness and softness, in its consistent walk on the edge of deconstructed musical language,
grounding itself in the arena of noise, smacks, cracks, extended tones in the high registers of a lithe saxophone performance, percussive play, and extended sounds within harmonic
intertwinements, which act as interventions into the very entrails of the piano “
by Ken Waxman
Probing the furthest reaches of saxophone texture and timbre has been the preoccupation of altoist Christine Sehnaoui Abdelnour’s improvising during the past few years. Recorded within a month of
one another, Teeming and Ichnites capture two significant performances by the Paris-based reedist.
Together they’re notable sonically and sociologically. Sonically the atonal fragmentation of breath, reed and metal in which she specializes is presented in different duo contexts. All-acoustic,
Teeming teams Abdelnour with Berlin-based prepared piano explorer Magda Mayas. On the other CD, her partner is Paris’ Pascal Battus who uses motorized components from old walkmans as exciters,
vibrators and resonators on cymbals and objects made of, among other substances, plastic, paper and cardboard. Sociologically, Abdelnour who is of Lebanese background, and who in the past has
mainly played and recorded with improvisers on the Beirut-Paris axis, here establishes her own style with new partners, who while equally non-traditional in their playing, share similar creative
DNA with her.
Although elements of blended translucent sound layers mask rigid tone identification on both CDs, the pianist’s and the saxophonist’s musical persona are clearly defined on their disc.
Chiaroscuro textural extensions and pointillist strategies are so prominent on Ichnites however that categorically ascribing certain resonating tones to one or the other is almost impossible and
Battus in the past has worked with players such as guitarist Camel Zekri and bass trombonist Thierry Madiot. Here his strategies vacillate between those in which he pushes his motors to create a
vacuum cleaner drone that dominates the entire aural air space to the creation of less obtrusive ragged splinters and ratchets which either pulse in isolation or complement the saxophonist’s
trills in double counterpoint.
For her part Abdelnour unleashes a trick bag full of extended techniques which range from bird-whistled squeaks and high-pitched yelps to segmented breaths, split tones and vibrating tongue
stops. These reed gymnastics stretch the narrative tessitura next to the rotating, band-saw like turns, unyielding drones and harsh, oscillated hums from Battus’ contraptions. During the CD’s
five tracks, individual agitated pitches arte converted into definitive sound assemblies, confirming the impossibility of ascertaining where one person’s contribution ends and the other’s begins.
Alongside this are enough pressurized, fortissimo roars which appear and vanish so frequently that they further muddy identification.
Especially notable are the reflective abrasions created by rattling objects or pressing them against equally unyielding substances, the sounds of which characterize “reliefs de repas”. Soon
mercurial pitches swell to almost pipe-organ-like reverberations without revealing whether the centrifugal forces propelling them are the result of the high-pitched friction from Battus’
implements or the multiphonic air rammed into the dual improvisation from Abdelnour. Although the two also evolve in perfect symmetry on “fouilles et rongement”, the separation is clearer. The
clattering and chirping smacks from rotated surfaces of polystyrene and cardboard can definitely be attributed to Battus. Still, the saxophonist’s windstorm of animal yowls and thin, sharp trills
vibrate enough altissimo flattement to almost mirror the other’s ragged efforts.
Created by another bravura duo, Teaming is less sonically baffling, since during the CD’s three extended improvisations the identifiable characteristics of the piano and the saxophone are never
in doubt – although some timbres do come close at times. Mayas, who has recorded with drummer Tony Buck and guitarist Michael Renkel among others, has as advanced a command of prepared and
non-prepared piano techniques as Abdelnour has of saxophone styling. Among the strategies Mayas reveals are ricocheting soundboard snaps, strummed action and plucks, mandolin-like twangs; plus
the sounds of loose objects rolling among the internal strings. In polyphonic opposition, the reedist introduces choked whistles, blurred growls, staccato licks, unaccented trills and watery
Evidently created in real time, the tracks accelerate in intensity and freedom. By the time “I could only watch it happen”, the final track, rolls around, its title describes the nearly
paranormal qualities sometime present in profound improvisations. Following the sequences of thickening staccato pressure that have been building through side-slipping tones that encompass
node-stretching friction, resonating strings, clipped keys, tongue stops and unrestrained reed glossolalia, the climax explodes into multi-dimensional variations.
Working together, the intertwining double counterpoint stretches out and becomes more intense. The pianist seems to be scraping the end of a sharpened screwdriver against the soundboard, action
and speaking frame to produce jagged tones, while at the same time revealing contrasting dynamics on the keys themselves. Meantime the saxophonist spews out growls and spittle-encrusted bubbles
plus fore-shorted reed squeaks. Eventually a sequence of meditative chording from the pianist signals a final variant that includes clanking keys and metronomic rumbles on Mayas’ side with
moderated tongue slaps that narrow to strident peeps on Abdelnour’s. As the saxophonist throat growls and tongue pops while shaking her horn’s body tube for added textures, Mayas’ contrapuntal
single timbres accelerate to wood-shaking internal piano pumps, before both sound streams shrink to silence.
New aural essays on the further liberation of saxophone timbres, these CDs outline the contours of Abdelnour’s evolving style. They also demonstrate how she attains it through careful cooperation
with two stylistically different, but sympathetic, fellow sound explorers.
-- Ken Waxman
From Sound of Music by Magnus Nygren.
Två mycket intressanta personer på den nya improvisationsmusikens scen möts på denna mycket intressanta skiva inspelad i Berlin 2009: den libanesisk-franska saxofonisten
Christine Abdelnour Sehnaoui och den tyska pianisten Magda Mayas. Det handlar om ett fritt laborerande med hela ljudpaletten, och det är befriande att höra hur de inte fastnar i några
utstakade stilbildningar inom improvisationsmusiken. Visst drar det åt det okonventionella och förvrängda om man pratar ljudbild - det väser, sprakar, ångar och knäpper – men det är inte det
som är poängen. Får jag i alla fall för mig. Istället använder de sina utvecklade röster, för dem samman till en abstrakt men mycket levande organism och låter den förändras allteftersom. I
denna organism tillåts såväl toner som mer svårdefinierade ljud.
Det är en mycket rik musik. Ingångarna är flera och stämningar förändras. Magda Mayas tar sig an pianot både via klaviatur och innandöme. Det finns likheter med exempelvis Andrea Neumann som
har utvecklat ”inner-klavieret” framgångsrikt, men Mayas har en egen stil i det att hon hela tiden växlar angreppssätt, de preparerade strängarna slås an inne i pianot, men ljuden frammanas
även traditionellt via klaviaturet. Hon kan dessutom bygga upp förtätningar på ett sätt som är ganska främmande för Neumann.
I det öppna förhållningssättet finner Mayas en like i Christine Sehnaoui. Stämningsskapande väsningar och antydningar bryts av med tonflöden skapade med mer konventionella metoder. Det är en
fröjd att höra hur hon har förmågan att hela tiden variera sitt spel. Sehnaoui tillhör de verkliga förnyarna av saxofonens möjligheter. Tillstånd och händelser löper förbi, det är musik
skapad i stunden. Jag dristar mig till att tro att det i sak inte handlar om musikaliskt sökande. Istället brukar hon redan inhämtade kunskaper om hur ljuden formar sig genom att hon gör si
eller så med saxofon, munstycke och/eller diverse tillbehör. Mästerligt bygger hon nya figurer med sina kunskaper, låter dem falla sönder, bygger nytt igen.
Tillsammans skapar Sehnaoui och Mayas en mestadels lågmäld musik där detaljrikedomen har en nästan överrumplande effekt. Och törs jag säga, det är en av Sehnaouis allra
finaste stunder. Man kan lyssna många många gånger och hela tiden höra nya saker man missat vid tidigare lyssningar. Inte sällan vänder sig denna abstrakta typ av musik inåt, när den istället
vänder sig utåt är det desto mer anmärkningsvärt. Och det är precis vad den gör i det här fallet.
Teeming är utgiven på Soundofmusic-skribenten Thomas Millroths skivbolag Olof Bright, vilket han driver tillsammans med saxofonisten Mats Gustafsson (inte att förväxla med
Soundofmusics Mats Gustafsson).