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Martin Rane BAUCK (b. 1988)
Through a network of illuminated streets
fretted with golden fire for solo guitar (2014) [9:37]
sfumato for violin and cello (2014) [6:15]
wie tau von dem frühgras for flute, clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, viola and cello (2013-2016) [6:46]
kopenhagener stille (2014) [17:08]
Misantropi IV for soprano, theorbo, violin and cello (2016-2017) [13:46]
Ensemble neon
Heather Roche (clarinet)
Ole Martin Huser-Olsen (guitar)
rec. 2017, Sofienberg Church, Oslo, Norway.

Martin Rane Bauck, just turned thirty, is a Norwegian composer of mostly acoustic chamber music. He has also been an organiser of the music festival Ung Nordisk Musikk. He helped start the contemporary music ensemble Aksiom in 2010, and the concert series Periferien in Oslo in 2016. His achievements have not been confined to music, either. In 2005, he was the Norwegian national champion in fraction mathematics, we are told; they have a Mathematical Olympiad in Norway, so presumably that is where he won his title.

So, a formidable intelligence, allied to a strong creative urge. But the result is, I have to say, pretty peculiar. I would describe this music as minimal, only that would suggest a kinship with Reich or Riley, but it is nothing like that. Bauck’s music is hypnotic, slow, often consisting of individual notes on single instruments played very softly. He is also interested in distortions, both in sound production and in pitch. The first is found prominently in fretted with golden fire for solo guitar, while the second is a feature of the solo clarinet piece kopenhagener stille, with different fingerings of the same note microtones apart.

Despite the occasional – very occasional – explosions of tone, I found the music very restful, inducing a zen-like state that one writer has likened to looking through the window at snow falling outside. Of course, the danger of such states is that they are very similar to boredom! And we are not good in the West at distinguishing between the two, if there is indeed such a distinction.

I also feel that music of this nature would be far more compelling in a live concert. When listening to a recording, it is far too easy to be distracted by all the other things one could be doing instead of listening to a series of very quiet, vibrato-free cello notes (for example).

I have to commend the performers, though. Despite its austerity, this music is taxing to play – and to sing in the case of soprano Silje Aker Johnsen – in that it requires great concentration, poise and control. I cannot straightforwardly say I enjoyed it, but I did feel a strong urge to listen to it again (and again), so that points to something of strength and importance.
Gwyn Parry-Jones

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