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Kientzy plays Johnson (released in 2004) PDF Print E-mail
Music - Compact discs

Kientzy plays Johnson

Daniel Kientzy, saxophones; Meta Duo; Tom Johnson, narrator

In Kientzy Loops, the accompanying loop is a mix of six alto saxophones played in continuous blowing, while the principal lines are played on alto saxophone, except for the third section, played on baritone. The piece, premiered at the auditorium of the ADAC in Paris, was awarded a French national prize in the Victoires de la musique as the best piece of contemporary music for the year 2000. We are indebted to our friend Marc Chemillier for La Tortue de mer. As a mathematician Chemillier became interested in the unique geometry of drawings made in the sand by the people of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. This (turtle) drawing, and there are many others, consists of a single line with a total of 103 turns, and one must draw the sequence so that the symmetrical form comes out just right. The drawing is systematic, and it also makes a lovely logical form when translated into music. We decided the sequence would sound best played on the contrabass saxophone, tuned an octave lower than the baritone, a rare instrument with heavy notes that seem to mimic the embarrassing slowness of these giant sea creatures. Narayana's Cows, inspired by an Indian mathematician of the 14th century, and playable on any combination of instruments, is written on three staves: the complete melody, the reduced bass melody, and the drone. The present multi-track saxophone version is probably as rich and energetic as any of the large ensemble versions. The melody is played by threeoverdubbed sopranino saxophones in unison, the bass line is played by three baritones, and the drone is played by three altos. In each of the four Infinite Melodies the music follows a logical sequence requiring each subsequent phrase to become longer and longer, reaching out toward infinity. Since the four melodies are independent pieces, it is not necessary that they be played in the written sequence. In this case the interpreter ordered his four interpretations according to their contrast and durations, so that the CD ends with Infinite Melody No. 1. Here the music contains longer and longer silences, finally ending with a silence so long that it seems to dissolve into infinite silence as the CD player stops turning. 12 € (Euros)
Kientyzy Loops Score available
Narayana's Cows Score available
Infinite Melodies Score available

Kientzy plays Johnson CD cover

Review: Tom Johnson - Kientzy plays Johnson (Paris Transatlantic Magazine)
Now that the big names from the first generation of minimalists have abandoned the mathematical rigour of their earlier work in favour of activities as diverse as ripping off mid 70s Bowie albums and providing dull soundtracks to ham fisted home movies about zeppelins and cloned sheep, it’s comforting to know there’s still someone out there willing to get stuck in the rut of an eight-note self-replicating melody. Which is what Tom Johnson, born in Colorado in 1939 and resident in Paris since 1983, does in his “Kientzy Loops”, written for and performed by French sax virtuoso Daniel Kientzy and assisted by Reina Portuondo. It’s also gratifying to report that the piece won Johnson an award at the French music biz showcase Victoires de la Musique in 2000 (about time they found something decent to award a prize to). “Kientzy Loops” is joined on this album by “Tortue de Mer (Sea Turtle)”, a translation into music of the geometrical drawing of the aforementioned creature by the inhabitants of the South Pacific island of Vanuatu, “Narayana’s Cows”, another additive process musical representation of a mathematical conundrum devised by a 14th century Indian mathematician, and four of Johnson’s “Infinite Melodies”, which, as their titles suggest, would go on forever if an instrument with an infinitely large range could be found to perform them. Kientzy’s contrabass sax sounds as ugly and ungainly as it looks, but the saxophonist’s performances of these uncompromisingly minimal works is precise and impressive, even if about three quarters of the way through “Narayana’s Cows” you find yourself praying for an epidemic of foot and mouth to reduce the size of the herd to more manageable proportions.—DW