(Aural Terrains)

The phenomenology inherent in microtonal fluctuation, multiphonics and unorthodox melodic design constitutes an intriguing field of exploration in these scores by Thanos Chrysakis, incorporating pieces for regular, bass and contrabass clarinets. Privileging a general sense of continuity as opposed to the rigid consistency of a metrical strategy, Chrysakis’ compositional clairvoyance found the ideal translator in Jason Alder, a frequent presence on Aural Terrains since 2019.

As a low clarinet connoisseur probing the depths of the instrument’s physical properties, Alder’s control of pitch and responsiveness to vibration are exemplary. It is essential to understand the huge effort expended to produce sonic matter that might appear deceptively simple to an inattentive addressee. Intense quivering, ineffable glissandos and timbral mutability reflect years of research in a quest for getting one with the sound (and the cosmos at large, if you will). Alder is equally keen on making us discern, from every angle of hearing, the diversified shades engendered by sheer oscillation. Such ghosts — especially when bass and contrabass are involved — sway through frequencies acknowledged by the auricular membranes but also felt in the nape of the neck, and all around the head. Impressively, this occurs even at a lower listening volume, thus substantiating the skill at play.

The recording quality brings out more crucial details. The variable inhalations needed to emit altered notes; the circular breathing necessary to keep extended flows spinning; the clattering keys complementing the gracefulness of the braided pitches. And of course, the instants, however ephemeral, of charged silence. Overall, Milieu Interieur is completely unencumbered by sly attempts to beguile an audience via cheap tricks. Endowed with exquisite formal elegance, at the same time it’s pregnant with physicality. An evident freedom from predigested “contemporary” schemes could induce someone to hypothesize improvised spots in the music, which — on the contrary — is entirely notated. Ultimately, the outstanding trait is perhaps the sensation of “harmonic non-belonging” conveyed by the drifting melodic trajectories, of which Chrysakis conceived a veritable multitude. Still-intelligible signals wavering across counterpointed figments, they retain an underlying purposefulness, facilitating the mind’s adjustment process as soon as they’re integrated in our receptive systems.