Ludwig Berger ~ Cuyo

Fresh from the success of last year’s Melting Landscapes, Ludwig Berger has had an extremely active 2019, starting a new label while releasing three recordings of his own.  Cuyo is the one that won our hearts.  A few years back it won Miso Music’s annual Electroacoustic Composition Competition, which that year included 185 pieces from 17 countries.  This year, the Sonospace label picked it up in hopes of reaching the larger audience that it deserves.

As with Melting Landscapes, the crispness of the recording is a huge selling point.  Consider this the summer version of that release, the waters flowing smoothly, the impacts of the opening frame falling like fireworks.  This is Argentina, a land of lush and dry, as shown in the cover photo, taken from space.  We hear the lushness in the crisp foreground trickle, the dry implied by the buzzing of an insect and the cry of a hungry bird.  But because this is an amalgamation of different sessions, we encounter something like ice in the second minute, linking back to last year’s project.

A conversation takes place during a gentle walk.  One person is an excellent listener, even when rocks begin to break.  But then there’s a time of relative quiet, a dog’s lolling tongue leading to the sounds of passing cars and breaking glass.  Further down the walk, Berger enters a parade or bazaar, filled with cows, dogs and horses.  Berger makes no effort to be comprehensive, concentrating instead on creating a mood (or in this case, a moo), as mysterious as the late female whisper that echoes one at the start.

Earlier this year, Berger released Cargo, a more expansive work whose sounds are more continuous than those on Cuyo.  These “steady motions” develop from a soft drone to more musical moments on “After Nature,” finally receding into an avian soundscape.  A child runs and sneezes, returning often to a nearby adult for commiseration.  Side B opens with what one assumes is the truck on the cover, light conversation before the workday, announcements blended with the sounds of industry.  If Cuyo is a piece that makes one lean forward and listen, Cargo is one that makes one lean back and relax.

Shifting fields once again (literally), Berger mikes a tree on Inumaki, Esuzaki, one of three debut cassettes on his brand new Vertical Music label.  This hour-long piece may be of more scientific than entertainment value, sounding like a plaintive flute searching for a mate (and in the late going, finding one in a bass clarinet).  The fascination is instead the mind of Berger, unable to rest in a single place.  Whether presenting a field recording, a soundscape, or a duet with his environment, the professor has a lot to teach, and brings a childlike wonder to his adult pursuits.  Congratulations on the new label, and stay forever young!  (Richard Allen)

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