Evgueni Galperine ~ Theory of Becoming

With Theory of Becoming, the Ukrainian-Russian composer Evgueni Galperine has come full circle.  He was once asked to write film music based on a series of stills, and at the Gent album premiere, four filmmakers were asked to “create images in response to the music.”  This music was inspired by subjects as diverse as a spaceship-like asteroid, the paintings of Max Ernst, the death of a friend and the barbaric invasion of a grand city.

The composer describes his technique as ““augmented reality of acoustic instruments,” a blend of the organic and the virtual.  This approach is responsible for the otherworldly tone of these pieces, especially “Loplop Im Wald,” which implies a theremin.  The title refers to a magical creature who is able to traverse Ernst’s forests while others cannot.  A similar sci-fi vibe possesses “Oumuamua, Space Wanderings,” its organ and pulsating synth like an unearthed 80s score.  While the album contains no title track, this piece comes close, imagining an interstellar traveler who seeks to unravel the mysteries of creation.

While Galperine leaves room for listeners to develop their own narratives, that of “This Town Will Burn Before Dawn” strikes closest to home.  The piece imagines the destruction of “a beautiful and luminous city” followed by hope unveiled in the ensuing dawn, after the barbarians have left.  The composer now associates this piece with Ukraine, the land of his childhood.  Low, ominous notes signal the coming destruction, which arrives mid-piece with marching boots and sorrowful strings.  A line can be drawn directly to the requiem of “Soudain, le vide,” which rises from a tender ivory mourning to brass blasts of ascension; “Kaddish,” the prayer for the dead, and “After the Storm.”  These pieces and more form a theory of becoming which suggests a cynical nature to existence, solidified by the track title “The Wheel Has Come Full Circle,” a possible reference not only to Galperine’s career, but to the hope that seasons can be societal as well as astronomical.

Finally to the cover art, which displays two images of a wolf and a mask, one more benign that the other.  One might interpret the left image as that of a curious wolf, while the right seems more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  On Halloween many of us will wear disguises, some charming and some frightening.  Galperine tries on a series of masks here, sorting through the real and the unreal, deciding what face(s) to present to the world.  While the sounds are disparate, each mask fits snugly; whatever mask he wears, he remains comfortable in his own skin.  (Richard Allen)

ECM Records ~ Preview and Order

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