More antiphonal than asymmetrical, Norwegian composer Eivind Buene’s nine-part double concerto juxtaposes two soloists’ improvisations within the stricture of a 12-piece chamber ensemble playing a notated score. Its success results not only from the bravura styling of percussionist Ingar Zach and Ivar Grydeland on guitar and banjo, but also from the sonic tension engendered from the backing group’s use of such non-standard chamber instruments as electric guitar, Fender Rhodes and bagpipes – as well as the expected strings and horns.
With the broken octave theme as an anchor, this tripled polyphony is toyed with and foreshadowed earlier on, then fulfilled at mid-point. Above a groundswell of massed, vibrating strings and puffing horns, Grydeland initially concentrates his strums and picking in the foreground as Zach abrasively pops and smacks abrasive surfaces. Reaching a climax with “Asymmetrical music V” and “VI”, intentions turn to elaborations as claw-hammer banjo lick become chromatic chording and the stolid percussion raps intensify to include rotated buzzes and scratches. Counterbalance is provided by, flat-line string obbligato, soon superseded by a melding of strummed electric piano, cymbal clacks, rim-shot reverb and thumping bass lines: the equivalent of a Free Jazz trio.
Unique elements are added in the final section as the music takes on processional qualities, with timbres resembling those of a radung’s blare and a pipa’s resonation. Tension-release is eventually achieved as choppy piano chords and contrapuntal marimba strokes intersect with conclusive guitar licks and measured drum beats.
This Asymmetrical Music may be irregular. Yet despite the title, it’s not lopsided but lucid.
— Ken Waxman