Joshua Fineberg: Sonic Fictions

review fictions x1 cong

This is not an easy work and is for those who like their music atmospheric and challenging.

It’s music that’s meant to be played live, the physical placing of musicians and mics in relation to audiences being key. The sleeve notes say works are not built around narrative or realism but are indebted to modernist writing that draws attention to its own fictitiousness. Writers such as Joyce or Beckett, whose reality is “shaped and manipulated through different subjectivities, presented in an openly artificial frame”.

The notes say the listener needs to understand the concepts of authors such as Joyce, but the music is challenging enough without reading a book with no sentences before you even start to listen.

As the sleeve notes say, all composed works are fictions in the sense that they are creations of the imagination, but Fineberg aims for a sound that is patently fictitious.

The first piece is L’abîme, a piece for solo clarinet/bass clarinet, bassoon and cello with ensemble and off-stage instruments. It opens with the sound the digestive tract might make and goes on to create a slight feeling of dread as the soloists on-stage and off work together — L’abîme means “the abyss” and it has the feel of standing on the edge of such a giddy edifice, with sounds both close and far away. The sleeve notes say that it’s less this (a void) than a hall of endless reflections.

Just As Much Entangled With Other Matter requires the listener to turn aside and quickly read that airport blockbuster William James’s Principles of Psychology (1890). We confess we didn’t.

We’re not going to go through all the tracks (La Quintina is for a unique style of Sardinian singing, Objets Trouvés draws on the idea of recontextualizing a familiar object through its placement in a new setting, “like a packet of Gauloises in a Robert Motherwell collage”). You get the drift.

It’s not a harsh collection of sounds, and in places is calming in the way wind through trees can be, but of melody and tunes there are none. It’s an experience rather than a piece of music.

We’ve found it’s good in a morning to get the mental cogs moving — whatever else, it engages the brain because it is so clearly fictitious.
Out on Divine Art’s Métier label, MSV28564.

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