Michael Pisaro – Within (3.2)

Michael Pisaro – Within (3.2)

Heresy 01

Edition: 100 numbered copies crafted with 100% PCW recycled chipboard, and Taiyo Yuden cdr´s.

Performance – Miguel Prado: electric guitar

Recorded by Roberto Mallo in August 2010.

Mixed and mastered by Miguel Prado.

total time: 75m21s

Released on September 30th, 2010.


Liner notes:

“within (3)” was originally for a classical guitar – and featured, as its basic sound, a tone lightly played on one of the treble strings, and repeated up to from 1 to 8 times, at a rate of one tone per 10 seconds. A tone would almost die away before the next was struck. When played in the Zionskirche in Berlin (where it was premiered) it was like one tiny point in a world of sound.

In Miguel Prado’s version for electric guitar, the tones are played on the bass strings and are given a heavy, extremely rich and variable distortion. We discussed the fact that the sounds were thus much longer and came to the conclusion that the best way to record the piece was to layer the repetitions on top of each other, so that each tone could take as long as it needed to fade. The result is a complex harmonic web unforeseen in the original ­– new enough that I’ve decided that the best title for this work is “within (3.2)”.

The piece is structured into 6 sections of 10 minutes each, with a pause between them.

“within (3.1)” published by Edition Wandelweiser in 1997.

“within (3.2)” published by Edition Wandelweiser in 2010.

Michael Pisaro


The Watchfull Ear by Richard Pinnell

One of the things I’ve wondered from time to time when listening to performances of Wandelweiser-type scores is how would they sound if ugly sounds were used instead of the usual more tasteful ones, or what would happen if the usual instruction to play softly was ignored? Miguel Prado’s reworking of Within (3), Michael Pisaro’s 1997 score for solo classical guitar doesn’t quite fit under either of those headings, but he has, with the composer’s blessing altered the instrumentation involved in such a way that the music produced is significantly different.

I have never heard Within (3) played, and I don’t believe it exists on a commercially available recording anywhere, but the liner notes to this new release on Prado’s new (and excellently named) Heresy label, written by Pisaro, tell us that the original score, when played at its premiere in Berlin called for series of lightly played notes on the treble strings, one every ten seconds, that would die away slowly, disappearing into nothing just before the next note was played. The music then would have been quiet, with each pin prick of sound gently punctuating the ‘silence’ of the room around it. Prado’s version of the composition was played on an electric guitar, on the bass strings, with each note treated with a rich, heavy distortion. So instead of tiny moments of sound sat apart, each note billows out into a long stream of sustained tone that takes far longer to decay. To create the piece, it seems that Prado recorded each note separately and overlaid them, still placing them carefully as to the score’s instructions, but so allowing dense, extremely rich harmonic patterns to appear as two or more heavy lines of tone overlap. The piece apparently sounds so different from the original that it has been retitled here Within 3.2.

So here the sound of the guitar is gritty and grainy. Notes, though played softly still, roar away after being struck, and then sear through the air as feedback heavy swarms rather than delicate chimes. The original intention of the music, which presumably to create a fragile, spacious music has been overturned so that what we hear keeps its charm and elegance, and yet somehow has a raw edge to it, Wandelweiser music with a bit of an attitude maybe. It is still very beautiful, the overlapping tones throwing out wild harmonic patterns right through the hour long piece, with the score placing silent pauses between each of the ten sections that the music is broken up into.

One wonders what came first, the sanctioning of the piece by the composer or the recording itself. The question of whether it is OK to subvert the instructions of a score somehow to create a slightly removed, or in this case a really quite different new work is an old but contentious argument. Pisaro and Prado get around these issues here by renaming the score Within 3.2, recognising the origins of the recording as well as its status as a new piece altogether, but one can’t help but wonder what we would be making of this piece if the composer had been less taken with the work. Could it still carry his name? Would it still be called Within?

On this occasion, will never know, but Prado suggests that in the future other similar exercises may appear on Heresy. I look forward to how those end up going, but for now Within 3.2, while perhaps lacking the sense of calm and sheer beauty of Pisaro’s late nineties guitar composition is still a captivating and thoughtful work by a sensitive and perhaps fearless performer. Available here.

Crow with no mouth by Jesse Goin

Every work of art is an uncommitted crime.
~ Theodor Adorno

Detractors of Miguel Prado’s detournement treatment of composer Michael Pisaro’s Within [3], and his Situationist prank piece Comedy Apories, which pillories [with a light touch] the Wandelweiser collective’s aesthetic of isolated events, arranged in time, might disagree that no crime has been committed in these two releases. The offense, if there is one, is against the often humorless mien avant music fans show when their annointed ones are treated with anything other than reverence. It may be mere reflex to detect a whiff of the Oedipal in Prado’s choice of Pisaro and Wandelweiser as the subject, however detourned, of his Heresy label’s first two releases; his regard for this area of music is transparent, even affectionate. The label, however, is Heresy, and Prado’s appropriation of the Situationist device, detournement, is pointed and purposeful. How Prado updates Debord’s A User’s Guide To Detournement is different on each release.

Within [3.2], the name conferred by Pisaro upon hearing the results of Prado’s fuzzed-out, electric iteration of a work originally realized on classical guitar, unabashedly erases a signature aspect of Pisaro’s early works – the single note granted the time and space it needs to arise, hang and decay naturally. Prado’s version sounds each note with the distortion and sustain afforded by electricity; rather than peal, the notes clot, coagulate and smear the air. A luxurious, if sometimes grimy, drone supplants the tension felt when the silence between notes is present. The basic structure – six sections, 10 minutes each – is maintained, as are the silences between sections. Otherwise, this is a truly reimagined work, one I took to upon my first listen. Preferring the lacunae of Pisaro’s acoustically realized pieces is a matter of taste. They that approve a private opinion, call it opinion, Hobbes observed, but they that dislike it, heresy; and yet heresy signifies no more than private opinion. Right. Not to privilege the label name too much, though Prado says on his label site his intent is adding a heretical approach, I regard Within [3.2] less as heresy, more as after Michael Pisaro.