Antoine Beuger

'un lieu pour être deux'

(pages 1-23 // 47:02)
recorded Saturday April 9, 2011 in Brooklyn, NY

Barry Chabala (guitar)
Ben Owen (synthesized tones, field recordings)

Recorded by Richard Kamerman
Mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi
Thanks to Billy Gomberg

glass-mastered CDs in full color digipacks
edition of 150 copies

sold out

I've stopped listening to music while I run; I find it too easy to lose perspective; music flits against concentration that's hard-earned, heard in the creak of lungs, and felt in the lactic acid in calves. I've been taking it easy this last month - the amount I run is inversely proportional to the amount of snow that falls, and in Ashland it snows a lot. But I squeaked out a little over five miles yesterday anyway. I ran through part of the Chequamegon bay forest, where an atv trail carves a straight line northwest into Superior. In the summer you can count the tiny, dried-up snapping turtles that die dusty and alone, their heads lolling to either side as you prod them with your toe. I cut across a field, horses lolling by their troughs, and out onto the shore of Lake Superior, where I pushed past Ashland's superfund site where a mass of oil timbers are cocooned and malignant in the clay-rich soil. One could almost forget there was anything wrong, a thick layer of snow covering the black sands that mark its tomb. The snow can't hide the massive ore dock that sits crumbing and monolithic in the distance. And it can't hide the power plant and its mountains of cheap wood pulp they burn to create the steam that ends up belching out over the lake, massive turbines humming. But this is Ashland, completely ill at ease with itself, profiting gleefully from natural splendor while doing it's damndest to fuck it all up.

I've always thought of a lot of what I write about on this thing as a kind of urban music, more comfortable in a city's crush of humanity than out here, if not in the middle of nowhere, than right next to it. Part of this comes from the fact that most of it is made in cities like Tokyo or New York or Vienna or Seoul and seems to reflect a certain acetic neurosis, an idle abstraction. It feels so caught up in itself that it finds itself alone in a crowd, humming. Maybe another reason I don't listen to music while I run anymore- I don't quite feel like shutting off like I did when I lived in cities. I didn't feel the need to escape into shape and form, into the Big Idea. I get tired of the Big Ideas. I like a little room to breathe.

Maybe that's why I've been listening to Antoine Beuger's un lieu pour être deux a lot lately. Usually on low volume, allowing it to brush up against my spine-Ben Owens' field recordings sinking into Ashland's own small downtown discourse; while Barry Chabala's guitar in its minute detail startling me, as mysterious in its motivations as the pigeons across the street that suddenly, inexplicably rise off the tar roof to swarm and dip in perfect unison. That is not to say Beuger isn't about big ideas. That's obviously not true, but I haven't the first fucking clue what they are. And I have little interest in finding out. I prefer to listen to this composition as if it allows me to make my own meaning from it. Sorry, dudes.

The subtleness and use of space brands it Wandelweiser- but it's not the stereotypical minimal anemia. Light tones, integrations of familiar field recordings, guitar plucks are all reminiscent of some Michael Pisaro's increasingly impressive work, but there is an airier quality here. It's unforced and refreshingly easy to find some path through its space. I'm used to that feeling with so much of the music that comes from this area of composition, but it's so rarely captivating; it's so rarely as generous. What I take from the little of Beuger's work that I've heard (as well as Pisaro's) is the attention to mundane, to the subtle inflection the music can cast spatially and temporally on everyday life. The sounds create a shading effect to reality, a reinterpretation of normality. Not to say it's some tired psychedelic journey through Visnu's asshole (leave that to Keenan or something), but it seeps into one's space. I'm reminded of Sachiko's Bar Sachiko, which has a similar effect, albeit much harsher and more angular (unheralded classic if you ask me). However, what's apparent is its universality, as at home in this small town as Berlin or Hanoi or Chicago.

I understand that music should be independent of place, but we all know it can't be. Where we are colors our understanding of music as much as our mood at the time. And some things do just work better in an environment suited for it - as much as I dig Blasphemy or Beherit, it makes far less sense wandering out in the woods than it does wandering around downtown Chicago looking for a place to take a piss. But this album seems to shirk these aspects, centering itself in a universality of life. It's as if the "synthesized tones" simply filter and compliment a day watching those pigeons dip and sway; it's as if the guitar twinge is a simply a punctuation, exclamation on a sip of coffee at the café. And while one could say that's all well and good for you, but where's the music? Thankfully, it's remarkably musical. It just allows room for the audience. And most music doesn't do that. Thankfully, there are musicians around like Chabala and Owen who seem to tune into just that, and keep a concise but open interpretation to the score. Letting it breathe for us.

This would be an interesting album to go running to now that I think about it. I'd probably end up sitting in a snow bank, watching the sky, pontificating on the consensus reality of soap on the rope, freezing to death. Death by Beuger. But there's probably worse ways to go.

You should probably buy this from the excellent copy for your records

- Tanner Servoss, Aphidhair

I used to own a CD player that couldn't read discs that only contained one track. In such situations, I had 10 second track of silence that I made in Cool Edit pro. I would burn the single-tracked album onto a disc with my 10 seconds of silence in order for my unusual CD player to acknowledge it existed. This little anecdote has no point other than the fact the album I'm reviewing contains only one track. I guess it just triggered the memory.

I know little about Antoine Beuger, other than his role in founding the Wandelweiser Group in 1992. For those unfamiliar, Wandelweiser is a well-documented group of composers that, for the last 20 years, have been exploring the possibilities of silence or, as Radu Malfatti put it, "the evaluation and integration of silence(s) rather than an ongoing carpet of never-ending sounds." Other than being familiar with some of the artsist involved (such as the aforementioned, Malfatti), Wandelweiser isn't something I've explored in any great detail, but on the strength of Copy For Your Records excellent, Un Lieu Pour être Deux, I may have to rectify this. Un Lieu Pour être Deux was composed by Beuger with several other renditions floating around. Here's one you can hear for free. This version, performed by Barry Chabala on guitar and Ben Owen on synthesized tones and field recording, takes Beuger's score (pages 1-23) and places it on the other side of the world. And what a gorgeous job they do...

Given the influence John Cage had on the notion of silence as it pertains to music, it shouldn't surprise to hear such stripped back music coming from America. Even still, I'm far more accustomed to hearing music of this nature coming out of Japan and Europe. That said, I've been out of the loop for a little while and certainly can't speak with authority on recent developments to come out of America. When I was last immersed in music like this, it was groups like English and GOD who were exciting me the most and both these groups offered much noisier affairs.

For me, Un Lieu Pour être Deux is a brilliant study in juxtaposition. The constituent parts each have a character that ignores the other. Perhaps on first listen, the lifeless tones played by Ben Owen may strike the ear foremost along with the occasional primitive guitar clang as Chabala strikes his instrument. Already these two elements are opposed to one another. Owens tones are stoic in nature and refuse to respond to the cries of Chabala's guitar, yet in no way do they exist in conflict. They happily occupy the same space, even if they're not helping the other. What really sews this piece together are the field recordings and the more microscopic guitar explorations that hide themselves beneath the surface. The sound environment is constantly populated by unseen people in unknown places. Even as I listen now, the sound of cars driving outside coexist with the constant rumble of cars driving through Owen's field recordings. It's particularly the recordings of people that stay in my mind. Whenever I hear human voice but can't decipher what is being said, I always assume something conspiratorial is occurring. It puts me on edge. We all want to understand the human voice because it is perhaps the most wildly used instrument, and so much depends upon our ability to communicate with one another. One of the things I love the most about field recordings are the way they focus what we hear and open our ears to that which we may not normally pay attention to. In the same way photography allows you to see through the eyes of another, so does field recording let us listen with another's ears. I only received this album today and have already listened to it 5 times, which suggests I really like it. Perhaps it's too early to be writing a review, but I'm not so worried about that anymore. I can listen to this album non-stop for a month and my resulting opinion will be grossly different to how I feel in a year. Like Owen's field recordings, this review is a snapshot of what I'm hearing. And what I walk away with is a great respect for what Copy For Your Records are doing and an interest in exploring the output of the Wandelweiser group. Owen and Chabala are two very sensitive musicians who have created 50 minutes of beautiful sound, and what more can one ask for?

The divergent nature of my personal interests will likely ensure that many people reading this review will be unfamiliar with music of this nature. It would be enormously rewarding if taking the time to talk about it inspired some of you to explore this vast, beautiful world. Un Lieu Pour être Deux is available now from Copy for you Records, but it's limited to 150 copies, which means you'll want to act soon should you be interested and I sure as hell hope some of you are.

Pick up a copy from Copy for Your Records before it runs out. Several of the label's earlier releases are already out of print. And check out for a slew of Wandelweiser-related music (I know that's what I'll be doing).

- Matthew Revert, Trash Complex

I have spent quite a lot of time mulling over tonight's CD, far more than I usually would, and with quite a lot more playing time here than I normally manage with a single disc before putting fingers to keyboard. The disc in question is Ben Owen and Barry Chabala's relatively recent release on the Copy for your Records label of a realisation of Antoine Beuger's Un lieu pour être deux, a 2007 score for two performers. The reason for my reticence to write is not because I don't like the CD, Far from it, I find the recording quite beautiful, but somehow I struggle to know why, and also I find it hard to equate this music with Antoine Beuger's wider catalogue, a statement that i fully admit to not really being able to explain, or even understand myself. it doesn't sound much like a Beuger performance to me, which is in itself a ridiculous thing to say, given that the score to this particular piece is somewhat minimal to say the least. It dictates that the musicians should only play "very quiet sounds, not really short to very long" and then indicates ho many sounds should be made by each performer on any on page of the score, the maximum number ever indicated being three. How long each "page" should be, which sounds or where they should be placed is open to the musicians. So perhaps it is a ridiculous comment to say that, given these instructions, the music doesn't sound much like an Antoine Beuger piece, and if indeed it doesn't then perhaps the problem lies with myself for entering the experience of listening with a fixed idea of what should follow in my head.

While there are certainly some quite short sounds here, single plucks at guitar strings for instance, and one or two quite loud ones, it is hard to identify anything beyond these subjective digressions whereby the score has not been followed. The actual recording consists of a long period of what sounds like a microphone placed either outside of the Brooklyn venue that the realisation was recorded in, or near to an open window. So we hear traffic passing, conversations, arguments, and even at one point the thud of hip hop music blasted from a car window. Quite often these environmental sounds are the loudest part of the recording. Chabala though plays guitar, emitting both the occasional chiming note and other eBowed sounds ranging from pure tones to rattling vibrato. Owen is credited with synthesised tones, which are difficult to differentiate from Chabala's contributions, and field recordings, which are often even harder to identify, and easily mistaken for the sounds of Brooklyn we hear throughout. So, as per the composer's instructions, sounds come and go, some stay for a while, others less so, and there is quite a range of sounding elements to be heard, while all are very quiet. So it is this thickness to the sound, the amount of stuff happening at once, musicians and incidental events alike, and also the breadth of different sounds heard, from odd warbling synth tones to (I think) running water at least once and things changing frequently that makes this release quite different to anything else I have heard in the Beuger catalogue.

None of this is necessarily a criticism, and again I should state that the music here is very beautiful. It is very calm, and projects a sense of an event taking place in a particular room really well, making me feel like I am sat at the side of the space, just listening, somehow separate to events, observing from outside as we always do with live recordings but somehow feeling a real sense of the room and its surrounding streets. Whether this aural environment, complete with the external sounds is what Beuger had in mind when he wrote the score to Un lieu pour être demux is a different matter again. No mention is made of allowing in incidental sounds in the score, but then no mention is made to try and keep them out either. The score feels very minimal to look at as well, usually consisting of just two numbers in the centre of each white page, but does that mean the the music should feel equally minimal? Not necessarily so. Only perhaps Antoine Beuger can answer as to whether this recording captures the spirit of his composed intentions well, and knowing Antoine I suspect he will say that it does indeed, even though it feels a little unusual. For me personally, I enjoy the CD a great deal, and from what I can tell the score has been followed, so to my ears its a valid realisation and a CD I can recommend as well worth picking up. It did take me a while to think this all through though.

- Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear

Performed by Barry Chabala and Ben Owen, Antoine Beuger's Un Lieu Pour être Deux is a gentle ripple of urban field recordings and occasional acoustic guitar on this mesmerising release for New York's Copy For Your Records.

For those unfamiliar with Antoine Beuger he's best known as a founder member of the Wandelweiser Group, a collective of musicians whose output is considered 'silent music' in the same vein as John Cage's infamous '4'33?'. Much like the rustle of an audience highlighted the near impossibility of silence in Cage's work, the sounds of the city provide the framework in Un Lieu Pour être Deux. There are various versions available but to compare them would be futile (and, one suspects, totally beyond the point). The constituent parts are so numerous and apparently random that you'd have to sort out some kind of elaborate Zaireeka arrangement in order to work out where they match and differ. Chabala and Owen concentrate on pages 1-23 of Beuger's score here and the majority of the 47 minute piece is dedicated to the gentle ripple and flow of the urban landscape. For the most part you find yourself listening to the steady swoosh of passing cars and the chatter of children. As the piece progresses, outside elements are introduced - Chabala strums a guitar, wood is tapped and scraped - and you'll find yourself surprised by the sudden boom of rap music coming from a souped-up pair of subwoofers, but the everyday comings-and-goings of the city never go away. Only towards the very end does a elongated, almost ear-piercing drone come in to play and this gives way to an automated announcement before it gets the chance to take over completely. The slow, pained groan of an old train arriving at a station and a relatively clear conversation between two men closes the piece. The two sides of the record's coin don't feel forced together and never clash - the overall feeling is perhaps one of being slightly apart, as though in a tall building looking down at the street. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether Chabala and Owen are making particular sounds themselves or whether it's coming from a 'natural' source. The melding of elements is meticulously done. For example, the sudden surge of vibration around the quarter-hour mark could either be a workman's drill or Chabala shredding a guitar string. It's moments of fascination like these that will bring you back to Un Lieu Pour être Deux over and over.

To successfully create a soundworld as gratifying and compulsive as the one Beuger has with Un Lieu Pour être Deux is no mean feat. Chabala and Owen treat it with the greatest respect, opening it up to a new audience in myself and the other lucky 149 people who managed to get hold of a copy.

-Steve Dewhurst, Foxy Digitalis

If, riffing on Cage's oft-quoted response to hearing Handel's Messiah [I like to be moved, I don't like to be pushed] Antoine Beuger can be characterized in such haptic terms, you might say he is a composer who places a light hand under your elbow, and grants you a direction, musically. Guitarist Chabala and electronicist Owen get it, and, like Duplant's recording, grant you plenty of opportunities to pay attention as you deem fit, to whatever you deem most engaging in the moment. Beuger's piece, as realized here, also finds all the sounds of the world to be coterminus, e-bowed guitar alongside the shouts of rude neighbors. Beuger, as much or more than any living composer I am aware of, embodies and extends Cage's notion of graceful devaluation of the composer's ego and authorship. This means sink or swim for those tackling his pieces, on a whole other level than their virtuosity or fealty to the composer's intentions. Chabala and Owen's approach to filling in Beuger's compositional sound-field is of the bloom where you're planted variety, serving our ears [and predilections] the sounds of the world they inhabit. Environment isn't metaphoric on un lieu pour etre deux, and as distressing, or dull, as this may be for some listeners, I find it to be completely inviting, unpretentious and apt. There are moments in this overall ppp-level recording when Chabala's alarmingly sudden struck-strings, and snatches of aggressive shouts and braying laughter bring to mind what Beuger said once about the overall silence and quietude in his work - silence, he said, occurs as a rupture into the situation one is in. It may well be quite horrifying. Consider the environment - is it the aforementioned sounds that rupture, or the long silences between? Beuger goes on to describe his music as a direct encounter with reality, which Chabala and Owen inarguably realize in their inclusion of the world that surrounds the event of music-making. Wandelweiser sounds are generally described as comprised of serenity, equanimity and sonic still-points [at the still-point of the turning world, Eliot]; sure, as well as horse-laughter, airplane thrum, and inexpertly placed notes. This 2007 score for two performers is itself a paradox, as Chabala and Owen permit and prize many additional sound sources, delightfully so.

- Jesse Goin, Crow With No Mouth

Copy For Your Records (a great name for a record label) has released a bunch of CDRs but now expands into real CDs, in small editions, thanks to services offering to do so. I have no idea if Antoine Beuger is a real person, or the band name chosen by Barry Chabala (guitar) and Ben Owen (synthesized tones, field recordings). Together they played on April 9th, 2011 in Brooklyn a forty-seven minute set of extremely careful music. There are times when nothing seem to happen, and here they hoover closely to the Japanese musicians of the 'quiet' scene, such as Taku Sugimoto. Apparently there is a score in play, as it says on the cover 'pages 1-23', but all of these 'pages' are close to each other. Quite demanding music for the listener of long sustaining tones, very sparse field recordings, and an occasional strum on a string. Its not something we have heard before, but Antoine Beuger does a great job in doing similar things.

- Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly

Je ne sais pas à quoi ressemble la partition d'Antoine Beuger, membre fondateur du collectif Wandelweiser, interprétée ici par Ben Owen et Barry Chabala. Est-ce un texte, une partition graphique, un poème, des pages dont seraient extraits les dessins qui ornent la pochette? Quoiqu'il en soit, cette extrait de la partition un lieu pour être deux, joué ici à la guitare par Barry Chabala et aux field-recordings et synthesized tones par Ben Owen, est une réussite.

Je ne connais pas la partition, mais je pense qu'elle est très ouverte, qu'une marge énorme est laissée aux instrumentistes, jusqu'au choix des instruments, ce qui me permet de juger principalement l'interprétation plus que la composition. Et cette interprétation est juste formidable. En premier lieu, il y a les enregistrements de Ben Owen qui parcourent cette unique pièce de 45 minutes dans sa totalité. Des enregistrements urbains surtout, avec de nombreuses bribes de discussions en plusieurs langues, le trafic routier, des klaxons, des autoradios, oiseaux, eau, etc. Mais aussi des enregistrements intimes, qui paraissent tirés d'appartements. Des enregistrements très propres et en même temps très discrets en tout cas, qui demandent à être écoutés au casque pour ne pas confondre son environnement avec celui du disque, ou qui peuvent volontairement être écoutés avec des haut-parleurs pour mélanger les environnements sonores. Le montage des field-recordings est cohérent, sensible, poétique, intime, et limpide, sans retouche ni rupture. Les ruptures sont pourtant présentes, à travers les interventions instrumentales qui empêchent de pénétrer l'univers sonore des field-recordings. Des ruptures de ton et d'intensité, où une corde est brutalement pincée sans prévenir en plein milieu d'une discussion, où une fréquence nasillarde vient faire obstacle à une audition voyeuriste des enregistrements de terrain, parfois trop intimes peut-être.

un lieu pour être deux est une longue pièce, subtile, qui demande beaucoup d'attention et de disponibilité. Une pièce minimaliste où Ben Owen et Barry Chabala dialoguent avec un environnement sonore bruyant et non-musical. Et ce sont ces interventions musicales impromptues qui confèrent une esthétique particulière aux enregistrements bruts sur lesquels jouent les deux musiciens. Ce dialogue tend dès lors à produire une nouvelle intimité, au-delà de celle des enregistrements, entre ces derniers et les musiciens qui semblent extrêmement attentifs à leur environnement sonore. Attentifs à sa poétique inhérente, à ses rythmes, à ses intensités, à sa continuité comme à ses ruptures, à sa structure aléatoire en fait, mais aussi à son atmosphère et à son ambiance. Autant d'éléments que chacun des musiciens parvient à mettre en avant (ou à créer) grâce à de brèves interventions minimalistes.

Quel est l'écart ou la fidélité entre les indications d'Antoine Beuger et l'interprétation de Chabala/Owen? Aucune idée, mais la musique qui en résulte est d'une poétique admirable, d'une sensibilité à l'environnement sonore exceptionnelle (ce qui est certainement caractéristique de tous les membres de Wandelweiser). un lieu pour être deux est très calme et minimaliste, mais paradoxalement intense et envoûtant. Un peu comme dans le dernier Pisaro (fields have ears 6), la musique parvient à conférer un caractère majestueusement poétique et une dignité musicale envoutante à un environnement sonore urbain et austère, gris et minimal, tout étant extrêmement vivant.

- Julien Heraud, Improv Sphere

Mit hallunk és honnan? Valami kintről hallatszik be, vagy éppen bentről hallatszik ki? A hallgatói nézőpontokkal játszadozik Antoine Beuger két játékosra írt Un Lieu Pour Être Deux című darabjának ezen verziója, hiszen tényleg izgalmas eredményt szül, ha egy gitár hangját és válogatott környezeti felvételeket helyezünk egy amúgy is jól hallható atmoszférájú nyitott térbe, és minden így hallhatót rögzítünk. Beuger kompozíciója Barry Chabala és Ben Owen előadásában minimum zavarba ejtő, mégis maradéktalanul természetes.

Az első néhány hallgatás alkalmával nem igazán akartam tudni, hogy milyen szabályok szerint épül, hogyan működik Beuger szóban forgó darabja, később mégis megpróbáltam rendszert találni a hangok kuszaságában. Chabala és Owen az Un Lieu Pour Être Deux „kottájának” első 23 oldalát játszották el a tavaly áprilisi brooklyni stúdiófelvétel alkalmával. A kottát nem irónia okán tettem idézőjelbe, pedig akár amiatt is lehetne: az ívek mindegyike egyetlen számpárt tartalmaz, ami azt jelöli hogy a játékosok hány hangot játsszanak egységnyi idő alatt (egynél kevesebbet és háromnál többet sosem). Az időegység meglehetősen szabadon kezelhető – miután mindkét zenész lejátszotta az előírt számú hangot, csak azután lehet áttérni a következő oldalra. A darab bármilyen két hangszerrel előadható, a kapcsolódó instrukció mindössze annyi, hogy a hangokat nagyon halkan és lehetőség szerint hosszan kitartva kell játszani. A jelen gitár-környezeti felvétel verzió több kérdést is felvet: hogyan oszthatunk hangokra egy hosszabb vagy rövidebb, de folytonos környezeti felvételt, illetve hogyan változik a darab további környezeti hangok hozzáadásával. Az Un Lieu Pour Être Deux a nyitott kottájú darabok mintapéldája, egyféle végeredménye nincs, végtelen számú izgalmas formája viszont annál inkább. Igazi meglepetészene.

A bő háromnegyed órás felvétel legelső percében elhúzó autók zaját, egy rövid és éles gitárpengetést, egy hosszúra nyújtott szinuszhullámot és egyéb apró környezeti neszeket hallunk. Ez minimum szokatlan Beuger eddig megismert szűkszavúságához, kimértségéhez képest; a hangok halmaza később pedig egyre csak növekszik. A hangerő persze mindvégig alacsony, szó sincs hangos és zavaros csörömpölésről. Kezdetben a hangok forrása jól elkülöníthető, könnyen kivehető, mi meddig tart, később viszont minden összefolyik; ami a háttérben volt, az előre lép, amit eddig a zenészek teljesítményének hallottunk, az a környezettel szemben alul marad. A felvételeket nyitott ablaknál, hogy a szabadba kihelyezett térmikrofonok bevonásával készíthették, hiszen ha halkan is, de végig jól érzékelhetőek a nagyváros zajai: autók dudálása, kerekek fékcsikorgása, sietős léptek zaja, gyerekzsivaj, kiabálások és a többi. Egy idő után meginognak és felcserélődnek a térhez viszonyított nézőpontok, egyszer a kintről beszűrődőt halljuk, máskor a bentről kiszűrődőt. Ez akár szándékos, akár nem, a játék maradéktalanul működik.

Owen az előre rögzített környezeti felvételei mellett egészen élettelen szintetizált hangokat is használ, puha sípolásai akár magasak, akár mélyek, nem különösen reagálnak Chabala mikroszkopikus gitárhangjaira – és vice versa. A bejátszott és a véletlenszerű környezeti hangok viszont tökéletes kulisszát biztosítanak a gitárnak és a szinuszhullámoknak, mintha csak így telne meg élettel, így nyerne értelmet Barry Chabala és Ben Owen interpretációja.

És most Antoine Beugert kellene méltatnom, mégis azt mondom, itt az előadók elvitathatatlan érdeme, hogy a Un Lieu Pour Être Deux az egyik legélvezetesebb környezeti felvételeket kombináló lemez, amit valaha hallottam.

- Dusted Hoffman,