Review: Philip Corner – For Dancers In France

In one respect, For Dancers In France often shares its locational and instrumental components with that of meditation and a certain solitary contemplation. “La Cloche Aux Bois” combines the bright clang and rich resonance of sonorous metals with the sounds of the Autumnal open air – singing bowls are gently beaten in amongst a crunch of dry leaves, smatters of birdsong and gentle winds coaxing a chilly hiss out of the nearby trees. But there’s a restlessness about the music’s execution; an excitable desire to repel silence and stillness, manifesting in the ever-present rustle of the autumn floor that makes it sound as though the album’s musicians are forever fidgeting and unable to sit comfortably. Further still, the Balinese cymbals and singing bowls are forever being toyed with; rather than sporadically tap the instruments to release their tone in deep, metallic sighs, the players scrape them and beat them in a manner too rough and impatient for meditation, but with a curious, ever-probing concentration and a will for expression.

“Avec Valentine” carries Corner’s observations indoors, while retaining the presence of the outside through a ghostly backdrop of traffic noise. A much “flatter” selection of sounds take to the fore in this instance, opting for an uneven cascade of wood (and perhaps plastic?) occasionally washed over by the mysterious metallic clang of the Tam Tam. It almost sounds like a dark, desolate room into which rain drips through ceiling holes of varying sizes: some permitting a frantic rush of woody plops, others falling into generous bouts of silence between the impact of each droplet. Much of the album passes without the presence of tonality in the conventional sense, leading me to zone in on the subtle pitching and overtones of the music’s percussive textures – the notes slinking within the singing bowl exhales, the variety of highs and lows in the wooden knocks. It’s because of this that the appearance of a sombre, romantic piano melody at the beginning of the first part of “Avec Valentine” strikes like an epiphany; coming after an hour of continual tings, pops and thumps, flooding the ears with warm tone and major key like a stream of daylight after weeks in the dark.