3 Figures Fractales
Postlude in Green
From the opening moment of this CD, Paris-based Bulgarian composer Atanas Ourkouzounov displays his uncanny ability to present a sense of controlled chaos with elegance and power. This is a self-portrait, an intimate and intense look into the recent compositions of one of today’s great guitar composers. As the cover art suggests, an image of the artist emerges as the notes spin round and round, constantly revealing his musical genius. His love of Bulgarian music is matched by his fascination with the endless possibilities of texture and sonority on the guitar.
This is not « difficult » new music, it is too organic, too heartfelt, too natural. But you will not be comforted by common chord progressions, impressive arpeggios, fast scales, familiar Latin rhythms, or new age grooves. This is music deeply concerned with tone and texture though melody is never far away, often woven into a contrapuntal fabric. Inventive harmonies emerge out of a Bach-like flow of single line melody. Frequent use of laissez vibrer and campanellas are highly refined by an ear that molds every lingering pitch. Irregular meters are a fact of life in the Balkans, and so the constant shifting of accent is delivered naturally, his driving sense of rhythm so firm that the music captivates.
A confident, accurate technique renders the complexities of Atanas’ compositions with warm tone even through harsh dissonance. His strong slur technique with its melodic grace is essential to the flow of long single line sections. His use of both percussive elements and harmonics are organic, not token isolated sections. Harmonics are not ornamental but are a natural extension of the range of the guitar. Percussive effects likewise seem to emerge from necessity, not an effort to amuse or divert – a tambourine in the singer’s hand. A brilliant performer, Atanas hears every detail, controls the duration and timbre of every note, and finely balances the structure of dissonant sonorities.
My understanding of Bulgarian/Balkan music is superficial, but I would recommend that anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of Atanas Ourkouzounov seek out recordings/videos of Balkan vocal ensembles. The folk traditions are full of the rhythms and dissonant seconds and sevenths that Atanas uses so fluently. Highly recommended as essential listening.
Soundboard Volume 43 N°4 (december 2017)