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recorded (2004)

(note: Boustrophedon is one continuous hour long piece of music sectioned into 8 tracks. For sounds examples, I included short excerpts of the music, not very well edited; click the highlighted track to download and listen. You can buy the album here, or here.)



            There is something remarkably Van Gogh-ish about Evan Parker’s Boustrophedon – the impending storms, the dark blue to gray to blackened skies, the fields thick and rich green before the downpour hits. There is a lot of weather in this music.

            Van Gogh’s paintings often have a gritty, foreboding feel to them. The fields move in windblown grass; the clouds speed across the sky, mutating as you watch; the blue sky is never flat background but twisting organic slabs of color as if the very fabric that lies in the background is fluid and twisting; light never lies on the world and its things, but radiates in thick probing fingers that reach out and grab objects. Here, the world is constantly in flux; there is no backdrop that subjects sit in front of, but rather it all sits simultaneously in front, wrestling on the same plane. There isn’t really much depth and distance in Van Gogh, but there is constant events, constant flux, constant weather.

van goph cropped

            Evan Parker’s Boustrophedon seems to fluctuate with this same palpable unrest and energy. There is no backdrop rhythm, no constant pulse or structure – the music vibrates from all its surfaces. Flute and piano, viola and violin, bass and cello; the music often pairs off in dual dialogue while the space opens up underneath. At times, sunny and open, bright and with the sense of summer morning; often dark and brooding, with the sense of impending doom, shades that run under the dual soloists like cloud shadows skating over the land. Much of the hour long piece builds with that feeling when the weather is changing, when the air changes just subtly enough to perceive and the sky turns and the wind shifts. But still, when the rain hits, it hits with a suddenness and a force that is surprising.

            Track 2: you can hear the rumbling of something ominous in the future, swelling and hinting underneath. A sunny day but with deep warnings about what’s to come.


            Track 3 shifts back to the perfect summer afternoon with the heat sparking off the field grass as sun outlines tiny white bugs in the soft breeze.

vanGoph fields

            When the first storm comes in track 4, it comes with all the suddenness of a summer storm hitting the day. But it passes. By the time we come to track 7, the big storms hit with natures build. Craig Taborn’s block chords thunder out heavy weather. The force of it builds with Evan Parker’s kinetic soloing; and Roscoe Mitchell comes at us with the real storm. It hits with the force of nature. Mitchell becomes a man alone, out in the storm as the rain turns torrential. Man questing meaning out in the fields.

van goph auvers rain

van goph rain

            This is some intense music. Not in the way Coltrane’s late music was, impassioned and cathartic and spiritually probing, but with a wild eyed energy that is much more of the earth, with feet in the mud and the natural world all around. I feel, after the hour in Parker’s weather-beaten session, like I am returning home from plowing the fields, drenched and scorched but alive and invigorated.



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