Nikolaus Gerszewski - ART

Nikolaus Gerszewski - ART

Shockingly, ART accomplishes nothing musically, while sounding complex and intricate.

Visual artist and composer Nikolaus Gerszewski is an avid organizer and supporter of experimental music. His set of pieces for string quartet, ART, is released as a full-length album of the same name by Flea, a new music label. ART is a collection of short sound experiments primarily utilizing microtonal inflections, gradual glissandi, and long repeated sections. Gerszewski draws on his background as a visual artist to give us these pieces, which are representational of the literal act of creating a painting through slow, even brushstrokes. ART is certainly an exploration within contemporary classical string quartet playing. While being beautiful and harmonious, the work pushes against Gerszewski's stated personal musical goals. Shockingly, ART accomplishes nothing musically, while sounding complex and intricate.

The album is broken into two sections, ART A-H and Two Pieces of ART - K & J. The first half, A-H, are all short, usually under two minutes, test-like musical examples. Here the painter is demonstrating basic brushstroke technique and use of color. Gerszewski specified control of microtones are accomplished masterfully by the Conceptual Art Quartet, made up of members of Ensemble Resonanz. These short examples of A-H are much more digestible than the later longer Two Pieces. Their length strongly contributes to Gerszewski's goal of creating a 'music is music' aesthetic. 

Two Pieces of ART - K & J are twelve and six and half minutes respectively and recorded here by members of the Giusto Chamber Orchestra. The length and long sections of pure harmony create a set of works closer to the tradition of contemporary classical music. A sense of beautiful haunting arises as the instruments glissando to and from resonate chords. Despite his best efforts, Gerszewski has created a cohesive set of music pieces which expand the repertoire for a classical string quartet, already boxing him into a set genre. Each of the Two Pieces take previous thoughts in ART A-H and expand upon them in terms of musical form. For someone who claims to be opposed to the traditions of classical music, Gerszewski heavily relies on musical form for his works.

The primary conflict whilst listening to ART arises after reading Gerszewski's notes about his philosophies on music. He claims ART is an example of autonomous sound and that music should be nothing more than just music, while also giving the listener and performers a clear programmatic note concerning the album: "These pieces should be performed with the idea of creating a painting." He implores that his music has cast off any extra-musical thought, while relaying that the audience should focus on motion of the players and bows as contributing to the overall piece. Besides the numerous contradictions in his own writing, Gerszewski has crafted a set of experimental pieces which are as approachable as possible within the medium.

 listen to the full album on SoundCloud here

© 2023 Brutal New Music Reviews

originally written and published 6 September 2023

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