Björn Kleiman & David Wärn
Dr Caligari

Björn Kleiman & David WärnDr Caligari; works by Daniel Hjort / Stefan Klaverdal / Mats Larsson-Gothe / Albert Schnelzer / Benjamin Staern
Björn Kleiman [violin] – David Wärn [piano] – Stefan Klaverdal [electronics]

ContemporarY CY0701. Duration: 73:40

This is the first CD from a new Swedish recording company pronouncing its publishing intentions very simply through its name; ContemporarY, or C-Y. This does not mean contemporary solely in its avant-garde or experimental meaning, but rather in a more sweeping statement of a temporal placement, without other cultural markers – and this is liberating in my ears, which have been tired and worn from the particular kind of modernism that many mistakenly deem synonymous with contemporary art, though its just a very narrow and unhealthily self-indulgent sector of contemporary art.

C-Y Contemporary is a music publishing- house and a recording company, run by composers, and focusing on Swedish music by living composers.

All the works on
C-Y Contemporary’s first CD are new compositions by Swedish composers. Most of the works are concentrated on the violin, played by Björn Kleiman, but David Wärn’s piano and Stefan Klaverdal’s electronics appear on some tracks.

The title of the CD may raise some eyebrows, as it did mine, but the explanation is found in the CD booklet:

The composition called Dr. Caligari is based on the old silent movie Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari, a landmark of the silent film era and a famous example of German expressionism. […] As the horizon darkens in the quiet town, this highly stylized film tells the twisted tale of a murderous sleepwalker under the spell of the sinister and mysterious Dr. Caligari. This composition became a theme for the CD and the subsequent works move in and out of a contradictory world somewhere in between dream and reality.

This seems a good enough atmosphere for a collection of new compositions, and the concept works fine. The miscalculated antagonism of reality verses dream is always of interest, whether we regard reality’s dream as real or dream’s reality as unreal, or any possible combinations of the said properties - and, by and by, existence proves more and more illusionary, the more real, the more close, you get, and as you find that the universe indeed is a meeting-place for necks and noses, the endlessness at hand turns claustrophobic…

Vi är rymdvarelser själva, för helvete! (2007)
photo: ingvar loco nordin

Track 1. Mats Larsson-Gothe: Dr. Caligari (1991) [14:35]
Björn Kleiman [violin] – David Wärn [piano]

I know where Mats Larsson-Gothe hides away, sorting his notes… just past and beyond that VIBRAROOM, yes, where I’ve spread my sleeping bag on a couple of occasions! Sort that one out, if you can! Maybe he turns into the Doctor behind that gray, expressionless door…

I can envision him behind that anonymous door, his hands in the air, hitting down hard on his imaginary piano – and the imagination is duly materialized in this here recording of the title track.

Mats Larsson-Gothe:

[…] Like the movie [Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari], the piece has one section that is diabolically virtuosi and expressive and one part that is sentimental and introvert, like the awakening after a violent seizure.

Indeed, so it is. The ghastly figure of my imagination – Mats Larsson-Gothe alias Dr. Caligari, with his catatonically raised and stretched arms, fingers sharp as nails of steel, just beyond his older colleague Folke Rabe’s vibraroom - comes down full force in rancid statements on the keyboard, all but splintering the hull of the classic ship of music, poisonous saliva spattering out of the corners of his mouth, lips tense and blue!

Björn Kleiman enters right away, bow and body, in sharp incisions, leaving Zorro marks across the velvety circumstances, red blood filling the cracks after a second of helpless violin surprise…

The two musicians assist each other in a furious attack on Larsson-Gothe’s score, like two bloodthirsty kittens playing out their killer instincts on a sluggish mouse that Mommy Cat has handed them. Kleiman and Wärn tear at the music in relentless spurs of energy, the pianist hammering and banging the piano over the head; the violinist slashing and cutting the violin into fine grad sawdust piling up in heaps, dotted with dark spots of sweat…

However, inside this tour-de-force there is magnificence at play, figures and figurines rising in gallant motions, like mene mene tekels across the sun-smoky sea horizon or SWAT teams of viruses moving in speedy expeditions up the bloodstreams of social workers and policemen with lousy Karmas, in dire need of extensive ethics projects.

Considered pure music, this composition shows all the mathematical excitement you could ask for, in jolly duels between the instruments, or in lively segments of counterpoint that make you think of Shostakovich in his wittiest moments or Vainberg tearing his hair in his Moscow apartment.

Some moments are so rhythmically powerful that you just can’t remain where you are, while other sections – after the rush – leave you soaring in weightless purple motions of whimpering exhaustion, in which your sugar level gradually rises back up through the various levels of regained consciousness.

Track 2. Albert Schnelzer: Solitude (1999) [6:38]
Björn Kleiman [violin]

An unsound beginning, you could say, i.e. a beginning in sounds that serve to paint… silence… or the very least a very silent atmosphere – and to really make a statement about silence and stillness, you need, more than ever… sound! Schnelzer has prescribed a performance practice, executed in withheld brilliance by Kleiman, that achieves this obscure end.
A bouncing bow trickles dew drops of silence through the first bars, and after a while the melody line, thin as barbed wire through mist, thickens somewhat with denser feelings and trilling playing techniques that massage your auditory organs in massive bursts of air compressions so fine that beat becomes pitch, or very close to it.

I can rest in this autumn orchard, where the spider webs clearly show in the dampness. No bees in the pavilion. The cracked windows have an inward gaze.

Shitville Central Station (2007)
photo: ingvar loco nordin

Track 3. Stefan Klaverdal: Dual Chant (2003) [13:31]
Björn Kleiman [violin] – Stefan Klaverdal [computer]

Very hard to realize what to make of this. It’s easy listening, for sure, but besides that, I’d have to think harder. It’s almost towards new Age or perhaps closing in on late Ralph Lundsten – but that IS New Age, right?
Considered fairytale music, it’s nice, or film music for fairytales or the Fantasy genre. As pure music it’s too soft and polished for me. Not that it’s bad at all, but it gives me a sense of thick layers of paint and attitude, without edge… Film music for Fantasy, ok! Swarms of cranes rising over blue valleys with smoky mountains in the distance… The turned away gaze of the good one… but I get reminded sometimes of Peteris Vasks
Musica Dolorosa, in some downward glissandi that appear in Dual Chant. I quoted that work in a composition I made called Requiem Estoniae, envisioning bodies slowly descending down through the waters of the Baltic Sea one fateful September.

Track 4. Benjamin Staern: The Lonely One (2000/2005) [11:33]
Björn Kleiman [violin]

Staern is one of my favorite composers, and I like his statement that this is a monolog without words; a Lied ohne Worte! Benjamin is a wild man and a sensitive one too, a rebel and an orderly gentleman. Who cannot like him! I take him very seriously as a composer; just as seriously as I take another of the young Swedish composers: Erik Peters. Staern comes across a little like Morton Feldman – not in music, but in temperament. I suppose you’ve heard those famous recordings from 1967 with a 5-CD conversation between Morton Feldman and John Cage? Those guys are so fun! Unbelievably fun!

The violin – hoarse, scraping like absentminded time along the periphery of conscience – emerges almost imperceptibly out of silence; a slow, gray wave motion: the sound of arthritis soothed by pain medicine and a mind that’s not completely attached to the body anymore.

The fragility of line (a term from violinist Malcolm Goldstein) shivers and winds, until the violin gets strength, persuasion – and thickens into the red, steady flow of oxygen-enriched blood through anatomic vessels, nurturing the thoughts and metabolism of Benjamin Staern’s composition.

The wonder happens that this deserted one, this lonely string player, livens up, into figurines that fly up like swarms of mosquitoes by a Lapland river, the scent of heather rising in your nostrils – the ripple of a brook sensed more than heard, deep inside your sense of North… but I fear that this liveliness is restricted to a dream state within The Lonely One. His violin is a redshank (Tringa totanus) across the marshlands below Singi

This composition is very engaging, from the first, mist-like moments across gray rock, to the feverish dreamscape of one who can only identify with the Lapland redshank, stepping about in destitute and impoverished emotions under northern skies, at the very end of the violin bow, as it cuts through desperation in sharp sonic incisions, scarring time and mind.


Track 5. Albert Schnelzer: Frozen Landscape (2003) [7:49]
Björn Kleiman [violin] – David Wärn [piano]

According to the composer’s work comments, this is pure nature romanticism, picturing a snowy expanse, on which the light keeps changing. Though comments like that may be tempting for some, me they just put off. If I weren’t here to review the music, a comment like the one printed in the booklet would have prevented me from listening. I’d rather make up my own mind, let my own thoughts, feelings and metaphysics work through my perception, without a boring description like that to fight. Jeez!

However, in spite of the bad mood that the text puts me in, I enjoy the music very much. I try hard to forget the text as I listen, and when the music is let alone, it is wonderful indeed; slowly spreading across the surface like liquid lead across a shiny sphere, reflecting all kinds of withheld and held-back sensations. The music is kept at arm-length’s distance and experienced though a dimensional filter, making it impossible to determine the domiciliary rights of the sonorities, emerging, as they seem, through timelessness – of which time is just a temporary expression, just like sound is a temporary expression of silence.

You can’t tell, but I can: I just had to take a break, to get online and order Terry Riley’s new CD
Les Yeux Fermés & Lifespan, which, of course, is a re-mixed re-release of the two LPs from 30 years ago. The proprietor of the label, Tom Welsh, dropped me an email about the CD. Anyways, during this break I kept Albert Schnelzer’s Frozen Landscape running in my earphones, and by now I’ve really gotten hooked to these deep and also, at times, impressionistically resounding grand piano statements and long, winding, clean violin threads – and I managed to completely erase those stupid textlines from my mind while hearing the music; a real health-cure of music, at that! So fine! Reminding me a little of Gerhard Rühm’s trance-inducing Das Leben Chopins und andere Ton-Dichtungen for solo grand piano.

Track 6. Stefan Klaverdal: The Longing of Eurydice (2005) [13:54]
Björn Kleiman [violin] – David Wärn [piano] –
Stefan Klaverdal [electronics]

The indication here is a motion from love and hope to sorrow and despair, but then again, we all now the story of Orpheus and Eurydice

The violin sounds – at the very first – baroque. A little figure – kind of jolly – is repeated, like sweeping signs drawn with a whiteboard marker on a seminar on old architecture… and then, awkwardly, something happens somewhere, out of joint, out of phase, out of mind… as Klaverdal’s electronic manipulations move in sideways into the flow of harmonic time, dreamy, unreal time rubbing against “real” time, the way daydreams may appear anytime during daily doings, or the way awakening may tear sleeping dreams apart like paper. I get a feeling of
Over de Dood en de Tijd; another masterly distribution of instruments and electronics and cultural markers, by Gilius van Bergeijk. This piece is probably the masterwork of the CD.

Dra Ins (2007)
photo: ingvar loco nordin

With few ingredients, Klaverdal builds an intensely appealing and exciting progression, from brief, sharp electronic incisions to dark, rolling piano chords worthy a deeply troubled Schubert, and a consequential melancholy motion of the violin, describing an atmosphere that slowly moves into the realm om young Werther: pain against a backdrop of universal beauty.

In fact, the ascetics of Klaverdal’s method, which serves a full view, nonetheless, with a building density – released at the top into a trickle of piano notes, leading up to a deep, red crevasse cutting through the bulk of the composition – shows that he is a compositional next of kin to one of my very favorite sound artists: Yannis Kyriakides from Cyprus/Holland. That is about as high a praise I can give a composer, so stand tall, Mr. Klaverdal! Like hardly anyone else, Stefan Klaverdal has managed to bring the essence of romantic composition into the complexity of contemporary art. Rachmaninov and Parmegiani in one voice! This piece is pure magic!

Track 7. Daniel Hjort: Modal Move (2003) [5:38]
Björn Kleiman [violin] – David Wärn [piano]

I didn’t like the work comments for
Frozen Landscape on track 5, but I really appreciate the comments provided by Daniel Hjort here:

Built on a violin sonata by Mozart, the pitches in the original Mozart composition have been transformed into a new, modal harmonic progression and all the rhythms have a symmetric shape. The character should be like a strange, intimate dance.

That inspires the imagination, instead of stifling it.

The feeling is dreamy, soaring, hovering through time, perhaps through a deserted apple orchard in late September, in the proximity of and old manorial estate, paying the debt of nature… This is music that moves back and forth across the hazy border of mind and matter, of spirit and nature, of dream while sleeping and dream while being awake.

My conclusion is that
Dr Caligari is an outstanding new CD with contemporary art music that doesn’t sound particularly contemporary, and not old either – but timeless: art at its best, when it has nothing to do with period or time, but with art pour l’art! Wonderful!

This is
C-Y contemporary’s first release, and it has made me long, already, for their second. The label has proven very original, issuing material without side-glances or the urge of adhering to trends! These are original people with sincerely original music! Welcome on the scene!