You, Us, Me – CD reviews


A-N-N-A Blossom-time
You, Us, Me (Habanera)
Second Eight
Cylinders Barn, 1947
I Sing for the Muses and Myself

Music for Piano, Voice and Tape
Ian Pace, piano – Amanda Crawley, soprano
Metier Sound & Vision 1998, MSV CD92031

“This second Metier disc devoted to the inventive British composer comprises first recordings of eight works, mostly involving Ian Pace and joined by Amanda Crawley in two song-cycles, A-N-N-A Blossom-time and Louisiana, using Poems (in Fox’s own translation from the German) by Kurt Schwitters. These are dry, droll, stylistically capricious miniatures, musical dada. The piano piece You, Us, Me (Habenera) inspired by Bizet’s Carmen and Catherine Clements’s feminist commentary on it, is contrastingly unitary, minimalistic, rigorous. Besides three other piano solos, including the Joseph Beuys-influenced Block, for an instrument “prepared” wit Blu-Tak, there are two tape pieces, both evoking /Schwitters as a wartime detainee in Britain.”

“Christopher Fox’s second album on Metier, following on from last year’s More Light, is a tribute to artists he admires, notably the Dadaist genius Kurt Schwitters, whose life-affirming work belied the many vicissitudes of his career. A-N-N-A Blossom-time consists of setting nine nonsense poems by Schwitters, loosely translated into English. Fox says that he tried to locate the songs within musical conventions of the 1920s and 1930s, when the poems were written. The rhythms and harmonies of these catchy songs are often jazzy, thought the harmonies are ones which only became established with modern jazz. Louisiana features shorter songs also based on Schwitters’ poetry.

You, Us, Me is a meandering habanera, deliberately flat emotionally and unresolved. MERZSonata forms a collage tribute to Schwitters indebted in many of its sounds and form to the great soundpoem Ursonate. The solo piano piece Block gestures towards Joseph Beuys, who has included grand pianos in many of his installations; I Sing For The Muses and Myself is a short piano piece dedicated to the artists Ian Hamilton Finlay. Ian Pace is convincing in all idioms her, while Amanda Crawley conveys the nonsense most entertainingly… a thoroughly entertaining presentation of the work of this quirky and inventive British composer.”