Bruce Brubaker - Codex (LP)
On Codex, American pianist Bruce Brubaker sets up a clash (or a discussion) between Terry Rileys Keyboard Study No. 2 (1965) and the Codex Faenza, a 15th century manuscript considered to be one of the very first collections of keyboard music. By putting forth the work of the performer/creator above that of the composer, this back-and forth takes the listener on a journey that is at once timeless and eminently current. Over six centuries ago, at the dawn of the 15th century, unknown scribes authentic artists or inspired copyists, that we do not know collected over fifty vocal compositions, some from the previous century. Liturgical or secular, anonymous or bearing the imprint of the Ars novas most famous French and Italian composers (Jacopo da Bologna, Francesco Landini, Guillaume de Machaut, Pierre des Molins...), these works were transcribed on two parallel staves, which was unusual at the time and indicate that they were intended for keyboard. Thus the Codex Faenza named after the Ravenna-adjacent town where it is kept created circa 1420 and rediscovered in the 1930s, became an object of fascination for harpsichordists, organists and pianists the world over, as one of the oldest keyboard scores to have survived. In 1964, in the American West Coast city of San Francisco, composer Terry Riley, then age 29, invented American repetitive music with his In C, with an ensemble featuring Morton Subotnik, Pauline Oliveros and Steve Reich. At the same time, in 1964-65, he would compose his Keyboard Studies, in the vein of In C. Based on improvisation, they are loosely articulated around the free combination of a series of melodic cells of different lengths, giving the pianist the freedom to use them following a freeform protocol. Keyboard Study No. 2, in particular, is noted on concentrically-arranged circular staves, is a series of three- to ten-note fragments, with no indication of rhythm, and which the performer can even transpose in pitch. A prototype of the young composers open forms a precursor of the extra-occidental improvisational practice he would go on to develop under Indian master Pandit Prân Nath. Fast forward to today, with Bruce Brubaker bridging those two worlds and simultaneously resurrecting two sources seemingly the most appropriate term in this instance across their 550-year divide. The American pianist intertwines them on one album, working out their textures to bring out their differences the Codex Faenzas quasi-declaratory, rhythmically-unstable dimension contrasting with Rileys metronomic ostinatos as well as their similitudes, in particular their rhythmic ambiguity: in the Codex Faenza for example, the instrumentalist is sometimes free to choose the alignment of left and right hand, and thus, the pieces dissonance.