Meta Duo is a performance duo combining the virtuoso saxophone talents of French musician Daniel Kientzy and the live electronics and audio mixing skills of Reina Portuondo. Their acclaimed concerts present new, innovative works, many of them commissions specifically written for the duo, that involve one or more of the seven instruments of the saxophone family adeptly played by Mr. Kientzy and either pre-recorded sounds or live electronic processing and generation. Live eight-channel audio diffusion is an integral part of Meta Duo's metier, a meta-chamber music they term "enneaphony." Mr. Kientzy, one of the leading exponents [End Page 88] of innovation in the contemporary saxophone world and developer of many new performance techniques for the instrument, has recorded more than 70 CDs and has commissioned over 300 new works for solo saxophone, saxophone with diverse chamber ensembles, and saxophone in combination with a variety of electronic processing and electroacoustic combinations. For more than a decade, Meta Duo has been performing throughout the world, commissioning new works, and releasing recordings. This 2004 collaboration between Meta Duo's label Nova Musical and KEAMS (Korean Electro-Acoustic Music Society) provides an opportunity to discover six works written for solo saxophone and electronics by a selection of Korean composers.
Issues of sound origin and clarity of methodology are always present with a project that combines the vast palette of sound that an instrumentalist like Mr. Kientzy can produce acoustically and the electronic extensions and transformations applied to that performance. Nonetheless, in the present case, the ambiguity of source does not detract from the strength of most of the works presented on Korea-Sax. The opening work on the disc, Pollywogs (2002) by Joyous Choi, a French Ministry commission for Meta Duo, has Mr. Kientzy playing both soprano and baritone saxophones in combination with a rich and eclectic array of pre-recorded sound materials and live transformations of the instruments. In the spirit of the title, the piece nervously dances from dense textures and saxophone flurries to rarified, cavernous ambience, and finally to saxophone leaps and arabesques amid liquid reverberation. Metamorphosis (2002) by Young-Mee Lymn offers an evocative dialogue in which transformed recordings of saxophone materials override, cajole, amplify, and counter moody, tentative solo alto saxophone outbursts and trills.
Seong-Joon Moon's Klangschatten IV (2002) for alto and tenor saxophones and electronics is a striking essay in the exploration of sound materials intrinsic to the visceral language of the saxophone, the rushing pressure of breath pushing through the spaces of the instrument, augmented by electronic processing, leading to an intense focus of internal energy and pulsation. Fragile glimpses of the onset of sound production, the primal beginnings of sonic energy, are countered by harsh extremes of respiratory commitment intensified by dissonant digital harmonization and ambient resonance. Klangschatten IV, one in a series of works by Seong-Joon Moon's for acoustic instruments and electronic music, is a vivid, lean, and entirely convincing melding of saxophone and electronics.
A short work entitled Mu Ryun Zip Gok (2002) for soprano, alto, and bass saxophones and tape by Doojin Ahn is based upon the traditional call and response of ceremonial Korean march music. The saxophone intones declarative laments against an irregular pulsating backdrop of fragmented and blurred ceremonial bells, drums, and indigenous double-reed incantations. Strange Dream (2002) by Donning Lee highlights Mr. Kientzy's soaring, lyrical command of the alto saxophone awash in reverberant reflections and stuttering multi-delays. Midway through this mellifluous building of texture, a rasping punctuation of breath expulsion and fleeting, dissonant multi-doublings of saxophone fragments steer the piece towards a hesitant exploration of disparate materials and gestures, a disintegration of the apparent fluidity and directionality of the opening that terminates in a simple intoning of the instrument's most basic vibration.
The final work on the disc, Flux I (2001) by Jingo Yam, employs soprano and tenor...