Wednesday 30 November 2011

Georges Lentz's incredible Ingwe

Georges Lentz
Ingwe from Mysterium (“Caeli enarrant... VII) 
Zane Banks (electric guitar)

An hour long work for solo electric guitar might not sound like the best idea in the world, but in the hands of composer Georges Lentz it's an hour of startling power.  Lentz was born in Luxenbourg but lives in Australia, and has spent two decades composing music for a monumental series of works:  Caeli enarrant... (The Heavens are Telling (Psalm XIX)).  Ingwe means 'night' in the indigenous Australian langauge of Aranda, and it's a very dark night of the soul exposed in this episode from the larger sub-cycle Mysterium, the seventh segment of Caeli enarrant.

Ingwe conjures visions of sand blasted expanses in its depiction of the vast barrenness of the Australian outback, which itself serves as a metaphor for the spiritual vacuum contemplated by Lentz as he ponders the uncaring void of the universe.  Of course, there's no text here expounding Lentz's point of view, but it's amply communicated by the wailing intensity of Zane Bank's electric guitar which is rich in imagery and suggestion.  At moments, we are enveloped by unyielding storms of sound (or maybe wind and sand), while another moment seems to depict the passing of a giant freight train which melts into the distance.  Slices of silence punctuate the wall of noise, while the work's conclusion is the most violent episode of all; a series of cataclysmic bassy strokes that grow and grow in volume, bringing to my mind an image of bombs being dropped on an already dead city.

If all this sounds rather one-note, there are many moments of quiet reflection to counter the charge and, in the seventh of the eight continuous sections, an unexpected moment of clarity in the form of a soulful and tender melody picked out on the guitar.  This episode begins with chords emerging intermittently only as the guitar's volume is turned up, producing gripping gulfs between the rise and fade of the sound.  Throughout the work, the variety of timbre and technique that Lentz and Banks draw from the guitar is fascinating and makes this a genuinely involving hour that passes much faster than it feels it might at the outset.

Ingwe is Naxos's second disc of Lentz's music and features excellent notes from Richard Toop who gives a valuable guide through to the work.  The earlier disc (8.557019) includes further segments of Mysterium, and we can only hope that Naxos bring us more slices of Lentz's ongoing cycle.

Naxos 8.572483

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