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Obscure Atlas: Young musicians show glimpses of the future

Obscure Atlas

In the new album Obscure Atlas – released under the wings of TRPTK – young musicians show their view of the future.

Since the summer of 2018, pianist Helena Basilova, percussionist Konstantyn Napolov and cellist Maya Fridman have been exploring the new sound possibilities of this unusual combination of instruments. Fridman is this season’s Artist In Residence at Utrecht’s TivoliVredenburg and Napolov is the driving force behind The Dutch Golden Collection, a foundation dedicated to the innovation of percussion.

Basilova is an eminent performer of contemporary piano repertoire: “Helena Basilova played sensitively and with flair.” (The New York Times)

12 kilometers in depth

The trio is now – TRPK informs us – making an EP with works by Aart Strootman (1987) and Daniel Wohl (1980), repertoire written especially for them. Strootman is a much lauded composer, who has now won many important Dutch awards and received the Matthijs Vermeulen Prize in 2019 as the crowning achievement of his achievements.

In the composition ‘Obscure Atlas Cr-3’, he highlights a unique undertaking: the Russian survey on the Kola Peninsula, near the border with Norway, in which a hole was drilled into the earth’s crust no less than 12,262 meters deep. The operation started in 1970 and ended in 1994. From the beginning, in addition to its scientific bent, the project was surrounded by all sorts of myths. Among other things, it was thought that the researchers would end up at the gates of hell.

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Strootman depicts this operation in extremely subtle music, with a focus on small sounds. Slowly, the tension builds until the moment when percussionist Napolov reads a newspaper report that the project is about to end.

“From that moment on you feel,” according to the composer, “how the music becomes more and more subterranean. Fridman plays a bare groove on the cello that goes deeper and deeper, until it becomes, sort of, stuck. Vocals by Fridman, gradually ramped up percussion and twinkling piano playing bring the listener back down to earth. Music that I have tried to write as much as possible on the body of these extraordinary musicians.”

Electroacoustic landscape

A very different approach shows Wohl’s composition ‘Microscope’, in which he creates an electro-acoustic landscape. “Music in which the electronics used embrace you like a cloud,” according to the musicians. Repetitive piano motifs, rhythmic percussion and lyrical cello playing gradually lead to a gentle climax, in which the music almost literally seems to die away. An album by a young and adventurous ensemble that shows a glimpse of the future!

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