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andrewcsmith on 06/28/2010 at 12:00PM

Preparing the Past

Video still by Christy Edwards

"I often have the experience of missing the present time as it is happening," Aaron Siegel says. Siegel and Mantra Percussion were last heard on the FMA in January with "Science is Only A Sometimes Friend," but collaborated again at the beginning of this month for "Preparing the Past," with video (above) by Christy Edwards. The piece, with two vibraphones, two glockenspiels, and piano four-hands, is less a continuous thread of events than a series of stases—like sonic tableaux—that build on one another and exist simultaneously. In these three movements, the first two of which were premiered last year at Roulette, Siegel examines stages of memory and fixing of moments: recording, scrutinizing, and re-imagining.

At the core of this is the desire to look at the same event from multiple angles—that is, in fixing the event, to move through the event and re-create it as your own. But rather than attempting to move toward the truth of a memory, all of these repetitions just make the event more enigmatic. In a certain way, the repeating glockenspiel figures are evocative of writing; the second movement, Scrutiny, repeats a rising, classically unresolved chord in many different forms that all seem to be basic variations on the same event. There is no harmonic or melodic motion, and the repeated action borders on the neurotic; the scrutinized becomes inscrutable.

This is where the final movement, Re-imagining comes in. In this, the pieces break apart—each member of the ensemble has a similar but staggered line—and float separately. When they overlap it's mostly on accident, and each voice moves on its own through a series of chords. This re-synthesis is more of a enzymatic denaturing, as each individual part is left as a shred of an original thought. Listen below to the entire performance, featuring Mantra Percussion on glockenspiels and vibraphones, and Emily Manzo and Anna Dagmar on piano.

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